Stubborn Dreams

Getting out of my cube

I love First Person Arts’ StorySlam

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What is StorySlams? Is it just one of those cool, word-of-mouth, interesting Philly happenings? I originally wrote this testimonial for First Person Arts in May 2008. Tickets for the GrandSlam competition on November 15th during the First Person Festival can now be purchased online and they will sell out in advance.

I’ve been going to First Person Arts’ StorySlams since the inaugural one. I do not have a perfect attendance record, and I believe missing a couple proves that I am not completely hooked.

In April, I had the honor of winning the StorySlam contest at the StorySlam’s Slammiversary. In the post-win afterglow, I sent out the YouTube video link of my story to some (ok, a lot) of my co-workers and friends. I was surprised to hear from some of those who watched it that they thought I had a pretty good standup routine. That it was entertaining. A few even requested that they inform them when I was performing next so they could be part of the audience.

Performing? I probably couldn’t deliver that same story again, on demand. That night, for the first time in my history of StorySlams, I was relaxed (and in the words of awesome storyteller Juliet Wayne who I adore) and was able to be myself and tell my story, going off multiple tangents. Traditionally, prior to getting picked (or not picked), I’d be a non-conversational nervous recluse. However, in April, storyteller Ingrid Wiese spotted me when I entered and invited me to sit down at her table with friends (including Juliet). Well before the magical moment at the end of the night when my name was drawn as the final storyteller of the evening, I was relaxed and having fun.

Sadly, I feel that my friends who see my winning story as a good stand-up routine are missing what StorySlams is about. I never went to StorySlams to win. I go to StorySlams to hear other people tell their own stories and learn from them. To hear that some people don’t actually obsessively think, dissect, and analyze before doing something.

At the inaugural StorySlam, I told my story of how moving to Philly from the suburbs was a stretch for me and how insecure I felt, relating how I actually turned off my lights on those first few Friday nights to pretend (to myself and my neighbors) that I had gone out while sitting alone in the dark. I followed that initial story with a stream of similar but different stories about my insecurities and weaknesses. Even with opening my kimono and revealing myself, I never scored highly, and I resigned myself to not realistically ever winning. Yet, I was addicted to StorySlams – the variety of storytellers hooked me – it quickly became one of my favorite aspects about living in Philly. Even if I had a long day at work that particular Tuesday, I would drag myself over to L’Etage and walk in and feel at home. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the attention/sense of power I’d feel because I’d become part of the regular lineup of storytellers. However, the point I want to make is this: when I go to a typical bar/event, I usually feel out of place. I’ve always felt at StorySlams that I didn’t have to try to be anyone, I could just go there, go up and reveal myself and be me. And people actually liked it. After one of my stories, an audience member once complimented me that she liked how “I tell my insecure stories insecurely.”

While I still struggle with getting out of my cube/getting out of my apartment, I feel that StorySlams and First Person Arts has helped me find a sense of belonging to something in Philly. I’ve met some interesting and unique friends who I would not otherwise have connected with through this monthly celebration of storytelling. I’ve even been recognized on the street more than once. I don’t claim to know where my life is exactly going now, and I feel that StorySlams has become part of my personal story, as I work on revising who I am now to who I want to become. Some people say that you have to be brave to get up there and tell a story, and I’ve never felt it was a big deal – which makes me realize that some things which I think are a big deal aren’t really.

Written by kleeruby1

September 21, 2008 at 7:45 am

Congratulations, IndyHall on your 1st Anniversary

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Alex Hillman at Indy Hall's opening party

Alex @ Indy Hall's opening

Congratulations to Alex Hillman, Geoff DiMasi, and Bart Mroz* on the 1st anniversary of Indy Hall!! (* – Yes, Bart has officially stepped down but he really stepped up in the formative days of Indy Hall)

I was fortunate to meet Alex Hillman back in September of 2006 at the 1st CreativeCamp. CC was organized by CMAccess to bring the success of the BarCamp to Philly. Kristin Motta, the co-founder of CMAccess who impressed me as an amazing brilliant confident individual, introduced Alex, an amazing brilliant confident individual with piercings, at the first CreativeCamp in Philly.

Kristin introduced Alex’s talk with the most enthusiasm and expectation of the day – saying that what he was going to talk about was awesome. Co-working. Co-working in Philly. I don’t remember what he said – it’s been too long – but you could tell this kid was passionate. Co-working seemed brilliant, simple but not easy. I do remember Lauren Galanter demonstrating her wicked creative brilliance by coming up with the perfect name on the spot that combined co-working and the spirit of Philly.

After the talk, since Alex asked for help finding the right space, I emailed Alex about following up with a guy who did commercial real estate that I had met through triathlons. That follow-up went nowhere. I lost touch, as I usually do.

Then, about a year later, in late summer of 2007, I was stunned and happy to read in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the impending grand opening of Indy Hall, the very next day. Alex Hillman had gone and done it. So many people have a big idea – how many people make it so… I had underestimated Alex. In fact, even now, I’m not sure how to estimate Alex. I logged into LinkedIn the other day and one of the suggested contacts was this Alex Hillman guy (and I only have a handful of LinkedIn contacts!)

I went to the grand opening to congratulate Alex. And to tell him, in awe and astonishment, that he pulled it off. I was surprised that he remembered who I was. Tara Hunt and Chris Messina of Citizen Space were there to support Alex, as well. I didn’t know how important they were to Indy Hall’s opening until afterwards. Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine.TV, an extrovert’s extrovert, was also there. Yet, he was a relative wallflower at the party much – it was Alex’s day, he didn’t take the spotlight, just wore his ‘Local Celebrity’ shirt.

At the 1st anniversary party, watching the IndyHall community mingle and party, I couldn’t help but think that it *might* have been possible for maybe a few of the IndyHall members to have met in random, serendipitous real world circumstances… and with the founding of IndyHall – their connecting and meeting became *inevitable*

About once-a-month I go to Indy Hall to co-work (hopefully Dana’s cupcake Thursdays!). I am intrigued by the people. As someone who is (for now) ensconced in the comfort of his day job, I find it inspiring to be able to hang out (for the day) and be in the company of creative/freelance/entrepreneurial types. Someday. Thank you to Indy Hall for letting me hang out in the club house, even though I keep myself only tangentially involved.

Written by kleeruby1

September 3, 2008 at 2:32 am

A Brief History of Upcoming.org by Andy Baio

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Waxy, Upcoming.org, Web2.0, Post-Yahoo Acquisition Timeline

“A Tale of Three .Orgs” (Talk given by Andy Baio at 6/04/2008 PDX Web Innovators meeting)

Bram Pitoyo’s writeup: http://linkenfuego.wordpress.com/2008/06/05/portland-creativetech-event-review-pcter-16/

It started with a script that Andy wrote. He published the result of the script which used a dictionary word list to find available domains on his website, and he registered the three .org’s he liked (Upcoming.org, Waxy.org, Meaty.org).

Waxy.org

A couple of months before Meetup.org launched, Andy started Waxy.org. He said that the process of starting a blog was the most important decision he ever made (and he didn’t know it at the time…).

In this first post on Waxy.org dated April 14, 2002, he set three rules for Waxy.org:

  1. No journaling. He believes that you have to be a really good writer to make your personal experiences relevant to people who don’t know you. [I believe this is why most blogs of the personal nature aren’t successful]
  2. No tired memes (at the time, there were memes going around like what kind of smurf were you – this is still prevalent today with the 50 questions)
  3. The most important. Be original. Don’t write stuff that other people are writing. [When I look at waxy.org today, the fact that you can deep-dive into his archives and be entertained and fascinated for hours is proof Andy creates interesting, original content.]

The purpose of these three rules? Add value.

According to Andy, starting Waxy.org was of immeasurable value.

  1. It raised Andy’s visibility beyond that of his personal social networks. Within one year after Waxy.org launched, Andy was cited in the NYTimes five different times by five different writers. Waxy.org became an influence on mainstream media
  2. It was a platform for launching his future projects. The blog post on the upcoming launch of Upcoming.org: http://waxy.org/2003/09/upcomingorg_lau/
  3. His blog connected him to like-minded people.
  4. Through Waxy.org, Andy has pretty much been able to meet everyone he cares about and admires.

“So many people are not producing, they have it backwards. Don’t try to develop an audience. Blog what you love. Write what you care about.” – Andy talking about blogging

Meaty.org or the genesis of Upcoming.org

Meaty.org was Andy’s first (of the three) .org site. It was going to be a place to get like-minded people to meetup.

Andy had been meeting with a group of geeks in the LA area. He liked the whole thing of meeting people from virtual communities. He wanted to make software to enable that experience. He started working on Meaty.org on the side. He had a nightmare dealing with recurring dates. Then, Meetup.org launched (June 2002). When Meetup.org launched, he was beaten to market. He abandoned Meaty.org.

Lesson #1 of startups from Andy: “Finish it. Don’t take time off from it.”

Andy Baio speaking at PDX Web Innovators in June 2008

Upcoming.org

Started January 2003. Following his first lesson, he did not stop until it was ready nine months later.

The Ebay/pez-like inspiration: He always loved live music but he was terrible remembering.

Friend [day after interesting band played]: “That was awesome”

Andy: “Why didn’t you tell me about it?”

Friendster was hot at the time. The social network du jour.

Andy’s novel idea: Treat the event like a blog post. Let people connect on it and build their friend network. Result: Events would be automatically known by friends, sharing of events.

The first version of Upcoming.org was pretty rough.

Side note: Andy is big on high-resolution, pixel-perfect mockups done in Photoshop. He cannot imagine a site from a rough wireframe.

[The wireframes he showed looked very good. Like what you would expect from a major design house. I believe Andy’s design sensibilities are way way above the average developer and probably was a big factor for upcoming.org’s success.]

Andy did the design of Upcoming.org’s logo himself. He commented that it looks great on old school baseball jersey tops (which they gave away/wore).

Upcoming in 2003: http://web.archive.org/web/20030919021857/http://upcoming.org/

2003. Rough site launched. Barely functional. He held a beta month before.

Point: It was good enough. Put it out. The feedback that came back so validated the September 2003 launch.

[Side note: question from audience about the “watching feature”. Andy said people were confused from the beginning (His intent: this event looks cool, will let friends know, not actually attending]

Then the project stopped completely in June 2004. He killed the project development. His son was born.

He said pick two out of three:

  1. Day job
  2. Side project
  3. Baby.

As a result, all work stopped for eight months, but Upcoming.org kept on growing slowly.

There were more people using it, but the use was not really exploding.

The Infoworld Article fires momentum

Link: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2005/03/21.html

John Udell wrote an article about upcoming.org. He loved it but said it was lacking, suggested an open API.

After Udell article, Andy publicly committed in his Upcoming blog post. He promised all stuff out within a week. Andy’s blog post announcing his commitment: http://upcoming.yahoo.com/news/archives/2005/03/21/jon_udel/

Andy decided to bring on two friends, Gordon Luk and Leonard Lin, as partners to help get the stuff done. The partners split the commitment-based work. One crazy week later, he and his two new partners launched with an API, tagging, email, SMS.

Andy’s blog post one week later: http://upcoming.yahoo.com/news/archives/2005/03/28/huge_cha/

“Evite was the old (Web 1.0), Upcoming was the new (Web 2.0)” – Tim O’Reilly Web 2.0 white paper

White paper: http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html

People were building applications on the API.

Upcoming was a micro startup. But Upcoming’s influence was disproportionate to its size. Heavy SV influence. Very active in SF. It had Robert Scoble writing about it all the time.

Yahoo acquisition process

In July of 2005, Andy got an email from Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr. Flickr had just been acquired by Yahoo. Caterina had been tasked with bringing the cool back to Yahoo.

The Yahoo Acquisition via Caterina Fake was an outgrowth of connections Andy had made through Waxy.org. Andy originally started connecting with Caterina via Metafilter and various blogs

“Friends doing great work/able to bring/pull up others with them” – Andy’s musing

So, Andy and his two partners were brought in to meet with Yahoo Local.

The acquisition process

Patentable IP, just a website (easy for the acquisition lawyers on the Yahoo side)

Side note: patentable IP – qualifies for taxable long-term capital gains!

Back of envelope calculations – Andy decided, partners agreed (cannot discuss split)

Negotiations – they doubled money they were asking for.

Did they have a lawyer? Of course! Same lawyer that del.icio.us used later.

Three meetings later, acquired October 2005.

At the Web 2.0 conference at which Yahoo announced its acquisition of Upcoming.org, Andy was actually already there on a press-pass (via his Waxy.org writer credentials)

Becoming part of Yahoo

Entrepreneur naivety: You sell site, then do something else

Reality: You sell site, get a new title, maintain site

Good parts:

  1. Brilliant people hidden in the nooks ‘n cannies of the rank-and-file. Even rank-and-file were great/smart (del.icio.us, mybloglog, Yahoo pipes)
  2. Full-time focus – so wonderful/great to go full-time on upcoming
  3. Platform technology
  4. Able to replace sketchy roll-your-own geo-locating technology (e.g. ‘same event listed in multiple SF locations’) with “WhereOnEarth”. The same geoplatform that powers the Flickr geo stuff

At the time, Yahoo’s standard platform = PHP. Del.icio.us written in Perl -> lots of changes

Andy wrote upcoming in PHP, easier. He admitted he was not the best programmer in world – PHP code he wrote not the best. But it did the job.

Since the Yahoo acquisition, every lick of code rewritten.

The Not-so-great parts

  1. 3-person company -> 14,000 person company (bureaucracy)
  2. Technical integration with other parts of Yahoo: very hard, time-consuming,
  3. Drew away from things/features? (for organic growth). The time-consuming integration with Yahoo News/search (was not external traffic, was sort of artificial traffic – coming from normal Yahoo visitors)
  4. Complexity – tremendous amount, once acquired by Yahoo they had to switch to their APIs/platform

However, everyone benefits from the acquisition. Upcoming.org became more stable, more powerful than ever would have been just with Andy’s limited resources. At the time of the acquisition (2005), he had just doubled servers. To 2 leased servers.

How Upcoming works behind the scenes at Yahoo:

  1. Yahoo – integration with search and local – Upcoming became the event infrastructure for all of Yahoo
  2. Yahoo! page inline widgets – Upcoming powers the event listings
  3. Yahoo Auto – auto events, powered by upcoming

Upcoming had good APIs (benefited integration). Occasionally, had to expose private APIs but in general, API-level integration.

Not every event had to be added by Yahoo user -> event feed auto-pulled stuff in

Upcoming metro – replaced by Yahoo GeoSearch (no more double-booking, one booking in wrong metro area)

Upcoming was never intended to be a business. Wasn’t even a company, never even incorporated (LLC). Yahoo M&A guys, doing due diligence, it was easy for them. 3 guys, leased servers, website (IP)

Lesson #2 of startups – “Build for yourself. Build something you love. Build with smallest team possible. Bootstrap yourself.”

Andy didn’t leave his day job at financial firm until acquired (link to Dimensional Fund Advisors).

No overlap with firm – conflict/of/interest. Andy worked nights and mornings on upcoming.

Yes, of course, occasionally he had to tweak the site while at work.

On the other hand, much bigger problem if work at an Internet/technology firm. Yahoo: One of Andy’s partners wanted to start Pizza shop – couldn’t do it – real/potential Yahoo food+local conflicts

In fact, Pixar anecdote: Pixar one of best offices to work in (Andy’s opinion – he got to tour the SV landscape) they have right of first refusal – you have to tell them what you’re working on. They invariably say no – go ahead as soon as they do

Advice: if any conflict, don’t do it. Try not to do something employer would want.

Andy’s big BUT (even though acquired) “not to do it to seek acquisition exit”

Lesson #3 of startups – “Do it well. Find an audience. At the very least, people will like you (provide something of value)”

Post-Yahoo

Post-Yahoo, post-integration, when contract up last Nobember, Andy was offered to work on some really interesting things (can’t talk about because of NDA) at Yahoo.

Feeling “working on something you built for someone else” <- not the same

Andy left – walked away with more flexibility + options

After leaving Yahoo, Andy moved to Portland – able to buy bigger home (was in Palo Alto)

Andy loves Portland’s DIY culture. It is different from SV: Classic Silicon Valley mindset like the 6th & Sunset strip in Hollywood in the 80s: “We’re going to get signed with a major label” mind-in-clouds/ mentality

Why are you building it <- Silicon Valley mindset/commercial goals

In the time since his son was born, the whole waxy.org site has been neglected (time to devote focus on waxy again)

This year (2008), Andy went to GDC. He loves the Indy Game movement. It was a mind-expanding experience (GDC)

He believes Gamedev lags web 2.0.

His Startup idea??? Something about games and dropped a clue: Providing a way for creators to make money doing what they love

Andy has been meeting with Rael Dornfest (former CTO of O’Reilly Technology). They have “Bottle Cap labs”: every week pick a project/launch it

Question and Answers

When was the tipping point?

It happened early on. There were some bizzare uses of upcoming.org

  • College town – spike – only 2 or 3 individuals to get anonymous college town on upcoming. Just a few dedicated people
  • China – Americans in China following soccer, using upcoming for gatherings

The core users shine through. To do this day, enough people using site. PDX WI event top event in Portland. Yahoo! brass annoyed populist event like Britney Spears concert #2 billing to some tech gathering. However, what other way can measure activity vs implict/explicit activity

Andy wanted website to become more popular/more events get advertised. Very large audience who likes to lurk – 95-98% of Yahoo just going to look. While at Yahoo, he tried to get Upcoming to become more Yelp like (reviews, consumed by Lurkers).

Inappropriate events

“Class of frustrating behavior” -> flat out abuse

Nigerian spammers discovering upcoming (using private msging feature)

Fought back with heruristics to do analysis of incoming private messages/event listings

Great hack : Send all private site messages through spam assasin

Noman’s land – other banned users – only other banned users can see what banned users do

The Yahoo acquisition, transitioning the users

Comparing how Blogger did it with how Flickr did it:

  • Blogger: Big redesign, new features, just use new Google account)
  • Flickr (no new features, sent emails month in advance)

Upcoming (like Blogger approach, old school people free t-shirts)

“The deck”

Hates most forms of web advertising. But loves “The deck”. Different sites, no CPM love it. network of high-profile sites

Written by kleeruby1

July 31, 2008 at 3:16 pm

Philly FailCamp win

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“One of the best things about failure is expectations. So, for this FailCamp, no expectations.” -Alex

“Success gets between you and others. Failure is easier to relate” -Amy

“You’re like a little boat. You know where you want to go and where you are. But you’re not a big tanker. You can’t go in a straight line; sometimes you have to zig-zag, make constant adjustments.” – Love this analogy about success/failure from a FailCamp participant

I went to Philly’s first FailCamp not knowing what to expect but with an expectation that I would learn from other people’s experiences. Thanks to Alex Hillman and Amy Hoy for keeping the day going and changing the structure when it was needed.

After going around with introductions (lots of Rails developers!), Alex Hillman and Amy Hoy started FailCamp by asking everyone to (anonymously) write down a personal failure experience in one of many categories (dating, business, etc.) on the scrap of paper that they were given. I was expecting them to jump from that into 5-minute failure soapboxes, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the failure icebreaker worked. I listened intently as discussion evolved naturally from the initial input of each anonymous initial failure story. Tangents galore. Some stories were fantastic, some we identified with, all were true and personal. We broke for lunch on a high note. Talking about failure was a fun and interesting way to spend a nice Saturday.

After the lunch break, after a while, I felt something changed – the stories were still the same but the discussion became increasingly more abstract. For example, in a discussion about someone’s business, people would start taking the (easy) expert stance – talk in abstractions like ‘compartmentalization is important’, without relating or sharing why they were giving that knowledge as-is or why it was important.

Other people, notably Christine, noticed this change and during the break, she made a suggestion to focus on failures-in-progress not keep exhuming the dead failures from our pasts. After the break, Amy and Alex start-shutdown FailCamp and booted up HelpCamp. HelpCamp was interesting because it was like a support group – all the problems were still very much alive to each contributor and the discussion flowed.

What did I learn? Lessons about failure, even though some lessons can’t be learned third-person; they have to be learned emotionally, it helps. And a tidbit about social vs business filters – if I ask you to do something as a friend, a decision center in the brain is activated. If I pay you to do something (business), a different decision center in the brain is activated. So, when you ask someone to help you move and at the end of the move, you try to pay them (it jars and insults them, at a fundamental level). If someone asks you to lunch to discuss business but is not paying you, what is it? TNSTAAFL.

I didn’t want to do a full recap. At the very least, I thought I’d strip out details. In the spirit of failure (recaps are boring and safe) and feeling the spirit of Zen, I’ve reduced the stories (and sometimes lessons learned) into 5-7-5 haikus…

crashed big server grid
panic call sysadmin friend
true friends can save you

conned out of thousands
capped off by getting mono
survived! and thriving

nine-teen ninety-four
almost started ISP
mentor influence

PhD student
interests have evolved since start
dropping out with tact?

coworking wiki
how to monetize knowledge
free has no value?

young and ambitious
wants to grow non-profit fast
counsel reign her back

non-coder founder
how to find coders out there
who share my passion

son born with issues
challenges make you stronger
ongoing again again

should have left business
12 months ago why did not?
exit strategy!

pricing strategy
charge too much or too little
test out with adwords

have project idea
just atom of molecule
verdict: build it now. why wait!

leaving consulting
feel scared uncomfortable
natural. OK.

a perfectionist
how to start, so many things!
just get it going

new coworking space
how many will sign-up now?
escrow before lease

too many pitches
what if I turned down right one?
pick and make them great

polished presenter
preparation is stressful
flexibility?

burning out with job
wants to quit and go travel
would you regret it?

made awesome software
how to find right salesperson
network maybe start right here

Written by kleeruby1

July 30, 2008 at 3:35 pm

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 Half.com. 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 bikeshare@phila.gov 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: no-carrier.com, 8bitpeoples.com, 8bitcollective.com

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. http://100khouse.com
  • 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 mybigmuddy.com

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: coworking.edu = Students + coworking. Bring coworking to students. Allow them to work with industry experts on their projects.
  • coworking.edu (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 handmakerphilly@gmail.com

Jeff Burk (Video), Neat Receipts

  • Vanja works at NeatReceipts.com (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 PhillyHistory.org
  • PhillyHistory.org: 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

“Oh the Fail I’ve Known”

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“Hurry up and lose the first fifty games” – Zen Koan, quoted by Adam Keys in his talk

My notes of Adam Key’s excellent, inspiring talk from RailsConf 2008 about learning and failing. His talk lived up to the expectations from the conference schedule description.

Fail is transitive

Example: Active Web Services is not that great because of SOAP (or as one of the Rails-Core members said “Using SOAP is like eating glass”)

You only learn by falling down

You can get to the point where you are OK in hockey, in which you skate around and get the puck and don’t fall down. But you can’t play hockey well without falling down. Getting back in the fray is what important. You were hockey pads so you can get get back up and get back in the game. Adam said that with the pads on he would dive into the thick of it, throw himself on the puck.

There are two types of learning. 1) Books, others, knowledge 2) By doing it yourself. The latter is harder but much more rewarding.

Iterate on the things that you aren’t good at. Set yourself up to rapidly try different approaches until you get it right.

Make bigger mistakes

Golf is like programming. There is a positive feedback loop based on confidence. Adam was starting up golf again after a hiatus. He found himself using the short clubs which were easier to use but not as powerful. He realized “I need to make bigger mistakes” Might as well make that one big shot, big and impressive. Try the larger clubs, not doing well at it.

Once you get into coding, the feedback loop, it’s easy to get going. Tip: Start day with small bug fixes (go to bug tracking, ta-da, done!) Set yourself a little goal – see how fast you can get it done.

The grass is greener on the other side – it must be great. You’ve just got to get there to try [the other side]. Example: Pragmatic Programmer – learn a new language every year. You really only learn the important bits by doing. New languages, APIs, customers, problem domains.

Get outside of your bubble, technological comfort zone. Adam goes to PHP, Dot.Net conferences. His friends who are in the bubble ask him why.

You always need to be looking for greener pastures but double check that the pastures you thought were green really still are.

Know enough about the domain so you can communicate, don’t need to be an expert. Example: Know enough TCP/IP to talk/communicate to web server guy. Be able to have a conversation with enough knowledge to carry on a useful conversation.

People “hacks”

Study and apply “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. Check your ego at the door. They don’t care who is right, just want progress. Ego is a big source of problems between people. Most of the times when there is conflict, ego is involved.

Practice kindness. Have a kindness surplus every day – so when have a bad day don’t bounce.

Those who annoy you usually annoy you because they mirror some aspect of yourself. 1) Work on being able to deal with that aspect 2) Learn how to work on that aspect within yourself. For #1, Use a buddy as a level set. When you have a bad day, the best way is to talk to a friend. Someone uninvolved who can make you laugh about the silly issues at the project/work.

It’s hard to be an apprentice to Kathy Sierra, David Thomas. But they can still be a passive mentor. You can read and absorb their stuff so you can adapt their values/sense to your own.

Written by kleeruby1

June 4, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Learning, Uncategorized

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RailsConf 2008 – A visitor from Java

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The Purpose of Playing the Game

I believe RailsConf 2008 in Portland, OR was the best conference that I’ve ever attended. I was a little hesitant to attend lacking working experience+knowledge with/of Ruby/Ruby on Rails. I felt like a visitor going to an interesting foreign country who falls in love with the people culture language and desires to stay and learn the language.

I’ve attended all-weekend network marketing events where they fill you up with a high-octane mix of excitement, adrenaline, and hope that you can actually do what the top (1-3%) of producers in the company do, but when you leave you revert to doing nothing/being scared to try/trying while scared (the worst). Like fast food does, these types of events fuel you with motivation that exits your system just as quickly as it entered. You go to these events, return from them, and nothing changes. Similarly, I’ve been to JavaOne and the Colorado Software Summit, where you binge on a buffet of cool-sounding technologies, and you return to the same non-sexy, PB&J technology base once you get back to work.

RailsConf 2008 was not like these other conferences. Was it the size (around 2000)? The last JavaOne I attended had over 14,000 attendees. No, it was the people. While I did meet a fair number of fellow visitors from Corporate Java land, it was inspiring to see hacker/entrepreneurial/independent consultant/startup individuals all over the OCC. I was sitting at lunch the first day and a Rails specialist from Australia introduced himself to the guy to his right and found out that the guy wrote a GEM/library that he had used successfully in one of his projects (something about queues). I loved seeing the GEM author just light up, upon meeting one of his users/fans.

Since I wasn’t there to learn Advanced Active Record voodoo, but to be inspired so I could learn enough to learn the voodoo, I went to sessions where the Rails wouldn’t be over my head.

I loved the Lightning talks, even though I attended only one of them. It was kind of like Showtime at the Apollo but with hacking as the only talent and minus the heckling/negative audience feedback. Earfl gave an amazing demo. They created a bare scaffold Rails project for a restaurant listing site, added a listing, and asked the audience to call the 800 number + VMB that the Earfl gem auto-magically made appear on the restaurant’s page. A minute or so later, they refreshed the page. And played one of the voicemails “Lunch was sooooo good”. Wow. I would have gone to the third day’s Lightning Talks but I decided to attend CodeGear’s 3rd Rail session (because the offer of the $400 software would help offset my costs of paying my own way to RailsConf). It finally hit me the other day why 3rd Rail was a clever name for an IDE (especially one competing against the legions of TextMate editor users).

I was impressed by the level of confidence of the panelists at the Profitable Programmer session. It seemed as if these people knew what they were going to do and adjusted their course, as needed. Afterwards, as I was walking out, I told someone this and he said one of the panelists, in the few years he has know him, has always been uber confident and relaxed.

I thought Joel’s keynote was a little too humorous and relied on a lengthy set piece (the MS install) but he made us laugh, and I learned about misattribution. I grew to enjoy Kent Beck’s fireplace-style, storytelling keynote. Classic understatement [birth of unit testing) “I have this class with twenty methods. Maybe you can use it”. I liked how DHH pushed the idea of investing in yourself. He is a rock-star and not just the awesome yellow-shoes. I believe Adam Key’s “Oh the Fail I’ve Known” was the best session, for me personally. I’ll try to impart the gist/importance of his talk in a separate post.

Whether from lack of Rails knowledge or plain initiative, I did not network as much as I could have. I skipped out on the parties. It was nice to see Rails entpreneurs networking. The final afternoon, when I was taking pictures of the RailsConf message board with my iPhone in an ill-fated attempt to create a collage/Flash app to preserve the message board in interactive format, I heard two freelancers talking about freelancing. How sometimes you had to dump a client like you had to dump a girlfriend. Feast or famine.

RailsConf 2008 was not a flash-in-the-pan for me. I am going to slide down and get back up and climb up the Ruby/Ruby on Rails learning curve.

Written by kleeruby1

June 4, 2008 at 6:31 pm

Posted in Programming

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