The Legend of Tarzan: My D-BOX Motion Seat Experience

I paid $23 to see The Legend of Tarzan… for… ummm science?

I’m a huge fan of the art of storytelling and storytelling doesn’t get much better than the cinema experience.  My profession means i’m constantly connected, always within reach, and no matter the hour and compelled to respond when I see that blinking light. Movies are my escape, for a moment in time they force me to unplug and allow me to experience a story other then my own.

I love movies. Most Thursday nights you can find me at the theater taking in the next big blockbuster or discovering one of the lesser known gems. Some years ago Cineplex (them main theater chain here in Canada) premiered the D-Box motion seating in some of their larger centers. The system allows an artists to script motion that is timed to the movie allowing you to not only see, but feel the action. Our local Cineplex got D-Box motion seats a few weeks ago and I was itching to try the experience. They promise a lot, but how does it hold up?



The Legend of Tarzan

Lets take a brief detour to talk about the actual film, The Legend of Tarzan. I don’t typically review the films I watch in greater detail then a single tweet as I hate spoilers and hundreds of people pour their hearts into creating something for us to enjoy. The Legend of Tarzan has its flaws but as a whole is a wonderful movie. Taking the path less traveled, at the beginning on the film John Clayton III (Tarzan) and his beautiful wife Jane are in England. John has claimed his fathers linage as Lord Greystoke and has started to build a new life with Jane far from the jungle that raised him. Eventually John’s duty to his country as Lord Greystoke pulls him back to the world he once escaped.



Jane Clayton will cut you so bad, you wish she did not cut you so bad!

The cast is fantastic and story underneath is a great foundation. Throughout the movie I found myself wishing there was a little less action and more character driven drama. Alexander Skarsgård as Tarzan and Margot Robbie as Jane are well paired and certainly create some on screen magic. With Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz supporting most of the compelling scenes are found outside the action. Some of the action scenes, particularly Tarzan’s vine work and some of the jungle scenes feel unnatural. This seems like a budgetary issues as with a little more work on the lighting and rotoscoping would have went along way. Director David Yates and Warner Brothers have created magic together in the past with him at the helm of Harry Potter movies and the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, so we know they are capable of more. If you enjoy compelling stories, its worth checking out.


Cineplex & D-Box Motion Seats

Did it enhance the movie experience? Yes. Did it distract from the movie experience? Yes. Was it worth the money? I’m squarely on the fence about that. The first thing you will notice about D-Box is it’s insane price. D-Box seating I’ve encountered is always located inside Cineplex’s UltraAVX theaters. If you haven’t seen a movie in UltraAVX, I highly recommend it. Upgraded projection, Dolby Atmos surround sound, reserved seating and upgraded semi reclining seats are well worth the upgraded price. Although prices vary by region the price in Red Deer, Alberta breaks down like this:

  • Standard Adult Ticket $12
  • Ultra AVX Premium $3
  • Ultra AVX 3D Premium $2
  • D-Box Premium $6

For a whopping total of $23 Freaking Dollars. That is a hefty fee, one where if you intend to bring your significant other you may want to consider a second mortgage. In fairness, you can lob $5 of that price on Tuesday nights, but that still places D-Box in an extreme luxury category for me. Is it worth the cost of two movies? Let’s break it down.

The D-Box Experience

When you walk into the theater you will defiantly notice the big red seats protruding like an island in the sea of Cineplex blue, allowing you to proudly proclaim your fanciness. D-Box seats are typically located in the primary viewing zone, where your eyes are dead center of the screen. Premiums price, premium placement. Hopping onto your D-Box seat you will notice a few more differences.

The D-Box Seats

The seat is not nearly a comfortable as the Cineplex’s other Ultra AVX seats, its quite ridged, and understandably because of the motion – doesn’t recline. On your left you will find a standard cup holder and to your right is a set of D-Box controls allowing you to set your own level of intensity. At 5′ 9″ I did notice a two things about the seat that I feel affected my viewing experience beyond the seats motion. First, the back of the seat is shorter then the other UltraAVX seats meaning I couldn’t lay my head back against the seat as I typically would when viewing.  Second, the underlying motion control system means that the seat sits slightly higher then a typical seat. Not much higher, but enough that I started to feel numbness in my lower leg because of reduced circulation.

Rows of D-BOX chairs lined up in a movie theatre. (Courtesy of D-BOX)

Rows of D-BOX chairs lined up in a movie theatre. (Courtesy of D-BOX)

The D-Box Motion

D-Box is definitely an experience. The technology works pretty well and I do feel like enhances the cinematic experience. There’s magic when the D-Box Motion Code syncs up with some of the epic flyover shots in the film. The very subtle pitch and roll make you feel like you are looking from the cameras perspective, and that’s pretty cool experience. Some very subtle tweaks to the motion could go along way to enhancing the experience. The seats seem to stop at their home and some animation style easing where it goes sightly past home and back would feel more natural. Where it lost me was the more action filled sequences.

The motion an technology itself was great but I found the motion artists stylistic choices didn’t match my expectations. For example, there is a scene where your looking down the barrel of a chain gun as it’s fired and you feel the gosling of the gun as if you were firing it yourself. When the camera cuts, so does the motion. Now your being fired at and the seat is stark and still. This choice of motion and non-motion took me out of the experience more then the motion itself. Although there were some defiant miscues in the motions timing, the overall D-Box motion experience was a positive one.

The Environmental Factors

Environmental factors are one of the primary things that can ruin a theater going experience, and I feel that there are a few worth mentioning here. I have to give it to D-Box, their chairs are relatively silent and the motion of other chairs doesn’t distract from the movie, but their insanely bright control LED’s in my peripheral vision do. It’s almost like there was someone texting beside me the whole movie. Diming the panel when its not in use would go a long way to improving the user experience.

The Cineplex theater in Red Deer was not built or designed my Cineplex. They purchased it well into is constriction and their UltraAVX screen was retrofitted years later. The AVX space is great but since it was not designed for the screen that means that viewing sweet spot I mentioned is two rows from the top, and is not the optimal place for audio. Unfortunately, there is a noticeable reduction in the sound quality where the D-Box seats are place.

I love Cineplex, but I really do have to give them a hand slap here for cleanliness. At the Red Deer theater we’re often forced to stand in a third lineup while staff clean a theater. This was one of those days, and although staff went through and grabbed the drink cups and popcorn bags… There was a stack of garbage beside my D-Box seat including poutine cups, hot dog wrappers, cardboard trays and candy wrappers. I understand some patrons lack respect, I always remove my garbage and often pick up others on the way out. I understand that you cant possibly sweep and mop between every show. That said, when you make me wait and throw out a $23 price tag, it shouldn’t feel like i’m sitting inside a garbage can.

The Verdict

Are D-Box motion seats worth the price tag? The jury is still out on that one as I feel like a single film is not enough data to truly know. I feel a movie like Fast & Furious might be better suited to the D-Box experience, so I will defiantly try it again in the future.

Have you tried D-Box yet? What did you think?


When Helping Hurts: Why You Shouldn’t Donate Physical Goods During A Disaster

As I write this Fort McMurray, Alberta is burning. My twitter and Facebook feeds are full of images of terror and heartbreak, as a wildfire tares through the community and tens of thousands for people (currently estimated at 80,000) are displaced. It breaks my heart and it has me (as with many of you) wondering, how can I help? The reality is that our compassion and zeal to lend a hand can often cause more harm than good. I love how our communities rally and step up to provide in a time of need, please take a moment to consider how you can best direct your efforts.

I have been fortunate to be able to assist on the ground with disaster relief in communities across Alberta including the Slave Lake fire in 2011 and the Calgary floods in 2013, and I’ve learned that cash donations, even small ones, are by far the most effective way to help those recovering from a disaster.


The Real Need

Right now the true needs are unknown. We look at the images coming through the media and our minds tell us, these people have lost everything. Unfortunately, we won’t know the true status for a few weeks to come, and the areas of need are often much different then we perceive. Our compassion tells us we need to help these people get back on their feet, replace the things they’ve lost. So we start collecting food, clothing and household items for them. We don’t realize that it could be 2 years before they have a place to put them. We don’t realize that someone will have to sort, warehouse and distribute what we collect. We don’t realize that for heath and safety reasons a lot of what we collect cannot be distributed. Often leading to our own heartbreak when our hard work is turned away. In these first few weeks emergency shelters are equipped to provide the necessities of life: food, clothing, and shelter. Regardless of whether you are staying in a shelter or not, you can go there to gain access to these basic services.

An example of unforeseen need is that during a wildfire, electricity to the community is lost. This means that even if a home was not affected by the fire, every single fridge and freezer will need to be replaced. We are talking tens of thousands of appliances. This is not something that can be donated, shipped, sorted, and tested. It takes extreme buying power, manufacture negotiations and logistical coordination at a global scale. This is why organizations like the Red Cross in cooperation with government , are powerful tools in times of disaster.


Lessons From Our Past

Unfortunately, in recent years Alberta has seen it’s fair share of disasters. In 2011 a wildfire in northern Alberta forced the evacuation of Slave Lake, Alberta and dozens of smaller communities. In true Canadian fashion the support was enormous and donations started pouring in, but what happened next could surprise you.

“They tried to give the excess donations to local charities, but none would take them. They eventually gave them to a local waste collection company to hand out to local groups. But there were so few takers that the company eventually dropped them off at a landfill.”

During the Slave Lake fire response many good willed organizations and trucking companies loaded up truck after truck with donated goods to be delivered to the community, only to find out there is nowhere to take them. If Calgary was overwhelmed with goods 550km away from Slave Lake, you can imagine the impact on the community itself. No one wants to make the decision to throw away a communities good will.


Why organizations don’t accept physical goods

This may have you wondering why more organizations don’t accept physical goods. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Warehouseing and sorting donated goods is a logistical nightmare
  • Individuals affected often don’t have anywhere to store donated items
  • The majority of donated items are not fit for redistribution for health and safety concerns
  • Costs for shipping & storing donated items often outweigh the cost of buying new
  • Donations rarely fill the actual need at the moment
  • NGO’s such as the Red Cross have pre-existing agreements in place to fulfill the basic needs of food, shelter & clothing
  • The collective buying power of an NGO can stretch your dollar further

If you are going to donate physical items the best avenue is to donate them where you usually do on an individual basis. These organizations are well networked and will help to fulfill the need where needed, but are often not equipped to receive truckloads at a time.


How You Can Help

1. Make a financial donation to an NGO involved in the relief effort

We always have a hard time with when it comes to giving financially to an organization but this is the absolute best thing you can do. The Canadian Red Cross does need assessments on every individual and endeavors to provide for their specific needs. This includes getting them back to work by providing items like work boots and specially items such as prescription eyewear or medical aids. Their support often stretches out for years and when you donate to an financial appeal the money is earmarked for that and only that.

The Canadian Red Cross has setup a financial appeal for the Alberta Fires and you can donate here https://donate.redcross.ca/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1951&ea.campaign.id=50610

The Salvation Army also has an appeal here https://secure.salvationarmy.ca/registrant/donate.aspx?eventid=197650&langpref=en-CA&Referrer=http%3a%2f%2fsalvationarmy.ca%2falbertafires%2f

2. Help others on an individual basis

If you see a direct ask or need from a family or individual and you have the means to provide it, please do so. Just be cautious about spreading the word and collecting more then they need.


3. Volunteer

This can be tricky as everyone wants to help but in these times skilled and highly trained individuals are required. Keep an eye our for calls for volunteers from reputable organizations and remember that volunteers will be needed for months to come.


4. Thank the Volunteers

I can tell you from personal experience that volunteering during a disaster is extremely taxing. You work long hours, get very little sleep and being there for people effected means you also carry their emotional burden. Volunteers may not always be willing to talk about their experiences but taking the time to thank them for their service can provide much needed energy and prevent burnout. During the Slave Lake fires comedian Tracy Morgan invited volunteers to attend his show free of charge and it gave me the mental break I needed to push through another week.


Thank you for your support!

Your compassion and desire to help shows the best of humanity. No matter how you choose to give, you will make a difference in someones life, you will make it better. Thank you for choosing to be amazing.



Due of the incredible reach of this post (Currently 250,000+ reads) and the volume of replies, I have to close the comment section on this post. I appreciate healthy conversion on this matter but the notifications are overwhelming at this time.

Thank you for reading, caring and sharing.🙂


six months in exile header

Six Months in Exile

Reflections from the other side of love

In December I shared my thoughts on love and loss – 99 days after the end of a long term relationship. Writing that article really helped to put the true situation into perspective for me, and since then I’ve been asked a lot of questions. This week we passed the six month mark and I thought it was a good time for an update of my perception and to answer a few questions.

A Tangential Journey Through Spacetime

Time is an interesting thing. In the span of a lifetime, six months is barely a blip. A sliver so small it can be perceived as quite insignificant, yet at certain milestones in our lives that same sliver can stretch to eternity. Although the intricacies human perception are vast, I’ve discerned that this feeling is most prevalent surrounding events of two distinct categories.

  1. Anticipation – As we approach a significant event that is time bound, (the birth of a child, a wedding, a big trip, graduation) the closer you get to the event, your perception of time seems to slow to a crawl.
  2. Loss – Conversely, when we loose something we care deeply about, (death, breakups, employment) life seems to grind to a halt. Unlike events of anticipation that pass quickly because of their time bound nature, loss persists for an indeterminate amount of time.

Although, these categories are not mutually exclusive. One major overlap between the two categories is longing. We can both be anticipating seeing loved one again and longing for their presence. This manifests itself much like the way we feel loss (anxiety/depression) and can be a major burden on many relationships. When longing is combined with loss it can intensify both the pain and duration of the event.

Anticipation VS Loss

I personally feel that loss of an intense love is more painful then the death of a loved one. There is no denying that longing exists after death, but death is black & white, it’s an absolute. With love nothing is that simple and without a catalyst such as hate, the feelings of longing and loss will persist indefinitely.

How has life been since 99 days?

There is no getting around the fact that the past 6 months have been terrible for me, filled with setbacks, culminating recently in the loss of my job and a suspended drivers licence. That said I have been working hard to build positive experiences in my life through volunteerism and look forward to starting the next chapter of my career.

Has the perception of your relationship changed?

Writing the 99 days article was like therapy for me and since I have also done an interview for an upcoming relationship podcast. Forcing myself to think through the relationship has given me fresh perspective on a few things. Notably, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have lost her and the constant anxiety is slowly leaving.

However the longing has not left me. I still think about her everyday, and as I’m sleeping more she still pops up in my dreams. She was far from perfect but like art, in love perfection is found in the imperfections. I constantly find myself reminded of the way she would do laundry or clean the house. Leading to the feeling (as the title of this post suggests) that I’ve been banished to exile.

Would you have married her?

Without question. Knowing that her time to move was coming near, I spent much of the last year we were together planning and saving for the perfect proposal. For me, that was always the plan.

Would you get back together?

That is a difficult question. The simple answer is of course, I love her. The reality is it would have to be a different scenario. I couldn’t do long distance again and because of the reality of my situation she would have to move, get her own place, and take it slow. As much as I believe that nothing is impossible, the probability of that happening is extremely low.

Do you think you could’ve done more to hold it together?

I can honestly say I did everything I could to keep it together. I did hold back on giving her the final anniversary gift I made her, as I knew her mind wasn’t there and I feared it would just upset her more. The one thing I wish I did was identify and mitigate some of the fears earlier.

If you could do it again what would you change?

Honestly not much, but in our 5 years together the one thing I really failed to build a strong relationship with her mother and sister. Although I tried, I was not able to show her mom the value of my love and her opinion meant a lot to both of us. If I could do it again, I would really try to forge that relationship early.

Have you tried putting yourself out there?

My friends say that I just need to move on, get out there and forget her. I’ve had a few conversations with women and went for coffee with one, but honestly, even though it’s been six months I can’t see myself moving on it yet. I have a strict “Don’t be an asshole” policy and I can’t in good conscious court a woman while my heart and my mind belong to another. I made a mistake in the past and lost a good friend because of it, something I still regret. I’m not that guy, I refuse to be that guy. It’s going to take an amazing woman to spur me forward.

So after six months…

I realize my journey is far from over. I’ve come and long way, I respect her decision and have distanced myself. I also recognize that you can’t control love and there is a long way to go. It’s still a struggle fighting the loneliness and making new friends, but there is hope, and hope drives forward motion.

Dave Mirra trains for the Lake Placid Ironman in Syracuse, NY.

Dave Mirra’s Legacy is More Than BMX

Last Thursday was a terrible day for me. At 1pm I lost my job… I did what most men would do and let a few close friends know. One of my friends reached out and said we should grab a beer and as he sat down I saw this tweet:

WHAT!? – We both into BMX and shocked by the news jumped on Google to find out what happened. It was true, Dave Mirra was dead of an apparent suicide. I’m not afraid to admit as a 31 year old man I welled up thinking about it. I never met the man but he had a profound effect on my life.

Dave Mirra – Childhood Hero

Dave Mirra has been as hero to my brother and I since we first watched him take X Games BMX Gold 20 years ago. We never missed a chance to watch him ride and over the years we watched him strike X Games Gold 13 more times. In all he took home 24 X Games medals, the man was a superstar. He made us want to ride a bikes, to practice hard, and we did.

13618_frontHe was also the man behind one of the favorite video games ever made Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2. Skateboarders had Tony Hawk and we had Dave Mirra. We would stay up for hours playing, pushing the boundaries of what we could do, finding the best lines, and besting each others scores.

The game was and remains a masterpiece, from the maps, to the controls, to the soundtrack – it still plays well 15 years later. So well infact I keep an old console around just to play it and i’m sure soon my children will be playing it too.

Through the success and accolades Mirra remained humble, building community and mentoring the next generation.

Last week my brother had this to say about Dave Mirra:

I’ve written several things about Dave Mirra and deleted them before posting. It’s hard to know what’s appropriate to say or even feel, really.

The reality is, one of my heroes took his own life yesterday, in a total shock to a massive community of people. Dave Mirra is a BMX legend. He pushed the sport of BMX and led a whole generation of kids to love the sport. He was also a rally car driver, he built skateparks, dominated in competitions. He was a husband, a father. He was a lot of things.

For me, one of the most important things Dave Mirra did was to be himself. He pushed limits, had character, kept going in the face of challenges, he built a community by giving back to the sport that made him an icon.

I guess it feels odd to call someone a hero in adulthood. He’s not the saved-15-kids-from-fiery-bus-crash type of hero. He’s the type of person a kid looks up to, because he’s an inspiration, type of hero. He blazed a trail in action sports. He led a group of people that doesn’t fit into most expectations and demographics…

Sean McIntyre via Facebook

Dave Mirra is one of the few heroes I remember from my childhood, and later in life he taught me so much more than I could have expected.


Dave Mirra – Fatherhood Hero

There’s no denying Dave Mirra was a BMX Legend, but when all’s said and done it’s a footnote in his legacy in my mind. I will never forget Dave Mirra because when I things were rough for me, he pushed me to become a better father. Dave offered these words of wisdom.

As a father, you are automatically inducted into the Hall of Responsibility. Life is about ups and downs, great times and tough times. My responsibility as a father is to show my kids balance, education and character. Although I’m not perfect, I am always keeping my eyes open for a better way to be the best father I can be. I am lucky enough to have this opportunity to raise 2 beautiful daughters and in turn, I have the chance to be loved for the rest of my life. Being a father isn’t just about teaching our kids how to be great but also learning how to be a better teacher.


Through following Dave I got to see what an amazing father he is. He didn’t just preach the good news of fatherhood, he strived to be an example for others. He pushed himself to be an amazing father as he was an amazing athlete.

While pushing himself to be a great father Dave Mirra co-founded #beadadnotafad, a social movement to encourage fathers and share their great work. Looking through the hashtag and official accounts on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook have inspired me to word harder, to be better, and to leave an amazing legacy in my children.

The pdub is still in the shop so they are back to taking turns. 👍 #sistersforlife

A photo posted by Dave Mirra (@davemirra) on

Dave’s passion for sharing the joys of fatherhood equaled that his athletic career. When he took up triathlons, the whole family did. In fact Mirra’s oldest daughter was the first one in the family to complete a triathlon.

Race morning family pic in Lake Placid. Love it. #family4life

A photo posted by Dave Mirra (@davemirra) on

Although I will never understand why Dave choose to leave us, I am thankful that he was here. To build community, to inspire youth, and inspire us again as adults.


Let the world know you love them

I wish I had a chance to let Dave know what he meant to me. To tell him that he inspired me as a kid and still inspires me today. I realise that the more a person grows in popularity the harder it is for their praises to have a deep effect on you. You hear your amazing all the time and your mind becomes numb to the fact that what they’re saying might be true. seans-wordsDave was an amazing man, we lost an amazing man, and a beautiful family lost there father, a loving wife – her husband.

I’m thankful that I have family and friends that go the extra mile. They’re here for me before I even know I need them, and I hope I offer the same to them.
Never pass up an opportunity to let someone know they’re loved, that they’re needed, and that they’re legendary.

Dave Mirra is my childhood hero, and my fatherhood hero.
If that’s not legendary I don’t know what is, and remember…



I’m Still Counting The Days

Reflections on love, pain, and the road to recovery

It’s been 99 days since she said she can’t think of a scenario where things will work out between us. 119 days since I last held her hand, 120 Days since I brought her breakfast in bed, 132 Days since everything fell apart, and I still think about her all the time.

Although it was not easy, we spent 5 glorious years together. I living in Alberta, Canada and her in Ohio, USA we spent our evenings sharing our lives with each other by the glow of our computer screens. We never meant to fall in love, we we’re 2,100 miles away, but love doesn’t discriminate because of things like distance and we fell, hard.

Over the years we took 116 flights, covering enough ground to travel clear around the world 4.5 times. We were quite literally halfway to the moon. We had a lot against us. Borders and time zones, flights and currency, longing and missed phone calls, friends and family. But we made it work.

I spent a lot of time counting that days, the hours, the minutes, the seconds until we could see eachother again. It gave me drive, it gave me purpose and most of all it gave me hope.

In the end, the distance killed us. I have two wonderful children and the circumstance dictated that if we were to be together in a more permanent capacity, she would have to move here. The knowledge of that brought me pain every day and I spent years trying to solve that kobayashi maru of an equation. She loves her family, and they are amazing people. I can’t fault her for wanting to be with them, I loved them too.

Now what?

I’m single. The words feel odd coming out of my mouth. My last two relationships combined span 16 years. In my 31 years on this earth, I have been committed for more days than I have been single.

Crash & Burn

I am not one to give up easily. I’m passionate, romantic and I try to be diplomatic. I couldn’t save us, I couldn’t solve the problem, I couldn’t show her what she meant, I couldn’t move the mountain. I failed at the one thing I poured my everyting into. I lost the one thing, I truly desired. But I will respect her wishes.

Being alone shouldn’t be hard, we spent a lot of time a part so it will be ok right? Not true. Not true at all. The best part of my day was always coming home to her, hearing her voice on our 5 minute phone calls while she drove to hockey, or between my meetings. Despite my best efforts, even after 99 days, it’s still a struggle not to call her. God I miss hearing about her day.

Now while others are sleeping. I spend most of my evenings working late or writing sappy love songs on the guitar I never got to give her for her birthday.

Fight The Loneliness

5 years in a long distance relationship takes it toll on many things, and most of all friendship. In my dedication to her I lost touch with most of my friends for one of two reasons.

  1. She was 2 hours behind me so if I wanted to talk it was straight home to talk and fall asleep together. That doesn’t leave much room for friends and social outings.
  2. I’m militantly faithful. My brother once told me, if you don’t have plan on how to NOT cheat on your significant other you’re doing it wrong. This involved never being alone with another female, not texting other females, and not engaging in friendships that could be misconstrued by the other party or my significant other.

This has left me very extremely alone. This may be a surprise to some who read this but I am an extremely shy person. I don’t make friends easily, and when I get nervous I talk way way too much and it scares a lot of people away. So I find myself going to the pub or the movies alone, something I never thought I would do.

The Search for Companionship

I need relationship, not a relationship. I’m so far from ready for that and I couldn’t do that to someone else, try to build something while my heart belongs to another. I can’t bring myself to be that asshole. I currently have 9 Tinder matches and zero will to respond to any of them. It’s honestly just nice to know someone wants to know you. I’m old school, I’m not into playing games, and I will be a good long while before I dip my toes in that water. I need to really know someone before I ever consider a relationship.

No, I need some close friends. Dinner having, concert going, movie watching, friends. Finding friends as an adult is hard. I’m not one of the guys bro-ing it up, and the single guy friends I do have are guarded, like we are competing for the same mate. Where the majority females don’t trust that you’re just looking for friendship. This is a piece of single life I wish was not so hard.

Wish You Were Here

Part of me wishes things ended badly, so I could be angry and bitter, so I could move forward with zeal… but that’s not me, and that’s not us. If 99 days has taught me anything, it’s that more than ever I wish she was here. I am coming to terms with the fact that I have lost her forever, but there’s still that flicker of hope.

Theres still the question, does she still think of me?



The slow implosion of the WordPress Plugin Market

It’s no secret, I’m a fan of WordPress.

You will often find me in heated discussions with other creatives about the superiority of WordPress as both a publishing and application platform. The flexibility of the WordPress plugin API has enabled developers to create some amazing things on top of the WordPress core, and the ecosystem is ever expanding. Developers have created entirely new publishing experiences such as Barley, Aesop Story Engine and Semplice. While others have constructed entirely new platforms on top of WordPress with their own plugin ecosystem like WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads and Ninja Forms. This is exactly why I love WordPress, but also why I fear it’s imminent implosion.

This is exactly why I love WordPress, but also why I fear it’s imminent implosion.

In recent years WordPress plugins have matured to the point where many employ generous teams of developers and customer service agents around them. Teams that offer top notch customer service and products that greatly enhance the broader appeal of WordPress as a whole. Most give back to the community, contribute to the WordPress core, and push the platform forward. There is no doubt that the WordPress market is booming, but sustaining a team of employees requires a large infusion of revenue on an ongoing basis. Some have solved this issue by adapting their licensing structure to reflect the true costs, but in doing so have created a number of other problems for developers and end users alike.

Developers deserve to be paid and often more than we offer them for their work.

Enter Subscription Based Licensing

Gone are the golden days where you could pick up a revolutionary plugin for $50-$75 with lifetime updates & support. For years we got away with paying peanuts for a plugin, deploying it on unlimited websites and never looking back. Developers deserve to be paid and often much more than we offer them for their work. Today most developers have adopted a subscription based licensing model where you are granted use on x number of sites, with updates/support provided for a limited period of time. Typically, one year.

After the licensing period has expired, you will have to purchase the plugin again to continue to receive updates/support. Most developers offer a renewal window where you can purchase your new licence for a discount, but I can say I am guilty of letting licences lapse on my personal projects. I have put a lot of thought into this model over the past two years, and although I don’t necessarily agree with their prices; I believe its the best way to ensure that plugins retain their high standards.

So if teams, support, and licensing are good… where’s the beef?

Plugin Lifecycle Management

Our Scenario

Lets say we are building a new website for a trendy new salon in town and they want to:

Enable customers to book & prepay for appointments online.

For online booking I will most likely use WooCommerce (a free eCommerce plugin with paid extensions) as they have a sweet Bookings plugin. Ouch, $249/year? I’m going to have to work that into the project budget. I already own the Stripe payment plugin so we should be good to go on appointment bookings.

Showcase their teams skills

I will most likely build a custom team profile plugin that will allow the client to construct a bio for each stylist and attach photos of their work. I will also hook into the Bookings plugin to add custom “Book Me” buttons to each stylists’ pages.

Collect customer feedback

Let’s be robust in our solution for customer feedback. I will use the Ninja Forms plugin to build a robust feedback form and use the Layout & Styles extension ($39/year) so it blends well with the site design.

We will also use WooCommerce Follow Up Emails extension ($99/year) to automatically send the customer an email 48 hours after booking, thanking them for their service and requesting their feedback.

Who is responsible for the bill?

As a one man design & development team I build between 15 and 20 handcrafted websites per year on WordPress. So as you can imagine I have built quite a plugin library, but most of them are single site licences. I could upgrade them to multiple site licenses but if a client does not pay next year I could be stuck with their portion of the bill.

Lets take a look at the costs: Dedicated WordPress Host: $36o/year + Plugin Licensing: $466/year + SSL Certificate: $249/year = $1075/year

Personally, I try not to do site maintenance fees and pass things like hosting onto the customer so I don’t have issues collecting all of the costs. In an ideal world the client would pay for everything directly, but in the case of this site what would mean at least three different accounts (hosting, WooThemes & Ninja Forms), I would need access to just to get started.

With a project like this to ensure a great client experience I would likely take on licence management myself. With the current model, I will have to charge a minimum $90/mo (more likely $110/mo with foreign conversion) base maintenance fee to the client with zero man hours in return. Always a hard sell to a small business, and since these plugins are purchased yearly it means keeping the payments in escrow until the big bill comes up.

This often makes me uneasy, and if anyone has a great method for managing bulk licencing from multiple sources… I would love to hear them.

Installation & Updating

We have purchased our required plugins and we are ready to install them. So we download the package from the developer and upload it to WordPress. Upon activation we receive a notice that we must install another plugin to manage the developers licensing and to receive plugin updates. Ok, lets install that too. (This is a good time to grab a beverage of your choice)

Now we have to go back to our purchase email or the developers custom dashboard, locate the licence keys for our plugins and individually copy and paste them into the updater plugin. Then repeat the process for our other plugin vendors. Not exactly a smooth user experience, but we got a (beverage of your choice) in the process, so its not too bad.

What if we want the plugin on our development server too?

  1. This is where things get tricky. If you purchased a licence for more than one site you can repeat the process above and your development environment will receive updates too, but it will take up one of your licences.
  2. Most expired or unlicensed plugins will still function but will not receive updates. If you can live with multiple “enter your licence key” notifications in the admin, and don’t mind logging into the vendors website to manually download & re-install the plugin every time there is an update. This may also be an option.

Licence Expiry Management

Managing licences for one site is easy, managing this for 20 sites is a cumbersome task. What site owns which plugins? Which licence keys belong to each site? When do the plugins need to be renewed?

If you’re like me you have licences from 4–5 different vendors, with multiple licenses per vendor, that all expire at different times. This means constant emails letting you know licences are expiring. You go back to the spreadsheet (hopefully you have one) to find who is due and either pay it in faith that it will be covered by the client or start hounding the client for payment.

Another difficult task.

Effect on the overall User Experience

The number one resistance I get from clients when pitching them a WordPress based site is “We had a WordPress website, and it got hacked all the time.” After some brief education on choosing a responsible host, we move to a lecture on the importance of up to date software. Eventually they understand that their two man painting business in rural Saskatchewan, is not in fact under siege and they can safely return their recently purchased GAZ Tigr.

You can’t protect yourself from vulnerability if you don’t have the latest software in front of you. This takes vigilant updating of plugins across all managed sites, which with the current ecosystem is not easy.

The truth is managing premium plugins is becoming an increasingly difficult, and as the business around WordPress evolves; the overall experience of site managers is degrading.

There has to be a better way.

Solve for X

The solution is simple in nature, yet extremely difficult to execute. WordPress needs unified premium plugin management support. Brad Touesnard was on to something back in 2011 with the creation of (the now pivoted) WP App Store. A plugin that offered a curated marketplace of themes & plugins from top developers inside the WordPress dashboard, with one click purchases and unified updates. Genius, but before its time.

WP App Store failed because I failed to get it into people’s WordPress dashboards, it didn’t really solve any painful problem, and there aren’t enough quality commercial plugins yet. — Brad Touesnard WP App Store Developer

The Moonshot

I’m not talking a full app store, as I don’t feel you can accurately depict the merit of a plugin within the WordPress dashboard. I believe we need a unified system for managing plugin payments and licensing within WordPress.

Plugins should be initially purchased from the vendors website, allowing them to truly sell their product. Developers should be free to deliver their product however they choose, as the user onboarding process is essential to overall plugin proficiency. A key factor in reducing support requests.

Through an API developers could add a “Purchase with [fancy name here]” button to their products, that would then hook into the plugin system allow you to select your intended site, and install the plugin. Similar to purchasing Android apps from the Google Play web store.

Inside the WordPress dashboard the user would see a list of premium plugins that have been purchased for their site, as well as a monthly payment total.

I feel it’s important that we give clients the ability to differentiate between the cost of software, and cost of service. Many clients feel they are being ripped off on a monthly basis as we roll the cost of software into soaring maintenance fees. Transparency is the key to trust.

The Achilles’ heel

Learning from WP App Store, the only way for this system can be truly revolutionary is for it to be included in WordPress core. Something I don’t see happening anytime soon.

We have no plans to have paid products hosted or sold on WordPress.org — Matt Mullenweg (in a Smashing Magizine interview Febuary 2014)

Plan B (The Hard Way)

There is another way, build private enterprise system and find another way to get it to the masses. As Brad Touesnard has proved with WP App Store, building a robust system for managing premium plugins is entirely possible. The question is how do you get it in front of enough eyeballs to make it worthwhile?

The best solution I can offer is to partner with dedicated WordPress hosts such as WP Engine, Flywheel, pagely, and most recently Media Temple to include the system with their WordPress installs.

Heck, in an ideal world you would also include hosting in the dashboards monthly fee. One payment to rule them all!

What do you think?

Ludacris? So crazy it just might work? Feel free to troll me on Twitter with your thoughts. — @twittem


Ticketing Is Broken

SOLD OUT shows & the new age of digital scalping

If you are a music fan, it’s likely that have been disappointed with the current state of ticketing – you’re left wondering why ticket prices are so high, why fees are unexplained, and why there never seems to be tickets available.

In Canada, it’s difficult to get tickets for a popular concert. Canada is HUGE, long distances between major cities and relatively small population create a difficult climate for touring artists. The distance means to tour Canada you need additional time & resources, so artists only visit 3 or 4 Canadian cities per tour.

This led me to investigate the ticketing industry in an effort to find the best tickets at reasonable prices. The journey was not easy, quality information is scarce and ticket vendors don’t exactly want to divulge their secrets. This is what I learned along the way.

My ticket buying process

Presale codes, if you are lucky enough to find this magical password – you have a chance to get tickets. Without one, it’s almost impossible to get a ticket at face value. (we will get into that in a second)

When I hear a band is coming to town and immediately start searching the internet for presale codes and move through a series of logical places to obtain them.

  1. Google, they are the world’s top search engine for a reason.
  2. Visit the bands website and sign up for their email newsletter, this is usually the best pace to get a presale code. You may already be too late to get one, but if you click the “Can’t see this email? Read a copy on the web.” or similar link you may be able to access their newsletter archive.
  3. Visit the sponsoring radio stations website and join their fan club, and/or sign up for their email newsletter.
  4. Visit the venue website and sign up for their newsletter.
  5. Ask friends that are likely to have access to a presale code if they would share it with you.

If at this point you still don’t have access to a presale code you will have to wait for the public sale in the hope that tickets are still available, frantically call radio stations or start saving your pennies for an aftermarket ticket deal.

Where did all the tickets go?

Records are broken everyday for concerts selling out. When it was announced that Garth Brooks would be playing the Calgary Stampede’s 100 Year celebration this year people were thrilled… then shocked when it was reported that the show’s 15,322 tickets sold out in 58 seconds.

There were rampant accusations that Ticketmaster had diverted a large block of tickets to a subsidiary site (we might as well call it what it is: digital scalping tool) TicketsNow. Seconds after the concert was sold out you could purchase tickets on TicketsNow, some with a $10,000 price tag for a ticket with a face value of $65. Ticketmaster of course denies this, and I believe them, but they didn’t take the time to explain how this could happen – because they don’t want you to know.

Where did all the tickets go? How could they possibly sell out that fast? I mean there is no way I can get through Ticketmaster checkout labyrinth and enter my credit card in 58 seconds.

The truth is they didn’t, and at the time of public sale there were very few (if any) tickets to sell.

The core issue boils down to venue and partner exclusivity contracts. If a venue uses Ticketmaster for an event there is a good chance they have signed a contract, and that contract states that all events at the venue, regardless of the type of event or the promoter must be ticketed by Ticketmaster. In return Ticketmaster offers validation equipment and certain loyalty perks to the venues patrons.

One of these perks is venues that offer season tickets to get to offer first right pre-sales to all major concert events as a perk to season ticket holders. This is a great perk for season ticket holders, and an uphill battle for music fans.

In the case of the Calgary Flames, season tickets sell out year to year. With approximately 7,000 season ticket holders, accounting for 14,000 seats. When the presale is offered season ticket holders have access to purchase 4 tickets (sometimes more depending on the event contract) per season ticket they own.

Lets do the math, if all season ticket holders purchased the maximum amount of tickets.

14,000 season tickets seats x 4 tickets per seat = 56,000 tickets

The event only had 15,322 tickets, so its pretty easy to see why high profile events sell out, but it doesn’t stop there. If tickets remain you have the Calgary Hitmen Hockey & Calgary Roughnecks Lacrosse season ticket holders, radio stations, corporate partners, partner presales (credit card companies, band fan clubs), and lastly public sale.

The new age of digital scalping

It’s hard to find real figures but from what I understand an executive level season ticket costs approx $9,000 for 45 games. That is a huge chunk of change, but if you roll the dice and resell concert tickets can also be a gateway to profit.

There are a few exceptions but for most concerts you can purchase your tickets from Ticketmaster, and without even collecting them post them on TicketExchange for whatever price you would like. They do the rest for you, broker the deal, collect payment, print and ship the tickets. They collect commision (again) and you pocket the profit. If you don’t like TicketExchange you can also post them on TicketsNow, StubHub, Ebay, or a large list of others. For popular concerts tickets 4-5 times their face value, not bad for 10 minutes work.

Yes, but Ticket scalping is illegal right?

Well no… Not really… In Canada there are no laws stopping a ticket retailer from selling bulk tickets to a secondary retailer, and with the exception of Ontario & Quebec there are no rules on ticket resale.

In Ontario offers some legislated protection, making it illegal to sell a ticket for more than the face value.

Every person who,

(a) being the holder of a ticket, sells or disposes of the ticket at a higher price than that at which it was first issued, or endeavours or offers so to do; or
purchasing as a speculation or at a higher price than advertised.

(b) purchases or attempts to purchase tickets with the intention of reselling them at a profit, or purchases or offers to purchase tickets at a higher price than that at which they are advertised or announced to be for sale by the owner or proprietor of any place mentioned in section.

In Quebec the laws have been put in place to protect the ticket retailer and not the consumer.

Quebec put into law “Bill 25″ in June 2012, making it illegal for ticket brokers to resell a ticket for more than the face value of the ticket without first obtaining permission from the ticket’s original vendor. Brokers reselling tickets are required to inform consumers the tickets are being resold, and must tell consumers the name of the ticket’s original vendor and the original face value price.

Bill 25 affords protection to the ticket retailer allowing them final say on ticket resale and a chance to collect commissions once more. The only consumer protection offered is that it must be known that the tickets is being resold at a higher price.

Retailers in the end easily circumvent that law by dealing online, as none of Canada current ticketing laws (that I can find) mention dealing online, and if the transaction happens on a server outside of the province of legislation no law has been broken.

Alberta, the wild west.

In Alberta (where I live) it is the wild west, and there are no protections offered. Where most provinces have laws against physically scalping tickets, in 2009 the Government of Alberta repealed the “Amusements Act” making is perfectly legal to stand outside the stadium and scalp tickets.

From what I see the only real avenue for prosecution of ticket scalping in Alberta is to be fined by the venue operator for trespassing (which lets face it would never happen as they profit from even butt in the stands), or through municipal bylaws for operation without a municipal business licence (although there is nothing stopping you from obtaining one)

How do we solve this?

Self Regulation — The best solution would be a honest ticketing market that puts measures in place to protect its own consumers.

The retailer could put in place policies that:

  1. Restrict ticket transfers to one or two tickets a month, eliminating bulk tickets sell offs and personal reselling for multiple events.
  2. Place restrictions on the percentage of tickets that can be reserved for venue, sponsor & season ticket holder perks.

I realize that in an currency driven endeavor this does not seem advantageous to corporations, but there is definitely room for some honesty in the industry.

Ban Ticket Transfers — We the consumer could fight to ban all ticket transfers. Yes, on some occasions we would be out a few bucks on an event we could not attend because of unforeseen circumstances… but we would all be richer in the end.

Support Honest Retailers — We as artists, promoters, venues & consumers can support the efforts of honest ticket retailers and shake up the industry. They might be giants, but we cast a mighty stone.