Hello from Florida! (Part 1)

Hello from florida

I’m in Tampa, Florida as I write this (and as you read this, I’m back). I’m here on business: to visit Shopify customers and partners, as well as to represent Shopify at BarCamp Tampa Bay, where we’re one of the sponsors that makes the BarCamp Tour.


This trip makes my fifteenth round-trip flight this year. All but one have been business trips, with 4 on behalf of Microsoft and 10 on behalf of Shopify. Here’s a quick run-down of where I went and why:

Destination For whom Notes
Early/mid February

The Trip of Much Weirdness. Gave one of my best presentations at a Microsoft employees-only conference, got perp-walked into a “bad doggie” meeting with a CTO, went on a “non-date” that didn’t end well but will make a high-larious blog entry some day.

This one was rather lengthy: 11 days in total!

This was the trip that got me thinking “You know, as nice as the pay at Microsoft is, I’ve got enough juice to write my own ticket. What are my other options?”


A week after the previous trip to Seattle


A mere week after a 10-day trip to Seattle, I return for a 5-day trip, this time for the MVP Summit, where I hang out with Microsoft Most Valued Professionals from Canada and around the world, jam with a band at Safeco Field and partake in hijinks that while fun, are best left unblogged.


Early March (flew in and out same day)


Now it can be told: a one-day, fly-there-in-the-morning, fly-back-same-evening secret trip to do an interview with Shopify.



Another 11-day trip, this time to attend South by Southwest Interactive, where Microsoft was launching IE9. I helped out Carter Rabasa and the IE9 team at the launch party, helped at the Microsoft booth (Dare Obasanjo tweeted I was as much as attraction as the Kinect) and generally did IE9 and Windows Phone-promoting stuff.

I also signed my contract with Shopify while there, and filed my resignation from the cowboy bar at Austin’s airport.


Early April

In Friday and out Sunday to attend BarCamp Boston as an unofficial representative of Shopify (still a Microsoft employee at that point), along with Shopify developer James MacAulay.

The event is at a Microsoft building, which means my blue badge lets me open doors the other attendees can’t; I can walk around as if I owned the place. Sometimes, it’s nice to have the bathroom all to yourself, especially if you’re “dropping a noisy one”.


Las Vegas
Early April (flew to Vegas on the same day I arrived from Boston)

My last trip as a Microsoft employee. I flew to Vegas for the MIX conference to perform my final Windows Phone Champ duties, take a tour of Zappos (where I’d entertain their employees on accordion and participate in a corporate culture consultation) and drink Australian quantities of free booze. This trip was about six days.


Early May

My first official trip as a “Shopifolk”. I was there for three days to represent Shopify at MinneBar as part of the BarCamp Tour. Also a good chance to hang out with my friends Luke and Jenny.



A weekend flight from Ottawa (where I lived for the summer) to Toronto where I spent Friday hosting an internal workshop for Microsoft employees. It was strange coming back as a non-employee; I’m certain a number of managers were feeling a strange disturbance in The Force.


Portland / Seattle
Late May

Five days! I first flew to Portland for BarCamp, then took a train up to Seattle to spend May 2-4 weekend in a mountain cabin. Flew home from Seattle.




A four-day trip to attend BarCamp Seattle, hang out with my longtime friends (since Crazy Go Nuts University) George and Leesh, tour a distillery, go to the zoo and partake in some other hijinks.


New Orleans
Mid-late July

A four-day trip and my first business trip with friend and coworker Edward Ocampo-Gooding to BarCamp New Orleans. This one featured an airboat tour of the swamp, much silliness in the French Quarter, becoming the accidental leader of a Bastille Day Parade for a glorious ten minutes and being taken about town by some of the nicest and prettiest ladies in the south.


Late August

A five-day trip, this time with friend and coworker David Underwood to help out at HackVan, a Vancouver hackfest. We also gatecrashed the GROW conference and hung out with my old workmates from Microsoft, David Crow and Mark Relph. I also got to catch up with my friends Adam, Nancy and Chris.


Late August

A weekend trip, flown on my own dime (or more accurately, some Porter credits I had left over). Caught up with family, got to hang out with Jim Munroe, go to Fake Prom 2011, attend my friend Keith’s 40th birthday and get some Brenda time before she leaves for Lake Louise for a whole year.


Early September

Another BarCamp weekend trip, this time to BarCamp in Buffett Country (Warren, not Jimmy)! I also used this trip to talk to some Shopify customers.



Just got back from this one! A nice long weekend trip to BarCamp Tampa Bay, where I got to walk about Ybor, get some shopping in, interview customers and get shown about town by Anitra, who is a most excellent tour guide.


This coming weekend

BarCamp in the land of “boo-yah”, beer and cheese. There’s also the Harley-Davidson Museum!



It’s a crying shame that I don’t have my NEXUS pass interview until October 13th. It probably would’ve saved me a grand total of ten or so hours of waiting in line. Mind you, if I had a NEXUS pass, I ‘d have missed my opportunity to make some news at the crazy customs line back in March.


SkyMall’s Air Travel Pillows

Cover of SkyMall magazine, featuring a machine for making soft drinks at home

I’ve cut my carry-on travel bulk by switching from “dead-tree” books to electronic books on my iPad, but you can’t use electronics during takeoff and landing. Luckily, I was flying on “Continited”, the merged airline made up of Continental (“Cheap like Northwest, but our pilots are sober!”) and United (home of “Economy Minus” class), who provide a copy of SkyMall in every seat pocket.

SkyMall is always fascinating reading. It’s the finest catalog of things best described by Japanese terms: gomi, which means “junk” and chindogu, a neologism used to describe “unuseless” items: seemingly clever yet impractical solutions to First World Problems. If you’ve always wanted Draco Malfoy’s snake-headed cane, a kind of device that lets you make your own soft drinks at home or a fancy laser helmet that supposedly reverses male-pattern baldness, SkyMall can satisfy your needs.

Since the February, I’ve been averaging a flight every two and a half weeks, so I thought I’d check out the section for frequent travellers. These two items, both air travel pillows, caught my eye.

SkyMall ad for the EZ Sleep travel pillow, featuring a woman leaning against an inflatable wall mountedon the armrest of her airline seat

If you’re the kind of person who likes something to lean on while sleeping and extremely well-defined boundaries, the EZ Sleep travel pillow was made for you. If you’re by the windows, this pillow turns your seat into a little fort, and if you’re closer to the aisle, you can play “border guard” to the passengers in your row now trapped behind your inflatable Berlin Wall. The EZ Sleep pillow’s design also ends resolves the battle between you and the poor schlub beside you over the armrest by forcing a stalemate: it’s not-win-not-win!

SkyMall as for the SkyRest travel pillow, featuring man leaning forward on a large blue pillow mounted on the seatback tray table

While the ad for the EZ Sleep pillow amused me, the ad for the SkyRest pillow cracked me up. If you prefer to sleep on your stomach and you place a much higher value on 40 winks than on dignity, you’ll love this pillow. It seems designed specifically to make you look as if you’ve drunk too much and passed out right at the bar. Pair this with a dark suit and you’ll look like you had a successful three-martini business lunch with Warren Buffett; wear an aloha shirt like the guy in the ad above and people will think that you had a rip-roaring’ time with Jimmy Buffett.


Headin’ Down to The Big Guava

barcamp tampa bay

Creative Commons photo courtesy of “Theo0023”.

Another weekend, another business trip. This time, the destination is Tampa, Florida (a.k.a. “The Big Guava”) for BarCamp Tampa Bay! A flight at 9:00 this morning will put me in Tampa a little bit before noon, and the rest of the day is customer meetings, a phone conference, technical documentation and maybe a little looking around. It’s Florida, so seafood is also on the agenda.

tampa hot n steamy

The weather promises to be…interesting. Needless to say, it’s a light-clothing trip.

More later – I’ve got to get some shut-eye. In honour of this trip, one of my favourite songs about tropical vacation spots: Hawaii by the Young Canadians, quite possibly the first Canadian punk band to perform at Mabuhay Gardens, San Francisco’s legendary combination Filipino restaurant and punk rock venue. Be warned: it’s old school punk, with f-words galore. But it’s great!)


This is How a Lot of People Feel About the Changes to Facebook

Facebook came on a little strong with all the changes to its interface, which left users feeling ike the abuela (grandmother) in the video above…minus the laughing. I think they also imagine the dog with Mark Zuckerberg’s face, screaming “GILF! GILF! GILF!

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.


Scenes from Today’s Toronto Techie Dim Sum

Toronto techie dim sum 1

The return of the Toronto Techie Dim Sum lunch took place earlier today, and it went off even better than I’d hoped! It had been a while since we’ve had one of these events, so I wasn’t expecting a turnout larger than a single table at Sky Dragon (their larger tables will easily accommodate 8 or 9 people), but we ended up being sixteen people in total.

There were a number of dim sum “alumni” who showed up, including Andrew Burke, who wins the Phileas Fogg award for greatest distance travelled to attend — he’s visiting from Halifax. We also had some people who’d never been to one of these events before, including my cousin Saturn, making it an event with not only figurative, but literal family! As always, it was one of those wonderful things that happens when good people meet over good food and make good conversation. I bounced between tables, either meeting people for the first time or catching up with old friend. And it was pretty inexpensive too — it worked out to about eight bucks a person, and we all ate our fill.

Toronto techie dim sum 2

I plan to organize these on a monthly basis, typically in the middle of the week in the middle of the month. Sky Dragon are great people and are only too happy to have our business. They’ll even give us a room all to ourselves if we end up with three or more tables’ worth of people, which I’d love to see in October.

Thanks to everyone who came, and if you couldn’t make it today: see you next month!

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.


Dear Microsoft: Just Update My Photo and We’ll Be Cool

If you were to go to Microsoft Canada’s blog for mobile developers as of this writing, you’d still see my photo in the banner:

canadian mobile developer banner

I really have no complaints about still having my face there, even though my last day at The Empire will be five months ago tomorrow. Being the Windows Phone guy was one of my favourite parts of my stint as a developer evangelist at Microsoft, and it’s always an honour to share a banner with Frederic Harper.

My real complaint is that the picture they’re using is from two years, and more importantly, twenty pounds ago (about the weight of a full-sized accordion).

Hey Microsoft: keep my picture up if you must, but could you at least use a newer, somewhat skinnier one? Perhaps one with me sporting my new, fashionable, I probably-paid-too-much glasses with Philippe Starck frames?

Self-portrait of Joey deVilla, taken in a mirror, showing off his new glasses

(By the bye, that’s my bathroom in the photo. I have a damn fine “re-bachelor” pad.)

If you’d much rather have a photo keeping with the mobile theme, may I suggest this one, where I’m posing with a phone and a wacky phone accessory? The pink says “Metro” – in every sense of the word!

"Moshi Moshi Metro!" Joey deVilla at Cafe Novo, holding Verna Kulish's pink iPhone connected to a pink Moshi Moshi handset.

That’s my friend and fellow ex-Microsoftie Verna Kulish’s Moshi Moshi Retro POP handset, which plugs into just about any smartphone. Feel free to Photoshop out Verna’s iPhone and replace it with an appropriate Windows Phone device – perhaps a Samsung Focus (my Windows Phone) or whatever Nokia’s releasing this fall.

Feel free to use either pic, Microsoft – as long as it’s current and skinnier, we’ll be cool.

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.


Seen on a Recent Flight

one does not simply walk here

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. If you look out the windows to your right, you’ll see Mordor and the Eye of Sauron.”

(Actually, that’s a pretty cool sunset as seen on my last flight to Ottawa.)