Category Archives: I am a Creator

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!

I won NaNoWriMo 2016

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_winnerIt only took ten years, but I finally won NaNoWriMo.

If you’re not familiar it’s National Novel Writing Month. The goal is start Nov. 1, and by the end of Nov. 30 have 50,000 words written.

Every year for the last ten years I’ve at least done something. Some years it’s been open the site, be too busy to dedicate myself to writing, and close the site. Some years I’ve started writing, either something new, or picked up something I’d started randomly in the year. I’d get various amounts of words in, miss a day, then two, then four then I’d see that I was so far behind the average per day needed to win, I’d give up. Ten Years.

This year, my friend Tom and I both decided we’d do it again, both agreed to give it our all. I was especially motivated because a few months before Tom had shared a manuscript he wrote some 15 odd years before, and after reading it, I was more energized to create my own.

capture-2016-12-01-at-12-33-32-pmI don’t know what was different this year, other than being a bit lighter than usual on “stuff to do” work wise. But I was able to start strong, and even when I fell behind a few times, it was never so much so that it became impossible.

I actually thought I’d crush it over thanksgiving, but did the exact opposite, then when I was in the final week, the little author dashboard on the NaNoWriMo site was like at this pace you’ll finish on Dec. 2. “SO CLOSE” So I made time, and pushed through. I crossed the “finish” line around noonish on the last day.

I think one factor of the win was that I finally found an app I enjoyed using to write. I’ve tried most every app out there aimed at authors, and haven’t loved any. Some of come close, some haven’t, some have simply gone away. Scrivener, is here to stay, the iPad app is great for when I wanted to try to add a few more words but didn’t have my laptop, the Mac app is fairly intuitive to use.

Until the last week, I wasn’t sure I’d finish on time or finish at all. I have to say I’m pretty darned pleased with myself. My plan is to let it sit a week or two, then go back over the story with an eye for cleaning things up. Then anyone who’s interested may read it (warning it’s Sci Fi). Then Maybe I’ll toss it up on Amazon. Who knows.

Any how, wanted to share, because like I said, I’m pretty pleased with myself.

Why I’m Moving Away from Dropbox

tl;dr; ditch Dropbox if you care about the security of your files and your privacy, get something else, I recommend Bittorent Sync

I’ve been in the process of moving from Dropbox for a while now, it started when they brought Condoleezza Rice on to the board. Nothing against her, exactly, but her stance on privacy wasn’t amazing to me. Not that she’d be in control, but still that choice said something to me about how Dropbox views user privacy.

Then Dropbox had some issues, hacks, breaches, etc. Then an outage or two.

Add to that, Dropbox download speeds are TERRIBLE. Customers have been complaining for years, and Dropbox does nothing. Few things are as aggravating as being held up doing your work, because Dropbox can’t deliver a file faster than 100-200kbps. When it’s a 30gb file, you start to question your life choices.

Enough was enough, especially when the result was usually “ooops, shit happens, so sorry” and complete silence on the speed issue. Dropbox clearly has the money, and has achieved “too big to give a shit about users” status.

So I started looking at alternatives. I found a few. I tried a few and the things for me were mostly: mobile client, reliability, and trustworthiness, all behind of course, security of my files.

SpiderOak, was my first choice, but their apps were terrible. The desktop app was confusing, the mobile apps only slightly less so. I struggled to use the apps for a few months and gave up.

Then I decided since the cloud is just someone else’s computer anyway, why not use one of mine? Enter Bittorrent sync (now resilio Sync), which uses the bittorrent protocol to find the fastest path between two devices to move files. No cloud.

bittorrent sync

Bittorrent sync on my media center

For me that was fine, my Media Center is connected to 16tb Drobo, and it’s set to sync all things (there’s selective, and all, as options per folder). So it’s essentially my “cloud” location for all files. Every other machine and mobile device just syncs/has access to the things I want it to.

The mobile client is straightforward and easy to use, the desktop app (Mac at least) is pretty straightforward as well. You can see which folders are synced, who’s got access and if things are moving around, all very easy to follow stuff if you’ve ever used bittorrent for anything else.

Pros

  • All files are on my machines, no one elses.
  • All files are on my machines, no one elses. (important enough to be said twice)
  • Faster than Dropbox, by margins that should embarrass Dropbox

Cons

  • Sharing. This doesn’t apply to me much, and is really why i keep dropbox around; sharing files with others. Dropbox is ubiquitous, so rather than explain bittorrent sync, help with install, go through the more secure invite system, etc. I simply share files via dropbox.

Not really a con, but a result.

  • I cancelled my Dropbox subscription so have only the basic amount of storage (saving me a ton of money), which sometimes causes issues when receiving big files, but oh well.

Set up is easy, install, get the pro (if you’re doing that) licensing set up, then set up each folder you’d like to sync. It’s a bit slow to start as you have to add each folder to each device, but once that’s done it’s pretty nice, and as you add devices they don’t all need the same folders.

 

Gratitude

IMG_2478Saying “Thank you” is important. If nothing else it’s polite, but for events, it’s important to realize, you’re the least important piece of the pie.

No one is buying a ticket to hang out with you. They’re coming to see the speakers, possibly to meet sponsors (especially if they’re looking for work). If you factor in at all, it’s a distant third.

For every event I organize I hand write thank you cards. Every speaker gets one (barring hiccups in the process, etc) when they check into the hotel or when they arrive at the conference.

For 360|iDev that’s almost 60 cards. For 360|AnDev is was just under 30.

I think too many event organizers forget that it’s not about them, they form a cult of personality around them as if their presence is the key. Sure great organizers do great events, but the ‘great’  part is the event, not the organizer.

 

I’ve thought about using something to automate my thank you cards, but realized that’s not what I’m about. Sure some have words crossed out, because my hand moved faster than my brain, sure I sometimes write them upside down, or misspell a word, but that’s what authenticity looks like.

Conference Signage V3

IMG_2523So I wrote a while back about Conference signage, and what my “version 1” looked like, and where I wanted to see version 2 come in.

Turns out V2 came sooner than expected. The awesome team at Essemble, who built the conference app, were able to quickly work up. rough version 1 of a conference signage AppleTV app.

It wasn’t fancy to start, I have a few things I’d like to change for next year, but overall it was awesome. Of course training people to look at this vs. the crappy little monitors hotels install outside conference rooms might be a bigger challenge than I expected.

IMG_2542Each room had a large monitor out front, and an AppleTV. The app had a list of rooms, you selected the room the TV was in front of and that was it. The app polled the server that drives the conference app, so any changes I made to the schedule in the app, were reflected almost immediately on the screens. Certainly faster than I could update the website.

 

As a first cut of this, done in … I think 2-3 weeks at most, I’m thrilled. The information I wanted to present was presented. I didn’t have to print out session signs for every session in every room, and have volunteers running around to change them. I was able to quickly move sessions based on capacity, and everything I needed to reflect those changes, did so quickly.

IMG_2540There were a few hang ups, the way the app pulled data left the previous evenings listing until 15 minutes before the next mornings event, vs. starting wth the first thing that day. Not a big deal, and easily addressed.

I loved that general sessions were able to be called out as basically “Not in this room” so anyone walking in, not only knew it was a general session, but where it was, and that it wasn’t in the room they were standing at.

I’d love to have them run in portrait, mostly because hotels don’t have small screens, and nearly 50″ is a lot to have sitting there in landscape. Not a deal breaker.

I’d love to have a bit more styling on the display, maybe using the header image for the event along the top, or as a full background, again not a deal breaker.

Down the road, a bit down the road, I’d like to own my own displays (probably smaller, 46″ was nice, but I felt it was a bit overkill) so I have more control on size, and placement, etc. but even using hotel kit, it worked out great.

I’d love to make conference signage more valuable and realistically more trustworthy for attendees. Hotels have small monitors that they use, but those changes aren’t in my control, they’re scraped from the schedule and any changes require emails to be sent, delay, etc. Updating the website is something I do as we go, but it’s also not as fast as simply changing the data the app uses, and not just updating the app, but the room signs at the some time.

I might finally not need a moleskine

So, I’m a huge fan of keeping a notebook around all times. I carry a field notes notebook and pen with me almost all the time and there’s usually a medium size moleskine in my bag.

That might change.

GoodNotes, an iPad Pro 9.7″ and the Apple Pencil, might turn out to be the perfect replacement for my trusty moleskine.

I love writing, and love taking notes. It helps me remember things, and helps me sort my thoughts. The problem is, (for me at least) is going back to find notes. It’s doable and I do it, but it’s not easy, or fast.

I color code my notes now, using an index system, and that helps, but only a little.

On top of that, when I finally finish a notebook it goes on a shelf. They look cool, covered in stickers, full of notes on old sponsorship deals, old meetings, etc. But I never go back through them.

GoodNotes, is truly great. I was very skeptical about the Apple Pencil, but must admit, writing with it, is just like writing with my pen. I can scribble notes, highlight things, etc while holding my iPad in one hand. I can sit in a meeting and write notes like I would with a notebook, but their digital and always available.
Goodnotes is great at handwriting

As I got used to the app, at first I was worried that trying to find past notes would be tedious, swiping past each note one at a time, then I realized, duh, there’s a feature for that. Tapping the “4 boxes” icon allows you to quickly scroll through all your notes, and the thumbnails are just big enough to actually read the notes and see the headings.

Easy to see all notes in a bookAdd that to my color coding, and BOOM, easily searchable notebooks.

It’s also nice that I can separate my notebooks. Work, personal, etc . I’m still working on finding the right balance between one big notebook, and too many very specialized notebooks, but am sure I’ll get it.

my color coding scheme can still work.

my color coding scheme can still work.

 

One feature I wish existed was being able to take an entire page, cut if from one notebook, and pasting into a another notebook. Hopefully that shows up.

Over all I’m really pleased with this setup.

My only other sorta complaint is the types of pages. the lined page for example is portrait, while the grid paper comes in both portrait and landscape. You can create your own page templates, but sadly my illustrator skills aren’t quite there.

My most recent trip to San Francisco for WWDC ’16, i didn’t cary my moleskine. I had my iPad Pro, it’s keyboard, and the Apple Pencil, and that was more than enough to replace my trusty paper notebook.

Won’t lie, kinda sad to think about not having a paper notebook in my bag anymore but also kinda excited to go further paperless. Now to find a home for some unused notebooks…

 

Zoomed in writing box

Denver Startup Culture

tl; dr;

Is Broken, but fixable.

the long form:

I got into a Facebook fight with a CEO the other day. He was mad i said a blog post on his site was click bait (which it was, but the popular term is content marketing). I was mad because it doled out praise for “making Denver Startup Week happen” to a group of people that certainly did participate in the week, but only 1 was a member of our actual team that drives the event, AKA “Making it happen”. As a member of the team that makes it happen i was a bit insulted. Not that i was not included, but that my work was being ascribed to others. Coincidentally in an effort to quantify my time, I track it (not 100% well, yet), this year i spent approximately 160 hours on Denver Startup week. Had I billed for that time it’d be over $10,000. That’s not a small investment on my part, it’s larger than several sponsorship levels in fact. I don’t say that as a “I do more than you” just as a statement of what i  do, and it’s relative value.

The next day (i kid you not) i see a blog post by builtin Colorado that says there’s no coworking in LoDo. When in fact I helped launch Uncubed, which started in RiNo but has been in LoDo (15th and Blake) for mmm 3 years now, and has existed longer than built in Colorado. Several other places were mentioned as “nearby options”, all are commonly written about in Builtin and/or Tech crunch because they raise money (which to be clear is totally fine).

That’s the crux of what I think is broken in our community. A focus on money raised. On exits. Not on who’s building and running businesses. 

I think raising money is fine, I think selling your company for tons of money is fine, i think talking about those things is fine. They’re obviously economic drivers, they creates jobs, etc. They’re sexy and attract attention.

But.

We’re making our focus around the “Denver startup community” solely about who’s raised how much, how much did the company sell for. We talk about how much VC money flooded Denver in a given time period, but we’re ignoring those companies that form, and continue to exist that don’t take VC money. Uncubed Started with no money from anyone but the three founders. 360|Conferences, started with nothing at all. Last year we had revenue of about $250,000.

We’re not talking about companies that have been around years, are profitable, are doing things. Sure they’re less ‘sexy’ and often (but not always) employee fewer people, but they’re contributing to the Denver community just as much (and I feel more) as the latest well funded Tech Crunch darling, that may or may not even exist next year.

So, all that said, I think that’s now the goal for my blogging efforts. I don’t know if that will be here on my blog or if I’ll spin up something new. I’d like to get a few folks to help me cover things. There’s more to the story of Denver’s amazing startup scene than is being talked about, and I think it’s time we fixed that.

Want to know more, stay tuned. Want to help, let me know.