Keeping Conference Attendees Informed.

We moved to re-usable signage to save money. looks awesome!

We moved to re-usable signage to save money. looks awesome!

For years we invested in these really nice stand up banners for room signs. Each one listed the entire 4 day conference line up for that exact room.

Great in theory, not in practice.

Speaker backs out last minute, sharpie out their session, tape a folded piece of paper of that slot. Two speakers need to swap rooms, now you’re taping paper, WITH sharpie written information onto this nice standup vinyl banner. Now by the 4th day of the conference, the nice room signs look like shit.

Add to the overall shabbiness they now show, they aren’t the best at providing information. I’d watch people all day, each day, walk up to a sign, stand in front of it. I realized they were walking up, figuring out what time it was right now, then seeing if they wanted the current session, or maybe the next one.

I was presenting too much information.

Capture 2016-07-15 at 2.05.51 PMEnter room sign version one.

Several improvements:

  1. Not date specific, I can reuse these signs over years, WAY economical.
  2. Provide the exact amount of information someone needs, “What’s in this room now.” and “What’s in this room next”. Want more detail use the app to see the whole schedule
  3. WAY more green (see 1). no more annual vinyl banner cartridge replacement.
  4. Easy to manage. Volunteers swap out printed pages, and should something be moved, it’s easy to move the printed page. Canceled talk? Leave it blank, or quickly print up a “cancelled” sign. Easy Peasy.

Version One?

I run technology conferences. I want to leverage technology whenever I can. A lot of conference technology sucks, hotels usually under invest and over charge, hotel internet is well… we all know. While these poster boards are great and re-useable, my ideal Version Two is a monitor or TV, on it’s side. Either running an AppleTV or iPad. (Or something else)

I’d be able to (from my laptop or iPad) control what each monitor is showing, set up the schedule so the signs change without human intervention.

Definitely not a cheap solution, but very much a build once and reuse until the equipment dies solution, which i like. Also I like that it’s a technology solution, for a technology conference.

V 2 is a ways away probably, but it’s on the radar.

Amazon and the Kindle

I sort of love/hate Amazon. Mostly love, but still.

I have a Kindle Paperwhite, I’ve had a Kindle since the 2nd version was released. I’ve liked them all, loved really. They’re my go to reading devices, but most of the time it feels like Amazon is just pushing them out the door ( a new one just dropped last week!), without actually caring what anyone wants. Sure they add a new font here, and finally integrated goodreads a few firmware versions ago, now there’s a really expensive ‘luxury’ one, but look around the internet at an eReader or even Kindle specific forum, you’ll find lots and lots of discussion around the minor things that would vastly improve the kindle for many owners.

IMG_0982Content Management. When you end up with a library of hundreds or thousands of books, managing them on device is a bag of hurt. Especially if that device has an Epaper screen! Managing them on the amazon site isn’t even an option. So what works? Surely there’s something, oh no there’s nothing. The Kindle for mac (or PC I assume) seems like it’d be the right place, plenty of screen space, etc. to allow for easy sorting of books and managing of collections, generally managing your Kindle library. Nope, Collections are a mix of device and cloud, essentially making them useless on both, because what changes you make on your desktop, won’t reflect on the device, and vice versa. Side loaded books aren’t synced so the desktop and mobile app versions, don’t even know about them.

There used to be a nice view on the kindle that showed books and collections together so you could see books that weren’t assigned a place to live, making it easy to manage. Once your kindle screen was just collections, done. You’d sorted all your books. That view went away a few firmwares ago. You can see above that now there’s no telling. The three books at the bottom, are in the collection above, yet there’s no way to see just one. You can see only collections, but then books not in collections are gone. You can see everything but then collections are pretty pointless.

Screen savers. I admit this is a huge one for me (and anecdotally a huge group of owners). I don’t know why, but Amazon thinks we want to see some random ass images (previously it was dead authors) instead of the cover of the book we’re reading, or our own images. Why? beats me. Sure if you have the “special offers” version it makes sense you only see the offers. But if i’m not running that version, why wouldn’t I want to see what I’m reading? instead of one of like 6 rotating images. Why wouldn’t I want to customize that experience?

IMG_0981I know some folks don’t care one way or the other, I’d argue even not caring, none would object to seeing the book cover. It seems like such a low hanging fruit that Amazon could please a vocal subset of customers, please others who don’t care but wouldn’t oppose seeing the cover of their book, and in no way harm anything at all. In fact it’s not even like it’s not possible since one of the biggest reasons people jailbreak their kindles (myself included) is to gain access to book covers as screen saver.

Even if a book doesn’t have a cover, the system that renders it could make a generic one. I know this because the creators of the Screensaver hack have done it. The Side loading app Calibre, has also done it.

To my knowledge Amazon has never said why they don’t offer this, the jailbreak works so well, doing it officially seems like it’d be easier/cleaner.

Unlike Apple who seems to at least pay attention to the jailbreak community to see what’s popular, Amazon seems to ignore it completely, focusing on other things. Other things that no one is asking for (at least based on the last few firmwares, and subsequent roll backs).

None of this keeps me from owning a Kindle, or enjoying mine, but I’ve never understood when businesses seem to ignore their user base so completely as to be seen as hostile towards what are the most active and vocal of their supporters.

¯\_(?)_/¯

Ecobee 3

HomeKit with an Ecobee3 Thermostat

I’ve had a Nest for several years, it was great. It’s still great, but my confidence in Nest as a company is waning, as is my interest in non HomeKit… Kit. As much as I dislike Silo’s I’m very much in the Apple one, so things that can’t talk to my gear just aren’t useful.

I knew I’d eventually have to replace it, HomeKit requires a special chip so there’s no path forward for older tech. I hadn’t put much effort into finding a replacement yet, since HomeKit has been so poorly executed.

EcoBee3 menuNo longer. Well, soon to be ‘no longer’ iOS 10, which goes live in the fall, has vastly improved HomeKit. So… Time to start looking.
I’d had my eye on the ecobee3 Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat for a while, it’s very nice to look at, the earlier model had great reviews, and since our thermostat is located in a part of the house we don’t frequent, the additional sensor unit was a great add. My biggest complaint about our Nest was that it was in a place that had very different temperature swings than the floor above it, where the home office is. The AC/Heat would cut out long before we in the office were comfortable.

The additional sensor (You can add several to one unit) allows the EcoBee to know that even if the downstairs is “just right” the office needs a few more minutes. It’s wonderful.

Siri and HomeKit

Siri and HomeKit integrationThe real killer feature isn’t the clean lines and nice UX of the device. It certainly isn’t the app, which while better than Nest’s has many failings. It’s HomeKit and Siri.

When I go to bed,  I can tell my phone, or my watch, “Good night” and HomeKit takes care of the rest, and I get a cute reply from Siri, as you do.

Apps

The ecobee3 app is actually pretty nice, especially the iPad version. The one thing I miss from the Nest app (which only went live in the last six months) was multi user. Why anyone making smart home devices defaults to a single user model is beyond me. While I’m sure plenty of single folks are buying smart home kit, I have to assume that number pales in comparison to families and couples, so why make things harder for them?

So for now, my wife is logged into the app on her phone in my account. I’m not sure how that will work long run, since the Ecobee has geofencing, and HomeKit, etc. which are all hung off my Ecobee iPhone AppiTunes account. We’ll see. I’d love to be able to tell my Phone “I’m leaving” but if my wife is home it’ll know that and not turn the AC off on her, etc.

Overall the apps are clean and pretty easy to use, you can quickly see the temp, and adjust it.

The iPad app makes for a nice kind of control center for managing the thermostat, as well as the HomeKit setup.EcoBee3 iPad app

In iOS 10 the HomeKit app (which never existed prior) is still a bit rudimentary, but it’s also the first Developer Preview, so there’s a lot of time and room to improve before it’s live in the wild.

Overall I’m really happy with our ecobee3, it’s been a great addition to the house, it looks nicer (to me) than the Nest, and it’s much easier to check on the house from afar, by simply asking Siri.

Managing HomeKit scenes from the Ecobee app

Managing HomeKit scenes from the Ecobee app

Managing additional Sensors is easy in the EcoBee3 app

Managing additional Sensors is easy in the EcoBee3 app

Bushel to the Rescue!

So I heard about Bushel on a podcast i was interviewed for. I fell in love.

I’ve had a long standing family rule, use the devices I tell you to, and you get support, use something else, and you’re on your own. My mom until recently was a PC user, she was hella on her own!

Then she got a macbook air. I have lots… and I mean LOTS of macs. The conferences have 4 for session recording, i have mine. I have 2 mac mini’s, various iOS devices, my wife has a Macbook Pro and iOs devices, etc.

Work and family devices, managedI can now manage them all. No more “Gah, you have 3,542 updates waiting” or “Why don’t you do X?”

Between bushel and Screens (i just the other day remotely helped my mom, not by trying to understand what she was seeing on the screen, but by seeing the screen directly.) I can make sure everyone uses strong passwords, disk encryption, and more.

What’s nice, I can establish different schemes (called blueprints in Bushel), so i have work computers managed one way, family machines managed another. This is especially awesome since work machines can all have the same settings, and this let’s me manage that much easier than touching each one.

Setup is easy, you toggle on “open enrollment” go to a website on the device, install the certs, done. (Well done on the client, you have to do some Apple stuff as far as management certs, approval, etc. But just once)

What’s nice, you can use it for free for the first few devices. See if you like it. If you do sign up, use this link.

 

I might finally not need a moleskine

So, I’m a huge fan of keeping a notebook around all times. I carry a field notes notebook and pen with me almost all the time and there’s usually a medium size moleskine in my bag.

That might change.

GoodNotes, an iPad Pro 9.7″ and the Apple Pencil, might turn out to be the perfect replacement for my trusty moleskine.

I love writing, and love taking notes. It helps me remember things, and helps me sort my thoughts. The problem is, (for me at least) is going back to find notes. It’s doable and I do it, but it’s not easy, or fast.

I color code my notes now, using an index system, and that helps, but only a little.

On top of that, when I finally finish a notebook it goes on a shelf. They look cool, covered in stickers, full of notes on old sponsorship deals, old meetings, etc. But I never go back through them.

GoodNotes, is truly great. I was very skeptical about the Apple Pencil, but must admit, writing with it, is just like writing with my pen. I can scribble notes, highlight things, etc while holding my iPad in one hand. I can sit in a meeting and write notes like I would with a notebook, but their digital and always available.
Goodnotes is great at handwriting

As I got used to the app, at first I was worried that trying to find past notes would be tedious, swiping past each note one at a time, then I realized, duh, there’s a feature for that. Tapping the “4 boxes” icon allows you to quickly scroll through all your notes, and the thumbnails are just big enough to actually read the notes and see the headings.

Easy to see all notes in a bookAdd that to my color coding, and BOOM, easily searchable notebooks.

It’s also nice that I can separate my notebooks. Work, personal, etc . I’m still working on finding the right balance between one big notebook, and too many very specialized notebooks, but am sure I’ll get it.

my color coding scheme can still work.

my color coding scheme can still work.

 

One feature I wish existed was being able to take an entire page, cut if from one notebook, and pasting into a another notebook. Hopefully that shows up.

Over all I’m really pleased with this setup.

My only other sorta complaint is the types of pages. the lined page for example is portrait, while the grid paper comes in both portrait and landscape. You can create your own page templates, but sadly my illustrator skills aren’t quite there.

My most recent trip to San Francisco for WWDC ’16, i didn’t cary my moleskine. I had my iPad Pro, it’s keyboard, and the Apple Pencil, and that was more than enough to replace my trusty paper notebook.

Won’t lie, kinda sad to think about not having a paper notebook in my bag anymore but also kinda excited to go further paperless. Now to find a home for some unused notebooks…

 

Zoomed in writing box

Conference lunches…. They don’t have to suck

Conference food… There’s typically two types of conference food;

“Oh my god, this conference has really good food” and,

“Let’s just go somewhere else (and spend our own money), this event has crappy food”

More often than not 360|iDev (and 360|Flex in it’s day) were usually the former. I’ve always thought that conference food shouldn’t be gross, it shouldn’t be rubbery chicken, and steamed veggies. It should be something that people go back for seconds for, it should be something people actually talk about, as much a valued part of the event as the content. I’ve mostly been successful at that.

That’s not to say I’m batting 1000 (I think i used that reference right), there are times when the meal fails to deliver, either i picked poorly, or the venue wasn’t up to the task.

The last two years I’ve taken my approach to conference lunch a step further, offering something few events offer; choice.

While having everyone eat lunch in the conference space has value, I think it’s more valuable to get attendees outdoors. For a few reasons, in no particular order;

  1. Attendees have more choice in what they eat, which is either impossible or stupid expensive within the conference center.
  2. They can meet new people by ending up at the same place as others, but not so many that it’s daunting.
  3. They get to enjoy what the host city has to offer
  4. I get to support local businesses, which is a huge part of my business. 360|Conferences is a Denver, CO company and whenever I can I want to support other Colorado businesses.

 

It’s easy to do an event, it’s harder to do events that don’t suck.

Carplay Thoughts, Siri

So Siri in the car is actually my biggest use case, for Siri. Ever since the launch of “Hey Siri” I’ve been an avid user when driving.

I enjoyed it prior to Carplay. I just had to shout a little to be heard over the radio, which wasn’t bad, she was surprisingly good at identifying my voice.

One of my gripes with after market tech in cars is that you end up duplicating so much. Case in point my car has a nice microphone in the roof, by the sun roof controls. Because Audi is Audi, the installer couldn’t tap into that microphone, so i have a cute little boom mic, poking out the bottom of my instrument cluster. It’s not terrible but it’s not very clean looking, which is almost always my biggest complaint with non OEM kit. Thankfully it’s dark, small and only the driver really sees it, but still.

Messages sucks

IMG_1610I’m sure the goal was to keep me from crashing but the messages app in CarPlay, even with Siri’s help, the messages app frankly sucks. For one, you can’t see messages. Maybe I’ve pulled over, maybe I’m at a light, too bad. You can see a list of most recents by name, but you can’t just quickly read a message.

IMG_1606The moment you go into Messages, you’re interacting with the car, voice only. It’s futuristic (i guess) but slow and janky, and not at all enjoyable.

 

 

Maps/Navigation

Siri does a reasonable job here. I’ve had 90% or so success telling Siri where I’d like to go and she finds it. Which is honestly more than I’d hope to get, so I’m happy. It’s not perfect, and when it’s not it’s frustrating, it’s nice to use.

My two big gripes are:

  1. IMG_1620Keyboard. I could swear I’ve seen one show up, but I’ll be damned if I can rely on that happening. Obviously typing on the dash isn’t what Apple wants, but as a “Well Siri is fucking crazy” back up i think you should be able to. (Update before i even hit publish, it appears it’s an option when the car isn’t running?)
  2. IMG_1612under destinations, would it be so hard to look at my calendar? Waze figured out how to do it, so I have to assume Apple could. I’m fairly diligent (because of Waze) about adding addresses to my appointments, and it’s frustrating to go into Maps on CarPlay, and seeing my history of destinations, a row of useless pre set up searches, and such, but no “You’ve got a meeting in 20 minutes, at X, wanna go there?” Really Apple? Are more CarPlay users wondering aimlessly looking for parking and grocery stores, than are heading to appointments?IMG_1614