School Isn’t For Everyone

This blog post was inspired by Cameron Herold’s speech at TEDxEdmonton.

As someone who’s grown up not really fitting into the school system and always trying to do things on my own, this speaks volumes. It was really difficult to get through all of school, and not because I’m dumb, but because it isn’t a system I jive well with. Of course, this was because everyone in and around the system would try to get you into the “stable career” path without any regard for what you might be good at.

I really wish there was more emphasis on building on your strengths, rather than being constantly reminded of your weaknesses. I don’t believe that people shouldn’t be well rounded, but their strengths should be leaps and bounds ahead of everything else.

The Nielsen Equation

In an effort to blog more and more often, I have set a goal for myself to watch one TED video every morning, and write a short blog post about it. So… let’s kick this off shall we?

There was one particular point that struck me in this video:

If you’ve got an elementary particle and you shine a light on it, then the photon of light has momentum, which knocks the particle, so you don’t know where it was before you looked at it. By measuring it, the act of measurement changes it. The act of observation changes it. It’s the same in marketing.

Why? Well, I’m not sure if any of you are aware of the number of television shows are canceled every year, nevermind the number of shows on FOX that have been canned, but they are all determined by one thing: Nielsen ratings. Nielsen ratings are basically a sample of people who statistically represent the nation as a whole. They are what determines the fate of a show. Basically, the better a show fares on Nielsen tests, the better ad dollars it can pull in, and everyone on the show can get paid.

I am not a huge fan of Nielsen ratings; they cannot accurately measure everything about television shows, which is evident because a large number of very well made shows have been canceled in the past. Of course, set top boxes are unreliable for data; all they can do is tell whether it is turned on or off.

I offer two alternatives:

  • Make the set top boxes measure actual data. Sure, demographics may not be able to be measured accurately, but you can certainly give it a shot.
  • Measure your shows online. Give people access to your shows, make them sign up on your website, and track their watching patterns, anonymously of course. This kind of information would be invaluable, but possibly limited to the younger generations.

The biggest problem behind television is that all of this is being done because they need to sell advertising on these time slots, and that’s exactly why I dislike it. Commercials are a nuisance, and I would love for the entire model to change.

If only!

I would love to get your thoughts on the matter: Nielsen ratings, television shows, commercials, anything and everything in between! Comment down below.

My Mic Broke, And They Fixed It!

It’s been a while since I have blogged here, but I have been busy traveling, building the business, and creating a list of things to consistently blog about (Hopefully!) So here’s the very first: my RODE VideoMic broke, and they fixed it for free – and fast too!

The Story

While filming something with my good friend Darius Bashar, I accidentally left my camera standing on a tripod in his car while we started driving. All it took was one hard turn for the camera to fall down and for one of my fears to come true: my microphone was broken. In reality, the functionality of the microphone was still intact, it was just now impossible to mount it onto the camera even after countless attempts to superglue the cold shoe pieces back together.

Tape all over.
I went on for months sort of sulking about my loss – the RODE VideoMic is $230 + tax on the regular, and it seemed stupid to buy another just because of the cold shoe. I did the stupidest thing I could think of and resorted to taping the microphone on whenever I was filming something – making me look rather unprofessional and making my tiny camera look even worse than it already was.

Finally, last week while filming with Andrea Liew, she asked me “Why didn’t you just buy another one of those parts you broke? I’m sure you could buy it for a couple bucks, it’s plastic!” After hearing that, I immediately cringed due to my extended stupidity and shot out an email to the Canadian service agent for RODE products: Audio Distributors International.

Within a couple hours, I received back an email from Eric Lasnier telling me they would not only replace the part, but they would do it for free! Well, the package came yesterday with two, count them, TWO cold shoe replacements!

I am quite impressed and appreciative of the prompt response and service that I was given by ADI, and they’ve probably just made a customer for life. Thanks guys, you’ve saved my life (and career!)

The new cold shoe on my mic

Staying Fit – Best Apps for Biking / Exercise

As a self-employed individual, you often have to find ways to stay in shape without the luxury of a gym when you’re just starting out. I have managed to run into this problem myself, so I decided to stay proactive by getting on an exercise program that I can run out of my own house. Of course, I wanted to track my progress and ensure that I was actually making gains!

One of the first problems I ran into was having trouble tracking my running or cycling – at the gym, the machines that I use would clearly display your distance, your speed, calories burned, etc and I missed that when just cycling or running around my neighbourhood. Knowing that my iPhone has a huge arsenal of apps available to it that would probably do just that, I asked around and received three great answers: RunKeeper, iMapMyRide, and MotionX GPS.

Here is the quick and dirty run down of the pros and cons of using each:

RunKeeper

Pros
– Simple and easy to use interface
– Tracks everything beautifully
– Gives you all the details clearly and neatly
– Great integration with RunKeeper.com

Cons
– No music control (Not really an issue)
– No sharing in-app

iMapMyRide

Pros
– Works quite well
– Accurate
– Web integration

Cons
– Not very intuitive user interface
– Website is just cluttered and ugly
– Registered as metric, still measured as imperial (Didn’t auto update in settings)

MotionX GPS

Pros
– Works well and accurately
– Detailed information
– Email sharing works very well

Cons
– Ugly user interface, very cluttered and not intuitive
– Email sharing works but is riddled with advertising

Overall, all three of the apps were accurate and worked as desired, but iMapMyRide and MotionX GPS were both so clunky and did not have intuitive user interfaces that I decided that they just weren’t for me.

At the end of the day, I decided to go with RunKeeper for its well designed user interface and fantastic integration with runkeeper.com, a beautifully designed website that shows all of the information you could ever ask for and much more. I know this is a really quick and brief post without many details but it really comes down to preference – all three apps I have listed have Lite versions (They’re what I used!) and you should make the judgment call for yourself.

Happy exercising!

Silver Lining and Me / The Story

For those who don’t know: I am a freelance videographer, I operate under my company, Up+Atom Inc, creating all kinds of videos for businesses. The following post recounts the events that happened between September 2009 and March 2010, hopefully serving as a warning to anyone who does business with Silver Lining Ltd as well as any of their customers.

The Background

In September 2009, Silver Lining Ltd asked for my video services; filming and editing their weekly podcast, filming and editing an instructional video for a board game for ZOE Alliance, and creating an informational video for a support services brokerage called InclusionINC. I agreed, sent off my estimates, and Silver Lining agreed to my estimates, and so I commenced the work.

I filmed all of their podcasts, edited them together, and posted them every week. I was given a script for the instructional video, which I filmed and edited together, and delivered. I was given a script for the informational video as well, and I just edited together a string of text and stock images, as per what the script called for. Neither of these scripts were written by me, whatsoever.

I sent my first invoice shortly after posting the first podcast, on October 1, 2009, which was paid rather quickly, all was well in the world.

I completed the ZOE Alliance video and the InclusionINC video mid-October 2009, delivered it to Silver Lining, and sent off my invoices (October 7, 2009 for ZOE Alliance and October 19 for InclusionINC). I was told that I would be paid soon, Silver Lining was just sorting out their accounts – fair enough, I should be paid before November ends.

The Problem Begins To Show

I kept doing their podcast for them, recording another run and continuing to post them weekly. I would send an invoice at the end of every month for all of the work that I would do for their podcast in that month, except at this point, I wasn’t being paid quickly.

I have a rather lengthy string of e-mails between myself and representatives of Silver Lining Ltd where they continue to tell me that I will be paid soon, and that I have nothing to worry about. These e-mails started in November, telling me that I would be paid by mid-November, and they continued all the way through to mid-January, telling me that I would be paid “soon.” Of course, soon never came and by the end of January, they were about three months late on a payment of $2,726.04, which is no small amount for a fledgling small business.

Relief?

In early February, I received an e-mail from the President and Founder of Silver Lining Ltd, informing me that they were finally going to pay me the amount that they owed me. Well, almost. They were going to pay me for all the podcast work I had done up to this point, as well as the ZOE Alliance video. But… what about InclusionINC?

Apparently, InclusionINC was not happy with my video, and was not paying them, and therefore Silver Lining Ltd wasn’t paying me.

Hold on, I said, that isn’t my concern. My contract was with Silver Lining Ltd, and not with InclusionINC, and I had completed my work 100% to spec. I had gone back and forth during the creation of the video to make sure it was up to the standards of the people I was doing correspondence with at Silver Lining Ltd. They gave me the green light after several revisions, and I had completed it. So why wasn’t I being paid?

When It Got Ugly

At this point, I was pretty steamed, so I was firing off plenty of e-mails to everyone whom I had come into contact with at Silver Lining, as well as Carissa to ensure she got the message. I explained to them what I had written above, that they still owed me money regardless of non-payment from InclusionINC. We never agreed to me being paid only if they got paid, I simply provided a service for them that I had completed successfully.

Carissa sent back another e-mail, which made me quite a bit more mad. In short, she essentially said that they made a mistake in acting as the middle man between InclusionINC and Up+Atom Inc, and it wasn’t their fault that I wasn’t being paid. To make it up to me, she offered me half of the invoice “out of Silver Lining Ltd’s own pockets.”

I agreed; I said sure, give me half of the amount due on the invoice immediately, followed by the rest of the amount plus interest accumulated by the end of the following week.

[EDIT: Just to clarify, I was offered half of the amount, and I agreed as long as I got the other half the very next week. I never received anything, not even a reply.]

Understandably, I received no response.

Around mid-February, I talked to a lawyer, who sent off a demand letter to Silver Lining giving them an ultimatum: pay Up+Atom Inc the full amount due by February 26, 2010, or face litigation.

Guess who didn’t receive a paycheque on February 26, 2010?

Conclusion

At this point, I’m in the process of filing a suit in small claims court for the amount I am owed, which is to the tune of $1,606.04 plus interest from February 2, 2010 onward. In addition, I have written this post to shed light on the type of business practices being committed by Silver Lining Ltd and Carissa Reiniger.

So please, I would love to hear any comments you may have on the situation. I am at my wit’s end, and there really isn’t much else I can do. I would like to thank every single person who has shown me support along the way; you know who you are, you’re all awesometastic. Even better, I would love for all of you to spread this story as much as you can, just to ensure other freelancers don’t run into the same type of problems that I did!

Cheers everyone.

Zoompass Tag: My Impression + Field Test

Usually on a Friday, I’d have a Featured Album Friday blog post up, but because I’m apparently hitting the books hard, I haven’t had a minute to really check out new songs – regularly scheduled posts will be back soon time, I promise.

Anyway, while in the middle of studying today, I received a registered letter that I had to sign for and everything, and lo and behold, it was a letter from Zoompass, informing me that I was lucky enough to be one of the first in Canada to experience the Zoompass Tag! I immediately applied my sticker to my iPhone, and ta daaaaa.

I make it rain with my phone.

I am not fond of what it does to my iPhone aesthetically – it creates a really big bump on the back of an otherwise smooth surface, and turns it into a walking advertisement for Zoompass and Mastercard. Aesthetics aside, the utility of the Zoompass Tag currently outweighs the way the phone looks, so I will have to let it slide.

Of course, being a huge dork, I wanted to try it out right away. Here was the real test: I was going to leave my wallet at home, and just get out there equipped with just my phone and my keys. My target of the day was the nearby Tim Horton’s.

I walked inside, waited for my turn and ordered a double double. The woman told me how much I owed – $1.58, and I told her that I was going to be trying out a fast pass that was attached to my phone, and I showed it to her. She smiled and mentioned that she had never seen that before, but I should just hold it in front of the fast pass hub.

Well... that was quick.

I wish I were joking here, but it literally took two seconds for the payment to go through, I was mightily impressed. With my large double double in hand and phone in the other, I thanked the cashier and was on my way.

Conclusion: Zoompass is shaking up mobile payments in a big way, and the Zoompass Tag evidence of just that. I’m getting VERY excited (or that may be the large double double I ordered) about the future in the mobile space, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store! Huge thank you to the people behind Zoompass for letting me try out the Zoompass Tag! :)

Have a great weekend everyone!

Cheering on the Villains

Preface: for years, I have been saying that when I watch a movie, I cheer on the villains. I mean it, I have always cheered for the villains and I expect most movies to end in the worst way possible. Unless a movie is a romance or a comedy, or a romantic comedy, I absolutely hate typical Hollywood happy endings. I’m just a ray of sunshine, right?

That brings us to tonight, because I just came back from watching Shutter Island. I will not spoil it for you, but let me tell you: it was depressing. There are no heroes or villains per se, but I got my terrible ending. Of course, I don’t mean terrible in the sense that it was bad, not at all. It was a very well executed movie and I loved every minute of it, but it was genuinely depressing.

So, am I happy that I finally got my depressing ending? Well, yes and no. Yes, because it feels amazing to finally see a not-so-happy ending done so well. And no, because obviously, it’s hard to be happy when you’ve seen something so depressing.

In conclusion, let me just say: Martin Scorsese, you are a genius. Your movie was somewhat predictable, but you pulled it off magnificently. Well done, you’ve managed to realize what I have always wanted from a movie.

Thank you for making me depressed.

Featured Album Fridays / Field Music – Measure (2010)

This week on Featured Album Fridays, the 2010 album from Field Music – Measure.

Here is the description of Field Music from their Last.FM:

Field Music is an experimental pop band from Sunderland, UK, formed by brothers Peter and David Brewis and their schoolfriend, pianist Andrew Moore. They have recently reconvened after an extended hiatus with a new line-up featuring guitarist/keyboardist Kev Dosdale and bass player Ian Black (Andrew having taken time out to train as a chef). A new double album is due to be released in February 2010.

The band’s first album, the eponymous “Field Music”, was released in 2005, followed in 2006 by a collection of b-sides and early tracks entitled ‘Write Your Own History’. During this time they toured with fellow bands from the North East England, such as Maximo Park and The Futureheads, as well as sonic adventurers from further afield, including Melbourne’s Architecture in Helsinki and Portland’s Menomena.

In 2007, they released ‘Tones of Town’, a critically acclaimed song cycle, which captured a particularly English variety of post-industrial frustration. However, sensing that a quick follow-up could lead to a dilution of ideas and purpose, the band announced a hiatus shortly after the album was released. In this time Peter and David each released solo albums as The Week That Was and School of Language respectively.

All of their albums were self-produced at their own ‘8Music’ studio in Sunderland.

As usual, the stream is below. Enjoy!

Featured Album Fridays / Holly Miranda – The Magician’s Private Library (2010)

This week on Featured Album Fridays, the 2010 album from Holly Miranda – The Magician’s Private Library.

Here is the description of Holly Miranda from her Last.FM:

Holly Miranda is a Detroit born musician, raised between Michigan and Tennessee. Besides being trained in piano, Holly is a self-taught guitar and trumpet player. In 2001, She recorded “High Above The City”, a 20-track solo album available only at shows. In the fall of 2003, Holly met and teamed up with Alex Lipsen, producer and keys player. The project evolved into The Jealous Girlfriends, a four piece band based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She also recorded and performed as Raven Mayhem.

Holly has recently released an EP and has a solo album coming out some time in 2009 . It was produced by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek and Celebration’s Katrina Ford.

Very different from what I’m used to, but very chill music. The stream is below, hope you enjoy!