Veni, vidi, BlogHer

Lordy, has it actually been over three weeks already since we got back?

Right, well, several weeks ago, Carol (our PostRank CEO) and I hopped a plane for Chicago and our first BlogHer conferences. We attended both the half-day Business track and the two-day main conference. Whew.

It was the conference’s fifth year, and it is clearly well-organized and well-established. It’s also gotten very big (around 1500 people for the main conference, mostly women, but yes, some guys, too, and an assortment of babies of both sexes).

I admit I went into the whole thing feeling distinctly anthropological, and that feeling never entirely faded. Not in a bad way, though. While I am female and have a blog, I’m not exactly of the demographic or community a lot of the attendees were. Which is fine. I was really curious and excited to get into that world, see what they knew, what they wanted to know, what they are interested in, how they work, etc.

Last time I had much exposure to mom bloggers and the like was a couple of summers ago when I was unemployed. With more time on my hands than usual, my blogroll expanded considerably, including mom bloggers, and I had a much better grasp of the community, the members, etc. then.

There is more that could be said on the subject of the conference and all its aspects than I could cover in a dozen blog posts. And honestly? I doubt anyone cares. So I’ll comment on a few things, and it’ll all be loosely connected by the fact that it was the same event and it was me experiencing it.

Continue reading “Veni, vidi, BlogHer”

Seeking Simone

My charming daughter #2, Rose, has gotten her artsy on with some friends (and, I guess, fellow alumni of mine/hers) and made a web series! Like Dr. Horrible, but with less singing and more gayness! (Well, maybe not…)

It’s Seeking Simone and the first two episodes are up now. There’s also a trailer with hot girl-on-girl action, and who doesn’t enjoy that?

The series is about gay online dating, specifically in Toronto, but really, you don’t have to have experience with any of those things to enjoy it. Being familiar with online dating, and having gone to the same theatre school as Rose, I admit there were a few cringe-worthy moments. (I also felt like a total insider, already being familiar with Rose’s own online fairy tale, resulting in the fabulous wedding to the equally fabulous Kate.) And hey, not only lesbians like Buffy! 🙂

Go check it out! Support the arts in Canada! And hot chicks!

Cuz I needed more reasons to hate Rogers…

Note: Looks like this and several other posts from this week vanished, so I’ve grabbed them from Google Reader and have republished.

Starting a couple/few weeks ago, I started getting phone calls from 1-800-395-8813. I answered the first time, and, receiving no response, I hung up. Subsequent calls (which happened daily), I ignored after glancing at the caller number, because I dislike phones and disliking engaging with them (which is why I didn’t do anything about it right away).

The calls continued every day, though, which started to piss me off really quickly. So I tried to find out if there was a way to block numbers from my phone. No dice. So I called Rogers, which is my carrier, and talked to one of their CSRs about how to block numbers. Unsurprisingly, the only way to do that that they offer is called Call Manager, and it’s $5/month. No thanks.

So I looked the number up online, and saw it was apparently some telemarketing presence, and other people had reported the calls, too. So I did a bit more digging to find out if anyone had figured out how to block them. Turns out it’s a call centre company called Gemma Communications, and there were a couple ways listed for making them go away.

You could call 416-256-1800, which is their office number, and talk to some woman, who, apparently, tends to be bitchy and/or evasive, but will arrange to have you removed from the call list. Or you can call the 800-number back and go through their automated system to remove your number (mostly involves pressing 1 a bunch of times).

Again, since I dislike using the phone, I sure as hell wasn’t going to waste time with someone bitchy, so I called the number back, and found out that Gemma Communications is authorized by… Rogers. Oh yes, Rogers would kindly have signed me up to pay them $5/month to keep them from spamming me. Grr.

I completed the call list removal, and haven’t heard from them since. Needless to say, however, I’m still bitter. I hate Rogers and hate dealing with them for MANY reasons already, but this has just catalyzed me to take steps to give them even less of my business. I’d love to think that their shitty product offerings, worse customer service, and incessant nickel and diming would be enough to torpedo the company, but I do know how Canadia loves its old school monopolies…

And the winner is…

A few days ago I posted about a contest I’m running as part of a Canadian Tire Father’s Day promotion.

Many thanks to the folks who entered — some very entertaining and creative offerings. 🙂

After careful perusal and a few guffaws, I had to go with the entry that made me snort aloud at the line, “They monkeys will have plenty of room to roam there. Or, you know, lay about casually in the fields.”

And so the winner is… Joe Boughner! Gotta give him props for preying on my fondness for the sockbeast as well, though I’d actually pretty much settled on him as the winner before I found out that he’s going to be extra qualified to win the contest, since he and his wife, Amy, announced their impending parenthood this week. Congratulations!

Here’s hoping the wheelbarrow helps with hauling home all the stuffs you’re gonna need for your first offspring. 🙂

Update! The lovely and talented Joe was unable to fulfill his obligations as Miss Wheelbarrownia, and so I needed a new winner. But picking one myself made me feel bad, so I wrote all the other commenters’ names on slips of paper, put them in my lunch bag, shook them up, and made James, my desk neighbour at work, pick one from the bag.

And the new winner is… Violet! Fortunately I know for a fact she has both a yard AND a husband who is a father. Wins all around!

Father’s Day wheelin’ — and a contest!

Recently I was contacted to participate in a promotion for Canadian Tire, the idea being to make Father’s Day gift buying easier by taking one of the items from their Father’s Day Make Life Easier for Dad gift guide for a test drive (or dig, or saw…) Either these folks already knew what Canadian Tire junkies my Dad and Andrew are, or picking me was a really, really smart guess. 🙂

As luck would have it, Andrew had yard work to be done, and his wheelbarrow has been on its last legs (tire?) for some time, so the unanimous choice was the Yardworks Auto Levelling Wheelbarrow. (SKU: 060-4520).

I was particularly intrigued with the Auto Levelling part, given that a) my balance sucks, and b) I moved around many, many loads of wood from the drying piles in the driveway to the wood chute in our garage in my youth, and never got to be any good at maneuvering.

The wheelbarrow was sent via Purolator, and arrived in three pieces: the bucket (where the stuff goes), the wooden handles, and a box with the wheels, brackets, and other parts. The bucket is sizable (considerably deeper than Andrew’s old wheelbarrow) but all the stuff still fit easily into the back seat of my Sentra. (The bucket had a fair-sized ding in one of the front corners when it arrived, but Andrew just hammered it out, and it didn’t interfere with assembly.)

Yardworks Auto Levelling Wheelbarrow

Andrew did most of the assembly by himself, which is a good thing, since he’s one of those types who actually reads all the directions and whatnot. I did have to give him a hand with attaching the bucket to the handles and the two other levelling wood parts, but he managed the rest with aplomb. Full assembly took about an hour.

The wheelbarrow was promptly put to work that afternoon. Andrew mixed up a load of dirt and compost for his herb garden, which involved a couple of crossings of the yard with a full bucket, as well as off-roading a bit over a pile of clay near the composter (it came from his basement when he installed weeping tile — he’s so handy!) 🙂

Yardworks Auto Levelling Wheelbarrow

Andrew has also since used the wheelbarrow to take his full laundry basket out to the wash line, mostly just because he can. (That also required off-roading off the edge of the deck, down the stairs, and over the clay pile. Boys and their toys…)

One of his favourite features is the bumper on the front. In my case I’d need the bumper to prevent me from crashing into things (my depth perception rocks). In Andrew’s case, it makes it very stable for tilting forward and a nice solid surface to rest on when you dump the bucket.

Yardworks Auto Levelling Wheelbarrow

In terms of maneuverability, Andrew thinks it’s much better than his old wheelbarrow (which has just one — flat — tire and isn’t self-levelling). I’m inclined to agree. The bucket is also very deep, and while Andrew said more width would be nice, he suspects it would screw up the balance and maneuverability.

The tires are pneumatic, so don’t go driving it over a bunch of nails or anything, but they are quite large and well-treaded, and their size helps put the wheelbarrow at a good height.

All in all, four thumbs up (two from Andrew and two from me). No thumbs up from Gordie, though (that’s Andrew’s dog) both because he doesn’t have any and because he didn’t appreciate us trying to put him in it (the ultimate test of Auto Levelling — something that moves around!)

And now the even better part — the contest!

Part of the promotion included enabling me to give away the same product I chose to one of my readers. (Well, not exactly the same one — you get your own.) So the winner will get their own Yardworks Auto Levelling Wheelbarrow. Just in time for Father’s Day! Though I can’t make you give it up to dear old dad…

For shipping purposes, the contest is only open to folks living in Canada or the US of A. (That’s right, we Canadians share.) And it may not be terribly useful to apartment dwellers, but hey, if you want to enter, I don’t judge you. 🙂

Here’s how to enter… Leave a comment that answers the question after the scenario below. The response that most makes me laugh, think, or become really, really afraid of you (or, ideally, all of the above) wins! Points are given for originality, and if more than one person gives the same answer, and I really like the answer, whoever leaves it first will win. Feel free to pass this along to friends/family/random people with dads, etc. The more the merrier!

I’ll choose a winner on Friday, June 19th.

The Scenario: It’s midnight on a dark and stormy Friday night. My phone rings. As I blearily answer it, I realize it’s you, and you sound a little agitated. You tell me you need my help and ask me to come over right away with the wheelbarrow.

What are we going to be doing when I get there?

The “ex” factor

I was looking at this job post the other day (no, I’m not applying), and several things struck me about this:

Our founders are ex-Amazon and ex-Microsoft rockstar developers and both are ex-Waterloo.

So, okay, those items are intended to imply coolness and cred on the part of the company, its founders, and the job being advertised. Hrm.

Maybe that works to a point for some demographic, but to me that sentence tells me nothing about what those people would be like to work for or if they know how to found/grow/run a company.

Certainly, the rest of the ad can help fill in those details, but then… what’s that line for? Yeah, my experience of working at larger, non-tech companies between my startup stints colours my attitude here, as does the fact that I’m 30-something and not a developer. But again, job ads aren’t the only place I’ve seen this “ex cred” language.

Ex-Amazon and ex-Microsoft. Okay, so they both worked in enormous tech companies. In dev roles. What kind of development? Infrastructure? Performance? UI? Were they in management at all? Did they work on getting new products to market, maintaining old ones, some completely unrelated operations function? As for being a rock star… that gets thrown around so much these days it’s pretty much lost meaning.

Also, those companies are US-based. Big market, lots of money. So these guys probably worked south of the border for a while? There are some differences between business here and in the US, especially in founding and running businesses. Did they get experience that’s going to help them with this new endeavour? It’s been a long time since Amazon and Microsoft were startups. Lotta resources at hand there.

Ex-Waterloo. Sooo… good Canadian boys, probably went to U of W? Lots of geeks there, plenty of entrepreneurs. So what? Were these founders entrepreneurial while in school? Did they develop good networks? Did they get degrees in Engineering or English?

Ok, yeah, I’m picking on one ad for one startup, and I’m not who they’re trying to attract with that role. But I see this “ex cred” used more and more, and I don’t get it. Kinda reminds me how apparently being able to throw around web jargon makes you a social media expert. But hey, they got funding, so there must be something behind the concept and the hipster geek lingo.

Certainly you can only make the ad so lengthy, and you can always ask about the founders’ pedigrees if you’re granted an interview. I guess my issue is the stereotypical nature of it. Feels like we should be passed that by now, since we’ve had two booms and a bust and a half to figure out who we are (in the tech and startup worlds), what we value, and how we build our cultures.

And what I still see a fair bit looks immature to me, and hard to take seriously. We’re not sure what to base credibility on, so we pick things to advertise that sound good (or at least recognizable), at the expense of the real education and experience we’ve earned.

In the last year I’ve met a LOT of people in tech in Canada, and many of them are quite young (from late teens to late 20s). These people are smart, savvy, social, and I firmly believe they can achieve just about anything. They have ideas and they make them reality — fast.

And with that view on this world of ours, I just think we can market ourselves much better.