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  1. Dashdash is “a cocktail party on the Internet” and has the greatest introductory animation up on their site.

    Using familiar stories and characters is a fantastic way of showing your app’s purpose to users. 


  2. If you’re a young person looking to work for a startup:

    1. Learn to ask for what you want. Charlie O’Donnell said this to me and it’s the best life advice I have ever received.

    2. Showcase your work. If you’re a developer, get a github account. If you’re a designer, start a blog or get a Behance portfolio. People need to see what you can do before agreeing to pay you money for it.


  3. Walkthroughs are an essential part of software delivery. While most designers will argue that good design doesn’t need a walkthrough, chances are, if you’re in the software tech space, you’ll encounter one sooner or later.

    At Wave, we try to limit the number of walkthroughs we present to our users and if we somehow *have* to hold their hand through a process, we try to keep it short and sweet. Last month, I worked on a walkthrough for one of our core products that is set to be released soon - keep an eye out for it!

    While I was designing mine, I really wished more people had documented walkthroughs. So here’s me doing my part!

    Nike Fuel is a universal currency of energy. The Nike Fuel band is a sleek sports-accelerometer-equipped band that tracks your everyday movement to give you a pulse on how much movement you’re getting in a day. You set your goal for the day and you strive to meet it. Up your goal to increase your motivation, connect with Facebook (of course) to compete against friends, and get trophies for completing goals! I’ve had the Nike Fuel band for a little over a year and I love it! It’s been great at keeping me motivated and has me going on midnight runs if I haven’t reached my goal for the day.

    The walkthrough itself starts at a great point in the process - I’m excited about this cool new gadget and I’m ready to go, but my fuel band is charging. So OK, I’ll click through your slides to see what I can do with this thing. Each slide starts with a question and proceeds to succinctly answer it, nice! And it all wraps up nicely with a call to action to download the free mobile app to sync on the go.

    If you’re on the market for a health band, go with this one. The FitBit sucks and is honestly a little ugly.

    Disclaimer: Nike has not paid me to write this. Promise.


  4. Daniel “Just Build” Burka

    I went to a SproutUp event last night hosted by the lovely team at Sprouter. The main speaker for the night was Daniel Burka - co-founder of Milk Inc., PEI-er who now lives in San Francisco Bay Area.

    Initially, my plan was to write notes from his talk, which stemmed around the “talk less, do more” principal. But someone beat me to it. Very comprehensive notes of his talk can be found here.

    I got to talk to him at the end of the evening. He was very polite and answered questions despite the fact that he was completely exhausted. He was also very honest. Like ridiculously so. Not gonna lie, I was kind of taken aback by it. It was refreshing. He also has a cartilage piercing. Much like yours truly, so of course he gets extra points for that.

    Daniel is a product designer at heart, and never figured to call himself a “founder”, which is another thing about him that’s refreshing. But what’s even more refreshing, is how much he “gets” the people he’s designing for. During our little discussion, he mentioned how you need to be careful what to implement. It’s great to listen to feedback and to work on it, but don’t let the users dictate what you do. “They will ask you for feature X, but they’re doing so because they have desire Y. Your role is to figure out that desire Y and work to implement that”. That is pretty much the basis of crafting user experiences.

    My question for him was the growth of startup communities in new cities and how Toronto can get on the fast track for that given that we keep losing talented Canadians like himself to the Valley (another example is the acquisition of Vancouver-based Summify by Twitter). He was very sincere in telling me he didn’t have a good answer for it. That if I were to look at how things were in the Bay Area and how one could have great wines, lunches, and conversations with the “guys who run the Internet” every day that I would feel the same way. It’s a high saturation point of talent, he said. And he apologized.

    I don’t blame him. I’m sure the West Coast is great! And I believe Daniel when he says people there are far less sceptical and willing to take a lot more risks than in the GTA. I would move there for the weather alone, but if we all do that - what’s to become of Toronto? When does Toronto get to bask in the glory of being an “active hub of startups”? Surely not if we keep losing players. It’s not that we lack talent, it’s that we lack appreciation for said talent. This is true for everything Canadian. We don’t appreciate our television as much, or our movies, or our actors. So they move to places where they are appreciated (read: Hollywood). And it’s sad. And I’d like to help fix it. And I’d like for all Torontonians/Canadians to believe in that. Sprouter is a great movement because it’s building the Toronto tech community and for that, but when do we all start pitching in?


  5. Shopcastr: bringing stores to you

    "Shopcastr gives you x-ray vision into a store", was the one-liner that stayed with me after Matt O’Leary’s gripping presentation at the recent Sprouter event in Downtown Toronto.

    I live and breathe the tech startup scene. This may or may not have something to do with the fact that I work for the poster child startup company of Toronto. The US of A tends to have the most compelling numbers of successful and innovative startups, mainly focused in the west coast for obvious reasons. However, it’s been really great to see little communities of startups evolve in other places. DC, Seattle, New York are just a few examples. Toronto is slowly getting there; Sprouter being one of the biggest catalysts for it.

    Shopcastr is a beautiful, electronic shopping catalog of merchandise from stores in your area. Despite the name alluding to shopping - this isn’t Etsy or eBay. You’re not on Shopcastr to shop online, you’re on Shopcastr to take a look at what stores around you have to offer. They’re all about local businesses and relationships with people - so the people behind Shopcastr actually want you to go to the store and buy the item in person.

    The founder, Matt O’Leary, is (and I’m proud to report it) a User Experience Designer. This might be the reason behind the gorgeous flow of items, the simplicity of the placement of information, the visual grids (of course, I might just be biased). It just exudes flow. Which is great to see.

    You can “love” things on here that will show up on your profile and you can go look at an item and then look at what the entire store’s catalog looks like. You can even filter it by neighborhood. Want a backpack but don’t want to walk more than a mile from your house on a cold February morning? You don’t have to!

    I’m a fairly new user of the site, so I’m still feeling my way around it. But I have a couple of suggestions (some of which Shopcastr has acknowledged already). One of which is to include addresses in the sidebar when viewing an item. For e.g., looking at the picture below, it’s not immediately obvious where I have to go to see the store’s catalog. Hint: You click on the header. 

    This is Shopcastr’s response to my suggestion tweet:

    There are two ways to use Shopcastr: as a shopper or as a shop.

    They also have a mobile app (of course!). When you download it and start it up, however, it asks you to login or sign up. And since I downloaded the app right after Matt’s talk, I didn’t have an account. So I decided to sign up. Which gave me this screen:

    It’s great that Shopcastr wants to make uploading a shop’s catalog easy enough to do via mobile, but my guess is, if I’m a shop owner - I’m probably using the web to upload a large collection of photos. Regardless, it would be nice to be given an option to sign up as a shopper on the mobile app.

    Overall, the site is not just a pretty face, it’s useful too! I’ve found my dream backpack. Will be stopping by Sweet Pete’s later tonight to pick it up.

    Most importantly, show Shopcastr some Toronto community love. Check out, read their blog, follow them on Twitter, or download their mobile app to discover your local stores!


  6. Congratulations, you’re a super hero!

    I recently attended my very first Toronto Startup event with SproutUp. It was a very entertaining, jam-packed evening of demos, talks, questions, and lots of networking.

    If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed my tweets from the night, most of which talked about the do’s and dont’s Charlie O’Donnell from Brooklyn Bridge Ventures shared. If you missed it, you can go ahead and search for my tweets tagged #SproutUp.

    Sprouter has this thing where they ask you the kind of people you’re hoping to network with when you sign up, so the networking part of the evening is actually beneficial to everyone. Almost every single person I talked to that night was looking for developers/programmers/techies.

    That, coupled with this article about “talent war” confirms my belief in tech being the new Hollywood, as stated in a tweet by TechCrunch writer Alexia.

    So congratulations nerds of today’s world - you’re all super heroes! Rejoice and celebrate, my friends. It’s (finally) your time to shine. So stop shying away from being called a geek or a nerd or a dweeb or that guy with the boring job. Programming is sexy now. It’s what everyone’s after. So you get to make the call and name your price. Especially if you’re really really good.