Three Years Ago Today We Came to America…

November 5th, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Coming To America

Three years ago today, my wife, my son, and my dog, came to America. Every time I think of that statement – “Coming to America” – the same two things pop into my head. Eddie Murphey’s hilarious movie – it was hilarious when I was in my teens at any rate – and Neil Diamond singing “America”, the opening line of which is “Far…we’ve been traveling far, without a home, but not without a star”. So that’s why you’re looking at the epic graphic above. You’re welcome.

There are a lot of things I can say about the past three years, but given this my first blog post in five months, to say I’m rusty at blogging is an understatement. I’m going to keep this simple.

My wife and I grew up in Calgary and spent all our our lives there. We never thought we’d leave. A plan for our lives (His plan) began to unfold that presented us with a choice: stay “safe” or take a risk and “Come to America”. That decision – one of the most important we’ve ever made – put us on a path of personal growth, happiness, and prosperity unlike anything we could have expected. It was a pivotal moment in our lives, and one that we are truly happy we made. It changed everything, all of it ultimately good. We are blessed beyond measure.

Three years in, what I can say is this: if you’re ever presented an opportunity to take a leap into the unknown, to step outside your known world into into something new, take it.

Over to you Neil…

Off to a New Adventure: I’ve Left HTC & Joined AT&T

June 10th, 2014 at 3:00 am

 (It’s funny how you can start a blog post with the best of intentions to publish it immediately, then four weeks later it’s still sitting in your drafts folder…time to pull the trigger!)

In the instantly-connected world of social media, it seems like a curious thing to announce a big change on a blog (how very 2008 of me!), but I felt like I wanted to make it official beyond the realm of 140 characters. On April 11th I finished my time at HTC, after 2 years and 8 months at the company. It was an amazing opportunity for me; I learned and grew so much in that role. HTC is an amazing company with tremendous innovation and passion, and I’m deeply grateful to all my co-workers for making my time there so special. As Proverbs 27 says, “iron sharpens iron”. I worked with some smart, highly skilled people and I had to push myself to keep up with them. I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn something new every day.

Being a fan of HTC before working there, I remain one today, and will always bleed green!

Having the opportunity to create and run a world-class VIP fan community, HTC elevate, was the proudest moment of my career thus far. Envisioning, creating, then leading a community of like-minded people was truly a dream job and I’m eternally grateful to my first manager, John Starkweather, for giving me the opportunity. I deeply respect HTC as a company, so I won’t fully explain my reasons for leaving in public, but I will say it was related to me being a Canadian working in the USA and not receiving what I needed to stay with the company long-term. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions to protect your family’s well-being, and this was one of those situations. An opportunity came along that would allow me to do that, and to work with John again, so I took it.

So where am I now? In case you missed the headline, let me make it obvious with a giant logo:


I’ve accepted a role with the AT&T small business team in Bothell, WA. I went from being self-employed to working for HTC, which seemed to me like a “big corporation” at the time (with some 17,000 employees), and now I’m at a company with over 250,000 employees.  It’s been an interesting adjustment to say the least; things I assumed were normal from my time at HTC are most definitely not the norm at AT&T, so every day I’m learning and adjusting to my new surroundings.

I’m doing a different sort of work than I was at HTC, which is adding to my career toolkit and working some new mental muscles. I was hired as a community manager, but since there’s no community just yet on this new project, I’m getting to project manage, direct developers, evaluate UI/UX, coordinate events, and use my technical chops to assist the team I’ve joined. I’m really enjoying it, and while I miss HTC and my elevate community, I’m all-in on this new role and am looking forward to the future!

Criminal Charges Laid in Concrete Equities Investment Scheme

March 17th, 2014 at 5:40 pm

I’ve been waiting for this moment to arrive for a very long time – Canada’s criminal justice system is finally going after some of the individuals involved in stealing millions of dollars from investors:

“Mounties have charged two men in fraud scheme that allegedly bilked Canadian investors out of $23 million…Mounties have charged David Nelson Humeniuk and Varun Aurora with three counts of fraud over $5,000 and one count of theft over $5,000. Humeniuk alone is also charged with one count of theft and money laundering for taking $1 million of investors’ money for his personal use. The St. Albert man was arrested and released on a promise to appear in a Calgary court on Feb. 27. A Canada-wide warrant has been issued for the arrest of Aurora, who also goes by the name “Vinny.””

Here’s the full story over on the Calgary Sun, and a short news clip:

Varun "Vinny" Aurora Wanted by Police

I wonder if any of the other ex-Concrete Equities people will be next?


I’m Not Quite Dead Yet…

March 9th, 2014 at 5:46 pm

At some point last year I realized I hadn’t posted a single blog entry in a long time…then the rest of 2013 passed. So here I am in 2014, with the sad realization that for the first time since 2006 a whole year went by without a single blog post here. Life has been intense, but I didn’t want to be thinking about the same excuses this time in 2015. So back to the occasional blogging!

Dave Jones’ Wealthstreet Dragon Fund Now Worthless

November 27th, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Since a few people email me every month asking if I know anything about the status of the Dragon Fund, I thought it would be helpful if I published this letter I received from Olympia Trust Company last month. It officially declares that the Dragon Fund is defunct and worthless. If you need the documents required to remove this investment from your account, please contact Olympia Trust Company at 1-877-565-0001.



November 22nd, 2012 at 10:31 pm

As I sit here in my home on our first US Thanksgiving since moving into our new home, I’m struck by how truly blessed I am. I have a job that I love – it challenges me and grows my skill-set daily – and I work with some truly brilliant people who help me strive to become even better. I’m working for a company with a lot of passion and soul – a company dwarfed in size by our two main competitors, yet several times a year we show the world what a smartphone pushing design and technological boundaries looks like. I’m blessed to have a strong, wonderful wife that understands and appreciates the work I do, and is incredibly supportive of my efforts to give HTC my best. My son is the purest joy I have in my life, and he’s a smart, funny, kind-hearted little man whom I have the honour of helping grow up. I also have supportive extended family who encourage me and my family in our new “faraway land”.

I am humbled to have been given all these things, and for them, and so much more, I am thankful.

What are you thankful for?

Image above found here.

Is Twitter a River or a Glass of Water? Depends On Who You Ask

August 9th, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Twitter, like all social networks, doesn’t come with a rulebook. Sure, there are technical limitations to what you can and can’t do with it, but just like all flexible communication technologies that came before it – faxing, email, texting, IM, etc. – the way it’s used is defined by the people who are using it. Different peer groups will have different implementations; the way two 30-something’s text is radically different from the way two tweener’s text.

Twitter is no different. Over the couple of years I’ve been using Twitter, I’ve been surprised – and sometimes amused – at the friction caused by mis-aligned expectations of how Twitter “should” be used. I’ve been asked a couple of times to explain how I use Twitter, so here’s that long-overdue blog post.

I think in general there are two camps on Twitter: those that treat it like a river and those that treat it like a glass of water.

Twitter as a River: Your Twitter stream is a rushing flow of information. You follow many hundreds or thousands of people, and what you see from them is what is in your feed when you open up your Twitter client. You see what’s flowing when you step into the river, and when you step out, everything keeps flowing. When you come back to it, what came before doesn’t matter because there’d be too much to try and read. You can follow as many people as you want because unless they have an ultra-high output on Twitter, you may never see what they tweet. Oh, and if you’re following thousands of people and claiming you’re reading everything they tweet, you’re either lying or unemployed (or maybe both).

Twitter as a Glass of Water: Your Twitter stream is a large glass of water. It’s something you can drink in one sitting, or maybe you sip it regularly throughout the day. You follow a few dozen people (or maybe a hundred low-volume streams), but you read everything they post. When you load up your Twitter client, you scroll back to read what you missed. You take it all in.

I treat Twitter as a glass of water; right now I follow around 100 people/companies, but more than half don’t even post daily. The exceptions are sometimes Engadget and Business Insider; their output is so heavy I often skip past Tweets (especially Business Insider – I’ve unfollowed several times because they tend to get pretty spammy).

When I start to follow someone, I’m going to read everything they post. If, after a few days/weeks their Twitter subject matter isn’t interesting to me and/or their volume of tweets is overwhelming, I un-follow. I could say it’s nothing personal, but it kind of is – your Twitter stream is a partial reflection of who you are as a person, and what interests you. I think Twitter works best when people find the topics that interest them the most rather than the people (unless the person they’re following is consistently tweeting about one topic).

When I un-follow someone on Twitter, and they notice and ask me why (which is a bit awkward in itself, but I don’t shirk from answering), my response is typically along these lines – that they either tweet too much for me (too much noise and not enough signal), or what they’re tweeting about is on a topic that doesn’t interest me. I’m not offended if someone stops following me on Twitter, but I tend to find most people don’t share that reaction – I’ve had more than a few people get offended and hurt when I stop following them. I don’t know if there’s a way around that without being dishonest.

I don’t pretend that everything I tweet is going to be of interest to the whole world, but I do try to post thoughtful comments or questions that add value in some way through insight, humour, or something I’ve discovered worth sharing. I do not tweet “Good morning”, I do not tweet “Good night”, I do not tweet that I’m hungry, or that I’m sleepy. I ask myself with every tweet if what I’m posting is worth a few seconds of someone’s time or not. How I wish more people did that! If, however, you’re using Twitter as a personal diary and posting only for your own benefit, that’s fine – but don’t get offended when someone doesn’t want to follow you.

Ultimately the strength of Twitter is that I can follow you without you following me; it’s an asynchronous system that works well, even when we all have different ways of using it.

River image courtesy of this site; glass of water courtesy of this one.

Another Piece of My Web History Archived: The Two Inch View

May 8th, 2012 at 11:24 pm

As I transition from my old life to my new life – that sounds so dramatic, doesn’t it? – I’m letting certain domains lapse and taking projects from an “archived on their own domain” state to a “archived on this site” state. I think the Internet is one of the greatest made-made creations there is, and I hate to see any of the information shared on it – no matter how trivial – be obliterated.

I’m especially thankful to the creators of HTTrack Website Copier for making a tool that allows people like me to take our work and archive a whole domain’s worth to a single folder. Comments get lost in the case of a WordPress blog, which is a shame, but it’s a small price to pay for the ability to archive an entire site.

I won’t pretend that archiving the site below is anything other than an ego trip of wanting to remember the work I did in years past, but as someone who has a passion for keeping digital memories of all sorts, this is something I’d been planning for a while.

The Two Inch View was a Web site I created under contract for Microsoft. This was back in the heady days of Pocket PCs, Smartphones (note the capital “S” on that), and Portable Media Centers (a.k.a PMCs). A contact of mine at Microsoft wanted an “instant content portal”, so I created one. It was all real content, written by me, but it was created to support specific marketing pushes – each month I’d suggest topics for them, and we’d decide what would get written about. It was a fun little sandbox to play in, different from Pocket PC Thoughts and my other sites.

The amazing WordPress theme was designed by my friend, Fabrizio Fiandanese, and I recall getting several messages a month asking where I got the WordPress theme from, whether or not it was for sale, etc. It was a beautiful Web site for its time (and still is).

In my current role for HTC and dealing with vendors, I kind of chuckle at some of the ways I thought back when I did this project…if only I knew then what I know now! Enough talk, into the archives it goes

Making it Easy for Your Potential Customer to Use Your Service

March 11th, 2012 at 12:18 am

This is the first post in a while that deals with the topic of business…this is a subject I want to start to explore more on this blog. I don’t feel blessed with much spare time at the moment, but it’s important for me to continue to write somewhere, lest I become too rusty. So here goes…

I was in Mexico recently on vacation, and on the way through the airport in Puerto Vallarta I was reminded again what a clever design the airport has for encouraging people to spend their last few pesos. You literally have to walk through several stores on your way to your gate. Not near them, but through them. It’s less obnoxious than it sounds, and it’s effective. The point is, by the time you get to your gate, you’ve probably spent your last bit of cash. There’s also the thought that most travelers have of not wanting to return home with useless paper currency they can’t spend unless they come back.

After passing through these stores, you finally make it to your gate. In this area there’s a small, two-chair massage station business that offers travelers 15 minute back/neck massages. If you’re sitting at the gate and you’ve got the time, why not, right? That was my thinking, and having a pre sit-on-my-butt-for-five-hours-massage seemed like a great idea. I was practically relaxing already as I walked up to the two massage chairs. The women greeted me with a smile, I smiled back, and before I could say anything my eyes caught a fairly large sign that read:


I was quite taken aback by this. Cash only? Really? People are getting ready to board their plane, have walked a gauntlet of stores designed to coax the last pesos out of their wallet, and this business is expecting people to pay for their service in cash? I felt a rush of disappointment come over me, and to my dismay I practically scowled at the woman as I said “Do you think most people have cash on them as they’re about to get on the plane?”. I threw up my hands and walked away, no doubt leaving her somewhat stunned. Anyone who knows me understands that hiding my feelings is something I’m rather poor at.

In that moment, I was a customer who was excitedly looking forward to paying for a service and in an instant I became someone who was turned away because of a poor decision the owner made. It certainly wasn’t the fault of the woman working, but she lost a paying customer and the tip she would have pocketed.

The lesson here? Meet your customers where they’re at in every way possible. If you set up your business in a location where people are unlikely to have cash, take credit cards. Be flexible. Don’t let payment terms be the thing that gets in the way of you making a sale. You’ve done your work, you’ve paid for a prime location, you’ve trained your staff, you’re ready to make some profit. Why destroy all that by being a cash-only business in a place where people are unlikely to have cash?

On the flip side, there was a great business that snagged $25 from me easily: it was a small, tastefully designed kiosk with a large flat-panel TV, and small but powerful Bose speakers playing music from a violin/piano duet called Arcano. They seem to do strictly covers, mostly pop/rock (like this), and since I’m always looking for good music to serve as a back-drop to periods of focus, I handed over my Visa and walked away with two CDs in less than two minutes. That’s how you run a business!

Yes, I’m Still Alive and Kicking

February 12th, 2012 at 9:49 pm

I was never a highly prolific blogger here, but even for me, not having posted for four months is a long stretch. So much has happened, but I’ve found that social networks (namely Facebook and Twitter) have largely replaced what used to get posted here on this blog. I tend to think that the people who care about what’s going in my life are already following me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook, so this blog serves a different role in terms of being a home for long-form content and things of merit that I want to share with the world.

The short version of my life right now is that I’ve got an amazing job at HTC, my family and I have moved into our new house in Renton, Washington as of two weeks ago, and I’m learning to live like an American. Most of the things are the same, but there are enough differences that there’s the occasional struggle – mostly around healthcare. When you call your insurance company and even they can’t explain their own rules, you know you’re trapped in a system that tries to keep you from succeeding with it. All in all though, I feel tremendously blessed and honoured to have been given so many great opportunities.

I haven’t given up on blogging, but life is so hectic right now I won’t fool myself into thinking that I’m going to be putting up any more content here any time soon. I’m hopeful by the summer months things will have calmed down.