360|iDev 2015, What an amazing thing we did.

So i just finished my big event of the year, 360|iDev and wow. What a rush (as always).

TL;DR; So honored to share a room with so many awesome people being awesome. Making amazing things, being parts of amazing teams, etc. I honestly feel this event not only has a positive impact on my life each year, but also does on others, which is humbling to say the least.

There’s an amazing photo pool here.

Now the long form.

I start planning 360|iDev the moment the preceding event ends, so yes, I’ve already begun work on next years event.  A 4 day conference with 55 speakers, 400 attendees and a handful of sponsors isn’t something that comes together in a few weeks.

There were a few good, and one bad thing this year. One of the things I like about doing 360|iDev is that we bring about 400 people into Denver, more than 85% of whom aren’t local to CO. Many who aren’t local to the United States. Sure when compared to city wide events, that’s nothing, but to me it’s a big damn deal.

360|iDev is my bread-n-butter. It keeps enough money coming in, my wife hasn’t forced me to get a job… yet, LOL. I get to see people from around the world that i may only see once (maybe twice if I’m lucky) a year. I get to show off my home town (by claim, if not birth), and show everyone why Denver is so awesome, why it’s where I’m where I am.

There was a lot of great stuff this week, much of it conference specific, so I’ll talk about it on the conference blog, but some of it more personal and Denver specific.

Lunch (good)

Last year we ate lunch outside the hotel because yeah $50/person for conference lunch is stupid and well hotels are often stupid. One place however can’t handle 400 ppl, no matter what they think or say. Lunch last year wasn’t awesome. Long lines, long waits, etc. As experiments go, it failed.

This year I had 3 (4 on Tuesday because of Civic Center eats) options for attendees. Lunch tickets were available for each place, people picked what they wanted to eat. It was awesome to see groups form on the fly each day to explore someplace new. We spread the lunch tickets, so no single vendor had more than 150 people a day. So far (bills are still coming in) it looks like i spent half as much this year as last, and had 3x more options for people. That’s awesome!

The only thing that went a bit sideways was my failure to account for vendors not being open on weekends. Out of 3 only 1 was open on Sundays. Oops.

Local Community (good)

One of the things being downtown has afforded was the opportunity to spread some money around vs. bottling it up in a hotel chain. This year we spread about $18,000 to local restaurants in the downtown area. I think that’s pretty awesome, i know i’m not a rain maker, but i think any time I can give money to local businesses, that’s a great thing. Not only am i not paying for over priced hotel food, but I’m boosting (in a small way, sure) the local economy.

While small, i think every dollar helps. I think as a conference organizer, it’s my job to not just dump money into the pockets of a massive hotel chain. It’s my job to better the city that is hosting my event. Whether that’s financially or even just from exposure like not keeping everyone indoors all day and night.

Police (Bad)

During lunch on Tuesday, the attendees ate lunch at Civic Center Eats. A few attendees were enjoying their meal on the grass when some Denver PD officers came over. Sadly instead of assuming these folks weren’t criminals, vagrants or some type of malcontents, they treated a group of international visitors to Denver like criminals, demanding they all present ID while telling them they were sitting in the wrong grass. Not cool Denver PD, not cool. I get we’re trying to revitalize the grass in the park, but maybe wrap that section in tape, vs. the handful of tiny ass signs. Also maybe, just maybe assume people (wearing conference badges, even!) aren’t trying to kill the grass or break the rules and start with “Hey guys, can you move elsewhere, this grass is off limits for now.” vs. oh i dunno, accosting people eating their lunch, making them all present ID before letting them go.

back-side-black-textAs someone who brings people from around the world to Denver, i’m not super thrilled that happened. Small incident, yes? bad experience for people in Denver the first time ever, yup. In the end we all joked about it, but is that really what Denver wants people to remember about it?

I have much respect for law enforcement, I know their jobs are hard, but that’s not an excuse. Be better please Denver PD.

If you’re one of this years’ attendees, thank you, really, truly, thank you. Being able to do this event, and make even a small living is huge! I can’t thank every single speaker, sponsor and attendee enough for being a part of something so truly amazing. Conferences are hard, harder still when balancing making a living, with making an awesome experience. I already can’t wait until next year.

GoCode CO 2015 (Year Two)

I just finished the AAR (After Action Report) Meeting, so now I figure it’s time to put my thoughts down, on this, my second year being a part of such a fun project.

tl;dr; GoCode CO 2015 was better than it’s predecessor, and a huge success. Both of which are kind of expected, you always want to improve, and we did.

I was much more involved this year over last. That was good, last year I felt under utilized, and never really involved beyond, “Show up and be put to work”, so it was nice to actually be involved. The team changed from last year to this, and while I enjoyed last years’ team, I think this year’s team really crushed it. We enjoyed working together, laughed a hell of a lot, and dealt with issues with style.

I was tasked not just with Challenge Weekend (I ran Ft. Collins again this year) but with all event logistics. Four events, two of which were weekend long events, two more party/reception/gala style, was a stretch and a fun challenge.

This year I’ve tried to branch out a bit and take on some event consulting work between my own events. Overall it’s been fun, but definitely a lesson in time and resource management.

I won’t go into granular details of each event, that’s not needed, they all went well, nothing went sideways, or at least overly sideways. My adopted city Ft. Collins took 2 out of the 3 winning spots, which is awesome. I’m sure my team is over hearing me crow about Ft. Collins, sorry all, can’t help it. :)

That said, this year every single team really brought their A game. The Apps were polished, the presentations (mostly) amazing.

It’s been very fulfilling to be a part of something like this, 5 cities around CO (Ft. Collins, Grand Junction, Durango, Co. Springs, Denver) sending 2 teams each to the final event. It’s awesome to see this kind of thing at the state level. Colorado is lucky to have such a cool project, striving to make CO even better than it is.

Oh and I will say, our current Sec. of State is a hoot! I got a chance to chat and hang out with him during Challenge Weekend (i think he hit 3-4 out of 5 cities, that’s impressive), and a little during the final event. Both times he was super cool to talk to. Hard to not like someone who laughs that much!

My First Day with Pebble Time

IMG_1768I lingered around the house yesterday before heading out for a work function just so I could get my new Pebble Time. WORTH IT!

I backed the Time the moment i heard about it. No regrets, it’s a nice piece of kit, at least so far in my first half a day ish, I’m really enjoying it as a smart watch.

The screen is (as most tech journo’s have said) not as crisp as say the AppleWatch, but that’s not terrible. It’s all kinds of readable in any light, at almost any angle. That’s a big deal for me. While i love the shake to light feature, I like not needing it very often.

IMG_1756I’m kinda torn on the body. I liked the sleek look of the original Pebble a lot, I suspect I’ll get used to the new style, but I do miss the seamlessness of that first gen. What I do like is the buttons. I like that they’re formed into single line vs. being three distinct buttons.

Also, the new body is definitely eye catching, a friend last night noticed it immediately, and asked what it was.

I like the little “thank you” that Pebble added to the back case for those of us who backed the original as well as the Time, kinda cool, makes mine (and thousands of others) a little unique.

The watch app that accompanies the new Time is much improved over the original. It’s not yet in the iOS app store (I’m running a beta at the time I’m typing this). Hopefully it drops soon, as Time isn’t compatible with the original Pebble management App. That’s a bummer for those who’re receiving their Pebbles this week.

The app itself is much improved aesthetically. You can see each face, a quick tap on a check box and the face is loaded or activated if it was already there. You can even set a default face that is your final destination when pressing the back button. I hated accidentally going past my preferred face to another, then having to click back to it, so that’s nice.

Depending on the face you can manage it’s access to the time line feature that’s new to the Pebble OS, you can also more readily access any settings that might come with that face.

IMG_1770You can also allow access to calendars, and such, which then let’s your appointments flow into the time line. Handy for sure.

Apps are still a thing, and I’m sure it’s just me, but they feel more accessible, maybe it’s the upgraded storage. On my previous Pebble with only 8 “slots” most apps despite their utility competed for space with faces and other apps.

Apps like Leaf now feel easier to use and access, where i used to have to remember i had an app, it’s already second nature to think about it. Maybe because it’s summer and Denver skipped spring and went from cold and wet to hot, so I think about my house temps more, I dunno.

I’m excited by the potential for smart bands, I hope folks take advantage of that feature. Adding battery, sensors, etc via watches adds so much utility to the Pebble Time. Also open sourcing the files and letting the community get involved, shows a lot of love and respect for their users from the Pebble Team.

I’m very happy with the Time already, and envision a long run with this as my daily driver watch, sorry watch box, you’re going to have to wait a while longer.

 

Why I backed the Pebble Time

Say what you will regarding Apple potentially/likely/already dominating or otherwise killing all competition in smartwatches, Pebble found 50,830 people (at the time I’m writing this) to contribute over 11 mil to the next Pebble. And no matter how you slice it they can’t all be “Apple Haters” or even “just android people”

In fact most Pebble owners I’ve met have been iPhone owners, many i know backed Pebble Time as well.

I think the success (I suppose 11mil, and 50 thousand plus backers is as good as any metric) of the Pebble Time is definitely in part due to Apple. All the rumors, sneaks, and baseless guesses, and all around hype around the Apple Watch have brought smart watches much more into the public eye, that’s good for everyone in the space.

Will Apple sell buttloads of watches, of course they will. Developers will all want one or two, because they’ll need devices to test on, whether they wear it or not who cares. Those who buy everything Apple makes will also buy one or two. Lots of others will flock to buy this amazing new watch (or gadget, depending on perspective)

I’d guess many of the 50,830 Pebble Time backers will also buy an Apple Watch. I won’t be (immediately) among them, but many will I’ve no doubt.

First why I bought a new Pebble. I’ve got a Pebble now, in fact I backed it the first time. I love it. I love watches, unlike so many sudden new watch wearers, I’ve worn a watch since i could tell time. I own a dozen watches, my most expensive easily cost more than the mid level Apple Watch. I don’t buy or wear shit watches. The Pebble isn’t the most pretty of things, but it’s a good watch. Tells time, date, weather (depending on face) and when I’m in more social settings and grabbing my phone isn’t acceptable, it tells me there’s something I should see (after lots of tweaking with notifications to get it right), or who’s calling without grabbing my phone.

The Pebble does most of the things I want, and it looks like will be adding the last thing I need. More interactive notifications. This assumes Apple exposes that API in WatchKit, I haven’t looked. Being able to send a few canned replies to things is a great feature. If I was a voice memo person, the mic would be cool, maybe it’ll be cool for Siri things, I dunno. Color E-Paper is awesome, color with 7 day battery life, very awesome. One of the things I love about my Pebble is not worrying about nightly charging. When I first saw “color” I thought, ok one color at a time or something else, but the fact that it’s many, is impressive. From the pics and video it’s not as vibrant as the AppleWatch, but that’s fine with me.

Pebble has also done an admirable job of future proofing. The first gen Pebble will get many of the features shown in the Pebble Time kickstarter video. Not all, but many. The current model has things that at launch weren’t active, but are now, like an accelerometer. They team behind Pebble has made sure that the watch i bought in 2012, not only is functional in 2015, but is still getting features. That’s kind of important in watches. Watches aren’t a buy-n-replace annually thing. My Hamilton is over 10 years old, and runs great, looks awesome. It needs a new battery every few years. My Citizen eco drive, is almost 15, runs like the day i got it. I’m not certain (at least for gen 1 and 2) that AppleWatch will have that ‘feature’.

Detractors often complain about the Pebble’s non classy looks, i can’t argue that. I have much MUCH nicer watches in my collection, and was tempted by the Pebble Steel just for a nicer appearance, but wasn’t ready to commit the funds for the same Pebble as I own, but wrapped in metal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eventually want an Apple Watch. Despite my overall love of things Apple, I’m not often pulled in early, and frankly the first gen gear is usually sub par.

First iPhone, not amazing and quickly surpassed by the 3. I didn’t buy a used first gen until we moved from iPhone OS, to iOS.

First iPad, not amazing, and quickly surpassed by the 2. Not terrible at all, but meh. I got mine on the first day, waited anxiously, and was done playing with it in 30 minutes. Things got better FAST, and I love my iPad Air 2. But in hindsight, should have waited for iPad 2.

Is there any reason to think the watch won’t be the same? That the first model will not be very powerful (we already have rumors the battery will be lucky to last a day), or very water resistant. Do I want to buy a new device for another $300-$400 in a year? Do I want a device that in 2-3 years (if that) won’t get new features? By the second or third year of the Apple Watch, it’ll be something to truly want.

Also, (of course this is speculation) the Apple Watch won’t have a ton of things I care enough about to warrant it over a Pebble. Sending morse code messages to people… cute. Useless unless my friends or wife have an Apple Watch.

health sensors, neat. I’m sure I won’t hate that info, but at the same time i don’t care that much. I care about steps, active minutes each day, all data I get from lots of sources.

Don’t get me wrong either, I’ll want to see and touch my friends first Gen AppleWatches. I’ll want to play with them and see how great they are, but I’ll be happy with my Pebble (and then Pebble Time) for a few more years I think.

I’d say my Pebbles will be welcome additions to my watch box, but in 7 days they’ll be powered down husks…

I built an app.

IMG_0627Ok I didn’t. I guess I product managed an app :)

Tom and his team worked with me on “Edit Me“. I’ve helped get lots of apps launched (no shortage of 360|iDev and Flex apps out there, that I helped with), but this is the first “not a conference attendees app” app.

Edit Me, serves a real purpose. Ever had a text message, tweet, Facebook post, etc  that you wanted to run by someone before sending? Maybe you’re a bit too heated, maybe too sad. Maybe just to check your tone, or make sure it’s not wildly offensive, etc. Or just to have a friend proof read it for you. Well that’s what we set out to solve with Edit Me.

The idea is pretty straightforward, i’ve got some short form text i want to run by someone before sending it, (Flying Spaghetti Monster knows I often need it)

3-5_1You fire up Edit me, pick your friend who’ll be the editor, throw in a title, and add your text. Off it goes. What’s cool is you and/or the recipient don’t need to register, the exchanges and notifications are bound to device not yet another set of user credentials. When they get the email it’s got an app URL (if they don’t there’s a link to get the app first) and it’ll pull up what needs to be edited.

Something more robust like users may come later, same for more granular edits, right now you offer up your edits and they’re accepted or rejected en masse. There’s no (yet) “Change this word or sentence” it’s “here’s my version of the entire text you sent” even if the change is only one or two words. We wanted to launch what we thought was the most useful version one we could, with plans to do a lot more cool things to the app as we go.

4_5I’m really excited about Edit Me, and find it really useful.

We also want to make a Mac version, which I think is going to be even more useful. While I do often need short form editing/proof reading, I do that a lot more on my mac than my iDevices.

Price: Not free. We went with $.99 because well free isn’t a sustainable model. We think Edit Me has value and utility, and is worth something. Plus really, isn’t not saying something stupid on the internet worth $.99?

NO IAP. While I won’t use the blanket “IAP is the devil” I will say when I am looking for new apps and games, seeing the “Contains In-App Purchase” label makes me think twice before even tapping to see the details. We wanted to make an app that was useful as it is, and requires no extra purchase.

If you’ve ever sat and looked at your messages, twitter or facebook app, and wondered “Should I send this, is mom going to get mad?” Edit Me is probably worth $.99 to you. Because then you could easily ask your sister or friend.

Event Consulting

I just wrapped up RWDevCon, which by all measures was a huge success. Kudos to Ray Wenderlich and his amazing team.

I handled logistics, and Ray’s team put together an amazing two days of tutorial based content.

For my part, things went well I think. Nothing too crazy came up with the hotel, the other group didn’t interfere with us at all. We didn’t run out of food, or have a projector crap out :) All win’s

This was my first “conference consulting” gig. I really enjoyed it and think I gave great value to the client (Ray).

I’m really excited to help make other events in the community awesome!

Also, I’m happy to announce that I’ve joined the AltConf 2015 team, so that’s gonna rock! I’ve sponsored, and volunteered in the past and this year I get to have a more direct role, which I love.

See you at AltConf! Or any of my 360|Conferences events; 360|intersect, 360|iDev or [360|iDev min] :)

 

I broke up with Verizon for 1 reason only

This.

And not even so much because they won’t be doing roll over data (which i find insulting as a customer. Even ATT found a way to do it that they liked, and wasn’t out of line with their goals). But the attitude of that executive.

“If you want better treatment for the money you spend, we don’t want you as a customer, go fuck off and die”

In the past changing networks was a nightmare. I remember number porting taking as much as 48 hours, this time it took 10 minutes. I remember when porting wasn’t an option at all, now it’s tremendously easy, the new carrier can do it all, i didn’t have to call Verizon, didn’t have to go into the store, etc. A few bits of info, and we were AT&T Customers.

I overlooked Verizon’s transgressions because their support was always very nice (except in store, where I was lied to twice at two different locations) and helpful. Their twitter support team is amazing, and single handedly kept me a customer a few months ago when i was ready to leave.

It’s one thing (not a good thing) to pull crap like the super cookies, etc. While i think that’s lame, it wasn’t so lame I couldn’t live with it. The network was strong, i had bars where ever i needed them.

But to come out directly with the attitude that me and my $187 a month were of no value because how dare I assume the data I pay for should be mine to use the next month. Yeah that’s new, i wasn’t expecting them to jump right in and was prepared to wait months for it, if they had said it was coming. But the attitude of that executive, was the final straw.

So now me and my 3 devices are AT&T subscribers. We also save $57 a month, which ain’t bad either. If you’re Verizon, I highly suggest you leave. You’ll get better prices and a network (whether you choose T-Mobile or AT&T or even one of the more fringe players) that wants your business and appreciates it.

Bye Verizon.