Let’s Ignite Seattle

Bridge Building Last night I attended the first Ignite Seattle event, hosted by Make magazine and O’Reilly Radar. I took quite a few photos of the bridge-building contest and there are plenty more photos of the bridges and presentations in the Ignite Flickr pool. There was plenty of hot glue flying and some impressive bridges for a 30-minute time limit.

After the bridge contest and a short break, the Ask Later talks began, with the whirlwind format of 5 minute presentations, 20 slides, 15 seconds per slide (not under the speaker’s control). There were some really well organized talks for having to fit in just 5 minutes, and a wide range of topics. This roundup covers some of the highlights better than I can. RealityAllStarz got a good laugh, and many people seemed impressed by the Dorkbot presentation on technological art projects, which got some oohs and aahs from the crowd.

Scott Berkun gave an all-too-brief teaser of his upcoming book about innovation and the myths of innovation, pointing out a couple common misconceptions about famous innovators and “eureka” moments of discovery. I’m anxious to read more. Bre Pettis from Make magazine gave a really funny disjointed presentation on all sorts of random things he’s made, including a bat detecting watch. Damn cool. Buster McLeod from The Robot Co-op and 43 Things also gave an inspiring talk on the currency of motivation, and how motivation of yourself (through others) can help inspire you to tackle larger and larger challenges. He also mentioned his new venture, the McLeod Residence which is an art and technology gallery/bar in downtown Seattle, which sounds interesting. His hand-drawn slides were also great.

By far, the oddest, most confusing presentation was by Kathleen Dollard from GenDotNet. I still don’t know what exactly she was pitching, or whether it was coming from Microsoft or not. It was something (software? service? tool?) called “Workflow” which is designed to help engineers interact with their managers and coworkers better. It was literally a flowchart of “What do I do next?” for people who have zero interpersonal skills whatsoever. Say you e-mail the boss with a question and a) he doesn’t respond, b) he responds this way, c) he responds that way… here’s what you do next. I couldn’t help thinking that the whole thing was a joke, but it really wasn’t. Somebody next to me muttered, “It’s like Office Space the flowchart.” I’m sorry, but if you have individuals in your organization that can’t interact with each other, or their managers, the answer isn’t to give them a flowchart of how to work. I might suggest you instead look at finding some better managers or engineers that can work with each other. I could see a suite of development process flows being helpful to some organizations, but this example seemed like a little too much micromanagement.

Event thoughts
Overall I thought the event was pretty interesting, especially considering I’ve missed the past Seattle Mindcamps. The CHAC Lower Level was a decent venue, although the setup of the main room and the single entrance caused a bottleneck. There was plenty of space in the room for people to stand and sit, but tables blocked people’s way. Also, having a loud DJ start in the bar area when people are still giving presentations was a bit obnoxious.

The presentations themselves were often more on the product/website/group promotion side. I would have liked more of the 5-minute presentations devoted to a single drilled-down topic, or more practical coverage of some subjects rather than the common, “Here’s the business/site I started, isn’t it cool?” Some of the presentations that seemed to work best were the editorializing on a specific area (motivation, innovation, startup funding…) rather than the tip-of-the-iceberg presentations of a really big topic (although it was fun seeing people jam those into 20 slides and 5 minutes).

I’m sure there will be plenty of refining for the next event, and I’m looking forward to see what comes of it. A big thanks to everyone who helped make it happen. I’ll see you next time.

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