Old Office, New Office

Summer Sojourn’s End

Joey's car (Black Honda CR-V), packed to the gills, with a red bike in the rear-mounted bike rack.

My summer immersion term at Shopify ended on Friday. I’d found my niche within the company, gotten to know the team and was ready to continue working remotely. It was time to return to Accordion City.

I moved out of the furnished apartment they provided me for the summer – affectionately dubbed the “Swank Tank” – a day early because I had a business trip to Montreal and packed everything I’d brought with me and picked up over the summer into my car. I tucked my car into Edward’s driveway for the couple of days I was away, far enough out of sight of the kind of people who break into cars to help themselves to the loot inside.

Between not knowing how much kitchen stuff would be provided by the Swank Tank’s proprietors, wanting to have a good chunk of my home office material handy over the summer and just being be ready for anything, I overpacked when I left for Ottawa in May. I’d also picked up a couple of large items over the summer, including a new monitor and bike. Looking at my car, you’d think that I’d made a permanent move and not just gone somewhere else for the summer.

I decided to wait out the Labour Day Friday cottager traffic and make the five-hour road trip from Ottawa to Toronto in the evening. I had dinner at the Smoque Shack with my coworkers Liz, Julie, Nick and Brian, picked up my car at Edward’s and went into the Shopify office one more time to get the last of my stuff.

Old Office

Here’s the entrance stairway to the current office. This won’t be our current office for too much longer; we’re moving into a newer, larger space a couple of blocks down the street later this fall:

The entry stairway to the Shopify offices

Here’s the reception area and lobby, as it appeared at 9:30-ish on Friday night:

The reception desk and lobby at Shopify

Offices take on an eerie, haunted sort of vibe late at night, so I decided to snap a couple of pictures. Here’s the “Fishtank”, the glass-enclosed room where Shopify’s design team works:

The empty desks of Shopify's design team room

The Fishtank has a big glass wall that looks out onto the main “bullpen”:

The big glass wall in the Shopify Fishtank looking out onto the main office

Right across the hall from the Fishtank is the boardroom, which you may remember from the Epic Meal Time video that was shot at our offices; this is where the final tasting scene was shot:

Shopify's boardroom, with cardboard animal "trophies" hanging on the far wall

By some strange coincidence, whenever I get an assigned space at an office – something that hasn’t happened since I left Tucows in late 2007 –- I usually get the “Keanu Reeves Location”: a desk situated in the dead centre of the mass of desks (just like his character in The Matrix had). I had that spot in the Shopify office:

Two rows of empty desks in the centre aisle of Shopify's main office

Here’s my old desk, all clear and ready for the next person to occupy it. I took the Shopify standard-issue 15” MacBook Pro, Magic Mouse and wireless keyboard with me, but left the Cinema Display and Aeron chair behind. It would’ve been nice to take both back to the home office with me, if I’d had the room in the car:

A desk that is empty except for an Apple monitor

New Office

This year’s been a bit of a weird one. Between being in the hospital, several trips (two of which lasted nearly two weeks each) and being in Ottawa for the summer, home wasn’t where I lived; it had become a nice place to visit. The (not so) recent change in the domestic situation also meant a few changes in the layout of my apartment, including a chance to reclaim the home office. I got the basics done before I left and did some serious setup over the Labour Day weekend. The results are shown below.

Here’s what you see as you enter the new home office:

Carpeted apartment bedroom converted into a home office, showing a long desk with computers and a window looking out onto treetops

Here’s a closer look at the desk. I bought it at Cooper’s old Queen Street location back in 1997 for what seemed like a lot of money back then, and it’s served me well over the years. It was originally L-shaped, but over the years, I’ve reconfigured it in all sorts of ways: L-shaped, split into two desks and finally, as a single long workstation:

Joey's workstation, as seen from the left

Here’s the desk from the other side:

Joey's workstation, as seen from the right

Opposite the desk: a set of matching shelves and a lot of organizers I’ve picked up over the years. I used to have more programming books – they used to eat up shelves – but in the age of PDFs and the iPad (plus the fact that the half-life of a tech book seems to be nine months these days), most of my tech library is in electronic form now:

Bookshelves packed with books, plus photo boxes of files and many plastic bins full of wiring and other tech equipment

Here’s another view of the whole office. The window looks west out onto the courtyard behind my building, and beyond that, the tree-lined Gothic Avenue:

Joey's home office as seen from the desks, showing a windows overlooking treetops and the bookshelves and organizers

The left side is the Windows half of the desk. My main Windows machine is the Dell 15” laptop I got as one of my fabulous parting gifts from Microsoft. The monitor is one I bought as a present to myself shortly after joining The Empire just before my birthday in 1998. And hey, who wouldn’t want to have an Xbox in their office?

The left side of Joey's workstation, with a Dell 15" laptop, 25" Samsung monitor, Wacom drawing tablet, Xbox and wireless controller and office chair

On the right side of the desk: the Mac side. That’s a 15” MacBook Pro driving a 24” LED Cinema Display that I bought from my coworker Nick just before heading back home. Note the Avenue Q “The Internet is for Porn” mousepad just to the left of the keyboard.

The right side of Joey's workstation, showing a 15" Mackbook Pro, 24" Apple monitor, several organizing containers and a "The Internet is for Porn" mousepad

The New Old Routine

Today’s my first day back at my old routine as a mobile worker. I’ll get a fair bit of work done at the home office, but I’ll also be mixing it up by being on the road, plus working at some alternate locations because I don’t like being a shut-in.

The view from the front of Cafe Novo, a cafe that opens out onto Bloor Street

I’m a member of the Hacklab, which gives me 24/7 access to their Kensington Market space; it’s often empty during the day. There are also a number of work-friendly wifi-equipped cafes where I hang out, both close to home in High Park (I’ll write about them soon) as well as closer downtown. And finally, I’ve got a fair bit of travel in my future – so much that I’m getting my Nexus card next month – which means I’ll be working from hotels, cafes, airport lounges, BarCamps, other people’s offices and so on.

It’s going to be an interesting fall.

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


Reminder: Montreal Shopify Meetup This Thursday!

Once again: a reminder that the Montreal Shopify Meetup takes place this Thursday at the Irish Embassy (1234 Rue Bishop) at 6:00 p.m.. Come meet your fellow shopowners, developers and designers! Come meet some of the Shopifolks (Edward, Cody, Ada and Yours Truly) who are coming down for the event! Come on down and join us for good food, good drink and good company!

Once again, our deepest thanks to Mitch Amihod and Dave Lazar for putting this thing together. Mitch says that while RSVPing isn’t necessary, you should drop him a line on Twitter (his handle’s @meeech) or email him just so he knows how many plan to attend and can book space accordingly.

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.


Featured Shopify App: Wishpot Button

Wishpot logo

Wishpot is a registry system that lets you create wish lists — wedding registries, honeymoon registries, baby registries, gift idea lists or “here’s some stuff I’d like to have” lists — any kind of list where you invite people to participate in gift-giving. Wishpot has a twist that other registry sites don’t have: it’s universal, and lets you include items from any store.

Wishpot team 2 The Wishpot/Venpop Team.

Wishpot is a Seattle-based company with two brands: Wishpot for consumers and Venpop for business-to-business. They’ve been in business since 2007 building their wishlist platform for the web and in 2010, they introduced their social commerce apps space, now under the Venpop brand.

We invited them to tell us a little more about their Shopify app, Wishpot Button, its features, and how they built it.

What does Wishpot Button do?

Wishpot button icon

Wishpot is the leading universal wishlist service that works with any store.  For shoppers, this means they no longer need to keep track of different wish lists at different websites.  Wishpot provides additional features to keep users engaged year-round – birthday reminders, deal alerts, cash contributions, social sharing features, ecards, and much more.  For store owners, this means less abandonment of wishlists and increased activity on items that have been added to the lists because of the engaging feature set.  This is a free service for both stores and users.

What are the key features of your app?

  • Adds a universal wish list and registry – for example baby and wedding – to your shop
  • Price alerts bring back your customers when prices change on your store
  • Cash Contributions functionality makes it easier to buy your more expensive items
  • Social sharing and ecards allow your customers to easily share their list and get your products discovered
  • Get reporting, in store support, custom branding, experts and much more with the easy upgrade to the white label version

Why should shopowners use this app?

This enables any shop owner to instantly make each product easy to add to a wish list or registry.  It is incredibly easy to install, it does not cost anything, it provides a great service to your customers, and above all drives users and potential customers back to your shop.

Where did you get the idea for your app?

We had several Shopify customers ask to integrate our services with Shopify and after a few conversations with the great guys at Shopify, so we decided it was the time to pull the trigger and start developing some great apps. The Wishpot and Venpop technologies are a perfect extension to the already fantastic Shopify experience.

How long did it take for you to build the app?

The main app was built in about a week, though we revised and simplified it over the course of several more weeks.  The hardest thing to get accustomed to up front was “where” the app runs.  Although the main Wishpot site is built in C# and .NET, we decided to build the app in Ruby and Rails on Heroku due to it’s more extensive use and testing with the Shopify ecosystem.  We then needed to ask a few forum questions about the ScriptTag features, because we really wanted people to be able to install the “add to wishpot” button without having to edit a liquid template, and the scripttag feature enabled us to build that experience.

In order to enable Venpop technologies (this is an update that’s coming to the app in the next few days) we then had to add some additional features to link our .NET-based service to the Ruby-based service, which we’re able to accomplish via oauth and the RESTful apis both platforms provide.  So, when a user authorizes the app, their access token is also sent back to our .NET services, so that Venpop’s product feed processing engine has access to the catalog.  That way, if someone signs up for Venpop Social Commerce, we’ll have access to their storefront to monitor it for changes, tweet new deals, etc.

How can we find you online?

Web: |

Twitter: @wishpot | @venpophq


Where can I find out more about Wishpot button?

Wishpot button icon

You can find out more about Wishpot Button on its page in the Shopify App Store.

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.


How We Use Git at Shopify

Trunk and branches
Creative Commons photo by Paul Hart.

Over at the Shopify Technology Blog, John Duff explains the Git workflow we use at Shopify. Whether you’re a Git user wondering about how other people use it or looking to migrate from your oldie-von-moldie version control system that’s not expected to catch up to Git for years, you’ll find John’s writeup useful.


We’re in Vancouver This Week!

Creative Commons photo by Casey Yee.

This week, a number of Shopifolks will be in Vancouver. If you see us, come say hi!

Tobi and Harley at the GROW Conference

Grow 2011

Tobias Lütke, our CEO, and Harley Finkelstein, our CPO (Chief Platform Officer) will be attending the sold-out GROW Conference 2011, which will be taking place at the Vancouver Convention Centre’s West Building (the media building for the Olympics) from Wednesday, August 17th through Friday, August 19th. This is the must-attend conference for Canadian startups and entrepreneurs. I’ll leave it to my friend David Crow to describe it:

The Grow Conference is a unique three-day conference that brings together the top minds in business, entrepreneurship, technology, and capital to inspire and engage the next generation of disruptive entrepreneurs. It doesn’t matter if your business is on or offline, the next-gen entrepreneur knows where their customers are and how to engage them. Today’s entrepreneurs are creating new opportunities, disrupting age-old markets, leveraging technology on their path to being tomorrow’s leaders. The Grow Conference is bringing the best minds of Silicon Valley and Canada together to share lessons learned and inspire action. Be part of this entrepreneurial revolution as we work together to drive innovation for the future. GROW is more than a conference, it’s a movement.

All the tickets that were made available online are sold out. For you super-procrastinators with some money to burn, there will be a very limited number of tickets at the door available at the door for US$595.

David and Joey at HackVAN

HackVAN and Shopify

David Underwood, Developer Advocate, and Yours Truly (Joey deVilla, Platform Evangelist) will be sneaking into the GROW Conference after-party, but the real reason we’ll be there will be for the HackVAN Hack Day taking place at the Mozilla offices (163 West Hastings, Suite 200, Vancouver) on Saturday, August 20th. HackDays are events that are being held across Canada where developers get together, and working either in teams or solo, build cool applications in a day using publicly available APIs. If you’re a developer of any level of experience, from just starting out to guru-level, come out, make new friends and connections and get a chance at winning some cool prizes (up for grabs: a MacBook Air, iPad 2 and Kindle).

Registration for this event is a mere $10 — register now, and we’ll see you on Saturday!

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.


BarCamp Tour Update: Seattle This Weekend, New Orleans Next Month, and Toronto…Soon!

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 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


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.