Puritan Boston, Quaker Philadelphia: notes on 1979 research from E. Digby Baltzell

Sociologist E. Digby Baltzell. Photo from Penn Collection. Circa 1970.

Boston was built by Puritans, who celebrated civic power and class authority. Philadelphia was built by Quakers, who championed equality and deference.

Two hundred fifty years later, though considerably fewer people in those cities consider themselves a member of either group, their impact is still chiefly responsible for Boston outperforming and Philadelphia underperforming in their contributions to the greater world.

That’s the chief argument of the dense, heavily-researched, 500-page, 1979 academic classic Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia, written by University of Pennsylvania sociologist E. Digby Baltzell (1915-1996). The core of the book is said to be based on some 300 interviews with Proper Philadelphians and Brahmin Bostonians, and part of a decades-long research focus that Baltzell had on his Protestant brethren — he has been sometimes credited with popularizing the “WASP” term.

This is a book that is a fabulous read for understanding Philadelphia and Boston, but it is also a treasure for those who love new perspectives on American culture, U.S. history and the development of cities.

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One Percent for Art Ordinance: in Philly, a percentage of all public construction costs must go to art

In Hawthorne Park at 12th and Catharine in South Philadelphia, this lectern was commissioned to commemorate a speech in 1965 that Martin Luther King Jr. gave on that spot when it was a housing project. It was funded as part of the city’s ‘One Percent for Art’ ordinance.

Visiting the freshly renovated Hawthorne Park in South Philadelphia recently had me reading casual references to this city’s celebrated, half-century old One Percent for Art Ordinance. Though I’ve come to know it and it’s often called a major reason for this city’s reputation for public art, I haven’t been able to find much writing of its roots.

Since so many other cities have followed this trend, I thought it was worth sussing out where the idea originated.

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Technically Baltimore and Baltimore Innovation Week: we’ve expanded

First shared in April and then announced more fully last month, earlier this summer, I helped soft-launch Technically Baltimore, another local technology news site committed to covering and growing the conversation around technology bettering the region there.

What’s even better is that, with the help of more than a dozen partners, we’re also organizing the inaugural Baltimore Innovation Week the last week of September, featuring more than 20 events.

It’s an entirely new challenge to go to a new city, though we’ve spent at least a year familiarizing ourselves with Charm City and its meaningful, passionate technology community and have hired a full-time reporter there. Our goal is to take what we’ve learned in Philadelphia and do it better in another city we love: connect entrepreneurship, enterprise, digital access, smarter government and creative and artistic communities at their intersection and try to use news as convener and connector to raise awareness and strengthen their impact on Baltimore.

Let me know if you know anyone we should know. It’s a thrilling opportunity.

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Philly Geek Awards 2012 presenting

geek-awards-2012

My cofounder Brian Kirk and our lead reporter Juliana Reyes joined me on the stage at this second annual Philly Geek Awards to introduce two categories. As last year, it was a special event and a great opportunity to poke a little at our friends and award show organizers Geekadelphia.

Watch me do something similar at the inaugural awards last year here. See a full recap of this year’s vent here.

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Corporate jargon: a collection and translation of common business slang

There is no shortage of jokes and jabs at corporate jargon. But here’s another.

Though the Internet has its fair share of lists and collections and compilations and generators, I felt too few of them actually helped remind us what they really meant and why they’re so hated — a PC obfuscation of business politics.

So this isn’t meant to be as comprehensive as the ones above, but rather a set of ones I really hear and have really come to understand to have a different, somewhat more subtle meaning.

In the past few years, I’ve gotten a taste of some and felt it took time to learn the most common underlying meaning. I use a lot of these words and phrases, and I don’t necessarily think that’s all that bad. Instead, I list them to help remind myself that I can often be more direct. Here’s my best shot at helping the cause for the rest of us.

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Does your knowledge economy-based city of the future import or export more ideas, culture?

If we are to build cities based in the so-called knowledge economy, one of the primary methods for judging its success should be very familiar: net exports.

In culture, ideas, concepts, general intellectual capital and, yes, even businesses and organizations, it may be worth questioning whether your city is mostly taking from others or mostly giving to others. Indeed, one wouldn’t only want to export knowledge — we always want to take ideas from others to get better — but a good sign of the success of a healthy region is the clustering of smart, creative people and their creating ideas, projects, businesses, ideas that are worth being shared elsewhere.

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Niche news site membership model perspective brought back to life from 2009

The internet doesn’t forget. So I often stockpile perspective (links) for the future.

In 2009, we at Technically Philly were digging our heels into looking at how diversify revenue for a local community news site. In the end, the largest driver turned out to be events, specifically the annual Philly Tech Week we organize. Before then and after some advertising, jobs board and light underwriting revenue, we toyed with donations, gettingsome prominent support and the requisite pushback.

In all the experimentation back then, I saved some great insight, much of which has been relevant lately. As we move back to a new form of that older conversation, I wanted to share a few takeaways from my reading back in 2009.

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Either build the news site for the mission or build the mission for the news site

Updated I gave a presentation similar to this theme to a pair of college classes recently, one of which resulted in these takeaways.

To have a news community ‘succeed,’ it needs to either be built around a mission or the mission needs to be built into its community.

That means, if, for the foreseeable future, a more competitive, newly web-based news and information environment best attracts audience by way of connecting a community to a mission, those best suited to succeed will have one.

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What is missing from my formal will

Afterlife planning and the legal profession that supports it seem to be lagging behind our cultural realities.

Last year, I did something that I don’t think many, if any, of my friends, peers and similarly-aged colleagues have: I paid a lawyer to draft me up a formal will. Something seemed missing, though, as I went through the process.

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Number of Views:9002