Philly Geek Awards: one award, three nominations and a dozen ideas for next year

The first ever Philly Geek Awards show, organized by my friends at Geekadelphia, was held last Friday at the Academy of Natural Sciences. As mentioned here in June, I was proudly involved in three nominations.

My Technically Philly colleagues Sean Blanda, Brian James Kirk and I were honored to have Philly Tech Week named Philadelphia’s Best Local Annual Event. In accepting the award, we were able to thank the entire technology community for getting involved and remind the nearly 400 people in attendance that Philly Tech Week 2012 is coming the last week of next April, in addition to a fine message from Kirk.

Because I so loved the event and because I consider the Geekadelphia crew good buddies, I was awash with thoughts on this year and next. Below, I share some of them.


Thoughts:

  • The event was a four-hour blast, from the cocktail reception, to the Academy location, to MC Doogie Horner, to the presenters, awards and the rest.
  • The atmosphere was welcoming and supportive. Despite covering the community, I probably only really knew 10 percent of those in attendance because of its draw across communities, but it was a friendly and warm environment.
  • This can become an endlessly important annual event for intersecting a lot of creative, innovation and technology communities in a way that we hope for Philly Tech Week. I think the two should become partnering, anchor events. The PACT Alliance, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Pennsylvania Bio, the University City Science Center and other older organizations do work in this way for more established communities of technology but the crossover between young and old has never really happened. Collaborating with the Science Festival probably makes a lot of sense, but the disparate levels of funding — they’re far better financed than Philly Tech Week — makes that difficult.
  • We should connect across the Philly Geek Awards and Philly Tech Week, perhaps in a hall of fame or something that could involve nominations, a roast and induction or otherwise be a way to welcome older or other various communities and bridge between the two. To that point, I’d vote for the Geek Awards to happen in the fall, closer to the end of the year so they could be considered representative of the calendar year and be mostly equidistant from Philly Tech Week. Say, late October or early November before the holiday rush?
  • Length: An hour to 90 minutes cocktail reception seemed perfect, and the two hour award show with a 15 minute intermission could actually perhaps have been a bit longer, but keeping it trim is a good way to keep people excited.
  • Dress: Having a black-tie event was perfect and encouraging some of the more creative types to take that a new way was fun.
  • Livestream and chop and share video: This was the plan but there were some hiccups. Still, in this community, everything should be recorded and then quickly chopped up by award and shared for the future.
  • Red carpet: The rain killed it, but having a real walk across the red carpet would be a fun addition.
  • MC Doogie Horner: The comedian, who recently prompted another post here, had a great five-minute opening monologue and a quick award intro later in the show. I was definitely left wanting more. Having that kind of outside perspective is a really fitting lead. Maybe in the future, you’d pay someone like that to really lead the entire evening.
  • Academy of Natural Sciences: I had never been there before and many with whom I spoke said the same, so I think it was very smart for them to welcome us into their location. We were a fitting audience. Having roaming animals — like parrots and iguanas — with staff members talking about their fit was cool.
  • Every category needs three or four nominees to keep symmetry.
  • Award categories I want to see: Geek Headline of the Year (think Comcast buying NBC, GPIC funded at Navy Yard); Hacker of the Year; Graphic Design of the Year; and I think Startup of the Year is really the biggest award to give so should happen at the end and be the most hyped.
  • In Memoriam: The very funny picture montage of community members who had left Philly this year, fitting of Exit Interview, was funny and a great way to celebrate those here. I think that might be something to do again, and perhaps add those who have joined the community.
  • Have pre-announced winners: Because I’d think you’d want to add quite a few award categories but not lengthen the show by too much, I think honoring some folks with announced winners beforehand would be fitting.
  • Video and Descriptions: Why I think the Philly Geek Awards and Philly Tech Week could and should stand out is the opportunity to bring together otherwise very different groups. What that means then, is that much more context is necessary. I think presenters should offer even a quick 10-second description of each nominee to put it in context with the others and, when possible, all nominees should have some video element, particularly the video nominees. They helped make it more of a show and educate and connect the audience in support of each other.
  • The Geekadelphia crew talked about getting a lot of push back from people, something we experienced with Philly Tech Week, so it’s important to remember that a lot of that response truly shows how much ownership an entire community takes over these events. That’s a good thing.
  • Geekadelphia has already conceived of the idea of something of an academy to help develop future award categories and nominees.
  • Eric Smith of Geekadelphia and we at Technically Philly sat down together back in 2009 and started sketching out the idea of doing an awards show together. It was clear that then, we had different visions and so we set it aside. We at Technically Philly revisited the idea for last Philly Tech Week but again decided it was the right time. It’s exciting that Geekadelphia has moved on this.

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