Well it was another weekend conference, coming on the heals of Northern Voice in Vancouver last weekend (moved because of Olympics) I had a back to back with WordCamp Victoria. My brain is still trying to process all the great stuff I’ve heard over the last two weeks.

My first ‘big’ thought is on session selection at conferences. Researching presenters before you go to a conference really helps reduce disappointment. Read these folks blogs, follow them on twitter, look at their writing elsewhere.Presenters I know from other events like Nancy White(Full Circle) and Dave Olson (UncleWeed) at Northern Voice or Tris Hussey (A View from the Isle) and Mike Vardy (The Mike Vardy) at WordCamp are examples of folks I will always put on my schedule. But you need to start finding new people an new voices. Cathie Walker’s session at WordCamp was a good example. I’ve been following Cathie on Twitter for a while and that made putting her session on my schedule was also I no-brainer and I wasn’t disappointed.

My second ‘big’ thought is “small is awesome”. Northern Voice got a little bigger and I felt less engaged in it than I had in previous years. WordCamp Victoria is still growing but can handle getting a lot bigger before I’d worry about it being too big. I think conferences that really engage have to be in the Dunbar Number range or at least your stream of the connference shouldn’t get much over 100 people. You can have big conferences with awesome keynotes but if you want to have a sharing and supportive breakout environment you need to form relationships and trust – and if people don’t already know each other – you may need to do that very quickly.

That is why local Victoria events like WordCamp really can compete with anything. If you can be the smaller conference but still draw the good speakers then your Golden. Anything bigger I’ll catch on TED talks or the Conversations Network.

Following Northern Voice conference last weekend, Victoria’s Social Media crowd is out this weekend for the second edition WordCamp Victoria at University Canada West. Covering all things WordPress, the attendance is up and that is despite a sunny May weekend.

Top sessions (attendance wise) appears to be on the upcoming release of WordPress 3.0. Lloyd Budd of Automatic had a good pointer to Matt’s presentation at WordCamp San Francisco.

Here is the presentation on the “State of the Word”
WordCamp San Francisco 2010 – State of the Word | BloggingPro.

They say that there is no such thing as bad publicity. That may be true but at a certain point you need to ask yourself if your promoting or parody-ing.

The recent Olympics in Vancouver brought a lot of publicity to Canada, British Columbia, and Vancouver. The Olympic ceremonies tended to feed the common stereotypes that the world had for Canada. The problem is that it was Canada that was presenting that view of itself.

That basically gives permission for others to do the same thing.

In Victoria, we recently hosted NBC’s Today Show. They flew to Victoria on the floatplane from Vancouver, went to the Empress for Tea, and then ate some fish and chips. Now I hope, as many local businesses do, that this will mean more tourists and dollars for the local economy.
Yet it just bugs the hell out of me.

The Myth: They get on the nice little floatplane and make some cute little jokes about whether a little old plane like that is safe or not

The Reality: The Twin Otter flown by Westcoast Air is a Canadian designed legendary airplane. It would have been nice if they had managed to plug the local Victoria business, Viking Air, that recently put them back in production. They secured orders from all over the world – including the US Army’s Parachute team, so they are probably a pretty good little airplane.

The Myth: Tea at the Empress, a classic taste of England here in Victoria.

The Reality: While that ‘a little bit of Britain’ got a few tourists in the 60s, 70s, and 80s we really have moved on. The Empress is still an icon on the inner harbour but the Grand Pacific, Laurel Point, and Delta’s Ocean Point hold up pretty well themselves. And High Tea may be a nice treat we have dozens of coffee houses that really represent the local culture much better.

The Myth: A spot of fish and chips. Again the ‘Bit of Britain’ view takes front and centre.

The Reality: Fish and Chips is on the menu in many spots and I was glad to see Red Fish, Blue Fish in the spotlight. But really, the massive number of choices around town for the foody crowd deserve a little better. The fact that the annual ‘Dine Around‘ event was on at the same time would have been a nice mention as well. We probably have more good Sushi places than good Fish and Chip shops. And don’t even get me started on the gastropubs, and microbrews…..

So how could they have gotten a better view of Victoria, well:

Just saying ….

It has been my experience that the universe is resplendent with irony and serendipity. Sort of two sides of the same coin really. On the last day of 2009, I expressed gratitude for the lucky circumstances of the prior year. As if to reinforce my thoughts of the prior day, I met some folks on the first day of this year that only made me more grateful.

I’ve always believed that you make your own way in life but you needed to recognize that your accomplishments are never solely because of your own effort. If you forget the latter part of that the universe has a couple ways to remind you. Irony tends to focus on the negative or annoying side of things. Serendipity provides for the more positive reinforcement of your actions.

My favorite quote on irony is from Blackadder;

“Baldrick, have you no idea what irony is?”

“Yes, it’s like goldy and bronzy only it’s made out of iron.”

If I was to track my affinity for faith in the ebb and flow of the universe, it would likely go back to my early twenties. I was flying a group of air cadets at Boundary Bay airport. The weather was getting increasingly bad and I just had one of those feelings that it was time to put the airplane back on the ground. There was much disappointment and, all things being equal, I would have felt like an idiot for a good, long time but Serendipity stepped in. As I remember it, that night on TV there was a story of two other pilots in a Mooney who crashed into an area of south Surrey known as Panorama Ridge. This is not intended as a story about making the right choice but rather about being confident in the choices you make – right or wrong. Learned to have confidence in my own decision making and always trusted those little feelings every day after that.

Fast forward to last Friday (Jan 1), a unique Canadian tradition is the New Year’s Levee. When various levels of government open their doors to the general public to welcome the new year. I attended the Levee at my local Municipal Hall. A minor thing, expected to go in shakes some hands, have a cup of coffee and be out in less than and hour. But then Serendipity comes in again ….

At the end of the receiving line there is a gentleman in a white shirt helping out with the food service. An older gentleman to be sure, like semi-retired. He was having a conversation with someone else and I found it interesting enough to join them. Turns out he had served with the Black Watch of Canada. A storied Canadian Regiment known for there heroic but devistating attack on Verrières Ridge during the battle of Normandy in 1944. In a breif conversation I learned he has a son in the Navy, and a grandson in the PPCLI due for deployment to Afghanistan in the next couple months. This unique little piece of Canadian history had just dropped into my lap. I couldn’t end the conversation without offering my hand out of respect and offering my best wishes for the safe return of his grandson from his upcoming duty. The Princess Pat’s are as fine a unit as you will find so that young solider is in good company but the thoughts of their recent loss in an IED blast couldn’t be far from that Grandfather’s mind.

Had it ended there, it would have been a nice anecdote to share. However it didn’t. While standing and having a conversation another unlikely story unfolded. Another older gentleman joined that circle. He was Polish by birth, had been interned in Russia after the fall of Poland in 1940. Interned is probably a little to polite. Russian prisons under Stalin didn’t show a lot of compassion to anyone. He survived the conditions long enough to see Russia join the war against Germany at which time he was allowed to leave to join the Polish Forces in England. He was a paratrooper and mentioned he had jumped in combat twice once in France and once in Holland. Well my sense of history was again peaked. There was only one major airborne operation in Holland and the Polish connection sealed the deal. My response was “You jumped at Arnhem?” – he did. If you don’t know the story of Operation Market Garden , I’d recommend the book or movie “A Bridge Too Far” as a primer. Again a story of valour and horrible loss.

Now I don’t expect this to mean as much to others as it would to me. I find history, especially military history compelling. Serendipity had placed these two stories in front of me in the most unassuming way. All it does it reinforce the value of putting yourself out there and being open to the experiences that arise around you.

But the story doesn’t quite end there. I found myself out at lunch today just randomly wandering deciding where you grab a coffee. Whether it was serendipity alone or a unconscious sense of something else. I found myself standing by the side of a street in downtown Victoria shortly after noon as the procession carrying the body of another PPCLI soldier passed by. I paid my respect to Lt Nuttal and went on my way.

My favourite quote on serendipity is from Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, by Douglas Adams, on following random choices that come before you:

“it doesn’t always get you where your going but it frequently gets you where you need to be…”

When you hear the concept ‘Funeral Director’ its hard to put that in the same sentence as ‘Social Media’ or ‘High Tech’. Robin Heppell managed to move the conversation along quite nicely. As a case study in understanding the market and the user/client’s pain this is about as good as I’ve seen recently.

When I signed up to WordCamp one of my requests was – show me how to make WP not look like a blog. Well this was it! I specifically liked his list of must have plugins to make the site flow appealing, better SEO, and engaging those that arrive there.

Robin Heppell – Speaker Notes/SlideShare


WordCamp Victoria was held Saturday Nov 14th at University Canada West in Victoria


Tris Hussey’s session on tools was one that you really had to move you pencil for. So many interesting examples. I really like how he mixed the mostly free tools with examples of where a few dollars gets you so much more.

I had previous experience with

Avairy was an example of a class of tool that has only been possible recently. It provides desktop-class image editing tools as a website. While there are always need for dedicated tools like Photoshop and Pixelmator, when you see what is possible online – especially for those of us that go across machines and across platforms – you wonder why you would use anything else.

Feedly for the newspaper-style RSS experience was a really nice tool for researching and scanning RSS content.

WordCamp Victoria was held Saturday Nov 14th at University Canada West in Victoria
What’s at Wordcamp – http://central.wordcamp.org/
Location Sponsor – http://www.ucan.ca/


WordCamp Victoria was held Saturday Nov 14th at University Canada West in Victoria


  • http://meetup.wordcampvictoria.ca/
  • http://www.wordcampvictoria.ca/
  • What’s at Wordcamp – http://central.wordcamp.org/
  • Location Sponsor – http://www.ucan.ca/

Register: WordCamp Victoria 2009 – WordCamp Victoria (Victoria, BC) – Meetup.com.

In slightly more than a tweet, I wanted to plug the upcoming WordCamp Victoria event. After what sounded like an excellent event in Vancouver a couple months ago, some engaging folks on this side of the water have put together an event for Victoria’s Social Media/Networking/Blogging, <Insert additional new media tag here> groups.

Recently did a some fall photos at Ross Bay Cemetery. Always feels a little strange talking about going to Cemeteries but Circle of Life and all…

In the process found nice resource at Old Cemeteries Society of Victoria.

Ross Bay Cemetery has the oldest surviving formal landscape design in BC and is a superb example of a Victorian-era burial ground. Its profusion of unusual trees and plantings, winding carriageways, graves with intriguing marble, sandstone and granite monuments, all bear witness to the people buried here.

via Ross Bay Cemetery – Victoria BC.

The also do great work for other current and past cemetaries. There interactive map of Pioneer Square (Quadra and Rockland – beside Christ Church Cathedral and opposite the Y) is an great look at the origins of Victoria.

A somewhat shameless plug to follow the local Victoria crowd on Twitter. Even if you don’t have a twitter account a look at the list of posts for the Victora HASHTAG (#yyj) is available to anyone.

You can also check out the many great twitter post by simply going to the users page on the twitter website. Its no big deal – give it a try

The Meetup Victoria Google Calendar is also Availble at http://www.meetupvictoria.com

Victoria is a wonderful place to live but, in my experience, not always an easy place to get to know. I was here for 3 years before I even figured out major events such as Symphony Splash and Feast of Fields. In the last couple weeks I’ve had been two additional experiences.

One was trying to find out when the Victoria Day Parade was (Stop - Even I got that the Victoria Day Parade happens on Victoria Day). Meaning what time did it start..

The second was seeing a sign in the middle of Oak Bay Avenue for the Oak Bay Tea party. Which I had no idea was happening this weekend.

In the first case I couldn’t find the parade start time with a lot of searching. In the second I didn’t think to look. Both convinced me I needed another information source.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some  great sources out there like; Calendar of Events (linked from City of Victoria), Events Calendar (tourismvictoria.com), and Harbourliving. What was missing for me was a way for this information to get in my face. I wanted a way to have these events show up in my desktop, on my iPhone, and in the daily reminders that ‘bing’ on a daily basis.

While I would love someone to step up and provide a solution,  this week I tried to build something to solve this problem. In the short term, I’ve rolled up a solution with Google Calendar that I’m sharing at www.meetupvictoria.com. We’ll see how it goes.