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.

“This hotel internet is amazing” Said No One Ever.

“This hotel internet is amazing” Said No One Ever.

As much as I’ve enjoyed hosting my events at Marriotts, and as much as I’ve enjoyed staying at Marriotts (all but one hotel on my recent Hong Kong trip were Marriotts), this move by Marriott is likely going to keep me away, at least as much as possible. Certainly for events.

Marriott apparently is taking their dislike of customers to the next level. Surprised? No not really. I am surprised they’re so bent on this course of action that despite the $600k fine, they’re pressing forward trying to get the FCC to change it’s rules. First they tried being sly about blocking people from using their own hot spots, then they got busted. Rather than mea culpa and move on, they’re upping the stakes.

Since their FCC filing (please go leave a comment) being found out, they’ve tried to clarify that they don’t want to hose hotel guests, in fact they only meant they wanted to hose conference organizers and attendees. Oh that’s better…

Apparently suddenly (despite my having never heard of it happening) Marriott is very concerned with cyber security at conferences held on property. Something about protecting children too. The only issues I’ve ever seen at conferences with regards to wifi, is it generally sucking. I’ve never heard of any attacks against the hotel, the conference (It’s organizer or attendees) or any type of child porn ring popping up on premises.

What really happens is hotel internet is usually not awesome. Conference attendees often choose to spend their own data to stay connected. As an organizer I hate it when that happens, but am glad my customers have an option and a choice. I’d be severely pissed off if that weren’t the case, because the hotel chose to block access.

I can only think of one scenario where this type of behavior wouldn’t be abhorrent, and that’s if every hotel invested in the infrastructure to deliver amazing network connectivity to their customers and guests. While undoubtedly some have, most have not.

Oh and while Marriott is busy trying to screw it’s customers, Hyatt is getting rid of the stupid uncharge associated with guest internet access.

I hope either the FCC makes a decision (ideally the right one) or Marriott backs off their plan. Just pay the fine, move on guys.

2014 in review.

I know, everyone does one, blah blah. This is mine. Read it or don’t :) But I think 2014 was a pretty big year personally and professionally. It saw me recover from a massive blunder in 2013 to the tune of about $80k. It saw me cancel my first event, and sign on to do event consulting on an event I’m excited about. It also saw lots of travel, and bonding with friends near and far.

Things that happened in 2014:

  • Once again helped organize Denver Startup Week
  • Helped organize and run GoCode CO 2014
  • Cancelled 360|intersect 2014
  • Recovered from 360|Stack 2013
  • Held what’s likely the last 360|Flex
  • Helped organize AltConf 2014
  • Brought 360|iDev back to downtown Denver. Sold out a month in advance
  • Held a successful and the first of many [360|iDev min] in beautiful Greenville SC.
  • Spent 10 days in Hong Kong with my Pal Tom.
  • Spent a week in Amsterdam with my amazing wife and friends (Mike, Judy and Samuel)
  • Took on my first event consulting gig
  • I found awesome people to take on Ignite Denver

All in all not a bad year, some ups, some downs.

Denver Startup Week, as always was a great pleasure to help organize. It’s a week long celebration of the entrepreneurial side of Denver, that’s growing each year. It’s an exciting time to be in Denver, and I’m thrilled and thankful to be a part of such an amazing community and City.

GoCode CO is the first of it’s kind, multi city, multi month civic hackathon. Organized by the CO Secretary of State, it was a big pleasure to be asked to be a part of the team that executed this event. On top of being involved in all the primary events I was part of the team that ran the Fort Collins hack weekend. It was great, I worked with a member of the Sec. State and got to spend a weekend in the basement of OtterBox. GoCode is back in 2015, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be involved. Oh and the winning team? From Ft. Collins… not that I had anything to do with it, but since I was on team FoCo, i get bragging rights :)

360|intersect 2014, was the biggest fail of my professional life. I had a line up of amazing people (some I knew, some I hadn’t yet met in person) ready to share their passions, but I couldn’t get people interested. Several things worked against me, so I learned and am excited for 360|intersect 2015.

360|Stack 2013 was a dud. It was 2013’s big fail. I didn’t make it clear what it was about, I moved my focus from Flex too soon, and as a result an event I had planned for hosting about 300, hosted 100 (40 of which where speakers). I started 2014, owing 80k to the hotel we hosted 360|Stack at. Not a great way to start the year. I also learned that community doesn’t always support.

360|Flex 2014, was not an experiment, but was exploratory. Was there enough interest in what was left of the Flex community to do a Flex focused event. While it didn’t lose money, it didn’t make any, and while my heart is with the first event I ever organized, and what was the flagship of 360|Conferences, i decided that 2014 was probably it for 360|Flex. We brought it back for a last hurrah and everyone enjoyed it, but I think that’s it.

AltConf 2014 is something I love. In 2013 I sponsored with money. In 2014 lacking much spendable cash, I sponsored with my time. I volunteered the entire week; helping set up, being the safety monitor, and generally making myself useful. AltConf started (IMO) as a thing that existed along with WWDC. Something you could come to if you didn’t have a WWDC ticket (or if you did) but wanted to be in San Francisco that week. AltConf is now it’s own thing, the team behind it has worked hard to bring in amazing speakers, and provide an amazing (free) event for folks and really while it still happens during WWDC week, that’s more of an “oh yeah WWDC is this week too”. I go to SF that week now, to be a part of AltConf.

360|iDev 2014 in Downtown Denver. This was a big deal. It’s not that we didn’t like downtown it’s that downtown is expensive. We had used the same venue that while great, wasn’t downtown, for a few years. The time came to make a change. Almost a leap of faith, would enough people come, to justify the much higher costs associated with being downtown? Turns out, yes. 360|iDev sold out a full month in advance. We’ve sold out the last 3-4 years, but usually only a week before, sometimes only a day or two before. This year we spent the last 30 days focused on making the event great, vs. selling tickets. It was a bit freeing.

[360|iDev min] have been a mixed bag for us. We went to Vegas a few years back, it was meh. Nothing specific was wrong, just not the place for us. This year we tried going someplace we’d never been. Greenville SC. It was great. We had an amazing line up of people who spoke at 360|iDev in Denver and folks who hadn’t so the content was fresh and meaningful. It went great. So great we’re working on the 2015 version. It’ll be better than 2014! Stay tuned!

Hong Kong is a long ass flight from Denver. That said the trip was worth all nearly 30 hours of travel. What an amazing place. You can read about my trip here, but suffice to say for this post, it was time/money well spent. Tom is one of my best friends and it was a great chance for us to re-connect and hang out.

Amsterdam is one of my favorite places. Helped by the fact that three people I adore live there. Nicole and I spent my birthday in Amsterdam. The upside of going in February, no tourists. It was amazing and not crowded with americans :). The downside, it’s cold. it’s winter, LOL. Sadly all we got was rain, no snow. It was worth packing the extra layers though. Any opportunity to hang out with Mike and Judy and Samuel I’ll take. Spending 10 days in a foreign place with my awesome traveling companion and wife Nicole was also pretty great. I can’t imagine us not traveling together.

RWDevCon is my first time doing event consulting. It’s gonna be a great event, i’d say grab a ticket, but it sold out already. Ray and the raywenderlich.com team are great, the content he’s got planned is amazing. I’m excited to run this event!

I started Ignite Denver in like… 2009? I honestly don’t know, we’ve done some 20 events so far. Ignite Denver was the first Ignite event in Colorado, and up until this year I’ve been the head of the organizing team (sometimes that team was just me and Nicole). I’m super stoked that folks like Terry Cabeen, Dan Stones et. al. are involved and want to take Ignite Denver to the next level. I’m excited to attend Ignite Denver and not be the sole driving force behind it continuing. I’m immensely proud of Ignite and the stuff we’ve done, it’s only gonna be more awesome in 2015.

All in all, a busy year. Not without it’s challenges, but a good year. I hope yours was good, or at least didn’t suck too bad. I’m excited for what 2015 has in store for us all. See you there!

One more Stylus review

So I’ve done a few of these. Right now (and this one may be the one) I’m in love with the Dotpen stylus. It’s really nice!

IMG_0622The thing that drew me to it initially was the tip. I can’t stand those big nubbin stylii that have a nub that obscures what I’m doing. My other stylus has a fine point as well, and the Dotpen has a finer point!

On top of the fine point, I liked that the point was protected by a cap, like a pen, and that there was a shirt clip. Not that I’ll be clipping it to a pocket, but in my bag it’s easier if the stylus is clipped in. The cap is a nice feature as I tend to obsess about the fragility of the point. IMG_0624

 

 

The other plus (yes there’s more plusses than minus’) AAA batteries!!! The thing I hated the most about my True Glide, it takes AAAA batteries. I didn’t even know those existed, and they’re rare enough that they cost a fortune. Well a relative fortune for batteries. I can get a few eLoop AAA’s and be all set.

There’s only two draw backs to this great stylus.

The power button is right where you grip the stylus. I’ve accidentally turned it off a few times. It’s not a major issue as it just clicks on and off (this isn’t a BT enabled stylus, those are nice, but I’ll take universally useful over app by app useful).

The second draw back is a bit more severe. It’s noisy. My True Glide Apex has a soft rubber nib, and the Dot Pen uses a hard plastic. For casual use it’s not really that big a deal, but for taking notes, it’d be a deal breaker. I’ve more or less come to terms with not taking hand written notes on my iPad so that helps, LOL. However the little bit of art doodling I’ve done, it’s pretty clickie. Not terrible, but you’ll notice the sound and hear it.

Noisy nub aside, this is a very nice stylus, and works great on the iPad Air 2. If you’re in the market for a nice fine point stylus that isn’t a “smart” stylus, I definitely recommend the Dotpen

 

The Dark side of 2FA

Screenshot 2014-12-05 10.12.59Ok maybe Down side, is better than dark side. But there’s a suck for sure.

I’m a big proponent of 2 factor Authentication (2FA). While not the most convenient, with cyber attacks happening more and more frequently I’ll take the inconvenience over having to fight to get my bank account back, etc.

A few weeks ago I got a new iPhone. Like many it was iPhone 6-mas, and my time had come.

I picked up my phone, restored from an iCloud backup and went on with my life. Until I tried to login to my blogs (work and personal). WordPress uses google authenticator, which is nice, because many sites can use it, so you don’t need some type of app for each one (except name.com who uses another app, more later).

To my surprise you don’t simply use the app from a new phone (despite it being a complete and in my case encrypted back up of the previous device). My auth credential didn’t work. I had no idea why. I tweeted and thankfully someone pointed out having the exact same issue and mentioned being lucky their old phone was around. Mine was too, so I powered it up.

Thankfully I was able to login, delete the old credentials and establish new ones on my new phone.

The worst part is that wordpress doesn’t provide a “I don’t have my phone” type recovery option. Had I erased my phone, I’m not sure what I would have done. I lucked out. My payment processor Stripe, at least has a “Reset my pwd/credentials” option which is a nice nuclear option in this type of scenario.

Not so much with my name.com account. They choose to use some other pass key style app, which is fine. Since I don’t login often it didn’t occur to me to hop in before wiping my phone a few days ago… Of course I went to login because i got a domain expiry notice, and now I’m locked out (no option for “oops my phone is no longer tied to the right credentials”) and waiting for support to reply to my email.

I’m still pro-2FA, and I understand the underlying reasons these things work like they do, but at the same time if we want the average user to get on board, we need to have better recovery options, so that when a phone is lost, etc someone isn’t locked out of something that could be immensely vital.

So, I went to Hong Kong

IMG_0046

My travel journal.

tl; dr;

Had a great time, I’d go back. Their mass transit is amazing.

Long but I hope a good/interesting read.

I went for two reasons, Tom had asked me to go with him (he was attending a conference), and I figured I’d see if Hong Kong had an iOS community and would make for a good 360|iDev city. Sadly Hong Kong, won’t be a 360|iDev city. In talking with a few developers I learned 2 things; 1. there aren’t a ton of developers, let a lone iOS developers. 2. Developer is looked at like “Oh you couldn’t be a doctor or a banker”

Tom and I went to a pre hackathon intro to iOS Meetup, he helped, i hung around. The turn out was good, lots of newbies, lots of kids, but neither was a demographic for bringing 360|iDev, and sadly, neither is a group likely to immediately be in the market to attend 360|iDev Denver.

That’s ok though, that was part of the trip, and while not opening a new door, it certainly was informative, and I met some really cool folks.

The other part was tourism. Tom had a conference but i was hanging out.

Hong Kong island is pretty awesome. Think LA or Manhattan times 20. There’s no skyline, like those cities have, no visible change from low to high rises. It’s all high rises, everywhere.

Food.

We had some really great food (You can see my yelp reviews here). We only had one meal that was completely Meh. Everything else was good or great.

Lodging.

View from the executive lounge of the Renaissance Harbor View.

View from the executive lounge of the Renaissance Harbor View.

We stayed at 4 different hotels. Mostly out of necessity of our plans. First was the Renaissance. Very nice hotel. With points come privilege, we enjoyed a tasty buffet each morning on the executive level, which had amazing views out to the harbor.

After a few days there, we headed to Sha Tin. Basically a suburb to the north. That’s Where Tom’s conference was. After 1 day we both decided it’d be better if he trained in from Central vs. staying there, so we canceled the rest of the stay at the Courtyard Marriott Sha Tin, and booked at the JW Marriott in Central. I wanted the Renaissance, but they were booked. The JW is of course amazing. For what it costs (I used points) it had better, heck my phone even knew my name. Sadly we were only at the JW 2 nights before resuming our original plan. We wanted to make sure to see the Kowloon side of Hong Kong, so our last 4 nights were at the Mira Hotel. Each hotel was packed with friendly welcoming staff. Each room was very nice, with ample plugs (and the Marriott brands offer complimentary power converters in the room).

Kowloon.

Kowloon, is all the worst parts of Beverly Hills, the garment district in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and maybe 16th St Mall in Denver. High priced, up market stores everywhere, watch stores (by brand or ‘sells them all’) every other store front, every luxury brand had at least 3 stores. Annoying hucksters selling watches or tailoring services, and snobbery and euro trash everywhere. Where Hong Kong was bustling with business and life, Kowloon was bustling with Tourists. The Mira was a very nice hotel, but swank. Lots of mirrors and mirrored surfaces. The in house bar was intimidating chic, and the fancy restaurant was FANCY. The food was good though, and the staff amazing).

We ended up spending most of our Kowloon time, elsewhere. Really just one day was spent wandering around Kowloon. We did go to the History Museum and see an amazing history of Hong Kong exhibit, which went from pre-history to the departure of the British. It was amazing.

Overall though, Kowloon just didn’t have much that was interesting. The Temple St. Night Market was cool, but basically a flea market. Lots of crap electronics, knock offs, and clothing. Lots of food stalls and such.

We did stumble onto the filming of a TV show or movie. Suddenly there’s cops everywhere, and people with their hands cuffed behind their backs, and bags on their heads. It took a second to see the cameras. That was neat. It’s funny that they filmed right there without closing the street or anything. That’s how they roll i guess.

Hong Kong DisneyLand.

IMG_0053Unless you have extra time in your travel plans, skip it. It was a hair below “OK”. Not just a small park, which it is, but it felt like a pale shadow of a DisneyLand, or even a knock off. We did end up spending the entire day there (starting around 11a) but that was mainly because Tom wanted to see the fireworks display (they sucked).  I was told the plan is to expand gradually and avoid what nearly happened to Euro Disney, makes sense. Maybe in another 5 years the park will be awesome. There’s some HK specific stuff, and the food was way better than what you’d get in Anaheim, but beyond that, really it was meh, at best.

Hong Kong Island.

The highlight of the trip was here. The island is insane. Huge buildings everywhere, lots of small food stalls and restaurants. The best meals we had were all in Central, whether well known fancy places or hole in the wall local favorites. Getting around was cake, whether walking (lots of raised sidewalks, and bridges make getting around easy, or taking the MTR or double decker light rail bus thing. Victoria peak, walking along the water, the ICC (with immense Apple store), everything we did in Central Hong Kong was fun.

Occupy Hong Kong.

IMG_0214We knew this was taking place, but weren’t sure how close we’d be or what was going on. Turns out we were close. The JW Marriott was in Admiralty where the bulk of the protest was happening, and a few times we walked right past or over (via raised sidewalks) the protest area. It was interesting to see, so many tents and barricades. While we were there the police were getting ready to kick out the groups, and one night a few of them broke through a side door of the gov’t building they were in front of. Overall it seemed fairly peaceful, but we weren’t there when the planned eviction was going to take place.

 Transportation.

Just about everywhere I go outside the US and a few places inside (Chicago, NY) I get very jealous of the mass transit options. The only times we took a cab were when there was no train or when we were in a hurry (so, in total 3x). Otherwise the MTR was amazingly useful. Stations are everywhere, connections to other lines abound, it’s the model of what I’d love to see here. Want to go to Boulder from Highlands Ranch? Take a line into Downtown, transfer to the boulder line, done. Fast, inexpensive, easy, low stress.

Even trying to get around with luggage isn’t too terrible, you’re restricted to taking lifts much of the time, which are slow and usually small and cramped, but totally doable.

I’m very jealous of Hong Kong’s MTR. Denver especially should look to what they’re doing. There’s certainly good models stateside, The “L” in Chicago, Metro in DC, etc. Heck even LA has managed to implement subways, Los Freakin’ Angeles. And Denver Still has almost useless (except for commuters) light rail that YAY! now goes to Golden.

Obviously miles and miles of subway isn’t an overnight thing, but man, the benefits are amazing.

Culture.

IMG_0239I Debated adding this, I hate generalizing about culture, but well, it was pretty universal in 11 days of being in Hong Kong. For one thing personal space is a non thing, understandably, the residences are small, the trains are croweded, etc. That’s actually fine, especially when I tower over most others, and have weight on my side, I need some room, start wiggling to make space, problem solved.

Selfies EVERYWHERE. Old, young, male, female, they had selfie sticks. Yes that’s a thing, that’s what it’s called. They were everywhere, HK Disney, MTR stations, the street. We saw people on the steps to big buddha primping for a selfie, that didn’t even include big buddha. It was a little ridiculous. I know it’s very well stereotyped (asians love taking pictures) but man it was very supported. We saw people focus so much on the perfect selfie the missed the thing that was happening.

They have no concept of waiting in line. Yes there’s lines everywhere, but it seems totally ok to at least attempt to cut the line. Maybe you’ll get scolded, but maybe not, so they just walk up to lines and try to merge in. It seemed the acceptable responses included saying something (No idea what, but it was never very confrontational) maneuvering the line cutter out passively, which seemed to be perfectly ok, or simply letting them cut. It was very interesting.

 

So there you go, some random slightly organized thoughts on my two weeks (ish) in Hong Kong. Thanks to my pal Tom for creating the reason to go.

Good Conference Wifi

A friend of mine in the industry posted this this other day. On reading it I was a bit insulted. Nothing is ever cut and dry and conference tech certainly isn’t.

At 360|iDev this year the wireless was I’ll admit, craptastic. I had outsourced the wifi because the hotel wanted nearly $20,000 for what they called the mid level (Non streaming, non VPN or something like that level). Thats not including the rest of the AV quote.

Eric says there’s two factors in good conference wifi; the desire to deliver a great experience (which I’d also argue in the scope of things wifi is not a major part of that), and the desire to spend the money to make it happen.

There’s a third factor, budget. 360|iDev is about $300-500 less than his event. It’s also in Downtown Denver, where hotel lunches run at a minimum $50/person. My AV and internet options came down to $47,000 or $13,000. One was in my budget (previous years events came in around $11,000, so that’s what i planned around), the other not even remotely. Not just ‘not in budget’ but would have put 360|iDev 2014 firmly in the negative. Since my sole source of income is my conferences, taking losses is something i shy away from.

Was i bummed the wireless was crappy at 360|iDev, hell ya I was. Will i strive to be better next year, damn right, I’m even planning to spend considerably more than I’ve ever spent on it. Do i think a conference is less awesome because of the wifi? It’s never entered my mind. When I’m at a conference I’m there for the sessions, yes it’s inconvenient, but I’ve never left thinking “I’ll never be back, i couldn’t tweet during that session.” Also, the few times I’ve really wanted wifi at a conference were because the content was lame, I’d rather solve that problem. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not diminishing the value of wifi, and like I said, I’ll be working harder to make next year’s better than this. But when I’m thinking of attending an event (something I plan to do more of this coming year) whether their wifi was awesome or not, is about as important to me as the color of the hotel carpet. Ok, maybe a bit more important than that, but not much.

My point here isn’t actually about wifi, it’s about claiming something is universally easy and those that don’t do what you do, are doing it wrong. I could easily argue that if you’re sessions aren’t technically deep and sending attendees home with usable new skills, you’re doing it wrong. Or any other biased, “the way I do it” assertions.