The Road to MIX

road to mix

The MIX Conference – billed by Microsoft as its web conference (and now with phone!) and me as “Microsoft’s most right-brained major conference” – takes place in Las Vegas next week! It’s the conference where developers, designers, UX/UI pros and businesspeople get together to talk about “consumer”-focused applications and sites for the web and phone.

A little aside: I put “consumer” in quotes because I hate the term but don’t have a reasonable substitute for it. My problem with the term “consumer” is the same one that Jerry Michalski has: it makes us sound like “living gullets whose only purpose is to gulp down products and crap out cash.“ If you can think of a better word for “consumer”, please share it with me!

There will be a fair number of announcements made at MIX, so we’re doing a couple of things to make sure you get the news as soon as possible:

  • We’re sending a few members of the Evangelism team to cover the event, including myself, John Bristowe (who’ll be presenting at MIX), Frederic Harper and Paul Laberge.
  • We’re bringing along a few friends to help cover the event, including Mathieu Chartier, Richard Campbell, Colin Melia, Andrew Louis and Mark Arteaga.
  • And finally, videos of the sessions will be posted online very soon after they’ve concluded.

You can view the MIX11 schedule to see what’s going on during the conference, or you can check out the pared-down schedule I’ve posted below, featuring those sessions that focus on the web and the phone. You might notice that a lot of the scheduled phone sessions have no name and (TBA) beside them: I leave it to your imagination and deductive powers to figure out what they might be about!

Monday, April 11

Web Phone
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Pre-conference Boot Camps Pre-conference Boot Camps

Tuesday, April 12

Web Phone
9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Keynote Keynote

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Hot from the Labs: HTML5 WebSockets

HTML5 for Silverlight Developers

Application Design for Windows Phone

Flickr API: Tap Into Billions of Photos for Windows Phone 7

XNA Game Studio for Fun, Profit, Danger, Excitement and Windows Phone 7 Games

2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

50 Performance Tricks to Make Your HTML5 Web Sites Faster

Microformats and Semantic Markup

Node.js, Ruby, and Python in Windows Azure: A Look at What’s Possible

Deep Dive MVVM

Expert Lessons: Top Tips for Building a Successful Windows Phone Application

Who Would Pay For That Feature? Adding Analytics to Your Windows Phone 7 Applications

3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Building Adaptive HTML5 Applications

JavaScript: The Language

Making Better Web Apps For Today’s Browsers

Rx: A Library for Managing Asynchronous Data and Events in your Windows Phone 7 Application

Wednesday, April 13

Web Phone
9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Keynote Keynote

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Deep Dive Into HTML5 <canvas>

ECMAScript 5: The New Parts

Going Mobile with Your Site on Internet Explorer 9 and Windows Phone 7

Building Windows Phone 7 Applications with the Windows Azure Platform

Going Mobile with Your Site on Internet Explorer 9 and Windows Phone 7

Windows Phone Session (TBA)

2:00 p.m. – 2:25 p.m.

Hacking with the F12 Developer Tools

The View of the World Depends on the Glasses I Wear

Windows Phone Session (TBA)

2:35 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Building Data-centric N-tier Applications with jQuery

Windows Phone Session (TBA)

2:35 p.m. – 3:35 p.m.

5 Things You Need To Know To Start Using <video> and <audio> Today

Adding the Awesomesauce Flavor with Internet Explorer 9 Pinned Sites


3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

The Devil Went Down to HTTP: Debugging with Fiddler

Interactive Panel: JavaScript

Script#: Compiling C# to JavaScript using Visual Studio

Windows Phone Session (TBA)

5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Is that a Sherpa on Your Shoulder?

Reactive Extensions for JavaScript (RxJS)

Windows Phone Session (TBA)

9:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. Attendee party Attendee party

Thursday, April 14

Web Phone
9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Designer and Developer: A Case for the Hybrid

The Future of HTML5

MMP Player Framework: Past, Present, Future

Writing Maintainable JavaScript

Windows Phone Session (TBA)

Windows Phone Session (TBA)

10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Filling the HTML5 Gaps with Polyfills and Shims

Analyzing and Improving Windows Phone Application Performance

Windows Phone Session (TBA)

12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

HTML5 for Skeptics

Modernizing Your Website: SVG Meets HTML5

Making Money with your Application on Windows Phone

Windows Phone Session (TBA)

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

CSS3 Takes on the World

Data in an HTML5 World

Good JavaScript Habits for C# Developers

Creating Windows Phone Applications Using Expression Blend

Windows Phone Session (TBA)

3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Designing Great Experiences for SharePoint 2010

All Thumbs: Redesigning an Existing UI to Suit Windows Phone 7

Get Real! Sketch, Prototype, and Capture Great Ideas with Expression Blend and SketchFlow

New Technologies for Immersive Content Creation

The Tale of Two Apps: Making a Splash in the Windows Phone Marketplace

Windows Phone Session (TBA)


This article also appears in Canadian Mobile Developer and Canadian Developer Connection.


ICT Toronto, Five Years Later

david miller ict toronto

Five years ago, an ambitious project called ICT Toronto was unveiled at the MaRS Centre with great fanfare to local press, policy wonks and businesspeople. ICT Toronto’s vision, which I’ve taken directly from the hundred-page document that they proudly handed out at the launch, was:

Our vision is that the Toronto Region will become, and be acknowledged globally, as one of the 5 most innovative, creative and productive locations in the world for ICT research, education, business and investment by 2011.

ict toronto documentThere were speeches, starting with well-meaning-but-poor-executing then-mayor David Miller (who bears a physical and psychological resemblance to Mayor Adam West from Family Guy), followed by a string of policy wonks who had never deployed a working piece of technology or tech training, either software or hardware. There were photo ops, business card exchanges, hors d’oeuvres and inexpensive champagne. What was in notably short supply were actual techies. As I wrote back in 2006:

It was easy to spot the DemoCamp gang — me, David, Jay, Sutha, Bryce, Mark — among the attendees, who numbered around 100. We were the only people there not in suits. It certainly looked as though we were there only people there who wrote code for a living. We made sure to mingle and found that most of the attendees seemed to be from the management side of various information and communications tech firms or from organizations that invested in them.

One worrisome thing about ICT Toronto was that in all the speeches given at their launch party, all they did was talk about inviting large international companies to set up in Toronto, and to invite American companies to open “nearshoring” operations here. I remember quipping that they should put up giant posters saying “Toronto: The Bangalore Next Door!” Nowhere was there any mention of boosting home-grown talent, innovations and startups; it was all about Toronto the Branch Office.

In April 2006, they launched with a single-page site, whose text was embedded into a single graphic, guaranteeing that it wouldn’t be properly indexed by search engines. Here’s a screenshot:

ict toronto site

Don’t bother visiting the site. It’s gone.

In September of that year, I wrote in an article titled ICT Toronto: I Know What You DIDN’T Do This Summer:

It’s almost five months later, and it appears that not much has happened. I haven’t seen a press release since the one for their launch party, and a Google News search for “ICT Toronto” ends up without any results.

In the meantime, Toronto’s techies, without any of the money or manpower earmarked for ICT Toronto have held 4 DemoCamps and a BarCamp, events which have gone a long way to fostering a sense of community and cooperation in the local tech scene. And of course, actually building information and communication technologies, something the suits seem to have completely overlooked.

This is hardly surprising. Silicon Valley was born of good circumstances coupled with the grassroots efforts of ambitious techies doing what they loved, not by government/business fiat. I’d call ICT Toronto a bunch of pointless martini-swilling stuffed shirts, but that’s an insult to martinis and dress shirts, both of which I happen to like.

ICT Toronto’s going to have to do better than produce a glossy report and a party with decent hors d’oeuvres. I hope I’m wrong, but I seriously doubt that they’re up to the task.

After getting smacked about in the blogosphere by me and other local techies, the folks at ICT Toronto reached out and invited us to a few breakfast meetings to discuss how they could better engage the tech community. Mark Kuznicki, probably this city’s best bridge between the local tech scene and government at all levels, reminded us that it was a government initiative run by “grey-haired folks” and unlike we Gen-Xers and Millenials who live in the “Web 2.0″ world, they don’t move in web time. That was fair, and in response, I wrote that they don’t have to move in web time; they just had to move. I held out hope that they’d get off their asses, but kept them on notice:


After a staff reshuffling, ICT Toronto’s outreach vanished, as did any sign that they were doing anything. The last time I bothered even mentioning them was back in February 2008, when I compared the way they saw the local tech scene to the way grandma sees the TV remote:

how grandma sees the remote

Quite fittingly, today is April Fool’s Day, 2011 – about three weeks shy of the five-year deadline set by ICT Toronto. The single-page placeholder site they set up five years ago has vanished without ever having been updated, anyone associated with the project has long since been reassigned, and I’ll bet that the subject of ICT Toronto hasn’t been brought up at any of the local tech gatherings in a good long while.

I don’t know where Toronto stands in the ranking of ICT cities today, but if it has any presence at all as a place to do high-tech work, it has nothing at all to do with ICT Toronto. The credit goes not to our policy makers, but to our techies. We’ve got a vibrant scene here, with techies doing what they do, whether they’re in small development and design shops or working at one of the multinationals (in the period since ICT Toronto got started, I’ve done both). We have events of all sizes, from regular meetups and user group meetings at pubs and lecture halls to independent conferences like Mesh, RubyFringe and FutureRuby to tech “camp” events to big corporate gatherings put on by the likes of the Canadian subsidiaries of IBM and Microsoft. We’ve got hackerspaces and the MaRS Centre. In my work as a developer evangelist for Microsoft, I’ve met many students at Toronto’s fine universities and colleges, and they’re eager to crank out the ‘wares, both hard and soft, and they’re bright as all get-out. We have a great community bound together by cooperation, a strong social media scene and good old-fashioned face-to-face meetings. We get stuff done, and the stuff we do travels far and wide.

We are the real ICT Toronto, not those municipal painted popinjays.

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