Why Unconferences are Awesome

UnconferenceIf you haven’t had the pleasure, let me introduce you to the wonders of the unconference.

BarCamp is one of my very favorite things about living in Philadelphia. It was my first introduction to the tech community here.

The first year we lived in West Chester, Chad went by himself. I spent the day being bitter and sad, and I was mad at him when he got home because he had stayed for the afterparty and I wanted him to come home earlier. He tried to cheer me up by telling me how much I would have loved going. It didn’t work.

So the next year, even though he was fighting off a really ugly foodborne illness, we went together. There were talks on the schedule about computing for social good, how to host a food swap, gender in tech, links as language, and lots of other things I probably didn’t understand at the time. It was just all of these interesting people giving talks about such a variety of interesting things.

What is an unconference?

Unconferences are self-organizing; there are no planned talks ahead of time. In the morning, anyone can pitch a session and get put on the schedule for the day. There are lots of topic-specific unconferences, but what I love most about BarCamp is that sessions can be about anything, and so I always end up learning about things I’ve never thought about or encountered before. Unconferences, and BarCamp especially, are serendipitous. It’s a way to cross-pollinate the community.

In theory, they’re easier to organize than other conferences because there’s no need to recruit and plan for speakers or sessions ahead of time. The attendees are just as responsible (if not more so!) as the organizers for sharing great content. Unconferences are also incredibly democratic — anyone can pitch a talk or a panel or a roundtable or even an activity.  Because of that, there’s a low barrier to entry to speaking, so they’re great for new speakers or for testing out a new talk idea.

If you’re in Philly on November 15th, I’d love to see you at BarCamp Philly! If there’s a BarCamp in your area and you haven’t been yet, give it a try! Or, you could try to organize an unconference in your area. You never know what you’ll learn.


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Taking stock of Philly Tech Week

Philly Women in Tech Summit 2013Philly Tech Week is a full week of celebrating and showcasing the amazing things happening in the tech scene, highlighting areas and topics surrounding technology, including accessibility, entrepreneurship, media, entertainment, and civic issues, among others.  Having access to Philly Tech Week is one of my favorite things about living in this city. It’s amazing to me the depth and breadth of the programming, and it’s so wonderful to show up at almost any event across the city on a given night and running into an old or new friend. It’s going to be a very busy week, as I’ll be maintaining my normal day job and freelance workload, but it will be worth it.

I’d love to share a few highlights and things I’m looking forward to this week:

Tetris on the Cira Center:  There’s a skyscraper in Philly, called the Cira Center, that has bunches of tiny LEDs all over it. Each of the LEDs has its own IP address, and so they are programmable. Which means they can be turned into a huge video game screen, and people can play Tetris on the side of a skyscraper. It is, as they say, rad as eff.

Why Take the Leap? Public Speaking & Your Career: My very favorite tech meetup group, Girl Develop It, is partnering with Happy Cog and Ladies in Tech on hosting a roundtable on how and why public speaking helps your career. I’ll be taking extensive notes and prepping for my first speaking gig later in the week.

Rad Girls’ Launch Party: At least one of my friends is contributing to this new site highlighting and interviewing women in Philly who are doing spectacular things. I’m excited to meet the rest of the contributors and celebrate their launch.

Philadelphia Women in Tech Summit: This is one of my favorite local events of the year. At the first Women in Tech Summit, I wasn’t even sure that I belonged, but by the end of the day I’d decided I wanted to learn web development. So it’s a pretty special event to me, personally. Like I shared earlier, I’ll be speaking (for the first time! Eeep!) on a panel about career paths.

Does your city or town have a festival or celebration that you love? What are some of your favorite local events?


Kermit’s Bake Shoppe — An Impromptu Visit

Kermit's Bake ShoppeI was rushing across town to run an errand in South Philly last week, when I spotted this beautiful painted storefront wall on Washington Avenue. I decided that if I had time on my way back through, I’d stop and check it out.

Kermit's Bake Shoppe sticky buns

Kermit's Bake Shoppe sticky bunsNot stopping was never really an option, to be honest. Baked goods are kind of my jam. It has to do with the Amish Mennonite family and heritage and all.

The beautifully painted exterior lured me in, and the varied menu totally sold me on the new bakery and pizza shop. It’s the perfect mix of sweet and savory, real meals and dessert. It makes sense, really. A place that makes amazing sticky buns ought to be able to also dominate pizza crust. Though they’d been open less than a week, the lunch crowd quickly confirmed those suspicions — people left carrying pizza boxes and bags filled with sandwiches and hot pockets as well as donuts, cookies, quick savory breads, whoopie pies and fudge.

After much consideration, I settled on an almond-cinnamon poptart, a Kermit Hole cookie, and a piece of vanilla walnut fudge, none of which lasted a very long time after I brought them home.

If you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to swing by soon. Even if it’s a little bit out of the way, Kermit’s is worth the trip.

Kermit's Bake Shoppe Poptart



Summer White: Diner en Blanc

Diner en Blanc Philadelphia

Now that the madness of the Fourth is behind us, the next Philly summer event I’m looking forward to is Diner en Blanc. I’ve noticed it’s been getting a ton of buzz this year, whereas last year I felt like I just stumbled upon it by a stroke of luck. If you’re not familiar with the event, check out my recap and photos of last year’s inaugural Philly soiree on Town Dish.

When last year’s Diner en Blanc took place, I had just bought my first DSLR and was prepping to go to Iceland. We hadn’t yet moved to the city, but had just signed a lease on our current apartment. We were gearing up for a massive amount of change, yet still took time to enjoy the surprise location of the classiest pop up picnic in the world. I was bummed that we had to skip out on the after party last year to get drive back to the suburbs and go to work the next day, but I’ll make a valiant attempt to make it to the after party this year! I’m amazed and so grateful for how much my life has changed in the past year.

Now that I live in Philly and have some of the essentials locked down (table, chairs, linens, etc), I’ll be able to focus more on enjoying the event, finding (or making!) my all-white outfit, and dreaming up an amazing late summer picnic menu.

Are you signed up for the waitlist? If you want to join me there on August 22, be sure to pre-register as soon as possible!

Chad at Diner en Blanc Philadelphia

Isn’t he beautiful? Gotta make him dress up more often.

Diner en Blanc Philadelphia

Perhaps this is my favorite photo of us.

Diner en Blanc Philadelphia

Diner en Blanc Philadelphia

Those letterpress butter cookies I made were a huge hit.

Diner en Blanc Philadelphia

I love the birdcage veil. I’d been watching her all night, hoping to snag this paparazzi shot.

Diner en Blanc Philadelphia

Chad was thrilled when the dance party began.

Diner en Blanc Philadelphia

And then the party took to the water. Fountain water, that is.

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Classes at 3rd Ward Philly

I’ve written before about the beautiful coworking space up at 3rd Ward. I’ve been working from there about once a week since it opened, so I was really excited to see their class schedule start filling out.

I decided to start with a Photoshop class to get some more structured practice and experience with the program, and I’m really excited to start implementing some of the things I learned into this blog. Sometimes it’s nice to get someone else’s perspective on something you’re already a bit familiar with. Even though I’d been splashing around in Photoshop for awhile now, I learned a ton and came away more visually inspired.

This is the image I’m most excited about.

Hallgrimskirkja church, reykjavik

You can read more about my experience at the 3rd Ward Photoshop class over at Femme & Fortune today! Check out the rest of 3rd Ward’s current Digital Media class offerings, too.