Category Archives: Community
This is my third RailsConf, having attending them in Portland and Chicago. I have found the Rails community as mostly open, people generally easy to ask questions off, and a good range of talks. Railsconf are well organized conferences, they feel professional and evolve each year.
This year the courses seemed to concentrate between the beginner and the intermediate with occasional spikes into the advanced. A lot of the course titles were a little abstract and thus encouraged you or discouraged you (depending how tired you were) from reading the actual description.
It was noticeable this year the number of women that attended (i.e. a larger number) and equally notable how few Blacks there were attending the conference. There were a lot more talks about how software developers are human and soft skills.
The main thing I get from the conference is the people I meet, the conversations I have, the things I learn from attendees.
I felt all four were really good and worth attending and worth watching when they become available.
DHH Rambled a bit, but got to a good point that Rails is a backpack to build a medium sized company like Github or Shopify. He took on the criticism about Monolith architecture and termed the phrase Majestic Monolith and ‘integrated systems’. Again this created some great lunchtime and evening conversation. We also talked about two features in development for Rails 5 Turbolinks 3 and Active Cable. His talk.
I see you have a poorly structured monolith. Would you like me to convert it into a poorly structured set of microservices?
— Architect Clippy (@architectclippy) February 24, 2015
Sarah Chipps talked about her journey. I love that she gave up part of her talk time to some students and their journey to coding and drones.
Aaron Patterson did his usually trolling and then talked about the areas he is now working on – some great stuff on controller and integration tests. I love that he walks us through the process, I learn each time he does. His talk.
I found that day two and day three had more topics I was interested in. Here are some of my favourites:
- Good education talks included Sandy Metz on Nothing is Something (talk) followed by React.JS by Michael Chan. I call them educational because I learnt something from them.
- A great comparison talk on Processes and Threads – Resque vs Sidekick by James Dabbs
- Interesting journey/scaling talk on High Performance APIs in Ruby using ActiveRecord and Goliath by Dan Kazlowski and Colin Kelley
I heard some good things about:
- Ernie Millers‘ Humane Development
- Bending the Curve: How Rust Helped Us Write Better Ruby by Yehuda Katz, Tom Dale
- Playing Games in the cloud presented by: Nadia Odunayo
- Why we’re bad at hiring (and how to fix it) presented by: Kerri Miller
New things at the conference
Each year the conference improves :-) I am impressed with how well organized overall the conference is for a non-profit organization relying on volunteers.
- The theming of topics was really good and helped participants navigate talks
- The Rails core team talk was very informative
- Having many big boards with schedule on, was great
- Having a mobile app was very useful
- I think the notice board was a lot bigger
- Lightning talks had a lot of talkers
- Separate page for sponsored parties. It would be good to have this one page for all the after parties. Often they get booked really quickly but only the people in the know.
Old Things and still good
Railsconf has a scholarship scheme which gives free tickets to a number of people who are coming to the conference for the first time and might otherwise be able to. I love this. I was a scholar in my first year and have being a guide in the last two. I think Ruby Central is awesome to provide this.
Are a great way for people to try out presenting or were not able to be fitted onto the whole schedule. I would suggest moving this to a morning, they are good but often get tagged on the end of the day and maybe a little tired.
This was very useful with both the schedule and the map. Meet the team is a nice touch, maybe add what role they are playing at the conference.
I loved this, I feel having more would be great, I suppose I miss the fourth day!
Venue – The Mart
Of the three RailsConfs I have attended, this year there was either a lot of noise pollution (e.g. Bang Bang, or the equivalent to a freight train going over your head). In the main room there was a lot of echo, if you managed to avoid the really big pillars. In the smaller rooms, there were several issues with the projectors not being powerful to counter the lights and no one knew how to turn the lights down. All of that said this was the best WIFI hands down.
Sorry this was not a great venue.
The first lunch was a little light. The second and third lunches were really good. The snacks were all gone by the time I got there, though there was fruit :-)
Was it worth the trip?
Conferences are essentially a social experience, as most of the videos/decks appear online, thus the most valuable part is the people I meet at conferences. I wonder what the future of conferences is, with all the content being streamed, will they become totally virtual or in fact will they become more social. The problem with big conferences is that you can get comfortable with sticking with your team or people you know and not meet new people. For me this is what I get:
- I meet new peers and mentors
- Discover new perspectives
- Discover how others solved a similar problem
- Share what I know and become a useful part of the community
- I can ask questions in talks to clarify my understanding
- Sometimes a talk will teach you something new, or you learn to communicate something complex in a new way or you realize that you know this topic.
- Find people you want to work with
- It was not my favourite year for talks
But I am an extrovert, I will actively introduce myself to a lot of people. That said it tires me out!
This year I sent three people and myself (from Vancouver, BC). There were some great talks, but more average talks then I had seen in the past. I feel the social aspect is one of the areas we could evolve and make the conference even better. It is also what I think will keep bringing people back. For the social members of my team the conference was good, for non social the talks were not compelling enough on their own this year, in part due to the level of expertise and in some cases because of venue distractions during the presentations.
Ideas for next year
Its not just our code base that needs to evolve and grow, the conference does to, here are some thoughts/ideas/suggestions that may improve the experience.
1. Making the conference more social
You can see all the talks online, why attend if not for the social aspects?
- Publish the attendance list. As people register, ask them Name, Company, Title, length of time coding, and what they want to get out of the conference.
- I suggested a couple things last year in my rails 2014 blog and rails 2013 blog
2. Upping the quality of the talks
- Coaching for first time talkers, from communication experts, education experts and experienced presenters (I will volunteer for this)
- Learning style guide – help speakers think through the styles to make easier for all to absorb
- Feedback for each talk by participants to be fed to the speaker, this would be great in mobile app
- Room instructions – How do I turn lights down/up, who fixes the projector
- Pretest room for computers and projectors
- Hands on masterclasses and workshops with very experienced people like Metz and DHH
3. Interview DHH
This would be even more fun if it was Aaron Paterson who did it..
4. Grow the conference committee to include people who have sole responsible for:
Scholars champion – Have a person own this and evolve it each year. Make sure there is a table that scholars can go to and make sure they have space to see the keynotes, check on the beginners track to ensure the content is actually beginner friendly.
Connections champion – Work in ways to help other newbies/lone travellers meet others. Be the person who can introduce people to other people.
Presenter Experts Volunteer Pool – Ask the community to apply to help out first timer presenters and those that would like a sanity check pre-conference and in-confrence.
5. A non interruption space and a “singles” want to meet people space
Most of us occasionally need to work/code get shit done. Maybe we could have a space when we have power and can code without interruption or sound sshhh. And then another space where I will code/play/experiment but happy to be meet people, in fact please interrupt me. Its kind of like a singles bars, in that it is easier to approach people, making it a bit easier for all. You could have board with I would love to speak to people about x and here is my twitter handle (in case I am not in the room at the time you step in).
Great food and calming accent. I also visited Martin Luther King jr. centre and Human Rights Centre were emotionally overwhelming as well as educational.
There was a stark contrast between the Race of the attendees of the conference a lot of white and some others, against all of the people who served the food and drink who were Black.
As a community I think we are welcoming. Bootcamps seem to help those with money. Ruby Central offers scholarships (reduced ticket price to free) for all minorities and those with little money, which is awesome.
I feel the lack of certain communities in software development is not just a Rails/Ruby problem, but wider. I wonder what we can do as a wider community to add more to our diversity? We are after all in the hometown of Martin Luther King, Jr. Is it an issue of poverty, education, role models or something else. How do we make it better? If there is a software community that could consider this and maybe make it better – I think it is the Rails community…
I will vote yes for the Mayors Transit plan for Vancouver, BC
As an elected councillor in my past I have seen how badly underfunded public transport hurts people both in the medium and long term. How it does immense damage to the vulnerable in our society. And how do we want to treat our environment? How clean do we want our air? Our populations are always growing, how many cars do we really need?
Newquay North, Cornwall County Council, UK, 2005
Should we have a better Transit System?
I would like Vancouver to become a better place for everyone. That people can get around easier without cars (e.g. children/elders, the vulnerable), that they can choose jobs/schools further afield, that they can explore more of Vancouver and discover “new” shops/businesses to become customers of. I would like to see a city that manages its carbon footprint better as it grows. A big step to ensure our future is smog free is to invest in our public transport infrastructure.
I have seen the impact of under investment in public transport. Rising house prices, congestion, more anger from traffic jams or the buses being full, the reduction in family time due to longer commutes, smog and the impact on businesses. People’s health (both physical and mental), finances and job satisfaction all take a middle and long term hit. It can be easy to fall into the trap of anger.
I remember when I lived in London, before they got congestion under control, my snot was often black. After it went back to green and clear.
Why did the Mayors decide to fund it this way
You pay your taxes, you pay for your monthly bus pass. And then the bus you rely on is late, or is full, and you miss an important meeting or you’re late to a friend’s birthday. The anger and the disappointment have lead us to resentment, and it is clouding or judgment in this matter. We have to find it within ourselves to move past the anger and to forgive. Only once we’ve forgiven can we begin to see the solutions, and begin to part of the solution. Don’t simply look at this campaign as voting to part with your money. The mayors council looked at a bunch of different ways to fund it and all but one mayor agreed 22 out of 23, as this every happened before? The summary and the detail – Look at Appendix F
We live in a community to help each other not just ourselves
Whilst I appreciate that my tax dollars are going into this project, I will not wholly benefit myself as I live downtown and walk 30/40 mins to work. Even though I do not care to ride a bike (as I prefer to walk), I appreciate the need for them – they give us the option to be car free. Community is not just about my personal needs, it is also about how kind thoughtful I am, my willingness to share and collaborate with all. And most importantly, don’t simply think of improving your situation. Remember the elderly person down the street who needs Handydart, and how a line to UBC would improve the state for students. It is the glue of our society and our community.
Should we have had a vote?
I agree that this should have being decided by politicians. But with the HST popular vote, we now have a well funded anti-tax, anti-government campaign that will plague every decision and ask for a refer on everything now. Many of the decisions “blamed” on Translink were actually decided by politicians at the Provincial level. While I will vote yes, I will also be looking for new politicians in the next provincial elections that will make the right decisions for our future and some will not be popular.
Has Translink being Audited?
Three years ago the province responded by auditing TransLink to find efficiencies. That 2012 audit identified $41m in potential savings. Which is great. Over the previous two years, TransLink themselves had already found $98m in internal savings. That’s $139m in total savings over 3-4 years.That doesn’t sound like rampant mismanagement to me. That sounds like an organization actively trying to save public tax dollars. And succeeding. Despite all that, none of those savings was enough to fund future growth.
Who is actually delivering the Compass Card?
For example for the Compass Card TransLink contracts out installation, maintenance, and daily operation of the system to San Diego based Cubic Transportation Systems. This company was chosen by Provincial politicians, not Translink and why not they implemented the Oyster card in London, UK. The delay and extra cost is focus on the type of system i.e. double tap, one tap is ready to go, the double tap is not. The most detail I could find was the technology on buses is not able to cope with the demand that may occur.
“From my knowledge the system runs on Windows CE and there are no issues with that as far as I’m concerned, as long as it’s the newest and most updated system,” he said. “But what is more likely the culprit is the local telecommunications system that the [mobile card readers] are operated on. Our wireless network can be unreliable and even spotty particularly with data.”
This is definitely a problem. Vancouver is not alone in seeing this type of project overrun, most seem overrun by years.
- TransLink’s Compass Card system struggles with another glitch
- Seattle’s transit card seems to work, why not TransLink’s Compass Card?
“The fare gates were imposed on TransLink by then Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon and [then Premier] Gordon Campbell and they did that through an unelected, unaccountable board that they also imposed on TransLink,” said NDP TransLink critic George Heyman. “So that’s where I lay the blame for the fare gates and the Compass Cards.”
How does Translink compare to other transit authorities?
How well funded is Translink?
Translink has being deeply underfunded for a while now.
Metro Vancouver’s proposed transit improvements will cost an estimated $7.5 billion over 10 years. It’s money TransLink doesn’t have; the corporation is already $5 billion in debt and barely meets its annual operating costs with existing fares and various tax-funded mechanisms.
This reminds me that as a citizen of Vancouver and of BC, to pay attention to politics both at the city and provincial level. To not trust the “facts” delivered by angry bloggers, who have no accountability, and instead to listen and to research, to discover if their comments are true or false. It is important for us to look at how Translink is held accountable, how it grows and learns both from its customers, its employees and the “Governments”. How it learns from other cities successes and failures. All of that said you cannot expect an underfunded organization to always perform well.
Innovation means getting somethings wrong
I believe that Translink is not perfect, as no human organization is. Destroying an organization ignores the fact that we as humans can learn from our mistakes, and organization are no different. Many of us have relied on the forgiveness from “our bosses” when we got wrong, to not be fired and instead to learn from our mistakes and grow. As citizens we are the boss of our public transport infrastructure. And the best “bosses” allow us for experimentation and innovation — which always comes with the risk to get it wrong. The worse bosses stay angry and persecute us for past transgressions that have now being corrected. Innovation is key to our survival and future and if we kill it with anger and mistrust, we will fail as a human race. Either way the Translink CEO was fired, how much more revenge needs to be taken?
Becoming part of the solution
I have applied to be on the Citizen Council for Transport because I want to do my part. Whether I succeed or fail I am becoming better informed! I have hope for Vancouver to become a better city as it grows. Going forward, I will pay better attention to those that serve us. I am one of those crazy people who still says thank you to the bus driver when I get off, because I appreciate the human that serves us — whether it be the bus driver, the union that protects their rights or Translink who manages our infrastructure. All three have had to do this in an environment that is underfunded and not ready for the future, because citizens have not been doing their part.
It’s time to change this and think/reflect/imagine the city we want.. become solution providers rather than just armchair critics.
Holy shit smile emoticon They said yes!
“Thank you for your application for appointment to the Active Transportation Policy Council.
At its In Camera meeting on March 3, 2015. Vancouver City Council appointed you to the Active Transportation Policy Council, for a term to commence immediately and end February 28, 2017. ”
Looking forward to it smile emoticon
Articles that I found useful:
- No side reaps rewards of 30 years of anti-tax rhetoric
- Why we’re voting “yes” to new transit and transportation funding in the referendum
- The psychology of ‘no': Vancouver transit vote is case study in why it’s so hard to do what makes us happy
- The ‘No Transit Tax’ campaign’s biggest myths on TransLink
- In a peer review conducted by Seattle, Translink was probably the most efficient agency studied: http://tinyurl.com/orn956o , http://tinyurl.com/p42vqr3, http://tinyurl.com/q7kd8ok.
- As public vote on Translink tax hike nears, skepticism and name-calling increases
- If you don’t like a sales tax hike, here’s a peek at one alternative
- More than 400,000 full buses had to skip stops last year: TransLink
This is pretty much one of my strongest beliefs. For me it applies in terms of other peoples’ beliefs, mindsets and even genetics. We never know what we might need to survive. Of course this does not relate to just humans, but also to animals, plants, fish – the organic world – or even inorganic things.
You could say I am trying to keep my options open, not for me, but the human race. It could be the reason why I am politically liberal. It is why I am respectful (to a point*) of all religions, philosophic beliefs, value sets, and political beliefs. Respectful does not mean I will also agree or that I will live my life in a similar fashion.
“As you think, so shall you become” Master Bruce Lee
The *”to a point” then becomes my filter: there are counter balances to my core belief (infinite diversity can lead to infinite possibility). Here are some of them:
Respect for life
This may sound obvious, but I don’t mean just human, but also animals, plants and the planet we live on. It does not follow from this that I am anti-war – avoid it yes- but at all costs, no. I personally would not tolerate Hitler or Sadam Hussain. If that meant I would have to serve, I would.
“We must be the change we wish to see in the world” Mahatma Gandhi
Equality of opportunity
I do believe in social justice, which for me means not to tolerate sexism, racism, or homophobia. It also means that we should have an excellent education and health system. Through this I would not want to wipe out the differences, for example between male and female gender, I love that we are different (and of course find myself occasionally frustrated by it!) Our differences in all forms allow us to develop different art forms, innovate new solutions and discover something never personally felt. I believe effective education is the key to achieving ‘Equality of opportunity’ and it is also a key part of us all being personally accountable.
“Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” Ronald E. Osborn
A balance between the community’s needs and the individual’s needs
I think the Libertian approach where people can do anything they want is not in the best interest for the human race or our planet. I also think that Communism will fail unless you find a way for individuals to succeed and excel, whilst countering greed. I also think Capitalism has many weaknesses. In terms of the divide between rich and poor, the wider it becomes the more likely there will be a revolution. I believe their has to be a tax system that allows for a redistribution of wealth, allowing us to have ‘safety net’ to protect the poor and vulnerable. This safety net should always where possible, encourage further growth and where possible not allow dependency. I do not believe that laziness should be rewarded. That said for those who are successful should be rewarded for their efforts. Whilst capitalism does this through money, I wonder if there are other models that might work.
“New ideas come from differences. They come from having different perspectives and juxtaposing different theories.” Nicholas Negroponte
Clash of Cultures..
I love diversity. I will not tolerate sexisim, racisim or homophobia. That said each characteristic e.g. gender or sex gives us each a different foundation to build upon, i.e. we are not all the same. This I like :-)
I think immigration when not abused is a good thing. Its like having a good team: they are often comprised of very different personalities and approaches, when brought together well they will outstrip a team of clones. Immigration in my head is just a macro version of this. Most first world countries depend on immigrates to keep their economies competitive, maintain the skills/knowledge advantage and to do the jobs that first worlders no longer want to do. On a different but related note Immigrants have started nearly half of America’s 50 top venture-funded companies.
Whilst I would love for us all to one day to have a common language I would not want us to only speak one language. I speak bad English and even worse Spanish and both languages allow me to express myself in different ways. In a past life I was the Chair of the Cornish Language partnership as I held the belief, that the more languages a young child can learn, will give them extra ways express and create in, giving them more options in all things.
I worry when minority groups became overly defensive (i.e. adopt a siege mentaility) and exclusive (to themselves) rather then inclusive, as I see this can led to the inevitable decline of that ‘culture’. I will have to think more on this…
Respect for the ecology
No planet: no human race. I believe in the principles of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. I don’t own a car or a bike, I use my legs and public transport.
“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” Michelangelo
Think to the future
I am a strong believer that governments should think to the future. This highlights one of the problems with democracy. The election cycle often demands more short term gains by the voters and thus the politicians. Innovation and taking some the risk out of innovation should be part of a government’s role. How? Now that is a debate I would love to have.. In the end if we are to survive as a human race I am sure that many of the petty differences that we currently view as so important will disappear once we come together as one human race. To do that we will have to tackle poverty worldwide, find solutions to shortages of food, water, power and education/health AND ‘get over’ nations. We after all live on one planet.. and eventually it will not be able to provide for us all, so we will have to expand beyond it and into space.
“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been” Wayne Getzky
Great advisers (that are different to their leaders) make great leaders
I believe the best leaders have great advisers (with different perspectives) who never get shot down for giving advice, the leader still chooses what to do. Its no different for good people they are often surrounded with many friends who have different opinions who can always give advice to their friend.
“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” Sir Winston Churchill
Every week of my life has changed me.. my views will evolve as my understanding of others evolves. I often debate or have great dialogue with those who once I disagreed with and occasionally my view will change and occasionally their view will change. Together as human race this is one journey of discovery and I am not sure we will ever find ‘perfect truths’ or principles that help us in every situation.
“Problems cannot be solved by thinking within the framework in which they were created.” Albert Einstein
Most of this academic term I have being teaching (4 courses – marketing, advertising, public and government relations) and being a student (3 courses all – HTML/CSS/Java/Systems Design) in the evenings, with my days left to Professional You – so I have participated in a few startup events and I was keen to see who is new on the scene. This event seemed a good way of finding out. You never know who you will meet and what you will learn.
The essence, is you “form” a business” in 54 hours over a weekend. You pitch and people choose to join your team. And you and your team, show off in a 4 minute pitch (to all the teams) on sunday evening and a bunch of judges choose.
Overall it was an excellent weekend, I met a lot of people in the startup community that I had not met before. More importantly I met a lot of people I want to stay in contact with. I learned somethings about myself. In fact I enjoyed the event so much that if I can afford the time and cash I will go to the one in Seattle in January 2012.
I think these sort of ‘networking whilst doing‘ events, could become an important of part Vancouvers’ tech community (in fact any community that wants to encourage and generate more startups). I love the way it brings people together and gives them a window into what it is like to work with people. I could see greater potential in finding your co-founder or your first team at an event like this.
The Journey – Day One – Start 5.30pm
The first engagement (except buying the ticket) was an invite to the community site – Kohort, this happened on the first day before the event. We were all encouraged to start to get to know each other and share ideas. Frankly this start was pretty awesome, as people filled out profiles and started talking and sharing their thoughts, ideas and capabilities.
I got to the venue early, almost two hours – yes I was eager :-) The Segal Centre, Granville Street, Vancouver.
As the event started, people started intensely networking with 80% of participants having high energy and 20% were just shy. We were encouraged to fill out badges and colour them according to our capabilities i.e. business, designer or developer. Some people like me are mutates/mongrels (or multiple talented), so we had colourful badges. This time went REALLY fast as there were so many people to meet :-)
The speeches were ok Joel Solomon?? (a social conscience VC), Jason Bailey was Jason Bailey (casual, offensive/ruffin, uncaring/tough love ). Dave Olson (Director of Marketing Hootsuite) was standup comedy act.
Sean (one of the hosts) presented us some awesome slides giving us advice about how to pull the team and business idea together.
Next up it was time for the participants to start working. Each pitcher was given 60 seconds to rally us to there cause, there were a LOT, I am guessing 50+. I had being thinking about pitching but I decided not too, as my brain was numbed after all the pitches!
I wrote comments for each e.g.
- did I like the idea
- did I like the person pitching
- who did they want
Some pitchers stated they wanted only developers, so I crossed them out (I am a growing developer, but only asking for a developer and not a designer or marketing person said something to me about the person pitching). There was some interesting ideas and some crazy ones.
The wall was than covered with posters for each pitch/idea and we the participants had to choose by voting. The top 15ish ideas that would go ahead. Every attendee had three votes and they chose which projects they liked. This was really interesting to watch as a lot of pitchers seemed to assume that people would vote for the idea not, not the pitcher – thus many of the pitchers did not really try to recruit. My votes went to the people as much as the idea. I voted for Organised Good, My best helper and Jukenuke (which were all pitched by woman).
The most popular pitches (the 15ish with the most votes) were chosen to have the opportunity to talk again and we were given time to explore the idea with each of the pitchers and choose our teams. This was hard.
There was a couple I considered e.g. My Best Helper, one to match mentors with mentorees, one for mobile voting, one mobile app to monitor your houses electricity usage (so you could see when you left electrical appliances on). I did not want to do anything like my current Startup i.e.Professional You. I circled each team to get a sense of what skill sets they already had (you could tell by the colour of their badges), see how big they were. I also avoided the ideas that were clearly mature as I was not sure if I would just become a freebie for the weekend.
I chose Organized Good, in part because I thought it would be most difficult problem to solve. A social pitch with encouraging online and off dialogue with a focus on civic engagement, politics and local community.
The initial team was a cool bunch of people Tara (the pitcher), Fiona (her partner), Steve, Ash and Murf. We got together and Tara downloaded the idea with us and we starting talking and kept talking until 1.30am. In terms of capabilities we had four business people, 1.5 designer and 1.5 developer (I count as the halves as I wanted to play a different role i.e. 19 years of marketing with a computer science degree (refreshing at BCIT presently)).
8.30am the team slowly trickled in. We debated the idea a lot.
There is a journey for initial pitchers e.g. letting others take apart and grow their idea. We talked about the online versus offline, Generation Y versus inviting the whole community. We agreed on a lot more than we disagreed:
- We wanted people to meet face to face
- Local (almost hyper) community (down to neighbourhood/street level)
- That it should be social, community, civic and political – we were worried about this language as it might turn people off, but the spirit was right
- That its was about action, not just talk, we wanted to help communities solve problems
- We wanted to encourage solutions not rants or endlessly debating issues.
- We wanted to help the community help its self
- That meetings and encouraging collaborative projects would be important
Some concepts I noticed with our team and other teams at play:
- Democratizing the idea – would the idea be allowed to grow beyond the pitchers’ visions?
- Idea ownership – would the pitcher give up the idea so it became owned by the team and maybe something bigger.
- Idea maturity – The ideas that had being developed for a while (like the winner) clearly had the advantage.
I wondered how good would I be in giving up the idea and letting others grow it.
With a basic idea agreed upon we split into groups (of pairs) one working on market research, one on the revenue model and one on the design. I worked on the site layout and wireframes as well creating an early story deck.
There was food at some point (for those that know me e.g. ex-chef – food is important to me, so I was either in love, in the zone or asleep), but it existed and was gone as I was still chewing on some of our other dilemmas.
We setup the Facebook page, and watched it slowly climb to 25 Likes so you can own the URL – this was painful and bribes were offered.
Today we got additional help from Thor and Azita who dropped in for part of the evening (she helped Tara and Fiona develop the initial idea but yesterday(friday) was her birthday :-), with Fiona off to work (poor her) yes life still goes on.. the team continued until our brains dribbled out of our ears and alcohol was needed (yes and sleep).
The breakfast was a lot better today, not just muffins, there was fruit too and things with chocolate inside them. Azita joined us full-time today she was fresh with energy and smiles:-) with further reinforcements brought in by Fiona (Chris and Shelby)
We had a diverse revenue model sorted (1Million after three years and in 53 communities).. we came up with a clever new approach to online dialogue.. we even got some expressions of interest to invest.. we worked out the initial organizations that would fund the initial technology.. we established which would be the first local communities we would start with (in Vancouver).. we got support from a local celebrity tech startup CEO.. Some good looking design work (Steve!!). This was our peak.
The basic 10 second pitch was Stackoverflow (online problem solving) merged with meetup.com (getting people in the same room) focused on their community, civic and politics.
Telling the story
We had a lot of different approaches and it took us a while to agree how to tell the story. We all had different levels of tolerance how emotive and challenging we wanted/could be. Than some unhelpful mentor popped in and stated that should only do 5 slides and spend 30-40 seconds (some of team took this to heart) on each. This caused a lot of friction inside the team (or was it just me?!). Sometimes ‘advice’ is unhelpful, as it disrupted the flow of the team. From this point we lost our flow, we were tired and over coffeed. We tried a number of different angles. Towards the end we got some of our flow back with some concrete examples of how we would tell the story. Tara asked Azita to help her pitch on stage and this was our front team.
The venue was The 560 Club which was pretty awesome. Some of the pitches were freckin awesome and some were not. A lot of groups had travelled a long way with a spark of an idea in a short time.
We were the sixth pitch. Tara led the way with Azita(one of the original idea originators). In someways you could see that we were going to pitch to a panel of judges who care for making money through online technology, and who may not care to have a ROI as social good. To an audience who maybe be more comfortable in an online world than in the offline world. We felt as a group it was always going to be tough and yet the ladies performed superbly.
You can see who won here. We got the Best Social Cause award and thus we drank, and met many more new people.
I met some good people, worked with people who I might never had met. The event was well hosted – Joey, Mike and Sean were awesome. The volunteers never seemed in short supply or lack of enthusiasm. The venue worked well (but next time I will try and steal one of the rooms with white boards!) and we need water!
Suggestions for organization
Just because I have offered a bunch of suggestions for next time, does not mean I thought the event was weak. It was an awesome event, which will hopefully occur a couple times a year here in Vancouver, BC
1. Reward the design and developers work
It feels like the business people are rewarded but not the developers or designers. It felt like all the Angel/Judges cared little for their efforts unless it was tied into presentation. I would suggest rewards for best design and best development. Also mix up the judges with some developer and designer types rather than all angel/vc with biz backgrounds (this group are not always right!)
Ensure that everyone knows where the water is, there was a kitchen which many of us sneaked into. When you have this much coffee/caffeine we need to stay hydrated.
3. Mentor schedules
On a piece of paper given to each team. So we know where to find them. The random pop ins seemed awkward and occasionally unhelpful. I feel sorry for the mentors that came over, just as we were doing a team update and we needed to weak each other (it happened three times to us). Add mentors to Kohort. And give the times they will be around so we grab them (and maybe even plan ahead!).
4. Business Model
The business model generation book is an excellent way to help people build out their business model fast and if you could give us a big poster for each team – we can than move the stickies around as we pivot and evolve.
5. Early access to Kohort
Allow us to converse early, maybe the moment we sign up to the event we can join Kohort and get know each other.
6. Introduction to scrum
Give access to basis of scrum so that those unfamiliar can play with developers and designers more fairly and faster. One sheet. Sean mentioned it, but there were a bunch of people who had no experience of it. Maybe put it on Kohort so it can be read before. On that point make those most excellent slides available on Kohort before. Yes enough participants will prepare before the event.
7. Attendance list
I would love to know who is going to event so I can work out who I want to meet and check out. Maybe we could access this and two lines about each person.
8. The Judges need a mic
Only the first pitcher repeated the judges questions or gems of advice. So the rest was lost to the rest of the audience :-(
9. Bring all the teams back together
I think if at some point on the saturday, each team could give 60 seconds on where they are and helped needed in terms of sector of specialized knowledge. There was a lot of talent tied up in different teams. Some cross pollination would help everyone and help you meet new people.
I was asked by another team to help out review their approach to (workplace) motivation (my startup is all about psychology and the matching of you to your perfect boss or team member). One of the mentors connected us. As I have spent the last two years studying all the published psychology work for the last decade and listening to all podcasts of MITs Psychology degree. We had an intense back and forth, I gave some advice, a video to watch and got back to my team.
10. Bonus Points – Whiteboards
I think better if there is a whiteboard to allow me to brainstorm, I manage better if I can see a scrum board, I tell stores better if I can develop it on a whiteboard. They also look really cool for photos. I would say teams that have a white board may have a soft advantage. If possible see if you can persuade your next venue to bring in whiteboards on wheels. Or maybe we could could borrow from local businesses. With the vancouver weekend three or four teams had white boards. I know its not an easy one but you would get bonus points (I am not sure which game to plug them into yet) and I think your teams would perform better.
They were/are freckin awesome :-)
There are Marketers who are marketers… then there are Marketers that are techies, entrepreneurs, educators, leaders, community-builders… and marketers. I’m not your average Marketing VP: I’m a Marketing VP with benefits and I’d love to help you take your company to the next level.
To cover off on the traditional stuff first, I’ve chalked up about 19 years total in marketing, communications and campaigns. My experience in every sector from government and non-profit to private corporations, and in several markets, reflects a breadth that mirrors your client base. There are few-to-no delivery channels I have not explored, and I have a habit of driving organisations to get a ahead of the wave in using the latest and greatest, with social media no exception. I’ll leave my resume to provide the details of my engagements and achievements.
Now onto the bonus material…
You’ll find I have zero distance to travel when it comes to creating marketing strategy around a SaaS model. Spending the last two years creating a tech start-up has honed my product management, development and business model know-how to a fine point. In fact, technology is and was my first love: I have computer science degree, an IT consultancy to my name, led 110 people IT department and more recently refreshed my hands-on experience with a web dev qualification.
In addition, my career here in Canada began as VP Marketing for a Vancouver SaaS success story, Vision Critical, where I led a major re-branding initiative, a new website launch and contributed to sustained growth throughout the recession despite major marketing spend curtailments. Speaking of which, you can’t get away with working at a market research company without great data to inform and back-up your efforts: whilst there, I initiated the first customer satisfaction system. In all marketing I do, I expect to deliver ROI metrics.
I have a passion for people: I love them. I just can’t help it.
This has taken me down a number of roads, including serving, developing and communicating to communities (and the multiple groups, agencies, businesses and services therein) as a politician. What this brings to my marketing (aside from experience of managing budgets of £71 million and approximately 400 staff) is getting the balance between a results-driven and value-driven approach. All great brands are built around emotions and values.
My bordering obsession with human psychology helps me to both understand client needs, both in product features, but also in terms of the complete customer experience and the messages they want to hear. It also makes me a great leader. I’m the guy that puts out a lot of positive energy and gets to know everyone. I also relish the opportunity to grow those around me: you’ll see that education and training forms a major theme throughout my career. Right now, I teach Marketing, Public Relations and Advertising part-time for BCIT.
CEO, I hope this provides a sense of what I can bring to the table. Successful marketing requires a great CEO – Marketing relationship, so I believe fit is as important as capability and I would love the opportunity to see if we get on. :-)
P.S. Here are a couple of opinions about me:
“Eric is a prolific thinker and one of the most well read individuals I know. While he is skilled in Marketing and Communications, he is a strategist at heart, looking for greenfield to take companies and pushing organizations to consider bold new directions. While visionary in his thinking, Eric is equally tactful in his negotiation. He is one of the few people I’ve met who can succinctly articulate and communicate multiple sides of an issue without offending anyone in the room. He knows when and how to move around roadblocks, invite debate, and get things done. Eric is someone who can really make a difference in organizations large or small if given the runway to do so.” Jason Smith, President, Vision Critical
“Eric Brooke is a professional, thoughtful, inventive and provocative marketer and communicator. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Eric on a number of projects, most recently and most deeply on a task force charged with rebranding Vision Critical and Angus Reid Strategies. In this role, Eric brought a tremendous amount of energy, branding experience and resourcefulness to the task. He did an excellent job balancing the need for being a team player with being willing to challenge conventional thinking and the status quo – a role we needed him to play.
In addition to understanding marketing, Eric also has a deep knowledge of communication, change management and organization development – in our case bringing a company brand/vision to life for staff and customers. This is something that sets him apart from those who have only had experience with traditional marketing and will be truly valued by those who require successful transformation.” Andrew Grenville, Chief Research Officer, Angus Reid Strategies
A lot of people seem to believe that a brand is about advertising. That it is merely corporate identity, the name, and the logo, the colours used.
So here is what after 19 years of marketing I uses a definition for my start-up and my marketing students.
- Its starts with the founder(s) vision,
- It shifts according to the team they have built and their values plus behaviour
- Its is limited by the technology used
- Its expressed and reflected in the product built
- And finally it is decided on by users and their experience both with the product and customer/support team
Whilst it starts with the founder(s) it is decided and defined by your users.
I believe good strategy and brand can support each other. It’s not about spending lots of money on an icon, name or colours. It is about the sum expression of what you are already doing.
For me a good strategy and brand go together through having a vision, mission and values. These will evolve but they will help guide your decisions – what space am I in (Vision – some call this Brand promise), How will I change it (mission) and how will I make decisions (Values).
Here is ours http://www.professionalyou.com/vision.html once we had done this, it was easy to develop a corporate identity as our prime value is Growth, hence the tree and colours. This value set has/is helping me make a large number of decisions about what we are and what we are NOT.
Once I wrote the vision, mission and values name came to me i.e. Professional You. Not in a sudden flash admittedly. Personally I prefer names that are concrete and that mean something. If you take no time I believe it shows your users that you do not care, that you are only temporally, why should they invest in you if you can not get the basics right. Sometimes sharing this journey (of choosing your name) can also be powerful when users want to know who you are.
It is both my strategy and brand; my pitches are cleaner for it, my messages cleaner and my decisions easier. People tend to trust clarity, if you are clear people find it an easier journey to trust you, branding can help you with this.
So far I have spent nothing on advertising, on creative agencies and a local (Vancouver) designer helped with the logo for free.
Occasionally I tweak the vision and mission as I form better ways to describe what we are up to.
It will continuing evolve but in the end users decide, so do not forget the importance of your customer/user facing staff if they are happy your customers are more likely to be also :-)
P.S. Do tell your users who you are and what you are about. It is always disappointing if you go to the About Us on a web page, to see that you don’t care to make an effort or even bother to introduce yourselves and its not polite ;-)
The talkers can be interesting but like PechaKucha the quality varies. What does not vary is the quality of people the audience. I love meeting them :-) I was talking to one of the team for TEDx Victoria and I pushed that they should consider activities and ways to make it easier for audience to get to know each other rather than rely on everyone being an extrovert and serendipity. Taking effort here will also form a stronger community.
You should apply, yes you, there is one in most energetic areas. If not create one!
The questions are not tough:
- If a friend were to describe your accomplishments in three sentences or less, what would they say?
- What are you passionate about? (Work, creative outlets, issues, communities, etc.)
- List at least one website that will help us understand you better. (This can include personal blogs, photos or sites you just generally love to check out).
- What do you hope to get out of this TEDx event?
If a friend were to describe your accomplishments in three sentences or less, what would they say? *
- Survived 12 schools and a bunch of foster homes before reaching college
- Elected as a politician and then elected by his peers onto the cornwall county council cabinet, (Cornwall, UK.)
- A connector of ideas, patterns, trends, knowledge and people e.g. he is constantly connecting people who need to meet each other, being best man five times, he has over 3,500 books..
What are you passionate about? (work, creative output, issues, communities, etc.) *
- Helping people grow
- Understanding people
- Learning and meritocracy
- Creation and creativity
- Social Justice
- Mountains, Sea and Trees
List at least one website that will help us understand you better. (This can include personal blogs, photos or sites you just generally love to check out). *
LinkedIN – http://www.linkedin.com/in/ericbrooke
My startup – www.professionalyou.com
Video (careful I swear) http://www.professionalyou.com/video.html
My thoughts – https://ericbrooke.wordpress.com/
My book collection – http://homepage.mac.com/ericbrooke/deliciouslibrary/
Twitter – @ericbrooke
What do you hope to get out of this TEDx event? *
Learning and meeting exciting people in the audience. Sharing what I learn with my friends, colleagues and random people I meet in life.
I am interested in this year’s theme as we (Professional You) are exploring the frontier of careers, talent management, recruitment and leadership. And we aim to have a revolution..