Goodbye, Critical Mass

Hey Critical Mass! I’m sorry I didn’t say “goodbye” properly. You know, the traditional email that goes around to cmassother, usually followed with the “we’ll be in the Ship starting at 5 o’clock”. I never got a chance to fire one out, such as things are, so really my best avenue to say hasta la vista is here. Hopefully a few of you get to see it.
Truth be told, I had been planning my “goodbye” message for years. (As my dad used to say, if you’re going to do something, do it right.) If nothing else, it would have been fun to make: a video that would cover my time at CM, complete with a snazzy soundtrack, and some bogus story about going to teach at an all-girls school. But planning means nothing without execution, and I never got around to it. I’m sure I will come to regret that.
Some of you won’t have a clue about who the fark I am. Some of you know me all-too-well. No matter where you sit in the spectrum, do yourself a favour and look around at all the people sitting near you. They, and you, are the people who make up Critical Mass.
As many have said before me, it’s the people I will miss most.
Continue reading “Goodbye, Critical Mass”

2009, A Year in Review

The year past was one of the toughest ones I can remember. It’s been a year of extreme highs, some pretty darks depths; my share of awesome joys, mixed with an unhealthy dose of stress. And that’s not when you consider the economy, I might add — things are even worse when you roll all that in.
The year closed out on a more sombre note for me, in many ways. Much quieter, and I got to spend a lot of time with my family (which I cherish now, and cannot regret in anyway), but the future is a little less certain. I’m less concerned about that fact than I thought I would be, however.
On with the year that just was… Continue reading “2009, A Year in Review”

9 years … and counting

Today marks yet another notch on the belt of my career. Today, I’ve been at Critical Mass (or within the Critical Mass family, anyway) for nine years.  
It’s weird. Very weird. I’m actually having trouble comprehending this fact. Nine years of my life (1/10th, depending on how long you think I might live) has been with one company. In my father’s generation, that would be considered “getting started”. In my generation, it’s considered “insane” — the turnaround is often two years or less.  
But here I am. Nine years, and counting. If you’d asked me at the end of my first year if I’d still be around eight years later, I’d have said that you were crazy. It’s been a hell of a ride, and at the same time seems almost short, now. But there’s a lot of memories in those years, too.  
Okay, enough reminiscing… I got work to do…

2008, A Year in Review

Hasta la vista, 2008! You were a tough year in the life, and while you certainly gave me a good run, I’m not unhappy to see you go. You’ve lead me further down the road of fatherhood, brought me back dear old friends, brought me new challenges at work … and of course moved me to an entirely different country. But with all of this, you’ve brought a whole mess of turmoil, instability, and grief.  
Now for those of you who’ve not been following along — and what the heck, even for those of you have — here’s what I’m talking about: Continue reading “2008, A Year in Review”

Finally got my box!

Way back in June — the 13th, to be specific (I guess that should have been a first sign, eh?) — I packed up a whack of things on my desk to bring down to Costa Rica. TeamMG (Mary and Morgan) arranged for this to be shipped down here by FedEx, a company I had used many, many times to get things from Point A to Point B quickly.
Problem: When a company doesn’t have a complete representation in Point B, you’re not going to get your box as fast as you thought.
Today is 24 July. I only got the box today.
Continue reading “Finally got my box!”

RIP: Sean Lineham

Today, I arrived back in Costa Rica with my family in tow. Little did I know that my “other” family — my friends and colleagues back in Calgary, were facing quite the tragedy. I found out no sooner than I turned on my computer to send a quick note to my partners here in Costa Rica (remember, I have no phone with which to call them), and I got an IM request from Dave. All he said was: “Call me. Urgent.”
It would appear that my friend, colleague, and fellow watch geek (though I could never ascribe to the level he attained) Sean Lineham passed away last night.
Continue reading “RIP: Sean Lineham”

Where I've been for the last few days

I’m in Panama. Been here since Tuesday afternoon. Been really, really busy. So far, the biggest problem I’ve had here (aside from the aforementioned busy-ness and subsequent inability to talk to my family), is that I’ve had Van Halen’s Panama stuck in my head pretty much since we left San Jose.
Damn you, David Lee Roth. Damn you!
So far, it’s a great place to visit (a post coming on this soon). But we’ve been steadily on the move.
Continue reading “Where I've been for the last few days”

One last lunch with the team

For all intents and purposes, I’m off the Rolex team. I’m still on their resource sheet, but the reality is that I haven’t done sqwat with the Rolex account for over a couple of weeks now. It’s all been transferred to Torin, who’s the new Tech Lead. I went into self-imposed exile at the fringes of the team’s seating space, soon to be a long-distant memory.
But before I left, I had a debt to settle. Many months ago now, I had to institute what we called the “Jugo Juice Rule”. It was an effort to get everyone to calm down a bit (we were all under a lot of pressure, and mistakes were becoming more frequent) and concentrate on what they were doing. Short version: If you made a mistake, you owed the entire team Juge Juice (a fruit smoothie).
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It's the end of the world as we know it…

…and I feel, well, okay. Maybe not necessarily “fine”.
Critical Mass has done a bit of a reorganisation. I emphasise “a bit”. Mostly because this is not the radical shifts we’ve seen in the past. I think this is my third or fourth reorganisation since starting with Critical Mass back in 2000 (admittedly, I’m losing track), and this is the most minor change we’ve had.
At least when you look at the big picture.
Continue reading “It's the end of the world as we know it…”

No, I'm not going to be working on a beach

It’s funny the number of people who now ask me if they can come with us to Costa Rica. They congratulate me and make it sound like it’s going to be fun, sand, and cervesa all the time.
News flash, folks — we ain’t working on a beach. We’re not even close. This is where our office is/will be. Note the extreme lack of nearby sand and water.
It’s the Metro Free Trade Zone Business Park, a mere 5 minutes from the airport. The nearest (decent) beach is 5 hours away over very bad roads (and drivers that would scare the pants of 99% of North American drivers). Yes, we’re closer than Calgary.
But not that close.

I'm leaving Critical Mass

I’ve been at Critical Mass for 8 years, 1 month, and 5 days. That’s a long time to be a one place. I never thought I’d be here that long. Two years, max, and I’d move on. (Heck, I was originally supposed to go with Chris to teach English in Japan. A part of me still regrets not having done that.) But my time has come. It’s time to leave.
Well, kind of leave, anyway.
Continue reading “I'm leaving Critical Mass”

Things to do before moving

Moving within a city is a snap. It’s a lot of work, yes, but logistically it’s not a big deal. You disconnect some services, sign them up at a new location, move your phone numbers, arrange your mail, and then move your crap from one place to another.
Even within a country it’s not too bad. Similar logistics, but the distances are longer and you usually have to give up the phone numbers you had.
Moving between countries? Even harder. Never done that one before, and I’m about to find out how bad it can be.
Continue reading “Things to do before moving”

What have you done with Spock's brain?

One of the hard parts about leaving any group is passing your legacy off to someone else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a short-term thing (e.g. vacation) or a long-term thing (e.g. leaving the company). It still has to happen — unless you’re a total jerk and want to leave people hanging, that is. It’s just how you carry it out.
I’m on my second round of brain transfer in two months. The first time was when I was getting ready to go on vacation. I had to pass off my daily tasks to someone else so they’d get done. But you can’t easily toss one person’s work onto just one other person. Especially when you know there’s a lot to be done. A month ago, I used four people.
This time, it’s just one. My replacement.
Continue reading “What have you done with Spock's brain?”

Thundercats are go!

The contract is signed. It’s as official as it gets until my feet stand on Costa Rican soil. Most everything was already 99% assured, but until my name appeared on a legal document, there were still a whack of questions. This puts those questions to bed.
It wasn’t easy signing that contract. Not because it wasn’t a good offer, though. It’s because it’s not about me. Even though it was.
Let me explain…
Continue reading “Thundercats are go!”

Letting the toucan out of the coffee sack

Finally, after many, many weeks of discussion (and far more email than I’d care to think about), it’s semi-official. (Hey, it’s better than “still in the works”.) The fact that I’m moving to Costa Rica has not changed since [[Do you know the way to San Jose?|the last time I wrote about this]]. It’s just been a matter of with whom I could discuss the matter.
A few people have known beyond the Executive: Allard, Mark, Marcie, Jason (who’s going down as well), and Tamara (she’s an old friend, and I told her the night before her wedding), but I couldn’t really tell anyone else. Especially the person Allard and I tagged to replace me. (I doubt I’ll be able to publicly post this until after the client has been informed that I’m no longer working on the account.) I have to sign my new contract first.
Boy, isn’t life fun?
Continue reading “Letting the toucan out of the coffee sack”

I hate going on vacation

I get four weeks of vacation a year. It’s not a lot, especially now that I have a family that I want to spend lots of time with. But you make do with what you have, right?
My problem isn’t so much the lack of time I have to use, it’s the time I have to spend up-front before I can leave the office. That’s what I’m going through right now, so I can spend 2.5 weeks in the UK (and another week in San Francisco on a conference, pretty much as soon as I get back).
There is never a “good time” to be away from Critical Mass — something is always happening. And I fear that this might be a worse time than usual to be gone.
Continue reading “I hate going on vacation”

CMMYs 2008 (in review)

Last night was our annual awards show: the CMMYs. I have no idea what the last “MY” stand for, if anything at all. I know it’s meant to sound like the “Emmys”, just without all the pomp and circumstance.
‘Cuz around here, pomp is hard to find, and circumstance is often what leads to incriminating photographs.
Continue reading “CMMYs 2008 (in review)”

Tech Summit, Day 2

Day 2 got off to a lousy start. I was sick. Nastily so. At first, I thought it was a hangover (I might have had — perhaps — one beer too many last night). But I realised very quickly that this was not, in fact, a hangover. I’ve had my share of them, I know how they affect me, and I know how to handle them.
This thing — whatever it was — knocked me flat on my back and sent me back to bed for the rest of the morning. Fortunately, I didn’t feel like I missed too much.
Continue reading “Tech Summit, Day 2”

Tech Summit, Day 1

Tech Summits are dicey things. Sort of like trying to catch a greased pig. You can see it, you can describe it, but it’s a pain to pin down and hold still. It has a life of its own and just as soon as you get your head wrapped around it, the damn thing’s gone and wriggled off.
And we’re just through Day 1…
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2008 Predictions: History Repeating

The word is about, there’s something evolving
Whatever may come, the world keeps revolving
They say the next big thing is here
That the revolution’s near
But to me it seems quite clear
That it’s all just a little bit
of history repeating
– History Repeating, Shirley Bassey

I love this song for two reasons: First, it’s Shirley Bassey. How could you possibly go wrong with that? Second, it’s because this song itself was the subject of the very topic we talk about a lot: remixing.
Sound familiar? It should — we’re doing the same thing online every day.
Continue reading “2008 Predictions: History Repeating”

Timetracker is dead!

Critical Mass is a service company. We don’t produce anything physical that we can sell — it’s all time. We build websites, yes, but it’s the time it takes us to make them that counts.
Shortly before I started at Critical Mass, along came TimeTracker. This was the tool used to keep track of the time we were spending. And not in in almost eight years was there a single person who liked it.
Continue reading “Timetracker is dead!”

Google Maps in (a) Flash!

Yesterday, we posted a new part to the ability to find a local Authorised Rolex Dealer. This on its own is hardly breaking any new ground — it’s a fairly routine piece of functionality. To help you find your local dealer, we provided a map — a Google Map.

Google Maps Flash Interface

Those of you who know the two technologies are probably now scratching your heads. Google Maps. Flash. Aren’t they incompatible?
Not any more.
Continue reading “Google Maps in (a) Flash!’

Google starting to slip

Admittedly, this is more of a question than a statement, but make no mistake — I’m not merely asking if this is true.

Google Slipping Stock

For the last several years, Google has been a juggernaut, able to release whatever they felt like and it was received with open (and anxious, often with reckless abandon) arms. We’ve all enjoyed such wonders as Google Search, Google AdWords, Google Maps, Google Translate, Google Earth, Blogger, Gmail, Google Groups, Google Analytics, Google Desktop, and the Google Search Appliance.
But I wonder if Google’s run out of cool stuff to freely hand out, and are beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel.
Continue reading “Google starting to slip’ at Experience Matters

Office Influentials

A few months ago, we scooped David Armano. At the time, I’d never heard of the guy. Since having had the pleasure of working with him on Experience Matters, I’m come to truly admire the level of insight he has on even the most seemingly mundane things. (Not that he is mundane, but he makes the obviously boring suddenly unique and misunderstood.)
Take his most recent post: Office Influentials. You might not think about it, but I’ll lay bets you’ve got these sorts of people in your office right now. You just don’t know it. Look around. Heck, one of these might even be you…

Things found in meeting rooms, Part 1

We keep a clean shop here, making sure that client-sensitive information remains secret and safe. But not every meeting is solely about client work, and sometimes you find something interesting sitting in a meeting room.
In this particular case, I happened to glance up at an easel sitting in the corner of the Ancho Room (the second floor in Calgary has meeting rooms named after peppers), and witnessed a wonderful diagram created by Chrissie, Senior IA in our I&P group.
Read the rest at Experience Matters!

I Was Benno

Yesterday, I had a truly moving experience. I watched a movie. Not just any movie, but an experimental film created by a friend. A movie with a message (unlike much of the shlock that comes out of Hollywood). The message is universal, and I think everyone who watched the movie could see it.
It was particularly important because the movie was about my friend. A journey beyond his regular life, to find if there was more to himself than what he had here in Calgary.
Continue reading “I Was Benno”


This morning, the Blue Business Unit (aka the Mercedes-Benz USA team) decided to prank the Gold Business Unit (aka the Rolex team). Toilet paper — hundreds of rolls — over everything. Silly string. Blue streamers. And randomly-attacked items with Saran Wrap.
Call it petty jealousy, call it bravado, call it a need for decorating our space without input. We still got pwned.
Continue reading “Pwned”

Examples of Online Shopping Experience

We’ve been talking a lot about ideas. But ideas don’t always translate well without examples. Thankfully, the internet is replete with experiences great and poor.
The single most often-used benefit of the internet is information. Wikipedia, online newspapers, blogs, and all their associated links and RSS feeds. People tend to be more tolerant with information experiences (hey, you read my entries, don’t you?), but when money gets involved — people listen. And more importantly, they’ll turn away if they don’t like what they experience.
Two specific (and very different) examples to consider: Victoria’s Secret, and the International Standards Organization. Comparing apples to oranges? Only in product. When it comes to online shopping, it doesn’t matter if it’s underwear or a whitepaper — if you don’t get what you need, you’re not likely to happy about it.
Read more about online shopping at Experience Matters…