Author Archives: Thomas Purves

DemoCamp Toronto 29 WrapUp

Cross posted from StartupNorth.ca

Last night marked amazingly the 29th event of Toronto’s increasingly supernumerative DemoCamp scene. To warm up the crowd we had a little help from legendary Canadian investor and the man with a few more twitter followers than you, @howardlindzon. In case you didn’t make it, here’s my notes for you, of varying coherency, of the course of the evening.

    The job of entrepreneurs is to get in the way of trends. You don’t need to predict the future you just need to get in the way of trends. The larger and longer the trend the better. Lindzon is not a value investor, he’s a momentum and sentiment investor.

    Lindzon started his company through social leverage. But it didn’t come over night, he met Fred Wilson over the course of a year and becoming friends before starting Wallstrip which they sold to CBS. And gained some more cred. But once you sell your company you lose control of your vision. Then he passed on Twitter at 20M valuation. You don’t always catch the winner. You make mistakes. But he could see when he was wrong so he was, by force of will, able to get into Tweetdeck, Bit.ly and others, the idea was to put himself in the way of the trend. I didn’t understand Twitter but I knew it was a trend and was able to buy everything around Twitter. You have to use social leverage to find investors that understand your domain and understand your passion.

    Raising money is an art. We’re in a great environment to raise money but that doesn’t entitle you. You have to have a great angle of attack against your competitors, you have to be great at telling your story. You have to explain the benefits of the product not the features.
    Dashboards, I want to get my life down to as few screens as possible. Also I read Hackernews and TechMeme in order to understand the sentiment of my industry.

On to the Demos:

500 pixels – Oleg Gutsol @500px
There are many picture websites like it, but this one is ours. Very pretty pictures. We promote the best pictures in the world. Recently closed funding, getting some media buzz. Also a premium themed galleries for photographers. What we nailed was not just the product but the community. Something that they doing better than Flickr “Flickr has become a dump site” 500px is an art site.

TitanFile
Sending secure files, slick interface. Common demo gods, Soo… “lets assume that you received the email…”. No, wait it’s there, to the adulation of the crowd, stupid Gmail delay. You send an notification email and then it also calls you to IVR read you a passcode. Then everything is tracked. Wants to thank Assange for helping to push their business forward. Accountants, lawyers anyone who needs to make sure their documents get there every single time. And delivery receipt is an added value.

High Score House – turn household chores into a game for your kids
Great playful signup screen that sets the tone. Brilliant super obvious reminders and rewards for doing stuff like making a bookmark and remembering your PIN. App awards virtual currency (stars) that parents can set the price for like what the value of helping to make dinner and what points are worth for tv time or a new toy. The Ah Ha! moment is when kids are running up the stairs to do clean their room. Also great for kindness points, what have you done that’s kind today? Cool! You rock! You earned it! This app really rocks and has so much character. App works great on the ipad. Beta testing is spending just a tiny bit of money a day on facebook to bring on 10 moms at a time. Key dashboard metric number of exclamation points in emails from moms. Lookout ClubPenguin, with a little work, High Score House could will be the next big exit that gets Canada to a billion dollar year. Judging by Twitter response, High Score House wins Democamp this round.

Money quotes: we’ve got moms all over loving us, but like, in the acceptable way
Top question: Can you make a version that works on spouses? [I don’t know, but in our household we’re already debating who’d the “parent” side of the account…]

Vizualize.me – is a startup that won startup weekend. It’s a 5 day old startup.
Problem is how do you display yourself in a different way than a resume. It’s an infographic that scrapes your linkedin profile and makes really pretty graphs. Sign-up rate they just hi 12 thousand users 5 days after launching the company… [holy crap] Product itself is nicely viral because you post your infographic to twitter or facebook or linked and other people see it and feel compelled to create their own. Feemium businessmodel. We want to be the site you go to brand yourself visually and socially. Could easily expand into other personal visual branding applications… but that can wait at least until next week.

WeAreTOTech – A new community service launched by @Michele_Perras, @LeilaBoujnane & @AprilDunford
A Toronto-based Directory that will profile, showcase, promote and connect profiles of local tech heros in Toronto, to help you make connections, to help you find advisors, mentors and conference speakers. Inspired by WeAreTechNY and “in the hopes of connecting everyone, shining a spotlight on developers, CEOs and founders, executive, hackers who make our tech community what it is, we decided to give you We Are TO Tech.” This is a fantastic idea, and what they need right now is you if you fit the description to fill out this form here.

XtremelabsAlpha Slides demoed by James Woods
Remove some of the failings of presentations, by making a simple mobile app that broadcasts slide decks to everyone in your audience’s devices simultaneously. Works in a coffee shop, boardroom or conference. Alpha Slides is in the App Store now. I can cast a mini slide deck from one mobile device to another. When I slide a slide it slides on your slide too. Cross platform is the key (apple now has mobile keynote for iphone but only does iphones). Business model is to sell app space, and freemium features. You can follow a conference when not at a conference or I can follow a conference when I’m at one even if I can’t get close to the screen and take it with me when I’m done. A company like Dell could have their own secure instance if they want to as an internal meeting tool. App has potential, could see this taking off in the enterprise as well as the personal or conference usage.

That’s it folks. Awesome caliber of demos again this round. We’re now looking forward to the big DemoCampTO 3-oh. You know what they say, thirty is flirty.

Further reading: @Sachac’s nifty sketchnotes of DemoCamp Toronto 29

Is this the future look of augmented reality?

I have this vision of nerds everywhere staggering around the city with big slates in front of their faces only seeing the world through shared web tablet camera experiences. I’m guilty of looking something like this in public myself, even hoisting a tablet onto my shoulder boombox-style to make skype calls. And that’s a part of why this picture (taken at GoogleIO) made me laugh.

Like everything old is new again.

photo credit

ANNOUNCING: PowerPoint Karaoke Toronto 3

It’s back! Once again, to close out Social Media Week Toronto, we are going to be hosting a rocking session of PowerPoint Karaoke. The rules of Powerpoint Karaoke are simple. A set of presenters and local social media luminaries will be asked to play the role of an earnest expert speaker on classic topics like “How to succeed at social media without really trying“, or “Should you keep bees in your pants: An honest debate“, or “My sensational life as a Japanese tentacle porn star“. As always, many, many new decks are in the throws of preparation for premiering at #PPKTO like “How is babby formed? an amazing factual expose” or “All reported side effects were minor and … temporary”.

New for PPTKTO3:

    CanadaHelps.org! all proceeds are going to support an awesome local charity CanadaHelps.ca. Canadahelps provides tools and training to help thousands of Charities raise funding and donations online and through social media.

    Duets! New for this round we’re going to introduce a “duets” as well as singles format, and we’ll have some excellent prizes for the best in each category.

    If you yourself would like to present at PPTKTO3, you can apply at the link below and by tweeting with why we should pick you (and/or your partner) the hash tag #PPTKTO.

Want to join us at PPTKTO? Of course you do! get your tickets here:

LINK: Official Ticket Site for PowerPoint Karaoke 3

 

Sponsors for PowerPoint Karaoke 3 Toronto:
(ok, this is a pretty crazy-amazing list)

BTW you going to REALLY want to buy an armlength or two of our charity raffle tickets…

Photo credit: Matthew Burpee

Tom’s Best of 2010 indie music mix

Graeme and the fires of This is what happens I fail to publish my “seasonal” podcast mix, the list I keep in iTunes just gets longer and longer. With a little time over the holidays and the clock on 2010 having officially run out… I present you with Tom’s best of (mostly) indie 2010 mix. As usual the list makes no claim to the canonical, more rather it’s autobiographical. Your mileage could well have varied, but these are my top songs of the year.


Track listing. To be clear: In suggested playlist order as opposed to any particular “top-tennish” sequencishness.

01 Jónsi – Go do
02 CEO – white magic
03 Crystal Castles – Baptism
04 Daft Punk – Derezzed
05 We Love – Hide Me
06 Delorean – Real Love
07 Active Child – I’m In Your Church At Night
08 Diamond Rings – Something Else
09 Groove Armada – Paper Romance
10 Broken Bells – The High Road
11 Brasstronaut – Slow Knots
12 How To Dress Well – Ready For The World
13 Agnes Obel – Riverside
14 Stornoway – Zorbing
15 Mountain Man – Sewee Sewee
16 The Tallest Man On Earth – The Wild Hunt
17 Shearwater – Black Eyes
18 Active Child – Wilderness
19 Ratatat – Alps
20 Stars – We Don’t Want Your Body
21 The Guest Bedroom – Curses
22 Stornoway – Boats And Trains
23 The Mountains & The Trees – More & More & More
24 The Sadies – Another Year Again
25 Zeus – Marching Through Your Head
26 Brasstronaut – Hearts Trompet
27 Woodpigeon – My Denial in Argyle
28 Royal Wood – Do You Recall
29 Love Is All – Take Your Time
30 Vampire Weekend – I Think Ur A Contra
31 The fires of – Pulse
32 Caribou – Odessa
33 Groove Armada – History
34 CEO – illuminata
35 Jónsi – Animal Arithmetic

Instructions: 1. unpack the zip and drag the .m3u file into your fav media player 2. Rock out

Download: Tom’s best of 2010


pic: The Fires of CD release party at El Mocambo 2010

psst… and for the nostalgic, see also Tom’s best of 2005

Pizza Libretto as transformative mobile business model


Pizza Libretto doesn’t take reservations. What they do do is make some of the most delicious Neopolitan style pizza in the city. Libretto finds themselves smack in the middle of the (for the moment) uber-trendy Ossington strip of hipster bars, restaurants and galleries in the west end of downtown Toronto. As a result, demand for a table on any Thursday, Friday or Saturday night vastly exceeds supply. Surely a “problem” that most restaurateurs would love to have. But, when you are hot you are hot, so how do you make the best of it when fortune favours you.

What they do is take your mobile phone number. Then they pack you and your party off to any of great many little bars/pubs next door and they tell you, “don’t worry we’ll call you when your table is ready”.

The key insight is that in this day and age, the odds of at least one person of any dinner party will have a working cell phone on them is effectively 100%. As heard on some public radio program recently that similarly one of the big restaurant trends in New York city is to go reservation-less. The one restaurant operator quoted that without reservations turnover can increase by up to 30%. That’s a huge change in the business model!

And you can see the effect at work at Pizza Libretto. On any weekend night, no available serving space goes unused for more than seconds. The restaurant keeps their queue full by filling up the bars next door (an arrangement that works well both ways).

I love this example because it shows what’s possible when a technology becomes so ubiquitous that you just switch off an old way of doing business. Using only the “phone” feature is the dumb-simplest way imaginable of leveraging the wonders of mobile technology. But in this case it’s genius.

Oftentimes the biggest impacts of a new technology occur only once we can take it for granted. This is on e reason why issues like universal access to connectivity and the accessibility of mobile is important. If simple mobile phone calls can be so transformative for an ordinary business, imagine what business model innovation may be possible in a few years if we can safely assume that just about everyone is equipped with a much more richly interactive smartphone.

ps. If you have other examples of mobile tech already changing old business models, let me know. I’d love to hear ’em.

pps. Pizza Libretto’s owners Rocco Agostino, Max Rimaldi and Daniel Clarke just opened up a new place around the corner called Enoteca featuring slow-food style Italian cooking. Enoteca does not take reservations.

photo credit: Qin

Kodak update: when all else fails, sue the iceberg

A lovely visualization by Design language that’s been making rounds connects a couple dots from recent posts on this blog. Somewhat randomly, I had been musing both about how Kodak had the foresight to invent a “consumer” digital camera 35 frickin’ years ago and yet how did the whole camera industry completely miss the boat (or iceberg as it were) on mobile technology?

I like this visualization because I’m not surprised to see the company with the least actual presence in mobile with some of the most outbound lawsuits*. It also shows that Kodak must have seen mobile coming, they’ve got the patents.

On my last post Scott Smith commented

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met with a client who said, “well, we developed that back in 19xx, but we didn’t have the demand to do anything with it…”. Which means R&D ends up inventing random futures in various formulations at a 1000:1 ratio, then shelving them until an unknown window opens.

A lot of big innovation shifts don’t actually sneak up on us. My suggestion was that the necessary conditions and tipping points may be the only hard or even random part. It’s nearly as easy to be too early as it is to be too late with a new invention. Shifts (like the digital camera example) are often very well anticipated by any designer or engineer immersed in the field.

But what do you do as a firm if your best foresight poses fundamental existential business risk to your entire firm? Forget consumer demand, you’re also not going to see a lot of right-thinking managerial demand to productize those insights. What to do if you are Kodak in the sunset of the 20th century, when 90% of your business is making money from consumables that have no place in an inevitably digital future? Quite often, the very reason a disruption is so successful is because it democratizes a product or media by sucking a lot of money out of the system and/or transferring significant economic surpluses from producers to consumers. This kind of creative destruction is what drives growth and efficiency at the macro-economic level but it’s often catastrophic at the firm level for incumbents.

In the last decade Kodak’s stock price as methodically tumbled, the shares losing more than 95% of their value since their peak in the mid 90s. Kodak still comes out with new products and digital cameras. These business lines may well be fine and profitable, but they are also just a weak echo of the firms former dominance in photography.

So I guess my question for all the foresight gurus out there is this. What do you do when the best scenario you can see for your clients is a Kobayashi Maru?

We can see what Kodak did. A classic strategy, we’ve seen it all across the media industry as a great many incumbents try desperately to stuff the internet back in the tube(s): If you can’t turn the ship, sue the iceberg.

*Not to mention Nokia, another collapsing incumbent but that’s another story

The dawn of mobile in retail

One big idea I’ve been focused on a fair bit lately is what I call “Augmented Retail”. Augmented retail is about the potentially disruptive outcome of the inevitable convergence of mobile technology, ubiquitous connectivity and retail.

Mobile technology is not necessarily good news for your average retailer.

I’m sure by now almost all of you have googled something in aisles just to get some more info on product or to see if you were really getting a good deal. When amazon first launched their barcode scanning application, pundits described it as “amazon declaring war on retailers”. By Q2 of 2010, amazon announced they had already fulfilled a billion dollars worth of commerce from their mobile app. How many of those purchases might have been white-glove Amazon delivery of fine new TV screens ordered straight from the aisles of Bestbuy?

For traditional retailers, the trouble with mobile is that it puts tremendous power in the fingertips of consumers. If they so choose, average consumers could well be better informed on the true value and best pricing of products than even the store manager. By default, smarter and better informed consumers will pressure retail margins.

But dear brands and store owners there is hope. If you are clever, Mobile also gives you chance to build deeper relationships and engagement with your customers. Tomi T Ahonen, who was recently in town for Mobile Innovation Week, has a great post recently (with many real examples!) on what retailers can do with mobile.

So this blog [post] is not about mobile banking or mobile credit cards. It is not about ‘all’ mobile commerce, ie any digital goods sold directly to a phone do not really involve (or need to involve) bricks-and-mortar type of retail. So our music, movies, videogames, airline tickets, insurance etc do not require a separate visit to a retail establishment, because the service (or proof of purchase of service) intended (music, movie, game, air ticket, insurance etc) can be delivered completely to our phone.

That is only a minority of our retail. What of the locksmith, the hairdresser, the dentist office, the florist, the clothing retailer, supermarket and drug store – the typical ‘high street’ or ‘mainstreet’ shopping experience in any small town on the planet. What of them? If you need your locks changed, that cannot be done ‘remotely’ via a mobile phone or the PC. Or your haircut? Can’t be done directly via mobile. Mobile can show you what your new haircut might look like, virtually, but the actual hair still needs to be cut with actual scissors by an actual hairdresser or barber. That can’t be fulfilled via mobile. So lets look at the real bricks-and-mortar retail establishments. What is the role of mobile to them?

Its three-fold. There is ‘marketing communication’ (ie advertising) we can deliver to our customers before they come to our store – and use mobile also to ‘drive foot-fall’ ie drive actual human visitors to our stores…. [In store]
The clever part comes to allow customers to engage with you when they are in-store. … [and After-Store] The part least understood so far, is the after-store experience.

Anyway read the whole thing, good stuff: Lets Talk About Mobile in Retail – Tomi T Ahonen.

While I love Tomi’s examples in this post, they mostly relate to using mobile to drive more business through existing retail business models. There’s even more to think about in terms of how could you change retail models entirely. Can you close sales before the customer even gets to the store? Can you use mobile speed or eliminate checkout lines? Are there premium or follow-on services that you could be delivering or billing for through mobile? Could you use mobile to deliver unique price-discriminated offers to every single customer (e.g. could you sell packaged goods the same way airlines sell airplane seats?)

What is clear is that mobile in retail will be a spectacularly large opportunity over this coming decade. So get busy.

Dead media watch: the web is dead

Somewhere on a dusty shelf or storage box, I have this old issue of Wire Volume One two containing the strident prediction: “Tired: lynx, Wired: Mosaic”. Lynx is/was a text-only terminal app used for navigating a relatively obscure hypertext protocol, fancifully called the World Wide Web. NCSA Mosaic, was the first popular graphical web browser, which very soon became a little app you old-timers may recall called “Netscape”. The rest, they are now saying, is history.

If you’ve followed this blog for years, you know I love to track dead media. I’ve followed the death of print, of video stores of bloggin and many more. Wired themselves have even quoted me on the subject. Well the good folks at wired (ironically the magazine that most embodied the birth of the web) have really done it this time. This time, they’ve declared the whole web a dead medium.

You’ve spent the day on the Internet — but not on the Web. And you are not alone.

This is not a trivial distinction. Over the past few years, one of the most important shifts in the digital world has been the move from the wide-open Web to semiclosed platforms that use the Internet for transport but not the browser for display. It’s driven primarily by the rise of the iPhone model of mobile computing, and it’s a world Google can’t crawl, one where HTML doesn’t rule. And it’s the world that consumers are increasingly choosing, not because they’re rejecting the idea of the Web but because these dedicated platforms often just work better or fit better into their lives (the screen comes to them, they don’t have to go to the screen). The fact that it’s easier for companies to make money on these platforms only cements the trend. Producers and consumers agree: The Web is not the culmination of the digital revolution.

The venerable Marshall McLuhan teaches us that all media has a natural lifespan. This is because new media inevitably makes room for itself by obsolescing, replacing or just crowding out old media. While some may last much longer than others, all media eventually die. For better or worse, the indomitable human spirit is just too good at creating new things. As the pace of innovation has so quickened in recent decades and centuries, the average useful lifespan for even our most clever creations, seems to get shorter and shorter. For those of us fascinated by dead media, the graphic above provides a beautiful visualization of how new media propagate like wave functions. The grow, they crest and eventually break. Each media seem to expand and taper off to their own idiosyncratic schedule. At least until new media inevitably cascade over top. The pixels don’t lie.

Sorry kids, clearly the web is dead. Long live the web.

LINK: The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet [wired.com]

UPDATE: TVO’s Jesse Brown posted a hilarious video rebuttal “Wired is Dead“. Of course, Jesse should know better. Even if only half-true, the other half of the fun of declaring anything dead, is purely for the trolling. Good job Wired.

The future is already here, it’s just not worth distributing yet

kodak cam

In 1975, Steve Sasson of Kodak invented the first portable digital camera.

It was a camera that didn’t use any film to capture still images – a camera that would capture images using a CCD imager and digitize the captured scene and store the digital info on a standard cassette. It took 23 seconds to record the digitized image to the cassette. The image was viewed by removing the cassette from the camera and placing it in a custom playback device. This playback device incorporated a cassette reader and a specially built frame store. This custom frame store received the data from the tape, interpolated the 100 captured lines to 400 lines, and generated a standard NTSC video signal, which was then sent to a television set.

kodak cam 2

After taking a few pictures of the attendees at the meeting and displaying them on the TV set in the room, the questions started coming. Why would anyone ever want to view his or her pictures on a TV? How would you store these images? What does an electronic photo album look like? When would this type of approach be available to the consumer? Although we attempted to address the last question by applying Moore’s law to our architecture (15 to 20 years to reach the consumer), we had no idea how to answer these or the many other challenges that were suggested by this approach

They pitched it to the executives at Kodak as a “film-less camera”. Ouch. Talk about trying to sell the future of meteors to the dinosaurs. I’m sure many of you have been in that position before in your careers.

In any case, it took many many more years and advances in several other fields (personal computers, and most critically the consumer internet to share and display those pictures) before digital cameras could become a killer app.

The implication is that there could be lots of the future around us already. It’s just bottled up in variously ridiculous gadgets just awaiting a few more cycles of Moores Law and a few unexpected missing ingredients to become some future decade’s killer app. Imagining the future can sometimes be an exercise not in imagining inventions. The inventions could be here already. The leap is in imagining the catalysts, the future pains, the missing ingredients that will make those inventions fly.

This idea was at the heart of last year’s DemoCamp2019. It’s soon time to think about DemoCamp2020. Probably in November. So if you think you can think of the killer apps of 20 years hence, start thinking about it.

Why the hell don’t all cameras have SIM cards in them yet?

girl cam

It’s been half a decade or more since phones started getting cameras, and yet cameras still don’t have cell phone connections. WTF? To me this is classic case of industry disruption. An entrenched industry refuses to take seriously a disruptive new technology. Holding their noses high, no serious Photographer (with a capital P) would shoot on a “device” let alone share their pictures with the plebes before hours of painstaking processing back on the home PC.

Well obviously that’s not the way the world works anymore. Mobile devices still have tiny/crappy optics and whatnot, but they have rapidly become good enough for a large swath of the reasons people actually want to capture images. Mostly to share those images with other people, preferably right now when those images could be a lot more relevant that hours or days later. What the hell is wrong with Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus etc. for not doing some basic deals (aka Kindle, aka iPad) with some carriers and embedding 3G in every device.

I don’t think it’s an engineering problem. The baseband chips and electronics required are not that expensive. Put some 3G hardware in there, put some basic post-processing tools on the camera and get it done. What’s the hold up? Again, the smartphone makers have had it figured out for years.

When I leave the house I look a my lovely but beastly DSLR and think I bet I could take some lovely pictures with that. But in today’s world of in-the-moment social media, what’s the point if the DSLR has no way to post to twitter. Even Flickr now seems so 2006, like “hey everyone, come look at some stuff i was seeing a few weeks or years ago…”. I mean, beyond archiving and the artistry angle, what’s the point uploading old pictures?

I just don’t understand how the current generation of iPhones, Androids and Blackberries are not just going to steamroll the entire consumer segment of the camera industry.

photo credit: flowertrip

Teksavvy cable is *faster* than advertised

You may remember my experiment a few weeks back with the worlds most desperate way to increase broadband speed while sticking with an indie ISP. (Previously: In Which Tom attempts to bond two DSL lines into single home internet pipe of great power like Voltron).

Well the folks fighting the good fight at Teksavvy (thanks Rocky) have finally been able to offer speeds faster than 5MBit in Ontario thanks to introducing a cable option. (Bell, fighting tooth and nail against regulations requiring them to share their network, has for years ghetoized Teksavvy and others to 5down 1up DSL service even while offering much faster speeds to their own retail customers).

For me the upside was to get 10Mb down, 1Mb up (with a healthy 200GB cap) service with ONE pipe, and ditch one extra dsm modem, one extra phone line, a whole mess of cabling and save about $30 a month.

So far I can say it’s a big success. In fact the connection is not even 10MBit, it’s faster!

Craziest thing I’ve ever heard of, an ISP that actually delivers faster than advertised speeds. We’ve come a long way.

Anyway, I thought you all should know this. And Teksavvy is cheap, $42/month for the 10/1/200GB plan. It’s also un-throttled or filtered.

Highly recommended. If you are currently on Teksavvy DSL, or any other basic broadband service, I’d recommend switching.

The only fatal flaw is the anemic 1MBit upload speed. I really wish more ISPs (looking at you Rogers) would get that shit sorted out so applications like cloud-based based storage, media sharing and computing would be vastly more practical. Right now your only decent option is Bells tempting but tightly capped and bracingly expensive fiber with the missing “r” service.

Apple related sentence of the day

In response to Apple become the world’s largest consumer of semiconductors (computer chips).

Apple, which already has a tendency to leapfrog competitors like a showboating amphibian, will overtake Samsung as a consumer of chips, Isuppli explained, as the fruit themed gadget flogger continues to order shedloads of them for its shiny offspring, the Ipad and Iphone.

LINK: Apple will gorge on semiconductors

See also all articles related to “fruit-themed toy maker…

Augmented surveilance getting closer to reality

pianissimo (not in B&W)

This week Toronto police proudly announced they would be using face recognition software to identify and catch G20 hooligans. In Tokyo this week, a company announced of new billboards that use cameras to recognize age/sex of passers by and serve-up demographically targeted advertisements. Having networked cameras passively watch us as we move through public spaces is certainly nothing new.

What is interesting to me about the Toronto police example is that they are tying together disparate image databases from both the public and private sector to personally identify suspects. Where you out there dancing on a smashed-up police cruiser in protest? Well certainly there’s going to be at least one high-res picture of you amongst the 89 thousand (!) #G20-tagged pictures uploaded to the internet (the 89k is just from flickr) or from one of the police’s own CCDTV cameras. And if you’ve, say crossed a border or used a bank machine any time in the last few years, your jig is up Mr. anarchist.

If we weren’t there already, we have reached that point where all electronic eyes are now belong to the government. In fact everytime we whip out our cell phone cameras, and everytime we check-in to some geolocative service, we are contributing to the cloud’s increasingly panoptical perspective of what’s going on in all places, all of the time. If connected, all the surveillance networks, all the checkpoints like border crossings and bank machines and all the self-volunteered social media activity can add up to one big all-seeing picture. From a civil liberties perspective you may have good or bad feelings about that.

But just imagine the marketing applications.

“hey there Jane! several public cameras noticed that you were window shopping for jeans at the mall last week, we recognized your face from your public facebook profile, how would you like this pop-up ad for Levis?”

I think, technically at least, Google could pull something off like that pretty easily.

Of course in Canada we have some pretty stern regulations on privacy. Except when required by law (ahem, see above) one cannot freely share/sell/trade personally identifiable information, not without express consent. But people being people, how many do you think would trade away some fundamental public privacy rights for that free slice of pizza, or great exciting (and eerily relevant) discount offers delivered anytime on demand to your mobile device?

photo credit: mdumlao98

Confessions of a tablet overly early adopter

tablet stem

A friend at lunch the other day showing off his iPad 3G brought back this wave of tender nostalgia.

For three years I too carried a tablet around. It was the tablet that time forgot (no not the newton), the original Microsoft full slate tablet PC. That’s me chewing on a tablet pc stylus in my longtime blog/twitter avatar.

The tablet was the ideal restaurant, couch or streetcar or meeting pc. Meetings or lectures with the tablet were a special case. Having a screen on your knee or flat on a table is a much less obtrusive way to have a screen open when someone is talking. Tablets reduce the social and physical investment required to use a computer, leading you to use a computer in more contexts, more of the time.

tablet-super-cool-3Despite hardware in some ways more advanced, there are some ways the old tablet didn’t come close to measuring up to the new iPad, the size and weight (3lbs, just a bit too heavy for comfort), the screen (same resolution but terrible contrast and viewing angles) and price. At the insane cost of ~$3000 it’s no wonder they didn’t sell like hotcakes. And, well, the app ecosystem.

You would have thought being able to run any windows app ever written would have been a good start. But the problem with MS Tablets was that they tried too hard to be seamless with desktop Windows without letting the tablet just try to it’s own, new thing. And that’s where the iPad really seems to shine in ways that Windows Tablet PC Edition never could be back in 2003. The iPad is a single purpose device. The iPad only tries to be what it is, a connected screen, a window on the cloud and a constellation of apps purpose-built for the form factor.

That’s not to say the MSTablet didn’t have some killer apps. Mostly thanks to it’s stylus (multitouch nearly 5 more years away). Photoshop and paint tools were unexpectedly a disaster. The poor screen quality made colors hard to judge while the slight parallax error of the stylus made sketching worse than it should have been. What did work amazingly well were mouse-intensive apps like powerpoint and excel. Without having to constantly switch from mouse to keyboard, laying out decks and whipping out excel models was a dream on a tablet. Try that on an iPad.

Microsoft Word, worked okay on a tablet but only in combination with voice recognition (the pen also making quick point and click corrections easy). For me this was important as I was getting over a nasty bout of RSI at the time. But as my arms improved, I found myself needing a “real” computer to get any real writing done.

The main risk I see of the iPad is the same problem I have with an iPhone vs a Blackberry. The screen-only-not-so-good-for-typing form factor risks turning us all in to predominantly consumers rather than creators of media. It’s no coincidence that soon after I started this blog, and a new business, that I inevitably ended my long experiment with tablets.

Inevitably, Michele and I will have to pick up an iPad. The question is whether we can hold out for the inevitably much improved v2 version next year. We’ll see how that goes.

You know, I do still have that old tablet pc kicking around someplace. It even sort of still boots up. Anyone out there wanna trade?

Where the heck is the ad-free “pro” version of streaming sports?

pro version

Let me say this. I love being able to stream big events like the Olympics, the America’s cup or the world cup over the internet in HD. As someone who has dumped subscription cable years ago it is a godsend. Occasional glitches/hiccups notwithstanding, HD streaming is fantastic. And it feels like the future.

But omg the ads. This world cup is better than the olympics as the CBC has been at least reluctant to air ads while the match is in play. And inevitably, the same ads over and over again. Considering what possibly could they be earning in CPM of me. I am pretty sure that I’d be willing to pay 2 to 10 times that amount for the convenience of whatching the whole games or whole worldcup ad-free. And I think that amount would still be cheap.

Ads are an increasingly tough way to make money online. If they are going to survive, the broadcasters and content producers need to get on the ball of monetizing their viewers directly. Especially in cases where those viewers are literally brandishing their credit cards at the screen lamenting why won’t you bastards take my money?

PowerPoint karaoke is back! PPTKTO #2

pptkto

After the ridiculous success of last February’s PowerPoint Karaoke #1, Jay and I really had no choice but to do it once again. Powerpoint karaoke is where brave public speakers have 5 minutes to earnestly present an (invariably preposterous, verging on dadaist) slide presentation which they have never seen before in their lives.

Here’s some press coverage from our last event: PowerPoint Karaoke Creates a New Kind of Bar Star in Toronto BlogTO

We’re looking to lineup some good prizes as well as some media participation for this event, so stay tuned. Further updates will be provided here and on the Guestlistapp page.

For tickets or to sign up as a presenter: REGISTER HERE

Picture from #PPTKTO 1 by Ryan Coleman

Things to be afraid of: like Canada’s upcoming copyright bill

hiena

Canada hasn’t updated the copyright act in many years. Not for lack of trying. But it so happens that various amendments of varying quality by various governments have died on the order books in the course of various elections. In fact Canada has not yet acted on the US-led WIPO anti-piracy treaty (complete with DRM protection measures) we technically signed on to back in 1998.

In this long gap of “lawlessness” in Canadian copyright a few important things have not happened. Canadian film, tv, music, game and art creators have not closed up shop or fled the country en masse. Canadian artists have not stopped churning out prodigious volumes of fantastic indie music, literature and all kinds of screen-based entertainment. The Canadian economy and Canada geographically has not cracked in half, imploded and fallen into the ocean. In fact Canada has done pretty well.

We’ll see what happens next week. From the Post via Michael Geist:

All signals suggest Heritage Minister James Moore has triumphed over the objections of Industry Minister Tony Clement, setting up Canada to march in excessively protected lockstep with a United States that boasts the toughest laws against pirated music or movies on the planet.

It may well be a legal constraint that’s impossible to enforce, but the rumble out of the PMO suggests the new law will ignore the extensive public consultations that advocated a go-easy take on copying of CDs and DVDs in favour of robust anti-consumer limits on transferring or sharing content. If this comes to pass, the federal government will be headed for a very bad week when the House of Commons reconvenes on Tuesday.

The timing is conspicuous. One wonders if Harper is selling out Canadians to the US on digital rights to gain political capital going in to next month’s G20. We shall see.