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MythTV Usability

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I’ve been using MythTV for about 2 years now and at times its been a challenge to keep it running. One of the reason I keep coming back to it is that I find it to be the easiest PVR to use. Recently a usability study of MythTV was done by Interactive Digital Television Laboratory on its v0.19 release. The results were really impressive and in retrospect I shouldn’t be surprised. MythTV has come along way since I’ve been using it and is now a very user friendly. I’m especially inspired since its all been community drive and a great example of power of open-source.

I think one of the reason it is so easy to use is that it doesn’t feature and DRM to get in the way. If you want to play MP3 it will, from almost any location and with minimal hassle. If you want to copy a DVD it will, without any legal disclosure or MPAA alarms going off. Recently its added the ability to download video podcasts which really makes me question why I still keep my cable service. Overall MythTV is really setting the bar for where PVRs need to be in terms of functionality and freedom.

You find the original article here and the complete usability report here.

DemoCampToronto7 Review

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DemoCampToronto7 was last night a quite crowed No Regrets. Its a fairly small venue so space was a premium and the demos were a little harder to understand without the lights, sounds and magic that its Mars. The presentations broke down as follows:

1/ Portal Prophet Platform by Kristan Uccello from Domainer

My initial expectation from this demo was to see a DNS management system. Instead they presented a fairly visual CMS type application to create web pages for multiple domains. The interface was pretty neat and involved creating blocks based on code snippets and connections to other services ( RSS feeds etc.. ). The blocks could then be visually position on the web page to create the final web page. The resulting web page could then be style with multiple CSS skins. Overall it was fairly simple but looked easy to use. I didn’t see any sort of staging or pre-production system so I’m not sure how well it scale for larger deployments.

2/ FeelingBullish.com by Josh Blinick

I was pretty impressed with the interface around Feelingbullish.com but I’m not clear on their model. From what I understand of their product its a system for analysts to recommend stocks and for anyone to review those recommendations. The definition of an analyst was a little unclear but they could recommend stocks, leave comments on stocks or other analysts and use many of the now standard Web 2.0 feature set. As a consumer you can then view all the analyst rankings and see how they compared to historical stock performance. All recommendations are tracked and analysts are not allowed to delete their historical recommendations. By having a fairly large group of analysts and more tracking on their recommendations the goal is to have an accurate algorithm to track analyst performance. I’m not analysts will be too excited about this level of tracking and may make it difficult for the site to reach a critical mass.

3/ Paruba.com by Teehan+Lax

Paruba.com evolved out of Teehan’s holiday card last year. They sent out cards to all their customers with links to their website of holiday gift ideas. The site has evolved a lot and now allows anyone to create a ‘wish list’ of items from a variety of ecommerce sites. The interface is very clean and easy to use. I was impressed with the process to tagging third-party ecommerce items which are often in variety of different formats. The site allows you to quickly sort through all images on a target URL and quickly select the items picture. Users can then create sub-lists for special occasions and even form a basic wedding registry ( without the ability to track duplicate purchases ). Overall a very neat and clear site.

4/ The Glove by Cameron Browning

Cameron has developed a system to represent visual a file structure and its associated relationship, oh and he also uses a glove to control the interface. In reality the glove was fairly basic, it consisted a re-purposed skate boarding glove with a large yellow square and a modified wireless keyboard inside. The yellow square allows a small camera to track the gloves position and control the visual interface. In my opinion the visual interface was most interesting part, I would have been happy controlling it with a mouse. I would be a little worried about the visual interface scaling as it would become very cluttered with a large number of objects to represent. Cameron also mention that he could tweak in real-time some of the display constants like spacing and object sizes. He felt this would allow the interface to scale to large number of objects.

5/ Perl 6Damian Conway

Wow, someone is still using Perl. In reality its still a great scripting language and Damian did a great job trying to demo a programming language. Anyone thats ever tried to demo a programming language knows the challenges here. Perl 6 has some interesting features but many of them have been eclipsed by new languages like PHP or Ruby. I thought the most interesting part was using the VIM interface to act as a presentation tool.

The after part at No Regrets was great and most of the presents stuck around to interact with the crowd. Its remarkable how far the reach of the event has grown. I ended up talking to a variety of people including a developer still working on Lotus Notes Domino, just when I thought Perl was old…

My Sister’s Wedding

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My sister got married on the weekend and it was a blast. The wedding was up at Camp Wanakita, a YMCA summer came I went to as a kid and eventually worked at as a camp counselor. Its change alot but is still a great site and it was an awesome wedding location.

You can find alots of pictures here.

CaseCamp

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I attended a new marketing event last night, CaseCamp. Based on the popular BarCamp/DemoCamp format its goal is to bring marketing professionals together. It was first event and it consisted of 4 marking case studies. There are a number of rules for the cases including a max of 5 slides, and 5 words per slide. The cases consisted of:

  1. Snow-for-Gold The first case was presented by Kate Trgovac on Petro-Canada’s 2006 Winter Olympic micro-site, Snowforthegold.ca. The site allows Canadians to send personalized ‘snow flakes’ to their favourite athlete’s online. Kate’s summary of the good/bad points of the case was great. I thought the 2nd benefits of the program were really strong. While the number of actual snow flakes sent was low they did see an increase in traffic the main Petro-Canada site and a number of users who used to their Petro-Canada points to send premium snow flakes. I would have liked to get more information on the online advertising campaign in particular the decision on which sites to advertise.
  2. Getting-Started The next case was presented by Nicole Mondville on a problem only a bank would have. Basically every year banks need to transition teenagers from free or lower-cost bank programs into high fee accounts. Their ability to engage teenagers in this process to get them to start paying has been minimal ( big surprise ). The case focused on a micro-site that RBC had created to teenagers to choose their banking options. Overall the micro-site was impressive ( as seen after the presentation ) but the presentation was fairly dull. I would have liked to hear more about why the bank doesn’t engage third-parties that are aggressively trying to engage the youth marketing. For example sign-up for an adult-bank account and get $1500 off GM Car. It would seem to me that the banks could have lot more success engaging youth if they packaged their adult offering with incentives from third-parties.
  3. Blogging at the AGO
    Eli Singer and Susan Bloch-Nevitte presented a very interesting case of the AGO using the Blogphere to promote an event. The AGO is in to process of a massive redesign with the help of Frank Gehry. As part of the launch of project they held a special event for bloggers and then included them as part of the media day. The effect was that bloggers produced better articles than mainstream media, which was focused on the Wayne Gretzky scandal. The AGO also conducted a survey of their visitors and saw an increase in their target audience 19-30. I thought the most interesting part was that a high percentage indicated they heard about the AGO through the blogsphere. Blogs combined with ‘word of mouth’ accounted for approximate 60% of visitors during the exhibit.
  4. JBOSS Marketing
    Eloqua presented the last case on behalf of JBOSS ( recently bought by Oracle ) on their marketing automation software. The line between marketing automation and lead tracking was a little grey with this presentation. Basically as I understood the Eloqua/JBOSS deployment it allowed JBOSS to track leads and then rank them based on cross-media exposure. For example if a company calls JBOSS it receives a rank of 1, if the same company visits the webpage it receives a rank of 2, if someone from the company then joins a web conference it gets increased to 3. In this way JBOSS can assign a priority to the leads that are coming in from the various sources and filter the quality leads from the noise.

Overall I was very impressed with CaseCamp. It had a much different feel from DemoCamp ( my only other camp experience ) but was very incite full to anyone interested in marketing. Eli did a great job organizing and I think CaseCamp will only improve as it evolves, for example the the 5 words per slide limit will be removed, and I expect the next CaseCamp to be a similar success.

Great Ride n Stride 2006

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I just completed the Great Ride ‘n’ Stride for Cancer in Hamilton. Its a 20k ride on the Lincoln Alexander, aka the “Linc’, along the Hamilton Mountain that I’ve been doing the past 6 years. This year it was just my Dad and I riding since my sister was doing a run in Ottawa. I like many of us my life has been ‘touched’ by Cancer a few times so I’m happy to do something to help and have some fun doing it.

You can see pictures of the event here.

TPMA Presentation

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I took part in a panel at last nights Toronto Product Managers Association meeting on building a business case. I’ve developed and executed alot of business cases and it was great to get different prespectives on the process. The panel consisted of :

  • Paul Guinness: Senior Manager, TD Bank Financial Group
  • Sanjay Singhal: Chairman and CMO, Simply Audiobooks Inc
  • Colin Smillie ( myself ), Product Manage, Trader Media

The discussion focused alot around the different goals behind developing a business case and how these are vary based on the origanization. Paul’s prespective coming from Banking was that a business case is aways required to proceed and requires many levels or review and approval. Sanjay’s view was that in smaller companies the need to innovate is greater than the need to track your decisions process behind each innovation, the result is a much shorter business case review. My own views are somewhere in the middle since I’ve worked a variety of different size organizations and different stages of business development.

You can find the presentation here.

Canada’s Web 2.0 Conference

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Web 2.0 has reached Toronto and the Mesh conference aims to bring alot of the leading innovators together. The conference is May 16 and 17 in Toronto and you can find more information here:

Canada’s Web 2.0 Conference

I’m hoping to get some ideas and inspiration for my day job working on the Autotrader.ca site in Ontario. We’re really in need of some web 2.0 magic 😉

Linkedin

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Linkedin recently launched a web profile function so you can see my profile without a Linkedin account here.If you’re not familar with Linkedin its a great professional contact manager. The site lets you search for colleagues based on previous company or university. It provides the ability to reconnect with them directly if you have their email address or indirectly through another co-worker. This allows the site to create a great ‘friend of a friend’ feel and let people network together. Overall I think its a great way to find jobs or just re-connect with friends from the past.

I am tracking you

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You are being tracked by gvisit, see the results here. Gvisits lets you track visits on a Google Map based on their IP address. The technology is not perfect in that the IP address mapping is dependent on the users internet provider keeping accurate geographic records. Its still intersting to see a visual representation of all my visits though.

FYI, you can still see my visitor link above I’ve disabled it because it was slowing down my site.

Hans Island – A Canadian Response

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In case you haven’t been reading the back pages of the news Canada and Denmark have an on going dispute over Hans Island. After a recent visit to Hans Island by a Canadian government office the Danish government has launched protested, which included a Google Adwords campaign. If you search for “Hans Island” on Google you get a message from the Danish government that Hans Island is part of Greenland ( Danish territory ). Several Canadian companies have responded with their own Adwords campaign ( myself included ), here’s some of the ads:

Hans Island – Dispute
Whats the big deal? Everyone
knows it belongs to Canada!
www.ergo4me.com

Retire on Hans Island?
Learn to manage your own finances
and retire on your own terms.
www.efficientmarket.ca

So far the Canadian government has not responded, they’re probably still looking for Google in the dictionary, or quickly renaming all the Tim Horton’s Danishes to Hans Islands… Classic Canadian response to a dispute.

Live Bookmarks

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I’ve added support for Live Bookmarks to my site. I really like this feature on other sites that I read cause it lets you see parts of the sites new content without loading the page. The Bookmark is essentially updated via an RSS feed. I believe Firefox is the only browser to support Live Bookmarks so far. More details are available here.

Update: This site has moved from Mambo -> Joomla -> WordPress but Live Bookmarks are still supported.

MythTV Presentation

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My presentation at the GTALUG was a relative success. I wasn’t able to get my laptop connected to the projector so I did the presentation oldschool with blackboards and just talking. There was around 30-40 people there and lots of lively discussion around MythTV. We ended the night with a couple of pints at the GSU Pub. You can access my presentation here.

Recent Activities

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I’ve been fairly busy with the new job etc.. so the site has been rather neglected. Here’s some of things I’ve been up to lately:

I should have more updates over the summer. Also my buddy Steve Reed has set a date to get married in September.

Amenglish

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Apparently the english I use is 60% General American English. I found this site through a friend that lets you categorizes you english language habits. I haven’t found anything with a more international slant..

Your Linguistic Profile:

60% General American English
20% Yankee
10% Upper Midwestern
5% Dixie
5% Midwestern

What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

Only 6% of the World

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I generally think I’ve travelled alot, atleast more than most. I found a website that provides a map of all the countries you’ve visited. According to it, I’ve only visited 6% percent of the world’s countries. It’s not so small a world after all…


create your own visited country map