Jan 18

Having just returned from Macworld late last night, here are a few thoughts/observations:


A massive ecosystem

It’s striking to see how many companies have sprung up around Apple products. Nothing like cramming all these people into the same spot to make you realize how many there are. They filled two ginormous exhibit halls at the Moscone center in SF. It was sensory overload walking the floor and the energy level was almost uncomfortably high to the point where you had conference fatigue after a day.


Masters of buzz

They certainly have demonstrated they know how generate buzz. Aside from having a stellar UI in their products they had amazing visual presence at the show. With these cinematic and creative displays you have everyone with a camera posing for pics with Apple logos in the background and then talking about how incredible the setup was (me case in point right now). As far as product launches, nobody needs the new Mac Air but the way they present it sure makes you want one.

What got the crowds

By far the most interesting thing for me was to see which booths drew the crowds. Every now and then you’d come across a booth that looked no different from any other and yet there would be 100 people packed around it watching a demo while the others were desolate. These ideas aren’t rocket science but the popular ones consistently had either:

  • a charismatic speaker
  • a product that visually demo’d well
  • a hot brazillian model handing out free stuff
  • an interactive experience.
  • This last one was the real eye-opener: whether it’s a game of chance that involved competing for prizes or some type of interactive demo where the passers by were projected on the video screen and then the demo somehow incorporated them- it’s clear that people like watching other people, not products. If your product can be presented in such a way to incorporate the people there in the demo itself, it’s guaranteed to attract viewers.


    Interesting products

    The two products that interested me most (aside from the new EVDO card from Verizon which I bought on site) were completely unrelated to Apple.


    The company SmartBoard had some impressive options for making a digital whiteboard. Their most inexpenisve setup allows you to utilize your existing projector to project against one of their pneumatic screens. Using your finger or one of their soft pens, you draw on the screen and it senses the position, sends that data to the app and draws ink as if you were writing on a whiteboard. Because it’s essentially just a touchscreen for a projector though, you can do anything you can with a mouse (ie. surf web pages on a whiteboard, mark them up, capture the digital ink to a pdf and share). It had some pretty fantastic OCR features too that would transcribe a whiteboard full of notes into text. They had other more expensive options that either incorporated one of their plasma TV’s or allowed you to use an overlay on an existing television screen. This seemed like a killer feature for teams that do a lot of brainstorming and it has a solid “wow” factor for anyone who relies on making a stellar first impression when collaborating with a client on a whiteboard.

    The other one that really grabbed me was Sawgrass. They provide an alternate method to creating t-shrits that involves dye sublimation printing with heat transfer vs. the typical silk screening process. It’s not a revolutionary technology but what’s impressive is the vibrance of the colors, how it doesn’t alter the feel of the shirt and the affordability of the system. It seems like it could enable a creative t-shirt company to bootstrap its way into a real business without much up front cost.

    Parallels took best in show for the 2nd year in a row. We’re happy for those guys. As their largest virtual appliance vendor currently, we love to see Parallels being received well. Their new Parallels server product looks slick and has all kinds of neat features that should make it very appealing for anyone who is heavily invested in OS X. That beta just started accepting signups and you can apply here.

    Lastly, Zimbra is looking really solid. We’ve had numerous requests for a Zimbra JumpBox and we hope to eventually deliver one as it’s something we want to start using ourselves. I was impressed with how responsive Zimbra was running in Safari 3. It’s almost indistinguishable from a desktop app and I’m assuming the offline access is even snappier. They’ve also bundled in a chat server (jabber?) to the latest version so you can have a central, searchable place for IM transcripts to accumulate for your company which is very cool.


    If you’re into Mac products this is an impressive, high-energy experience I would recommend attending. The Mac market may still be a fraction of the PC market but the passion and vocal nature of its constituents means it moves twice as fast. The companies that ignore the Mac market citing present figures are going to kick themselves when its size rivals the PC market because by then they will have missed the boat.

    Nov 21

    Chance Carpenter of Essential Event Technologies just posted the videos from a bunch of the sessions at the Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference that was held on Nov 8th. Here’s the video from the panel I moderated on Innovation as a Process. Chance does this for many local events in AZ and it’s a great way extend the reach of the discussion beyond the walls of the actual event. Contact him through his web site if you want him to do this same type of video archival for your event.

    Nov 07

    I’m moderating a panel tomorrow on Innovation at the Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference and then jumping in my truck and driving up to San Francisco. I’ll be staying in the Bay Area for a month couch surfing and hitting various conferences and user groups. Here’s the tenative itinerary:


    If you’re in the Bay Area, drop me a line and let’s meet for lunch. My whole goal is to get “in the mix” and meet progressive tech people in the area and see what everyone is doing. We’re somewhat isolated from the real action down here in AZ and I’m looking forward to traveling around Silicon Valley to meet folks and spread the word about some of the great things that we’re doing with JumpBox.

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    Sep 19

    So a couple friends and I are nominated to do a panel at South by Southwest this year in Austin. Voting closes midnight Friday and we need your help. If you want to learn how to bankrupt a startup in 5 easy steps, take a quick sec and vote for our panel. It’s my buddy Josh Strebel from Obuweb, Noah Kagan of OkDork.com, Ryan Carson of Carson Systems and myself and should be an entertaining and instructional talk with all of us having fumbled our way through the startup minefield.

    Signup for the panel picker mini-site takes all of about two seconds and doesn’t require a confirmation email. While you’re there, vote for my partner’s panel on virtualization for developers and these other fine panelist candidates from AZ.

    Sep 13
    You can work along with the video tutorial below by firing up a JumpBox for Trac right in your browser (nothing to download or setup). You’ll need a JumpBox account as well as an Amazon Web Services account. Once you have those you can launch and terminate a private Trac instance on Amazon’s cloud service and pay only pennies per hour while it’s running. Click the signup button to the right to get started ->

    *Disclosure: I’m one of the co-founders of JumpBox, Inc.

    is here again. This is a 2-day deal this time around starting 8am on Saturday at the University for Advancing Technology in Phoenix. I’m giving a talk on how to use Trac & Subversion for effective software development (unfortunately it looks like it’s already at capacity but we’ll squeeze in as many as we can fit). I just now posted a video tutorial on Trac with SVN to serve as a primer for the person who is new to it and looking to get productive with it quickly. Saturday’s talk will be an interactive version of this tutorial only diving into more of the features in Trac.

    With 96 confirmed sessions this is a nerd fest you don’t want to miss if you’re in Phoenix this weekend!

    UPDATE 10/18/08: Here’s the video capture of the Trac preso I did for SDJUG earlier this week.

    UPDATE 5/19/09: Below is a more recent shorter Ramp Up video I did for Trac:

    Aug 05

    Big ups to Derek Neighbors for pulling together the first ever Phoenix Dev House last night and hosting it at his place. It was a 12-hr hack session modeled after the first one conducted in SF. The idea is to get a bunch of coders together in a room and kick around ideas and then act on them, cranking out some code and getting something tangible finished by the end of the evening. At the first Super Happy Dev House they ended up writing the wiki system that was used to collaborate on future events (apparently Derek used this as well for the Phx site).

    There were some great demos- Brian Shaler showed off a couple projects he’s been working on including an offline tool for digg users which he plans to unveil shortly and his crappy graphs site. This is the guy who figured out the secret of getting massive diggs for his stuff – write flash-based visualization tools for digg users. Josh Knowles showed off an app he made for the iPhone that allows him to control a keynote presentation on his mac from his iPhone – very cool. He’s also working on an app for the iPhone that’s similar to the Feelrz idea I submitted to Cambrian House. If he pulls that one off it has the potential to become absolute craze like Twitter. David Koontz showed off something he’s doing with JRuby but honestly he lost me at “J” :-( Lorin Thwaits demo’d a pet project of his that makes it easy to find very large prime numbers. I still don’t fully understand the utility of this but apparently the problem is important enough that the EFF is giving away $100,000 to the person that finds the next big one. You’ll probably see Lorin on the Discovery channel next month… James Britt was able to get some insight that helped him solve a Google Gears problem. I showed off the Sentinel application I had written a few years ago to solve the issue for people who transact business internationally of maintaining compliance with the OFAC’s SDN list. There were other demos but I had to leave early. But not before demo’ing a bomb-ass guacamole recipe (see picture).


    If you’re a nerd in Phoenix you’ll want to do a couple things if you haven’t already:

  • Sign up for the next happening on September 15th at UAT. Ideally, sign up to give a talk and not just attend.
  • Join the Elev8AZ google group and help boost visibility of tech in AZ by keeping up with announcements and promo opportunities that can get local AZ people and companies noticed
  • This week begins the voting on SXSW panels. We’ve got handful of AZ people that have submitted talk proposals so be sure to vote for your local favorites.
  • If you haven’t yet been to a Refresh Phoenix event come out this Tuesday and meet other nerds doing cool stuff in AZ.
  • And look for another Barcamp in the early December time range. You can monitor the RSS on that page to stay updated.
  • These events generate real ideas, relationships and even businesses. Thanks again to Derek for putting it together. If you’re in Phoenix and complaining that there’s nothing happening in the tech scene, there’s no excuse not to be at one of these upcoming events.

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