Dispatches from SxSW, Part 14: Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap on Accordion at the Fandango Party

Joey deVilla plays accordion at the Fandango partyLast year, I wandered into Fandango’s party at South by Southwest and stumbled into a karaoke competition. I walked out with a brand new iPad 1, which now belongs to my friend Katie Hrycak (I myself got a free iPad 2, and that’s another story).

This year, my Shopify coworkers and I wandered into Fandango’s party, and Karaoke Apocalypse, the karaoke band who played at last year’s party, were there.

“I remember you!” said the rhythm guitarist. “You’re that guy with the accordion! You’re the accordion guy!”

“I’m back,” I said. “Wanna play Dirty Deeds?”

The end result is the video above, with special introduction by Cody Fauser and Mark Hayes. Enjoy!



Dispatches from SxSW, Part 13: Posters, Posters, Posters!

One great thing about South by Southwest is that there’s no shortage of very creative posters. While this collection — a mere thirteen out of what must’ve been thousands — is hardly complete, it’s a set of my favourites. Enjoy!

Poster: "Nah, they got the metric system. They wouldn't know what the f*ck a quarter pounder is."

Poster: "Weapons of Mouse Destruction"

Poster: "They f*cking drown 'em in that shit."

Poster: "Keep calm and carry wands."

Poster: Not sure, but it looks like a pixelated Jeffery Zeldman

Poster: "Donkey v. Elephant: Stop the Fighting!"

Poster: "Seeking Asian Female"

Poster: "The Amsterdam Fellows"

Poster: "We are Legion"

Poster: "Did you read that article on TechCrunch? Yeah I read it."

Poster: "Your music looks like shit"

Poster: "I like boobies!"

Poster: "Thank you for all your money, now PLEASE GO HOME! -- Austin"


Dispatches from SxSW, Part 10: Isn’t That What We All Want?

A free taco and a job we like — isn’t that what we all want?


Dispatches from SxSW, Part 9: The Ultimate South by Southwest Laptop Stand

I’m sitting cross-legged on the floor near a power outlet as I answer some email and watch Jennifer Pahlka’s keynote, Coding the Next Chapter of American History. With this particular set-up, the accordion makes the perfect stand for my laptop, bringing it up to the right height.


Dispatches from SxSW, Part 7: Are You a Good Guest or a Vexing Visitor?

A Special Guest Post from Hilary Robinson

Hilary Robinson has style, grace and panache, which makes me wonder why she hangs out with a questionable character such as Yours Truly. I’ve known that she’s a world-travelling event planner extraordinaire for a long time, but only recently discovered that she also has her own business, MAJ Communications, a company that specializes in teaching business etiquette. If you’re a young entrepreneur looking to cut a deal with “suits” but don’t know the protocol, how to speak to them or are always wondering which fork to use at a business lunch, Hilary can help you! Take a look at her site, or if you prefer, drop me a line and I’ll introduce you to her.

As I write this, I’m staying at a condo that I’m renting via AirBnB. I suggested to Hilary that she should write an article about AirBnB guest etiquette, since it’s a relatively new frontier for good manners. She was only too happy to oblige, and the end result is below. If you’re booking a place to stay through AirBnB, make sure you read this!

Are You a Good Guest or a Vexing Visitor?

For this year’s SxSW Joey, with his usual flair for keeping things fresh and interesting, is skipping the typical hotel room and trying out  – a space finding service that connects hosts who have spaces to rent with guests who are looking for a unique travel experience.  The service places guests in private homes (with or without the owners there) so it encourages host and guest to build a connection through social media, and relies on feedback and recommendations – all this got Joey and I talking about the merits of being a good guest.

So, whether you’re staying with friends, family or a in rental property, these few dos and don’ts will get you asked back or get good feedback…

Do…tell your host what time you will arrive – give them your itinerary if your trip involves planes, trains, etc.

Don’t…be late.  If you are, find a way to let everyone know.

Do…bring a little something for your host – it shows you appreciate the invitation.  Kitsch or useful; extravagant or simple; edible, drinkable or decorative…it doesn’t matter as long as it’s thoughtful.

Don’t…drink the house dry (ok, depending on the friends and circumstances this might fall under a “try not to…”).

Do…bring a bottle or two…not the cheap stuff.

Do…offer to help – cook if you’re good at it, do the dishes if you’re not.

Do…make your bed (and make your mother proud).

Do…take the dog for a quick walk or amuse the kids for half an hour to give your host a break.

Don’t…forget that your host has gone to some effort to feed, water and entertain you….so don’t treat their home as a hotel.

Do…treat your host to a night off – cook, order in or take them out.

Don’t…leave a trail of destruction behind you.

Do…tidy the bathroom after your morning makeup or shave.

Do…leave your room/space neat and tidy when you finally leave.

Don’t…outstay your welcome.

Do…if you have the room, reciprocate the invitation.

Don’t…Don’t…Don’t…forget to say thank you!

DO…DO…DO…send a thank you note (handwritten!) at the very least – even better: send a bouquet of flowers or small gift basket filled with favourite nibbles and tipples.

Do…apply the above to rentals and rental hosts as well.

Remember to…up the ante if you’re staying for longer than a couple of nights.

It’s not an exhaustive list but it’s a start – and if you combine these suggestions with your own flair then not only will you be a great guest, a virtuous visitor, and considerate company but you’ll have a good time and be asked back!


Dispatches from SxSW, Part 6: Getting to Austin

In order to arrive in Austin by the early afternoon, required an early morning flight: a 6 a.m. flight from Pearson to Dulles followed by an 8:43 a.m. flight from Dulles to Austin. Here’s the scene that greeted me when I arrived at Pearson at 4:30 a.m.:

pearson line 1

The terminal was already quite full and the self-serve check-in machines were all out of commission. It was time to exercise every unfair advantage I had at my arsenal: a little schmoozing with the gatekeeper of the ticket line-up, Aeroplan Elite/Star Alliance Gold status from jetting about too much and a NEXUS pass, which cut down the US Customs Experience from a half-hour wait in a long line to 10 seconds at a kiosk.

I wish I could shower at 43,000 feet! I need to work on an excuse for Shopify to send me to Dubai:

pearson line 2

I put the time I saved skipping check-in and customs lines to good use: some cereal, fruit, coffee and peace and quiet at the Air Canada lounge before descending into the madness of the “puddle jumper” waiting room.

air canada lounge pearson

Puddle-jumper ahoy! Gold status let me board the plane before the hoi polloi:

jet at pearson

I spent most of the hour-and-a-half flight asleep. I woke up in time to shoot this picture on the approach to Dulles:

arriving at dulles

At Dulles, I transferred to an A319. I ended up in the second-last row, deep in United’s “Economy Minus” section. I’m only 5’11”, and note that my knees touch the seat ahead of me — and that’s when the person in front of me isn’t reclining!

united economy minus

I try to avoid United — they’re practically leading the crusade to destroy air travel, from stealing legroom to merging with Continental to create the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of crappy airlines to their recent web debacle — but there were no other reasonable flights available.

Alexis Ohanian, founder of Hipmunk, the hotel and flight-booking site that lets you sort flights by “agony”, was on my Dulles-to-Austin flight, in my row. “Were you going for maximum agony?” I quipped, to which he replied with a weak, very sleepy chuckle. We spent most of the flight unconscious.

A turbulent two and a half hours later, we arrived in Austin:

austin airport

Saul Colt, spokesmodel for Freshbooks, greeted SxSW attendees at baggage claim.

saul colt

Freshbooks organized bus rides to take attendees from the airport to the Austin Convention Center and nearby hotels. These bus rides didn’t cost us any money; all we had to do was listen to a 30-second pitch for Freshbooks before the bus pulled away from the airport:


I hopped off the bus at the Convention Center, got my speaker’s badge and lunch and then headed to the condo that I’d rented via AirBnB. It’s really nice:

airbnb 1

Our host even left some nice “Welcome to Austin and my home” stuff for us. Good thing I brought some good ol’ Canadian maple syrup as a hostess gift:

airbnb 2

Here’s a view of the kitchen where we’re staying. I have got to get me a set-up like this:

airbnb 3

And here’s the bedroom. Because I get more travel perks than most of my coworkers, when I share accommodations with them, I tend to give them the good place to sleep, to balance the scales a little. Besides, I can use all the karma I can get!

airbnb 4

If you’d like to know more about the place I’m renting (and perhaps would like to rent it when you’re down in Austin), here’s its AirBnB listing.

Next: AirBnB etiquette, from a special guest blogger!


Dispatches from SxSW, Part 4: Hello, Austin!

hello austin

Today’s the big day! On my itinerary: