Geek It Happened to Me Work

Whoo-hoo! My Own News Release!

“Big News” clip art

Well, this is nice: it’s a news release announcing my joining TSOT. It’s not 100% technically correct (we’re a team of Ruby on Rails developers, not PHP developers), but hey! I got a news release all about me! Whoo-hoo!

Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

DemoCamp 16 — Monday, December 3rd

DemoCamp 16

Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but it’s true: this Monday, December 3rd, we’ll be hosting the 16th DemoCamp at the Toronto Board of Trade (located in First Canadian Place). What started as a boardroom gathering of a couple of dozen Toronto-area developers showing their current projects to their peers has grown into the city’s premier techie networking event, and the inspiration for other local “Camp”-type gatherings.

Here’s the schedule of events:

5:00 Doors open
6:00 – 7:00 Demos (see below for details)
7:00 – 7:30 Break
7:30 – 8:00 Ignite presentations (see below for details)
9:00 To the pub!

Although the Toronto Board of Trade’s meeting room is very large (and has a cash bar to boot!), it has a limited capacity. If you want to attend DemoCamp, you need to sign up on the EventBrite board. As of this writing, there are 59 free attendance slots remaining; if those get used up, there are 78 $10 donation slots, the money from which will be used to help pay for the venue rental.

Some Quick Explanations

Demos are five-minute presentations where the presenter demonstrates one of his or her current projects in action. This isn’t your ordinary presentation: we only want to see your software in action — no slides are allowed! Think of demos as a geeky show-and-tell showing actual software in action rather than a marketing slideshow with a lot of handwaving.

Ignite Presentations are rapid-fire presentations in which the presenter talks over a set of 20 slides that are timed so that each is shown for 15 seconds (the slideshow runs automatically; the presenter just does the talking). The format helps to ensure that the presentations are interesting and get to the point!

And now, the demos and presentations…


Teaching Test Driven Development with UTest (Igor Foox)

UTest logo

UTest is a tool developed at the University of Toronto to allow students to submit test cases to be run against a professor’s solution to a programming assignment. We will be demoing UTest, as well as an Eclipse plug-in for UTest and explaining how we think it will help undergrad computer science students learn TDD. The community will get to see a new tool to improve the testing skills of their future employees! They will be able to tell us their feedback and so indirectly influence the skills that students graduating in a few years will have.

Sketch Based 3D Modeling with ShapeShop (Ryan Schmidt)

Shapeshop’s demo video. Can’t see the video? Click here.

I will demo a 3D “sketch-based” modeling system called ShapeShop that anyone can learn to use, and scales from simple toy models to significant complexity. Think Google SketchUp, but for everything from CAD to complex organic characters, instead of just blocky shapes.

I have been building it as part of my MSc/PhD research, since 2004. It is under active development, there have been 2 public releases and I just started releasing betas of version 3. My demo should be selected because everyone I have ever shown it to has enjoyed it, from 6-year olds to jaded computer graphics researchers. Also, it’s a good example of what is possible in university research environments.

The community will get a sense of where 3D modeling and user interfaces might be going in the future, and learn about some of the other stuff happening in the UofT lab that BumpTop came out of. They will also get some new software, because ShapeShop is free. 3D modeling software is really hard to use. I have spoken to lots of tech people who maybe want to make a 3D logo, so they try Blender, and it’s incomprehensible, so they give up. ShapeShop isn’t like that – a real, non-trivial model can be sketched in seconds. And it’s fun. And learning the basic interface is extremely easy. When I get kids using ShapeShop on a SmartBoard, we always have to tear them away. So, I’m pretty sure I can “wow” the democamp crowd. As for inspire, the only thing I can say is that I have recently been demo’ing ShapeShop at UofT recruitment events, and there is always a jump in downloads the next day. So, hopefully some people might be inspired to give 3D modeling another try. I guess it might also inspire other students to try to turn some of their projects/research into usable software.

Last but not least, I might have some huge new top-secret features that I will release during the demo, but I can’t promise anything until Monday when the conference reviews come back…

HealthSpoke Demo (Dan Donovan)

HealthSpoke logo

We will be demonstrating an early version of the HealthSpoke practice management and integrated wellness application. We will focus on some of the automated test tools (NUnit, WatiN) we are using and frameworks (Microsoft Application Blocks) that make our development life easier. This will give the community another example of the application of these tools to real-world projects, and hopefully give people some ideas on tools they can try as well.

Coming from Waterloo, I am looking to get involved in the Toronto tech / startup scene, and DemoCamp sounds like a great opportunity. We are working on an interesting Web 2.0 / Social Networking application applied to a niche market. Our presentation will provoke some thought on automated test frameworks, and how these can be implemented with limited resources from Day 1!

Web Groups – Virtual Team Collaboration (Scott Annan, Mercury Grove)

Webgroups screen capture

My name is Scott Annan and I have been involved in the camp scene for the last 2 years and an active member of the Ottawa startup scene, (where I live). I have also introduced and organized the democamp concept in Cincinnati and Lexington, KY.

I will be doing a demo of our Web Groups collaboration software which is used by over a dozen fortune-500 companies and several more small businesses ranging from floral consultants to international advertising agencies. I would like to provide a perspective on how we financed our business through consulting, and are purposely growing it without ANY investment in a traditional sales team or marketing (including Adwords). We may be able to use DemoCamp to make a new release / killer feature announcement.

SlashID – Anonymous Identity Provider (Zeev Lieber)

SlashID logo

We will demonstrate a fully AJAX-based Identity Management system which allows you to manage your passwords and personal data without disclosing them to our own server. Our approach to authentication and identity management differs from traditional ones in that nobody has to ever rely on us or trust us in any way to complete user authentication and personal data disclosure to different web services. We believe that SlashID is the right way to do identity management in the internet setting (as opposed to enterprise setting), since people are becoming increasingly aware of privacy and trust issues.

We want to raise awareness of our approach with the community, and demonstrate the benefits that our system provides to the websites – ease of registration, one click login, single sign on and keeping user’s data always up to date. All these result in better user experience and more users willing to register – which may translate to direct profit for commercial websites. While the procedure of logging in to a website has always been a hassle rather than something inspiring, we believe we can clearly show that hassle going away. We will show how you can login to any SlashID-enabled website with a single click.

We will also show how updating your personal data on our website automatically propagates to all websites you registered with. All this is possible to do from any computer with just a browser. No data stored on your computer, no data disclosed to our server, no plugin installation required. Our system was launched October 16th, and is available at our website.

Ignite Presentations

Co-Creating the Creative City (Mark Kuznicki)

Mark KuznickiRichard Florida, author of Rise of the Creative Class and Flight of the Creative Class now calls Toronto home. How can creative people – from artists to software developers – be engaged in the act of city-building? This presentation is intended to quickly get the community up to speed on the creative city idea and to inspire them to participate in making Toronto a better place to create.

By showing the connections between DemoCamp/BarCamp and Burning Man, I hope to shift the perceptions of the community to see how an artist and a developer might have values and interests in common, and to inspire the audience to find the spark of their creative souls while making the city a better place to live and work.

Understanding What Is and Isn’t Critical (Fraser Kelton, Adaptive Blue)

AdaptiveBlue logoIn a start-up, where resources are always tight, it’s important to understand what’s critical and what’s not needed. This Ignite Presentation will explore lessons learned (so far) while building our start-up. It’s a study in what we know now, what we didn’t know then, and what we (luckily) got right all along. The goal is to help the democamp community understand what is and isn’t necessary for building a web start-up. From product development to building community, biz dev to IT infrastructure, human resources to pitching VCs… all done in 20 slides. In 5 min.

This presentation should be selected because what we’ve learned over the past year will benefit many start-ups. The learning has occurred through a mix of hard work, serendipitous events, painful mistakes, and reflective moments and we’d like to share these lessons with the community in a fun, 5 min, presentation. Contrasting what we have and what we don’t gives some insight into what is necessary and what a start-up can do without. We have over one million downloads of our first product. We don’t have a single server. We have people in three countries. We don’t have an office. We have a CEO who handles front-line support. We don’t have company email… and so on.

The presentation will entertainingly explore how we got to where we are today by loving constraint and learning to bravely question everything. Inspiring tales, told over 15 seconds, drills home what is and isn’t critical to growing an idea into a company.

[Cross-posted to Global Nerdy.]


The Pug Factory

I know that I’m going to get angry letters from pug-lovers, but this comic was too amusing not to post…

Comic: The Pug Factory
Comic courtesy of Miss Fipi Lele.

Geek Music

Vintage Ad Against Using Recorded Music for Movies

Back in the 1980s, I was a regular reader of Keyboard magazine. I always rolled my eyes at the two-page ad spread usually near the middle of the magazine that bore the headline “Don’t let them do DAT”, a campaign whose purpose was to keep DAT — that’s digital audio tape — recorders out of consumers’ hands. The worry was that giving consumers access to technology that could produce recordings that could be duplicated perfectly would kill the music industry (you young’uns would laugh at the audio fidelity of compact cassettes). The ad looked like a contest — in exchange for adding your name to their list of musicians who wanted to keep technology out of people’s hands, you’d get a chance to win some nice musical gear. Needless to say, I never participated in that silly campaign, which these days seems as quaint as Ned Ludd and his followers.

That’s not the first time that there’s been tension between musicians and technology. Back in the late 1920s and early 1930s, movies with sound were still new. Most films were “silent films” with the dialogue appearing on screen and music performed by live musicians in the theatre, a la Vern and Johnny, the vaudeville duo from Family Guy:

Vern and Johnny, the vaudeville duo from “Family Guy”

Here’s an ad that talks of the dangers of using recorded music in movies instead of musicans from 1931 titled The Robot at the Helm:

“The Robot at the Helm” ad
Image courtesy of the Paleo-Future blog. Click the picture to see the source article.

Here’s the text of the ad:

Here is a struggle of intense interest to all music lovers. If the Robot of Canned Music wrests the helm from the Muse, passengers aboard the good ship Musical Culture may well echo the offer of Gonzalo to trade “a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of ground.” Are you content to face a limitless expanse of “sound” without a sign of music?

Monotony of the theatre — corruption of taste — destruction of art. These must inevitably follow substitution of mechanical music for living music.

Millions of Music Defense League Members cordially invite you to join them in putting the Robot in his place. Just sign and mail the coupon.

As neat as having live musicians performing in sync to films would be — and hey, there’s room for that sort of thing — if anything is killing art, I’d say it’s Hollywood’s lack of creativity.

[Image from the Paleo-Future blog. Cross-posted to Global Nerdy.]


The World’s Most Difficult Housemate

Craigslist is eating newspaper classfied ads sections’ lunches not only because it’s free, but also because you can write a really long classified ad. Instead of having to resort to shorthand, the way have to with newspaper classifieds like the example below…

WANTED rmmate for 2 bdrm 2 bath apt. No smkrs, pets ok. Avail Dec 1 – call 555-1234.

…you can write a magnum opus that clearly explains what you’re selling or seeking.

Case in point: here’s an ad for the San Francisco Bay Area Craigslist for a guy who’s having so much trouble keeping a roommate that he has to sweeten the deal with a $1000 bonus. He’s got some rather odd rules for living with him — he might make an awful roommate, but he’d be a really interesting TV character.

The ad has just been removed from Craigslist, but in the interest of preserving the historical record (or sharing the joke in the very likely chance that the ad is someone’s idea of a prank-cum-creative-writing-exercise), I’ve repeated the ad below. Enjoy!


I am seeking out a roommate. I’ve had several the past 3 months that did not work out so well and am hoping to find “the perfect housemate.” I think it can be done!

I am a plastic surgeon, single straight male, and am wealthy but rather lonely. I could keep this house to myself, and have for about a year, but I’ve realised that life is much better when it’s shared with people who are conscious (as opposed to my clients and my nursing staff!). (This is not to say that my nursing staff is unconscious – obviously they are not! It’s just very difficult to become friends with a staff that is somewhat dubious of my methods. I’m no rogue, but I do have Eastern-influenced techniques that some find odd and/or disconcerting – but I do have a 99% success rate! In any case, it doesn’t make much sense to mix business and pleasure.)

I do have a dog, Basil Ironweed (yes that is his name, people seem to be confused that I have given him a full name like a person and some kind of laugh, but I assure you I take my dog very seriously and treat him with respect, and I ask that you do the same). It would actually be ideal if you have a female dog of pure pedigree (I’d need to see the papers though, for breeding purposes) and I’d prefer her to be a medium-sized dog (I will consider most breeds except absolutely no Australian Kelpies and no American Water Spaniels, please! The colouring of the mating dogs’ possible kin would be horrendous if this were the case! Also, Basil is a Border Collie in case you were wondering!) If you do not have a dog, that is also fine. All other pets will be considered except: no cats unless they are of the outdoor variety, no arthropods, and all avians must be salmonella-free, clipped toenails, and tagged.

My house has only a one-car garage. It used to be a two-car one, but I decided to convert half of it into a micro-personal gym as I am rather health conscious. (I do have a gym membership, but my gym is not 24-hour, and sometimes at night I really need to get on the bowflex to burn off some of my energy since I have a lot of it! Also, after meals it’s inconvenient for me to run off to the gym, and that is why I need one at my disposal. The gym membership is because they have a pool there, and swimming is really good for the joints. Just in case you were wondering.) That said, you’ll have to use street parking, but I assure you that my neighborhood is quiet and safe, and there is usually a spot right out in front of my house! (The only time the spot is taken is when the lunch truck comes for the construction workers that are on the corner of my street. It only sits there for about 20 minutes between 1 and 2 pm during the week, depending on how chatty the boys are that day.)

Anyways, I have a few rules that need to be followed, but other than that, we should get along fine!

  • I request that you listen to all music via headphones. I have mild tinnitus and the sounds from most Hi-Fi equipment sans headphones really irriate me. I am open to discussing music, but sadly we cannot directly share it as my ears can’t handle rapidly changing frequencies. (If you’d like to share lyrics, I’d be more than delighted to oblige!)
  • If you are going to cook, please do not use the following spices: curries, paprika, anything Cajun, and dill. The smells of these things turns my stomach. (If you have any scents that you’d like to avoid, by all means let me know and I’ll do you the same honour.)
  • You must brush your teeth at least twice a day. If there is anything I cannot stand it’s filthy teeth. (Believe me, I’ve had a couple roommates who just could not handle this simple routine – your gingiva may not mind, but I certainly DO.)
  • If you are going to watch tv, please let me know in advance which programs you’d like to watch. I do have TiVo, by the by, and I have certain shows that I simply must watch when they originally air. I cannot be too flexible with this because I cannot stand to wait to see my programs. You have to understand that I simply have to watch them when they originally air or I will get a little batty. Most of my programs are on public broadcasting and do not tend to run during prime-time spots.
  • I do not appreciate unannounced house-guests. I need to know at least two days in advance that company is coming – I need to know the duration of the stay, and the nature of the visit. But, I am open to any and all visitors, I just need to know the specifics involved.
  • I have reduced rent drastically because I realise that some of my requests might seem slightly stringent. I will pay the bulk of the rent in exchange for your understanding, your commitment to the house, and your humouring of my quirks.
  • You must be ok with my upholstery hobby. On every third Tuesday of the month I request that you vacate the house between the hours of 4 pm – 11:45pm while I upholster various pieces of antique furniture. I am a perfectionist and require complete silence in the house. I’ve tried this with housemates who’ve promised to stay in their rooms, but this proved impossible as bathroom habits demand a regular schedule that interrupts my artisan work. That said, I will give you a small stipend on these days if it will assist you in finding something to do with that block of time.
  • No newspapers or magazines. The ink gets everywhere and the gloss irritates my eyes. Sorry! You are free to read them on the front porch, but they must be stored outside of the house (perhaps in your car?)
  • This is not to sound discriminating, but, if you speak either French, Urdu, or Afrikaans, I kindly request that you not speak them in my vicinity as the cadences used in these languages are grating to the ears and nerves, for me.
  • I have fresh produce delivered from an undisclosed location to my home every Wednesday afternoon. Please do not purchase fruits or vegetables and bring them home. You can request any that you desire and I will add them to my order queue. (I am fastidious about potential-GM produce and pesticide usage – I will not tolerate either!) Also, if you insist on preparing red meat dishes in the home, do cook the meat thoroughly. IT MUST SIZZLE.
  • No cellphone tones in my home! Please use silent mode only!
  • You are not to use paints in the home. The noxious odours will aggravate my allergies!

That’s the summary of my requests! I do actually have a handbook which I will provide for your perusal during our interview (yes, there will be an interview for final-stage candidates) that outlines all of my more particular requests.

If you are interested, please email me the following information:

  • Name
  • Occupation
  • Age
  • Allergies
  • Favourite author


[Found via Reddit.]

Geek It Happened to Me Work

Scenes from Day 1 at the New Job

The New Company

People from the SororityLive and FraternityLive home pages
The “mascots” from the SororityLive and FraternityLive home pages. Party! Whoo!

My new company is TSOT, a little start-up specializing in social software. The company’s first products are SororityLive and FraternityLive, social software with special features for people in — you guessed it — sororities and fraternities. It’s pretty interesting software, and it doesn’t hurt that the customer base relies on social networking and has some money to throw around.

The New ’Hood

151 Bloor Street West
151 Bloor Street West. It’s smack-dab in the middle of a lot of fancy-pants shops.

The photo above shows the office building, located at 151 Bloor Street West. It’s a short walk away from the intersection of Accordion City’s two main streets and at the west end of the Bloor/Yorkville neighbourhood (also known as “Mink Mile”), which has a lot of posh shops, hotels, restaurants, pricey condos and office buildings.

It’s a sort of homecoming. OpenCola, the last start-up for which I worked, was located on the east end of Mink Mile, a short walk away. Like TSOT, OpenCola was a start-up in an unlikely location.

This neighbourhood is quite different from my old work ‘hood of Liberty Village, which consists of old factories that have been converted into office space. Liberty Village borders on Parkdale, a rapidly-gentrifying neighbourhood that still shows a few signs of its “Crackdale” past, such as colourful neighbourhood characters like “Low-talking Burger King Bible Lady” and “Incomprehensible Pee-reeking Guy on Roller Skates and Ski Poles Who Thinks He’s Running for Mayor”.

There is a similarity between my old and new work ‘hoods: both feature people who appear to be talking to themselves. It’s just that in the new ‘hood, such people are very likely to actually be talking into their Bluetooth headset phones.

The Temporary Office

TSOT’s office, which will eventually be on the building’s 11th floor, is currently under construction. In the meantime, the company is divided between two offices, with the programmers at 151 Bloor West and the management and “biz dev” a couple of blocks away. Being temporary, the current office setup definitely has the classic start-up feel, being sparsely furnished with folding tables acting as desks. I’m getting big-time deja vu.

The developer room at TSOT’s office
The developer room in the temporary office. Sure, they’re folding tables, but the computers, chairs and people are excellent!

My New Gear

When I got into the office, the guys showed me my desk, which had the following arranged into a neat little pile:

  • 15″ MacBook Pro, in its original packaging
  • Extra RAM for the MacBook
  • A Mac OS X “Leopard” install DVD
  • One of those new really flat Apple keyboards
  • A FraternityLive pen and mousepad
  • A copy of Barron’s Speed-Reading for Professionals
  • A Post-It note from CEO Kris White that read “Welcome, Joey! Here is some stuff to get you going. Cheers, Kris.”

15″ MacBook Pro, OS X Leopard DVD and other goodies waiting for me
Here’s what was waiting for me when I showed up. Well, this stuff was still in the original packaging when I showed up.

Now That’s What I Call a Welcome!

Kris White, the CEO, knows that I keep a spare accordion handy at the office and knew that I’d be bringing mine in on Day 1. He decided it would be a good idea to get some small instruments — a cowbell, maracas, drums, a xylophone and a harmonica — from the nearby music store for the other employees, as a “welcome to the club, can we join yours?” gesture. Now that’s what I call a welcome!

Box for OS X Leopard DVD and a toy xylophone
What every start-up needs. Mac OS X “Leopard” and musical instruments.


Among the perks of working at TSOT are some free food from Whole Foods in the kitchen and the programming department’s main room, which features some beanbag chairs, a big screen TV and a Nintendo Wii and XBox 360 Elite.

The game room at the TSOT office
All work and no play makes Joey a dull boy. Nintendo Wii and XBox 360 Elite! Whoo!

So in addition to getting up to speed on the code base and Ruby on Rails development, I’m going to need to work on my Mii and Wii bowling score.

Wii Bowling at the TSOT office
The cornerstone of co-worker bonding: Wii Bowling. I need to work on my Mii.

I think I’m going to like it here.

It Happened to Me Work

The New Job, Day 1: A Very Quick Update

Very cool here at the new workplace. More later.