This month marks the 5 year anniversary of Refresh DC. The first gathering was small and informal at Ireland’s Four Green Fields on Connecticut Avenue, Northwest. I was fortunate enough to make it since I was in my final year at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. It was spring break and I needed to find an internship for the next quarter. I was willing to commute from Philly to DC every week, that’s how dead the web scene was in the spring of 2006 (I also wanted to eventually land back in my hometown of DC, which I did). I didn’t land any internship leads but I did meet Nicholas Tolson and Nguyet Vuong who are still very active in the DC tech scene to this day.
For history’s sake, here is the e-mail for the very first Refresh DC meet-up sent on March 22nd, 2006.
Hi everyone! We’ll keep this short and sweet. Our first meetup is
upon us and we’d like to know how many people are interested in
attending. The details are listed below. If you can make it, hit
the ‘reply’ button and let us know (by the end of this week if
There’ll be a little bit of discussion about what Refresh is and
where it came from and some ideas we have for Refresh DC. The
format is pretty loose, so bring your thoughts and ideas, we’ll
be happy to hear them!
Tuesday, March 28th, 6:30-ish to 8:30pm
Ireland’s Four Green Fields (next to the Uptown Theater)
3412 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008
Google Map: http://rubyurl.com/Qpb
Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any
questions. Hope to see you all Tuesday night!
Everyone in the DC area is making a ruckus about the impending snowstorm of doom! Throughout the weekend I will measure how much snow has fallen here in Glenmont, MD, and track it via this silly picture of me.
The National Weather Service is calling for 20 – 30 inches of the white stuff so if we get 30″, then my entire photo will be completely white.
Saturday, 1:45am – 28 inches: While everyone is asleep, I’m out trudging around in snow. Ok, I’m sure this measurement is due to drifting but it’s consistent in both places that I have been measuring all day (a bush near my building and on the hood of my Rav-4). The Weather Channel just reported Columbia, MD, officially has 13.9″ of fallen snow. I’ll keep updating my image which will easily go out of the frame tomorrow.
The snow is coming up to my knee in low areas and my mid thigh in the deep spots. It keeps coming down at a strong, relentless pace. I like how dead-silent it is outside.
This past Saturday, November 14th, a hundred DC tech enthusiasts gathered at the Martin Luther King Library to create their own conference. Topics were suggested by participants and the group at large determined the schedule. It was a BarCamp at it’s best!
This year’s BarCamp had a few twists. The word ‘Twitter’ was banned and anyone violating that rule had to pay a dollar to the Twitter swear jar which was donated to charity. The other rule was no PowerPoint slides which was an effort to promote group discussions and participation over lectures.
I got to catch up with former co-workers from USNews as well as other DC tech-heads I met at other local events. The entire event including lunch was free of charge thanks to the generous sponsors who helped make BarCampDC possible. The pizza was quite good.
Some of the talks I went to included:
How To Play Tetris led by John Chen. John didn’t actually think anyone was interested in his talk but we had a good-size group talking about video game politics, strategies for Tetris, and the fact that there are Tetris pros making US$100k per year in Korea. The key takeaway was being good at Tetris takes practice, practice, and more practice. And after you’ve practiced some more, you wake up one day and realize you’re good at Tetris.
An Introduction to the Android PlatformGyuri Grell and Zvi Band led an introduction to the Android mobile OS platform. The talk was a little over my head as it was mostly about Java, which I know nothing about. The source code for Meetro DC, the DC Metro app demoed, can be found on GitHub for anyone to poke around and play with. I did enjoy seeing from a high level how Android apps work and shedding some light on the magic running behind the scenes. I’m really excited to see where Android goes in the future.
The most thought-provoking talk I sat in was Generalist vs. Specialist led by Kelly Gifford. It was such an open-ended topic that spurred a healthy debate. From my point of view you are both a generalist and specialist depending on what level you are comparing to. For example, in your company you might be the only “web person”, making you a specialist but with so many different hats to wear in a sole-developer position, you have to do many different things making you a generalist. Like most anything in life, nothing is cut and dry black and white but a lot of gray areas.
The final talk of the day was about TemlarPHP, a cascading template framework built with PHP. It separates presentation from content to create websites that are easy to maintain and standards complaint with the need for a database. It was created by Shawn Brown and looked like a lighter alternative compared to the other feature-packed, and somewhat bloated, web frameworks out there.
So as you can see there was a lot going on. There were so many other presentations I wanted to see and people I wanted to meet and chat with but there just wasn’t enough time. A big thanks goes out to the organizers (@jfc3 , @thorpus, @corbett3000, @farrelley, @patricktimony & all the others) that helped put on another great DC tech event.
Today was a long but enjoyable day at TEDxMidAtlantic. It’s refreshing seeing so many different perspectives and open minds converge on a single stage at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Perhaps even more mind blowing is videos from every talk are already online for anyone to view. Here are 5 of my favorite, must-see TEDxMidAtlantic talks from today (sorry no direct links yet, you’ll have to scroll through and find their names):
Will Noel – Talked about restoring a book from Archimedes and sharing it with the world under a Creative Commons license.
Scott Simon – Talked about his most memorable story that he covered in Sarajevo in the 1990s.
Peter Agre – Story about his career in science and winning the Nobel Prize in 2003. Very funny guy.
Tony Geraci – Talked about how he transformed school lunches in Baltimore City Public Schools.
Marcus Ranum – Talked about how everyone on the Internet is using TCP/IP and how upgrading the whole planet earth would be hard to do.
A big thanks goes out to the hundreds of volunteers who made this event even possible. Here’s a picture from @sengseng of their standing ovation.
The 2nd annual Silver Spring Zombie Walk took place last night. Hundreds of people got dressed up in ghastly zombie outfits and proceeded to lurch from the Quary House Tavern to the AFI Theater for the 10pm showing of Shaun of the Dead. I ventured out among the crowd purely for the photo opportunities though I did wear my zombie shirt from Threadless underneath of my jacket to keep with the theme.
Traffic came to a stand still as the large group maneuvered through downtown Silver Spring. I’m sure most motorist didn’t mind gazing at the group of walking undead.
There were no two zombies alike and a wide range of ages. The participants would lunge at onlookers and bang against store windows all while moaning “Brraaaaaains!”
Once everyone got to the theater, tickets for the 10pm showing were long gone. Lucky for them there was an 11:45 showing. I didn’t come for the movie so I didn’t mind. I got some good pictures under the bright lights of the AFI Theater.
I met a lot of diverse people like Patrick Timony (Adaptive Technology Librarian at MLK library), Jennison Asuncion (IT Accessibility Consultant from Toronto), Jamal Mazrui (a visually impaired software developer) and about 100 others who were passionate about sharing what they know to make the web a better, and more accessible, place. Here are some of my take aways.
Carolyn Kelley Klinger talked about making PDFs more accessible (PDF) by structuring documents with headers (using Headline 1, Headline 2 etc. styles instead of making the text bold and bumping up the font), adding column/row headers for data tables, supplying alternative text to describe images, and making sure anyone links are within context (no “Click Here” or “Read More” links). I was surprised at how similar preparing an accessible PDF is to preparing an accessible website.
Jamal Mazrui wants to build web apps to benefit disabled netizens. He’s afraid that as broadband speeds increase over the next few years we will see an influx of visually oriented interfaces with no accessibility in mind. The same thing happened in the mid 90’s with the move from an entirely text based DOS operating system, to a graphical interface driven OS like Windows. Today, emerging technologies like Adobe Air, Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, Google Wave, Google Android, Second Life, and the Amazon Kindle have little to help handicapped users. Apple’s iPhone is fairly good when it comes to accessibility as evident by all the people who had one at Accessibility Camp. Hopefully the tech industry will learn from its prior mistake of ignoring the needs of handicapped users.
For lunch everyone got as many Potbelly sandwiches as they could fit in their bellies. Thanks to the generous sponsors who made the event not only possible, but free for everyone we were able to enjoy a scrumptious meal.
After lunch I got to see a live demonstration of Jennison using the screen reading application, JAWS, to navigate the web. Holy Cow! I can’t believe how different the web is when you can’t see where you’re browsing. It takes a while for a visually impaired user to get acquainted with a new website since every site has a different set of pitfalls. The source-order of your website, that is the order of your content with no styles applied, makes a huge difference to the experience of a blind user. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to user test your project, make sure to get feedback from a visually impaired person using a screen reader too.
Other events that were going on throughout the day included Practical Ways to make Your Site More Accessible, Making Mapping More Accessible, eLearning Tools, and Online Gaming for Persons with Disabilities. It seems like everyone there had something to share.
A big thank you goes out to John Croston and Patrick Timony for organizing, the staff at the MLK library for providing an awesome venue, all of the sponsors who made the event even possible, and everyone who attended with something to share. This event really opened my eyes to accessibility and the web.
The DC tech scene is just bursting at the seams with interesting (and free) tech events and un-conferences coming up this fall. I don’t know If I will be able to attend them all but here are a few that made it on to my radar.
Accessibility Camp DC is taking place at Martin Luther King Library on October 10, 2009. The event will cover topics and discussions about making the web more accessible.
PublicMediaCamp will be at American University on October 17 and 18, 2009. The event aims to put 100 developers, 100 public media supporters, and 100 people who work for public broadcasting companies in a room and see what comes of it.
TEDx Midatlantic will be held on November 5, 2009, at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD. The event will feature presentations by many of the leading thinkers and doers in the MidAtlantic Region.
Today has been an interesting weather day. I was awoken at 6am by one loud thunderclap followed by several long, low rumbles. Everything was fine on my way into work and the sun even came out during the day. But near the end of the day, I looked out the window and saw it was ominously dark. So naturally I decided to venture outside and take some pictures on my phone.
You can see how strong these storms were by looking at the radar. So I decided to hunker down at work until the thunder died down.
A group of technopreneurs made it out to the University of Maryland campus for Bootstrap Maryland.The aim of the conference is to teach budding entrepreneurs “the necessary tools for running a lean and successful technology business.” The event had 4 main panels covering a variety of topics from marketing and public relations to picking the right technology. I learned a lot from the anecdotes of the local entrepreneur panelists. While I ‘m more HTML than MBA, the event inspired me to keep thinking about the business angle on the projects I take on.
Panelists of the third session at Bootstrap Maryland
Since every seat in the business school lecture hall had a power plug and the WiFi was strong throughout the entire event, I managed to take a copious amount of notes on my wiki. Here are some of the highlights:
When it comes to a business plan, do you need one? Whole panel answers “Meehh… not really.”
Recessions are a great time to start a business because everything is cheaper and there is a ton of talent available.
Businesses don’t fail because of the technology, businesses fail because they don’t understand their market.
How to better understand your market: Experiment, Evaluate, adapt.
MYTH: Experience in the corporate world translates to the start-up world. The start up world is a totally different beast.
Want to get rich quickly? Rob a bank. Sell crack. Don’t start a company.
Best brand right now is “swine flu”, “susan boyle”
If considering outsourcing, go with a brand name firm.
That last point is big. If you are looking for a local group of people who are interested in media/technology/business, the DC metropolitan area has something for you. After all, where else would 200 people get together to share ideas and stories about starting businesses on the cheap on a Saturday. Jared Goralnick did a great job organizing everything and I would expect the attendance to double for the next one.
Jared Goralnick polls the audience of Bootstrap MD
Drinking a Diet Coke with pizza and salad for lunch.
Genius Rocket (lunch sponsor) distributes fliers while everyone is out in the hallway eating pizza.
Panelists mingle with the audience after the 2nd session at Bootstrap MD
On the Saturday before Thanksgiving the Filipino Cultural Association of College Park takes part in a flag-football tournament with other schools in the area. For the past three years I have been taking pictures at the game while Kristina played. Since Kristina is no longer a student she was there for moral support but I still took pictures. Here are some of the standout photos.
The girls team fared well but ended up losing to rival George Mason in the last game. The boys ended up winning it all but it was so windy and cold Kristina and I decided to take off early. Besides when the sun goes down it’s pretty much useless to take sports photos.
There are twoalbums on Facebook with even more images.