VizThink3 Recap – VizThink4 Announced & some ideas for VizThink5…


This is a well overdue recap of the events of VizThink3. I left for Berlin just a couple of days after and haven’t gotten around to it until now though.

davegrayVizThink3 was a great event, getting Dave Gray to come up and present so quickly was really exciting and I’m appreciative that he and Scott Matthews stretched (well, started) their trip a day early so they could participate.

“So what should I talk about?”
A question you expect from anyone who’s going to speak at an event your organizing – Dave just decided to drop it on me ~30 minutes before we started. Had it been anyone else I may have gone into full panic but the reality is Dave runs these sessions all the time and while there was a touch of improv to the evening he was backed up by a bag of tricks many years in the making.


I’ve always thought Dave is a guy who’d love the BarCamp/TorCamp scene here in Toronto – loves to experiment with ideas while also experimenting with how he shares those ideas with as many people as possible.

I want… / I love…
With post-it’s scattered around the room of ~45 people these were the two questions Dave posed to the group. First he wanted two or three post-its that finished the sentence “I want …. from VizThink”. Once everyone was done we placed them on one of the walls of the space.

We then did the same for “I love … about VizThink” and placed them on the opposite wall.

What followed was an interesting exercise of group think & organization that saw the post-its categorized thematically followed by an exercise where everyone picked a theme they were interested in and then were asked to draw what it meant to them (or an image depicting the sentiment) on giant post-its on the wall (I really should drop 3M a line about sponsoring this puppy).

While doing it, it was an interesting, fun & active exercise for everyone participating. When you stepped back though what Dave had shown the group was a powerful way to bring all of the participants (regardless of their familiarity with each other) to a level playing field and have them collaboratively declare, organize & prioritize issues or themes that they are interested in.

Out for Drinks
Following our session everyone headed over to the Rivoli for some food & drink (well, I caught up once Roadside Assistance had retrieved my car keys from my trunk) .

It’s always great after an event like this to get out and meet the new faces who came out and I had a few conversations with some folks that I hope to soon convert into VizThink presenters :)

All the photos from the event can be found here.

Speaking of future presenters – VizThink4 is on deck and ready to go. The date will be Tuesday, July 10th in a venue TBD (got an offer of a new venue – just need to see if it’s available). We’ll be building on Mark Mulholland’s VizThink2 Mind Maps presentation and delving into Concept Maps. I’ve asked the presenters to try and keep recap to a minimum and help build out the deeper theories and practices of Concept Mapping.

Event details can be found here

And while I’m at it – for VizThink5 in August I’d like to keep things light and fun, make it more a social event than a practical one. My intial idea is to throw an informal Pictionary tournament (with some twists) but ideas and suggestions are welcome as it’s still very loose in my head.

If anyone knows of a space where we could get access to a good size deck/outdoor space with a backup indoor space please let me know – I’m thinking it be fun to be outdoors & somewhere where we can B(our)OB etc.

Event details will eventually be found here.

Hope to see you at future VizThinks!


A week in Berlin – Part Four


  • Alarm on the phone goes off – somehow it sounds 100x louder than it did yesterday


  • Knock on the door. This is getting to be a bad habit.
  • Robinson: “Meet me downstairs” Me: “uh, no. I’ll see you at the conference hall”
  • Seems I borrowed some of today’s fun for last night. This isn’t going to be a fun day.


  • Groggy and showered I step out into Alexanderplatz looking for the one breakfast I know my body will appreciate when feeling like this.


  • Huh? The McDonald’s in the train station doesn’t serve breakfast.
  • Lady behind the counter gives me directions to the other McD’s. In German.


  • Visualizing her hand signals I’m now heading away from the conference – hoping the McD’s is close (and I understood her gestures).


  • Success! Thank god for big signs. I can see the restaurant way down the block.


  • Walk-in, don’t even look at the menu – “Sausage & Egg McMuffin”
  • “Sorry, we don’t have it”
  • ????? this is getting worse…
  • “We have bacon”
  • Sure. (I think)


  • Kitchen is slow but I’ve got my food and decide to eat on the run.


  • Oops. Got myself turned around and went the wrong way. Again.
  • Decide to crack open breakfast. Bacon on top of scrambled eggs with bun on the side.


  • This is really bad.


  • Found a garbage can. Hope the conference has good food this AM.


  • Made it just in time for Jaap’s interview of SDL’s CEO, Mark Lancaster.
  • (Common Sense Advisory did a great write up here)


  • Lancaster interview over. Some interesting topics covered (and not covered)
  • Time for booth duty :/

9:30 – 12:30

  • Neither Robinson or I have even had time to catch our breath. One person after another is in the booth. A couple of BIG conversations have us stoked – crossed off a couple of big goals for the show.


  • Lunch. I’m starving
  • Find a seat with Richard Sikes and later joined by Bob from McElroy.
  • Bob’s a great guy and enjoying his insights on the industry as he also comes from a software background


  • Relieving Robinson – my turn in the booth.
  • These lights (booth lights) are killing me.
  • One of them has the most subtle of flickers but today it’s having the same effect on me as a strobe light on a ship in rough waters.


  • Show is starting to slow a bit. Lots of people with luggage milling about and the exodus is clearly starting.
  • Stephen & Amy from GALA just came around – trying to get the prize drawing sorted out. Stephen is concerned about it dragging as there are 20+ companies giving something away this time.


  • Robinson’s other half, Sheena, should have arrived by now – he’s ducked back to the hotel to check and I’m packing up the booth.
  • Rented booths are great. “Packing” consists of throwing all our brochures back in the suitcase which we’ve perfected packing to within a few grams of the airline’s weight limit.
  • Technically the floor is still open so I leave a few brochures out but this puppy is unofficially over.


  • DSC08536Up in the hall for the closing session.
  • Missed the topic description but it seems to be about highs and lows of owning an LSP.


  • Arturo (Moravia) and Hans (Architext/ are cracking me up – both seem like fun guys.


  • Session over – let the drawings begin!


  • Some interesting prizes coming through:
  • A Marionette
  • An Authentic Italian Leather Bag (Made in Poland)
  • Wooden carving of a bird – should be fun to try and pack that. (Our partner Joe from won that)
  • Another leather bag
  • Only two iPods – clearly the fad is dying…


  • Drawings done, conference done.
  • Saddest part of coming out of the last session is walking back into the show floor – by the time we get out the exhibition floor is mostly torn down, in a matter of hours you’ll never even know any of us were there.


  • Back at hotel – agree to meet up at 18:30 for dinner w/Robinson & Sheena – the third wheel portion of my trip is about to begin.


  • Sitting in the middle of Alexanderplatz with my laptop, hoping to scam some free wifi.
  • No dice – but I do find a cheaper hotspot.
  • Call home via Skype & my trusty USB phone (getting some funny looks form people as I talk into my mouse)


  • Meet up with Robinson and a very tired Sheena
  • We head off in the same direction as the Thai place the other night – there was an Indian place that looked good and I want to try it out.


  • Finally get to the Indian place. Sticking to water tonight.


  • Finally get our food – appetizers are great. Main courses have no spice to them at all.
  • Food is good but we could have done with some kick, dishes are bordering on sweet!
  • All of us are fighting to stay awake – might be an early night.


  • Starting the walk back – trying to figure out what the mom & child signs mean…


  • Hackesher Markt is a great district to walk through. Lots of life & restaurants. There’s a beautiful train station here as well but if it weren’t for the trains you’d never know it was there.
  • Each of the restaurants are built underneath the station itself so it just looks like a façade for the line of restaurants.


  • After dawdling back we’re at the hotel and calling it a night.
  • Cleaning up my photos for the day and trying to upload them to Flickr. This net connection sucks.


  • Watch some TV on my laptop (Always travel with a few shows downloaded to it) – don’t even get through one.
  • Zzzz….

All of my photos from Day Four

Flickr Goes Global

I actually intended to post this before I left for Germany but I got busy and then had crap Intenret connectivity for a week. So, belatedly, here it is…

Anyone who’s dug around in the “Everyone’s photos” section of Flickr has probably realized that the people who submit pictures to the site come from all over the world but oddly enough, up until now, Flickr has only ever had an interface in English.

I noticed the other day that there was a new title bar across the top of the screen offering up the fact that Flickr was now available in a multitude of languages.

On top of English, Flickr is now available in French, German, Korean, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Traditional Chinese. Localized interfaces are something that, more often than not, I’ve found the Web 2.0 apps are lacking. Most are aimed squarely at US English speaks and that’s it.

Screencap: Franz Patzig
Amusingly enough the trend that has emerged is companies in foreign countries creating the same tool but in their local language. A German-based Digg clone was acquired for many millions – a huge number when you consider it was a market that the company could likely have served for want of some localization work and global thinking. Instead they left the door open for someone else to walk right into their market, leverage their effort and ideas and then take a huge chunk of money off the top as they get acquired.

Any company that offers a software product, thick client or web-based, should take these types of lessons as a reminder of the importance of thinking beyond North America’s borders.

In-store Pickup – Why do they even offer it?

So a couple of weeks ago once again I made an attempt at ordering an item or two online from – I’ve blogged about my Christmas time experience with their site and the site of sister company Best Buy in the past but I hoped this time would be different.


I don’t know why I even bother sometimes. Somehow I ended up having to go through the checkout stages three times before it decided it wanted to let me pay and order the items. I checked stock in the stores before I ordered and picked the store with the shiny green check mark that indicated that my items were in stock. Then in the checkout stage it re-verified that the item was in stock and available for the in-store pickup service so I went ahead.

I get my confirmation email and it lets me know I’ll get a response from the store within 3 hours. 20 minutes later I get the standard “Your order could not be filled” email.

The item(s) you ordered on Order ######## are not available for pickup at the Downtown Toronto store.


But your site just told me they were available!

Here’s the real kicker…

You can re-order your item(s) at – choose another store for pickup or have the item(s) shipped to you.

So you tell me the item is there, and now it isn’t but instead of offering me the choice to have it shipped you kill the order entirely???

When this happened at Christmas I logged back into the site in hopes I simply had to go into the order and change the shipping process – no dice. At this stage they kill the transaction completely, total dead end. To order again I’d have to basically start from scratch.

If anyone at Future Shop is reading this you really should fire whoever is responsible for this disaster of a site (Best Buy too since it seems to be the same platform).

Why on Earth, when you have an order in hand, credit card details attached would you, under any circumstances, kill the deal? Your site is already painful enough to deal with – I’ve got no interest in going back and rebuilding my queue and re-entering all my information. Would it kill you to just give me a “Just Ship it” option? You could put it right in the email and I would have clicked it!

I’m going to guess that if Future Shop went back and reviewed all of their in-store pickup cancellations they’d find that very few people actually bother to recreate their shopping cart again and buy the product. For me, I figured I could take a crap shoot with their system or, in the same amount of time, walk over to Staples and buy the items for a few bucks more than Future Shop was offering. I chose the latter. At this rate, with me alone, this one stupid “step” has cost you several hundred dollars since the beginning of this year.

The timings of the emails are always suspicious too I find – the perception I get is that someone at the store level is basically getting these requests and ditching all but the big ticket items with a “Can’t be bothered” attitude. Reality or not it doesn’t look good and I can’t be the only one who feels this way.

Slightly new look….

Been tweaking the design/CSS of this site a bit – was getting tired of the old look and was finding that when I was looking at it I found the site hard to read compared to a lot of other blogs out there.

Is this an improvement? See any other opportunities to make this a more appealing site? I’d love to hear your comments.

Mac Heads (esp. Safari people)
If you’re on a Mac is it displaying ok for you? Especially keen to hear if this is totally busted on Safari.