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

Founders & Funders Waterloo

I’ve been working with the fantastic of folks (Kevin Tuer, Iain Klugman, Gary Will and the team at Communitech) to get a Founders & Funders event to happen at Entrepreneur Week. The event is sponsored by Communitech, Microsoft and TechCapital.


What is Founders & Funders?

Founders & Funders is a social event aimed bringing together the people that start the next big successful company with the people that fund these companies in their earliest stages. The event is social. It is not a pitch fest. It is not a DemoCamp. It is an opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs and funders in your local community. The goal is to help facilitate opportunities for people to meet, share and build relationships that will grow into the NEXT BIG THING.

Founders and Funders is dedicated:

  • to helping Canadian entrepreneurs to meet each other;
  • meet potential funders: angel, VC or other money sources;
  • to have fun;
  • and see how we can help each other create the NEXT BIG successful company.

How do I get involved?

The event is “by invitation only’. The easiest way to get invited is to send Kevin Tuer – a note explaining why you should participate.

What: Founders & Funders Waterloo
When: Thursday, October 9, 2008 10:00 AM
Waterloo, ON   Canada

Business of Software conference

Wow, I hadn’t been following the development of The Business of Software conference. Brydon mentioned it was a not-to-miss conference for 2008. The provisional program was announced yesterday. It is an incredible list of software luminaries.

I’m intrigued to see Richard Stallman at a conference about the business of software. However, as many folks will point out that free software is one of the most successful cultural and business models, check out The Cathedral and the Bazaar (O’Reilly Media Book). Dharmesh Shah shared his pithy insights on the business of software. This is going to be an awesome conference.


Today is my 1 year anniversary at Microsoft Canada. I’m guessing there are a lot of unhappy gamblers in the pool. It’s been a fun year. May and June are always full of surprises and changes, fortunately this year the changes were much less scary and exciting. Less scary.  Anybody remember DemoCampToronto6? Unfortunately I don’t, it has been 2 years since the infamous BarCampER where I had the misfortune of having a heart attack. So I look forward to making it through May without any surprises.

And it’s been 1 year since I joined Microsoft. Can you believe it? Hopefully you didn’t loose too much money on the pool.

The Year in Review

SxSW 2008 - 148

I attended a lot of conferences and events this past year. It felt like I was on the road a lot.I had a great time meeting people, hearing about what you were building and your mixed reactions to Microsoft. Some very positive. Others much more negative. I shouldn’t be surprised at the distribution of reactions and responses, but I think I was most surprised by the positive. I hadn’t really expected to become the public face of Microsoft Canada at many of the events. And I’m pretty sure that providing real-time bourbon-fueled support wasn’t in my employment contract, but apparently if you buy me bourbon I’ll provide substandard support. I haven’t spent a lot of time in the Microsoft ecosystem but I’ve been introduced to great people like John Bristowe, Mack Male, Derek Hatchard, Colin Bowern, Mark Arteaga and others across Canada. I continued to meet folks in the *Camp sphere including Vincent & Phillipe, Patrick Lor, Cam Linke and others. And best of all, I keep getting to see my friends and acquaintances around the country (you know who you are).

Places to Go, People to See

Community Participation

Jon Udell asked that we hold off evaluating his joining Microsoft:

Wait until the evidence is in, then decide for yourself. I’ve been in this game for a long time. I think my record of pragmatism and agnosticism speaks for itself…

Well it’s now been a year. And I want to know what you think? Good? Bad? Otherwise?

What can I do to make the next year awesome for you? the community?

Tapping participants brillance

I seem to be having an attention-love affair with the Adaptive Path team lately. Alexa Andrzejewski has a great post about involving conference participants in the themes and conversations at their recent MX Conference. Alexa documents some of the ways she’s seen at past conferences for allowing the audience to self-organize and “triangulate” around.

    Graffiti Wall: Put up a giant piece of paper with some initial structure and encourage collaborative graphic recording — where participants can add their own notes, sketches and insights to a giant mural. Stickers and collaging images and words could be provided as well.

    Open Whiteboards: Write questions on giant sticky notes (e.g., “What is service design?”) and put them in the halls where people can write on it during breaks. It could give people something to talk about while providing a forum for expression.

    Five Minute Madness: We do this in our staff meetings: Someone makes an audacious statement that they may or may not agree with (e.g., “Experience Designer is a meaningless job title.”), and we discuss it for five minutes. Something like this could also be done on giant pieces of paper.

    Projected Messages: Have a computer hooked up to a projector where people can type (or Twitter) ideas and thoughts and see them projected. Providing a question or conversation prompt, as described in Open Whiteboards and Five Minute Madness, might encourage participation.

    Birds of a Feather: Place a “topic card” on each of the dining tables, such as “design research” or “managing internal experience teams” and encourage people to find a table with a topic that interests them.

I love the bottom up theme discovery. Events like the Sarah Lacy/Mark Zuckerberg SxSW debacle hopefully are the exception for how to rally conference attendees.

Graffiti Wall/Open Whiteboards

conference whiteboards
Photo by Obi Juan Kenobi

I’m not sure how these are different other than the surface. Perhaps it’s the intent of what people are supposed to do with graffiti versus whiteboards. It’s a great idea to place the whiteboards or graffiti wall in a central location, i.e., near the coffee or just out of the traffic flow between sessions. Basically the placement needs to be where conference attendees congregate. Also make sure there are lots of markers and materials for creative expression this includes word magnets and other forms of self-expression. I really like the idea of using large butcher paper placed around the conference.

Five Minute Madness

This reminds me of the 20×2, MiniBarCamp or Ignite ideas. 20×2 is a concept curated by Kevin Newsum and Jeff Rider. At SxSW, 20 speakers get asked to take 2 minutes to answer 1 question. The format allows a diverse group of participants to approach a common idea space.

“The results can be as varied as the emotions and reactions they evoke.”

The questions are designed to be dynamic and open ended. The questions covered are esoteric, interesting and open-ended. Designed to inspire the audience and the responses.

  • What is interactive?
  • What is real?
  • What RU W8ing 4?
  • Who Are You?
  • What’s the Secret

The Ignite format is pretty simple. Presenters have 20 slides, the slides advance automatically every 15 seconds. This limits the presentations to 5 minutes (20 x 15 seconds = 300 seconds). The rules become an interesting mechanism for self-expression.

Other formats that for a social event include Powerpoint Karaoke. Not as much about conference feedback, but a great way to get conference participants engaged and sharing. One option for Powerpoint Karaoke is to have the audience represent the slides from the main conference. It could be done in a recap format or in a completely humorous spoof of the presentation.

Projecting the Backchannel

Photo by Karsten Januszewski

Jesse Hirsh displayed a Twitter-based backchannel at his “Permanent Campaign: The impact of technology on politics” event. This is not a new idea. ETech has had the IRC-based backchannel for as long as I can remember, but it hasn’t been projected. Les Blogs projected an IRC-based backchannel in 2005 to very mixed reviews. Other less technical options include web-based chat like Pibb which the BarCampPaloAlto folks used in conjunction with Jyte for voting and assertions. Mix07 used Flittrbook to display a mashup of Flickr, Twitter and Facebook messages.

The backchannel at lesblogs 
Photo by advencap

Figuring out how to integrate the backchannel into the conference is a tough challenge.

mrelph twitter statuses at EnergizeIT

One thing that needs to happen at EnergizeIT, Mesh, or any other conference is that presenters need to be able to see the backchannel without having to turn around to see the screen.

Birds of a Feather

Whether it’s self-selection into groups or providing common topics for the group to collaborate on, it’s important to encourage attendees with similar interests to discover each other during conferences. My hypothesis is that conference experiences are strengthened by the personal connections made or renewed at the conference. The Community Connection events are a structured evening session aimed at facilitating discussion among participants. The Learning Circles [PDF – 154kb] are a context for sharing ideas, views and experiences in a participatory conversational format. These BOF and Learning Circle engagements are incredibly powerful community tools that have been leveraged by organizations, unions, churches and movements to galvanize members into addressing concerns through dialogue and taking action.


here-comes-everybody Whether it’s participant-driven conferences, or providing tools for feedback at other conferences, engaging the audience and giving them the opportunity to connect and share is key to having a successful conference.

But media is actually a triathlon, it ‘s three different events. People like to consume, but they also like to produce, and they like to share.  – Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky’s new book puts forth an interesting hypothesis, “for the first time in human history, our communications tools support the group conversation and group action”. Conference need to continue to investigate how to use tools to improve the connections between attendees. There are bound to be a set of new patterns that emerge for engaging attendees. We’re seeing the integration of participant-driven content into conferences like Mix08 (Open Space @ Mix08) and Web2Expo (Web2Open). The addition of tools like CrowdVine, Facebook and others maybe we can start to find each other and build better conference experiences.

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
by Clay Shirky

Read more about this book…

How to Demo like a Demon

David Crow + Leila Boujnane W00t! Leila and I are part of the MeshU schedule. We are co-presenting a session titled “How to Demo Like a Demon“. The original title was Raise Money, Win Friends and Get Laid (aka How to Demo and Pitch for Fun and Profit). The idea, we need to teach entrepreneurs how to present and communicate their ideas. We’re really trying to help improve the quality of pitches, demos and presentations.

Raise Money, Win Friends and Get Laid  (aka How to Demo and Pitch for Fun and Profit)
Co-presented with Leila Boujnane, Idee, Inc.
Boring! Get off the stage!
How many times have you wished you could say this to a presenter at a conference? Or a demoer at DemoCamp? This workshop will help developers understand that doing demos is a marketing task because it generates demand for the software.
Technologists and designers need to be able to create demand for their ideas. They need to be able to tell compelling stories that convince audiences that there is ‘wow’ in what they are doing. Successful demoers are more likely to raise money, have friends, and get laid.

I’ve talked about my awe of the MeshU line up previously, and now that the line up includes me, no serious, the rest of the lineup is fantastic. The rest of the MeshU lineup includes a fantastic program. If you’re looking for a meaningful conference in Toronto, MeshU is only $239.


theblackswan OCE is hosting it’s Discovery conference again. I’m looking forward to hearing Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. The rest of the schedule looks entertaining and includes Michael Raynor, author of The Strategy Paradox: Why committing to success leads to failure (and what to do about it) and The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth.

List on the Discovery08 web is:

New for 2008: Experience Discovery like never before. Test your pitch on venture capitalists and other business experts. Participate in exciting team challenges that pit your innovation skills against real-world problems. Take advantage of our expanded networking environment. See and hear what’s hot in Ontario’s critical sectors like Cleantech, Energy, Life Sciences, Digital Media and Manufacturing. And connect with some of the world’s best selling authors and pundits at keynote sessions.

The one thing I’m finding strange these days is the number of people mostly from government that are talking about an “innovation sector” and pitting your “innovation skills against real-world problems”. What the hell is the innovation sector? Aren’t companies typically innovative in the previously mentioned sectors (Cleantech, Energy, Life Sciences, Digital Media and Manufacturing)?

What is innovation? has 6 definitions including “something new or different introduced; the act of innovating; introduction of new things or methods”. I just confused by the marketing speak used by the OCE team in promoting Discovery08. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised when I read the gibberish on the Ministry of Research & Innovation web site:

Places that invest in innovation, that stroke the creativity of people, that market their ideas most effectively will become the home to the most rewarding jobs, to the strongest economies and to the best quality of life. We want Ontario to be that place where innovation is inevitable.

While government involvement in my life is a series of tradeoffs, it’s great to know that at a provincial level there is support for the creation and commercialization of new technologies and business models. MRI supports MaRS, OCE and other organizations that support entrepreneurs, researchers and students with awareness, funding and policy.

What: Discovery08
How do you ride a curve that is yet to emerge? Or prepare for risks that have no name? Or create the next big thing when nothing is certain? Find out at OCE’s Discovery 2008, Canada’s premiere innovation and commercialization event. Be inspired, challenged and emboldened by influential thought leaders, daring visionaries, and over 1,500 delegates from every aspect of the innovation sector.
When: Monday, May 12, 2008 5:00 PM to Tuesday, May 13, 2008 4:00 PM
Where: Metro Toronto Convention Centre

255 Front Street West
Toronto, Ontario M5V 2W6 Canada