Seattle

Brian Alkerton holds up Matthew 'The Oatmeal' Inman's comic, 'Explosive poopies of joy'.

Brian Alkerton, stand-up comic, karaoke wizard and Shopify Guru — the Gurus are a team that help customers succeed with their online shops — is a travellin’ man this week. He was in Boston earlier, and now he’s in Seattle to attend the PAX conference. He’s also doing some remote work and today, he held “office hours” at the legendary Top Pot Doughnuts on 5th Avenue (a stone’s throw from Hotel Five), which is a great place to get some coffee and delicious toroidal baked goods; it’s also a pretty decent place to get some work done.

While there, Matthew Inman, the twisted comics artist behind The Oatmeal (and Shopify customer) dropped by to chat with Brian. He also gave Brian a wonderfully and disturbingly Oatmeal-esque comic with the caption “Shopify gives me explosive poopies of joy.”

Personally, I think it’s all the fiber — his comic is The Oatmeal, after all — but it’s nice to see that we have another scatologically satisfied customer.

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.

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BarCamp Seattle

seattle barcamp

This weekend, I’ll be in Seattle for BarCamp as part of the BarCamp tour, a cross-North-America sponsorship put together by five startups: Batchblue, Grasshopper, MailChimp, Wufoo and the company for whom I am representative, Shopify.

BarCamp is an unconference – a gathering that turns the traditional notion of a “conference” upside-down. Rather than the content being determined by its organizers, it’s determined by the attendees. At the start of the conference, any attendee can propose a session topic, and if it’s accepted by the group, that session gets put on the schedule grid and assigned a time slot and a room. Sessions themselves are somewhat different from sessions at a traditional conference: while there’s still roles akin to a “presenter” or “presenters” and an “audience”, the line between the two is considerably more fuzzy. They’re closer in spirit to open discussions rather than lectures.

barcamp-tour-logo

BarCamp Tour are not your typical sponsors. Just as BarCamp is an unconference that turns the notion of a conference upside-down, you might say that we’re “unsponsors” doing the same to what is traditionally viewed as sponsorship. Yes, we provide funding to various BarCamps, but we do something that most sponsors don’t do: we show up and participate. We help out the organizers with everything from putting together parties to helping move furniture and clean up. We take part in the sessions, sometimes as participants in the “audience”, sometimes as “presenters”. While we do promote our companies, it’s not in a hard-sell way, and often, we do it by listening to and learning from the people there – after all, they’re potential customers, partners and even hires.

BarCamp Seattle takes place this weekend on Saturday, June 24th and Sunday June 25th at the Adobe Conference Center in Seattle’s Fremont neighbourhood (801 N 34th Street). Saturday is a full day with check-in starting at 8:00 a.m. and the unconference kicking into full swing at 9:00 a.m.; Sunday is a half day with check-in starting around 8:00 a.m. (emphasis on around; there’s a party on Saturday night) and the unconference resuming at 9:00 a.m..

BarCamp Seattle, like all BarCamps, is free but you need to register. To register, visit BarCamp Seattle’s EventBrite page.

BarCamp New Orleans

barcamp new orleans

My next BarCamp will be BarCamp New Orleans, also known as BarCamp NOLA. I’m rather looking forward to this one for a few reasons:

BarCamp New Orleans takes place on Saturday, July 16th and Sunday, July 17th at the Launch Pad coworking/startup space (643 Magazine Street, Suite 102). Registration on the Saturday is at a very civilized 9:30 a.m. with the unconference getting into full swing at 10:00 a.m. and running until 5:00 p.m.. Sunday is a “Hack Day” with registration at 9:30 a.m., start at 10:00 a.m. and running until 5:00 p.m..

Like all BarCamps, BarCamp New Orleans is free but you need to register. You should register soon – only 76 spaces remain as of this writing!

BarCamp Toronto

barcamp-toronto-anyone

A couple of weeks ago, I put out the call for help in getting together a BarCamp in Accordion City. We haven’t had one in four years and I think it’s about time! The other folks on the BarCamp Tour, most notably Jonathan Kay of Grasshopper who absolutely loves “Toe-RON-toe”, have expressed interest in having one in Canada and are willing to be a sponsor.

A great collection of people have stepped forward and volunteered to help. I’ll be meeting with them online very shortly (I’m in Ottawa for the summer, but I return to Accordion City in the fall) to discuss what happens next, but know this: the first step toward bringing BarCamp back to Toronto has been made.

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.

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We’ll be in Seattle This Week!

by Joey deVilla on February 1, 2009

Seattle skyline

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

Starting tonight (Pacific Coast Time), John Bristowe, I, and a few other folks from Microsoft Canada’s De veloper & Platform Evangelism team, will be in Seattle all next week to attend Microsoft’s 8th TechReady conference. TechReady is a Microsoft internal conference where ‘Softies from all over the world gather to get briefed on upcoming releases. The coming months promise a bumper crop of Microsoft goodies – Windows 7, Internet Explorer 8, Visual Studio 2010 and Azure to name a few – so the sessions should be very interesting. (I think I’ll actually be taking a lot of notes during the presentations rather than checking my mail or looking at that video of kittens riding a Roomba.)

We’re going to try to take advantage of this gathering to get some interviews with  some of the big brains at Microsoft from Redmond and all over the world, as well as show you some of the sights and sounds of Seattle. Watch this blog for updates!

Are you in Seattle? Want to catch up? Talk about Microsoft, software development, accordions. Zardoz or anything else? Drop me a line or give me a ring (416-948-6447)!

[Seattle photo by Andrew “papalars” Larsen and licenced under Creative Commons. Click here to see the original.]

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McDonald’s on El Camino Real and totem pole at Pioneer Square
Scenes from the Valley’s El Camino Real (left) and Seattle’s Pioneer Square (right).

Here’s some food for thought. Ahmed Hassan very recently wrote a comment in response to an article of mine, Ideas to Steal from Silicon Valley and Seattle, and it’s worth promoting to its own article, so here it is.

Being from Toronto and having worked in both Toronto, Ottawa, and the US, I think Toronto has severe challenges.

1. We build workers…not leaders.

We have loads of talent…but all we create is good worker bees.

2. Yes, lack of big companies is a big deal.

There are some ‘entrepreneurs’ who will just go at it on their own. yet, the vast majority of people like a decent job. So they meet up at large companies…work for a while…then maybe decide to start their own thing. All we have in Toronto proper is IBM and AMD. Anyone care to explain how RIM was founded in Waterloo. I ask that as a serious question. How does a small town create the only great Canadian tech company in operation right now? Why was it not founded in Toronto? Ask that question a few times…over and over.

3. Politicians do not understand business.

When you have someone like Miller who says he doesn’t care about companies who move to Mississauga for lower tax rates as he only wants companies who are willing to pay more to take advantage of Toronto’s urban character… you know something is wrong. They will try to push venture capital and ‘incubators…’.

As I say…mentality before process.

4. Sometimes you run out of talent.

How many high tech centers do we need? Everywhere you go, there is a lack of talent. If Toronto tech can just pickup and move to Seattle, Silicon valley, New york, boston, dallas, austin… in an already established tech base, why would they bother doing it here? Better weather, lower taxes, more like-minded entrepreneurs.

It’s not impossible. But Toronto has its work cut out for it. The biggest threat to Toronto…is actually Waterloo. Very close to Toronto and with a large tech base. It’s largely a mentality gap. Toronto embraces bureaucracy and structure. Startups are about freedom and independence. If you will…that’s why RIM was founded in Waterloo as opposed to Toronto. No Toronto bureaucracy would have ever approved of RIM. I mean they would be competing against Motorola, Nokia, MS… impossible…that’s a bad investment.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

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