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.

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How to get a reporter to care about your business: a Lean Startup presenation

When pitching your venture or product, send a business or technology reporter a three sentence email, explaining in super simple language (a) what your project is, (b) why it matters and (b) who you are.

That was one of the better received recommendations I made while presenting for the Lean Startup seminar held at the Venturef0rth incubator in Callowhill, Philadelphia this weekend.

See my presentation slides above or find it here and past writing on the subject here and here. My colleague Sean Blanda has a post giving broad advice here, which includes a great list of questions to be prepated for, though I was a bit more specific to the 30 entrepreneurs in the room on starting the conversation. Details on my slide below.

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Number of Views:9158

NEast Philly: traffic, data and graphs on a hyperlocal news site

All-time referral traffic to, as reported by Google Analytics on March 3, 2012.

Quietly last fall,, the hyperlocal news site for Northeast Philadelphia, marked three years since having been launched as a college project by now WHYY NewsWorks feed blogger Shannon McDonald.

Though I spent much of that time contributing coverage, I now play the role of web editor, helping keep the site up and functional. Shannon has had more than 20 contributors, a handful of them to date, and has done serious journalism and meaningful community coverage, on her own and with outreach from residents and readers.

Though an after-hours labor of love of hers, I’ve remained impressed with the relative impact of NEast Philly, so, three years later, I wanted to share some metrics.

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Number of Views:8003

SEO: the difference between the basics, the detailed and spam

There’s no shortage of conversation about the end of search engine optimization. As search gets more personalized — cache and cookies and the rest — ensuring that your business, organization or another site ranks highly when people use web search tools becomes less straightforward.

Still, it’s naturally something that I get asked about a lot — how do I get more people to find my website online?

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Number of Views:4394

Baseball cards: 10 business lessons from my time in the sports memorabilla bubble

In middle school, I collected baseball cards. A lot of baseball cards.

In third grade, I tried pogs before they were outlawed in class when it was found we were effectively gambling with them. In a naive, youthful pursuit of seeing every movie ever made, I amassed piles of them on VHS and DVD. My grandparents gave me some collector coin sets, somehow I ended up with a few beanie babies and, being a recovering pack rat, I ended up with little collections of Simpsons merchandise and sports jerseys as a pre-teen, political campaign signs and pro sports team paraphernalia in high school and old books and vinyl records through college. Yes, as a kid, I’ve collected a lot — Lincoln logs, Legos and inherited stamps, too, fill my basement.

But, in truth, the largest collection I ever amassed was little pieces of printed cardboard, baseball cards, and to a lesser extent, other sports cards. In my memory, anything I didn’t save, I spent on them, starting with the occasional checkout-line pack purchase at the former Shelby’s dime store.

Of course, I’m not alone among the youth of the 1980s and 1990s. Entire books have been written about the baseball card bubble that came from an over-saturated market, so much so that many think error cards were created to fuel demand.

In love with sports and trading and playing with friends, I dove headlong into the hobby bubble. More specifically, from about the age nine in 3rd grade to about 14 in 8th grade, I likely spent less than $1,000, and, if I was able to more accurately estimate, it might likely be much less. In truth, my time was spent more on trading the cards with friends. Before high school, I had mostly set aside the indulgence, though I’d still sometimes take out that collection to marvel at my investment.

Still, my sports card collection was the first foray into business I made, and so I learned plenty. Here’s my sharing some of that.

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Number of Views:12554

First 100 days as CEO of the Philadelphia Public Interest Information Network: advice for Neil Budde

Neil Budde in July 1997 as Wall Street Journal interactive editor. Photo by Ted Thai for LIFE magazine.

A leader for a major public affairs journalism project at Temple University in Philadelphia began his role last week.

I was excited to find in February that Neil Budde, whose claim to fame is being the founding editor of, would be the CEO of the new, temporarily-named Philadelphia Public Interest Information Network. Everyone closer to the project than I and others who know Budde in other ways have all had positive remarks.

The impact of an organization like that on information communities in Philadelphia can be a thrilling thing to watch. By way of full disclosure, I did have early-stage conversations about the position and the project on the recommendation of others. That said, I’m eager to have further discussion with Budde.

With all that said, I wanted to share some thoughts on what goals Budde might seek in his first 100 days the PPIIN CEO.

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Number of Views:5839

A reporter is only as good as his sources (are organized)

The old saying goes that a reporter is only as good as his sources.

To tell or find a story, one needs to have the resources and access to perspective and insight. In my few years as a journalist, I’ve taken considerable effort to build relationships and gather sources.

That mostly amounted to piles and piles of business cards. Thankfully, two tools have allowed me to take considerable control over that mess.

First, almost since the very beginning of my collecting sources in college, I have obsessively updated my contacts in my Gmail account, including emails, phone numbers, even birthdays and mailing addresses when possible. Taking it further, I include headshots and a description of when I first met the person and what their relevance is, to ease my ability to remember the person.

Second and most recently, with my first smartphone and Macbook following this and this,I’m able to sync those Gmail contacts to my phone, allowing me to have access to those contacts more readily, as I try to develop as many text and Gchat relationships, it’s proven a great tool.

Which is good, because as important as it is to have good sources, it doesn’t matter if you can’t find them.

Number of Views:10151

15 things I learned three years after launching Technically Philly

First, let’s acknowledge that three years is not a terribly long time.

Still, I’m proud that three years ago last month, Brian James Kirk, Sean Blanda and I launched a blog to cover the technology community of Philadelphia. Three years later, we are full-time employees of a growing business with a good reputation.

In that time, we’ve had some accomplishments that are worth being proud of. It’s been a learning experience to be sure.

First, our organization is changing in lots of ways.

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Number of Views:4815