Hosting free events: why charging a small sum can add more value

The 2012 BarCamp NewsInnovation was the first to have a paid entrance -- $5 -- which lowered RSVPs and raised attendance from 2011, which likely took on a much larger casual interest from being listed on the Philly Tech Week website. *Also, 2011 and 2012 featured hackathons, which added some attendees overall. These figures do not include them. **I added this graph to this post AFTER the last BCNI.

Later this week, I’ll help organize the fourth-annual BarCamp NewsInnovation.

It will again be, in my biased opinion, among the most meaningful media un-conferences in the country. We’ll have an open news hackathon again, ProPublica social media editor Daniel Victor will talk strategy and representatives will talk shop from legacy media powerhouses and independent news startups from throughout the eastern seaboard and beyond. That rocks.

REGISTER HERE!

Beyond all that, the biggest change in format is that, for the first time, we’ll be charging $5 for admission for the day-long event, which includes breakfast, lunch, happy hour and appetizers, in addition to concepts and conversations of note.

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Facial detection can be blocked by changing the spatial relationship of your features: notes on event with artist Adam Harvey

Painting like this on your cheekbones is more likely to throw off facial detection technology than other methods, according to a thesis from artist Adam Harvey. Image courtesy of Harvey

Facial detection can be blocked by changing the contrast of and spatial relationship between key facial features.

So, though growing a beard might throw a casual human glance off, the growing process of computerized recognition is rarely tricked, because it focuses primarily on the T made by your eyes and the bridge of your nose. You’d be better served by painting on your cheekbones like above, a discovery that was part of a masters thesis from artist and photographer Adam Harvey. Harvey does research on tricking facial detection technology.

That discovery was among the coolest lessons I took from moderating a Q&A seminar hosted by the Academy of Natural Sciences as part of the kickoff of the Philadelphia Science Festival. Called Hiding in Plain Sight, it was also one of a number of events done in partnership with the second annual Philly Tech Week, which I’m helping to organize this week.

There were others — Harvey noted that he focuses on facial detection, instead of facial recognition, because the former has to happen first. Roughly 40 people listened, if only in part, to Harvey’s compelling presentation and his answers to questions from me and the audience, seated in a crowded Frankford Hall last Friday. The major kickoff event followed.

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Philly Tech Week presented by AT&T: the second annual celebration of innovation

More than 80 events celebrating technology and innovation in the Delaware Valley are taking place over the next few days as part of the second annual Philly Tech Week presented by AT&T and organized by Technically Philly.

We first introduced this second year last fall. I am enormously proud to follow the work we managed last year.

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Ph.ly: the Philly URL shortener and weekly email that will make you a better Philadelphian

Meet Ph.ly, the local URL shortener and the curated weekly email that will make you a better Philadelphian.

Try the tool and add your email here.

Last week, we at Technically Media announced that we launched Ph.ly, which has two primary features.

  1. URL shortener with a Philly focus — Try ph.ly/connect to see how domains can be shortened more beautifully and more relevantly.
  2. Weekly curated email of the three biggest pieces of local journalism — If enough people add their emails to the list, we will curate the three most meaningful pieces of local news and information to allow more Philadelphians to more easily consume the best of all the region’s content creators. It’s a hope to create a common set of facts for Philadelphians. Perhaps it’s a model for other markets.
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To develop a community, you first need a common set of facts

In journalism conversations, there is a lot of concern about the need for a public square, a place in which a community can learn and share a common set of facts.

It’s something I’ve talked about in research from the Knight Foundation. The concern of filter bubble, in which the personalization of the web allows us to only reach information that confirms our beliefs, rather than challenges it.

Nationally and in some cases statewide, there is a growing patchwork of meaningful journalism practitioners. Though lacking in many ways, there is a wealth of niche and hyperlocal news providers developing in many corners of the country.

But the hole remains in broader metro regions, where broader metro daily newspapers have been hardest hit. They were, largely, the purveyor of these common sets of facts to build broader community.

We aren’t witnessing the end of this powerful form, I believe, we are simply waiting for the transition.

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Philly Weekly cover story on Technically Media, Philly Tech Week and our roots

Proud to say that popular alt-weekly Philadelphia Weekly put a feature story about my Technically Media colleagues and I on its cover this week.

Thanks to freelancer and ReadWriteWeb scribe John Paul Titlow for the interest, PW editor Nina Hoffman for editing and young Karrisa Olsen for taking some photos. A few others are here.

Under different leadership, this is the same publication that not too long ago poked some fun at us.

Find the story here or browse the issue here.

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Connect Philly: tool to locate free wireless hotspots in Philadelphia launched by Technically Philly

Find the nearest free wireless internet hotspot in Philadelphia by using Connect Philly, a new mapping and text message tool we at Technically Philly released last week.

The tool, which can also be reached by ph.ly/connect,

The tool, which is meant to be a part of the digital access conversation, was unveiled formally with an event in City Hall, featuring Mayor Nutter and a panel discussion I moderated on improving access and literacy online for low-income Philadelphians.

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7 projects I started before Technically Media and why they failed

The home page of SussexToday.com, a proposed hyperlocal for Sussex County, N.J. as Patch.com was being expanded by Aol in mid-2009.

For any venture or project that reaches any remote level of success, there are surely failures that surround it.

By any standard, Technically Media is no more than a very small success, but before building that small business, I’ve had more than my fair share of failures. Being no stranger to rejection, I’ve tried my best to learn something from the handful of efforts (mostly other niche sites) that I helped launch around the beginning of 2009 in the hopes of finding a media venture of success — underemployed and without many opportunities.

Below, I share seven projects I tried launching before Technically Media, why they failed and what I learned.

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How I first fell in love with information before I knew what the Internet was

I always asked a lot of questions.

I can remember annoying even my patient parents by always asking ‘why,’ to follow any experience or discussion. Sometimes I would ask ‘why’ to be a brat, but most often I found my mind trying to play out whatever circumstances would follow and discovered that I rarely knew what was next.

So I was likely curious by nature. Still, there was a second step in my developing a love for learning.

In my sophomore year of high school, I sat next to a networked printer in my math class. That printer was apparently the default printing choice for a variety of nearby classes. As you might expect, people would regularly print to that printer, not know where it is and then try again. The result was a regular stream of random class essays, research papers, academic articles and, yes, people’s personal poems.

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Philadelphia should own social entrepreneurship: presentation for Knight Foundation, others

Because it has the infrastructure of a major market with mission-orientated for-profit and nonprofit groups and because it has all the big problems that other cities face, Philadelphia should be the country’s hub of social entrepreneurship.

Defined as ventures that put impact over profit, I again spoke about this cause, this time at an event with the Knight Foundation, the Delaware Valley Grantmakers and 30 other industry leaders at the University City Science Center last week. See the presentation I gave here.

See the Technically Philly coverage of the event here.

It was a variation of this presentation, which built off this post on why Philadelphia’s regional distinction should be social enterprise.

“Every problem is an opportunity to build ventures for solutions, scale them and export them to other cities,” as Generocity quoted me as saying. I followed a stirring 20-minute review of the 30-year development of social entrepreneurship, as given by Cheryl Dorsey, the president of the noted New York City-based Echoing Green.

To move the effort forward, we’ll be working on broadening the regional stakeholders who see this as a sensible distinction for Philadelphia and working to build in and build up the mission in organization’s based in and around this city.

After presentations, there was a large group discussion, led by the Knight Foundation’s Donna Frisby-Greenwood, on ways to move forward the effort, concepts that were drilled down in more specific ways in smaller groups. See notes from the discussions here [PDF].

In organizing the event, I came across new organization I hadn’t known had roots in Philadelphia, including an annual sustainability-focused social entrepreneurship event and Halloran Philanthropies, which focuses on social ventures.

It occurred to me that it was more than a year ago that I was beginning to really think about the need for a stronger sense of regional entrepreneurial identity. We needed hungry entrepreneurs and if Philly already has some of them, we need them to be hungrier, bolder and sell the region’s assets more.

Number of Views:7038