Pursuing excellence in professional communications

Demand for strategic communications leadership is growing fast, mainly driven by the digital revolution. Executives in business, not-for-profits and government are realizing that effectively managing relationships and influence is key for success.

This radically new marketing landscape has caused many experienced professional communicators to re-examine their own readiness to succeed in today’s ever changing and hyperactive digital culture.

At the forefront of this revolution is an innovative executive education program at McMaster University (http://mcm.mcmaster.ca) called MCM (master of communications management). In the new digital world, organizations need to strategically build, manage and evaluate relationships with stakeholders. Whether it is internal communication, government relations, marketing communication or advertising, fundraising and advocacy, the professional communicator’s role has expanded and magnified. Communications has come of age and it needs a new class of highly trained strategic managers, consultants and entrepreneurs to make sure it is being optimized for sound return on investment.

The MCM is specially designed for professional communications managers who want to take their careers to the next level. Pioneered by Terry Flynn, a successful PR industry entrepreneur, agency owner and professor of communications, the MCM has quickly become the most prestigious executive master’s degree for communicators in Canada.

Flynn’s goal for the MCM was simple: to propel professional communicators’ careers into the executive boardroom, to give them a seat at the decision-making table. So, he proposed something Canadian business education had never seen before: a hybrid learning program aimed at practicing communications managers that provides a winning combination of cutting-edge management training, PR management strategy and mass communication theory. The program is offered in partnership with the prestigious Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University in New York.

The program had to be innovative and draw on McMaster’s strengths in business and communications. To get there, Flynn and his team designed a curriculum that focused on Canada’s specific legal, political, economic and regulatory environment, while providing crucial comparative case studies to the United States and the United Kingdom — two major markets where Canadian communications executives often do business.

The MCM had to fit the lives of busy working professionals, while providing solid networking opportunities to its students and communications leaders from across Canada. This meant developing a unique blended learning model of short, on-campus residencies and conveniently scheduled online interactive tutorials.

The program is a true Hamilton success story. Every graduate has seen career growth: a promotion, increased income, higher consulting fees or the prestige of winning international awards. In fact, MCM students recently swept the prestigious New York-based Arthur W. Page Society Awards in the annual business communication case study competition.

Alex Sévigny, the new MCM program director and social media expert, is excited to take MCM even further: “Communication is now a key part of decision making at the highest level. Our graduates are uniquely equipped to take leadership in those roles. We want the MCM credential to be synonymous with chief communications officer or vice-president, communications.”

There’s no better way to sum up how the MCM is fostering a new way of doing business in communications than to quote MCM graduate Don Smith, director of operations, public affairs branch at Canada Revenue Agency: “To me the value of the MCM program was immediately apparent. What I learned was so applicable. I could put theory into practice as a professional communicator right away.”

MCM is another homegrown example of Hamilton thinking big and taking the business world by storm.

Dr. Nick Bontis (NickBontis.com) is a professional speaker, management consultant, business adviser, and founding faculty member of the MCM program.

TechTalk4HamOnt web series releases first videos

A new web series called TechTalk4HamOnt produced by Michael Canton (@valleytownmedia) and hosted by Tim Miron (@TJMiron) recently launched. The first videos released as part of the web series feature interviews conducted right at DemoCampHamilton5 with local innovators like Nick Tomkin (@ntomkin) of Orbital (@GetOrbital, @SynapseNews) and Nik Garkusha (@nik_g) of Open Halton (@OpenHalton). The series does a great job of shining a spotlight on Hamilton’s growing tech scene and I’m thrilled to see such an initiative taking place in the community. You can follow them on Facebook or Twitter (@TechTalk4HamOnt) to keep up to date with the latest releases. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next from TechTalk4HamOnt! Check out the first set of videos released by TechTalk4HamOnt below:

Nick Tomkin

Nik Garkusha

Shanta Nathwani

Joey Coleman

Kevin Browne

Inspiring Hamilton children to become digital innovators

Janine Murray (@JAVAJ9) recently inquired about in-person coding classes for kids during a quick twitter exchange. Inspiring children to become digital innovators and providing them with the tools to get there is a wonderful objective given the ample, high paying jobs that are available to those with such skills and the importance of digital literacy in an era where some believe the next industrial revolution is coding.

At an institutional level, McMaster does have outreach programs (CAS, Science) , the Venture Engineering Camp (of which I am a proud alumni!), and Let’s Talk Science. The Bay Area Science & Engineering Fair is another great local example of encouraging and rewarding children with an interest in STEM fields.

A very interesting regional example of inspiring children to become tomorrow’s digital innovators is the Youth Hack Jam taking place in Toronto this coming Saturday. The event isn’t centered around a strict agenda (perhaps a good thing for children…) but instead will be split up into different stations with volunteer instructors and assistants to teach children “how to use the tool, and then to support them as they think creatively and use the tool to ‘change the world'”. Station tools include Mozilla’s Hackasaurus and MIT’s Scratch, another station will be centered around paper and pencil app prototyping. Parents can bring their children to this event to have them participate in the different activities.

I think this event is a wonderful idea with high potential for many reasons. The more free flowing “station” structure of the event should keep things social and dynamic, which should be more engaging and kid-friendly. The fact that each station focuses on something different recognizes that digital literacy isn’t just one thing, and should better accomodate the varied interests of different children. Some of these activities, such as Scratch, allow for easy follow-through in the sense that a child that learns Scratch can continue to develop programs and foster that interest when they go home from the event. I believe that in comparison to other STEM topics such as chemistry or physics more children would find these activities relevant to their daily life – in that everyday they use apps, they play video games and they surf the web. Children may find the ability to create and shape those digital aspects of their life empowering, and that feeling may encourage them to keep learning to increase that ability.

An event like this also seems reasonably lightweight in terms of cost in that it utilizes volunteer instructors, indoor public space and freely available learning tools (and 96% of Canadian households now own a computer, so laptops should not be in too short a supply). Practically however even seemingly “lightweight” events in cost can still be time consuming to organize and promote. But if the event turns out to be reasonably lightweight in practice, such an event model could possibly “go viral” and be done somewhat sporadically wherever their is a sufficient supply of volunteers and demand from parents and children. When overloaded parents with hectic schedules are given opportunities like this, with a low time commitment required of them and no cost attached, it makes it easier for them to encourage and support their child’s interest in technology. I think when this encouragement is received from a parent and outside of the child’s time in the classroom in particular, it can have a profound effect on that child’s life. More than anything else, this event sounds fun.

I would love to see grassroots organized “Hack Jam” events like this taking place in Hamilton! As I write this article, it looks like I’m not the only one either. Between my professional commitments and events I already organize as a hobby I am too busy to organize such an event any time soon. But I would encourage anyone interested and able to do so to take up organizing such events as a hobby and run with it. This article on organizing a grassroots tech event in Hamilton may be of some help, but I have some more suggestions and ideas written below, assuming that the requirements for such an event are: station activities, indoor space, volunteer instructors, and publicity.

Station activities

A bunch of these ideas are taken from the Toronto Hack Jam page but I’ll just repeat them here…

Alice – “Alice is an innovative 3D programming environment that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web.”

Playing MadLibs with Python: Building Your First Game – “Ever wanted to build your own computer game? Here’s your chance! Even if you are a total beginner, you will be able to complete this challenge. You’ll be taken through the process of building a MadLib game, step-by-step.”

Computer Science Unplugged – “CS Unplugged is a collection of free learning activities that teach Computer Science through engaging games and puzzles that use cards, string, crayons and lots of running around.” The important thing with CS Unplugged activities is that none of them actually require a computer! Check out their activity list, concepts like binary numbers and sorting algorithms can be taught using pre-designed activities. Each one of these activities is a potential station!

Hackasaurus – “By making it easy for youth to tinker and mess around with the building blocks that make up the web, Hackasaurus helps tweens move from digital consumers to active producers, seeing the web as something they can actively shape, remix and make better.” It is well supported and made with Hack Jams in mind, check out these resources.

Hackety Hack – “Hackety Hack will teach you the absolute basics of programming from the ground up. No previous programming experience is needed! With Hackety Hack, you’ll learn the Ruby programming language. Ruby is used for all kinds of programs, including desktop applications and websites.” Well supported with lessons like this available.

Paper user interface prototyping – “involves creating rough, even hand-sketched, drawings of an interface to use as prototypes, or models, of a design” i.e. have children design the look and feel of apps by drawing paper mockups.

Scratch – “Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art — and share your creations on the web. ” Check out Getting Started with Scratch, Scratch videos and other resources to see how simple it can be.

Indoor space

Volunteer instructors

  • Solicit for volunteers from the community on stage at the next DemoCamp, or at StartupDrinks
  • Solicit for volunteers as part of the EventBrite registration page and general marketing push for the event
  • Elementary and High School teachers
  • Grade 11-12 High School students
  • University, College professors
  • University, College students
  • Parents


Anyone organizing such an event would of course be welcome to put it in the calendar, post a blog about it or send a description of the event to newsletter@softwarehamilton.com to have it put in the newsletter.

If Hamilton is going to become a city where digital innovators make the world a better place to live, that shift should benefit everyone and those new opportunities should be made accessible to everybody. Codeyear meetups for beginners and advanced programmers to learn how to code are a great idea, as is a technology group for supporting women in technology. I think local grassroots organized “Hack Jams” for youth would be another great idea, and that organizing them would make a great hobby!

Anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account is able to comment on this article below, if you have any thoughts or suggestions!


Help for Ontario software firms

Hello all

Coral CEA already works with Mohawk College to help software firms push towards commercialization. Now they are working with the DMZ @ Ryerson. Details below, if you are a software firm in the communications enabled applications space Coral CEA may be an option to examine.

Ottawa and Toronto, ON ­­– February 14, 2012 – Ottawa-based Coral CEA has invested $120,000 in four companies located at Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ), and Coral CEA is reviewing possible investments in even more firms at the DMZ.  “We are attracted to teams who are ‘getting it done’ versus talking about innovation and we want this type of collaboration to set a new standard in Ontario,” says Brian Forbes, Executive Director at Coral CEA. Forbes believes the DMZ has taken a hands-on approach with entrepreneurs that is a perfect fit with Coral CEA.

At the DMZ Coral CEA has invested in:

ARB Labs Inc. designed a software application that that allows any video display to create an immersive 3D effect – without the need for goggles or glasses

Greenguage Inc. developed a software tool for smartphone and Web that blends mobile technology with the green movement allowing monitoring of Corporate Social Responsibility efforts

HitSend Inc. offers an online platform to enable and enhance community-based change by tapping into the community’s collective voice

ViaFoura Inc. created a cloud-based plug and play user engagement and gaming platform for online content sites

“Coral CEA’s funding will allow us to add two more people to our current staff of five. The DMZ and Coral CEA are not just paying lip service to innovation, they are not just talking, they have a plan of action,” says Warren Tanner CMO at HitSend. He adds, “There is no better business school than starting a business and that is exactly what we do.”

The DMZ launched in the spring of 2010 with over 6,000 square feet of downtown Toronto office space. In just over a year and a half, the DMZ has almost doubled in size and has assisted more than 190 innovators to incubate and accelerate 38 startups, launched more than 61 projects and fostered over 350 jobs.  Brad Duguid, Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Innovation says,. “Collaborations like this are the key to success.  That’s why we helped establish Coral CEA and why we’ve made it easier for entrepreneurs across the province to get the help they need to succeed.

“Canada is a resource-rich nation, including knowledge resources. We also have a rich history of innovation, especially in communications.  Communications innovation helps refine knowledge resources, adding value for global export,” says Forbes. Coral CEA has assisted more than 50 companies to capitalize on innovation.

“The DMZ at Ryerson fosters innovation with a lean methodology and small teams that are very focused on going to market. Ontario will see action from our collaboration with new jobs, companies and applications,” says Forbes.


Coral CEA contacts
Brian Forbes
Executive Director
Phone: 613-317-2118
Email: bforbes@coralcea.ca

DMZ Contact
Lauren Schneider
Media Relations Officer
Phone: 416-979-5000 ext.42997
Email: lauren.schneider@ryerson.ca


Codeyear Meetup in The Baltimore House this month


Codeyear Meetup – Tuesday February 21st @ 7:00 in The Baltimore House (43 King William Street Hamilton, Ontario)

A ‘safe place’ to learn how to program, network, and chat about any and every web technology that interests you! Codeacademy.com is an interactive programming platform that guides you step by step into building javascript programs. If you’re not interested in the beginner aspect of codeacademy.com, you can always come down to work on your side projects, discuss said projects, or even get help on your homework! There will be many friendly faces, so feel welcome to come join us.

Alex Pineda (@brainyweb)


DemoCampHamilton5: Another Booming Success!

Originally posted on CanuckSEO.com

Yes, last night up at the newly redesigned Arnie Pub at Mohawk College, Software Hamilton founder Kevin Browne once again hosted our latest community DemoCampHamilton5 to another packed house!

And what a great new venue it was – the changes to the Arnie have been long in coming but the new big yet comfy room, the stage and digital presi equipment was superb…and as an attendant I must add a big #Kudos to Mohawk for this as well as their continued support for the DemoCampHamilton initiative too!

First, a big congrats and #kudos first to Ryan McGreal of raisethehammer.org blog fame and his solid Keynote Address on platforms…and why they’re the necessary and needed first step for anyone who’s looking to establish a digital initiative! As you may know, the About us page for this group states that “…raise the Hammer is a group of Hamilton, Ontario citizens who believe in our city’s potential and are willing to get involved in making the city a more vibrant, livable, and attractive place to live and work. We are non-partisan and our members come from diverse political backgrounds. Our common interest is revitalizing our city, a goal that benefits everyone…” and that about captures just who and what Ryan and his collective are all about. Last night, Ryan fulfilled that approach by his group to our community and the crowd found his presi absolutely spot- on! Well done Ryan!

Demo 1 Fluidmedia demo’d “…a seamless publishing system for communities of parents to share visual stories with friends and family” was how this was billed and Justin the head of the firm demo’d it nicely. What a great way to “see” your memories and build your own digital book – and the idea voiced at the end about publishing of same in a hard-copy format made this Grandpa sit up and take notice, eh! I loved this one, Justin…and the rollout I’m sure will be formidable!

Demo 2 Nik Garkusha (@Nik_G) demo’d Data Public: a new Drupal 7 distribution for government bundled with a number of custom modules for an all-in-one solution for Open Gov web initiatives & publishing Open Data. Packaged with a cloud-based installer, an open data catalogue & several apps, it cuts costs & time to launch Open Gov initiatives from months to hours. This type of open data intiative I think will grow – it’s the “buy in” by our politicians that is where the “rubber meets the road” and that’s a challenge for us all! But yes, #Kudos here Nik!

Demo 3 Mike Trpic (@mtrpcic) demo’d hist app – PathJS, a lightweight, client-side routing library for browsers that allows you to create ‘single page’ applications. It supports all major and modern browsers, and uses the latest web technologies…and watching his demo was great as all the coders in the room were as mesmerized as I was! #Kudos Mike!

Demo 4 Orbital (@GetOrbital) was in my opinion, the “demo-of-the-night” on a prototype of the smart home iOS app, Synapse. This was interesting in that what we were shown was a mobile app run on an iPhone, that “connected” to his house and allowed him to control everything from the kettle on his kitchen counter, to his garage door opener to the lights in his rec room. Yup, that’s right….with a simply “click” those items can be turned on/off….the kettle set to boil and the lights turned on…and from my own viewpoint I think that this is a pretty cool way to look ahead. Oh yes, I know that there are other technologies out there that do this too…but getting the demo from a Hamiltonian who used his own iPhone and his own house to show us what can be done was a real #startup turn-on for me. I can see some interesting opportunities there…and hope that this young man chooses to become a part of our own #HamOnt startup community – beginning maybe with an intake over at our Innovation Factory too! So…big #kudos here!

Demo 6 was a demo by one of the founders of a firm named Avaya web.alive – billed as “…an immersive Web collaboration tool that provides your organization with innovative new ways to meet, sell and learn. Radically different from other collaboration solutions, web.alive connects participants from around the globe in collaboration sessions featuring 3D visuals and spatial audio. Multiple, free-flowing discussions can take place simultaneously, and participants can have access to and take full advantage of all materials related to the session…” Oh, so…what exactly were we shown? Well, it’s a virtual world like say SecondLife….where just by using their online environment, you get to be an avatar immersed in worlds that they have created. Interesting? Yes. Cutting edge? Yes. But how to monetize that….was my own issue with same….and the founders both could not voice an opinion on just how to do that…so for me, as a business concept….this one is still somewhat distant IMHO….but the world we did see in the demo looked pretty cool so once again #kudos!

And there you have our recap of last night’s DemoCampHamilton5! A great event with more than 100+ attendants and some really cool demos….to learn more about same, take a click over to our softwarehamilton.com site, sign up for a free membership and then you’ll get our e-mail notices of our upcoming events! Now that’s a great way to help build our online community here in #HamOnt, eh! See you then!

Leap into Startup Weekend!

Get your tickets here: leapintosw.eventbrite.com


Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be part of a startup company?  

What if you could experience what it’s like in just one weekend?



Yuriy Blokhin of Kik Messenger

Kik Messenger is an inspiring Canadian startup success story, with over 1 million apps sold in its first 15 days of availability.  Yuriy was there from the beginning of Kik and is currently their Platform Evangelist. He’s going to share with us the Kik Messenger story from that vantage point, including the challenges and the delimmas, and provide information about their development platforms.

Event Details 

Do you have a creative passion such as software development, music, fashion, film, art, or design?  Or do you enjoy talking to customers, marketing, and developing monetization strategies? Maybe you should be part of a startup…

Leap into Startup Weekend is the ticket sale launch party for those interested in attending the next Startup Weekend Hamilton event!!

Startup Weekend Hamilton is a new event where startups happen in a single weekend.  Ideas for startups are pitched on Friday night, teams form to work on the business model and build prototypes, and by Sunday night the teams are presenting their new startup in front of a panel of expert judges to select a winner.

If you’re not sure how it all works that weekend you’re not alone, organizers and veterans of last October’s Startup Weekend event will be at Leap into Startup Weekend to explain what it’s all about, how it works and what it’s like to be a part of one.

Leap into Startup Weekend will kick off with a keynote by Yuriy Blokhin of Kik Messenger, followed by networking with snacks and coffees, and some special discount priced Startup Weekend tickets!  For those who stick around long enough there will be a DJ and some dancing at The Baltimore House later that night!

Startup Weekend Hamilton itself will be happening Friday April 27th to Sunday April 29th at Mohawk College.  Check out the website, or follow on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

CanuckCrowdfunding: An Idea whose Time has Come!

Originally posted on CanuckSEO.com

Okay, you know that I love SEO and online marketing and talk on same, practice same and yes, even “live” same day-in and day-out…but something that may be new to you all, is my love of the whole premise of what crowdfunding is – and what it can be too!

First a definition – directly from Wikipedia – that says the following about crowdfunding…

Crowd funding (sometimes called crowd financing, crowd sourced capital or street performer protocol) describes the collective cooperation, attention and trust by people who network and pool their money and other resources together, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. Crowd funding occurs for any variety of purposes, from disaster relief to citizen journalism to artists seeking support from fans, to political campaigns, to funding a startup company or small business or creating free software…”

Samples of same abound on the web – you’ve most likely heard about www.kickstarter.com or www.indiegogo.com or www.vencorps.com too…..all examples of sites that offer up the opportunity to allow anyone to use their creditcard to “offer” up funds to a startup business or non-profit or to a social cause. Good idea. Works. And from what I see numbers wise, works especially well for those startup founders who know how to “pitch” their project and how to get the right mix of marketing, image and brand identification high enough to attract attention and yes…attract donations.

And the biz model for same is about universal in this space. A person makes a donation to a chosen project. The project has a “shelf-life” of a certain period of time and should the target amount of funding be successfully raised, the funds are then turned over to the project founder, minus a small % that is kept by the crowdfunding site itself as overhead of usually less than 10% of the total. Sometimes the premise is varied in that some crowdfunding sites will turn over partial funding totals i.e. if the total ask is more than the funding provided….and others require a full raise of the funds. But notwithstanding, the idea in my mind is sound…

Of course, how things “appear” and then whether or not they’re “legal” is an issue when the law follows technology…and here in Canada as well as the US there are some major hurdles that will need to be jumped before a real crowdfunding site for startups and investors can occur…hence the crowdfunding channel is often called “donation-ware” as a catch-all and to skirt the legalities of same….but that too looks like it may be changing!

In the US, it’s a sound enough idea that the US President, Barack Obama has announced recently in his StartUpAmerica Initiative, that he too wants to make it easier to responsibly allow startups to raise money through “crowdfunding” which in my mind about cements this idea as having some real momentum….here’s the quote from the White House itself –

“As part of the President’s Startup America initiative, the Administration will work to unlock this capital through smart regulatory changes that are consistent with investor protection. This means reducing the disproportionately high costs that smaller companies face when going public, as well as raising the cap on “mini” public offerings (Regulation A) from $5 million to $50 million. It also means responsibly allowing startups to raise money through “crowdfunding” – gathering many small-dollar investments that add up to as much as $1 million. Right now, entrepreneurs like these bakers and these gadget-makers are already using crowdfunding platforms to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in pure donations – imagine the possibilities if these small-dollar donors became investors with a stake in the venture…”

And here in Canada….is crowdfunding legal yet? Well, it appears that as yet it is NOT legal from a pure investor standpoint…ie raise an ask via a Canuck crowdfunding site for equity….and the word on same is fairly plain but as I note, still under discussion too! And I am trying hard to lobby the few folks I know that yes, crowdfunding is a needed model to make legal to help our startup communities grow, eh!

And do we even have any crowdfunding sites in Canada? Well, a healthy set of googles into same has provided only a few examples at this point….and all I can find are a few site listing spots….and here’s the best example that I’ve found over at www.getspringboarded.com.

There is a larger list here, that shows many of the global crowdfunding sites….Marketing of Innovation but as I note after many hours on google the news stories by far outweigh the actual crowdfunding sites…


DemoCampHamilton5 demo line-up

In case you haven’t seen it, here is the demo line-up for DemoCampHamilton5! Register here: http://democamphamilton5.eventbrite.com/

Demo 1
Fluidmedia will demo a seamless publishing system for communities of parents to share visual stories with friends and family

Demo 2
Nik Garkusha (@Nik_G) will demo Data Public: a new Drupal 7 distribution for government bundled with a number of custom modules for an all-in-one solution for Open Gov web initiatives & publishing Open Data. Packaged with a cloud-based installer, an open data catalogue & several apps, it cuts costs & time to launch Open Gov initiatives from months to hours.

Demo 3
Mike Trpic (@mtrpcic) will demo PathJS, a lightweight, client-side routing library for browsers that allows you to create ‘single page’ applications. It supports all major and modern browsers, and uses the latest web technologies.

Demo 4
Orbital (@GetOrbital) will demo a prototype of the smart home iOS app, Synapse.

Demo 5

A demo from the Mohawk College’s iDeaWORKS program that focuses on applied research, industrial-academic connections and student entrepreneurism.

Demo 6
Avaya web.alive (TM) is an immersive Web collaboration tool that provides your organization with innovative new ways to meet, sell and learn. Radically different from other collaboration solutions, web.alive connects participants from around the globe in collaboration sessions featuring 3D visuals and spatial audio. Multiple, free-flowing discussions can take place simultaneously, and participants can have access to and take full advantage of all materials related to the session.