Category Archives: community

category

Ignite Denver Turned Twenty-Five

Last week we held another Ignite Denver, number 25. I hadn’t really given it much thought, we do three a year, the team is awesome and I love them immensely. This one was set to be every bit as awesome, we’d sold out, had great food trucks lined up, had great speakers ready to inspire and amaze.

Then.

Dan gets on stage and starts talking, and as I lean over to Vanessa, to ask why he’s vamping, and where’s Kat our emcee, I realize what he’s doing. This awesome group of people, behind my back, decided to bring me from the background to the fore.

Before I finish that story though. Ignite Denver is eight years old. In eight years we’ve held 25 events all around downtown Denver, from bars to event spaces to our current home, a 500 person old-timey theatre in the Highlands. The team has changed over the years; starting as just Nicole and I, then growing, then contracting over the years. This current committee is amazing and solid, and despite personality differences, busy (REALLY busy) lives, we get together and pull off an amazing show that leaves the audience laughing, crying, and inspired. They’re also stuffed with good food and beer.

We started in a small side bar at Fado, where the most memorable part was a robot falling off the bar. From there we hopped from bar to bar to event space, to bar. We landed at the Oriental a few years ago, when it was still more creepy than not; sections of the ceiling falling in, HVAC failing the day of our summer show, etc. The theatre has grown with us, now booked more nights than not, and Ignite Denver either sells out or gets close every event now.

Being a part of the Denver Community all these years has been awesome! Meeting so many amazing people with things to share, has been inspiring.

It’s been amazing, and more than once I’ve thought about throwing in the towel.

Ignite Denver WhiskeyOk back to the story, so Dan is talking about me, and telling me I have to go on stage. I get up on stage, and Dan proceeds to talk about Ignite Denver’s start, and the changes over the years, and the consistency of me. Then gives me two really amazing gifts, from him and the rest of the committee.

I’m not a whiskey drinker (that’s what that is right?) But it will definitely sit on a shelf proudly, because that label!

Also two special, “never to be made again” shirts :) We just ordered a new run of shirts for the team, and apparently we slipped these in.

To say I was (and still am) touched is to put it lightly. Ignite Denver has been a labor of love since I sent the first “Wanna do a talk that’s five minutes and the slides advance automatically?” emails eight years ago.

Here’s to 25 more!

My Apple Watch has rekindled my Love of Swatches

As a kid I love Swatch Watches. I only had one, but had many Swatch Guards to add some color.  As I got older I could afford a few more, and did. I have a thing for watches, I love them.img_0090

Eventually I moved from swatches to other watches. Lots and lots of other watches.

Then I got an Apple Watch and at first just had one or two bands. Apple sells theirs for honestly a ridiculous Apple price, however Amazon has plenty of non Apple bands to choose from, in far more colors than Apple offers. It went down hill quickly :)

On the weekends I have a nice leather cuff band I wear with my watch. It looks nice, and feels great. But during the week, especially with working out in the mornings or at lunch, I wear the sport bands.

img_0092Then it dawned on me, I have so many bands for my Apple Watch, why not mix and match them? From there I also found these nice little Protective Bumpers in awesome colors, and
boom, my love of Swatches and having a unique piece of kit was reborn!

I’ve gotten tons of compliments on the whimsy my watch bands show, which is fun.

Another Denver Startup Week in the bag!

img_0078Welp, that’s that, Denver Startup Week 2016 has come and gone. I’m still tremendously proud to work on this event. It’s a ton of fun (and some stress, and head shaking).

This year we set another huge milestone having over 13,500 people sign up for the week. That’s amazing.

I had the honor of being the headline events chair, and as always we packed a lot into a week, and this year the week was only 4 days for me.  We decided to move the closing bash to Thursday night, which based on attendance was a great idea! It was epic! Far busier than previous years when it was on a Friday.

The Job fair this year saw almost 2,000 people show up to hang out with and talk to 70+ Denver companies all of whom were hiring! We had a ton of awesome sessions on diversity and inclusivity in tech, which is still so greatly needed! We hosted an awesome event with HBO/Dish to bring Silicon Valley to Denver

Overall the entire week was awesome, over 300 events all over the core of Downtown Denver. Tons of great stuff happened at Basecamp by Chase, where I spent the week, working. It’s nice to not completely have to stop work on my stuff during DSW.

If you didn’t participate this year you should sign up now, so you’ll know about next year, and then you should make sure to book out some time. Whether you work for yourself, or someone else it’s a great investment to get out and enjoy what Denver Startup Week has to offer.

I’m so proud of what Denver is becoming. There’s growing pains for sure, and I hope we address them, but watching the city I’ve chosen as home grow and become a world class city is amazing!

See you next year!

Session Recording, constant improvement

Recording conference sessions is one of those things that everyone seems to have their own way of doing it.

51iitebr49l-_sl1000_When we started, we had Flipcams on tripods in the middle of the room. Better than nothing, but only just. Under the best circumstances they captured grainy video and average audio. Under the worst they captured the person sitting next to the camera.

It wasn’t great, it wasn’t even good, but it was what we had on a budget, and for those who didn’t come to the conference is was better than not having anything.

 

snow_leopard_quicktime_x_iconThen we moved up to quicktime. It’s on 99.8% of our presenters laptops (Macs FTW) and does a great job of recording a screen. The Mac built in mic does a pretty darn good job of picking up the speaker too. The speaker is amplified and right in front (usually) of the machine. It was actually a pretty good solution, mostly.

We found that about 80% of the time quicktime screen captures worked really well. Then we encountered the random “record a green screen” issue, then the “my mic broke and I don’t use it so never got it fixed” speaker. Then we came across the “Quicktime is a beast and bogs my machine down too much” speakers. Quickly quicktime became a non winning option.

Enter our new rig.

One of the reasons we started with a super janky, then a less janky option, was budget. Conferences aren’t huge money makers for indie event organizers, so it wasn’t until recently I had the resources to upgrade our recording rig. Even then it was still a big investment.

img_0054This new set up (a MacBook Air, a Zoom H1, and a Elgato Game Capture HD) runs about $1500 for each room to be recorded (That’s with buying a refurb, 3 year old MacBook Air). We have four rooms to record at 360|iDev, so that’s not a small investment. Thanks to my friend Curtis Herbert for the tip on this set up. We were talking about ways to do it and he mentioned how he does it for his CocoaLove conference.

This year at 360|iDev was the first true test run of this set up at scale. It went mostly awesome. We had a few issues; settings on the hardware that were borked, a default on the mic that wasn’t compatible with the Elgato, etc. All in all we ended up with about as many sessions recorded as we did the previous year, so not too bad for an entirely new process.

As an organizer you gotta pick and choose where your limited budget goes. Professional session recording (last time I did it), runs a few grand per room per day, just not in the cards for a low margin indie event. As it is this recording setup is the largest single capital investment 360|Conferences has ever done in a single year.

I’m really excited for next year and for [360|iDev min] in October. I think our session recordings from now on will be quite good and of a quality I can be proud of. If you haven’t watched this year’s recordings, go check ’em out. To be clear, this years recordings are NOT of a quality I’m proud of, I was tempted to not release any, but figured for those that missed the conference and wanted to see what they missed the weird audio issues wouldn’t be a deal breaker. Plus the videos are free, so there’s that.

RiNo Music Festival, not a great first run.

So this weekend, I went to the RiNo Music Festival. This was it’s first year in a space that I guess (from what I read) aims to become a music venue in the neighborhood (which is pretty sweet).

The line up was impressive, bands I knew from the radio.

[update] I realized I glossed over this to get to the bad, but the line up really was impressive. Every band had at least one song I knew from the radio so I could recognize them when they played. Having all bands a casual radio listener would know is (I assume) no small feat for a first time music festival. So while there’s plenty I think the organizers could have done better, the line up was a success for sure.

The location was not bad, hard packed dirt with room for food trucks, a stage at the far end of the pie shaped space.

That’s about where the “good” ends.

The show started at 4:30 and we got there about 5. Not too many people had arrived yet so it was easy to get beer from one of the two trucks, easy to visit one of the 5 or so food trucks.

Beer was cash only, yet they used square registers with iPads. One more step and they could take credit cards. One step, and they could have been totally awesome, and modern, yet they opted for cash only with shitty signs you couldn’t see until you got to the front of the ever lengthening line.

Oh and every food truck there, totally capable of taking credit cards. Fail one, RiNo Music Festival.

We grabbed beers and food and were able to grab a table with an umberella. As we sat and enjoyed our beers, more and more folks showed up. A good thing for sure, the festival was clearly not a failure.

That’s when things went off the rails.

As we sat there, the the line for beer (remember just two trucks, cash only) got longer and longer.

The line for the food trucks started to get longer. The line for the ATM got as long.

When our cups were empty it was “stand in a 100+ people line” or leave.

We left.

Leaving was a zig zag obstacle course of overlapping lines.

On leaving the security guy asked the guy in front of us if he was coming back in, “Fuck no, i can’t even get a beer in there”

Well said brother.

We walked to the Blue Moon Brewery, paid $2 less for a beer, and got a larger cup, and used our credit cards.

I feel ike the RiNo Music Festival was so close to executing an awesome event. They surely had an idea of how many people were coming, because it wasn’t free, tickets were required. They surely knew about square registers, so why not speed up the process selling beer? Why not add another beer truck?

I had friends who showed up and lasted 10 minutes.

Next year if it happens I’ll think twice about attending even though it was right in my backyard.

Amazon and the Kindle

I sort of love/hate Amazon. Mostly love, but still.

I have a Kindle Paperwhite, I’ve had a Kindle since the 2nd version was released. I’ve liked them all, loved really. They’re my go to reading devices, but most of the time it feels like Amazon is just pushing them out the door ( a new one just dropped last week!), without actually caring what anyone wants. Sure they add a new font here, and finally integrated goodreads a few firmware versions ago, now there’s a really expensive ‘luxury’ one, but look around the internet at an eReader or even Kindle specific forum, you’ll find lots and lots of discussion around the minor things that would vastly improve the kindle for many owners.

IMG_0982Content Management. When you end up with a library of hundreds or thousands of books, managing them on device is a bag of hurt. Especially if that device has an Epaper screen! Managing them on the amazon site isn’t even an option. So what works? Surely there’s something, oh no there’s nothing. The Kindle for mac (or PC I assume) seems like it’d be the right place, plenty of screen space, etc. to allow for easy sorting of books and managing of collections, generally managing your Kindle library. Nope, Collections are a mix of device and cloud, essentially making them useless on both, because what changes you make on your desktop, won’t reflect on the device, and vice versa. Side loaded books aren’t synced so the desktop and mobile app versions, don’t even know about them.

There used to be a nice view on the kindle that showed books and collections together so you could see books that weren’t assigned a place to live, making it easy to manage. Once your kindle screen was just collections, done. You’d sorted all your books. That view went away a few firmwares ago. You can see above that now there’s no telling. The three books at the bottom, are in the collection above, yet there’s no way to see just one. You can see only collections, but then books not in collections are gone. You can see everything but then collections are pretty pointless.

Screen savers. I admit this is a huge one for me (and anecdotally a huge group of owners). I don’t know why, but Amazon thinks we want to see some random ass images (previously it was dead authors) instead of the cover of the book we’re reading, or our own images. Why? beats me. Sure if you have the “special offers” version it makes sense you only see the offers. But if i’m not running that version, why wouldn’t I want to see what I’m reading? instead of one of like 6 rotating images. Why wouldn’t I want to customize that experience?

IMG_0981I know some folks don’t care one way or the other, I’d argue even not caring, none would object to seeing the book cover. It seems like such a low hanging fruit that Amazon could please a vocal subset of customers, please others who don’t care but wouldn’t oppose seeing the cover of their book, and in no way harm anything at all. In fact it’s not even like it’s not possible since one of the biggest reasons people jailbreak their kindles (myself included) is to gain access to book covers as screen saver.

Even if a book doesn’t have a cover, the system that renders it could make a generic one. I know this because the creators of the Screensaver hack have done it. The Side loading app Calibre, has also done it.

To my knowledge Amazon has never said why they don’t offer this, the jailbreak works so well, doing it officially seems like it’d be easier/cleaner.

Unlike Apple who seems to at least pay attention to the jailbreak community to see what’s popular, Amazon seems to ignore it completely, focusing on other things. Other things that no one is asking for (at least based on the last few firmwares, and subsequent roll backs).

None of this keeps me from owning a Kindle, or enjoying mine, but I’ve never understood when businesses seem to ignore their user base so completely as to be seen as hostile towards what are the most active and vocal of their supporters.

¯\_(?)_/¯

Conference lunches…. They don’t have to suck

Conference food… There’s typically two types of conference food;

“Oh my god, this conference has really good food” and,

“Let’s just go somewhere else (and spend our own money), this event has crappy food”

More often than not 360|iDev (and 360|Flex in it’s day) were usually the former. I’ve always thought that conference food shouldn’t be gross, it shouldn’t be rubbery chicken, and steamed veggies. It should be something that people go back for seconds for, it should be something people actually talk about, as much a valued part of the event as the content. I’ve mostly been successful at that.

That’s not to say I’m batting 1000 (I think i used that reference right), there are times when the meal fails to deliver, either i picked poorly, or the venue wasn’t up to the task.

The last two years I’ve taken my approach to conference lunch a step further, offering something few events offer; choice.

While having everyone eat lunch in the conference space has value, I think it’s more valuable to get attendees outdoors. For a few reasons, in no particular order;

  1. Attendees have more choice in what they eat, which is either impossible or stupid expensive within the conference center.
  2. They can meet new people by ending up at the same place as others, but not so many that it’s daunting.
  3. They get to enjoy what the host city has to offer
  4. I get to support local businesses, which is a huge part of my business. 360|Conferences is a Denver, CO company and whenever I can I want to support other Colorado businesses.

 

It’s easy to do an event, it’s harder to do events that don’t suck.