I’m going to Tech·Ed North America!

Tech·Ed is one of Microsoft’s most important annual conferences for developers and IT professionals, held in several places around the world. This year, Tech·Ed North America is in New Orleans in June, and I’m going to be there! I was invited by Microsoft Canada to attend, an opportunity I jumped at. I’ll be there with John Bristowe, taking in the sessions and labs, learning as much as I can, meeting other developers & IT pros, and generally having a good time. And of course, I’ll be blogging, tweeting, photographing, and otherwise recording & sharing the whole experience.

The conference runs from June 7 to 10. There are literally hundreds of sessions during the week, as well as a couple of keynotes and other special presentations. There’ll be some awesome parties too! The sessions are organized into 21 technical tracks, everything from Architecture to Office & SharePoint. I’m particularly interested in sessions on:

  • Open Data (obviously)
  • WCF and WF in .NET Framework 4
  • Windows Phone 7
  • Azure (cloud computing)

If you’re going to Tech·Ed, what sessions are you planning to check out? If you’re not going to Tech·Ed, what do you think I should see? Let me know!

I’m going to blog about my experience a little here, but also at Techvibes and the Canadian Developers blog. I’ll be tweeting about it too, using the official hashtag #teched. Can’t wait!

MediaCamp Edmonton & Hacks and Flacks Night

Today marks three months since our initial planning meeting for MediaCamp Edmonton, an event taking place this Saturday at the Shaw Conference Centre (on ShareEdmonton). There are more than 130 people registered already, from a broad range of organizations and disciplines. We’re going to have some great discussions on the future of media!

The day will start off with a panel discussion, moderated by MediaCamp Edmonton instigator and EdmontonJournal.com Editor Karen Unland. Our panelists are:

The panel loosely represents the various audiences we think will be at MediaCamp – mainstream media, social media, public relations, and technology. I think it’s going to be a great way to get everyone warmed up for some great discussions throughout the day!

After the panel, we’ll give everyone an opportunity to pitch topics and then we’ll build the grid for the day (MediaCamp is an unconference). Some of the topics we’ll likely cover include:

  • What’s a mash-up and how do I do one to tell a local story?
  • What can journalists do with open data, and how?
  • How is social media being used effectively by mainstream media?
  • Which journalism best practices need to be fostered in social media?

As with all unconferences though, you get out what you put in. If you’re passionate about a particular topic or idea or question, pitch it!

Right after lunch we’re going to do something called Lightning Talks, which are quick, five-minute presentations on a tool, idea, or trend. It’ll be a great way to find out about some interesting things that you can follow-up on later. If you’d like to lead a lightning talk at MediaCamp, let me know.

I’d like to thank all of the people who have helped to organize MediaCamp Edmonton, as well as our sponsors: EEDC & the Shaw Conference Centre, Guru Digital Arts College, ShareEdmonton, Athabasca University TEKRI, CTV, and Grovenor School. We’re looking for additional sponsors – if you’re interested, please let me know ASAP.

The City of Edmonton has organized a media mixer called Hacks & Flacks Night for Friday at Metropolitan Billiards downtown (on ShareEdmonton). It’ll be a great opportunity to meet some of the people that will be at MediaCamp the next day. If you’re interested, register here.

Stay tuned to the MediaCamp Edmonton website for updates (and streaming video of the panel) as well as #yegmediacamp on Twitter. Hope to see you at the event!

Help bring Tech Days Canada to Edmonton!

Microsoft is planning the 2010 edition of Tech Days Canada, and they’re considering a stop here in Edmonton. In previous years, local developers have had to make the trip down to Calgary. If you’ve never heard of Tech Days, here’s what it’s all about:

With forty 200+ level sessions, Tech Days is the learning conference on both current technologies and new products like Windows 7, Exchange 2010 and much more.

The idea is to bring technical training content from TechEd, Mix, PDC, and other Microsoft conferences to Canadian developers and IT pros. There are sessions on Silverlight, test driven development, virtualization, IIS7, SharePoint, refactoring, Visual Studio, and more. I have led three sessions at Tech Days Calgary in past years, on ADO.NET Data Services, Internet Explorer 8, and REST Services with WCF.

When Microsoft was planning Tech Days 2009, they considered stopping here, but we lost out to Halifax. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see that happen again.

I think there are definitely enough local developers and IT professionals to host Tech Days here, so let’s make the decision for Microsoft an easy one! If you want to see Tech Days come to Edmonton this year, email damirb@microsoft.com, or tweet your interest!

FITC Edmonton 2009: October 17-18

For the first time ever, FlasintheCan (FITC) is coming to Edmonton. Very successful FITC events have happened all over the world since 2002, bringing together Flash, Flex, and AIR designers, developers, artists, and students to to educate, challenge, and inspire. Here’s what to expect:

It starts with the presentations. Two solidly packed days of presentations, both technical and creative. Presenters from around the world have been hand-picked for their skill and talent, and all are eager to share and meet you. It’s also about the networking. Being able to meet and talk to people who share your passion for this industry. Meet them at the presentations, in the exhibitor hall, or at the evening party.

The Edmonton event takes place on October 17th and 18th at NAIT. Here are the full event details:

WHAT: FITC Edmonton 2009
WHEN: Saturday & Sunday, October 17-18, 2009
WHERE: Shaw Theatre, NAIT, 11726 – 106th Street (map)

Ticket prices range from $49 to $299, but if you sign up before September 1st using the discount code “backintime” you can get in for just $99 (or $49 for students).

Among the impressive list of presenters are well-known locals Grant Skinner, Randy Troppmann, Erik Johnson, and Victor Rubba. If you’re at all involved in Flash and/or related technologies, this is one event you don’t want to miss!

Northern Voice 2009: My Post-Mortem Post

I’ve been meaning to write this for nearly a month now! Better late than never, I guess. For the fifth straight February in a row, I was in Vancouver for Northern Voice. While there are some similarities from year-to-year, each edition of Northern Voice is unique. Last year I was a little disappointed, but not enough to keep me away.

This year, I had a much better time.

I’m not sure why exactly, because some of my criticisms from last year are still relevant. The event still wasn’t downtown. The wireless was still spotty. But many of my criticisms were addressed. The website was completely revamped this year. The schedule was much more interesting and varied.

Most important of all, there were a lot of people new to blogging and social media in attendance this year. That surprised me, especially given that the conference sold out so quickly. I think that having so many new people brought some excitement back to the event!

Some other highlights for me:

  • Rob Cottingham’s keynote entitled Teh Funny. He was hilarious and completely entertaining, I loved it!
  • Like last year, lunch was included, and it was great! Very yummy.
  • Finally got to me Rob from Techvibes in person.
  • No surprise here, but Twitter was used heavily during the conference. It was great to be able to follow some of the other sessions I couldn’t get to.
  • Sun and grass. It was nice to get away from the snow for a weekend!

On Monday, the organizers sent out a post-conference survey. Due to the Olympics next year, Northern Voice isn’t going to be held in February. Combined with the desire to address the increasing demand for the event, I think it’s safe to say that NV 2010 is going to look quite a bit different than past years. That’ll be a good thing, in my opinion. It never hurts to change things up once in a while.

See you in 2010!

Northern Voice 2009: Passionately Local

Of all the sessions at Northern Voice 2009, I was perhaps most looking forward to the one presented by Briana Tomkinson of Tenth to the Fraser titled Passionately local: blogging about your own backyard. As someone who is definitely passionate about my hometown, I was really curious to learn about the experiences of others.

Tenth to the Fraser is a hyperlocal blog focused on New Westminster, a city in the Vancouver area. Briana talked about some of the motivations behind the site, some of the challenges, and some of the rewards.

Here are some notes I took from Briana’s slides:

  • The Greek Chorus of New West
    • Help the ‘audience’ follow the performance
    • Comment on themes
    • React to the drama
    • Provide insight
  • Passion for community
    • A desire to dig in to a place
    • An itch to uncover more
    • A calling to share the results
  • Everyone blogs from a place. The placeblogger blogs about a place.
  • Hyperlocal made interesting
    • Reveal the character of a place
    • Represent diverse perspectives
    • Keep focus narrow
    • Balanced mix of: aggregating local information, publishing original content, relationship-building
  • Finding your nice within the media ecosystem
    • Befriend the local media
    • Extend traditional news coverage
    • Reveal opinions and perspectives that are missed in mainstream coverage
    • Geek out: food, schools, politics, shopping
  • The Rewards
    • Pride of place
    • Local fame
    • Community
    • Knowledge
    • Giving back
  • Be the change you seek in your community

I really liked Briana’s talk, even though the end was a bit rushed as everyone started asking questions and she ran out of time! There were definitely moments when I thought “I know exactly what she means” and others when I thought “that wouldn’t work in Edmonton”.

With a population of nearly 60,000, New Westminster is about 13 times smaller than the City of Edmonton, and almost 20 times smaller than the Edmonton metro area. So while a single, focused blog in New Westminster probably would work very well, I don’t think it would fly in Edmonton. There’s just too much to write about for a single blog. I think, more than ever, that aggregation is the way to go for a city of Edmonton’s size.

There are some similarities, however. Tenth to the Fraser has started the #NewWest hashtag on Twitter, similar to our beloved #yeg. They seem to write a lot about politics, which is perhaps the most popular topic here too. And they have a relatively small, but rapidly growing online community.

I think there are lots of things that hyperlocal bloggers can learn from Tenth to the Fraser. Check it out, and let me know what you think. The first thing you’ll notice is that the site is free of any advertising. Briana and her team do it because they love their city, not because they’re in it for the money. We could use more blogs like Tenth to the Fraser!

Northern Voice 2009: Teh Funny

No, that’s not a typo! Rob Cottingham (@RobCottingham) was the second keynote speaker today, and he led us on “a lightning tour through both the intentionally and accidentally hilarious sides of social media.” I couldn’t really blog this keynote – it’s one of those things you needed to experience. I laughed a lot, as did everyone else in the room.

Rob CottinghamNorthern Voice 2009

Which are funny?

  • Podcasting – Really funny.
  • End-User License Agreements – Yes, funny!
  • Beta – Not funny. Maybe kinda funny.
  • Memes – No, not funny.
  • Blogging – Funny!
  • Business – Rob thinks it’s hilarious, the audience isn’t so sure.
  • LOLcats – Audience is 50/50, Rob says it’s a matter of taste.

Some of the non-funny things Rob said:

  • At the heart of social media is creative self-expression and the need to connect.
  • The first Northern Voice was a techier crowd than it is today.
  • Teh funny is a big part of the way we connect on the social web. Shared laughter is something primal.
  • If you’re already doing teh funny, please, keep it up!

Two other interesting things about Rob’s keynote – first he attempted to become the first comic in history to heckle himself. He setup some scheduled tweets using HootSuite, very funny. Second, Nancy White drew an “illustrative interpretation” of Rob’s talk on the board behind him. It actually turned out quite well!

Fantastic keynote. I hope someone has some video to share!

Northern Voice 2009: On Buried Hatchets and Better Tomorrows

The first keynote of the conference was from Nora Young (@nora3000), a well-known Canadian broadcaster and podcaster. She is perhaps best known as the host and creator of Spark. I thought it was really interesting that she didn’t use any slides. Instead, she just stood at the front of the room and spoke, occasionally playing an audio clip.

Nora Young

Here are some notes I took during the first part of her talk:

  • Consider the telephone. When it first arrived, people didn’t know what to do with it! There’s always a learning curve with new communications technologies. Apparently people debated whether to say “ahoy” or “hello” when the phone was brand new.
  • Nora says we’re at the beginning with social media, and it’s up to us to shape the conversation about whether we use “ahoy” or “hello”.
  • Challenges for mainstream media: being transparent and not being the sole authority.

Looking ahead to the new “ecology of information”:

  • Mobile devices are important. More and more people are continually connected using their phones, and most people in Asia access the Internet via a mobile device.
  • If the web of 1990s was about globalism and anonymity, the web of today is about creating a layer in between online and offline.
  • The web doesn’t have to be global – it can be local, or even hyperlocal. Crime maps are a good example today.

Conclusions:

  • A huge caveat is that many people lack fast, reliable access to the Internet. Another is the digital information divide around the world.
  • The new ecology of information implies that we’re just starting to see a big shift in the economy and in culture.
  • If the information you’re getting is based on the people you know (as is often the case in social media), what does that mean? What kind of an impact does that have?
  • If public broadcasting had never existed, how in 2009 would you make the case for it? Nora says it would be based upon social media.

So what’ll it be everyone? Ahoy or hello?

Northern Voice 2009: Borrowed Content

I did a presentation today at Northern Voice in the “bootcamp” stream called Borrowed Content: What’s OK, What’s Not. The session was intended to cover the basics of copyright, fair use, and Creative Commons for bloggers. I didn’t really know how advanced the audience would be, so I decided to keep things simple. I didn’t talk about Bill C-61 at all, instead pointing people to Michael Geist’s blog. I tried to cover the very basics, and had two key takeaways:

  1. When in doubt, just ask!
  2. Remember the Golden Rule

Basically, if you don’t know whether or not you have permission to use a piece of content, ask the person or organization who owns the rights to it. Chances are pretty good that they’ll say yes. The golden rule is of course to treat others the way you’d want to be treated – give attribution, link where possible, and say thank you.

Here are the resources I mentioned during the talk:

Thanks to everyone who came to the talk and to the folks to contributed with questions/comments/suggestions!

Download the slides for this session

Northern Voice 2009: Stewart Butterfield Keynote

The first keynote of the conference was from Stewart Butterfield, one of the co-founders of Flickr. I really liked his session, mostly because as he said “I don’t need to have a point right?” He started out by sharing his history on the Internet – starting with his schooling at UVic, usenet groups, etc. His first three handles were “ui503”, “sbutterf”, and “dsb26”. Stewart is only ten years older than I am, but that’s enough for many of his first experiences on the net to be unknown to me. Very interesting stuff.

Stewart Butterfield Keynote

Stewart repeated this phrase throughout his presentation: “This is who I am.” He said he didn’t want to talk about identity too much, but he started with that and made his way toward talking about community. Stewart says that community changes the phrase to: “This is who we are.”

Next, he moved on to Flickr and photography. Stewart identified three trends:

  1. Ubiquity of capture devices
  2. Spread of the network
  3. Change in perceptions and attitudes – participation is no longer weird

He said that the desire to participate is becoming widespread. I think I agree with him that one of the most interesting aspects of “Web 2.0” is the drive toward participation.

Stewart’s last point was that we’re in an era of “relationship-based computing”. I think that’s a good way to describe it.

He finished by saying he loves the Internet. Me too!

I think this was a great way to start the conference – entertaining, and not too much thinking required.