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How ‘innovation hubs’ are changing communities: My #RAIN14 keynote

These are my prepared remarks for my keynote of the 2014 RAIN (Regional Affinity Incubator Network) conference held at the University City Science Center in July. Throughout the speech, I shared a number of other examples and anecdotes but this is the primary focus.

A coworking movement, a tech boom, a post-recession entrepreneurship frenzy have all conspired to bring all of you to where you are today. That’s seen in the success and growth of this RAIN conference. This is fashionable right now. That is an opportunity to impact our communities but we must also recognize the risk that presents.

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Number of Views:296
william-penn-wikimedia

5 reminders for every local news startup, with a focus on Philly’s ‘Billy Penn’ from Jim Brady

If you were setting out to launch a local, city-wide, civic affairs and breaking news outfit today, there are a few clear first steps I’d encourage you to take. Understand deeply and succinctly why and for whom you are doing this. Plan clearly how you hope to sustain the thing, and have a rough idea of what you think the thing might be.

So I’m assuming that work is already done for Billy Penn, just such an effort here in Philadelphia that is soon-to-be-launched by Jim Brady, a news media executive popular in national online media circles, and Chris Krewson, a former Philadelphia Inquirer online editor who has returned after several years on the West Coast.

Now let’s think about what comes next.

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Number of Views:3554
polling-places

What the Committee of Seventy should teach other nonprofits about publishing

The Committee of Seventy is a 110-year-old local good government activist group known best in Philadelphia for its oversight of city elections. With the retirement of their popular newsman-turned-leader, the nonpartisan nonprofit is seeking a new Executive Director. This is also a unique opportunity for the group to update how it can best serve its mission to combat corruption. It has a clear alignment with public affairs journalism — something other mission groups should learn from.

For my undergraduate academic year 2004-2005, I was a policy intern at Seventy, spanning outgoing director Zack Stalberg and his predecessor Fred Voigt, whom I also interviewed for a college thesis project. From then through to my Election Day volunteering, I’ve long been inspired by their work.

But like Stalberg was meant to do when he replaced Voigt, Seventy is again in need of an updated look at how it can best accomplish their goals. If I were to launch an organization with the goals Seventy has today, in an era with newfound opportunities to build civic-orientated coalitions, web publishing for audience building would certainly be part of the strategy.

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Number of Views:492
engagement-philly-race-street-pier

Thoughts and data on proposing to get married and then sharing online

Earlier this month, I proposed to my longtime girlfriend, saying that we would both be happier and healthier if we lived together for the rest of our lives. She agreed.

That was on a Wednesday. Within an hour, we had the conversation that will confront other web-minded engaged couples today: how should we tell the Internet? It’s the logical maturation of the old idea that online, everyone is both publisher and brand. This news would be acknowledged or shared on the social web with or without our permission, so we ought to at least have it happen to our own liking.

I keep most of my love, romance and emotion private. Here, it’s all about process and lessons. This is what I learned from sharing a big personal update online.

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Number of Views:2580
ideas-lightbulbs

Ideas are easy, execution is hard

Stop taking credit for ideas you didn’t execute on. We’ve all had those moments.  When you find out about a new project or initiative and can recall with great clarity having had that very idea before.

It’s natural to want to allow ourselves that moment of validation. It’s as if a thought of yours has sprung fully formed, so it’s rewarding to take some ownership over it. But’ it’s hardly fair and certainly not accurate.

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Number of Views:906
wilmington-club

5 ways the world will change in five years: Non-Obvious Dinner

How will the world change in the next 5 years? That is the prompt for the annual ‘Non-Obvious Dinner’ organized by Jeff Rollins and Ben duPont, two entrepreneurship leaders whom I’ve come to meet in launching Technical.ly Delaware.

I was among 100 guests invited by the pair to the historic Wilmington Club earlier this month asked to arrive with an answer to that question. First, over dinner, we shared at tables of 10, and we chose the best at our table to present to the entire group, and one was chosen as the most interesting and believable way the world would change in the next five years. (here is another idea from someone who attended last year)

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Number of Views:999
founding-fathers

Founders aren’t scalable

Founders aren’t scalable. You can grow an organization only so far with a founder and her emotion, personality and drive.

So you shouldn’t build an organization around them. They’re great in the beginning. They’re the ultimate generalists, as a good founder will do anything to get the job done. But it won’t last. It can’t last. Even if a founder stays a lifetime, eventually that life will end.

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Number of Views:1062
corona-typewriter

The difference between a beat reporter and a features writer

Doing acts of journalism to inform a community have always had different approaches. There are those who follow one community closely and those who offer the broader narrative to a wider audience.

In news parlance, it’s the beat reporter and the features writer, and it’s tied to the idea of choosing deeper impact or larger scale. I’ve developed a better understanding of the differences in these specialties over the last few years, in both hiring, following and familiarizing myself with the work of my peers.

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Number of Views:1137
zamora-keynote-bcni14

I don’t believe the estimates for how many people attended your event

I go to a lot of events. I cover them. I organize them. I speak at the em. I attend them. For any given event, easily the most common question is how many people attend. It’s how we get a sense of how popular (which is a clumsy shorthand for how valuable something is) the event was. But it’s the wrong question and, I’ve found, almost always a lie.

Because it’s so damn hard. Think about the challenge of estimating attendance at large-scale public events. We always have our reporters estimate attendee counts and often have organizers challenge us. Once an event stretches beyond even just a few dozen people, there’s no sure thing that anyone there will have a good sense of the attendee count. People will have a perceived sense of the crowd — was the event well attended or not — but that has very little to do with actual account and more to do with how full an event location is, among other biases and perspectives. Give me the right number of chairs, and I’ll make your 20-person event crowded.

It’s become second nature for me to hand count attendance at smaller events and do batch counting for larger ones (gauge what a group of 100 looks like and then estimate from there). So I read other event estimates with heavy skepticism.

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Number of Views:1246
Serenade-paballet

Art with tradition is objective, that without one is subjective

Appreciation for art is meant to be, by today’s focus on accessibility, wholly subjective. Whatever your view of something can be defended as your experience with it.

Over drinks at a Gayborhood bar last month, a primatologist-turned-choreographer shared his view on trying to interject objective reality into art — incorporating technology, data and fact into ‘timed performance art.’ With no art history background or deep cultural experience, I deserve no voice in the conversation, but our chatter did result in me sharing with him something I’ve been mulling since.

My knowledge of the debate on whether art is subjective or objective seems incomplete. As I understand it, there are two very different types of art: that which aims to inspire through an existing tradition and that which aims to explore something new.

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Number of Views:1465