Growth Hacking Webinar by Neil Patel of KissMetrics

Posted by admin on Jan 9, 2014

I just got off a webinar that was put on by Neil Patel, Co-founder of KissMetrics and it was a great overview of what other companies are doing beyond paid advertising.

I took a few notes here; let me know if you have any comments!

 

Dropbox – Tried Google ads but it was a fail. It costed $380 CPA for a 99/yr product! Then they used -Tweet to get more space

5 strategies for distribution

  1. Integrations
  • Shopify 30k on their platform, Yammer 200k, Mailchimp 2m people etc. Dropbox 50MM
  • Leverage their platforms through integrations
  • Have to make your product better e.g. KissM with Shopify (analytics for shopping etc); Mailchimp integration – analytics on email
  • Measure your conversions and revenue- Salesforce has less customers but they spend a lot of money
  • Discover valuable integrations – customers will pay
  • Ask users about integrations
  • Make partner pages awesome – eg Zapier
  1. Work emails
  • Optimize Onboarding experience – Box.net: Invite others to get more space
  • Show people who they should follow –
  • Utilize invitiations during on-boarding-
  • Measure # of people in every company
  • Discover engaging interactions
  1. Embeds
  • You tube does it; slideshare; drives traffic back to their sites
  • Why should people embed? There has to be a good reason for them to do it.
  • Make it as easy as possible to embed
  • Track how well they convert- for optimizations
  • Test relevant call to action – after watching, viewing, getting people back to your site
  • Optimize for search but don’t obsess – links help with SEO
  1. Powered by
  • Qualaroo (formerly KissInsights), Buffer etc; you see badges everywhere. Powered by has to be beneficial to users
  • What are you powering?
  • Test copy of CTA
  • Test and optimize landing pages
  • Track views, clicks, conversion and LTV
  • Measure individual effectiveness
  1. Free Stuff
  • HubSpot’s marketing grader; can then pitch products; Inbound Marketing Kit- take their best content and bundle it to get an opt in
  • Map to customer decision making – must help them solve a problem (that also your main product solves)
  • Think about what you can repurpose – don’t reinvent the wheel. Create a kit
  • Educate your prospects
  • Test your ideas minimally (ghetto) – Don’t be afraid if its not perfect
  • Measure and optimize revenue –

Find out what’s best for your product

QA

  • Best way to market with little $ is inbound marketing. Offer to guest post on other blogs (that’s educational)
  • Do integrations through API or contact the company? KissMetrics contacts the company first to find out the best integration to benefit both customers.
  • How many clients to interview to find pain? At least 30, but ideally 100 (doesn’t have to be just on the phone, but can be survey etc.)
  • How to improve retention? Track what causes people to be happy and what causes them to churn.
  • Grow conversions from free to paid. What causes them to pay? Consider blocking most valuable feature in the product. See what your competitors block and what they charge for.
  • Consider a free version of product? Can create an MVP, but doesn’t mean they will pay. First understand the pain and size of market.
  • How important is branding and how does it relate to growth hacking? Well known brand gives relationship opportunities
  • What’s best way to prioritize ideas on growth hacking? First column – impact (H-L); Second column – easy to do? Then optimize list for biggest impact for easiest
  • Are there channels that are unsaturated? Twitter ads – have good tracking and patience and can make money. Have about 12 months left before it becomes saturated.


And the winner of the Standing Desk competition is….

Posted by admin on Mar 18, 2013

[The one that works! I actually wrote this post standing up.]

Anyway, I have a secret – I have been coveting a standing desk for a few years now as I have some issues with my neck and back that require me to take breaks frequently.  Of course I forget to do this so usually at the end of the day I have aches and pains to remind me of my forgetfulness (is that even possible?)

Anyway the ones I have seen online look great but are often out of my snack bracket in terms of cost , or are not quite the right size to fit in my very tight home office. So I did what any moderately driven architect would do – I set out to try to figure out how to build my own.

Of course when starting any project, we always recommend to our clients at Incite Design that they set objectives for what sort of results they want and some constrains which usually involve time/cost/quality in some combination. I of course wanted all three but the laws of project management  have shown me over the years that you can only have any 2 of the three. So I improvised.

I found a few designs online, which looked really good, but looked like a full time standing desk- I needed a convertible. Other also seemed intriguing but appeared to require some time in construction, which I wanted to minimize. Others involved changing out a large portion of the existing furniture in order to have enough space to move in the new standing desk. Which wasn’t going to work for the reasons listed above. But overall it had to be simple and cost-effective.

Here's the original setup.

Here’s the original setup.

Because my desk is located in a corner I started to think about using the wall and if there was a way to somehow use that to help lift the monitor. I figured the monitor going up and down was the most important factor to manage as the keyboard is light and can sit on something portable and the track pad is Bluetooth wireless and can go anywhere.

So I started thinking about laundry elevators – those things which you can use to hoist your laundry line up and down to put clothes on them on washday. I had about 20 minutes over lunch one day and I found something at the local home improvement store. It could work but I thought that it was a bit too big to fit in my diminutive space. As I was leaving the store I went through the plumbing aisle and saw the iron pipe and fittings. Maybe I could make something work from there?

Sure enough, I found what I was looking for. I grabbed what I though I needed and threw it into the car. It took a few days for me to get an hour or three to be able to assemble it (not really assemble as I had to drill a few holes, test and adjust) but the result is what you see here.)

IMG_2248

The finished product. Note that only one monitor can move up and down. I thought about doing both, but realized that I only stand for intermittent periods and can do without my second one

The monitor slides up and down on the pole attached with heavy-duty wall plugs to the wall and I grab a footstool and platform to hold the keyboard and track pad. Those with keen eyes will notice I repurposed the platform from the monitor stand that I used to use.

I am pretty satisfied with the monitor setup, but honestly am not thrilled with the keyboard and track pad configuration. Yes it works and gets me out of the chair so I can type standing, but it looks a little, ‘meh.’ So I will be continuing to think of that as I continue to use it.

But for under $35 (not including my time of course!) it’s a good temporary solution until I can save up for one of these!

IMG_2234


I used everything you see here. Note the heavy duty wall anchors at left. Most of these pieces are for use in plumbing/gas fitting but I am repurposing them here.

 

First step was to drill the holes in the wall to insert the wall anchors

 

Next step was to test assemble the pole to see where to drill the upper holes. [Note when I fixed it to the wall I left a little slack in the bottom screws, so I could turn/tighten the top one on.]


 

Testing out the support pole. Note that the pole slants down - thats how the friction of the collar on the vertical keeps it from sliding down.

Testing out the support pole. Note that the pole slants down – thats how the friction of the collar on the vertical keeps it from sliding down.


 

The collar which slides up and down is really just a "T" connector for the next size up gas pipe. It holds the horizontal pipe that supports the monitor

The collar which slides up and down is really just a “T” connector for the next size up gas pipe. It holds the horizontal pipe that supports the monitor


 

The detail of the back of the monitor. I cut the steel sheet and drilled it (VESA standard 4" o/c) into the back of the monitor

The detail of the back of the monitor. I cut the steel sheet and drilled it (VESA standard 4″ o/c) into the back of the monitor


 

IMG_2245

Detailof connection at the wall. I had to use heavy duty anchors to make sure that it was firmly fixed


 

What do you think of the setup? Let me know if you have any questions and I’d be glad to answer them!


Architecture projects – now with less hassle!

Posted by admin on Feb 12, 2013

I am posting this here to give you an update on a recent change in my life, which I find exciting (and I hope you will too).

Life is full of many surprises and opportunities. When I graduated from the University of Waterloo architecture program almost 20 years ago, I thought that I would beginning a period of many years of practicing architecture at an office in Toronto. Surprisingly, I was offered a job in the broadcast industry at Discovery Channel which took me in other directions and which lead to completing my MBA at Queen’s University. In recent years I have been working in marketing roles at some of the largest firms in corporate Canada.

Having gained a wide variety of skills in business, I realized that my true passion was still with architecture. As a result of the experience gained through my various positions, I could now offer new and unique value to an architecture practice: business-world perspective and expertise. My business partner and I bring a wide variety of experience to our practice – from work on some of the largest commercial architecture projects to residential additions. We welcome the opportunity to help you solve your design challenges, whatever the size and scope.

While I am leaving one chapter of corporate life behind, I am looking forward to helping friends and associates solve their problems, such as getting that new addition built, finding out how to redesign their corporate office or even just chatting about the best way to plan their cottage. I would like to continue to stay in touch with you and offer our assistance in any way we can.

Our firm is called Incite Design. Please visit our website at www.incited.ca and sign up to get updates on projects and helpful tips on getting the most from the design process. Or call us at 416-477-5636 [or 1-855-GO-INCITE.] I would like to thank you all for your support over the years and let’s stay connected!

 


A successful event that built relationships and knowledge: SMB Exchange

Posted by Jeffrey on Oct 18, 2012

I am finally getting a chance to post after a whirlwind of activity surrounding the first SMB Exchange event that I co-created with Arik Johnson of Aurora WDC and Ravi Nayak of the Toronto Board of Trade. And I can announce publicly that the event was an overwhelming success!

But before I get to what people said about the event a few words about what it was and why we created it: We felt there was room in the market for a focused event which really delivered networking and learning to entrepreneurs. We used a planning process that enabled us to think differently about the event to make this event unique in the market and maximize value to attendees.

We wanted to give start-ups, entrepreneurs and innovators an opportunity to exchange ideas, share experiences and learn from their peers so they could accelerate their business growth.

Through consultation with other business leaders, this one-day event addressed the unique needs of Small and Medium-sized businesses and identified solutions that enhance the effectiveness how they presented their value propositions to the market. Here are the topics that we put together with the help of our Advisory Committee:

 

What made this event so different? We constructed theme topics that were facilitated by SMB business leaders, who had relevant experiences they shared to address all of the attendees’ challenges. (And we banned PowerPoint presentations!) So instead of the traditional podium talk with a question and answer after we arranged all the seating in 2 semicircles facing each other so attendees could see everyone else in the room.

Then we had the two business leaders presenting for each session give a brief case study on how they approached challenges with their business and we then facilitated a discussion with all the participants and built on the initial cases. In this way all the attendees could contribute and tap the collective wisdom of the other attendees in the room!

Other key parts of the day were a facilitated networking session with attendees “30 second” elevator pitches to build an initial relationships and a working lunch where attendees presented their own challenges to their table and got personalized advice based on the group’s experience. Many business cards were shared around the tables at these parts of the day!

We also built an online community for networking before the event which gave attendees the opportunity to start the conversation and come prepared to build relationships.

Finally, we have had great feedback to the event! Here are just a few of them:

“SMBX2012 was an exceptionally valuable day for me and my business. From the breakfast keynote to the selection of breakout sessions and the facilitated networking, I was impressed with the quality of the organization, speakers, and fellow participants – I learned a lot, got a chance to introduce myself, my business and my goals, and came away with immediate and longer term opportunities. And to top it all off, the food was plentiful and delicious! My idea of a day well spent.”

- Angela Meharg, (Attendee)

The event was well organized and well attended and exceeded my expectations especially considering it was an inaugural event.

Congratulations to all on the organizing team.”

- Rob Henderson, President, StudentAwards, (Presenter)

“It was a pleasure and honour to participate! Congrats on a great event! ”

- Maggie Fox, CEO, Social Media Group (Presenter)

“It was a great event. Honoured to be part of it!”

- Sunny Verma, President, TutorBright (Presenter)

As with most new innovative offerings this required a lot of different thinking about what was capable and a great team that worked hard and really over-delivered to make the day a success. So thanks to the team and also to all the participants- we couldn’t have done it without you!

 

 


Speaking at the Canadian Consumer Insights and Trend Spotting Conference

Posted by admin on Jul 5, 2012

I hope everyone is having a productive summer!

I am keeping busy with a few speaking engagements- notably the Canadian Consumer Insights and Trend Spotting Conference August 14 and 15th in Toronto.

I hope to share some of what I have learned building an Innovation Process at the Toronto Board of Trade to leverage the work we did on getting deep customer insights from our members.

 

 


Speaking on Innovation at Queens University Innovation Summit

Posted by admin on Mar 4, 2012

I am honoured to be speaking at the Queens University Innovation Summit on March 10th. I will be speaking on the 4Cs of Innovation- lessons I have learned in the corporate environment.
I hope that those who attend the session get a few ideas from my experiences and that we develop a dialog on how they can put their unique slant on the material.



Experience Journey – Joining Toronto Board of Trade as Director Product Innovation

Posted by admin on Jun 19, 2011

Today I am taking on a new role as Director of Product Innovation at the Toronto Board of Trade. It’s a great opportunity to join a fantastic team and help to advance the success of the Board’s members and the entire Toronto region

I’ve been reflecting over the past few weeks on how I got here. Although I started in the working world practicing Architecture (post degree from the University of Waterloo) I always had an interest in the business side of the firm. Completing my MBA at Queen’s was the first formal step on a long journey that now takes me here.

But what I never really left behind was a love of creatively taking client needs and translating them into something that gives the client more than they could have imagined. That’s why I’m thrilled to be here- I couldn’t have crafted a more perfect job if I’d written the position description myself. It takes both of these parts of my background and puts them together.

As this next chapter begins, I am looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead and want to thank all the people who have helped me get here: friends, family and colleagues (you know who you are! :>) It constantly amazes me how generous you all are and am glad to be able to be associated with such a great group. As always, comments are welcome!


Business Model Innovation for Growth and Renewal

Posted by Jeffrey on Apr 22, 2010

Innovation_InnosightPostMark Johnson, Principle of Innosight Consulting gave a talk at the Rotman School of Management where he led off the talk with a discussion of the Music industry- a common story which leads to a well known conclusion: others started the industry but couldn’t capitalize because they were trapped in their old modes of thinking. Apple really won the war because they understood that customers didn’t just want a cool device (although that helped) but a whole package (including software) that helped make the process of downloading and listening to music easy and painless. Except that Apple didn’t originate this solution: Tony Faddell brought it to them after he had been kicked out of many other companies up and down the 101.

But I digress…. The traps that most established businesses find themselves in is that they can’t grasp the fact that in contrast to their existing business (where their knowledge to assumption ratio is high) in a new business venture it is low and the metrics, processes and norms that surround their existing business don’t apply in the new.

With some examples he illustrated that there are 3 traps that established businesses find themselves when trying to create new businesses. (Note that this doesn’t [shouldn't] apply to start-up businesses (unless you have real problems.)]

Trap 1- failure to allocate resources. Basically this is the “Holy crap! Is this thing as big a disruption to our model as we think? Better not pay too much attention as we don’t want to rock the boat.” Think DEC and the personal computer.

The second trap is in trying to graft new technology onto an old business model. How to develop a digital camera? Make it work the same as a film camera. At least this is what Kodak thought in the early 90s when they released the $30,000 DCS-100 that had the same quality as film. (Except users didn’t want the hefty the price tag!)

The third trap is companies don’t let these new innovative businesses mature and are impatient for growth. In this case because HP was a multi-billion dollar company, they wanted their newly developed HP Kittyhawk 1.3 inch hard drive to be a $100M business within 12 months, because that’s the growth rate established by the rest of the company. They didn’t allow the product a “Test and Learn” that would have made it apparent that the main market that they were targeting with this device was wrong and they needed a different business model to succeed where the device would have the most traction.

At this point, one asks, “What is the problem with these companies? Cant they see that you have to be aware of all these “traps” to succeed?” Where it really becomes a challenge is around culture and operational norms. In the rigidity of rules, norms and metrics established business find they are “trapped” in how they evaluate new opportunities and how they fit into existing business models. They really need to step back and think about how they currently make money and what needs to change if they are to really take advantage of a new opportunity. In a lot of cases, the whole business model has to change.

Think about the Tata Nano. It was created not to compete against other cars but as an alternative to a scooter. They had to change everything about the model (supply chain, distribution, manufacturing) in order to compete on that level.

Or what about MinuteClinic? Its not a competitor to existing medical services but meant to take care of many routine health care issues that can be treated by rules-based procedures.

The biggest problem comes from the inevitable commodification of business models as new entrants come in once and attractive market is carved out. You can ignore it to your peril or do what innovative companies like Hilti have done. They’ve created a new business that realizes that one source of frustration to contracting companies is tools and tool failure. Rather than simply selling tools they now sell a “tool fleet management service” with a monthly fee covering leasing of the entire tool category. They had to completely rethink their model. Rather than selling through distributors, now they sell direct. Before they had to think of low cost manufacturing, now they need IT systems to track inventory and repairs. They had to really think about the stakeholder and the job that needed to be done and how they could serve that stakeholder.

Finally the example of Better Place was raised. With the advent of the true electric car close to fruition, a key problem still exists- the long charging cycle of current batteries. Shai Agassi, the entrepreneur behind the company thought, What if we could reinvent the whole model so that we didn’t actually sell cars, but we sold “miles?” Their target is not other new cars, but used cars- they need to be competitive to someone who might not consider a car at all! Their model is similar to the cell phone where the initial cost of the vehicle is subsidised by an ongoing distance contract.

For me the real takeaway once again was getting to the heart of the job to be done that the customer needs. This leads to a clean sheet thinking about what the appropriate model is to serve that customer and how to integrate that model into a system. The ever-present question is whether this can truly ever happen in an established company with and established model and established ways of thinking. Time will tell if there are ways of breaking out of established patterns, but given the above examples of very competent companies, the jury is out on if this journey is one that has a happy ending.


Is Apple’s iPad the next big thing, or another Newton?

Posted by Jeffrey on Jan 27, 2010

iPad_smThere has certainly been a lot of digital ink spilled over the last little while trying to determine whether the Apple Tablet would be the second coming or just another device with superfluous hype. Now that the iPad has been unveiled I sense a bit of a letdown – with some justification – from the tech community.

Given the amount of press and speculation feature expectations were bound to overshoot what even arguably the leading consumer device manufacturer could deliver. But in the afterglow of today’s launch I am starting to wonder if we need to look beyond the actual device and features as some have mentioned.

With any new category it firstly is difficult to envisage what the eventual maturation of devices will look like. When automobiles were first starting to be delivered to mass markets, they took a lot of design cues from horse drawn carriages. It took quite a few years for cars as a new distinct category to emerge and people to accept that the two categories were different. What’s also exciting is the potential that cars would promise and deliver in terms of mobility and even urban design and travel.

Now I am not suggesting that Jobs and company have delivered something so life changing as the automobile, but we might want to separate out a few things from the hype to see if indeed there is promise that would justify even Apple’s internal hoopla. If we move past the shiny device itself to the ecosystem then to behaviour, are there any indications that this device would impact developers / users to create new ways to use / interact with the device? Could it then be a new way of interacting with content that is significantly better than what we have now?

I am only asking the question because the iPhone (which isn’t really just a phone, but a most personal computer) and its data plans changed how people interact on the go. Heck, it even changed how I interact in the home! It broke the carrier model of aggregating applications behind a pay-wall and brought more of an ecosystem approach to app creation and consumption. Are there any aspects in the iPad which may break existing content models?

Time will tell, but one thing is for sure: no one ever got rich underestimating Apple’s ability to create interesting new markets. [Updated- Yes it has been significant !]


Tony Lacavera gives an update on the evolution of Canada’s wireless industry

Posted by Jeffrey on Dec 18, 2009

Lacavera_MobileMonday_Dec_09In a presentation that could have been entitled, “Can an entire industry change?” Tony Lacavera, the founder of Globalive and Wind Mobile spoke at the MobileMonday event at MaRS about the current (and potential future) of the wireless industry. In a wide ranging, very frank and interactive presentation that touched on more than a few industry complaints, Tony engaged the audience with Wind’s vision for how the wireless industry could change when they get to launch. Now that they have just been approved by Industry Minister Tony Clement in a dramatic reversal of the CRTCs ruling, Wind can build on the momentum they’ve been building for the past year or so.

But in an industry that is one of the most criticized from a customer service point of view, why would a company try to compete against very established players with deep pockets. The answer is contained in a dramatic slide which showed the veritable duopoly of control of the wireless market between the incumbents Rogers, Telus and Bell. Because of this, Tony made the case that there is a disincentive for the incumbents to be aggressive outside their home territory for risk of retaliation by the other players. Simply stated he believes “…that the root of all or our problems is contained in this slide.”

With a story that many of the audience members could relate to he recounted that when he stared Gloablive in 1998 he needed a cell phone, but he found customer service from the big carriers was lacking. This started a decade-long quest to somehow find a way to bring a customer-centric wireless company to the market. So when Industry Canada set aside wireless spectrum for new entrants for an auction in 2008, he went looking for partners that would provide him the scale to introduce a legitimate challenger to the incumbents. He found that partner in Egypt’s Orascom which is the 9th largest wireless operator in the world.

However, after bidding $445MM and winning spectrum in most of the provinces, the company was put before an ownership review by the federal government. In the first review, both Industry Canada and the Department of Justice approved the ownership structure, but was turned down by the CRTC. After what could only be described as an excruciating delay, the approval to launch was announced on Friday December 11, 2009, clearing the way for the company to begin selling wireless services.

The root of their strategy comes from the thousands of customer suggestions and submissions from their site, wirelesssoapbox.com. Lacavera said that he “talked to so many people and the problem that most of them talk about is the complexity,” of the whole process. “It’s so complicated, it’s like a car lease for 3 years,” Lacavera said, and we “need to make it simple and enjoyable.” To illustrate this, the company recently put together a humorous campaign that pokes fun at the way the incumbents currently sell wireless services.

Lacavera says that taking the complexity out of the business won’t be easy – customer service needs to be at the core of everything the company does. Along with a keen focus on the customer he mentioned a few of the “fun and cool” things they would have at launch including person-to-person mobile top ups; an open mobile application platform and social media and instant messaging integration.

As far as handsets go, Lacavera noted that they will have the “latest Blackberry” devices as well as the same ones which are available on other GSM networks. As for the iPhone, he said that it won’t be available at launch but there is “no reason” why it wouldn’t be available in the future.

In summing up his talk, Lacavera said that Wind Mobile is “in it for the long haul” and has every intention of competing and succeeding in winning business from the incumbent players. As everyone knows, it will be a challenge, but with the right customer focus and strategy the company looks to continuing to challenge the status quo and maybe just push the whole industry to change. And as one audience member later remarked, “It’s about time.”

http://www.windmobile.ca/

OECD Broadband Pricing- Is Canada falling behind?

Posted by Jeffrey on Dec 16, 2009

From this data on the OECD site, it looks like Canadian consumers pay the third highest rates per megabit/sec in the world. Statistics show most of the growth in super high speed networks will come from fibre rollouts, not DSL or cable. About one in ten consumers around the world access the internet over fibre.

OECD_BroadbandPricePerMb_Oct08_sm

According to a new OECD paper, government investment could be justified based on even small direct benefits in just four key sectors of the economy – electricity, health, education and transportation. The full paper is available here.


It wasn’t the dishwasher but the dishwasher detergent

Posted by Jeffrey on Nov 4, 2009

Well, I was wrong. As the last post noted, I was unhappy with our new dishwasher because it didn’t seem to clean very well. In fact, even with rinsing before, most often there were still dishes that didn’t get quite clean.

But after I wrote that post, I started to think about what else could be causing this. So I went out and looked at a few posts and decided to try something radical: Maybe I should change the detergent! It seems that for this type of unit, you need to use a detergent with enzymes that help eat the dirt off the dishes. Sounds a bit weird but I was willing to give anything a try.

What really helped out was looking at Consumers Reports online because they’d just finished a report on the best and worst detergents available and to my displeasure, I was using one of the worst. So off I went to the store to pick up an “All-in-one” that was supposed to work better with the way the dishwasher is made to clean.

And it did! I use Cascade All-in-One tabs and now I don’t rinse anything: dishes with oatmeal, sticky jam, barbeque all go right in there. It even cleans the soy milk off glasses. So now I can save time and water by not having to rinse. Now I need a cheaper source for detergent as this stuff is about twice the cost of the old! But its worth it.


Dishwasher drama – inside the world of dirty dishes

Posted by Jeffrey on Oct 7, 2009

When we were first designing our kitchen we really fell in love with the option that moved the sink over to the other side of the kitchen. Not only would this free up more counter space beside the range, but it would split up the two main work areas allowing more than one person to work simultaneously.

Well, in practice this has worked splendidly! But what this also meant was that the sink and dishwasher was visible from the rest of the main floor. So we would have to deal with potentially dirty dishes and an appliance in full view of company. To minimize the clutter we wanted to have a dishwasher that could take a custom panel that matched the rest of the millwork in the kitchen.

Custom panel hides dishwasher


The problem with this approach is that for the pleasure of installing a panel, most manufacturers charge significantly more than stock appliances. Why? I guess because they can. And, not all manufacturers have this option. So we quickly settled on two brands: Miele and Bosch.

We took a look at both and I honestly think that although each has its advantages and disadvantages, they are both solid machines. What really swung the pendulum in favour of the Miele was the third rack for cutlery (more on that in a moment) and the fact that we could get one that was a “scratch and dent” model for over 50% off the list price from MTC.

So I went to the showroom and ordered one for delivery. When it was delivered, the installer mentioned a few hints because Miele’s have a different installation method than others. As I mentioned previously, it was a good thing we got those tips because it was certainly somewhat less straightforward than I thought.

After first time we loaded it up and turned it on, we were sitting in our living room reading and at a certain point we both looked up and wondered if the thing was still on or if there was a problem and it had stopped. Well, no word of a lie, it was running, but it’s so quiet that we didn’t hear it! What a change from our old machine that was so loud we had to turn up the volume on the TV! The only time you can tell its going is during a drain cycle when the noise from the water rushing down the PVC drain pipes tells you that it’s still on.

It does however have quite a long cycle, which isn’t really a problem if you plan for it. I believe the manual says that the “normal” cycle is about 110 minutes! Additionally, with this type of dishwasher, there are no heating elements at the bottom to dry the dishes. Instead, the stainless walls retain heat which is radiated back into the drum and dries dishes by evaporation. If you open the unit just after it finishes, you’ll be greeted by pretty wet glasses and cutlery. So we typically turn it on in the evening and by morning things are usually pretty dry.

Speaking of glasses, a good rinse agent is mandatory! There is a separate compartment and a red indicator light if the reservoir is running low. Furthermore, its better not to use lots of dishwashing detergent or else the interior begins to smell a bit funky. I had to find that out by following a few online forums.

Three, count ‘em, three racks!


I really like the design of the racks and it has such a large capacity that it takes us a couple of days to fill. I’d rather fill the unit and run it once than run a few half empty loads but the problem with that is the inside starts to smell of whatever last nights dinner was! So I often just run a quick “rinse” if I know that we don’t have enough to run a full load.

It has a filter in the bottom that you have to check and clean manually (rather than an automatic one in most North American units). But its really no problem to get and and a quick rinse every few weeks gets out most things.

Filter is easy to clean


But just a word of warning- if you and your partner have “discussions” about how to load a dishwasher, you could find all sorts of things to argue about with this unit! For example, the third rack is for cutlery and supposedly the fastest method is to arrange all the knives together, the forks etc. so that when you unload, you just grab a handful and dump them into the drawer. So if you like this type of order (and your partner doesn’t) these discussions could degenerate quickly to a battle! Just warning you!

Cutlery rack-helpful or hindrance? Discuss!


Finally the big question: how well does it clean? Sorry to disappoint, but its just ok. Nothing startling, but ok. I eat oatmeal in the morning and not only do I have to scrape (as is recommended in the manual) but I have to rinse and scrub or else it gets baked on to the bowl. Even if I put them in and run it right away, it still gets baked on. I’ve tried a number of different locations and still the same problem. So I’ve learned to live with that because it does the other stuff so well. And it’s built in, so it’s not going anywhere for a while!

So there you have it- good looks, quiet, ok cleaning. And hopefully no more discussions about how to load cutlery.


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Sink and faucet- What’s the verdict?

Posted by Jeffrey on Sep 3, 2009

I realized that its been over a month since I posted on the reno and I guess I started to believe the title of that last post: “Done, done, done…” But really how do we ever define “done” when it comes to renovations?

So as promised here is a bit of a review on some of the choices we made for our first floor renovation. Lets start with the sink and faucet.

Faucet is clean and simple

 

The faucet is a HansGrohe Metro: a single lever, high-arc unit that I picked up on sale at the Home Depot for 20% off after I nearly fainted seeing the prices of other models in a specialty store. I figure that this cost us less than half of what some of the mid priced units were going for at the other store.
Pros –

  • Looks good with a simple clean design – the control lever can be mounted right or left or in the center like we have
  • Feels solid and the unit moves smoothly without sticking
  • From what I saw it was a pretty easy installation
  • Sprayer option on pullout can be operated with one hand

Cons –

  • My biggest beef is that you pull the control lever down to turn it on and left for cold or right for hot. No problem really but seems to be very little fine control – the water goes from a trickle to full blast very quickly. This is something we had to get used to.
  • The head for the pull down doesn’t want to retract fully. There is a little magnet which holds the head in but you have to make sure its aligned before it takes hold
  • The sprayer requires you to hold down the trigger. There is not a setting where you can turn it on and leave it on.

But given the other benefits I think it’s a good trade-off.

Now the sink. Its a Franke RGX-160 ‘Regatta.’

The sink is a good size for the small kitchen and the bottom grid on the left really helps with cleanup

 

I wondered why they were so expensive – I mean its just formed stainless steel right? Well in comparing the it which we ended up purchasing from Bathworks in Ajax with products at the Home Depot, I found that the others didn’t have the solid feel of the Franke. It also had nice sound insulating material on the underside which keeps it from sounding “tinny” when you put something in the bottom. We were pretty fortunate that the sales staff at Bathworks helped us by extending the manufacturers sale offer that included the bottom grid and the strainers. I didn’t think that the grid would be useful but we hand wash a lot so its great to put it right on the grid and have it dry. Once again here are the pros;
Pros –

  • Looks great!
  • Two bowls are different depths so when you put dishes in the deeper one to dry you can hardly see them from the living room. (This was a big consideration to us as you can see that counter run from the living/dining room and we needed it to at least look less cluttered on a day-to-day basis).
  • The strainers really seal when you push them down so no water leaks out.
  • Solid feel! A real difference between this one and other manufacturers I looked at.
  • Sizing fits a 33” base cabinet

Cons –

  • None!

So far we are really happy with these two choices. They are used frequently throughout the day and their solid feel (hopefully) means that we will get many years of use out of them.

Next time I will take a look at our Miele dishwasher and you may be surprised by what we’ve found.


ThinkFlood’s RedEye iPhone Remote for your stereo

Posted by Jeffrey on Aug 7, 2009

Well lets start off by repeating that as posted on the ThinkFlood websitethis is a BETA” product.” I mention this because not only was it available for a significant discount off the eventual retail price (which worked for me!), but because the company is still doing significant development to make the product better.

You might be asking yourself, “What is RedEye and why should I care?” Good question! It is a device coupled with an iPhone app that allows you to control all your A/V  equipment through WiFi . This is a great idea that has been attempted before with IR blasters, but no one has brought in the power of the iPhone application to control all the devices in the stereo cabinet.  Which is why I was attracted to this solution in the first place. I wanted my stereo equipment (Tuner/Amp, CD/DVD, surround speakers) to work in my newly painted and redecorated living room, but didn’t want to look at all the components sitting on a shelf collecting dust.

So I went to IKEA and bought a cabinet with a solid door so that I could close off the components to the outside world. So what’s the problem you ask? With the solid door, I couldn’t get an IR signal to control the devices. Not really a big deal when you consider I’d only have to open the door and turn on the Amp and then close the door; then open the door and adjust the volume and then close the door… Well you get the idea.

So as every good tech enthusiast asks, “Why expend energy when we have a technological solution to throw at the problem?” So I got on their site and ordered it through Amazon. After a few hiccups the product shipped out and arrived at my house a few days later.

First the packaging- really great job on all the design and how it is displayed! It looks top notch.

When I started to do the install I realized that I had some space limitations- it was difficult to get the unit inside the cabinet to send a signal to the devices so I had to jiggle with that a bit. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me explain how it seems to work.

There is a device that sits on or near the stereo equipment which flashes a blue light (looks pretty cool) that is “seen” by the IR receiver on the device(s) and controls all manner of functions. This device has a WiFi receiver built in so it gets the signal from the iPhone and transmits it to the stereo equipment.

The other part of the system is a free app that you download for your iPhone or iPod Touch that gives you a neat, clean interface to control the devices. So I could be sitting in my chair and fire up my iPhone (which of course is more readily available to me than that darned remote which keeps getting lost) and adjust the volume, change the station, flip on a CD or anything I could do with the regular remote(s). Best part? This solution is also a universal remote so I can do it all from one device. At least in theory, and here is where you have to go back to the first paragraph. Repeat after me- Its still in BETA!

So one thing to keep in mind is that everyone sets up stereo components after they’ve been drinking a bit (oh, wait- is that just me?) So the instructions seemed a bit cumbersome and didn’t make sense until I realized that not only could you control something in the living room, but you could control multiple rooms (as long as you are within range of the device). You have to use WiFi, so switch your iPhone to WiFi then initially look for the RedEye device and connect to it. You add your component by name in the setup screen, and add commands by capturing the remote setting by holding the remote to the device. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

So after trying a bit more for about an hour, I gave up and went to bed. When I opened the iPhone app the next day and connected to my home network (as in the instructions) the app looked and looked but couldn’t find the device. So as I do with most electronic devices that aren’t behaving, I unplugged it and plugged it back in. Then I got the stereo to turn on! Awesome!

So I closed the door to the cabinet and tried again. Nothing. I could see the device flashing but no change. So (and this is because of my cabinet door) I taped a piece of silver tape (usually used for HVAC) and it bounces the light off and turns devices on or off pretty well. Except when I get “Network Time out” errors on the application.

The company has been updating the app on a regular basis which is great and making it somewhat more reliable, but I still have some issues with the UI. You set up commands for each “room”, and then group the commands (ie turn on amp, turn on CD, press play on CD) into activities. So I get this, but it doesn’t always work. So I think there might be a way to have more of a step by step system in the app to walk through what would be likely use cases for 90% of the population, then hide the setup stuff unless it is needed.

Also when the app starts it looks for the rooms (I guess it tries to contact the device and read the info stored in RAM) and most times it just looks and never finds the device). When it does find the device, it tells me I have to select the room before I can do anything. But I only have one room. So it should know that and autoselect so I can just go to my activities.

Finally it is a bit slow. In this world of insta-on, it takes a bit of getting used to. What I mean is that you have to wait a bit for the command to get sent to the device, then for the device to respond. If you keep hitting the command it will either time out or eventually all the commands will get sent and the volume will go up, up, up! All in all, I love the concept, and am eagerly looking forward to having some of these small bugs worked out!


1 comment - Latest by:
  • Matt Eagar
    Hi Jeffrey, Thanks for your detailed and honest review. We hope that the improvements we are working on will help the ...

Done, done, done (a bit late)

Posted by Jeffrey on Jul 27, 2009

So, I was so excited to be done the whole reno thing that I forgot to post! Well, in hindsight, it just seemed like we would get really close to being done then something would crop up to push back the completion date a bit further out. Truth be told, it does feel really good to be done and have the rest of the summer to enjoy the house!

When the tile was at last done and the plates were put on the switches, we realized that looking at our punch list that there were no more things left to cross off! And just in time too as we had some friends over on the weekend to “break in” the results.

In terms of impact the work that was done in the kitchen was huge no question. But everyone commented on the new hardwood and the paint as making a big difference to the rest of the floor. Which goes to prove that for the biggest bang for the buck, changing the paint color is usually the way to go to improve your space.

So now to go over some of our choices and how they are holding up in use. First of all, lets start from the bottom up and take a look at the flooring. Everyone agrees that it is really gorgeous. Hickory would not have been the first material on my lips if you’d have asked me a year ago about hardwood, but it looks really elegant. It gives the visual interest you want in a floor with the grain pattern, but not too busy as you get with other hardwoods.

The color also goes really well with our furniture (and the paint, but that’s another story). The only thing I have to get used to is the scratch factor. I still kind of worry about scratching the floor and I know, I know that this is inevitable, but I haven’t gotten over it yet. And even though the manufacturer quotes a “35 year warrantee” and a high tech “Nano” coating it still scratches (all floors do!). In fact my contractor said that he’s never heard of anyone collecting on any manufacturer’s warrantee!

But that’s not really the point here. Our intention was to get a good looking floor to carry through the entire space to unify the living/dining room and the kitchen. I know the contractor thought we were crazy to put hardwood in the kitchen instead of ceramic, we love it! And the new carpet should help with the entry areas.

Carpet looks great with the paint and hardwood!


Speaking of carpet we selected a great fabric from D’Abbieri Collection called “Leggero – Undercool” and it feels really luxurious underfoot. The carpet installer (Victorious Flooring) did a fantastic job doing the stair runner and the front hall. He even set up the cutting so that we could maximize the carpet installation within the least amount of carpet saving us about $400 in the process!

So next time I will get into some detail on some of the fixtures in the kitchen proper and maybe sum up our experiences.


iphone 3G tethering on Fido

Posted by Jeffrey on Jul 3, 2009

iPhone 3G

I spent a few minutes yesterday setting up tethering on my iPhone 3G using Fido (actually Rogers, but that’s another story). It didn’t take that long once I actually realized that you need a few things to make it happen:

  • A PC (in my case a HP dv6000 Laptop running Windows Vista Home Premium)
  • iPhone 3G with the iPhone 3.0 or better update
  • iTunes 8.2 or better
  • Either Bluetooth (don’t have it on my laptop:<, or the USB cable from the iPhone)
  • 3G or EDGE coverage (not a problem in the city, but maybe in outlying areas)
  • A big data bucket!

The reason I set it up is that we are going out of the city and I want a way to check email etc without using (shudder) dial-up.)

So after updating my iTunes on Vista and restarting it was just a matter of going to Settings->General->Network ->Internet Tethering and turning it on. Then I hooked up the USB cable to the port on the side of the laptop and Vista recognized it as another broadband connection in  Network and Sharing Center.

To test it I shut off the wireless on the laptop and found that I could surf at a pretty speedy pace on the iPhone. Pretty neat although I’d want to be careful what I did online to make sure I stay within my data bucket. Well, not really because I have a 6GB limit, but I don’t want to be pulling down too many movies from iTunes!


1 comment - Latest by:
  • admin
    Just a quick note that I used tethering last week when I was out of the city and apart from ...

Tile backsplash redux- almost done (really!)

Posted by Jeffrey on Jun 29, 2009

Both the electrician and the tiler came by today (in that order) and it was great to see some of the last things get done. It seems like the last 5% or so has taken the same time as the previous 95% (and somehow, at least as frustrating.)

But really the work that Bill the electrician had to do didn’t take that long: putting the trims on the potlights, plates on the outlets and installing the pendant light (which looks great!) with some other bits and pieces.

Pendant picks up the color of the floor and furniture

 

He even replaced one of our existing outlets to match the Decora style outlets he put in. He said that he didn’t like the look of it because it didn’t match. That just shows the attention to detail in his work!

He had to wait on a few things as he ran out of trims for the pots and wanted to come back after the tile was grouted to put the plates on that wall. So he will be back tomorrow, co-incidentally when the carpet is being installed in the front hall and up the stairs as a runner. I found the carpet installer on Homestars.com and he has a fantastic approval rating. So far he has been extremely responsive and has really helped us through the carpet ordering process.

The backsplash was grouted and looks better than the previous one, although the tiler commented that the tiles are still not truly straight and I can see what he means. Maybe we should have sprung for higher end tiles?

New tile installed last week and grouted

 

So now it looks like we could really be done for the weekend! (Cross fingers and toes)

Stay tuned – I will devote some time to talking about the various appliances/ fixtures we chose and what I think of them having lived with them on a daily basis!


Plantronics Voyager 855- now working with iPhone

Posted by Jeffrey on Jun 18, 2009

I’ve been looking for a Bluetooth headset for a while but didn’t want to settle for a voice only one- I wanted to listen to music as well. Problem was, my iPhone didn’t do stereo Bluetooth because up until 3.0, it didn’t support A2DP which is the audio standard the devices need to communicate.

So I though I was SOL because I didn’t see how Apple could possible update the device with software. But I was wrong! Imagine my surprise when one of the features announced at WWDC ’09 was stereo Bluetooth! I didn’t even think it was possible but Apple, being clever, built in into the hardware and turning it on became possible with the right software upgrade.

So that solved the biggest problem. All I had to do was wait. And wait. And wait until June 17th for the upgrade to become available so I could download it and install. [I always worry when I upgrade software on most electronic devices about turning them into bricks, especially something that I use as frequently as my phone! But it went pretty smoothly all things considered]

Now a bit about the headset. The Plantronics Voyager 855 comes in an attractive package, suspended in clear plastic within the main outer box. I carefully pulled the headset out and took a look. It appears to be made to a high quality standard and although very light, looks like it will stand up to daily use.

It came with several replaceable ear buds that should help fit most ears. Except of course mine. Now this is not a new issue – I can’t get any ear buds, including the ones that came with the phone to fit. I just have a non-standard ear I guess….

The unit comes with two over the ear clips and I am still fiddling with them to get the headset to sit properly and comfortably.

So when I pulled the phone from the dock all looked good. I paired the two devices really fast (with QuickPair technology, the unit stays discoverable for about 10 minutes and makes pairing a snap.) I made a voice call and the call quality was great- some background noise but better than I was expecting.

But to my surprise when I played music it didn’t play through the headset. I consulted the manual to no avail. I went online to a few sites and quickly determined that I need to restart the phone. Oh yeah! After this I turned the headset off then back on and then off to the races. Stereo music with no wires!

As I write this, I am wearing the unit and its so light I forget I have it on. I have had to experiment with different earbuds and I think I will investigate if I can get custom ones made to fit if I can find a source. So far no luck but I’ll take any leads/suggestions.

And the best part? I got it on Amazon for about $100 off! It came from an Amazon store called shopcell.com and they shipped it out same day. With shipping it came to about $42 which is fantastic and I am looking forward to more testing. Stay tuned!


23 comments - Latest by:
  • Jeffrey
    I also have the iPhone 3G, but haven't upgraded to iOS4 yet. My problem is that if I use the ...
  • Erik
    I have the same problem as Mat. Works well when I hold the phone in my hand. But when I ...

Looking at drywall compound (again, sigh…)

Posted by Jeffrey on Jun 12, 2009

Well, it looked like almost everything was done and then this happened….

Ripping out the backsplash. It had to be done….


hmmm… drywall compound as a backsplash?


Its not like we didn’t know, and I know its only a small setback but it has slowed us down somewhat in getting things back to a somewhat normal state around here. Luckily it wasn’t too messy today…

I think the electician will be back to hook up the dining room pendant and exterior light and finish off the rest of his work next week (when he gets back from Disneyworld). And I am getting some wood delivered so I can put up a pergola over the deck just outside the door, where it gets really hot in the sun. I figured, I had pretty much taken out the railing anyway, so I might as well extend the posts up and put in a sun shade. We shall see how that goes!