RIP Robert Morris

Robert morris

Robert Morris was the cryptographer’s cryptographer. A compiler developer and contributor to Unix at Bell Labs, he developed the password encryption scheme for authenticating users, the direct descendants of which are still in use today. He also wrote the program we know and love as crypt as well as the math library. He went on to work for the government, including decoding encrypted evidence for the FBI and planning cyberattacks on Iraq’s command-and-control systems in the first Gulf War.

You may be forgiven for mistaking him for his similarly-named son, Robert Tappan Morris, who gained notoriety for accidentally creating the Morris Worm. He’s since received a Ph.D. at Harvard, became a member of the faculty at M.I.T. and is often one of the people who vets Paul “Y Combinator” Graham’s essays before he posts them online.

Morris strikes me as the sort of character whom you might read about in a William Gibson or Neal Stephenson novel. He even has a quote worthy of appearing in a book written by either novelist:

The three golden rules to ensure computer security are: do not own a computer; do not power it on; and do not use it.

Morris died last Sunday at home in Lebanon, New Hampshire at the age of 78. Requiescat in pace, Mr. Morris; I’ll be toasting you at the pub later this afternoon.

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.


Hitler Finds Out About Final Cut Pro X

I thought that parodies of the movie Der Untergang (re-titled Downfall in English-speaking markets), in which Hitler’s nervous breakdown in the bunker were re-subtitled in all sorts of crazy ways, were played out, but Hitler Finds Out About Final Cut Pro X made me laugh out loud.

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


Shopify’s App Wishlist

App wishlist

While the Shopify platform covers most of the needs of people who want to sell stuff online, it can’t cover them all. That’s why we built an API and have the concept of apps: programs that third-party developers can write — and as an added bonus, sell — to add features to Shopify. The API allows programs to take almost any action that a Shopify shopowner can take using his/her shop’s admin panel and make use of a lot of the information that Shopify has about a shopowner’s shop. You can write apps that make a shop’s customers’ experience more pleasant, make a shopowner’s life easier or provide shopowners with information to help them make better business decisions. You can also sell your apps in Shopify’s App Store, and we’ll soon introduce a matchmaking service that pairs shopowners who need developers to build apps for them with developers who need shopowners to build apps for.

If you’re interested in building a Shopify app — perhaps you’ve got a client that you’re building online stores for, or maybe you’d like to write something for the almost 15,000 Shopify stores out there — you should check out the Shopify App Development page on our wiki as well as our API Documentation.

If you’re short on ideas, wondering what kind of Shopify app to build, you’re in luck! We maintain the App Wishlist, a wiki page containing ideas for apps that we’ve received from our customers and developer partners. We maintain it as an "ideas warehouse" for apps we’d like to see as well as a place to track their progress as they make the journey from idea to working software. Check it out — if you have ideas for apps, add them to the page, and if you’d like to turn one of these ideas into working software, let me know!

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.


DemoCamp Ottawa 16 Tonight! (June 29th, 2011)

democamp parliament hill

Creative Commons photo by Endlisnis.

You should think of DemoCamp as a grown-up version of “Show and Tell” for techies and creatives. Started by Canada’s very own David Crow as a way to bring Toronto’s then-hidden-away tech community out of the woodwork and talking to each other about what they’re working on, DemoCamp has spread to cities all over the world. I’ve seen firsthand the effect of holding DemoCamps: people have made friends, found work, discovered interesting projects, started collaborations and even landed VC funding. Great things happen when you gather bright, creative minds into a room to talk!

The 16th DemoCamp Ottawa takes place tonight! Here are the quick details:

I’ll be attending tonight – hope to see you there!

The Demos

The DemoCamp philosophy is simple: show us your project in action! Whether it’s complete or on the way there, we want to see a working application or device and be shown how it works, why you build it and what you hope to do with it. This is a technology demo, so it means no marketing – and especially no slides – are allowed. We just want to see your project in action.

There will be 5 demos at tonight’s DemoCamp, and they’ll all follow this format:

  • 2 minute introduction
  • 8 minute demo
  • 5 minutes for Q&A and discussion

Tonight’s demos are:

HIVE-secure – Human Intelligence Verification Engine

Presenters: Chris Ivey and Pierre-Olivier Charlebois

Forget CAPTCHAs.  Choose HIVE instead, and make your customer happy. 

Time Doctor

Presenter: Liam Martin (

Time Doctor is a collaborative to-do list to make you and your employees more productive. We are in open beta and would love to show everyone where we are and get suggestions on where we should go next.


Presenter: Grant Hall (

JetStreamHD brings all your home based media  (Movies, TV Shows, Home Video, Songs, Photos) to your iPad instantly over any 3G or WiFi wireless network.  We launched the app at Demo 2011 in California and are now ready to open our web store to ship the first production run to our customers.  This will be our final release candidate and we are looking for feedback and suggestions for new or missing features.

iWatchLife – Smart Video Security

Presenter: TBD

iWatchLife is a smart video security system that helps people watch their family, pets and property from any web-enabled device.  We launched officially in May 2011

Coin Collector

Presenter: Kyle McInnes (

Coin Collector is a demo version of a tablet-based showcasing tool we’re working on. Whether your customer is at a conference or in their livingroom, we provide a platform for you to showcase to them.

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.


Shopify’s CodeRetreat with Corey Haines

Space needle

Hello from Seattle! I’m here to attend BarCamp Seattle as Shopify’s representative on the BarCamp Tour, and as always, I’m having a good time here thanks to the surroundings, people and rich tech scene. I’m going to spend Saturday and Sunday in a corner of geek heaven: the Adobe Conference Center in Seattle’s Fremont neighbourhood, surrounded by some of the bright lights from the area, including Amazon, Adobe, Apple, Google and Microsoft, as well as the people from the endless array of local startups and indies.

Code retreats w corey haines

I’m not the only Shopifolk getting a good geek fix today. Back in Ottawa, the Shopify office, which is two-thirds developers, is awfully quiet because they’re not there! They’re a few blocks away at the National Arts Centre, where they’re getting yet another perk of the job: a CodeRetreat with Corey Haines!

Code retreat 1

One of the biggest challenges that developers face today is “sharpening the saw”. Typically, they’ve got a lot of work to do and precious little time in which to do it — and that’s when things are running smoothly. Often, it gets much worse, with requirements as slippery as eels in vaseline and deadlines that have come and long since gone, and even the most agile of processes is helping them fail to keep up. As a result, they’re so bogged down with getting their projects up and running that they don’t get much chance to step back and work on their own skills. I’ve seen this firsthand, especially in the enterprise world, back when I was a Microsoft developer evangelist — many of them told me that between rapidly reorganizing business processes, ever-changing tech and just plain old just-not-enough-hours-in-the-day, they were worried that their development skills were atrophying.

Code retreat 2

Corey Haines’ CodeRetreats are all about addressing this problem. Here’s a description of the event, straight from their site:

Coderetreat is a day-long, intensive practice event, focusing on the fundamentals of software development and design. By providing developers the opportunity to take part in focused practice, away from the pressures of ‘getting things done’, the coderetreat format has proven itself to be a highly effective means of skill improvement. Practicing the basic principles of modular and object-oriented design, developers can improve their ability to write code that minimizes the cost of change over time.

It sounds like fun, and were I not doing my thing over here on the Left Coast, I’d be at the CodeRetreat with bells on. It’s this sort of opportunity that Shopify regularly provides to the Shopifolks that make me so glad that I joined the company.

Code retreat 3

Since I’m on the other side of the continent and three time zones away, I have no clue what’s happening at the CodeRetreat. I’ll have to make do with these photos that a couple of people on our development team have been Tweeting and ask them for more details when I get back (and you can be sure I’ll try to turn that into an article for this blog).

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.


Anna’s Notes on “Landing Your Dream Job 2.0”

Anna lambert

One of our great Shopifolks — that’s my own little neologism for “person who works at Shopify” — is Anna Lambert (@alambzz on Twitter). She’s a summer intern, but you wouldn’t know it, as she’s sunk her teeth into the job with the intensity of a co-founder. She shares the front desk with Brittany Forsyth, our head of HR, and things at Shopify run that much more smoothly because of her hard work.

If you saw yesterday’s article on the OCRI smarTALK, Landing Your Dream Job 2.0, you know that I took copious notes at that event. (And if you haven’t seen it, and especially if you’re looking for work in today’s competitive environment, read my notes now!) It turns out that I wasn’t the only one taking notes: Anna was there too, and she distilled her notes into a nicely annotated — or should I say Anna-tated? — top ten list:

  1. Think to yourself: Can I add value to this company?
  2. Justify your claims.
  3. Think otuside the box.
  4. Reduce the risk.
  5. Get your name out there.
  6. Know your audience.
  7. Do research and get your facts straight.
  8. Form a relationship.
  9. Use social media tools to your advantage.
  10. Never use the infamous “to whom it may concern”.

Anna explains each of these points in greater detail in her article in her blog, Little Miss Shopify. Check it out!

This article also appears in the Shopify Blog.


Notes from “Landing Your Dream Job 2.0”

Ocri 1

Landing Your Dream Job 2.0

Landing Your Dream Job 2.0 took place late yesterday afternoon at the Mercury Lounge in Ottawa’s ByWard Market. This was one of a series of smarTALKS held by OCRI, the Ottawa Centre for Regional Innovation, an organization whose goal is to promote the area’s knowledge-based businesses and industries. smarTALKS are sessions meant to “engage entrepreneurs, thought leaders and innovators in forward-thinking conversations about ‘what’s next.’ “

Here’s the abstract for Landing Your Dream Job 2.0:

From custom landing pages to personal branding, the traditional strategy for landing your dream job may no longer be effective. Particularly in the startup and technology space, successful candidates are thinking outside the box and creating customized application packages that market to target employers using unique methodologies and tactics. This renaissance of creativity among motivated candidates has raised the bar for entry into many high growth companies. The panel will focus on sharing some of these contemporary tools as well as best practices for landing a job at the tech firm or startup of you choice. In addition, the panel will discuss trends in current hiring practices and will provide an analysis of how things have changed over the past few years.

Harley Finkelstein, Shopify’s Chief Platform Officer and Shopify’s representative at OCRI, played the role of host and panel moderator. The panelists were:

This panel discussion played to a packed room, with attendees filling the the main level of the lounge, the balcony and even the staircase leading up to the balcony. I’d say that there are a number of people in Ottawa either looking for work or workers!

Notes from the Talk

Ocri 2

I took notes during the whole session and have posted them below.

Harley Finkelstein: How have things changed in the way people apply for jobs?

Doug Teztner:

  • These days, there’s so much more information available about places to work and what they’re like
  • Responding to job postings has become like responding to RFPs — you’re not just simply applying, you’re doing research
  • People are getting background information on companies through sources like LinkedIn
  • You can network with people who work at the place you’re applying to
  • Candidates these days have to be more selective — they should be asking themselves these questions:
    • “Where can I add value?”
    • “Which jobs line up with my resume and skillset?”

Harley Finkelstein: When Mike Freeman applied for a job at Shopify, he did something clever: he created a Shopify store selling himself. Mike, how’d you come up with the idea, especially since you essentially a web page with a single purpose: to be landing page for Shopify?

Mike Freeman:

  • I didn’t want to take the shotgun approach — I really wanted to work at Shopify
  • So I did some very heavy research
  • I’ll admit it: I was putting all my eggs in one basket
  • Looked for connections between him and Shopifolks (found a past connection between him and Harley — they worked at the same org)
  • It was all about standing out and getting past all the other applicants

Harley Finkelstein: Speaking of standing out, Luc, what different tacks do you think job applicants should take?

Luc Levesque:

  • It’s a balancing act between standing out and annoying the people you’re trying to reach
  • If you’re applying for a job at my company, do something I can look at and sink my teeth into
  • The question that people who are hiring are asking themselves when evaluating candidates is: “Can they perform?”
  • A great way to stand out is to work on your online profile

Harley Finkelstein: If you’re not applying to TravelPod in some standout way, are you in trouble?

Luc Levesque:

  • The more you can do to “de-risk” the hire, the better
  • The trusted reference — someone who I trust who is recommending you — is the trump card

Harley Finkelstein: This new trend in finding interesting ways to get hired seems to be a product of the tech and the startup scene. But there’s at least one story outside tech where a guy who wanted a job on Madison Avenue set up pages so that when CEOs of adevrtising firms did vanity searches, his resume would appear near the top of the search results. A very creative solution. Brittany, do companies need to encourage this?

Brittany Forsyth:

  • In today’s market, we expect this sort of thing more and more
  • It’s a good answer to the problem of what to do if you’re young and don’t yet have the connections you need
  • When I get a job application for Shopify, I look at the cover letter: it’s the first indicator of their fit with the company
  • One of the best ways to land an interview is to provide some proof that you can do the job
  • If you write code, we can check Github. If you design, we can check your online portfolio
  • Don’t be afraid to go outside the box

Harley Finkelstein: What do you do when you have a position you need to fill?

Doug Teztner:

  • Another big change in hiring is that the word about jobs gets out in nichier ways now; it’s more targeted
  • We’ve been doing more job adveritsing via LinkedIn than with the Globe and Mail
  • Looking for a job is a job: it’s a sales job, in fact. You’re selling yourself!

Ocri 3

Harley Finkelstein: This new style of job-seeking, with extreme customization and a focus on standing out — is it a Gen-Y specific thing?

Brittany Forsyth:

  • No, I think it’s just that the bar has been raised
  • I don’t think it’s specific to any generation

Harley Finkelstein: Is this new-style job-sekking increasing the level of engagement with applicants? Do they know more about the businesses they’re applying for?


  • I don’t know
  • It’s too hard to tell if it’s a fundamental change in the way people look for work, or simply that we’re hiring more
  • It could also be that the tools and resources are better these days.

Harley Finkelstein: When you were applying for work at Shopify, did social media play a role in the Shopify job application?

Mike Freeman:

  • Yes!
  • I used LinkedIn to see who worked where and who’d been hired
  • Facebook can also be a good source of information and connections
  • If you’re applying for work, check out the company’s site. You can get a feel for the company’s “voice” and see if you’re a good fit
  • You’ll feel more comfy going into an interview if you know more about them

Harley Finkelstein: Is the quality of candidates changing?

Doug Teztner: People are better prepared now

Ocri 4

Harley Finkelstein: Why applying or interviewing for a job, how important is know the audience?

Brittany Forsyth:

  • Research goes hand in hand with knowing your audience
  • Customize your job application to match

Harley Finkelstein: What is a dream job? Is it a new concept?

Luc Levesque:

  • I don’t think I’m old enough to answer that. Doug? (laughs)
  • There was one applicant — he’s now a rock star in my company – I initially didn’t hire him
  • He found out what events I went to, and whom who I knew, attended those events, befriended those people

Doug Tetzner:

  • Make a list of people who like you

Luc Levesque:

  • Relationships: they’re the trump card
  • I’ve seen who’ve had horrible interviews, but because of a recommendation from a trusted source, I hired them
  • The slam dunk: a recommendation from someone whom I trust, whom you reported to and who depended on you

Brittany Forsyth:

  • We had one application who took our Shopify site marked what was wrong
  • It can be a double-edged sword, but in his case, it worked
  • It proved that he knew us and it showed that he did his homework

Doug Tetzner:

  • Please don’t start your cover or intro letter with “To whom it may concern”. Who uses “whom” anymore?
  • Just find out my name! It’s not that hard
  • Have a couple of good questions that you would ask during the interview
  • “I did 70 hours of prep for the short list!”
  • At the job interview, don’t go for broadcast, but conversation
  • You should be asking yourself: “Is this a good fit? Am I adding value?” Figure out if it’s right for you, they’ll figure out if you’re right for them

Mike Freeman:

  • Coming out of school, you were probably given a lot of examples and templates for cover letters and resumes
  • Break free! Do something different that represents you
  • In my interview, I ended up talking with [Shopify CEO and co-founder] Tobi [Lutke] and Harley about random things
  • If you can’t find your dream job, find your dream company and work towards that dream job

Harley Finkelstein: Mike’s store was a good sign that he was the sort of person we were looking for and that he’d be a good fit

Luc Levesque:

  • Hiring is really more more about getting the right people on the boat
  • If you’re talking to a founder or CEO and you blow them away, they’ll invent a position just for you
  • In the back of their mind, they’re asking themselves “Am I going to have fun working with this person?”
  • You are building a relationship with the hiring manager
  • Turned down a rock star on the interview because they couldn’t build that relationship

Brittany Forsyth:

  • Make sure your social media profile represents you well
  • If your social media software allows it, do a good customization – don’t just go with the boilerplate!
  • And working towards the dream job? I did that: I took an office manager job at start with goal of becoming an HR manager

Doug Tetzner:

  • Include your interests in your resume! I want to know what kind of person you are
  • Will someone please do a video resume?
  • Don’t say “If there’s anything else keep me in mind” — it says you’ll take anything
  • Instead, do a quick follow up
  • You want to build some chemistry with the person you’ll be working for
  • If there’s no chemistry at the start, it will typically not get better

Luc Levesque:

  • Don’t talk money at the first interview
  • It’s a first date! Don’t rush into the sex!

Quotes from the Q&A

Mike Freeman: If you’re trying to make a name for yourself and you’re just starting out, start a blog on a topic in your field

Luc Levesque: A blog is a great way to do that — it builds credibility

Doug Teztner: A lot of companies have a little list of people they’d like to fire

(In response to a question about an older applicant competing with younger ones) Luc Levesque: In the case where it’s you versus a 22 year-old and you’re using same tools, you experience could be the edge you need

(On being invited to lunch by people trying to hire you even though you’re not looking for  job) Luc Levesque:

  • You’re going to eat anyways, take every lunch!
  • The connection you make could be valuable later
  • Oh, and by the way, whoever invites, pays

This article also appears in the Shopify Blog.