BarCampMontreal3 And Acts of God

The 3rd edition of BarCampMontreal was held on November 3rd. It was a great event really well organized. I could take the time to write about every presentations, but I won’t do it. If you want a better recap of BarCampMontreal3, have a look here or here instead.
Instead, I’m going to be selfish and talk about our own presentation only. It’s because it is so an interesting story… I thought I had to dedicate a post to it. So here is the full story of the TimmyOnTime presentation.
November 2nd : 11:30 PM
It’s late, really late… but we have to stay awake anyway. I never saw Dan as tired as he was on this night. Maybe it’s because he is the drummer of a band and that lately he had tons and tons of shows in various bars… I don’t know, but he was like a zombie, a very tired zombie. Anyway, we were still awake because we had decided to record our demo with a screen recording software… you know, just in case that the real demo would have to suffer from some technical problems. So, after a short seance of trial/error, we had 6 lovely AVI files containing the actual presentation. Nice backup solution! We are so clever. We were done for now. It was definitely the time to get some sleep before the presentation. We had to be there at 9 AM… but we are from Trois-Rivieres which is a city located at 1h30 from Montreal.
November 3rd : 6:45 AM
In my car, waiting for Dan near his appartment… he’s not showing up. I’m really starting to wonder if he destroyed his alarm clock. I told to myself : That’s it, Dan died from lack of sleep. I will have to do the presentation alone. Oh yeah and it sucks to lose a good friend, too. Finally, I saw someone opening a door… it was him. He was alive!
Before getting to the highway, we stopped at a store to buy some coffee. And then something happened : Dan bought the friggin’ biggest coffee in history. I thought he was joking… but he really bought it without batting an eye. It was huge and scary… and unfortunately in the end it tasted like crap.
9 AM
Oh well this part was pretty usual stuff. We registered, met some great people and we had a look at the visual and sound setup. We learned that our presentation would take place at 11AM, just after the coffee break. It was a pretty good time to do our presentation according to me.
11 AM : The presentation
I was feeling the stress burning inside. I had the microphone in my hand and people looking at me waiting for the start of the presentation. And so it began…
Dan and I agree that our intro was pretty good. We had planned a little joke a few minutes before the presentation. You have to know that when we were practicing, it was like a running joke to clap our hands before saying “Bonjour à tous” (Hi everybody). We thought that it was a pretty lame way to look dynamic and self confident… well it just made us laugh. So I tried this joke right away. It worked! Some people laughed, other didn’t… but we planned it this way. Then I told Dan : “Ok take the following in note Dan : Never try this again, it didn’t work.” Dan on his side was taking notes like crazy, he took an incredibly nervous voice and said : “Ok ok ehhm, laughter : 3, confused people : 12 …”. It was great. People seemed to like the intro and we had their attention!
So we began to introduce ourselves and bla bla bla. Pretty usual stuff. And then, it was time for the Demo.
Just in case you don’t know, TimmyOnTime is a time-tracking tool that works with instant messaging. You add the contact [email protected] to your friends list and you can start tracking your time right away by typing commands like “create project corporate website”, “start task building mockups” and so on.
Back to the demo.
We didn’t want to use the real contact for the demo, that’s why we had configured everything to run on our laptop. The first step was to add the contact [email protected]. That’s what we did… but that &!”*(/ contact decided to remain offline… just for the time of the demo, how great! You do realize that, without a responding Timmy to understand our commands, we were in big trouble. We couldn’t show a single thing to the audience.
Option #1 was dead. We went to Option #2
Option #2 consisted of using the real contact “[email protected]” that runs in production. The thing is, our shared host is having a lot of stability issues recently and they are rebooting all the time. At the time of the demo, the real Timmy was down. Option #2 was dead. Let’s go to Option #3
Remember those AVI videos we recorded the night before? These videos were Option #3.
Option #3 died tragically when we realized that we hadn’t installed the AVI codecs in our Ubuntu distribution. All options were eliminated. We then started improvizing and talked about some basic stuff concerning the application. It wasn’t very good but at least we used our full 15 minutes!
In a technical sense, this presentation was a complete disaster, a total mess.
In a practical sense, We think that what happened to us was a good thing. Hey, we’re pretty sure everyone will remember our presentation for a long time to come! Sure, it might be associated with something negative, something that didn’t work… but who cares. A lot of people came to see us after the presentation to told us how they were sorry for us and how cool they thought our product was. At this time we realized that our terrible demo was not that important. This adventure allowed us to talk to more people. We also made another demo (smaller and more intimate) later that day. We even had the chance to impress Sylvain Carle (from Praized media) with our Product.
For Dan and I, this event was a meeting with the unexpected… and even though it may look like a failure at first sight, we strangely feel that what happened at the last BarCampMontreal is the best thing that could have ever happened to us.

4 thoughts on “BarCampMontreal3 And Acts of God

  1. Nobody could have written our adventure better than that! I laughed all the time I read it… but when it all happened, I really didn’t. When the day began, I thought that waking up late would be the most unfortunate event of the day… I was f**king wrong. Thanks Frank for that great post.
    For the people interested in the music I do, I’m the drummer with a band called “Les Mallèchés” (free translation : The Badly Licked). We do rockabilly in french and we really rock. Visit our website.

  2. I think you guys could have been the victims of a pretty aggressive firewalling policy at the SAT. They block *all* ports to the outside world except HTTP and SSH. So your bot might not have been down — it might have just been the connection to your IM server.

  3. @Evan
    Maybe something of the sort happened. What I found pretty strange is that everything worked 1 hour before the presentation and 15 minutes after. It’s like our Timmy contact was blacklisting our Jabber account. After the presentation, I tried resending an approbation request to the contact… and it worked!

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