Getting ready for PDC


I’m starting to get ready for another trip to Los Angeles for Microsoft PDC. PDC08 was a great trip, however, it ended really poorly for me. I arrived home from LA and spent 5 days in Toronto General Hospital after complaining all week about chest pain. It turns out that after a heart attack, they take this stuff very seriously, and wanted to do an angiogram. I promise for PDC09 to not hole up in my hotel room and hide because my chest hurts!

Thomas Lewis has a great post on Hotels for PDC09. I’ve stayed at the Westin Bonaventure for PDC08 and CHI98. It’s a great hotel. It was where True Lies was filmed.

“Where do all the Microsofties hang after the event? If you are a fan of edgy chef personalities, you know that you always want to find the dives the chefs go to after their shifts are done. Later in the evening, after evening events and A/V checks are done, many of our kind will head over to the lobby of the Westin Bonaventure where everyone will be hanging out at the bar chatting up the news of the day and talking with attendees. Now, if you are looking to find all the hipster-Microsofties, then you want to head to the club at the rooftop of The Standard. The view there is awesome but the drinks can get expensive.” Thomas Lewis – Devil’s Field Guide to the PDC

But I’m thinking I’m going to change it up for 2009. I’m turning over a new leaf. And in a tribute to my turn-of-the-last-century industrialists I’m thinking the Millennium Biltmore will be my home away from home for a few days in November. I stayed in the Biltmore as part of the planning committee for CHI2000. And while the hotel is not the family estate, it should be fun. It’s only a few blocks from Westin, check out my Bing Collection of the hotels to help find your friends in downtown LA, and it’s something new. Plus how can you go wrong with the name Biltmore?

CIX Top 20 – Showcase your Innovation

CIX Top 20 Submissions are open

We covered CIX in the past, and the Achilles Media team are hosting another great event in

CIX conducts an exhaustive search for the most innovative ideas, products, services and companies in the country. Each year 20 technology and clean technologies are selected via a qualified Selection Committee to showcase their innovative product and services in front of the CIX community. Each of the selected 20 will be asked to deliver a seven-minute presentation live on stage at CIX.  Recognized industry experts will act as Judges, evaluating the merit of their product or service and giving constructive feedback and guidance. The CIX community present at the event will vote for the CIX 2009 Award for “Canadian Innovation Leader”.

I’ve written a lot about CIX (Exchanging Innovations Canadian style, CIX Survey Says). This is a similar discussion on the 2 different models presented by TechCrunch50 and by Demo. CIX is a great event to connect later stage startups, investors, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Canada and the US at a local venue.

FutureRuby & MobileOrchard

futureruby-small-202x300Pete Forde and the gang at Unspace are hosting another kick ass conference about Ruby. FutureRuby is the evolution of RubyFringe. (I’m not sure why the decision to use a Maoist propaganda theme for the art direction, but it looks great. Perhaps it’s a way to fight the Imperialist regimes of Java and .NET).

RubyFringe is an amalgamation of a series of events focused on Ruby and emerging platforms including the browser, the mobile phone and other devices. 

Dan Grigsby who runs MobileOrchard is hosting an "Beginning iPhone Development Workshop” as part of the FutureRuby activities. It is great to see developers like Dan understand the power of mobile devices, and the ability to use their repertoire of developer tools to build for an emerging important platform. Being able to build custom web applications for iPhone, native iPhone applications in Objective-C (haven’t written Objective-C since I worked on a NeXT box in 1994 at UWaterloo). Joey deVilla talks about why mobile is the platform for the next billion users and why netbooks are a red herring for computer manufacturers. Why I might consider the MobileOrchard workshop:

Walk in Thursday morning with no previous Objective-C, Cocoa, or iPhone development experience; walk out — and over to FAILcamp — having built apps that incorporate location, motion and email. On Friday you’ll build table/ navigation style apps (e.g., Apple’s Mail and Contacts app) with persistent data storage, hybrid web/native apps, apps that consume ActiveResource RESTful APIs, and more.

Pretty compelling 2 day class.  There are a lot of things I like about FutureRuby, FAILCamp and the MobileOrchard workshop.


What: Future Ruby Leaders of Tomorrow, Today!
Ticket Admission includes (but not limited to): – Admission to all daytime tracks and impromptu celebrations – Breakfasts and lunches brought to you by the award-winning chefs of the Metropolitan hotel – Free transportation provided by FutureRuby and the Toronto Transit Commission – Three nights of all-inclusive parties (live entertainment, drinks, food, DJ's, surprises, plus epic dinner July 11th) – Killer swag – Noise workshops! – Discount hotel rates at The Metropolitan Hotel – Please note: Tickets are non-refundable, but are transferrable.
When: Thursday, July 9, 2009 (all day)
Where: Metropolitan Hotel

108 Chestnut Street
Toronto, Ontario M5G 1R3   Canada
What: Mobile Orchard Workshops Present: Beginning iPhone Programming For Rubyists
Walk in Thursday morning with no previous Objective-C, Cocoa, or iPhone development experience; walk out that same day having built apps that incorporate location, motion and email. On Friday you’ll build navigation-style apps (e.g., Apple’s Mail and Contacts app) with persistent data storage, hybrid web/native apps, apps that use Ryan Daigle’s iPhone On Rails/ObjectiveResource to consume ActiveResource RESTful APIs, and more. The class mixes practical project examples with Objective-C and Cocoa-Touch fundamentals like memory management, protocols and delegates, properties and categories.
When: Thursday, July 9, 2009 (all day)
Where: Metropolitan Hotel

108 Chestnut Street
Toronto, ON M5G 1R3   Canada

Conferences, connections & ecosystems

lights and crowds

Are conferences broken? Do conferences need to change?

What are the goals of a conference?

  • Communicate
    This can be research results, new products, new design, development or testing techniques, new ideas, etc. It can be about education and learning. It is the main
  • Exchange of Ideas
    To encourage the excitement, simultaneity, and ad-hoc in the halls discussions between people.
  • Connections
    To provide networking, partnership, and collaboration opportunities between the participants, companies, organizers and co-workers that last beyond the conference.
  • Recognition
    To celebrate outstanding work and research of the members of the community. The conference itself may represent the recognition of excellence by acceptance of a talk.

How do these goals compare to the goals of conference attendees?

  1. Evangelize: Conferences are a good place to share information about your company and to brand yourself. They allow you to share your expertise with fellow industry colleagues and potential customers…If you effectively demonstrate your capabilities, your company will benefit by 1- recruiting talent, 2- marketing its services, and 3- generating new business leads.
  2. Bonding with Colleagues: Often times, you have the opportunity to attend a conference with colleagues from work…Try to meet at least once for dinner or drinks and have non-office related conversations.
  3. Networking: One of the key aspects of any conference is meeting people who are normally inaccessible to you. The social media world, in particular, revolves around relationships. Conferences allow you to meet new people and maintain old friendships…Chris Brogan offers great tips on how to meet new people at conferences using social media.
  4. Education: The conferences are increasingly gaining reputations for not offering new knowledge for those who have been in the industry more than a year. However, I am seeing a shift where organizers are pushing for new topics and recruiting a more diverse group speakers. You can also gain valuable insight just by having conversations with various attendees. I really enjoy standing in the hallway of the venue and having random discussions with fellow colleagues about industry-related topics.
  5. Vendors: One of the best parts of conferences is meeting potential vendors face-to-face and learning about what they offer. This allows you to immediately determine if their product/service is applicable to your needs. It helps save time and allows you to go back to your office with some key recommendations of possible partners

Interestingly, I would condense these into:

  • Evangelize/Promotion
  • Communication/Education
  • Connections
  • Exchange of Ideas

The addition of an evangelism/promotion goal for attendees that is separate from the communication and recognition goals of the conference is important. It separates the needs of the conference to establish it’s self as a trusted resource and venue for professional activities from the need of the attendees to self promote and market. Yet it recognizes that there is an opportunity to allow companies and individuals access to a captive audience.

  • Communicate/Educate
    This can be research results, new products, new design, development or testing techniques, new ideas, etc. It can be about education and learning. It is the main
  • Exchange Ideas
    To encourage the excitement, simultaneity, and ad-hoc in the halls discussions between people.
  • Connect
    To provide networking, partnership, and collaboration opportunities between the participants, companies, organizers and co-workers that last beyond the conference.
  • Recognize
    To celebrate outstanding work and research of the members of the community. The conference itself may represent the recognition of excellence by acceptance of a talk.
  • Promote/Evangelize
    Share information about your company and your personal brand. The goal is separate from recognition, because it allows for recruiting, marketing, and lead generation.

The interesting part for me is “that last beyond the duration of the conference”. The ability to distribute content like Mix09, TED, and Mesh Conference allow participants and a community to grow and share the content. Social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, and make it easier to connect, stay connected and have ongoing conversations. There are tools like Ning, CrowdVine, and EventVue that make it easier to build custom community connection points for conference attendees.

If you could define the perfect conference agenda what would it be? What would be the events? What about the rooms? The layout of the food? What sort of technology? How much would it cost?

Mix09, ETech, SxSW & Web2Expo

MIX09Logo The Mix team has published a call for content to participation in Mix09. Mix is a fantastic conference. The challenge with Mix for the past few years is that it is has been closely preceded (2009) or followed (2008) by SxSW Interactive. Fortunately, there’s an 11 day hiatus between Mix09 and Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. And let’s not forget that ETech is happening immediately before SxSW. It just means that rather than travelling every few months, you can just spend March on the road.

Here’s how I look at each of the conferences:

  • ETech 
    ETech is about looking at the horizon. This is technology that you’ll see in homes and businesses in the future. It felt like in 2006 & 2007 that O’Reilly forgot about this crystal ball. But it looks like 2009 is back to the content and conversations that brought me to ETech in the beginning. In 2009, coverage includes Mobile & the Web; City Tech; Health; Materials; and Geek Life. For me, ETech is TED or Pop!Tech or IdeaCity for hackers.
  • SxSW 
    SxSW Interactive is a conference for technology and content entrepreneurs. It is a great chance to see new technologies, new business models, new people and old friends. There is a great cross pollination of people from interactive, music, technology, content, politics, and just about every industry on the planet. This coupled with the great opportunities to connect with people at the conference, at the parties, on the tradeshow floor (BlockParty).
  • Mix<3 Your Web
    Mix is a Microsoft conference. It’s different than PDC or TechEd. It’s somewhere in between SxSW and PDC. The technical sessions are outstanding. There are panel discussions, keynotes, product launches and hands on learning that are unsurpassed. However, it is almost exclusively on the Microsoft platform. At SxSW, I found companies building on Flash, Javascript, PHP, .NET, Java, Rails, Python, Erlang and every other platform under the sun. At Mix, which in some ways is a huge benefit, the platform is chosen. But there are open conversations with the faithful around integration of open standard. At Mix07 & Mix08 (you can infer similar will be at Mix09), there were conversations about open source applications, mashups, PHP, LAMP among others. 
  • Web 2.0 Expo
    Web2.0 Expo feels like the big tradeshow. Don’t get me wrong, there’s good content. If I was building products and looking to market to a web savvy crowd, Web 2.0 Expo would be a great spot (though it’s so big you’d have to do something to rise above the noise level). It’s a big event. I found the new social tools introduced at Web 2.0 Expo NY (the CrowdVine tools are great). They made it easier to find out who was attending and connect with people (now if I could just get always on roaming data in the US on my Rogers phone that doesn’t include my first born child, maybe next time I’ll buy a pay-as-you-go card from AT&T). Janetti, Brady, and Jen have improved the experience and continue to provide a great conference and tradeshow for this space.

The question is, what are you looking to get out of the conference? Because I’m willing to bet that you can find it at any of these conferences. They are all world class, and like we were all told as kids, “You only get out what you put in”.


Call for Content: Be a Speaker at Mix09!

Do you have an idea for a session that you’d like to present at MIX09?  Would the content be interesting to our web developer and designer audience? If so, we invite you to submit your session idea for consideration by 5:00 PM PST on Friday January 23, 2009.


Send your idea to, and be sure to include the following information:


  • Title – Ideally, the title is short, catchy, and descriptive
  • Abstract – One or two sentences that describe what an attendee would hear and learn in the session
  • Speaker – Your name
  • Speaker Bio – A little about who you are and why you’re the perfect person to present the session
  • Speaker Contact Info – Your e-mail address and phone number
  • Target Audience – Creative, Technical, or Business
  • Session Type – Full or Mini.  In addition to Full breakout sessions that are 75 minutes long, for MIX09, we are introducing a new 20-minute Mini breakout session format. These mini sessions are intended to focus on very specific topics.

After we receive your submission, it will be reviewed by our content team for consideration. Though we may respond earlier, please don’t expect a response until after the submission deadline ends on January 23, 2009.  While we promise to review every submission, we receive far more session proposals than can fit into MIX09 and the selection process is very competitive.  As a result, not all submitted sessions can be selected for MIX. 


Thank you for your interest in MIX09, and good luck!

Hope to see you at Mix09, SxSW, Web2ExpoSF or Mesh.

Mix09 <3 Your Web

PDC is less than a week away, and it appears that the Mix team is busy announcing plans for Mix09 in Vegas.


Agenda & Speakers

There is a great list of the usual suspects and the some new faces including:

Restyle & 10k Smart Coding Challenge


Do you hate the style of the Mix site? Change it. Use your own CSS and images to ReStyle the Mix homepage. This is a great opportunity for local web designers to create a new experience. 


Inspire the world with just 10k of code.  It reminds me of Stuart Butterfield’s 5k competition. It’s a great chance to win a conference pass, hotel accommodations and a gift card (money) for time in your Vegas.

What could you create for the Web if you only had 10 kilobytes of code? It’s time to exercise your minimalist creativity and get back to basics – back to optimizing every little byte like your life depended on it.


Both of these challenges have the same prize:

One winner will receive a pass to MIX09, hotel accommodations and a Visa gift card. Other great prizes are to be announced. Official entry requirements, procedures, rules and restrictions coming in November.

What: Mix09
When: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 (all day)
Where: The Venetian Hotel

Las Vegas, NV   USA

CanUX 2008


Jess and Gene and the nForm crew are hosting another CanUX workshop in Banff this November. They have managed to put together a fantastic group of user experience design speakers. The CanUX event is a very intimate venue that is limited to 75 attendees. You get a great opportunity to connect with other user experience professionals and engage with everyone in a very personal environment. The sessions provided by the Banff Centre for the Arts are some of the most engaging executive training sessions that round out the sit back and learn engagement. Just check out the speakers coming to share their stories and experiences:

CanUX comes immediately after StartupEmpire in Toronto. I am clearing my schedule to travel to Banff and spend some quality time at a great user experience conference. That and apparently ski season opens at Sunshine on November 7, 2008 so wax up your board(s) and get ready to for a UX conference that is unparalleled in intimacy. It is a great conference for designers looking for an opportunity to connect with other designers and speakers in an intimate environment, to learn about techniques, methods and tools to improve their craft. It is a great conference for developers looking to expand their understanding of how designers, developers and strategists work together on real world projects.

What: CanUX 2008
When: Sunday, November 16, 2008 10:00 AM to Tuesday, November 18, 2008 10:00 AM

Banff, Alberta T1L 1H5

Countdown to PDC

Countdown to PDC 2008: This is the Software + Services PDC, Plus a Hard Drive Chock Full o’Bits is a PDC Attendee’s Dream Come True!

Apparently there are all sorts of interesting bits being given away at PDC 2008 to developers. All developers will be getting a 160Gb external USB2 drive full of content. Mike doesn’t provide the details of what will be available on the drive, but you could guess based on Mike’s post that it will contain:

I’ve never been to a PDC. For that matter, I think the last big developer focused conference outside of the O’Reilly conferences that I’ve attended was JavaOne back in 2000. I have heard great things from people that attended PDC in 2005. There will also be the introduction of the Software+Services platform. There have already been parts of the platform available including SSDS, Office Live, Dev Live, and LiveMesh. It should be a very interesting few days.

Register for PDC 2008

StartupEmpire is the new black

Image by Balakov Leave it to two knuckleheads, who tend to just do things rather than planning. The result is often something other than what was expected, sometimes you get bitten on the ass for your actions. Jevon and I both jumped the gun, showing you why entrepreneurs need help with logistics, legals and trademarks. Apparently there was a trademark registered with the previous name of our conference. We loved the name. While we’ve been in informed that our use does not infringe on the existing trademark, we decided it was just easier to change the name of the conference.

We bounced around ideas including:The League of Extraordinary Startups; StartupUnion; Her Majesty’s Canadian Startup; among others. Ultimately we’ve settled on StartupEmpire!

It’s a little audacious. Entrepreneurs need to start thinking big.

We’re working on planning the very hands on workshops. The goal is to provide entrepreneurs an extremely practical content around starting a company, building a product and growing a business. Participants can expect to leave the conference with example term sheets, example shareholders agreements, practical advice to dealing with cease-and-desist letters, marketing plans, example pitches, sample budgets and cashflows. All learnings from entrepreneurs and experts about in workshop format. We’re also open to suggestions and ideas for sessions. We want to make this valuable to attendees. We need a stronger, louder voice to build awe inspiring companies. Drop me a note about what you find valuable in a conference like StartupEmpire.


Mark Relph has some Q&A from John Oxley and Rick Claus about the upcoming TechDays events.

Each year our team strives to deliver the best experience to Canada’s Technical Professionals that we possibly can.  This includes thinking about how to change and innovate our programs to ensure that are meeting your expectations.  You told us that you wanted an event that focuses on helping to build your skills.  You expect a world-class event experience and you expect it in more places than just Toronto.  The team has been working hard for months to respond to your feedback and TechDays in the culmination of that effort.

TechDays 2008 is our largest technical education conference series for IT Professionals and Developers in Canada EVER. With more than thirty 200+ level sessions in each city there truly is something for everyone.  This is not a “marketing event”.  You can choose from tracks and sessions including: Windows Development, Web Development, SQL Server 2008, Infrastructure or our first large scale deep dive into Microsoft’s Virtualization solution.  The broad technical education at TechDays is delivered by Microsoft staff, our Partners, and a variety of industry experts.  The technical sessions and onsite experiences combined with the TechDays learning kit are designed to help you grow your skills, give you the tools to learn, to share best practices and build connections in the industry.

TechDays is an interesting change in focus. Sure it’s a Microsoft event focused on Microsoft technologies. But it is an event focused on bringing content focused on helping provide career development and skills development for IT and software development professionals. The goal is to provide real world education and experience by Microsoft staff, Microsoft Partners, and industry experts.


  • Toronto: Oct 29th and 30th
  • Montreal: Nov 6th and 7th
  • Vancouver: Jan 21st and 22nd
  • Calgary Dec 10th and 11th
  • Ottawa: Nov 27th
  • Winnipeg: Dec 4th
  • Halifax: Dec 17th


  • 2 Day Conference
    Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver
    Early Bird Price: $ 249.99 (By Oct 15th)
    Regular Price: $ 499.99 (After Oct 15th)
  • 1 Day Conference
    Winnipeg, Halifax, Ottawa
    Early Bird Price: $ 124.99 (By Oct 15th)
    Regular Price: $ 249.99 (After Oct 15th)
    Space is limited to: 5,000 IT Pros. & Developers

Attendee Benefits

  • 6-month TechNet Plus Subscription
  • Visual Studio 2008 Professional – Full Package Product
  • Expression Web – Full Package Product
  • Visual Studio 2008 Team Suite – Evaluation Software
  • Expression Studio – Evaluation Software
  • Virtualization Resource Kit
  • 30% off certification voucher – Applicable to All MS Certification Exams
  • TechEd 2008 DVD Set
  • $100 Discount Coupon for DevTeach/SQLTeach

TechDays in the wild