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The HTC One X: Four months in

I first picked my HTC One X a few months ago, the absolute moment I could upgrade my previous 18 month contract I had on my HTC Desire HD. I’m sure the Desire had some life left in it, except that I’d cracked the screen. Badly. While I was tempted to write a glowing report a week in, I put it off… I wanted to put it to the test, see if it still impressed me a couple months in.

TL;DR Still thoroughly impressed, thrilled even, with the device. For a well rounded review, I’m reporting here on both the good and the bad.

Now, I’ve been an HTC + Android fan since the early days. I picked up the HTC Hero (the one with the chin) back in the summer of 2009. So when they announced the One X, and its near-perfect timing in line with the end of my contract, I was sold.

My Desire HD was stuck on Froyo for the foreseeable future, and it was slowing down. Worse, the battery, which had never been very good, was giving me no love at all.

Battery life

Here we are at 68%, 14h 20m off charge

Of all the reviews and specs I read of the HTC One X, as part of my sanity check, the most worrying were reports of a dismal battery life. Add to this the fact that it’s a unibody… there’s no changing out this battery if it fails me!

More than anything, this is where I’m been the most impressed. Seriously, I can’t kill this thing. My phone flicks on and off all day, as I check the latest email, Tweet, whatever. Light browsing, plenty of Maps usage, occasionally games, Spotify daily. I keep my screen on the brightest setting, I run just about every widget from my ‘desktop’, yet I routinely get 20-25 hours battery life. Yes, for some stretches of that, the phone’s doing nothing (I do sleep), but I find myself 2 days in, wondering whether I need to charge the phone. Check, it’s on green. We’re good to go. As I write this, my phone is 68% charged and it’s been going 14 hours.

On heavy days, like while reporting on a ProductTank event, I get less out of it, but we’re still talking nearer to 14-16 hours. Besides the rare occasion where I decide to ignore my phone’s 10% battery warning and still go out for a day, I’ve never run it down.

Impressed.

Speed
Ohhh, this thing is nice.

The 1.5GHz quad-core processor in the One X makes all the difference in the world. It’s allowed me to completely rewrite my mobile habits, compared to its restrictively slow predecessors (I’m hugely impatient, and find my new iPad annoyingly slow at times). I used to avoid cracking open files or pulling up a map in my previous phones. On the One X? I don’t hesitate to crack open intensive apps, knowing it’ll handle anything I throw at it. Very rarely does it leave me hanging.

Enough said, no qualms.

Design
Android Ice Cream SandwichThe screen, oh my, what a screen. A glorious 4.7 inch panel of pure brilliance. Sometimes I just turn it on to look at the bright, crisp colours.

However, it means the damn thing is just a bit too big. I could just barely wrap my hands around the HTC Desire HD, but with the One X, I’m left a little handicapped with one handed mobile usage.

The ‘ON’ button is a low profile button at the top right of the phone, while the ‘pin’ to drag and unlock the phone is right near the bottom of the screen. I can’t unlock my phone with one hand holding it in the air.

Also annoying is the location of the button. It’s on the top of the phone, but on a bevel that faces ever so slightly forward. This makes it tricky to push it down when manoeuvring from behind… exactly the position you’re in if you’re holding the phone with one hand.

In order to get a good grip to get the button pushed in, I squeeze the sides. Here’s another problem: the volume button is on one side, and the micro USB slot is on the other. If the phone is plugged in, the cord further hampers my ability to turn on the phone with one hand. If it’s not, I end up squishing the volume rocker in, accidentally changing the volume settings when I wanted to do is close the phone for a moment.

Purely on the design side of things, it’s a lovely looking phone. Clean lines, matte charcoal colour. More than anything, the design just lets the screen dominate, rightfully so, and otherwise is simple and understated. I like this.

This leads to, perhaps more so than the button placement, my biggest qualm with the phone.

Scratches practically imperceptible... but they're there!

It scratches easily. Too easily to be justified.

Now, don’t get me wrong, these are whispers of scratches, completely imperceptible unless you’re squinting up close or catching the sun on a blackened screen. But they are still there.

I understand the push back I get when I mention this point: “You shoulda had a screen protector”. Hrmph. To be honest, I hate screen protectors and the grimy filth they all accumulate at their sticky edges. I hate the plasticky feel under my fingers. The One X is bestowed with a screen that feels like satin. Splendid to touch, I can’t stress this enough.

But as I mentioned, I had two of HTCs predecessors. I treated the Hero and the Desire HD like crap. We’re talking throw-it-in-the-bottom-of-the-purse-with-the-metal-nail-file kind of crap. In an accumulated nearly 3 years between those two devices, never a scratch on the screen (besides the blunt drop which finished the Desire completely).

So my expectations for the One X were way up there, and I immediately started tossing it around as I did my old phones. Within a couple weeks? A series of scratches leading up with a swish from the centre of the screen to the top right corner. I think from having it face down on a lightly grainy surface. Officially annoyed with this.

Same with the camera lens on the back, which juts out just a smidgen. Again, quite imperceptibly so, the lens is getting the same scratches. Can’t see it in the photos, and like the faint marks on the front of the screen, it’s never caused a problem at all. But they are there.

Why would HTC suddenly downgrade an aspect of their phones that they had clearly nailed? No idea, but the Gorilla glass is a bit of a let-down.

I miss the dedicated search button and menu button from both the HTC Desire HD and the HTC Hero, and even to this day, miss the rolly ball that the Hero offered. Apps have mostly negated a real need for them, but they were consistent and useful. I’m not entirely impressed with this slow progression towards a one-button device.

Operating system and apps
The operating system upgrade, from my previous 2.3, is massive. The Android Ice Cream (4.1) offers a much more cohesive experience, and a lovely blend of the vanilla Android interface elements with the HTC Sense overlay.

While I miss my dedicated Menu button, the latest OS seems geared to make up for it. As with any Android, I can customise the home screens to my heart’s content, and in particular, love the permanent apps I can keep on my lock screen, jumping straight to them when I open my phone.

Cycling directions on Google Maps for AndroidI got my iPad for handling emails on the go, more than anything, but even at a fraction of the screen size, the HTC One X suits me and my 8 Google Apps inboxes infinitely better. For the occasional light user of the default @me.com account and maybe one other, an Apple will do the trick, but if you’re like me and are used to the power and flexibility of GMail, I’ve yet to see anything other than an Android suffice. The latest update has sweetened the deal even further, especially when combined with the massive screen.

As of course, being a Google kit, the maps work a treat. If you’re living somewhere like London where knowing your best transit vs. cycle vs. walking route will be taking you is essential, and so the Google Maps is a deal maker.

Conclusion
With the honeymoon period over, I’m still loving this phone. Sure, the iPhone 5 was on the horizon when I made my decision, and the latest Windows phones are looking pretty nifty, but based on the heavy (and yes, geeky) usage I expect from my device, I’m pleased I’ve gone with the HTC One X.

Just don’t talk to me about the (ever so slightly newer, shinier, and more pumped) One X+.

13
Nov 2012
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
POSTED IN

Personal, Technology

DISCUSSION 4 Comments
Articles

Spotify finally spot on with their radio

Spotify logoThere’s a only handful of SaaS products I happily shell out cash for. One of my most valued subscriptions, since 2009, has been for Spotify.

I use it several times daily, across all my devices, and constantly use it to share my tastes to my friends and the world (even though it’s disappointingly not available in my homeland of Canada where a good proportion of my friends are). I’ve got my gripes, particularly around the fact I can only sync to 3 of my 4 devices at the same time, but otherwise, I’ve constantly found delight in it, and regularly recommend it to others.

The largest of my gripes however, has always been in the discovery element of their product, showing me music I might actually like. In short, it’s been seriously lacking. Spotify knows full well what I prefer to listen to, and has never made much of an effort to help me find new music based on previous habits.

Until recently, that is, when I stumbled upon their updated radio feature.

Unlike the previous version of their radio (which weakly gave a small set of somewhat cliché genres to choose from), the new radio kicks off the moment you select a song from your library, instantly playing songs that actually really make sense in light of what I like.

Over the last week, I’ve barely turned the radio feature off, and have added a number of great songs into my usual playlists based on the tunes I’ve been able to stumble upon.

Finally, recommended music, exactly where I listen to it, with the ability to seamlessly add it to my growing collection already on Spotify. Simple, delightful, and spot on.

Kudos, Spotify.

Spotify Radio

31
Jan 2012
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
POSTED IN

Product, Technology

DISCUSSION 1 Comment
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Time, ever forward

I’ve long held a particular theory about the world we live in, on the subject of time travel, that I’ve rehashed in my mind over the years. I’m not going to dig into the topics of parallel universes, alternate realities, or fate. But I will state this:

Time travel* never will be made possible, at any time in the future**.

Caveats:
* Useful time travel, that is. I’m sure we will do (and are already doing) astoundingly bizarre things with minute particles, frozen to near absolution, isolated in a vacuum, or measured in different time scales to those in which we live.
** Important point: In the future of humanity.

Reasoning

If it ever did exist, it will have opened up the flow of information backwards in time, inevitably leading to the technology landing in the hands of those of us in the present. At some point in the future, some misguided soul would have passed it back as far as our own generation and earlier.

Therefore, if time travel technology ever exists in the future, it would exist right now.

Let’s think to a time when all of this tinkering with physics over at the likes of CERN might actually turn into something. So far, we’ve zipped a few neutrinos through an isolated chamber at speeds faster than light.

That’s pretty damn cool.

But it’s not really going to change anything that’s applicable to our daily lives.

However, if the past has anything to teach us, it’s that we get better with these experiments with time, and eventually, once-’useless’ experimentation starts turning into great inventions. Electricity, light, microchips, etc… all started off as interesting but at their present time, mostly useless experiments that did little to shape how we lived at that time.

So I suppose we could say that if we were on to something with breaking the speed of light and defying the known laws of space/time, we’d be on the right track to make something of it. Over time, it’s conceivable to see that perhaps we’ll figure out how to multiply the effect of travelling faster than light, and perform the trick in much more favourable conditions. Eventually, I can see how we’d figure out a trick to sending collections of neutrinos or other particles to pre-determined ‘places’ in space-time, all programmed with bits of information. Over time, we’d surely be sending ever growing packets of information back in time in greater and greater leaps.

Now we’re getting somewhere. If this were to happen, what would happen next?

Inevitably, the latest and greatest military would find some compelling use case here, and fund the project until it provided some tangible benefit in warfare. Of course, at some point, the world’s largest conglomerates would want in on the action, realising the ROI on sending information backwards far surpasses paying overpriced strategic consultants to try to predict the future. Naturally, the City boys would find a way to conjure up some financial structures, creating products out of events that haven’t happened yet. Scratch that, this is already happening…. There’d be a demand for this technology, and where there’d be money, there’d be a steadily growing supply.

At some point, as the future presses on, these technologies will become more affordable, within reach of less regulated companies and the world’s hot-shot billionaires. Some genius, probably at Apple, will figure out how to get BackTime™ Technologies in the hands of consumers, at a tidy profit.

Not long after, of course, the burgeoning startup scene of the 2470′s dips into the cloud services of BackTime™, applying it to age-old problems like porn, dating, and photo sharing, all with interesting results (There’s a whole post that needs to be dedicated to exploring the possibilities here…) – given away for free, undoubtedly, clamouring for a piece of the market: 32 billion strong population of the GEA.

Kids of the future will wake up on XMas morning (having long forgotten that the ‘X’ in XMas did not originally stand for the international currency, Xeneps, although Hallmark Conglomerate Industries doesn’t do much to help that matter) to open BackTime™ Barbie and BackTime™ Laser Nerf toys. These sound dangerous, but really just lend themselves to a winter break of fun and games, playing dolls with yourself from a week in the past, and sneaking up to pop the kid in the neighbouring moon sector in the head with a foam ball before the shooter even pulls the trigger.

So yes, ridiculous as this all is, I’m making the assumption that if we get our current tinkering up to shape, it’ll be a short fall (time is relative, you see) into a world where everyone has their hands on the technology.

So what happens next in this theoretical future? Well, knowing humanity, it’ll get out of hand. Whether with good intentions or bad, someone, somewhere, will have the means to send information on how to develop such technologies back to themselves (or an ancestor), giving way for the chance of creating the technology earlier.

Rinse, and repeat. In no time (again, it’s relative), you will find that the technology itself was created long before it was… originally created. The arrow of time ceases to matter.

What does it all come to?

Our technology is evolving faster than our ability to cope with the implications. At the rate we’re going, we stand to build time travel technology faster than we learn to deal with it as a global society.

It’s based on the fact that we’re not seeing these implications in our present day (and in the past), that I’m hypothesising that it will never exist in the future.

This theory of mine is something I distinctly remember thinking through when I was about 11, probably after watching too much The Outer Limits. Over the years, I’ve reflected on this original stream of thought and come up with a number of explanations and alternatives:

  1. Technology roadblocks. Perhaps I’m right, and for all our efforts, we just never crack this one. Time goes forward, and we can’t change that with even the ever advancing tools we create to meddle with physics.
  2. Time runs out for humanity. Along the path to creating such advanced technology, something terrible happens, and we just don’t get the chance to live out our full potential as a species. Perhaps this climate change is our last blow, or a rogue asteroid, or global war, or zombie apocalypse. I’ve grown more cynical with age, and this one is rising my list of likely explanations.
  3. We screw it up. Similar to the point above, except directly pointing at the time travel technology itself. Somewhere along the line, passing back the BackTime technology, our society collapses from the implications. Economies would crumble, religion and cultures and everything we know would take a blow, societies would panic and rebel, wars would be won without ever being started. What could possibly go wrong? Everything. The technology exists in the future, but the moment it gets out of hand, humanity basically ceases to function to the point of being able to send back tangible information about what went wrong.
  4. We do learn how to cope. There is, of course, the remote possibility that by the time we figure out useful time travel technologies, we’re a more organised and responsible species. Perhaps, through self-control, tactful governance, and foresight, we’ll know better than to meddle with the past, even given the technology. However, I’ve not got my money on this one: We’re tens of thousands of years on as a species, and we’re still practically curious chimps, plagued by (for better or for worse) incessant inquisitiveness, a competitive nature, and hair loss. Our technology is moving in leaps and bounds, but we’re not showing much movement on the same scale. Increasingly powerful technologies will likely spell trouble.

Perhaps I’m wrong, and I’m missing a vital piece of the equation. I’m not claiming to have put anything vaguely resembling scientific thought into this.

… I don’t think I’d want to be proven wrong, however. Time. Forever destined to move forwards, or at least I would like to think for the time being…

30
Nov 2011
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
POSTED IN

Society, Technology

DISCUSSION 4 Comments
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A mutual break-up with privacy

I used to be pretty intensely private about my life, at least when it came to sharing online. That started to change for me when I met Twitter, and slowly and tentatively started putting a little more of myself in the public eye with each tweet.

I’ve been exploring the new Timeline view in Facebook, and I love it.

I did, however, have a peek at what the ‘public’ sees when they visit my profile. Turns out a lot, despite my tight settings. Typical. I suppose this is the way things are going.

There’s a war on privacy here, and I’m giving up the fight. And I’m going to try to do it amicably.

Instead of fretting every time Facebook purportedly changes their layout and along with it, your sharing settings, I’m making my profile pretty much public to the world, and, as I would always be anyway, being mindful of what I post.

There’s not really much here any more that I wouldn’t have posted on Twitter anyway, and I realise that anything posted with even the most privacy settings is never guaranteed to stay that way.

This goes hand in hand with my more open ‘friending’ policy I’ve adopted over the last couple of years, as well as the increasing blending of my personal and professional lives.

I’ve made this point before: If I get turned down for a job, or turn off a potential partner because of something I’ve posted in the past, I probably am better off without that company or person.

It helps that I work and live in the tech world (as opposed to law or finance, where this kind of attitude is generally looked down upon), where my colleagues, peers and dates tend to live just as publicly as me, if not more.

In exchange for my private data over the years, I’ve had access to the fantastic services rendered by the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Google, including not only a massive suite of tools to manage myself, my data, and my relationships, but also the creation of a digital experience that’s moulded to me.

I’ve gotten strange looks when I’ve said this in the past, but I like highly targeted ads. I’ve always liked advertising in general, but I love when an ad speaks to me, reminds me to do or buy something I probably had an interest in anyway, and allows me to interact with it.

So no, I don’t worry about my privacy, and I’m happy that we’re parting ways maturely and on such good terms.

But what do I worry about?

I worry about building a filter bubble I’ll never be able to see beyond, or scarily, realise that I’m even in. I like that my digital life is relevant to me, but I don’t want to be left ignorant of important events, news or knowledge just because some algorithms determine it’s not the type of thing I’d click on.

I hope to see a rebellion here, a series of services I can hook my existing digital self into that will help me explore the world outside my bubble without getting drowned in information.

More than anything, I worry about not owning any of this data. I realised the other day that my Facebook profile is among my most prized possessions – my contacts, my history, everything I’ve said and all of these cherished messages from friends for the last few years – and it’s something I don’t even own. In a snap, all of that history and information could be taken away, and I would be rendered heartbroken, as if someone had burned boxes full of my photo albums, diaries, and little black books.

Unlike other aspects of this greater issue of privacy, this data ownership is something that I can at least do a little something about. I’m going to be making an effort to publish more to here and push to my networks rather than the other way around. Now that my networks are essentially open to the world, I’m going to treat them like subscription channels into various aspects of my life, all fed from a central repository of all of the stuff I create online.

I look forward to being a whole lot more open with the world. As many of you already know, it states on my personal business card: Follow me, friend me, call me.

Get in touch :)

Articles

BraveNewEra

Door at 40 Beak Street, SohoI stopped by the old BraveNewTalent offices today, partly to see if I could get my hands on an Amazon order that had been accidentally delivered there a day too late… and partly, I think, to say goodbye.

I stood to admire the lovely door facing Beak Street (have I mentioned I’ve got a thing for old doors?), before punching in the familiar key code and tentatively walking in. Of course, the place was a mess of ditched boxes, out-of-date flyers, and sacks of garbage congregating around every door frame.

I climbed the three curved flights of stairs for the last time and took stock of the leftover scraps and the now seemingly oversized rooms. Without the whiteboards, random posters, mismatched desks and people, there wasn’t much left of the life it all once housed. All that was left was a still, disheveled mess. Good to see it had kept its haphazard aura about it, really.

I was a bit freaked out by the office when I first started, what, with the asbestos warning stickers on the ceiling, the door handles that fell off with the slightest nudge – threatening to lock you in, and the kitchen that felt like it belonged more in a prison or an asylum than an office…. but all of this stuff grew on me, and I began to look around with a growing affection. For a building that was effectively condemned, it had done well to charm me with its quirks.

That said, being in the heart of Soho obviously helped it along – I’ve always judged a workplace by the quality of coffee and lunch-time food available in the vicinity. And for that, Soho was a clear winner. Between Foxcroft & Ginger for a delectable flat white and gourmet sandwich, Yu-foria for mid-afternoon frozen treats, and Graphic for a glass of wine to unwind in the evening, I found I could satisfy any craving within 50 paces.

However, every era must come to an end, and I see this as marking the end of ‘the early days’ at BraveNewTalent, when the 7 or so of us had to band together closely to win that next deal, charm that next investor, and drill towards each release.

As of today, we’re now double the size we were just a few months ago, and the top floor of 40 Beak Street was basically bursting at the seams with our team. We’ve shifted everything over to a new office in Shoreditch, where both the jeans and the lattes are skinnier (and infinitely more cool than I).

Having kicked open a number of doors while back in Soho, we’re now continuing to grow the team and are marching on. I have no doubt that this next stretch is going to be more exciting, more fulfilling, and increasingly successful compared to than the last. One day, I’m sure we’ll have some shiny glass and concrete building to call our own, and we’ll deck it out with all of the modern amenities and latest tech (and an in-house cook and a high-end billiards table, I’m sure), but for now, I see Shoreditch as the perfect home, nestled among dozens of other tech startups in the heart of a vibrant neighbourhood.

Come by for a coffee and a hello!

31
May 2011
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
POSTED IN

Personal

DISCUSSION 2 Comments
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Madrid and I

I discovered last year that I love travelling alone.  Not to be anti-social, but I find it gives me the chance to really gather my thoughts, and (with the inherent lack of mobile data while abroad) force myself to be “off the grid”.  Previously, travel, to me, was a thing you did with family, some friends, or a partner.  I had to rip myself from the security I had in having someone else with me to help navigate a new place.  Instead, I took up a habit of just getting something booked and seeing what happens when I get there.

Now I’m hooked; there’s no better way for me to really see a new place.

Church in a Vespa mirror, MadridI wander until I get lost, and marvel at little delights, such as the texture of the streets and sidewalks, the unique style of signposts and street lamps, and (more often than I care to admit) stop to stare at old, neglected yet beautiful doors.  Curving streets and hidden alleyways intrigue me, and invariably, I follow these down just to see where I might end up.  I meander through parks to admire the subtle or abrupt differences in flora and fauna to other places I’ve been (Rome was my favourite for that; imagine my delight when I realised there were oranges growing in the street!).  I try to immerse myself in the life there, stopping at cafés to relax and take in the bustling city around me.

As I wander around, a blur of thoughts runs through my head: What would it be like to live here? Would I like it?  Is this the sort of thing I’d get up to on a lazy Sunday once settled into the city?  Would I, one day, be happy to settle here, and to raise kids here?  Will I ever return to this city, this street, this corner?

When I’m in a new city, I don’t try too hard to capture anything in photos.  Does it do it justice to take pictures of all of these things? No, never.  To start, I’m not a brilliant photographer.  I also usually carry around just a low-spec camera phone which, in the past, has provided pretty pitiful results.  So instead of having my head stuck in a map or behind a camera like a typical tourist, I try to vividly remember each moment for myself; to commit to memory the sounds, the smells, the tiny details of each place.

Just hours before this particular trip to Madrid, I picked up the HTC Desire HD I’d been so pining for. Armed with an 8MP camera and a whole slew of in-built photography filters, I set about snapping a few shots to see what I could get out of it.

However, no photographer in the world could capture this moment, right now… sitting in a plaza in Madrid (whose name I’ll probably forget); feeling the warmth of the sun on my leg and my cheek; the contrast of the cool hard surface of the limestone step I’m sitting on; the rattling of tourists poring over guide maps and trying to get the perfect vacation group shot; the buzz of local children, while speaking a foreign language, so familiar and jubilant; the scent of the shrub on which I’m resting my bag; the Spanish guitarist; the clink of coins dropping in his hat, not as often as deserved; the gentle rush of the fountain… Could a picture do this all justice? I think not.  Here’s a shot, an attempt, nonetheless:

Plaza de Oriente, Madrid

Wouldn’t you rather have been here instead?

24
Jan 2011
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
POSTED IN

Personal

DISCUSSION 1 Comment
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Oh, Canada

Maple leavesI am psyched, seriously excited, to be heading back to Canada over the holidays.  The plan is to do a fly-by visit to both Toronto (2-3 days) and Montreal (3-4 days), followed by a very short stint in NYC (for just under 42 hours, by my calculation) just in time to ring in the new year. While I would have loved to have spent more time in each city, it’s Montreal that has my heart, and where I could happily spend all of the next month.

I find myself missing proper Canadian winter. While I’m loving the nippy weather here in London (and the excuse to wear woolly tights and knee high boots and any one of my lovely colourful scarves), I can’t get into the holiday spirit when it’s just -1°c and spitting rain. I want ice and deep snow and breath that I can see. I want to make water freeze in mid-air. I want to go ice skating on a river after work, pelt my loved ones with snow, and then have an excuse to curl up in fuzzy socks with hot chocolate by a fire. I miss the sharp, fresh feeling of -15°c when breathed in, and I miss the crisp, perfectly clear blue skies.

I can’t get into the holiday spirit when it’s just -1°c and spitting rain. I want ice and deep snow and breath that I can see.

Of course, I’m romanticizing all of this winter stuff, as there are certainly parts that I’ll never miss. Namely the nasty brown sludge that snow inevitably turns to after being sat in the road for a couple days. And painfully cold toes. And digging out cars from thigh-high snow piles.  That part sucks.

Yet I always squeal with delight when I see even a hint of snow in London. In fact, I did that today, and then realised that the pub on the corner had a fake snow blower operating.  I’d been fooled (bastards).  Have I been away from Canada that long??

One thing is for sure: I’m going to GORGE myself with delicious foodstuffs the moment I touch down.  I want Indian food (namely the mulligatawny soup) from my favourite take-out in Burlington, as I’ve not found a replacement at all in London.  Okay, perhaps I’m biased, but I’m waiting for someone to show me a better soup.

And steak. What on earth is wrong with the steak here? It’s simply consistently better over on the other side of the pond. Thank Alberta for that one, I guess.  Oh, and cheese curds!  The ones you get at depanneurs and gas stations across Quebec, which go squish-squish when you chew down.  NOM.  I’m bringing a few bags of those babies back with me… Customs can go sit on a tack if they try to debate me on the legality of this.

And a trip to Brutopia for their delicious (and dangerous) raspberry flavoured blonde beer, micro-brewed right on location, is certainly on order. Never have I ever favoured another place of that for meeting friends in a chilled venue.

Montreal skyline

Maybe if I’m lucky, I can get in on some hockey action while there. Watching games way late at night in the Maple Leaf in Covent Garden doesn’t hold the same appeal as the buzzing atmosphere of a bar in downtown Montreal.  There’s definitely some shopping in order too.  I mean, 3 interconnected malls in what they call the Underground City… you can get lost for hours. And now that I’m bringing my stronger sterling back with me, it’s on!

Ah, yes, and not to forget the casino.  A proper casino. Where you don’t feel like you’re going to get mugged by some kid wearing a puffy jacket and saying ‘givus your bag, innit’. And where I can spend some (mostly) guilt free time and cash playing poker and blackjack on tables covered in soft, touchable felt.  Maybe I’ll even dress up and treat myself to overpriced casino cocktails.  Ace.

Alright, so would I move back to Canada, with all it’s charms? Not yet, that’s for sure.

Alright, so would I move back to Canada, with all it’s charms? Not yet, that’s for sure.  I’ve already passed a couple of opportunities to go back for different potential product-type roles in Montreal… but I realised I couldn’t get myself to do it…. still too much left undone here in London.  Seriously, I’m having too much fun here, and I’m meeting some of the most interesting, inspiring people ever.

I know I’ll leave London one day. Not exactly suited for kids and all that jazz…  not that I’ve got that in the short term plan (jeez!). Getting a little sick of the smell of urine in Soho, too.  And I suppose the rain will begin to piss me off eventually.  But the thought of leaving makes me sad.  This song made me cry recently: Tina Dico – London (courtesy of Spotify).  Just a little bit, but really, I do realise I won’t be living here forever.

Canadian PassportIn the meantime, I do what I can to stick to my roots. I run into fellow Canucks just about everywhere, and always find myself reminiscing with them about our common home land. In order to keep a steady supply, I’ve joined a Canadian expat group I stumbled upon on Meetup.com.  We hit up the Maple Leaf for beer and wings and laughs once a month, and the occasional alternative outing.  On Sunday, I went ice skating with the crew in Canary Wharf. We stood out like sore thumbs, wearing our own ice skates and zipping through the mounds of fallen children.  I would post a lovely little video I made with some words from Dave, the group organiser, but my camera apparently takes terrible audio.  If that thing doesn’t start behaving, it’s getting replaced.  But that rant will be a post for another day.

So yes, I imagine I’ll probably live in Canada once again.  But not before I try out some digs on the European continent (Paris is my current infatuation), and certainly San Francisco if I can get that sorted.  Living here in London has done me one major service: showing me just how many different possibilities there are out there.

Here I come!

15
Dec 2010
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
POSTED IN

Personal

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The Big App Hack

Coming up at BraveNewTalent are some exciting times.  We’re growing in clients, revenue, and users at a fantastic rate, have appeared in a stack of national papers this week, and as a team, are having an absolute blast.

Case in point: This weekend, when we held our first official “hackathon“.  We needed a Facebook application, fast.  With our client list growing, we needed to create a destination for Talent to find employers that they are suited for, find friends (and friends of friends) that work there, and get their hands on the right job postings.

It had to be engaging.  It had to be slick. It had to sum up all of the hard work we’d put into a full API revamp and design overhaul we’d been working on for the last several months.  It had to be something we’d all be proud of.

Thinking fast and talking smooth, I gathered a team, all of whom joined and contributed with gusto:

While Ramon, our marketing guru, couldn’t make the weekend on short notice, he’d submitted some contributions by Sunday morning with his thoughts on how we can bring it to the masses.  Lucian, of course, was there, tweeting our progress, bouncing ideas around and making sure everyone was fuelled and fed.  The support and enthusiasm of all was infectious.

BraveNewTalent's upcoming Facebook application

A sneak peak at the app. More coming!

With this team, we set out what we meant to do.  By the end of the second day, we’d created the app to about 80% completion – a working prototype, essentially, which we could begin showing off, getting feedback on, and coming up with a grand plan for the launch.

The big thing that we gained, however, was not the app itself.  The personal growth in the team speaks for itself.  We all learned a little bit more about each other, stretched our personal knowledge, and (dare I say?) bonded in those late nights and early mornings.  We made something we were proud of, and we had fun doing it.

As a result, we’ve got an application ready to be launched on Facebook, which was built entirely in-house (with a little help from our friends!), and also picked up the knowledge needed to take it to the next level.

There was nothing quite as rewarding (although the lunch at Inamo came close) as being able to show off the completed app on Monday morning to the rest of our team, who with fresh eyes, immediately ooh-ed and ahh-ed (and picked and prodded) over what we’d created that weekend.

We continue work on the app this weekend, pulling in the last loose ends, and plan on launching next week.

I can’t wait for the next opportunity for a “hackathon”.  It’s not something to be done every weekend, but it was worth every moment for this one.

Any other good stories of successful (or not so successful) hack-type weekends?  As a product person, I’d love to hear about others pulling this off… and seeing the result!

27
Oct 2010
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
POSTED IN

Product

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Thanks for coming by

Fresh WordPress 3.0 install

You’ve probably come by here either by accident or by checking out what this ‘SimplyBastow’ thing I’ve got as my email domain is all about.  Truth is, not much, at this moment, although at various times in the past, I’ve used the name as a cover for my sporadic freelance product and project management consulting.  At the time of writing (as you might notice), I’m editing the first post on a brand-spanking-new WordPress 3.0 site, complete with the default theme header.

While I haven’t yet decided what to do with this site, it’ll likely become a holding place for my thoughts, observations, and other general ramblings.

Hopefully, in a few months, this post will be buried in my archives, under a pile of posts that actually say something interesting!  Come again soon?

In the meantime, follow me on Twitter, or track me down on LinkedIn.

21
Jun 2010
POSTED BY Janna Bastow
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General

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