Stubborn Dreams

Getting out of my cube

First ignitePhilly recap

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First ignitePhilly

The first ignitePhilly was an energetic circus of ideas. Hip and respectful crowd. Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown was packed to the gills with the mostly-young and the young-at-heart.

Thank you to Geoff DiMasi, Alex Gilbert, the Junto, Vanja Buvac & Far McKon of The Hacktory, and Make:Philly. And thank you to all the presenters for investing their time in sharing a 5-minute capsule of what is currently igniting and inspiring them. Live streaming video of the event was provided by DigitalLifestyle. Looking forward to the next one.

Update 6-14-2008: ignitePhilly #1 2008 Presentation Videos. Big thanks to DigitalLifestyle.

In order of presenting:

Marissa McClellan & Scott McNulty (Video), ForkYou

  • Started cooking podcast in Spring 2006 with no business plan. They make no profits, but make good food, met a lot of people, now they are together (a couple).
  • Make your podcasts short and entertaining. fast-paced.
  • Keep doing it. It’s the best way to build an audience, keep showing up. Showed slide of SETI antennas (which are still listening even though they haven’t heard anything).

Blake Jennelle (Video), PhillyStartupLeaders & Anthillz

  • This is not Silicon Valley. VCs will not give money to pre-revenue companies in Philadelphia region, so Web 2.0 (a.k.a. free services) may not work here.
  • Don’t fight gravity. Ask for money from people who will say yes: 1) family/friends. 2) Your customers: charge a price.
  • Your idea may not work – so…let go of it – join another project, champion another (possibly not yours) idea. Form a team – you need hackers, designers, marketers, people who can bring product to market.
  • Think small and useful, put something out there. “Validate, de-risk, disprove” –Quote from Josh Kopelman, Philly VC, founder of Read Paul Graham’s “Ideas for Startups”

Brittany Bonnette (Video), Philly Bike Share

  • Many European cities have public-use bicycles for community-use. Paris (20,000 bikes)
  • How it works: Go to kiosk, checkout bike (you are charged deposit), ride it. When you return it, no longer responsible for bike
  • Bikes are specially designed to thwart theft of parts by not having parts that are interchangeable with regular bikes
  • Bikes are free for the first 30 minutes. Get through the city free!
  • Philly Bike Share wants to bring public-use bicycle fleets to Philadelphia. We would be the first city in the U.S. Aiming for 5000 bicycles (Washington D.C. proposing 1000).
  • Good public relations with Philadelphia politicians. Mayor Nutter rode the European-model bike-share bike to work during BikeWeek. Been working for 13 months on bringing community-use bikes to Philly.
  • Please email if you support a fleet of public-use bicycles in Philadelphia

Evan Malone (Video), Fab@Home [I thought this was the most wow-ish presentation]

  • Traditional manufacturing: requires transport of materials, making of parts, shipping of parts, assembly/manufacture, more shipping

  • New manufacturing: Transform raw materials into products

  • 3d printers – given CAD model, print plastic prototype

  • Next evolution: Fab@Home. Evan researched in graduate school.

  • Fab@Home can make: batteries, transitors/relays, replacement tissue (for surgery), LED flashlights, food concoctions (perfect for harried host), custom toys
  • 11 million page downloads. Fab@home installed at science museum of London along with LED flashlight
  • 130 Fab@Home users from Brazil to South Africa
  • Corporate support: KOBA industries making commercial printer. Solidworks supporting with donations of CAD software

Leah Murphy & Mindy Watts (Video), Interface Studio [This was the most out-there, head-scratching session]

  • They specialize in Urban Provocation
  • Create images to provoke and inspire public participation. Call & Response (funny audience moment – audience member called out “Yeah, that’s right” (Example from 1970s: Archigram)
  • Ideas for provoking South Philly: Goats pacing down the street
  • Kensington & Allegheny: Big problem with gum on sidewalks. Decided to flow with it, cover concrete with various-sized circular orange blobs
  • Northern Liberties: Floating path (over water) to emphasize community waterfront access
  • SEPTA bus stations: Allow people to buy tokens at street level. [Great idea!]
  • Take the abandoned viaducts going through Center City and create a slip & slide. To commute. To work. [This was the craziest idea, one I will remember]
  • Reverse graffiti – Artists painting using soap+water “Wash me” on dirty public structures so they have to be washed.
  • Protest PLCB policies by shutting down the city with drinking in the streets party. BYOB, of course 🙂 [OK, this was a crazier idea]
  • Turn Ben Franklin parkway fountain into giant bathtub (homeless use it as such sometimes)
  • Suggestion booth in City Hall. Fires suggestion straight upstairs to Mayor’s office.

Kristin Thomson (Video), Future of Music

  • Member of Tsunami band. Co-founder Simple Machines Records.

  • Wrote “Mechanics’ Guide to Putting Out Records” (which Geoff, ignitePhilly co-founder, actually used to make a record)

  • Owns huge music collection. Vinyl/LPs, tapes, CDs. When she moved, she packed them up in boxes (organized and labeled). Hasn’t unpacked them yet.

  • Didn’t digitize entire music collection (not enough time). Didn’t get music off P2P network (doesn’t support because they don’t compensate creators). Didn’t buy (not enough money).
  • She uses Rhapsody. 20 million tracks of music for $12.99/month

  • Yes, it is renting music. Stop focusing on ownership – you can still collect but…
  • Criticism #1: “Renting” music. Our society/culture focuses on ownership. Counterpoint: Cable TV, Internet is like renting
  • Criticism #2: You lose the music if you stop paying the bill. Counterpoint: Same with Cable TV.
  • Criticism #3: Not portable. You can’t put it on your iPod/iPhone. Counterpoint: You can put it on your Microsoft Zen. [ok, this was the weakest counterpoint]
  • The Future of Music is (on demand). Wi-fi, high-speed wireless access will change everything [I’m assuming this means over-the-air, on-demand streaming]

Slavko Milekic (Video), University of Arts “Making Sense of Touch”

  • Touch is the oldest of our 5 senses.
  • Touch is fundamental to our existence. Lack of touch with baby animals/babies, failure to thrive, sometimes death
  • Touch defines our boundaries. Where the road ends?
  • As society becomes more touchless, strange and unusual ways to cope: Tattoos, piercings. Sports like football. Hobbies like dancing [I highly recommend Salsa]. Pay to be touched (massage).
  • Development of new technologies make things more virtual.
  • Slavko: “Connect virtual (abstract) information with tangible experiences.”
  • Tangible virtuality = Tanguality. How: Consistent physical feedback.
  • Pre cell-phone era: Public telephone booth with hand to squeeze while talking on phone. [PDF]
  • Industries leading haptic (touch) interfaces: Gaming (The Wii), Pornography (though had problems when elderly customers suffered heart attacks?).
  • His research: Digital data needs to be feelable, mashable, touchable
  • Nice ending slide: “Stay in touch”. Email him if you have ideas. He’d love to hear from you.

Brian Lang (Video), The Food Trust

  • Want to ensure everyone’s access to good food: fresh fruits & vegetables

  • Education in schools: Trying to ruin the “chocolate milk tater tot” lunch special
  • Why healthier lunches? Obesity is an epidemic. 1 in 6 children. 300% increase since 1970s
  • 50,000 kids in South-Eastern PA educated on importance of eating healthy, fresh fruits & vegetables
  • Led successful effort to ban soda vending machines in Philadelphia schools. Changed to dispense water, 100% juice, and milk in Philly schools.
  • Access to $120 million fund to help supermarkets setup in underserved areas. Example: Romano’s Groceries. As a result, 1.3 million more people able to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Going from “hard time eating healthy” to “thanks for bringing farmers to sell here”
  • Farmers benefit too: Headhouse square farmer, 6th generation family farm, keeping it in business
  • Food Trust’s modest big goal: “Change the food system”

Randy Schmidt, Chris Conley & Jason Trembley (Video), iSepta

  • How to achieve fame” [paraphrased, can’t read notes]

  • Step 1: Search out real world frustrations & problems
  • Step 2: Get going. Dont plan it out too much. If it’s too overwhelming, build a team. March 27, 2008 twitter ignited iSepta
  • The SEPTA problem. Too much information. How do you read a SEPTA schedule? Especially if you don’t read it regularly.
  • Step 3: Break down any preconceived notions. Why do you need the route number to find out where you are going? Why not just ask their start location and end destination?
  • Step 4: Deceive your users [Rick-rolled]. Hide the complexity, just provide the results
  • Step 5: Flaunt it. Get people testing it. iSepta twitter account. Let people hammer on it, find what works and what isn’t working.
  • Bonus Step: Problem solving should not be sent to auto. If you encounter another problem, restart the process from Step 1. Example: Bus schedules. People really just want to know when the next bus going their way is… [This will be a killer feature and one that I can see people using on their cellphones all over Philly]

Don Miller (Video) aka No Carrier

  • Part of the 8-bit music scene: Using low-bit hardware to create live audio-visual & installation pieces. Humbled to have been featured in galleries but likes the street cred
  • Why? Like working with limitations and restrictions
  • Center of 8-bit scene: Pulsewave NYC. Don creates custom invitations.
  • History: Visual artists pushing the limits of their hardware creating cool, interesting demos. Eventually music separated from the demos, became “chip music”.
  • Low-bit hardware used: GameBoy/NES/C64
  • “This is an interesting time for chip music. It’s like 1976 for punk. We’re on the edge of something crazy.” – Don’s friend (from philosophical instant messenger chat)
  • Movement becoming more mainstream. Worldwide network of artists & fans. 16-year olds are starting to emerge as talented “chip musicians” (true test of popularity)
  • See:,,

Sean Buffington, President (Video), University of the Arts

  • He was dressed in a suit, by his admission square and “dressed like a narc”
  • One of the most interesting presentations, text of the poem “In Memory of W.B. Yeats” by W.H. Auden with photos of UArts student work [interesting one – stuffed animal suicide, bunny in tub]
  • Challenge of arts education. Equip the student for the ability to do all types of work. How? Teach them the ability to learn for themselves.
  • Impart basics. How to tell a story. Innovate through collaboration. Organize teams. Make meaning out of materials without inherent intrinsic meaning.
  • This summer: Answering the question of “what does it mean to educate/be an artist in the 21st century” and “we’re fundamentally trying to reinvent what it means to be an arts university”
  • Sean said this passage from the poem represented what an artist does/is: For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives In the valley of its making where executives Would never want to tamper, flows on south
    From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
    Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
    A way of happening, a mouth.

Jeff Stockbridge [Awesome visual presentation] (Video)

  • 26,000 abandoned homes in Philly in 2000. 16,000 of those in 5th District (where many of us live)
  • Takes pictures of the insides of abandoned homes in Philly. Not just rooms, sometimes time-capsule personal writings he finds (letter from returning Vietnam War veteran about dream he had, lyrics to a rap song)
  • Uses only available light (but decides when to take the photo). Takes the scene as it is.
  • Tries to recreate what he sees. Uses special camera equipment to produce an effect of peripheral vision (outside of focus, blurriness). Example: Set of empty glasses on table. Recreates focus.
  • What you don’t see: Drug addict detritus, putrid garbage, human shit. You can get covered in human shit going in these places.

Nic Darling (Video), 100k house

  • Chad Ludeman was too scared to speak so Nic doing all the talking
  • After leaving corporate hell, Chad loved the cool, modern houses but saw a market gap between the boring, low-cost cookie cutter houses and the cool, expensive modern designed houses
  • Goal: $100/sq. ft. to build a house and make it green and modern
  • Started blogging before feasibility and before bringing team together.
  • Design/Blog: Collaborative process of design (As designing, blogging about it. Get feedback loop)
  • Building 100k house in Philly. Found lot near Fishtown (where both Chad & Nic live)
  • 100k House will be first LEED Platinum (highest level, only a few in the entire country) certified house in Philadelphia
  • Presentation’s drawings done by

Alex Hillman (Video), Indy Hall

  • Classic question: “What did you learn today?” Classic answer: “Nothing”
  • Why “Nothing”? Perception vs invention.
  • Why do kids do acts of defiance? (cutting class, etc.) Maybe it’s because they wonder “what am I going to school for?”
  • Embrace the chaos. Level with the kid. “What do you want to know/learn”
  • Great story from TED: Student acting out. Teacher tells parent “Your daughter is not troubled, she’s a dancer, send her to dance school – she needs to move!”. They sent her to dance school. She choreographed “Cats”
  • Walk with a pantheon: Hang out around those who do whatever you want to do, who are whoever you want to be
  • Apply agile software development principles to learning. Fail: It’s good. It might be bad if you are not *failing* – success might be an illusion.
  • Iterate: Fail cheaply, quickly. Don’t be Alex’s mom. Let them learn from mistakes. “Let the kid the fork in the electrical socket” (They’ll learn).
  • Be electric. Find path of least resistance
  • Alex runs IndyHall, Philly’s first co-working site. Co-working provides diversity. A group of people hanging out. Great mentors.
  • Accidental learning / serendipity – Putting yourself in a situation where you can learn by accident
  • Alex’s goal: = Students + coworking. Bring coworking to students. Allow them to work with industry experts on their projects.
  • (To get .edu you need accreditation. Does anyone know about the process?)

Rick Banister (Video), P’Unk Avenue

  • “Achieving an Absolute Aesthetic”. Rick is a UArts graduate.
  • Developing your own style. Martha Stewart has one. Why not you?

  • Clothing: Find what colors/fits work on you. Wear them
  • Furniture: From single period (no mixing Crate ‘n Barrel with Arts ‘n Crafts vintage) Better: Make your own furniture (can do it cheaply using minimum of materials) or commission your own pieces for your home
  • Deliberate consumption: Buy brand names. Be consistent. Buy what you like. Buy things for their packaging.
  • Reading: Read. Read every book by an author.
  • Philosophy: Develop a moral compass
  • Synthesis: Be your own brand

Sarah Selepouchin (Video), Etsy

  • Etsy is a website to buy and sell anything handmade
  • Etsy is a community of people who make things. Some make a living, some do it just because they love it (and selling it is a bonus)
  • Etsy just celebrated 3rd birthday and it’s 1 millionth user. Cool visualization: Etsy at night.
  • Sarah is part of the Etsy street team in Philadelphia. Etsy encourages artists to meetup. You can meetup via interest, geographic location, what materials you use, anything, really…
  • You go to the gym to work out. Use their equipment. No need to buy/lease an elliptical machine for your house
  • Why not have a gym for making things? Show up and make stuff
  • We can make it happen in Philadelphia. Philly would be great for a space where you can go to make things. Want to help? Email

Jeff Burk (Video), Neat Receipts

  • Vanja works at (his day job when he is not inspiring creative hackers at The Hacktory and co-organizing events like ignitePhilly)
  • Neat Receipts – just finished 3.0 release
  • Interesting company to work for. They use Agile Development and XP Principles
  • 69 people in a cross-functional team. Open workspace

Robert Cheetham (Video), Avencia

  • Cutting-edge GIS. Team behind
  • Put in a Philly address and go back in time. See what was where you live, ten/fifty/hundred years ago
  • Robert and his wife were shopping for a house. Large list of factors (including bikeability to fencing). Used it to generate a hot spot map of places they might want to live.
  • Hot-spots, not a new idea. 1969 – Ian McHaig “Design with Nature” (Great book). Acetate maps, overlapped together (low-tech GIS mash-up). Dana Tomlin (Great teacher according to Robert). Map algebra [PDF]. Gave away all the algorithms. Used in GIS products everywhere (ArcGIS).
  • Decision Tree – 2 year project – bring Hot Spots to the web. [PDF]
  • Live Decision Tree client: City of Asheville, NC mapAsheville Development Mapper
  • Election campaigns (interest in optimizing canvassing)

Pete Tredish (Video), Prometheus Radio Project

  • They spend 50% of their time trying to change the rules of broadcasting. The other 50% demystifying the technology
  • FCC Chairman: I’ll keep shutting down your radio stations but before I leave office I’ll make it legal. He did it: Community Radio Licenses. Link
  • Radio Barn-Raising. Start on Friday with boxes of equipment. Over long weekend, setup equipment, share/transfer knowledge. By Sunday, have radio station up, local volunteers trained (and able to train others)
  • They have to go scary places. Like Washington, D.C. To lobby. Sometimes they mix it up (Dress up in FCC cheerleading outfits)

Written by kleeruby1

June 12, 2008 at 7:15 pm

7 Responses

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  1. Great recap. I am blown away by the detail.

    We will be putting up videos of all the speakers once they get edited.

    One correction: Vanja works at Neat Receipts. I run P’unk Avenue.

    I am going to twitter this out!


    June 12, 2008 at 10:35 pm

  2. Geoff – Thanks! I corrected. I am looking forward to recapping the next ignitePhilly. My notes from this event were more decipherable and detailed than (the seismic activity falling asleep scrawl) of (a lot of) my college lecture notes.


    June 13, 2008 at 1:10 am

  3. Thanks so much for posting the recap!


    June 13, 2008 at 2:03 pm

  4. Thanks so much for this recap. It was a brilliant night, without a single dull moment, but what I found most interesting was the variety and scope of the topics.

    There’s lots to share here, and this recap makes it all the easier. Thanks.


    June 13, 2008 at 2:51 pm

  5. Missed the event, but thanks to your recap I feel like I was there. Great work.


    June 13, 2008 at 5:13 pm

  6. Thanks for the recap. I wanted to go to this, but had a meeting where I had to do my own presentation, :p

    Adam Lang

    June 16, 2008 at 2:05 am

  7. […] experiments in Philly if not the country. But again, you don’t have to take my word for it: Ignite Philly Recap (by Kevein Lee), Ignite Philly Recap (by Philebrity), Ignite Philly Recap (by Orielly) […]

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