Author Archives: @grantspiller

My Android versus iOS comparison

I have read a lot of articles and blog posts comparing iOS versus Android or Apple versus Google.  These stories are always comparing one feature set against another.  I think the better way to look at the comparison is by judging how the devices are used.

For work, I was given an Android phone, the Samsung Galaxy SIII, for testing our company apps, in addition to the regular things for which a person uses a mobile phone.  Personally, I bought myself an iPad 2, which I also always have with me.   I have had the SIII for almost a year and the iPad for almost 2 years.

So my typical day, starts with me taking the SIII off the charger and checking my SIII for voice mails or text messages.

I then grab my iPad and check my email.  I have email on both my SIII and my iPad, but I genuinely prefer the email user experience on my iPad, especially for the inevitable replies.  Although, again, both devices can manage multiple email accounts, I manage 5 different email accounts on my iPad and I keep my phone for purely work email.  Also, adding my work email to my android did not automatically include my calendar and task functions as it did with my iPad — something I use a lot.

Throughout the day, I may get a couple of calls on my SIII, but mostly people reach out to me on my office land line.  For family and friends, I will use the phone for text messaging.  For work, I tend to use Skype, and again, I prefer Skype on my iPad or my laptop.

As I am working, i have both my iPad and SIII close at hand.  Throughout a typical work week, I need to sign and approve invoices, expenses, and requests that are sent to me, via email.   I use Notability (love this) on my iPad to review, sign and return digital documents.

At other times, during meetings and phone calls, i am using Notes, Trello, Calendar, and Reminders to create action items, follow-ups,  and meeting notes.  For this, again, I am using the iPad.  I don’t even carry paper and pens to meetings anymore.  The iPad works well instead.

On some days, I need to capture a picture of a person, place, or notes on a whiteboard.  Without a doubt, it is my SIII that I pick up.  The quality of photo is far superior and the device is much easier to manipulate.  However, i sync my photos from all devices to my Dropbox account, so all photos and screenshots end up in the same place.

At lunch time, i like to read as a diversion.  While a preferred a reader called ereader, it got bought by Barnes and Noble and promptly disappeared.  In my opinion, it was a great reader experience.  However, since that is no longer an option, I tried a number of other readers before settling on iBooks.  I share my books between an iPod Touch for bedtime reading and my Ipad for reading any other time.  I absolutely love that the page I am reading is synced as I switch from device to device even though my Touch is one of the earliest versions.

If I have had any conversations on my SIII, during the day, the SIII battery is dying or dead by 5:00pm.  In fact, when I get home, my first action, after kissing my wife hello, is to put the SIII on the charger.   Since I like to charge my devices while I sleep, I often forgot my charger at home.   On the other hand, when I get home, my wife often grabs my iPad out of my bag to look up a recipe, check her email, or surf Facebook.

The battery is probably to single most disappointing thing about the SIII.   The battery life on the SIII is absolutely atrocious.  The poor battery life is probably the most significant influencer on how I use the SIII.  Since I need it as a phone and for messaging, I don’t feel encouraged to download a lot of apps that might further drain the phone battery.    The other thing I note is that the SIII takes longer to charge than the iPad.

Throughout the evening, both my wife and I share the iPad back and forth for email, Facebook, surfing the web, and my secret indulgence – Texas Hold’em on my Pokerstars App.  We both have laptops, but unless we both want to do something online at the same moment, we always prefer to use the iPad. The SIII stays on the charger to be available, if needed, for emergency work calls.

In conclusion, my iPad is a constant companion that I have come to depend on.  My SIII is primarily what I use for text messaging and as a phone.  I don’t think about the battery on my iPad as it seldom impacts me.  On the SIII, it is something that I constantly need to monitor.



Google’s secure search is bad for small business



I am miffed with Google.

Somewhere Google decided that blocking access to the keywords people use to access our sites was a good idea. Oh sure, the politically correct front facing messaging is that they are protecting the privacy of the people who use google to search for things. If that were the complete story, they wouldn’t give up the keywords to those that who use a Google Adword account, which they now do. So, the real translation of this new policy is that they are protecting users privacy from those who won’t or can’t PAY to see their keywords.

Want some additional background regarding these changes that Google made?  Check out’s post: Post-PRISM, Google Confirms Quietly Moving To Make All Searches Secure, Except For Ad Clicks from September 23, 2013.  It is a great summary of  what changes and why.

For the small business owners, information sites, bloggers, and a huge number of sites that would not buy ad words, they will lose the benefit of understanding how people engage their site and their brand through Google search results.  Now, in your Google Analytics or other stats package, you will be depending on the search terms passed in via other search engines like Bing and Yahoo to frame the search terms.

So, for those of us who love watching the subtle changes in their analytics as much as I do, we can enjoy watching the keywords of “Not Provided” continue to grow in our organic search results. My guess is that, others may follow suit if this leads to new revenues for Google. While there are numerous other ways to use your analytic tools to measure your success, this particular change seems to be targeting those who will not, can not, or should not, be buying Google Adwords.

Did I mention that I am miffed with Google.

Video Paywalls? A viable options for newspapers?

It is an interesting time for newspapers.  Their traditional revenue streams are drying up and the new emerging digital streams are not growing fast enough to offset losses.

It is not surprising that newspapers are exploring all options including paywalls.  Most consumers are still resistant to paying for news content online, but most Canadian newspapers have launched or will launch some sort of paywall.  Long term, it remains to be seen whether this will be a successful strategy for newspapers.

I have been watching with interest a new trend where accessing premium content can only be seen after the user watching a advertiser video.  Selectable Media allows users to choose what type of video they get to watch.  The idea is that if users choose the video, they are more likely to pay attention and remember the advertiser message.

Looks like Sports Illustrated is experimenting with this new paywall format.   While Selectable Media is excited about the possibilities of the trial, as the Adweek article states, Sports Illustrated is less talkative about the trial.

What is interesting about this idea is that it addresses the major issue with online advertising.  Users can easily tune-out digital ad spots that appear in the same place on every page.  This new video pre-roll format puts the advertising in front of the users.  The question is how will users feel about being forced to watch an video advertisement in order to read content.

This is a pretty intrusive form of advertising.  It is not all that different from the more common interstitial advertising.  Will users be accepting of this forced advertising model?  Will advertisers see benefit from the same mode?   Paywalls inevitably force users to choose between between paying and reading the news.  This new model forces users to choose between their time and the content.

On a recent trip down south, my wife and I were offered a free couples massage if we were willing to sit and listen to the resort tell us about their premium VIP offer.  For a half an hour of our vacation time, we would be able to take advantage of a fantastic spa experience. After a few minutes with my iPad researching the what other had said about the offer, we chose to give up our spa experience to avoid the half an hour sales pitch.   I kind of wonder if I would make a similar choice if I was force to watch an ads to read a story. Would that trade-off of 30 seconds of my life in order to spend a few minutes reading a particular piece of content?  Would it make me choose differently about where I get my content?

As I said in the beginning, it is an interesting time for Newspapers and paywalls.

Spiller Family versus the Grizzly Bear

Very recently, my wife was booked to go to a conference in Calgary Alberta.  Having lived in Banff for 5 years back in the eighties, I knew it was my duty to make sure that she saw the beauties of Banff National Park.  I don’t think there are any more picturesque mountain views anywhere in the world!  So I did what I had to do and booked a long weekend on to the end of my wife’s conference and took her to Banff.

Day 1 was off to Lake Louise.  Our first stop of the day was to go up the gondola (or rather chair lift) up the mountain at the Lake Louise Ski resort for a great view of the Ten Peaks Valley.  My remembrance of the off season gondola ride was that there was a restaurant at the top of the gondola where we could get something to eat and a beer.  That is no longer the case.  Now, what is a restaurant in ski season is a nature interpretative centre with complimentary coffee the rest of the year.  Here we learned about the local grizzly Bears.  The rules, when hiking on the mountain:

  1. travel in groups of 4 or more;
  2. and, make lot’s of noise .

So, wanting to hike, we said we are only a group of 2.  The interpretative centre man said, “No worries.  The bears all denning (getting their dens ready for hibernation) on the other side of the mountain.  So off we went on the Kicking HorseTrail.    This video is a quick overview of our trip up the Lake Louise and our encounter with a Grizzly Bear.

Needless to say, it was very exciting start to our tour of Banff National Park. From there, we went to Moraine Lake, Chateau Lake Louise for drinks and snacks, and back to the Banff Spring Hotel for dinner with friends.  What a day!

Running milestone achieved

I have been running (again) for over a year.  In my younger days, I got quite obsessive about running.  At my peak, I was running 7.2 Kilometers almost every day.  I absolutely loved it.  At some point, life, smoking, and work replaced running…   a sad story, I admit.

Flash forward a couple of decades ( and a few years), and I am running again.  This time, running is my way to combat a 2 decade lifestyle as a web geek, more calories in than out, and really quitting smoking.  My wife and I often run together, which in itself, makes running far more enjoyable.  At this point, I am trying to run at least 3 times a week.  I have been running essentially the same route for 6 months or so.  The course, we (my wife and I) have chosen ends on a fairly long up hill stretch.  By the time we hit the top of the hill, we are both pretty much done.  I have been stuck at the same 2.8km distance for a long time.

Today,  I hit the top of the hill (and the normal end of the route) and was not ready to stop.  According to my iOS app, Route Mapper, I ran 3.58 Kms today.  Okay, maybe not a huge leap forward, but yeah!!!!





Spiller Family versus the Skunk Family – Part II

The day after our cat became the first skunking victim of 2013 of the family, our dog, Chase, became the second member of the family to get sprayed. If you have dogs and cats in our neighbourhood, you will inevitably learn to be wary of skunks especially in late July and August. We even go as far as getting flashlights out and checking the backyard out before letting the animals out. A sensible precaution that generally avoids late night de-skunkifying activities.

What was weird was letting the dog out mid afternoon on a blazing hot day and having a skunk waiting for him. The skunk was eating seeds from under the bird feeder. Skunk sightings in the day almost never happen. Anyway, the dog shot out, bowled the skunk over, and then turned to bark at him. The skunk merely got up, turned, cocked and… pop… skunk blast point blank in Chase’s face. Chase yelped and ran for the house and the skunk ambled off.

That night we learned another truth. The skunk or skunks had set up shop under our shed. The dog circling the shed and barking was a telltale sign. Okay, it is confession time. It was late in the season the year before when we got the shed and I started skirting the base of the shed before the weather turned. Instead of finishing the skirting, I filled the open areas with broken patio stones and temporarily covered the openings with wood. My neighbours, unknown to me, and before this ordeal, had named our shed “Skunk Motel”. It may have been empty for almost a year, but our open for business shingle was definitely out. So now that their nickname had proven true, I had to evict the unwanted tenants.

After hearing a bunch of people tell me stories of paying companies a bunch of money to get rid of skunks, I decided to see if I could do it on my own. I asked my favourite go-to expert, Google, for his advice. A number of blogs talked about putting balls of crumpled up news paper in every hole around the shed to track the comings and goings of our unwanted guest. They also suggested putting mothballs under the shed. Apparently, skunks are not a fan of that smell. So I threw an entire box of mothballs under the shed and plugged up the holes and waited to wave good by to our pest. After a couple of days, I could see the skunk was still coming and going.

Once again, I asked the expert, Google, for his advice. Several other blogs referred to a product that was available at the TSC stories that could be used to evict the skunk. The product was called Critter Ridder. The staff person at the store confirmed that it could be use to keep skunks away from the shed so that we could address the problem. I bought it and a bunch of heavy chicken wire. So far, my Google experts seemed to be on to something here. I followed the instructions and created an 1/2 meter barrier around the shed by spreading the Critter Ridder. I made sure our dog and cat stayed away from the error and waiting to see if the skunk would leave.

Later that night, we heard an awful ruckus by the shed, and then nothing. For two days, no skunk activity and the paper balls I had stuffed everywhere didn’t move. Hooray, the Critter Ridder product worked! Still, I didn’t wanted to be the third member of the Spiller family sprayed by a skunk in 2013, so I made a bunch of noise under the shed to make sure there was definitely no skunk there. No response. So, I look under the shed and could not see a Skunk. YEAH!!! Spillers 1, Skunks 0.

I pulled off the existing skirting and dug a trench a 1.5 feet deep all the way around the shed and the stapled chicken wire around the the entire perimeter of the shed and down into the trench. Then I backfilled the trench with dirt, and put the deckboard skirting back on. That baby was sealed tightly. No critters were getting under that shed again. The “Skunk Motel” was Closed!

You know that expression, “The best laid plans…”? Our Dog, Chase was happy to point out a slight flaw my closing of the “Skunk Motel”. As he happily barked at the shed later the same night, we discovered a very angry skunk trying to get out from under the shed. It was time to toss Google aside and call the experts.

So  I reached out to Wild Things Wildlife Control ( and one of their guys came over right away.  Step one, confirm skunk was there – check.  Step 2, he cut a whole in my chicken wire and put in a one way door baited with peanut butter to allow the skunk to leave, but not return.  Step 3, he sprayed a odour neutralizer under the shed to deal with any left over smells.  Then we waited a day.  When the Wild Things fellow came back, the skunk had left.  He removed his one way door and patched the barrier.  Job Done — thanks Wild Things Guy!.

While the Wild Things guy was there, I learned a few things:

  1. Critter Ridder is an irritant.  The skunk only discovers it when he cleans himself and would probably not connected it with the shed.  So Critter Ridder to evict a skunk probably doesn’t work.
  2. When skunk kids are involved, momma skunk doesn’t often leave until the kids stop coming back.  And kids are often seen exploring in daylight.  So evicting the kids may leave momma behind.
  3. All my noise making to make sure the skunk was gone?  Well skunks don’t live between the ground and the shed.  Mostly, they create a underground burrow.   So, the skunk was likely oblivious to my noise making.

The lessons to be learned here?  Don’t leave inviting places for skunks to live.  When one does get a skunk, call an expert, not Google.  And finally let’s use Google the way is was meant to be:

  • Self diagnosing major medical conditions;
  • Seeking self defense legal advice;
  • parenting advice;
  • and, getting directions to the nearest Timmies.

Spiller Family versus the Skunk Family – Part I

Around our neighbourhood in London, ON, seeing skunks is quite common, especially in late July and August. On one particular night, my wife and and I had tickets to see Styx at Rock the Park, a local downtown park weekend concert.  Unfortunately, all day the the weather was stormy with torrential rain and lightning.  The lineup for RTP was great, but we skipped most due to the nasty weather.  As the time for Styx came closer, we decided the weather was not going to improve, and opted out of going.  So home, warm and dry, we let the dog out for a quick pee.

Being long time pet owners, we are well aware of that moment when you let your dog out, hear the barks, and then smell that distinctive scent that can mean only one thing.  The dog has been sprayed…again.

What made this particular night at the end of July different was when the dog starting barking, the skunk moved and came face to face with our cat hiding nearby in the bushes.    The almost imperceptible pop sound that comes before that dreadful smell happened one second before the cat bolted faster than I have ever seen her move.  Our cat, Shadow, had taken the skunk spray point blank in the face.  For once, our dog, Chase, listened to us and came in, unscathed, when we called him and the skunk disappeared into the night.

It took a while to locate our poor cat.  She was in distress and hiding in the bushes at the front of house.  She wanted desperately in the house, but was not interested in being escorted in due to her unfortunate state.  It took her a couple of quick feints to try and get past us, before she realized that we were not going to let her skunky self in the house on her own.  While my wife tried to coax the cat close, I went to grab the usual supplies:  hydrogen peroxide; baking soda; and, dish soap.  For those that have never had to deal with skunk smell, tomato juice is an old wives tale and doesn’t work.

2013-07-27 22.16.28

A sad cat reluctantly submitting to a bath to get rid of the skunk smell.

Eventually, the  cat relented and my wife carried her, at arms length, to the kitchen sink.  Now normally, our cat is fundamentally opposed to baths, on principle.  It is a measure of how much distress she was in, that she didn’t transform into a dynamo of claws and teeth. She was in a miserable state.  Both of her eyes were nearly closed and she was foaming from the mouth and nose.  She was surprisingly resigned when my wife started applying the skunk removal liquid.  We got her well soaked except around her eyes and nose.


Cleaning the cat with the skunk smell removal formula

Cleaning the cat with the skunk smell removal formula

Once we had her towelled off, we let her go and she shot off to the basement.  She still had some of the spray around her eyes, but we needed a moment to figure out how to deal with her eyes and nose.  We were very afraid that she was blinded.   Since it was now late on a Saturday night, we asked our resident expert, Google.  It turns out that several sites recommended milk, of all things.    So with cat treats and a bowl of milk we headed down to the basement.  Despite her ordeal, she came when we called, took her treat and would let us wash her face with milk for minutes at a time before bolting away again.  We repeated the process several times before she started showing improvements.  The milk seemed to be providing relief.  By the next morning, her eyes and face were less swollen, if still a little stinky, but she was back to her old self.

Our first encounter of 2013 was now in the past.  The irony of our adventure was that the storm clouds ended up clearing just before Styx began their performance.  Styx put on a fantastic show, we heard (sigh), that ended with a fireworks display.   If we had gone, would the skunk have still been in our backyard when we let the animals out for their final pee?

PS:  here is the best skunk smell removal recipe: Mix 1 bottle of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide,  1/4 cup of baking soda and 1 to 2 teaspoons liquid soap in a container and apply to the affected spots of the sprayed animal.  Avoid eyes and nose.

Remember how you felt seeing your name printed in the Newspaper?

Have you ever had your name published in a newspaper?  It might have first happened when you were a kid, getting your name mentioned because your house league baseball team won their big game.  Or maybe later, it was in the High School when you were awarded an academic achievement that you made it into the newspaper.  Or perhaps, as a business person, your business was centered out for some community contribution.  Whatever the reason, didn’t it feel great,  just to know that your name was published in print for everyone to see.  That is the magic of the community newspaper.  Somehow, we always seem to overlook that when we talk about the future of newspapers.

Not long ago, my son’s band, Get Back, got featured in the London Free Press.  They are the youngest Beatles tribute band that I have ever heard of (the oldest is 16 and the youngest is 12).  I actually posted about it (okay, yes, it was shamelessly proud dad moment) here,  My point is, that everyone connected with the band (musicians, teachers,  mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and so on)  suddenly wanted multiple copies of the newspaper as keepsakes.  They asked the newspaper for PDFs of the pages for mounting in their musical school and in their homes. Many will include clippings of the article in photo albums and keepsake boxes for years.    These people are, as most statistics published recently imply,  no longer part of the newspaper’s core audience.  They are too young.   And yet…magic… newspaper magic.

When was the last time you heard about anyone ask for PDF copies of tweets or Facebook status updates to frame and hang or treasure forever?  That is silly.  It is a different experience and a different purpose.  Social Media is faster, more interactive, and yet, more fleeting.  It exists more in the moment  than in perpetuity.  So clearly, newspapers and social media can co-exist.

I think the above is probably at the core of a posting written by Douglas Idugboe in early July 2010.  I came across his article while this posting was in draft mode and I include it because it is a different perspective that arrives at the same point.  His article is here:

How Social Media is Saving Old Media  (July 6, 2010) (

In his posting he makes a case that shows that Old Media and New Media can co-exist.  In fact, he goes on to demonstrate the myriad of ways in which the two are compatible and where they can mutually benefit one another.  I enjoyed his posting and I suggest that you read it too before you simply write off newspapers to the bottom of the bird cage of media.

Do you have thoughts on this too?  Leave your comment.

Thought Experiment # 1: Don’t suck, newspapers!

When I search twitter using the tag, #newspaper or just newspapers, I often see postings slamming newspapers as relics of a by-gone era, and irrelevant given the emergence of social media and user generated content. Clearly, there are those that still enjoy what newspapers offer, but a growing group, and I suspect a younger group, are saying things like:

From Twitter: @ToughLovetorX said: “@spirospiliadis the thing that really gets me is all the whining from newspapers about the end of the world, when so many of them suck.”

Does this tweet  articulate the crux of the issue for many web savvy readers?  Do Newspapers tend to suck compared to the emerging alternatives?  Does it have to be this way?  Are people too quick to write off the poor old newspaper?

And if so, what does the newspaper industry have to do to gain relevance and acceptance in the new digital world?  Thus, begins the first of my  “Thought Experiment” postings.  What would it take for newspapers to suck less?  Here is a few of my thoughts:

  1. Newspapers, if you are serious about competing to get your lost classified dollars back, build a better product!  It is not a good user experience anymore to buy print in order to get the online portion.   The value proposition is with online these days.  The online only classified sites have created a great interface for posting ads.  Within minutes, you can create a listing, upload multiple images and post your listing.   The savvy sites offer the basic listing for free and then add real value upsells.  And, almost as fast as you can post, you can start getting queries and responses to your listing.  Unfortunately, newspapers are restrained by protecting their print dollars, following strict rules for what ads get posted and how they are worded (oddly, this used to be their strength), and their aging, more affluent, audiences are not creating enough responses to justify the costs of paid classified ads. Once the print ad is gone, the online ad disappears as well.  So change you model.  (And, as a side note, starting auction sites will not recover your lost classified revenues)
  2. Find a way to place nice with the community bloggers.  They don’t have to be your enemies. In fact, instead of continually playing the professional journalist versus amateur blogger card, figure out a way to be the face of local.  Connect with existing bloggers and  find print and online space showcase their best comments.  Identify community leaders and encourage them to use your tools to start their own blogs. Own all local.  That is what will differentiate a local newspaper over the long term.
  3. Newspapers, your audiences are not passive anymore.  They are actively participating in online communities.  They are creating content.  They are sharing content.  They involved in on-going conversations that likely don’t include you.  Embrace the social media channels.  Experiment to find out where your audience is and what they are talking about.  Don’t just create automated feeds to your facebook and and twitter channels of the same content you created for your print and online products.  These channels are not about broadcasting.  They are about building relationships, trust, and dialogue.

Okay, so there are three things I think will make newspapers suck less.  What are your suggestions?

The thing about commenting is…

Commenting has been both a blessing and a bane for many site publishers. On one hand, fostering an open dialogue with your people reaps huge rewards. Dealing with inappropriate, racist, and hateful comments can drive publishers (and their lawyers) to think about radical solutions for dealing with the complaints, time wasted spent moderating,and/or the endless requests for comment deletions. If only there was a full proof solution…

I remember a friend telling me once that on the old forums every discussion eventually dissolved into “Leafs Suck!” or “Leafs Rule”. It didn’t matter what the discussions started off as, they always ended up off topic and out of context.

Anonymous posting is often cited as the main cause of poor comments, but adding registration requirements for commenting and comment volumes drop dramatically. Moderating comments still allows anonymous posting, but it is a large investment in resources on the side of the publisher.  Another option is to allow communities to police themselves.   So is it controlled commenting, the ‘wild west’ of commenting, or no commenting at all?

When I hear novel approaches to managing commenting, I have to pay attention. So, the Sun Chronicle newspaper proposes to charge people to comment in an attempt to evolve “encourage intelligent and meaningful conversation”, I had to read about that. So, in a nutshell, all posters must register their complete name, address, phone number, and email to start. Then, they have to pay $0.99 on their credit card to activate their accounts. The credit card transaction is used to verify the identity of the commenter.  The  Blog ReadWriteWeb posted the  following looking at the Pay for Commenting phenomenon:

Newspaper Wants Readers to Pay to Comment

My gut feeling is that charging people for the right to post their opinion on a media site seems like we are heading in the wrong direction.  I get the benefit of identity validation and there may, in fact, be less flame wars and nasty comments.  But, I think there will also be less controversy and less user engagement.    What if I have a strong opinion about something that I know my friends and family won’t agree with.  I’m not likely to post a perfectly valid point.  The same can be said for whistle-blowers and people who could feel at risk by identifying their race or gender.   People will likely only post safe comments, if they post at all.

What is your solution to commenting?