A Canuck In The Machine

Mark Relph - Senior Director - Startup and VC Team

May, 2007

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    Toronto Tech Week Video


    Mia at High Road Communications (note: our PR firm) keynoted the Tech Week kickoff.  They asked me to be a part of a video about Toronto.  It also featured super-investor Ken Nickerson (my old boss from MSFT days of old) and Jay Goldman (Toronto web guru, Torcamper and entrepreneur)

    "Toronto Technology Week (TTW) is in full swing now. The local blogosphere is currently buzzing with updates from the mesh conference, one of the anchor events of TTW. At long last, the city is getting together to collaborate, network and celebrate our local technology successes. It is great to see the excitement in Toronto, and to be a part of it. I had the opportunity of speaking and participating in a panel discussion at the opening session of TTW on Monday.

    For my keynote, we produced a short video that features Jay Goldman, Mark Relph and Ken Nickerson talking about their view on tech in Toronto and what we can do to get the word out. A couple people asked about it, so here is the online version of the video (thanks again for participating, Jay, Mark and Ken!)."

    Check out the video.


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    Wow - A Passion For Volunteering.



    Nearly 200 people and 25 organizations have registered for MATCHIT in 24 hours.  I discussed this new volunteering initiative in a previous post.

    This is an amazing result in such a short period of time!!!


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    The Great Meeting - BillG and SteveJ


    The transcript is hereVideos are here.


    People forget how much work the two companies have done together over the years and the interviews covers that quite well.

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    MESH - Day 1 Round-Up


    Day 1 of this year's MESH conference is in the books.  A good day all things considered.  Lots of pics, complements of PhotojunkieDavid, Barnaby and I all made the flickr stream.

    I've already mentioned the keynote with Michael Arrington, so I won't dwell on it.

    I wanted to attend the session on The Web and Philanthropy, which featured Tom Williams from GiveMeaning.com.  Luckily, I had a chance to chat with him the night before at the speakers dinner.  He is extraordinarily passionate about this topic and his new venture is taking a very fresh approach to tackling the problem.  People had good things to say about the session.  (Oh, by the way - givemeaning.com runs on .NET)

    Several people I talked to went to Blogging 101 and heard it was a little too basic, but that the folks that were there had good energy for the discussion.

    I did attend "The Future Of Entertainment" session.  It featured Jian Ghomeshi, McLean Mashingaidze-Greaves, Amber MacArthur and Ethan Kaplan.  I had big hopes for the discussion, but it was top-heavy with music folks and once Michael Geist started talking DRM it really spun off the rails.  Not that the questions and debate on DRM aren't valuable, but I really felt that the rest of the audience didn't want to spend that much time on the topic.  Several people had questions for Amber and were disappointed when she had to leave and didn't come back.

    The day ended with a sponsor / speaker appreciation dinner at Archeo in the Distillery District.  Good food, good fun.

    note - they gave all the speakers red underwear as a gift.  odd.

    Most valuable part of day 1?  Meeting a lot of amazing people from Canada's Technical and Web communities.  Some really smart folks.  Not all of them are big fans of Microsoft - that's ok.  It's about the conversation and I took away some great feedback and I think the discussion is helping them understand us better.


    What's up today?

    I am moderating a session on Community and I am VERY excited.  My guests will be - Will Pate, Jordan Banks and Lionel Menchaca.  Some very smart folks - it will be a great conversation.

    I am also watching for Rick Segal and his VC session.

    Right now is the keynote with Richard Edleman.  Up next - Craiglist's Jim Buckmaster.

    I'm off to MESH......

    ps.  I am keeping a running list of suggestions for next year that I will post at the end of Day 2.

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    MESH - BlogTO (Mark McKay) Video explains what MESH is all about.


    Worth the watch (and good fun)

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    MESH - The Terminator In The House



    Arnold was in Toronto today on a trade mission.  He ended up at the MARS building and Barnaby got some great shots.


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    TechCrunch - blogging god speaks at Mesh



    Mike Arrington at mesh

    Michael Arrington spoke during the morning session on Day 1 of MESH. 

    It was his usual dry wit and egocentric commentary.  Some of the crowd definitely didn't agree with his views on some of the ethical issues around data accuracy for bloggers (i.e. newspapers have fact checkers and people get fired for errors.)

    My issue - TechCrunch is tech news.  Not real news (meaning- in the trenches, dodging bullets, etc)  

    I was left wondering who are the power bloggers of real news? 

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    Hanging Out At MESH


    It's MESH time.  I am down at the event for the next 2 days, hanging with the cool kids of the web in Canada.  The agenda looks awesome.  (Full disclosure.  We are a major sponsor.  I am speaking)

    The event is at the MARS building in downtown Toronto - great venue.

    I know the organizing committee has worked hard, but I already have some advice - for "conversational" style sessions with the speakers sitting in chairs, you need to have them elevated high enough so the entire room can see them.....

    MESH07 001

    Now, on the plus side, there is a Tim Horton's right outside the door of the event, which I like ;-)

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    Announcing: MatchIT - Connecting Canada's Technical Community with Charities In Need



    On behalf of the Developer, IT Pro and Community Affairs Teams here at Microsoft Canada I am pleased to announce the launch of MatchIT.  This is a new Canadian online initiative designed to help bring together charities and non-profit organizations who have IT needs with Canada’s Technical Communities who are looking to give-back to the community by volunteering outside of their day-to-day jobs.

    What started out as a discussion on how we could support our Citizenship and Community Affairs efforts in Canada has evolved into the first national program to virtually align technology opportunities from charities with our key technical audiences (Developers, IT Pros, Students and Hobbyists). 

    To help us engage Canada’s charities and non-profit organizations, we have joined forces with Imagine Canada (www.imaginecanada.ca) who supports and coordinates this sector. 


    What is MatchIT?

    MatchIT is an online environment where charities and not-for-profit organizations can connect with Developers, IT Pro’s, Designers, Students or other technical individuals willing to volunteer their time and expertise to bring technology solutions to these organizations.  Our goal is to enable them to be more effective with their limited resources and focus their efforts on having a positive impact in society.

    What does MatchIT do?

    MatchIT will allow charities across the country to post virtual "want ads" describing opportunities to our audiences that have inputted their volunteer profile to assist these organizations.  Through a unique taxonomy process developed by our friends at Navantis, only true matches will be put forward to awaiting volunteers, so users will not have to wade through all the opportunities to find a good fit. 

    In addition to assisting in aligning these volunteer opportunities, Microsoft Canada Community Affairs will provide the applicable Microsoft software to the charities where appropriate.

    How are we promoting this?

    Starting today, we will be getting the word out in a number of ways:

    • Imagine Canada has announced MatchIT in their newsletter
    • It will be included in the monthly MSDN and TechNet email newsletters.
    • MSDN and TechNet Events (such as the upcoming EnergizeIT event in Toronto)
    • Blogging – across all of our community team blog sites (like Canadian Developers and Canadian IT Pros)
    • Via the MVPs and User Groups
    • 3rd Party Events (like MESH)


    How can I get involved?

    First and foremost - help us spread the word!  The more volunteers with technical skills we have ready for opportunities, the better as the need for technical assistance in the charitable sector is astounding.  If you know a Developer or IT Professional looking for ways they can help Canadian communities, or if you are interested in applying your technical skills to incredible Canadian charities in a volunteer capacity, simply visit http://matchit.imaginecanada.ca/MSImagine/Home.aspx and "Sign Up"! 


    I would like to thank Wendy Rogers (Developer Marketing), Kerri Connolly (IT Pro Marketing), Gavin Thompson (Community Affairs), Thomas Lui (Microsoft Consulting), Dean Bedwell (Manager, Developer Marketing) and Navantis for all of their great work on making this concept a reality!! 

    This initiative is one of many aimed at connecting with our audiences in new and innovative ways.  Along with activities like green-powering our events we hope we can appeal to Canada's technology communities on topics that are important to them.

    Most importantly, we are excited at the unique potential that MatchIT brings to volunteerism in Canada!


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    New High-Res Maps of Ottawa



    Just in time for the Playoffs. Check out the new images from Live.

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    John In The News


    John has been hanging out in Halifax and had a few things to say about being credible on the web.

    Businesses and organizations that hope to survive on the Internet need to do everything possible to keep their reputations pristine, says Microsoft Canada’s director of community evangelism.

    With the growth in social networks, blogs and cyber discussion groups, John Oxley said a single misstep can be communicated to a vast number of people in a short period of time.

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    Toronto Tech Week



    As David points out, it is a very busy week in Toronto next week.  Hosted by ICT Toronto, it's being billed as:

    "Toronto Technology Week is a week-long showcase and celebration of this sector’s success and innovation, and as such, techweek.to will be a catalyst for creating opportunities for new projects, new businesses, new sales, new hires and new business and cultural partnerships."

    There is a lot to participate in:

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    Vancouver Game Summit - Reviewed.


    A little bit of press from the Summit a few weeks back.

    Quoted from:  Event Wrap Up: Vancouver International Game Summit, Gamasutra, Beth Dillon, http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20070516/dillon_01.shtml

    "..Mark Relph, Vice President of Microsoft Canada’s Developer and Platform Group, opened the Summit with a keynote about Microsoft’s current exploits in game industry. Although Bungie Studios (currently working on Halo 3) is often pointed to as the main game tie-in, Microsoft has taken strides in its involvement with game industry from commercial, developer, and user standpoints.

    Windows Vista, the new operating system from Microsoft, includes an integrated Game Explorer with parental controls. With multichannel audio, widescreen support, and an emphasis on networking, Vista is promising to connect with the Xbox Live community of around 6 million users. Microsoft intends to make the same titles available on both platforms and eventually enable users to interact through multiplayer functions between Xbox and PC.

    To expand on community growth with users, Microsoft’s XNA Game Studio Express offers opportunities for user-generated content. “Enthusiasts, students, and independents want to make games, but there are barriers like cost and the acquisition and use of tools,” said Relph. In the case of XNA, technology is the enabler—“easy to use, easy to acquire, cross platform, secure, and with a path to the professional,” Relph added.

    Microsoft's XNA Creators Club gives power to the people

    Community comes into play with the XNA Creators Club, which allows users to share their games on Xbox Live. “We’ll see unsigned code running on the box,” Relph pointed out.

    Microsoft is making an effort to include both academia and industry in XNA. DevelopMental Tour Canada, a game workshop camp, has templates, curriculum, and source code available for anyone interested in running workshops using XNA. They intend to continue their academic progress by getting XNA integrated into college curriculum.

    Looking ahead to the future, Microsoft is working on XNA Professional for studios. In addition, Microsoft is seeking out ways of using games for purposes outside of entertainment, such as dynamic in-game advertising. “We’ll have interactive advertisements through all members of the media family,” said Relph. Lastly, Microsoft Silverlight, a suite of authoring tools for the web, has possibilities for developing games targeted at the casual games market.

    “This is an unbelievably exciting time for game developers,” Relph stated. The industry is “marching ahead in terms of development tools and experiences” as it continues to grow its “talent and imagination into how games are put together,” he concluded."

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    Popfly and Facebook. Mashup Love.....


    Microsoft has announced that we are jumping on the Facebook Platform train big time.  Support in Popfly and Visual Studio Express.

    Check out coverage here, here and here.



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    Go-Go Gadget Contest


    Head on over to the Canadian Developer Connection blog and read all about our new Gadget Contest called Gadget vs. Gadget.

    Got a cool idea for a Vista powered gadget that leverages some of the Live services?  You could win some great prizes for your hard work.


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    Tip: Want To Save Paper?


    One thing I cannot stand is needlessly printing out paper copies of emails, online purchase receipts and other confirmations, web pages with interesting articles, recipes, directions - basically anything that you want to keep "just in case" for later.

    The good thing about email and rss is that you have them contained in some kind of reader - like Outlook - and you can access them later.  Most of us print out a lot of information that doesn't fall into one of those two categories (although I am baffled by people who print emails when mobile devices are everywhere).

    I can understand printing something if it makes sense - like a 50 page document you have to read on the plane or driving directions when you know you won't have your device, but everything else can be "printed" virtually for easy storage and access later.

    You have 2 great options built into Vista and Office.

    1. When Office is installed (and if you have a version with OneNote) and new printer is created called "Send To OneNote".  Anything you "print" to this (from any application) will be rendered and inserted into a new blank page in OneNote.  This is a great way to push any kind of important info to a central place where you can add notes and search on it.  (Great for projects you are working on)
    2. [This is my favorite] In Windows Vista, there is also a virtual print driver called "Microsoft XPS Document Writer".  From any application you can "print" to this driver.
      • imageOnce you select print, you will see a dialogue box asking for a filename.
      • I have created a folder called "My Printouts" in my Documents folder.  I save everything I "print" here.  That way it is easy to find and it all gets backed up regularly.
      • If you ever actually need the document, you can print it out for real.  (Great for things like web pages and receipts)
      • Note - this is also I how I share things like PowerPoints at conferences if I'd prefer not to share the raw file.
    3. There is a third way to do this with Adobe PDF.  In Office 2007, you can also save as a PDF with similar results.

    So - next time you feel the urge to print on paper.... think twice and save a tree.

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    OurFaves makes it to TechCrunch.


    Congrats to imason and TorStar for making it to the defacto "you are cool" news site TechCrunch.

    If you haven't gone to check it out - head over to OurFaves.  Our friends at imason have done some amazing work on our platform lately, enabling sites like Workopolis and OurFaves.

    Interesting note....Canadian super-blogger Mark Evans picked this up as well.  Nice to see some good words for a site not built on PHP :-)  I will agree with Mark on one thing for sure - Canada needs more if this kind of coverage and a few full-blown successes (another good example is ConceptShare - also a MSFT powered site.....)

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    Everyday Heroes



    On Microsoft.ca we just launched a set of stories about an amazing set of people and the amazing work they are doing in the community.  Truly some incredible people.  Want to be inspired?  Read their stories:


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    This speaks to our team mission.




    Thanks to Hugh for the inspiration. 

    I think in many ways this is the core of our mission as an evangelism team.  Our goal is to help Canada's Technical Communities achieve their goals and unlock their innovation.  We work to find heros and tell their stories.  It is about what the user has done - completely.

    Love the concept.  I think this could be a major theme.


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    SharedView Beta


    ok.... this is a cool new Live service for collaboration / screen sharing.  Works well - falls somewhere between Meeting Space and LiveMeeting.

    It's ad supported (at least in this beta) and integrates well with Messenger.  Works well over long distances and across firewalls.

    Check it out.





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    MSDN Canada Code Awards - Vote!


    From the Canadian Developer Blog:

    Thank you to everyone who entered our MSDN Code Awards program! We went through the difficult process of picking five nominees for the individual and team categories - we received a lot of really great entries. What really struck me was how inspiring it is to see all this great development work happening in Canada. One of the prizes is a trip to attend Energize IT 2007 in Toronto - we'll be announcing the winners at the event. Here are the results:

    Top 5 Individual Developer Nominees

    • Dmitry Buterin
    • James Hunter
    • Mark Arteaga
    • Michael Amanfi
    • Warren Stevens

    Top 5 Development Team Nominees

    • Team Lead - Daryl Cober

    • Team Lead - Phil Bolduc

    • Team Lead - Richard Fung

    • Team Lead - Sean Denby

    • Team Lead - Stuart Schellenberg  

    It isn't over yet - you have the power to pick the winner! Visit the MSDN Code Awards site and select who you think should win. Good luck to all the nominees! VOTE NOW!

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    UX Guru & Community Leader David Crow Joins The Team


    The word is out.  David Crow is joining our team here at Microsoft Canada.  David is well known in Toronto (and elsewhere!) for his UX expertise and his stewardship of the UX community in Toronto.

    We are very glad lucky happy to have him joining us.  He brings a unique set of experiences and passions to the team.

    For all of the members of the community that worry that you won't see David again - you will.  His mission is both to help us in a few key new markets for us, but also to help us change and evolve.

    Welcome David!!!!

    "I’m excited to announce that I am joining Mark Relph’s team at Microsoft Canada. That’s right. This is very real. This is something I’ve been thinking very carefully about for a long time. My official title will be Senior User Experience Advisor. My position reports to John Oxley in the the Developer & Platform Evangelism group.

    I’m not the first to make this leap. A number of people I respect have joined Microsoft. Jon Udell, Molly Holzschlag, John Lam, Hugh MacLeod and Ryan McMinn among others have written about their reasons for joining Microsoft. Microsoft is an important leader in the technology space. Microsoft Canada has a team of great people, influence with a community that is foreign to TorCamp, and a selection of new interesting technologies."


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    Introducing The New Hotmail


    The folks at our Online Services Group have launched the new version of Windows Live Hotmail

    Windows Live Hotmail, the successor to MSN Hotmail, launched yesterday in Canada today, May 7th, as part of a global release in 36 languages. The most significant upgrade for Hotmail since pioneering the webmail industry in 1997, the new service is built to be a vast improvement over the previous offering by incorporating input from more than 20 million beta testers. Windows Live Hotmail delivers to over 17 million hotmail users in Canada a more powerful and productive e-mail service that customers can access wherever and whenever they want, via the Web, or mobile phone.

    Windows Live Hotmail offers two versions: classic and full.  People can choose how they view their Windows Live Hotmail. The classic version looks similar to MSN Hotmail for those who prefer the familiar look while the full version works more like Outlook with more advanced functionality, like preview pane, drag and drop, keyboard shortcuts, and more. The full version is recommended for customers who use a broadband connection to access e-mail while the classic version is recommended for users with a narrowband or slower connection to access e-mail. Users can flip between these two modes easily with the click of a mouse.  

    Check out - www.newhotmail.ca

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    19th Best Place To Work In Canada


    Canadian Business and the Great Place To Work Institute published their 50 Best Places To Work In Canada list.  Microsoft Canada ranked 19th.  Not bad all things considered!  Only 1 software company ahead of us - Intuit Canada.

    We do have an amazing group of people, a great culture and a strong focus on people/career development.  All of this adds up to a great place to come to work everyday.

    Here is the Top 25 on the list:

    The 50 Best Workplaces in Canada 2007
    1. Back in Motion Rehab
    2. 1-800-GOT-JUNK?
    3. Urban Systems
    4. Environics Communications
    5. Karo Design
    6. Vancity Credit Union
    7. Edward Jones Canada
    8. Halsall Associates
    9. iTRANS Consulting
    10. Ernst & Young LLP
    11. WCG International HR Solutions
    12. AdFarm
    13. SaskCentral
    14. Randstad Canada
    15. Keller Williams Ottawa Realty
    16. Intuit Canada
    17. Windsor Family Credit Union
    18. Trico Homes
    ** 19. Microsoft Canada
    20. The Marketing Store
    21. Sandvine
    22. Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa
    23. Fuller Landau LLP
    24. Ceridian Canada
    25. Globex Foreign Exchange

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    CONTACT Photography Festival



    CONTACT is an amazing event.  Lots of venues showing some terrific photography.  As an aspiring photographer, this is my kind of art festival.  It's one of the best events of the summer season in Toronto.  Check it out.

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