Friday, June 13, 2008

IgnitePhilly experience

So, ignitephilly was a few days ago now, and I was hesitant on posting my thoughts about it. On one hand I think it is an awesome idea and event and wish it nothing but positives. On the otherhand, my personal experience was, er, uncomfortable.
First the positives...
Actually, first I should explain briefly what IgnitePhilly means for those who don't know. No, it has nothing to do with Global Warming ;)
It started in Seattle (by a few people, one of which is Bre Pettis, who is one of my e-heros).
In a nutshell... each speaker has 5 minutes to do a presentation. During that presentation is a slide show (like powerpoint), where you have 20 slides that only show for 15 seconds each. The slides automatically forward, so the speakers have to keep up (or in some cases slow down) to match the slides. The topics (and event in general) has a geek/internet connection. A lot of start-up groups, web 2.0, etc. That's about it really - not too complicated.

Ok, the event was held in a section of the city I was not familiar with. Several people, when I told them where it was, gave me the impression that it was not a safe neighborhood. So I was hesitant on that. But once I got there, the neighborhood looked perfectly fine - like any other philly scene. Lots of people walking home from work on a hot day. I really lucked out too, cause on my second pass, I got a parking spot right in front of the bar.
Yep, the event was held at a bar. It was a corner bar, that was much bigger inside* than what it appeared from the front. Their food smelled awesome, but I wasn't in the mood for eating sadly. I went inside to sit at the bar, but it was too hot for me. The winows and doors were open, but it was still hot and stuffy. I ended up sitting outside at one of their sidewalk tables. It was nice to just sit there and enjoy the people watching, the fresh air, and being in a new spot in the city.
The event "started" around 6pm, pretty much right on time. It was held in the upstairs part of the bar, that had another bar, and a small stage, with a small balcony. (my flickr photos are here). After about an hour of "social time" the presenters started.
From what I saw (I left after the intermission), the speakers were awesome. A certain crudeness in trying to present in 5 minutes, which was perfectly fine and part of the charm. Everyone was just pumped to be part of this new experience. The two presentations that really stuck with me were from "Brian Lang at the Food Trust" and from "Brittany Bonnette at Philly Bike Share."
Two awesome ideas getting started in philly. (oh, and Marisa McClellan and Scott McNulty [edit: sry for the typo Scott] from Fork You, were also entertaining ).
Everyone I saw was interesting and I enjoyed hearing about their projects!
So, a few of the negatives for me...
I must emphasize these are my own personal "quirks" so I don't want it to reflect on the event itself.
Problem #1 - I'm not a social butterfly :) I don't like crowds. I get a sort of claustrophobic feeling whenever I'm around people (whether I know them or not). So that whole thing is awkward for me. But I wanted to hear what these people had to say, so I forced myself to go in spite of my awkwardness.
Problem #2 - I don't like the heat - Although the AC was on upstairs, it was really hot still. Mainly because there were so many people jammed together. I eventually positioned myself under one of the AC vents, so occasionally, I'd get a blast of cool air, but it was still too uncomfortable for me.
Problem #3 - I'm a cheap bastard! :) (You may begin to notice that these complaints perhaps reflect on my age. In my youth, I would have no prblem on going to a packed dive bar to see a new local band!) When I first arrived, I had a soda - The waitress told me $1.50, I gave her a $10, she brought me back $8!? I can only assume that she took out her own tip. But $3 for a soda is highway robbery (aka movie theatre prices). So, once the event started, I figured I'd get a beer... they had lots of local breweries on tap. I ended up ordering a "woodchuck Cider" - it was really good! BUT... it was $5 for ONE BEER, plus a tip of $2, so $7 for one beer is like OMG to me. I remember when milk was a nickle ;) - In relation to the beer experience, the first bartender that I approached, completely ignored me! He served the guy next to me, as I'm waiting two other people came up, I'm standing there with money in hand, and he looks me right in the eye, then asks the people on the other side of me what they wanted to drink. Bastard. He was a little twirp of a guy, so I'm guessing he didn't like tall people or long hair or something. I walked down to the other side of the bar, and the other bartender served me with no problem.
LAstly... There were just WAY too many people for this venue*. They had to turn people away at the door because they quickly filled the capacity (I think it was 200 people). There was not a clear path anywhere to walk at all. Then during the presentation, it was shoulder to shoulder, and standing for an hour and a half. Again a sign of my age, cause I could have really used a chair. This guy in front of me had a bulky backpack on that kept pushing up against me.
So, at the first intermission, about half way through the presenters, I regretfully had to leave. I got home in time to go to the website and see the last 2 presenters via their live webcast! Next time, I'll probably just stay at home, with my own $1 beer, my air conditioned apartment, and my trusty computer - call me an ol' fuddy duddy.

Please - don't let my negative experiences deter you from checking out this awesome event though. Some interesting things happening in philly - I hope they post the video up soon of the event, I want to see the remaining presenters that I missed.
Oh, and one more thing... this event had an interesting tie in with twitter. There were a lot of folks (including some of the planners) who were on twitter talking about the event. It was neat to pick up on the buzz via that avenue of communication.


Scott said...

I'm glad you thought we were entertaining, though my last name is McNulty (many people think I am McNutty though).

If you liked our presentation you should check out Fork You Live tomorrow:

cyen said...

Argh! Sorry about that Scott - fixed.
I agree, McNutty does fit just as well ;)