Archive for the ‘ Opinion ’ Category

Rifflandia 2014 Review / Feedback

After Rifflandia comes “Restlandia” for a few days, then “Reflectlandia” for a week or two, and now I have arrived at “Reviewlandia.” :)

Let me start by saying I have been to Rifflandia four years in a row now, and I attend the music festival because I love music. I suppose a secondary reason for attending would be the local cultural experience, i.e. to support local businesses, try new food options, learn about the sponsors and vendors, bump into friends and acquaintances around town, etc. But mostly I attend because I’m a fan of music. I do not attend Rifflandia to party, or to get drunk, or to stand around chatting with friends the whole time while artists are performing. So, now you know where I’m coming from. Here is my review of my 2014 experience:

Layout:

I liked the Royal Athletic Park (R.A.P.) layout this year. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard about the site wide liquor license, but it worked quite well. There was a lot more open space to move around and a lot more area available to sit on the ground. There were more routes available to get from point A to point B and less bottlenecks throughout the field.

Water station placement was too close to the side stage which made it difficult to refill my water bottle when the side stage was busy and overflowing with spectators. I knew where it was though as it’s always generally in the same area, so I didn’t have any problems pushing through the crowd, but I imagine it would be difficult to locate and navigate towards for some people who might not know where it was, or if they were traveling with children or groups, or if they had mobility issues.

The washroom placement was both good and bad. They were in the shade, there were lots of them, and the lineups moved quickly. That said, the staircase used to access them was a horrible bottleneck. To get to the washrooms from the field you had to fight your way up the stairs that were the only way in and out of the stadium. The front gates and security lineup funneled directly to the top of these stairs, with everyone making a return journey from the washrooms merging in with the eager new arrivals making it very difficult to leave the field. Once at the top of the stairs you had to look to both the left and right to determine which washroom area was less busy, causing everyone who finally made it to the top of the stairs to temporarily be in the way of everyone else trying to get down the stairs, thus causing further bottlenecks.

There were a lot of people openly smoking cigarettes in the crowds in front of the stage, in the food lineups, and wandering through the middle of the field. I do not like showing up early for a set to find a perfect spot to stand only to be smoked out when a late comer pushes their way through the crowds with a cigarette in hand. And if I’m standing in a food lineup I can’t just walk away.

(We politely confronted a belligerent smoker in a food lineup who claimed smoking was allowed anywhere since it was outdoors. We did not know the rules. We saw there was a dedicated smoking area, but you had to show ID to get in and couldn’t take alcohol with you. I don’t understand making smokers jump through so many hoops and encouraging them to break the rules. Were they breaking the rules? Was it a non-smoking venue except in designated areas or was it free reign? In BC we’re just used to smokers having to go to designated public areas away from doors, windows, air-intakes, etc so why would they be allowed to smoke in a crowd of thousands of people?)

Whether the people openly smoking in the crowds were under-aged and couldn’t get in to the smoking pit, or didn’t know about the smoking pit, or were just being assholes, I have no idea. I think there should be a zero tolerance policy for smokers and second hand smoke next year. There should be a big sign at the entrance that says smoking is only allowed in the smoking pit. Smokers shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get into the smoking pit. Security guards who search packages of cigarettes for drugs should inform the person of the smoking rules and tell them there is a zero tolerance policy for second hand smoke. Anyone caught smoking outside of the smoking pit should have their wristbands immediately removed. Every non-smoker will see the smoking rules when they enter the park so there’s no ambiguity about the rules and no hesitation by non-smokers to report infractions to security staff.

Food & Drink:

There were more picnic benches in the food area this year (yay!) and less congestion because of the lack of beer garden fencing. The lineups seemed to be shorter, or at least moving faster than last year. Maybe I was just lucky at the times I went, or maybe it was because everyone didn’t leave the beer garden at the same time in search of food after a main stage act finished their set. Lots of options, reasonable prices, and a lot of happy faces and full stomachs leaving the food trucks. Other snack/treat options like hand made popsicles and lemonade were a nice touch and reasonably priced too. The little bags of candy were a rip off though.

I was disappointed that the price of beer at the park went up again. It has increased 61.5% over 4 years. If it continues this trend a single plastic cup of local beer will cost $10.50 in 4 years. Not that I ever drank a lot before, but when it’s 27 degrees and sunny for 3 days in a row and beer costs $5 each I’ll have 5-6 in an 8 hour day just to stay hydrated and will hardly feel a buzz. When it costs $6.50 I’ll have 2-3 per day. Maybe that was the point, to cut down on consumption with the site wide liquor license. Oh well, I don’t really care, at least it only went up $0.50 this year instead of $1.00. If it goes up $0.50 or $1.00 next year it might start to feel like a gouge when beer costs as much or more than most food truck entrees.

The speed of the drink ticket lineup and drink pickup lineup was amazing as usual. Staff and volunteers were friendly and efficient. There were tonnes of options for beer, cider and hard lemonade. I’m still struck with a sense of awe each year when see the custom Phillips beer-tap-truck.

Lineup:

I was extremely excited to see The New Pornographers outdoors (“under an embalmed clear sky”), in my hometown, without having to travel to Vancouver or Seattle. That was a dream come true show for me and worth the price of admission by itself. Other than that, I was not very impressed with the lineup this year. Sure, there were a few highlights, but it was definitely the weakest lineup of the past four years in my opinion. I know some people were complaining about this, selling their tickets after the lineup announcement, etc. but I’m not complaining, just reflecting.

Part of the Rifflandia experience is learning about and exploring new artists. Venturing outside of your comfort zone. Becoming a fan of something new. And part of the point of a super pass wrist band is the “choose your own adventure” experience. Depending on your priorities and venue capacities at any given moment it can either be a dream come true show you’ve been waiting for for years, or it can be a “go with the flow and surprise me” experience or a “try before you buy” preview of a band that you are curious about. The format works well for me. I’ve been to a number of subsequent shows and/or bought a number of albums after seeing a band play a short set at Rifflandia. I found a few new artists this year that I will follow in the future.

I could be wrong, or it could be a fluke, but I get the impression that there has been a bit of a shift towards attracting the “young university party crowd” to Rifflandia. This is smart from a business perspective, but waters down the festival a bit for permanent Victoria residents like myself. It just seems like each subsequent year for the past few years has had more Hip Hop and DJ sets than the year before, and not just at night venues but also during the day at Royal Athletic Park. Perhaps this is because Atomique Productions also puts on Rock The Shores in July so there’s a bit of a demographic split between the mid summer crowd and the early September back to school crowd.

I’d rate the lineups in this order:
1. 2011
2. 2012
3. 2013
4. 2014

Although I did not experience it first hand, I’d put 2010 in third place between 2012 and 2013.

Sound Quality:

I’m not entirely sure how to approach the topic of sound quality at Royal Athletic Park. There’s the sound quality in the park and there’s the noise complaints outside the park. Both are important in my opinion because they go hand in hand and I’m not convinced many people really think too deeply about either, let alone at the same time. There were a lot of noise complaints in 2013 and not just from near by residents but also from residents on the other side of town. I was hugely disappointed with the sound in 2013 and totally agreed with people complaining from 10km away. I could barely put up with it inside the park.

This year, off the tip of my tongue, I’m inclined to say it was 100x better! That may be an exageration though. :) Let’s say it was about 10x better in 2014 than 2013, and 5x better than 2012. It was about equal in quality to 2011 with perhaps a slight edge to 2011. Sound quality is important to me because I like to actually hear lyrics and instruments instead of just bass distortion, and it’s also important that the festival doesn’t get shut down due to public outcry or for political reasons. I am not a sound engineer, but I think heavy bass and distortion generates more noise complaints as the sound travels further and because it just sounds like noise rather than music. I don’t think there was any difference at all between peak decibel levels or noise curfews this year; the reason it was better is because the bass wasn’t maxed out. In 2013 it seemed like the bass dial was turned to 10 out of 10 on day one and not adjusted at all for the entire weekend. Whether it was an acoustic set, ten piece rock band or a hip hop / DJ set, the bass was fully maxed out. It’s no surprise there were less noise complaints from residents this year because the sound board was decently run. I hope next year is just as good or better.

At night, I went to ANIÁN and even though it was an open air outdoor venue right next door to Phillips Backyard I didn’t even notice any noise pollution from Phillips. It wasn’t just covered up by increasing the volume at ANIÁN, the actual sound quality was quite good and I was very impressed.

Outside Royal Atheletic Park:

During peak hours (ex. Saturday late afternoon) the lineup to get into the park is so long that people have to walk down the road to get in line because the lineup fills the entire sidewalk. This causes drivers to be frustrated with pedestrians in the middle of the road and creates an unpleasant and unsafe environment while waiting to get inside. It would be nice if the lineup was better managed by staff and maybe roped off so half the sidewalk is lineup and half is navigatable. Better yet, if there were more than two security guards during peak hours, or multiple entrances, maybe the lineup wouldn’t be so long…

Report Card:

R.A.P. Layout – B (would have been an A if not for the washrooms)
Food & Drink – A
Lineup – C
Sound Quality – A

Thanks Rifflandia for another great year! See you all in 2015!

Advocate For Your Users

This is a long winded IT / Software Development post, so bear with me…

My wife works in the health care industry. We were recently discussing a lecture that she attended where the speaker was a woman with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Now I’m not sure whether the lecture was specifically about this, or whether this was the resulting point that my wife got from the talk, but the point was how important it is for therapists to advocate for their patients. For example, a patient with a complex chronic condition such as Rheumatoid Arthritis could have many health care professionals working with them:

  • A General Practitioner
  • A Rheumatologist
  • An Orthopedic Surgeon
  • A Plastic Surgeon
  • A Gastroenterologist
  • An Occupational Therapist
  • A Physical Therapist
  • A Massage Therapist
  • A Naturopath
  • Et cetera

So who manages all these relationships? The patient…? That sounds absurd! Yet unfortunately that is the reality. These specialists are a mesh network of peers. They do not report to a single supervisor or project manager. The patient/practitioner power dynamic leaves the patient as a “client” and yet if the patient wants a reasonable level of service they must somehow also be the “supervisor” that manages their own care. The patient must do their best to hold each office accountable, to coordinate time sensitive matters, to ensure the offices are communicating correctly and following up with each other.

The patient doesn’t always know who the right person is to talk to about a problem they experience, or what the right thing to do is, or when they need to stand up for themselves and take matters into their own hands. Patients will have varying degrees of knowledge, comfort and experience dealing with their condition (much like users of software have varying levels of technical knowledge, varying willingness to ask for help, or the desire to share their opinions about the software to improve it). Most patients either can’t or don’t know how to manage their own care, meaning that the best health care professionals are the ones that advocate for their clients. The ones that go the extra mile to try and help their clients navigate through the sea of red tape that is our medical system.

Continuing with this patient scenario, here is a specific example: let’s say the patient develops a problem with a tendon and is of the “wait and see if it goes away” mindset but a therapist recognizes that if the patient isn’t seen immediately by a surgeon within a week that the result will be permanent damage to the tendon. I believe it is that therapists obligation to champion for their patient in any way they can! We can’t just assume that someone else will deal with the problem. We can’t just assume that the secretary at the surgeons office knows how little time there is left before the damage is permanent. The therapist must take action and be directly involved in helping the patient move to the next step in the healthcare process.

I can see a great deal of similarities between this healthcare scenario and my personal IT career experiences. While that was a long winded example I think it was important to demonstrate the importance of why someone with domain knowledge needs to advocate for their users. I was thinking about that and how it applies to my job as a Software Developer. I work for a small company, so I’m involved in all aspects of our software including dealing with both technical and non-technical users while performing business analysis, customer support, feature development, customization and system maintenance.

I’ve always felt that serving the client is my primary responsibility. Maybe that’s because I’ve had more access to my user base than other developers may have, but still, in my experience the user always comes first. We’d be out of business if there were no customers. This is similar to the customer service mantra that “the customer is always right.”

Now I don’t know what other developers think of me. Do they think I’m too opinionated? Aggressive? That I’m being difficult? Do I sound like a broken record every time I open my mouth to offer an alternate opinion, champion another change request or when I play devil’s advocate? Who knows. What I do know is that I advocate for my users. I push for a better user experience. I fight for their needs first.

It’s easy to get caught in a trap of this [approach / design / method / technique] will be easier, that will be faster, this will be more flexible, etc. But you know what? I don’t vote for the quick way or the easy way, I vote for whatever is best for my users.

Do you advocate for your users?

Queen of Hearts video

Check out the music video for Queen of Hearts by Canadian indie artist Fucked Up off their new album David Comes to Life (four free tracks are available for download on their website).

I love how this video challenged my expectations and turned out to be the opposite of what I would describe as a ‘normal’ music video. Instead of actors (or the band) lip syncing along to the original audio of the song, the actors in this video are actually overdubbed so you can hear them singing the song. It’s a totally different song when sung by children; I think I might like the music video version more than the original! Very cool idea.