Edmonton Oilers Tribute

Post ImageToday during the lunch hour was the Oilers Community Appreciation event downtown at city hall. There were thousands of people packed into Churchill Square to catch a glimpse of the Oilers. After losing out in the Stanley Cup Finals, I can totally understand why the Oilers would want a low key event, with only a select few present:

Attending the rally will be Oilers Captain Jason Smith, Assistant Captain’s Ryan Smyth and Ethan Moreau, Georges Laraque, and hometown hero Fernando Pisani. Also present will be Oilers General Manager Kevin Lowe, President & CEO Patrick LaForge, and Chairman Cal Nichols.

The event kicked off with Paul Lorieau singing the national anthem (and yes, he sang the whole thing). Various dignitaries and Oilers organization bigwigs made speeches, after which the palyers answered some questions from Sportsnet’s Gene Principe. During his speech, Kevin Lowe said the team considers losing the Stanley Cup a failure, to which he received a quiet boo that quickly turned into a “we’re number one” chant. He’s right though, they set out to do something and didn’t quite accomplish it. That said, I’m really glad the Oilers organization took the time come out and allow the fans one more hurrah.

I took about 70 pictures at the event, most of which turned out okay. It was one of the rare opportunities I’ve had to use my zoom lens! Anyway, I’ve added the photos to my Edmonton Oilers Playoffs 2006 photo set. This one is my favorite.

Read: Edmonton Oilers

Setting the record straight on the .NET Wizards

Post ImageIt has been quite a while since I’ve said anything about the .NET Wizards, but I think it’s time. As some of you are undoubtedly aware, there is a new user group in town – the Edmonton .NET User Group (or EDMUG.NET). They’ve had a couple of meetings so far, and have two scheduled for the end of June, so they’re off to a good start. Now, before I get into what I want to say, let’s get a few things out of the way:

  • This is a really long post, so be prepared.
  • I love Edmonton, I love .NET, and I love meeting new people, both online and off.
  • I have become extremely busy with Paramagnus over the last couple of years, as has Dickson. We’re having a blast building our little software company though, so we don’t regret being busy at all.
  • There are a lot of great .NET developers in Edmonton, and they deserve a great developer community.
  • We always tried our best with the .NET Wizards to treat people with respect, cater to their varying levels of knowledge, and make the Edmonton developer community a great one.

My intent with this post is to set the record straight on the .NET Wizards. To clarify some things that I feel are getting confused, and to have on public record my thoughts and opinions on what has happened, what is happening, and what is going to happen in the future. To do this, I’m going to tell you a story.

Some History

The Edmonton .NET Wizards User Group began life back in the fall of 2003. Dickson and I were really heavily into .NET at the time (and still are) and we wanted a way to connect with other .NET developers in Edmonton. Additionally, we had just come back a couple months earlier from TechEd 2003 in Barcelona, Spain where we represented Canada in Microsoft’s first ever Imagine Cup programming competition, so we were especially excited about creating the user group. We registered the domain name in September and a non-profit organization in November, and got started planning events and stuff.

One of the first problems we encountered was a location for our events. As we were both students at the University of Alberta, we decided to host our meetings there as we could get a room for free. We still had to pay for use of the projector and computer though, and we did so out of our own pockets. Over the next year or so, we setup a user group booth at MSDN events to try and attract developers, and held many events on topics such as “J2EE and .NET Interoperability”, “Building Mobile Applications with the .NET CF and SQL CE”, “Web Services Security”, and “Whidbey and SQL Server 2005.”

Our events in 2004 and most of 2005 always seemed to have less than amazing attendance, though we did manage to have some great events with speakers like John Bristowe and Dan Sellers, and we gave away lots of books and other prizes to Edmonton developers. I think we probably gave away more stuff than other user groups did, because I also happened to be the Academic contact for Microsoft at the UofA, so I ended up receiving double the swag. We tried food a few times, but couldn’t seem to get an amazing turnout.

As a result, we had a “planning meeting” in the summer of 2005, to try and get some input from people on where they thought the user group should go. We held less of our own events in the first six months of 2005 than we did in 2004, and basically organized things around the MSDN tour events. Which did people prefer? After a while, we finally got a good discussion going, and it turned out that most people wanted smaller events, with presenters from the group. In September 2005 we got started. We put up a wiki as our website so that everyone could edit it, and we had a series of smaller events on things like Windows Vista, Visual Studio 2005, Generics, and Game Engine Design. We also started a certification group, though it didn’t last long.

EDMUG.NET is born

Which more or less brings us to March of this year. Our last event was March 14th, where John Bristowe returned to Edmonton to talk about WinFX. Shortly thereafter, the business plan competitions Dickson and I were in took over our lives, and we never planned an event for April. Then, on April 9th, we received an email from Donald Belcham, basically informing us that EDMUG.NET was starting. His email kind of surprised us, as we had been informed a few weeks earlier by MSDN that some people in Edmonton wanted something different. We decided to meet with Donald over coffee, and we felt pretty good after the meeting. Here is a summary of the outcome:

  • EDMUG.NET held no ill will towards us, they just wanted to try something different.
  • They decided to hold their events on Thursdays as ours were usually held on Tuesdays.
  • We discussed the future of the .NET Wizards, including one option which would make us a sub-group of EDMUG.NET, focusing on “the cutting edge” stuff.
  • We agreed that we didn’t necessarily want to compete.
  • We also chatted about our experience in creating and running a group, and the things Donald and his team had experienced to date.
  • Dickson and I explained to Donald that we felt it was time for someone else to take over and offer a different perspective on things anyway.
  • We wished each other luck.

Dickson and I decided to take a break, and let EDMUG.NET get underway, so nothing much happened until the first EDMUG.NET event on April 27th, which I was able to attend part of. It had great attendance, and was a pretty successful first event. I said hi to Donald and team, but didn’t get a chance to really chat with them.

Their second event was held on May 25th. Unfortunately neither Dickson nor myself could attend, but it seems they encountered some negative feedback – something all user groups will receive at some point.

Here is where things get interesting.

Get to the point Mack

I’m glad to see Donald handled the negative feedback very well, dropping the “fuck’s” like they are going out of style. Anyway, I don’t know his relationship with Mike at Sideline.ca who had the complaints, so I won’t comment any further besides my sarcastic remark just now. It is from their back and forth as well as some comments made offline, that I noticed some things that I need to comment on.

  1. Donald calls “the old user group’s content inadequate“. It has also been said that we tended to focus on things you couldn’t take back to work and use right away.
  2. Mike thinks the .NET community needs rekindling, and said that the previous group did not take action on feedback.
  3. Both Mike and Donald agreed to “hold EdmUG to a much higher standard than what the DotNetWizards had,” which apparently means a “stronger and more knowledgeable community.”
  4. When EDMUG.NET first launched, Mike thought it was “sure to kick the hell out of the previous excuse we had for a .Net user group here in town.” Donald says he was disappointed with our “inability to capture and drive the local .NET developer community.”
  5. I get the general feeling that the work Dickson and I did has gone largely unappreciated.

I’ve been known to have a short fuse at times, but in general, I’d like to think I’m a fairly easy going guy. That said, there are some things that just piss me off, and the list above is one of them. Here are my thoughts on each point:

  1. I think the idea that our content was inadequate is totally wrong. Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, we had some great speakers with great topics here in Edmonton with the .NET Wizards, as I mentioned above. And while our topics at the end of 2005 and first part of this year were definitely “cutting edge”, the same simply cannot be said of our previous events. Look again at the list of topics I mentioned earlier, many of them are things you could use right away. I also couldn’t help but notice that one of the two upcoming EDMUG.NET events is about “Atlas”, a beta product, otherwise known as “cutting edge” or something you probably can’t use at work the next day.
  2. Mike is right, the .NET community here in Edmonton needs to be rekindled. He’s dead wrong though, that we never took action based on feedback. The very reason we had small user group events in the last year was directly from feedback! The wiki we replaced our old site with was a direct result of feedback. If anything, we couldn’t get enough feedback. In my experience, people are generally happy to say everything is fine and go start their own group than give any constructive feedback when it’s needed.
  3. I never go into anything without setting my standards extremely high. For this reason, I sometimes come off as arrogant, when really it’s just that I always try to be confident that I can reach for top and make it there. With a reply like Donald gave him, I don’t know why Mike thinks that EDMUG.NET’s standards are so much higher than ours. Dickson and I always wanted our user group to be the best. That said, I don’t think a “more knowledgeable” community has anything to do with high standards. Setting your standards high for a user group is trying to please everyone, which as we all know, simply isn’t possible.
  4. Depending on your metric, we may have failed to “drive the developer community” forward. On the other hand, we created a place that Donald and his team could get together to plan and create EDMUG.NET, did we not? We held events and had some great speakers, did we not? We managed to connect some developers from Edmonton, which is much better than what existed before we came along.
  5. Sure Donald said in our coffee meeting that he appreciated what we did, but never once has this been said publicly by the EDMUG.NET team. People like Mike are quick to bash us, but don’t seem to appreciate that we attempted to create something good in Edmonton for .NET developers. I don’t need a pat on the back, because I’m happy with what Dickson and I have accomplished with the .NET Wizards, but I really hate unfair and unbalanced commentary. A simple “they did some good things for a while” might have been appropriate.

So what now?

I think EDMUG.NET will probably be pretty successful. They’ve got some very well-connected developers on board, and they seem much happier to spread the word about EDMUG.NET to their colleagues than they did about us. Donald recently started a series of posts talking about his experience starting EDMUG.NET, so check them out if you’re interested. I wish them nothing but the best of luck moving forward, as I think Edmonton deserves a great user group.

Dickson and I have discussed the future of the .NET Wizards a few times, and right now we’re happy to focus on Paramagnus and attend the EDMUG.NET events when we can. At some point in the future we might revisit the issue and decide to hold some events on really bleeding-edge stuff, things we can do some interesting demos with, just as an alternative to EDMUG.NET’s events. Or, we may revisit things and decide that we’re happy with the .NET Wizards no longer existing. Don’t expect anything until at least the fall though.

I think the only way to measure the success of a user group is to look at the community it creates, online, offline, it doesn’t really matter where. Attendance is not the right metric, because there are hundreds of reasons why people attend or don’t attend events. Content is not king, because you can get content pretty much anywhere these days with books, websites, blogs, and more. You might think speakers are a good measure of success, but they are tied very closely to content, and at the end of the day, it might be easier to get in touch with a local developer than an extremely busy speaker across the continent. It’s the community that matters.

It’s also extremely hard to measure the success of a user group based on community, which is why the attendance metric is always used. There are other things that matter though besides the size of the community. Are people being connected? Did you learn something about a fellow user group member that you didn’t know before? How “vibrant” is the community? Are people attracted to the community? Do people want to get involved? Do people want to improve the community? There are lots of things to look at.

Were we successful with the .NET Wizards? I think we were. I certainly have no regrets about anything, and I believe we created a great community here in Edmonton. EDMUG.NET have now taken it upon themselves to take it to the next level, and as a member of the .NET developer community here in Edmonton, I hope they find success.

One win left, go Oilers go!

Post ImageEdmonton played an absolutely amazing game tonight, easily shutting out the Carolina Hurricanes with a final score of 4-0. That means that for the third time in a row, the Stanley Cup Final is going to game 7. The 16,839+ in attendance at Rexall were super loud, and thousands more flooded Whyte Ave and Jasper Ave after the game (no doubt the partying is just getting under way!). Jasper Ave was especially noisy tonight, with some intense honking (here are some pictures)! Some notes on the game:

  • Hurricanes forward Erik Cole made a surprising return to the lineup for Carolina tonight after missing several months with a fractured vertebra. Doug Weight was out with an upper-body injury, creating the lineup opening.
  • Pisani’s goal moved him into the league lead with 13 in these playoffs. His assist on the Torres goal tied him with Chris Pronger for the team lead in multiple-point games these playoffs with seven.
  • Terrible officiating once again – really, is it so hard to get some decent calls? Tonight was harder for the referees, I admit, as you could barely hear the whistle half the time. A few times tonight they called penalties against a team when they still hadn’t touched the puck, drives me crazy! I am glad they finally called a diving penalty though, first of the playoffs if I am not mistaken.
  • Finally, finally, finally – Horcoff and Dvorak (and Smyth) did something in this series! Horc was my MVP until this series began, after which he was largely invisible until tonight. Dvorak should be elevating his game, as he’s fighting for a chance to stay in Edmonton as far as I am concerned, so it was good to see him get a point tonight.
  • Spacek and Pisani had great games, with two points each. Jussi played good, but wasn’t really tested with only 16 shots on goal from the ‘Canes.
  • Three powerplay goals! That’s the biggest story of the night as far as I am concerned. The Oilers are clearly the better team at even strength, and have been all series long. Tonight was the first night that the Hurricanes powerplay sucked, and ours clicked.
  • I think Torres had an awesome game tonight, with a goal, two shots, three hits, and one takeaway. He set the tempo early and kept it up all game long.

So it all comes down to Monday. One game, for all the glory. I am confident the Oilers are bringing the cup back to Edmonton!

Carolina didn’t look like a team hungry for the win tonight. Not only have they lost two games in a row now, they’ve missed two chances to win the cup. The Hurricanes looked tired, beat up, and ready to call it quits. If Edmonton plays on Monday like they did tonight, bringing the body, shooting lots of pucks, and driving for the net, I think we’ll handily take the win. The powerplay/penalty kill will also be important, so they need to continue to do whatever it is they did tonight that turned the tables on special teams.

Number six is coming in 2006!!

Edmonton Oilers Fan Content

Post ImageUnfortunately there are lots of negative stories in the media about Oiler fans, but we’re not all bad. There are so many amazing fans in Edmonton, I am just continually amazed at the things they create! If you’re looking to get pumped up, there’s lots of fan created media online.

Bruce Thiessen aka Dr. BLT sent me a link to a song he wrote for the Oilers, called “Oilers on Ice“. Bruce describes himself as a “Canadian-born and raised prairie boy” and he does the Oilers proud with his song.

Still on the topic of music, 91.7 The Bounce has seven different Oiler songs for you to enjoy, including one with Georges Laraque! Not to be outdone, The Bear created a song for Fernando Pisani using the music from Abba’s “Fernando” track. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be online yet, but I’m sure it will be eventually.

What about the vehicles? If you live in Edmonton, you’ve no doubt seen the trucks driving around with oil derricks on the bed, and other vehicles similarly decked out in copper and blue. Even our public transit system, ETS, is showing their Oiler pride. There’s lots more pictures on Flickr too.

Want to see the antics of crazy fans? Look no further than YouTube. As of the time of this post, there are 276 videos that show up in a search for the Edmonton Oilers. Unfortunately there are quite a few videos of Don Cherry too 😉

Here’s a small list of some of the other stuff out there:

There’s lots more great stuff, just do some searching! Go Oilers Go!

Oilers force game 6!

Post ImageI just got back from Whyte Ave where Tom and I were walking around high-fiving everyone and of course, filming it all. The Oilers won tonite 4-3, and will now come back to Edmonton for Game 6. I’ll post that video later (also got more footage of craziness in the cars on Jasper Ave) but for now, let’s take a look at the game:

  • The Oilers won in overtime, on a breakaway goal by Fernando Pisani (shorthanded no less). I am so glad he got the breakaway, because he can actually score!
  • We got off to a good start tonite too, scoring just 16 seconds in.
  • Carolina scored all three of their goals on the powerplay. And really, if it wasn’t for the referees, they wouldn’t have even come close to forcing OT. The officiating was absolutely horrendous tonight – the NHL should be ashamed. If the new NHL is calling non-existent penalties and not calling the blatant ones, I don’t want it.
  • I also don’t like that they called a penalty against us in overtime. At that point in a knock-out game in the Stanley Cup Finals, you swallow the whistles! Only extremely horrible penalties should be called, otherwise, there’s no way the refs should be deciding a game.
  • Boo hoo, the ‘Canes had to deal with a time change for once. Cry me a goddamn river.
  • They also appear to be hurting, with lots of guys in and out of the dressing room tonight. Keep up the good work Torres!
  • Stellar game tonight for Pronger, who finished a +3. Hemsky also played very well. And no, Greene did not play badly at all. The penalties he was called for (especially one of them) were not penalties. I’m so glad Charlie Huddy was there to pump him back up on the bench.
  • Thank goodness MacT finally came to his senses and replaced Laraque with Harvey. He didn’t contribute offensively tonight, but he only played nine shifts. I think he’ll have a bigger impact in game 6.
  • Once again, Markkanen was awesome, making the key saves we needed him to make to keep the score close.

The other thing I wanted to mention – CBC blows. Bob Cole and Harry Neil are clearly Toronto fans, who do nothing but make the Oilers seem crappy when calling the game. They can’t say enough nice things about Carolina. But it wasn’t just them tonite, it was the whole broadcast. They only spoke to Oilers after the third and after the win, though they spoke to the injured Eric Cole and a few other Hurricanes like Brind’a-whore. They usually show a “back in time” clip, and what did they choose to show this evening? That’s right, a clip of the New York Islanders defeating the old Oilers. No footage of Rexall. No footage of Whyte. I got the general feeling that they expected, or maybe even wanted, Carolina to win as the broadcast just wasn’t balanced. The only redeeming quality of CBC is Ron Maclean. No, not Cherry, who is a complete idiot most of the time – stick to hockey Don. Coach’s Corner is not the time or place to be making political statements. And who cares if the scoring leaders are all Canadian? And how many times did we have to see Staal’s goal!? Jeez.

So the next game will be here in Edmonton. I know the hometown crowd is going to be crazy, so let’s hope the boys give it all they’ve got again. I think they outplayed Carolina tonight, despite what the scoresheet says (thanks alot you idiot referees) or what the announcers said (Bob and Harry are morons anyway).

Go Oilers Go!

Oilers going for the cup!

Post ImageFor the first time since 1990, our beloved Edmonton Oilers are heading to the Stanley Cup finals against either Buffalo or Carolina. The Oilers took their third win in Anaheim tonight, by a one goal margin winning 2-1. The first period wasn’t great, but the second and third were fairly solid.

  • Roloson’s 12 wins are the most by an Oilers goalie since Bill Ranford won 16 in the 1990 playoffs.
  • The Ducks finished a combined 1-6-1 against Edmonton in the regular season and playoffs this season.
  • The Oilers killed off all but one of their 11 penalties in this game.
  • The Oilers are the lowest-seeded team to ever reach the finals.
  • Edmonton outscored Anaheim 16-13 in the series, but they outshot the Oilers 183-121.

For more on the game, check out EdmontonOilers.com and NHL.com.

Did I think the Oilers would make it this far? Certainly not at the beginning of the year, though as a fan there’s always that glimmer of hope and belief. Roloson was a major addition to our team. Most of the season I complained along with everyone else about our goaltending, so to be in the finals with a great goalie is a nice surprise. The team is playing really well at the moment, and will certainly make great use of the time off before the next series starts.

And let me just say, Carolina or Buffalo, it doesn’t matter. I really hope we don’t hear crap about them not being hockey towns or any of that. Any team who can make it to the finals fully deserves to be there.

Let’s bring home the cup boys!

NAIT to be Canada's largest tech school

Post ImageAccording to an article in today’s Edmonton Journal, it appears that the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology is planning to spend a ton of cash in an effort to become one of North America’s largest technical schools. The project sounds fairly ambitious:

A brand-new campus twice the size of the current main campus will be built somewhere in the south side, and the main campus in north-central Edmonton will be expanded to include a “student village” with residences and possibly an LRT station.

Over the next 25 to 30 years, NAIT’s other eight locations in the Edmonton area, such as Souch campus at Gateway Boulevard and 71st Avenue, will be consolidated into the two main sites.

The $750-million project will attempt to increase enrolment to 95,000 students from the 65,000 to help in easing Alberta’s “critical shortage of skilled workers.” One of the highlights is a new Centre for Health and Wellness, to be completed as early as 2009, that will include a fitness centre, aquatic facilities, and a health clinic.

I admit I was a little surprised when I first read the article, but I think it’s great that all of our educational institutions are expanding, and not just the University. This project probably wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago, when the south LRT extensions had not been approved – the south side campus is a reflection of the direction Edmonton’s growth is heading, and in fact has been heading for quite some time.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this project unfolds. It’s too bad they didn’t announce it a couple months ago, when they could have been featured in some of the Edmonton real-estate and growth publications!

Read: Edmonton Journal

Five wins to go!

Post ImageFor anyone not currently in Edmonton, the Oilers won again tonight, defeating the Ducks by a score of 5-4. If you’re in Edmonton, you can no doubt hear the cheering and honking from wherever you are reading this! The game ended up being much too close, as the Oilers fell asleep and blew a four goal lead. That said, we’re only five wins away from bringing the cup home baby, back home to the City of Champions!

  • Tonight’s game was Chris Pronger’s 100th playoff game.
  • Toby Peterson scored the first goal tonight, his first ever playoff goal.
  • Steve Staios also scored his first ever playoff goal tonight.
  • The Ducks have lost 13 consecutive games in Edmonton, dating back to Feb. 24, 1999.
  • Tonight was the seventh consecutive playoff sellout for the Oilers.
  • Before the game, anthem singer Paul Lorieau pointed his microphone to the crowd as they sang O Canada.
  • Anaheim has outshot Edmonton in all three games of the series.
  • Peca has scored a goal in four straight games and has points in his last six.
  • NHL commissioner Gary Bettman took in the game and got a mix of cheers and boos when his visit was announced on the JumboTron.

For more on tonight’s game, check out NHL.com and EdmontonOilers.com.

Let’s go Oilers, let’s go! Hopefully Thursday’s game is much less stressful than tonight’s.

Oilers make the Western finals!

Post ImageTonight the Edmonton Oilers defeated the San Jose Sharks by a score of 2-0 and will now face Anaheim in the Western Conference final. Unfortunately I missed the game, but I had up-to-the-second text message updates. I can’t imagine what things are like back home in Edmonton! Here are some things to note about tonight’s game:

  • The Edmonton Oilers are in the Western Conference finals for the first time in 14 years (not since 1992).
  • This game was Roloson’s first career playoff shutout.
  • Harvey’s assist was his first playoff point.
  • It was the first time an eighth seed has advanced to the third round since the NHL adopted the conference format in 1994.
  • This is the second consecutive season the Sharks have been knocked out by an Alberta-based team.
  • Edmonton fans cheered the U.S. national anthem so loudly that the noise drowned out singer Paul Lorieau. Oilers fans were asked to be on their best behavior after some in the crowd in San Jose before Game 5 booed the Canadian anthem.
  • The Oilers are the only remaining team that has won a Stanley Cup title.
  • Edmonton played its 12th game this postseason, the most of any team.

More on the game here and here. Game 1 of the series against the Ducks is Friday night at 7 PM MDT, so don’t miss it! I know I won’t.

UPDATE: Check out the world’s smallest Oilers logo from the UofA’s NanoFab lab!

Happy Birthday Tom!

Today is my brother’s birthday, making him “bar age” in the Northwest Territories, not that you’d want to go drinking there but that’s another story. We went to the reptile show today, which was kind of cool though not as big as I remember it being the last time I went. Tom has a few snakes back in Inuvik and has always liked reptiles and lizards and things. You can check out some pictures here (they were quick shots without a flash, so a few are fuzzy).

After the show we came to the office to play some Madden on the Xbox 360 – I was winning by two touchdowns when the Xbox restarted because the cord on the power box had come loose (thats what I get for having cords all over the place). It’s just as well, Tom probably would have made some spectacular comeback!

So we’re partying it up tonight! If you want to come, give me a call on my cell and I’ll give you the address. Things will probably get underway around 8 or 9.

Happy Birthday Tom!