I wanted to formally share some exciting news from my professional life. Effective yesterday, Ascentum Inc has been acquired and will be joining the Hill+Knowlton Strategies family. I’ve been with Ascentum for 3 years and as you probably know Ascentum specializes in helping businesses, government and not-for-profit organizations facilitate and create dialogue with stakeholders via online, in-person and social media-based strategies and tools.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on my first mobile project in a while. I use an iPhone regularly and have access to an older Android device. I haven’t used a BlackBerry device in close to 3 years. In fact, to get one we asked the last person in our office that got an iPhone to dig up his old BlackBerry from his parents house. The sad part is that the devices really haven’t changed much in the last 3 years… The track ball is replaced by the touch pad but the operating system is very close to same. The last device I used was a BlackBerry Curve ( model unknown ) with OS 5.0 beta in 2009, which was only a small improvement over BB OS 4.5. Virgin Mobile and several other wireless carriers still sell a BlackBerry 5.0 device today.
BlackBerry devices, and specifically their browser experience have become horribly out of date Continue reading
There’s been a lot of discussion around Draw Something and Zynga’s purchase of the game. Forbes recently reported that the game saw a 5M drop in Daily Active Users. This is a problem but Forbes seem to focus mainly on the belief that users are tired of the game. Gigaom has a more complete review with the acknowledgement that there are some technical issues with the game and the transition to the Zynga hosting. I think the article down plays the issue and I think the following need to be addressed:
- Stability. I know several people with the game that are completely unable to play or load it. The game just crashes and they can’t play at all. They don’t receive notifications and the game is unusable. A quick search on Twitter shows several people suffering from this problem and it seems to effect the free version more than the paid version. Continue reading
- Voice Calls – I receive 2-3 calls daily with a total daily talk time of 20 mins, generally I know 2 of the 3 calls I get daily
- Text Messages – I receive about 10 a day, and send 5
- Data Usage – I use about 50 MB a day, more if I’m tethered
Since setting up and regretting Rogers One a few months ago my Roger’s value plan has been steadily shrinking. My original Smartphone Value plan in December 2011 was:
- Call Display with Name Display
- Enhanced Voicemail
- Voicemail to Text
- Unlimited Sent Text, Picture & Video Msgs
- Unlimited Rcvd Text Msgs – Unlimited Sent & Received US/International Text Msgs
- Mobile Backup
In Canada we’ve been experiencing a fairly large scandal involving Robocalls to Canadians surrounding the 2011 election. I’ve been frustrated with Robocalls for several years and the lack of regulation by the CRTC. A few years ago I kept getting Robocalls from a collection agency ( trying to reach someone named Brandi ) and recently I have been getting a barrage of calls from the NDP leadership campaign. I think Robocall regulations should include: Continue reading
Over the past couple of months I’ve been using the Roger’s One Number service. I was excited because this seemed to be a lot like the Google Voice service but for Canada. The service lets you register your Roger’s wireless number and receive communications on your computer. I’ve only used Roger’s One on my Mac Book Pro and it installs a small applet that launches a Roger’s One icon in your task bar. This lets you know that the service is running and provides an interface to launch different web based locations to receive calls or text messages. Roger’s One can also read your email and provide notifications, but I already have this via Gmail/Chrome so I disabled this functionality. Continue reading
I was recently in Florida for a Vacation and purchased an Amazon Fire device. The device is very similar to the Barnes and Noble Nook I purchased last year but I thought the Amazon content and store would provide a better experience. The first thing I did was sign up for Amazon Prime Trial, with no problems. I purchased some music, no problems and much better prices than iTunes. I also purchased a magazine subscription to 2600, no problems again.
Over the past few weeks I’ve ordered a number of things online and received shipments for all major shipping companies. My building has conceige that can sign for all packages that don’t require a payment for duty or COD. Its very interesting to see the process each company uses handle deliveries and collect the duty/COD charges: Continue reading
I’ve been a long time user of Dropbox and have had the 100GB personal account for several years now. I’ve been very happy with the way the system works and I’ve setup it up on all my computing devices. My wife now shares the account and we use it to save files we want backed up or accessible across multiple devices.
When Ascentum, my employer decide to use Dropbox too initially it was all good and we just shared files between users. Eventually we started running out of space with different users who only had the free account or small paid accounts. I also noticed that my work files were taking up space in my 100GB personal account quota. So we decide to subscribe to Dropbox Teams, which gives us more storage across all users. The system is priced at $750/year for the first 5 users and $125/year for each user after that and includes 1000GB and 200GB per additional user. Continue reading
After a long delay I’ve finally updated my blog and website. In the process I’ve also moved to ColinSmillie.com to ensure I have greater reach outside of Canada. The design is based on a WP Timeline theme, which I’ve modified to move away a little from the Facebook Timeline which it copied. Let me know what you think and if it you notice any issues with the new site.
For over 2 days my skype account was offline and I was unable to login. I could reset my password with the password recovery system ( and did multiple times ) but every time I kept getting an error that I couldn’t login. No details were provided or contact for additional assistance. Eventually I tried contacting Skype and was told my account was suspended pending verification. The only verification they would accept was digits from my credit card which was on file, which I believe was setup when I created my Skype account 7 years ago. I had no idea what card was used or even which bank it was from but I sent them a series of number I’ve used over the past few years. Eventually I received this response today:
Thank you for your reply.
We understand your concern regarding your Skype account. We know the importance of getting this resolved the soonest time possible and we are more than willing to help you.
Upon checking our records, your account has been flagged for verification. Please be reminded that we do this verification process to maintain online security for all our customers and protect everyone from fraud which also indicated that you had carried out actions which are not allowed under Skype’s Terms and Conditions. Unfortunately we are unable to explain the specific reason for restricting your account.
However, we have now lifted the restriction, so you should be able to sign in again. Please note that if our systems detect further problems with your account then you will be unable to use your account again.
We hope this has clarified your issue. Should you need any further assistance or have additional questions please do not hesitate to contact us again.
Skype Customer Service
I’m not really sure what triggered this request for verification or if did actually verify successfully. Suddenly after 3 days of suspension my account is now active again.
I use Skype alot for business and now as my 2nd phone line at home. I even pay a Skype subscription with unlimited calling in Canada & the US. With Bell or Rogers in Canada there are terms of service guarantees but its very clear that when using Skype your really are mercy…
We had a great event last night at Mars for the Facebook Developers Garage Toronto. It was our 6th event and we had a great crowd and speakers. My presentation on the Open Graph API is available here:
We’ll try to get the other presentations online soon.
It’s been a while since the last Facebook Developer Garage Toronto. Come meet with fellow developers, marketers and agencies, members of the Facebook community in Toronto. Formerly we called these Facebook Camps and its a great free event for Developers and Marketers. The evening is free to attend and we have a great line up so far:
6:00 – Doors open – Social/Mingle/Get a seat
6:30 – Introduction
6:35 – Facebook Canada – TBD
7:00 – Iskandar Najmuddin – Syncapse
7:15 – Colin Smillie – Open Graph/Group API
7:30 – Oz Soloman – Social Graph Studios
7:45 – Eli Singer – Entrinsic
8:00 – Daniel Patricio – Orange Rhino Media
8:15 – Social / Mobile Integration – Vortex Mobile
8:30 – Social & Drinks at Pogue Mahone
**There is no guest list for this event – first come first served, doors will close when the venue is at capacity**
Like most Canadians my credit card was recently replaced with a Chip Card. Now my Visa requires a PIN to be entered when the transaction is processed. This creates some very frustration experiences:
1/ No Remote Machine
Many restaurants only have Visa terminals in one location in the restaurant. This means that I have to walk with the server to where the terminal is located to process to transaction. Not the best experience for date night…
2/ Signature Too, Please
Some vendors seem to require a signature, even after I just went through the insert card and PIN dance. I’m not really why but I think its a legacy issue.
Many of the remote terminals transfer data over a very slow connection, this means I’m waiting while the terminal tells me also sorts of informative stuff like DNS Established, TCP Enabled, Negotiation Established, Transfering… Transfering… and more Transfering… and finally approved.
4/ Strange Exemptions
Some vendors don’t seem to require my PIN at all, they can just swip and give me a receipt with no signature. I’m not really sure the pattern here but McDonalds never asks for my PIN and Subway always asks for my PIN at roughly the same value so it must be vendor related.
The one good thing that the chip cards seem to have solved is whole card upside down or right side up issue that most swipe terminals struggled with…
Ok, been using the iPad a lot to consume content. The Apple closedness does kind of get in the way of watching videos but hasn’t really been an issue for anything else. There are a few really great apps for it:
There are several media apps available but most don’t work well in Canada. Pandora and the ABC app for example don’t allow content to be viewed in Canada, this is a deal breaker for me. I haven’t tried Netflix yet but iTunes still seems to be the winner here ( no surprise ) with access to the best content. Not sure the impact of the Canadian iTunes store but I suspect it will be pretty empty initially…
The best game I’ve found is Civilizations. I loved this game as I was growing up and the iPad version is awesome. Dragging your armies around is a really great interface and it just feels natural. The other fun app is the Colour Aquarium application, which is a free app and kind fun to play with a bit..
I haven’t found the perfect app yet. The two I tried are both free. Twitdeck, which is a good first revision of the app for iPad but doesn’t work too well for reading posts. I wasn’t able to click on links inside of the Tweet for example but the Tweet creation process is really smooth. Twitter is kinda the reverse as a great app for reading your Twitter stream. Very smart process to read and click on links etc.. The Tweet creation process isn’t great though. For example there is no ability to add photos. Hoping for another free option before I investigate the paid clients…
There are several apps that claim to be free but after download require a subscription fee to access any content. The WSJ app is a good example of this with NO FREE content. I uninstall and low rate all of these, Apple really needs to develop a process to indicate “Subscription Required” in the App store. The 2 completely free apps that I did like were the USA Today and BBC Apps, both provide good content in a great format.
I got my iPad today and I spent a few hours using it now. My initial impression is that is a great 2nd device to consume media. The screen is beautiful and watching video on it is awesome. The input is ok but will never really replace a laptop and is probably by design. I think Apple has designed the device to be a media consumption platform and not a content creation platform. For creation the Mac Book Pro or even my iPhone are better platforms.
I’ve downloaded a few iPad specific applications now and I’ll write some more on this shortly. If your an app developer and would like your an iPad app reviewed send me the details on your app in the comments below.
For years now Google has dominated the search marketing field. Its Pagerank algorithm attempts to find content that is the most relevant to the keywords being search. In most cases this means placing a greater emphasis on older more established content and ignoring the newer content. This has worked well for most content types except for breaking news and trending items. When Michael Jackson died a search for “Michael Jackson” was more likely to bring up fan pages than articles around his death.
Enter Twitter and Facebook, for trending topics the social networks have an advantage in that they can see trending topics developing in real-time. And yesterday they announced a partnership with Bing to power its real-time search component. This should provide Bing with an advantage in the real-time search market. Its not clear how big the real-time market is as compared to the more traditional search market that Google dominates.
Its will be interesting to see if Marketers start to place a greated emphasis on purchasing keywords based on real-time trends that be associated with their brands. The search engines are already well equipped with bid based pricing models to handle real-time price fluctuations in keywords.
I first met Ted Rogers about 10 years ago at a Rogers Wave booth at a home show in Toronto. I was working with an ISP in Hamilton that was also launching cable modems. My job at the time was to explain how cable modems worked and the advantages of dial-up and the soon to be released DSL. As luck would have it Ted chose me to ask about the Roger’s Wave product we were launching. He made a good impression and I think he really worked hard to understand how technology would benefit individuals.
Democamp was back on last night at the Imperial Pub. It was back to its root with a small crowded venue with hard to hear and see demos. I think with a 2nd speaker near the back would probably fix all this and the location was certainly work-able. It was also a lot of the Torcamp crowd. It looks like Democamp will be going to a monthly schedule which is pretty awesome and should help new people attend.
I arrived late and only cause the Kontagent demo near the end. I did see all the ignite presentations. One of the most interesting presentations was the N8T TXT project, which sends Haikus via SMS project. I thought it was really interesting that he’s using 416 number to sent a Haiku based on your current location, which you provide in the SMS text. Using a short code for this type of project would have been extremely expensive and using the 416 number gets around that.
There was also a lot of networking at the event and I was able to meet a few of Greg Wilson’s students, some that I’d love to hire Overall it was great to see Democamp back in action and I’m looking forward to future nights.
Update: I forgot to mention the Sun “Camera” give away at DemoCamp. There was a Sun Startup Essentials rep at DemoCamp last night collecting business cards for a server give-away and Mesh ticket draw. For entering you also received a USB “Camera”, unfortunatel the “Camera” turned out to be USB power flashlight. I’m wondering if this is actually the Sun Server prize…
CNN really surprised me today with its use of technology around the Obama inauguration. There’s 3 main components that I think stand out:
- Facebook Connect integration, it was awesome watching the video online and getting comments/status updates from your friends or the general public in real-time. This absolutely made the experience for me and I think it really highlights the future of video entertainment, its social.
- PhotoSync in 3D, CNN guessed correctly that many people would be taking photos of the inauguration and using PhotoSync its possible to see a moment in time from various angles and photos. A great use of technology that was powered by many independent people taking photos and sending them to CNN.
- IReport with Google Maps, CNN also had a real-time map showing different photos and messages as they were received by CNN through its iReport service. IReport essentially let citizen journalists report on the event either through a message or a photo. The other aspect of the map images was the size of the crowds, seeing them on TV didn’t really do justice to the amazing mass of people present.
CNN has reset the bar in terms of coverage of major events. It will be interesting to see if they use the same technology for other events. It would be great for the Superbowl to have the same coverage…
Matthew Ingram has a great article about the US Government trying to get control over a trademark controlled by a bike gang. Matthew compares it to the Al Capone situation with regards to tax evation. I think its a great example of IP Law gone wrong. The US Government has put so much effort into IP Law and the DMCA that they are actually a bigger stick than many anti-racketeering laws. I think its a pretty sad situation and McCain encountered similar problems during his campaign with the extremely restrictive IP Law in the DMCA.
I’m hoping we don’t see a repeat of the DMCA in Canada now with the Harper government tabling an agenda that includes copyright reform. I think its pretty clear to most people involved with digital media that DRM and unrealistic controls on media are not going to work. Apple, Amazon and even hopeless Yahoo have all been removing their DRM services in favour of DRM-free solutions. It makes even less sense to be criminalizing most of society with unrealistic legislation.
Today we got our annual call from the Yellow Pages Group about advertising in their directories. We’ve moved offices so we’re probably in the Toronto West book. The major difference between the call last year and this year was the online only options. Last year we didn’t really have an option not to purchase online only
Facebook is trying hard to get users to user and like its new profile re-design. I think one of the funniest new additions are little yellow stickies on all the new and non-obvious additions. Kinda of a “we know you’ll miss this if we don’t tell you” approach to interface design.
I’m not sure how successful this will be with users. In my case I’m mostly just clicking the x to get rid of these and non-obvious features will probably be lost on me or at least until Facebook changes something again.
As it stands it might be a browser I leave open as kind of my Gmail client but I’m not going to invest alot of time it switching over to it.
My other major issue with Internet Explorer is the adoption cycle. Many corporations are still using Internet Explorer 6 because of the update process. Its possible to get Firefox v3 running on any computer in a matter of minutes, a quick download, install and go. When I installed Internet Explorer 8 it downloaded for awhile ( via Windows Update ) and then immediately wanted to reboot to download some more, check for malicious software components, install, and then install updates. The process took me about 30 mins and is very prone to errors because Internet Explorer tries to embed into the operating system. I think Microsoft really needs to rethink the Internet Explorer architecture. They’re done with the DOJ battle over whether Internet Explorer is a operating system component and it should be developed independently so that it can its a smaller and nimbler. I can understand the resistance from IT staff to put all their employees through a 30 min download, reboot, download, install and then install more cycle. The cost/benefit ratio of updating a browser just isn’t worth it.
Last night with the 18th DemoCamp in Toronto, I think I’ve been to about 11 since my first DemoCamp around #5. The venue was at the SuperMarket restaurant/bar on Augusta. The venue was way too small for the event, even though the SuperMarket does have awesome food. The Supermarket even ran out of beer glasses with so many people enjoying the night.
The Demo’s for the nite were:
As a partner in Refresh it was a good opportunity for us to demo our Facebook Analytics tool and showcase some of the new social influencer metrics we’ve added for applications. I think Roy did a good job of covering the product and I think most people quickly understood our focus with. I was little surprised that nobody asked about the business model.
2/BluePrints by Chris Gurney
Blueprints is a product to help business capture requirements more effectively. Its combines a the components of a product requirements document with the ability to mockup a user interface. The tool can then export the requirements as a requirements document, ULM and other formats. Apparently it will also export test cases too. I liked the demo and I think its a great product for product managers ( which I’ve been in the past ) but the price point is pretty crazy. I also wasn’t too excited about using a desk top java based application, I think it would have been better to see this as a web app and maybe a SasS model to lower the cost of entry.
Ali and the Well.ca team presented a tool they developed for Well.ca to allow customers to chat with a CSR through a web interface. It was a pretty slick demo with the ability to keep the chat open as user browsed web sites and pass URLs to the user. I think the most innovative aspect was the integration with Jabber clients so that different chat clients could be supported for the CSR. I think this was most important aspect for Well.ca but there are a variety of cheap alternatives. At Autotrader.ca we purchased a solution for $500 that provided almost the same solution but required that the CSR keep a web chat window open.
Many open source projects are using IRC as form of communication between developers and sometimes users. The IRC integration project aims to integrate these conversations into the project development process. The first component was the ability to access ticket information via the IRC channel. This was handled through an IRC bot. The 2nd component was the ability to tag conversations as part of a ticket and integrate the chat history into DrProjec. It was a good demo and I can see the practical applications for larger projects.
This was the first demo/ignite after the break and I missed most of it socializing. From what I saw it provides a tool to quickly create small comic strips that can be embedded into websites. I grew up loving comics but I think the medium has probably passed. I don’t think comics have the same appeal in a digital format, especially when we can get videocasts, postcast or even games that are more engaging.
I had seem some PR around the SpreedNews reader around the iPhone launch. I had watched their video online and their demo was very similar to the video. I was hoping to see more of the application in action as I’m a little skeptical that its that much faster to read news. I’m looking forward to see it and I know it won’t be long in a limited beta.
I think its no secret that venture capital in Canada has declined and its in pretty bad shape. Jevon’s presentation highlighted this but encouraged entrepeneurs to look past this problem. I think he’s right in that there alot of Canadian startups that are succeeding without venture capital. In some cases they are making business decisions to grow in a different way that doesn’t require huge capital ( keeping their day job, or financing with a service business ). I think it will be interesting to see how this effects Canadian startups. From what I’ve seen when I visit US based startups is that we’re generally more efficient with capital and we’re getting more done with less. I think this might be the lasting impact of the lack of Canadian VC situation.
I think it was a great event despite the ridiculusly crammed venue. The popularity of DemoCamp is going to continue to cause problems for revenues.