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We’ve been working for the past few months to build Ottawa’s (and Canada’s) first Open Device Lab. We’re ready to open the doors to the Lab and we want you to come celebrate with us!

On July 11th, from 3PM until 7PM, join us at the bv02 office (858 Bank Street, Suite 103) for the Ottawa Open Device Lab (ODL) launch party. The event, just like the lab, is open to the community. We only ask that you RSVP to the launch party on Eventbrite.

The Open Device Lab is a collection of mobile phones, tablets and other devices that the community can use for testing their websites and applications. With the growing number of devices and form factors, it can be challenging and costly to maintain an up-to-date collection for testing. That’s where the device lab comes in.

This will be a great chance to try it out and see how your site measures up on a variety of devices. Don’t worry – you need not be technically inclined – we’ll be on hand to guide you through it and show how it all works together.

We’ve got a good collection of devices to launch the Lab but we’d still like to build upon it in order to give the community access to wider range of old and new devices from a variety of manufacturers. To encourage donations, the first ten people who donate a device to the Lab at the launch party will receive a $10 gift card. We’ve already received generous donations to the collection from the community. See our Device Lab page for the full list of contributors.

We can’t wait to see you at the launch party. RSVP now to let us know you’ll be there, and please feel free to pass the invite on to any colleagues or friends in the community who might be interested. Can’t make it? Don’t worry, it’s open to the public, see the ODL page for more information on booking a visit.

With the highly anticipated release of Sitecore 7 finally here, I was anxious to see what they had in store for digital marketers. We’ve already been very impressed with Sitecore’s marketing offerings, and are strong advocates of their Digital Marketing System. Sitecore’s DMS excels at providing marketers with deep insights into their users’ behaviour and related data, and allows them to reach that audience on a whole new level with intricate testing and world-class personalization tools.

With this release, Sitecore has made great strides towards making life easier for digital marketers. In a nutshell, the release provides more in-depth information and helps improve efficiency. Here are the top  Sitecore 7 benefits from a marketing perspective.

1. Content Scalability

Often times we work with clients who struggle with the sheer amount of content they have on their site. Between the thousands of pages, images, PDFs, blog posts, new items and more, it often causes headaches and struggles. With Sitecore 7’s impressive scalability, content-heavy organizations can easily structure and manage millions of content items, allowing for improved search, storage and authoring capabilities. Content is now not only searchable to the document name, but by any content within the document itself. While this update has its benefits for developers, the content marketers are the real winners here.

2. Search-Based Architecture

We operate in a world where web users have a short attention span, and demand highly relevant content. How do we manage these expectations with a website that has mass amounts of content?

Sitecore 7’s search-based architecture was built with content scalability in mind. Sitecore not only asked themselves ”How do we manage mass amounts of content, but also how do we search and find it efficiently?” By leveraging Lucene, Sitecore 7’s search functionality empowers marketers to make smarter decisions across a wider range of content on their site.

Along with the vastly improved search functionality, Sitecore has also introduced superb improvements to their search results page, making the results more meaningful for both users and marketers. These upgrades will not only improve the relevancy of search results, but will also have a great impact on workflow efficiencies.

3. Improved Personalization

Sitecore 7’s search-based architecture allows marketers to take personalization to the next level, offering meaningful and relevant digital experiences to their unique audiences. Imagine that – being able customize your content specifically to users, all based on the dozens of factors that make up their unique digital fingerprint, including their search habits on your site. Customization leads to relevancy, which in turn leads to a good experience for the user. As a marketer, what more could you ask for?

bv02 is a certified Sitecore partner with a specialization in mobile and a team of experienced Sitecore marketers and developers. Read more about our thoughts on Sitecore and contact us today for more information about how we can help you reach your business goals with Sitecore 7.

To call this a “growing” movement would be an understatement. Open data and APIs are and will be critical in the future of web and mobile technology. If you haven’t heard of open data or APIs yet, now’s the time to catch up.

What is open data?

“Open data” is an umbrella term that includes open APIs for a variety of services, as well as static, downloadable data sets. Static data makes sense for situations in which the data won’t change, such as building locations, whereas APIs allow for a stream of dynamic data, whether it’s a stream of tweets or bus arrival times.

Current landscape of open data and APIs

Right now we’re seeing some maturity in the space as API conventions are converging. This is a hugely important trend in open data, as the publishing company for the API has a lot of responsibility when making changes or updates to their stream. The more developers rely on a stream of data, the more impact (whether positive or negative) a small change can have on the community. Conventions in API structure and management is a good step towards avoiding negative consequences from API changes, but at the same time, conventions can’t guarantee that the major players in the space – Twitter, Facebook, etc. – won’t change their API.

Some other changes we can expect to see in this space include flat data sets being offered as a live data feed where applicable, and the ability to increase the frequency and granularity of the data on a particular feed.

To get started with building a successful open data API, there are a few key steps.

Planning for an open data API

Planning is an integral part of the open data set-up process, since good planning will help mitigate problems in the deployment. However, many problems can be hard to foresee when building a new API data stream.

Right out of the gate, expect that you will have a number of applications that are immediately reliant on the API – even though it has just been released.

Any changes that break members’ apps will alienate members of your community and cause significant problems. Changing JSON or XML format, method names, or attribute names can all have major implications to your members’ structure for growth, so they’re all important considerations.

To plan for future growth, make sure to take into consideration:

  • How you’ll add new data sets, new methods and new formats
  • How you’ll update to new versions
  • How to manage varying access levels and throttle thresholds amongst your member base
  • How you’ll communicate API downtime, changes and upgrades, and which channels you’ll use.

Another helpful step in planning is to model the daily usage of the API, either in advance or actively during usage. This will help you plan for actual traffic, as opposed to monthly estimated levels. For example, in terms of a transit API, requests tend to be much higher during peak travel hours in the morning and evening. The system has to be able to handle this volume.

Managing your API via third-party services

The API management system acts as a mediator between members’ applications and the API. This service provides API authorization, throttling, usage tracking and a member self-service portal. As a proxy, it also protects the API feed from being overloaded or attacked.

There are several services that do this, including:

  • 3Scale: a cost-effective solution that offers a comprehensive management console, easy integration and easy set up.
  • Mashery: a more robust, enterprise-level offering.
  • Apigee
  • Apify
  • Layer7Tech

As with any other service, it’s important to identify and deal with errors that can come up with the API or the API management service.  In other words, your API can’t go down if a service upstream isn’t working.  The API still has to tell the apps downstream that there is an error in the data feed and the message has to be in an expected format.

Another aspect of API management services is that they can be used to normalize and amalgamate multiple feeds of data. The service will act as a one-stop shop for data, and can help make the process easier for developers who work with the feed. This is important, since the easier it is for developers to work with the data, the faster and more widely the API will be adopted, used and tested.

Once set up, there are also six key must-haves that will help ensure the success of your API.

Open API Must-Haves

Reliability and Uptime

To be effective, the API cannot go down. During the set-up and maintenance process, you need to anticipate and deal with external errors to make sure the interface layer doesn’t go down.

Analytics

You’ll have to know overall usage to determine growth. Understanding members and their applications will also help you understand the value of the data to their app. Once you know who is using the data and which functions are most popular, you can adjust and plan for growth.

Documentation

Solid documentation helps to encourage adoption and makes the process of using your API easier for developers. Code samples can strengthen the documentation and help developers see how others have integrated the API previously.

Support

You’ll need to have a channel, or several channels, via which developers can ask questions and get support regarding the API. The questions that come up should always be answered and resolved by other developers within your organization.

Marketplace

A prominent gallery of the apps that make use of the API helps to entice other developers to create apps, and can serve as inspiration and motivation.

Outreach

There will need to be channels for input and requests from the development community around your API. Either these, or other channels, will also need to be set up to alert members to downtime or upcoming changes to the API. Ideally, there will also be channels to gather feedback from the community, to hear how developers are using the API, what works, what doesn’t and suggestions for future use. A great way to start your outreach plans is to reach out to the open data community and groups in your city or industry. They can be very helpful, and you don’t need to duplicate their existing community.

Wrap-up

The concept of the API is very much anticipated and now expected. The concept is on the cusp of transitioning from technology to utility – new and changing to ubiquitous and reliable. It’s required by a world of connected devices – go and read up on the Internet of Things.  It will be one of many moving parts, thus the mechanics of each individual piece must not be undervalued. At the end of the day, in steady state, the reliability will be the most important thing.

This was my 2nd year attending the mesh conference (both as a Startup Scholar), and I am already stoked for mesh 2014. It really is Canada’s premier digital conference, which is no small feat with conferences like Dx3 and NXNE making waves. mesh has both the rockstar lineup and heavyweight sponsor list to deliver a stellar experience to attendees. This year was all about education and the future of creative. Outside of my time in Demo Alley promoting my startup Suprpod, I have some favourite moments from this year’s event.

  1. It’s amazing what happens when you put over 500 web people, one amazing digital pioneer, and a disruptive concept in the same room. As Ryan Carson of Carsonified and Treehouse fame took the stage at mesh this year he told us he has no slides, he only works 4 days a week and that his new company is changing the world of education.

    Then BAM, there it was: we are doing something wrong. The education system is broken, and has not been redesigned for today’s learners. Ryan’s talk engaged the audience even further when he began asking the audience questions like “How many of you are using the degree you paid for?” “How many are doing the jobs you were trained for?” and “How much did it cost you?” The interesting part about it is, in most cases he is right. People are paying way too much for eduction that does not get them the jobs they thought they wanted. The gaps in our market are getting wider, between what is taught and what is required to make a difference. In comes the concept for Treehouse, where their mission is to bring affordable technology education to people everywhere, in order to help them achieve their dreams and change the world. In short, why go the route of the traditional school system and pay to learn something that can be self taught, assessed, marked, and supported online by the industry leaders of today?

    Now, lets be clear: I am not fully jumping on the bandwagon. There is more to the traditional school system than just overheard and stale content. The professors, the relationships, the broader perspective, the interactions, the experiences, and the opportunities to find something you did not expect also play a large part in entering into the job force. However, with students diving into huge amounts of debt in the USA and Canada, it really makes us stand up and think twice about how to invest our time, money, and effort long term.

    This talk set a great tone for the conference, and once again provided proof that there is still more disruption to be had, and that traditional models are all under attack – some are just hitting the tipping point faster than others.

  2. The MailChimp sponsored social was a fantastic cap to the first day. If there’s a b2b company that knows how to do swag, it’s them. With my custom knit chimp hat on, I mingled with everyone who was at the conference that day, while enjoying a beverage from our friends at MailChimp. Ashley Wilson, who handles Client Relations at MailChimp HQ, hosted a seminar on the second day about email marketing, which was packed with attendees into the hallway. The really interesting part from Ashley’s talk were the stats she had to back up MailChimp as a product. Email marketing is responsible for a higher conversion rate than from search and social tools combined. That’s huge, considering there has been a major uptake in social marketing in recent years.

    No matter what you do, whether you’re a startup, an agency, or a large corporation with millions of customers, email marketing should be in your mix. Your mailing list can be your most valuable resource…or it can be your biggest weapon of self-destruction.

    Jen Butson in chimp hat

  3. The Future of Money panel with Carey Kolaja from PayPal, Derek Colfer from Visa Canada, and Michael Hlinka from George Brown College provided interesting takes on where exactly payments are headed. Both PayPal and Visa Canada are keeping at the top of the game with their respective Here and payWave technologies. The panel agreed that bitcoins are nowhere on their roadmap, but they left a few attendees skeptical.

    The discussion got heated when attendees questioned the integrity of financial institutions, including their role in a national debt crisis. While denying responsibility, panelists preferred to focus on mobile and NFC payments. That is, making it as easy as possible to spend your money.

  4. The conference wrapped up with a keynote from Geoff Teehan, one half of the founding team of Teehan+Lax. Geoff and his Toronto-based team were handpicked by Ev Williams and Biz Stone to build the future of digital publishing: Medium. He told the story of the first idea, the many versions that followed, and the final product that was recently unveiled. From a product perspective, it was reassuring to see the many iterations that the team went through with Medium before even getting close to testing the concept. It was an inspiring look at how agencies can play very nicely in the startup space.

    Also, it reinforces the fact that Canadian companies can create amazing digital products that rival the best Silicon Valley and Palo Alto have to offer.

    Geoff Teehan's Slide

    mesh is a fun-filled, knowledge-packed couple of days put on by some pretty awesome people in Toronto, who are industry leaders in their own right. They continue to raise the bar with speakers, sponsors, and social events. A huge thank you also goes out to all the volunteers who kept the conference running smoothly – hope to see you all again next year.

Thanks to the amazing work of our development team members on projects for clients including CCC and the Canadian Council for the Arts, we’ve been a Sitecore Certified Partner for over 2 years now. Recently, however, Scott Mulligan’s work on rethinking the integration of responsive design solutions within Sitecore’s unique adaptive capabilities have earned bv02 a Sitecore Partner Specialization: MobileVision.

To achieve this level of specialization, Sitecore requires its partners to demonstrate three main criteria:

  • showing a unique use of mobile,
  • demonstrating significant difference in mobile from the parent site, and
  • demonstrate and share the level of experience required with the Sitecore team.

After several conversations with Scott and the bv02 team, as well as Scott’s extensive blogging about the benefits of using Sitecore with responsive design, using adaptive images in Sitecore and the Sitecore partner program, bv02 is happy to announce that the Sitecore team awarded us with a specialization in mobile.

Our team is excited to work with new clients to combine the powerful features of Sitecore’s CMS with the advantages of responsive web design, in order to deliver great user experiences on desktop and mobile devices alike.

Get in touch to see how we can work with you and your Sitecore implementation today to make sure you’re mobile-ready.

Definition: A collection of donated or loaned mobile devices for everyone to use at bv02.

Since more people access websites on their phones every day, testing websites on different devices isn’t really an option anymore, it’s a necessity. However, this comes with a problem: there are a lot of devices. A lot. Not only is there a constantly growing number of devices people can use to access websites, fragmentation of platforms is making it even more challenging. Add that to older versions of operating systems and browsers, and you can see the challenge. The sheer number of devices needed for testing can make the price of maintaining your own testing lab prohibitive.

That’s where bv02’s Open Device Lab comes in.

What is it?
An Open Device Lab is a shared collection of mobile devices for everybody to use, because the many different form factors and resolutions make extensive testing necessary to create great mobile apps and websites. Emulators are OK in a pinch, but nothing can replace testing on real devices. With the Open Device Lab, you don’t have to carry a suitcase full of mobile devices around; you can find them here.

Beyond that, the Open Device Lab will give developers access to all mobile platforms, ranging from iOS and WebOS, to Android and the upcoming Firefox OS, in order to stay on top of the mobile game.

Why are we building an open device lab?
The concept of an open device lab isn’t new. Open Device Labs have been set up in cities around the world, from Portland to Capetown to London to Zurich. We think that Ottawa’s developer community is on par with these cities, and needs a device lab that’s on par with them as well.

We also believe in giving back, and this is a way that we can use our existing device collection to help more websites and more developers in the community. Ultimately, when everyone has access to additional devices for testing, it raises the bar for the websites and applications we’re all creating, and delivers a better user experience for everyone.

How can I use the open device lab?
We are opening the doors to the device lab in May, but in the meantime, you can ask Paul or anybody else from the bv02 team for a device, and if it’s not in use we’ll hand it to you right away. To get in touch, send us an email to devicetesting@bv02.com. You can use the devices in our studio space as you like. If you leave, return the device to us. It’s that simple.

You can find us at:
858 Bank St. Suite 103, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 3W3

What does it cost?
It costs nothing, nada, nix. All you need to do is book a time to come into the lab through devicetesting@bv02.com.

How can I contribute?
If you have an old device lying around and collecting dust, you can contribute it to the lab in return for a link and a thank you on the device lab’s soon-to-come website (and of course, you can choose to retain full ownership of your device.) The community will be grateful for your contribution.

Are you a device manufacturer who wants to get involved and support an open device lab in Ottawa? That’s awesome, and we (and the community) appreciate your support. Let us know if you have devices to contribute, and we’ll highlight your contribution on the soon-to-come open device lab website.

Too long, didn’t read?
We believe in testing on real devices, and we believe in our community. Software emulators and simulators can be useful, but in the end they can only simulate the experience. To make testing on real devices possible for everyone, we need open device labs.

If you’re outside of Ottawa, there’s a directory of open device labs from around the world that you can check to find a lab in your area. If you’re in Ottawa, stop by the bv02 studio and experience it for yourself.

Image credit: Helsinki’s open device lab, http://devicelab.fi/.

This past weekend Brett Tackaberry and I went to the Ottawa Convention Centre for NSNorth, Ottawa’s first Mac, iOS, and web development conference. The weekend in a nutshell? Amazing. Being a marketer in attendance, I was worried much of the content would dive into a black hole of Cocoa and Objective-C, but I ended up leaving the conference on Sunday feeling educated and inspired.

Some of the speakers dove into 3D imaging in Xcode, image processing with Core Image and OpenCL, and creating maps on iOS, which contained a lot of code snippets and fantastic demos. Even if you weren’t a strong developer, there were a lot of lessons to be learned at NSNorth.

1. Everything comes down to a basic, repeatable strategy.

Rob Rhyne opened up the conference on Friday evening and drew parallels between product development and the game of blackjack. What to do when you’re behind in your industry, when you’re ahead, and when to split or double down.

2. If you build garbage, it’ll end up in the landfill.

Joe Cieplinski started his talk by telling a story about a guitar he owns. This guitar was built with such heart and attention to detail, that it’s the only one he’ll ever use. In building applications (or any product for that matter) what’s under the hood matters just as much as the aesthetic, which in the development world often means creating clean code. Build a product that will stand the test of time–even if it only exists digitally.

3. Talk to your users, and do your research.

Caroline Sauve of Corel Corporation spoke on extraordinary user experience from a development angle. She drove home the point that designers aren’t the only ones on a project who need to plan for UX, and that it is a beginning-to-end consideration. Using a failed product feature experiment as an example, Caroline explained how to build features quickly, test with your strongest users, and waste as few resources as possible. Essentially: move fast and break things [link to poster].

We brought along Aski with us to show off what we’ve been working on, and of course he was a huge hit – proving that everyone is still a kid on the inside. Dan and Phil did a fantastic job of putting together the three-day conference, and we’re already looking forward to NSNorth 2014.

I’ve been reading and having a lot of conversations lately around digital strategy, big data, and how it applies to business. As someone who is passionate about cultural institutions and museums, and has worked with many of them over the years, I can’t help but think about these topics through the lens of culture: how does digital strategy influence the present and future for cultural organizations? Digital is relevant for cultural institutions, but the approach needs to shift given some of the unique facets of the cultural institution model and offerings.

Looking back at the past 10 to 15 years of digital engagements I’ve worked on with cultural institutions, the common thread is that engagements have largely been project-based: digitizing an exhibit, taking content online to make it more accessible, and always in support of a physical, in-person engagement either in the past or future. These projects and initiatives became more and more frequent, and more and more necessary due to shifts in audience attention towards new media.

The one thing that still hasn’t happened is that digital hasn’t been truly integrated into the overall strategic model at cultural institutions. The intent of most digital efforts I see is to ultimately bring people in the door at the physical location. This doesn’t consider that there is a portion (potentially sizeable) of the digital audience who may engage frequently and meaningfully with your organization, but yet never visit the physical location. The data on these visitors, thanks to the analytics available on digital platforms, is there, but there hasn’t been a widespread effort to use it as effectively as we can, because value is still seen as converting digital visits to analog, in person visits.

Instead of carrying on with project-based digital engagements, in the next 10 years we’re going to see a shift. Digital strategy will become integrated with the overall goals of cultural institutions, and this will be marked by recognition of how digital-only engagements with audiences can be used to support strategic goals other than driving in-person visits. Cultural institutions will build upon their status as a signpost and a place where people come to connect and experience while at the same time integrate digital into every step of the process. We’ll see organizations making more use of the wealth of data available about their audiences – not who they are necessarily, but where they are, what they’re doing to connect with the organization and how they prefer to engage. Targeting audiences effectively based on these factors will become the norm, and we’ll see more and more creative ways of doing so.

We need to move away from a project- and pain-based engagement model. Right now, every cultural institution has a huge opportunity to make digital an integrated more natural fluid experience. This is something I’m passionate about, and I want to start a conversation about the best ways those inside and outside of the cultural sphere see this happening. What does the future look like for your institution? Leave a comment, send me an email or get in touch with bv02 so we can figure this out as a community.

The bv02 team loves being involved in the community, whether it’s the local art community or the international technology community, so it’s no surprise we have a slew of upcoming community events. One of the events we’re most excited to be involved in? The Gusty Walk taking place on Sunday, June 9th.

What’s the Gutsy Walk? It’s a fundraiser in support of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada (CCFC), an organization dedicated to finding a cure for these gastrointestinal illnesses. Our very own strategist Matt Davidson is actively involved with the CCFC and is helping to put together this year’s Gutsy Walk, and when he asked us to form a team, we knew it would be an event we didn’t want to miss.

After being diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease in 2010, Matt began to see first-hand the impact the disease has on the people it affects, and how prevalent it is in Ottawa. He immediately became involved with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada and now sits on the board for the Ottawa chapter as the Director of Digital Media (a fitting role, given his wealth of experience!)

bv02 will be joining Matt this June 9th for the Gutsy Walk, the Foundation’s biggest annual fundraiser. Further to our individual participation, the agency has pledged to be a Partner of the event, contributing even more to the cause. The best part? The team is open to the whole community, and we have some amazing “guest stars” on this year’s Gutsy Walk team, including Suzy Kendrick and Amie Beausoleil. Want to join us for a morning of fun? Register for the bv02 team today.

Don’t feel like walking in this year’s event? You can still contribute to help eradicate Crohns and Colitis!

There’s nothing we like more at bv02 than helping great clients launch successful digital projects. That’s why we’re so happy to see that Futurefunder.ca, a crowd-funding platform launched by Carleton University last month, is receiving so much positive attention from the university community and the media.

The concept behind Futurefunder is simple: allow members of the Carleton community to post projects they’d like to have funded, and allow them to share it with their networks in order to collect small, targeted donations in support of their project. This way, donors can support specific projects, and they can do so with an amount that works for them.

The initiative has received some attention in the media, with an article in YourOttawaRegion.com featuring the successes of the project in the past month. More importantly, however, are the projects that are receiving attention and funding thanks to the Futurefunder initiative. Several of the Carleton community’s projects have been partially or fully funded already, helping support scholarships, additions to the library and student initiatives.

We’re so happy to have been involved in the development of this unique platform with our clients at Carleton University. It’s always great helping clients bring their projects to life, and even better seeing them succeed and receive the recognition they deserve.