Tag Archives: Technology

PghTech Women Network Launch

I’m bundled up at home, fighting off some kind of illness that makes it hard to stand long and to think.

This is a darn shame because it means I’m going to miss this terrific event, organized by the Pittsburgh Technology Council and sponsored by Google:

PghTech Women Network Launch

We’re inviting women who work in Pittsburgh’s technology community to join us for drinks, discussion and the opportunity to provide direction for the Council’s newest network – PghTech Women.

Meet with other women from all areas of Pittsburgh’s technology community for casual networking as well as a chance to offer ideas and suggestions for the PghTech Women Network.

The PghTech Women Network is sponsored by Google.

Date: Wednesday, October 29
Time: 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Parking: Free Parking after 5 p.m. in Forbes Avenue Garage
Venue: Red Ring Restaurant, 1015 Forbes Avenue, 15282
Cost: $15
Register: Online | E-Mail | 412.918.4229

PghTech Women provides female technology professionals a forum for networking, best practice exchange, online interaction and community visibility.

For more information and other ways to get involved, contact us at 412.687.2700.

If you attend — and I hope you will — please let me know what you thought of the event.

AlphaLab launches in Pittsburgh


seedlings, originally uploaded by paul goyette.

A new and interesting product development accelerator has been launched in Pittsburgh:

Innovation Works announces the launch of AlphaLab, a catalyst for the next generation of software, interactive game design and Internet-related companies.  Innovation Works created AlphaLab to help companies rapidly develop their technology, gain user feedback from early alpha or beta releases and move toward successful commercial launch.  An intensive six-month program in Pittsburgh for up to six companies per cycle, AlphaLab will provide funding, free office space, expert business advisors and services.  Innovation Works engaged an extensive regional and national advisory group of industry experts, entrepreneurs, investors, academics, students and others to help shape the AlphaLab program.  To learn more about AlphaLab, please visit www.iwAlphaLab.org.

AlphaLab is now accepting applications for the 2008 Summer/Fall program.  The application deadline is March 31, 2008.  To apply or sign up to join the user testing community, go to www.iwAlphaLab.org.

In addition to launching AlphaLab, Innovation Works remains committed to the hands-on assistance, investment and resources we provide to our portfolio companies and other businesses.  This commitment has made Innovation Works one of the nation’s leading seed-stage investors. To learn more about Innovation Work’s programs and services, visit us at www.innovationworks.org.

What I especially like about this is how it fills a void in Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania. There are a number of services for aspiring entrepreneurs in this area, but I believe they are best suited to biological, medical, and manufacturing companies. The software and Web world is a bit of a special case, and while this area has many of the elements a startup would need, early-stage guidance and seed funding aren’t among them. 

I spoke recently with the folks at AlphaLab and I’m impressed with their plans. They seem to have a good grasp of the issues a software or Web startupfaces in its earliest days, and they have concrete plans for helping their companies succeed.

If you’ve been toying with the idea for a killer app or the next big website, this is a great new resource for you.

Month Impossible: Day Seventeen, 2PointHome

If you’ve been following my Month of Challenges, you know that today I planned to finally catch up on NaNoWriMo. You also probably know me better than I do, and guessed that I would not succeed in this plan.

I went to an event in McCandless today, a suburb north of Pittsburgh, to check out the filming of the reveal of a home improvement show, and the surrounding hubbub and block party. The show is called MyHome2.0. It’s created and produced by Verizon, so there was a lot of marketing of Verizon products, especially FIOS. And there were lots of giveaways and goodies, including some earmarked for bloggers and podcasters like me who attended and wrote about the event.

I was given a cute little Flip Videocam — just like the one Oprah has been giving out and using — so I shot a little footage at the event.

Considering how small and light and simple this camera is, it shoots good quality footage. That is, it would if handled by an operator with steadier hands and more experience and skill than yours truly.

Here’s my clip of Brian, one of the on-screen gurus from the MyHome2.0 show, talking about the challenge of supplying a family that includes nine kids.

The episode of MyHome2.0 that was filmed today and this week won’t air for a while of course, but the first episode is showing. You can see find clips and podcasts online at the 2PointHome website, and in the Pittsburgh area you can watch the episode Sunday morning at 11am on WPGH Fox 53. You should check it out at least to see the three gurus in action. They are kooky, lively, smart, and quite engaging. And the stuff the team puts in these houses they renovate is drool-worthy.

The day was fun, especially seeing behind-the-scenes and how a show like this is created. Just snippets, but good stuff. The block party Verizon threw for this was huge, and while a number of neighbors were probably inconvenienced the folks I saw seemed happy, excited, and interested in what was going on.

Several other bloggers and podcasters were on-hand or dropped by — I’ve never seen so many video cameras and high-quality TV cameras in use at the same time, and as many people filming other people, filming crowds and whatnot. And afterwards a bunch of us headed over to Mad Mex for beer and food. A fine fall day.

Tonight I made one more drawing for DrawMo, which I’ll post tomorrow.

No noveling, as I mentioned. I received an email from Neil Gaiman (as did everyone else who’s signed up for NaNoWriMo), and in it he encouraged us all not to give up, to keep writing. In my case, to restart writing. OK then!


View from a hotel bar in Boston Saturday night in Boston, and I’m too tuckered to take advantage of it. Between late night discussions the last two nights and early morning start times each day (OK, 9am, but it felt early), I’m worn thin.

So I’ve settled for a few moments in the hotel bar. I love hotel and airport bars, the feeling of transience and the little ways we spoil ourselves when we’re away from home. I’m able to pick up the hotel wi-fi here, and I’m watching the various couples and groups, and the cabs and others cars struggling through the construction and pedestrian traffic outside.

The bar stereo is playing John Coltrane, but I also hear The Hollies’ "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" leaking down from a party in the mezzanine. A couple on a couch in front of me has had an argument and is trying to find common ground. A guy behind me is telling his female companion about what he does, explaining why it’s so very hard and how something he accomplished recently is important.

I’m sitting at a table by the window. A guy walking by just gave me the thumbs-up — I’m guessing because he saw the glowing Apple logo on my computer.

I’m sipping on a Sazarac.


1 1/2 oz. Bourbon (in this case, Old Overholt Rye)
1/2 tsp. Pernod
3 dashes Peychaud Bitters
twist Lemon
2 tsp. Sugar Syrup

Coat rocks glass with Pernod. In shaker (no ice) mix Bourbon, sugar syrup and Bitters. Shake and pour into glass. Add lemon twist.

It’s a classic New Orleans cocktail. I’ve never made it because I can’t easily get Peychaud bitters — so I was thrilled to see this drink on the menu. This is a perfect example of what makes hotel lounges great: they make the classic cocktails, and they make them right. In this case, I feel like I’ve found my ideal cocktail. It’s sweet (not too sweet), it’s tart, it’s spicy, it’s red, It’s eccentric, it’s grand. This drink is perfect, and every now and then I hear the bartender shaking up something else delightful for some other patron. So nice.

Outside, the trees around Faneuil Hall are clothed in lights — holiday season. At Starbucks yesterday I heard my first Christmas music for the year. It’s still too early for this stuff. Wait until next Friday at least.

Since I was cooped up in the Media Lab building for the last two days and missed walking through the MIT campus in daylight, for tomorrow morning I’m planning to head back over the Longfellow Bridge and wander a little. My back is a nest of knots, from the tensions of travel and from sitting in auditorium seats for hours on end, and I need to move around more. Then I’ll head to the airport, try to catch some of the Steeler game on a TV somewhere. Not likely though — the Patriots are sure to be playing at the same time. Then I’ll be back in Pittsburgh, then Butler.

Much to do in the coming weeks. Lots of work for clients, a new venture to move ahead, plus Thanksgiving and another trip — to Baltimore for another event.

Now from the event upstairs coming the unmistakable sounds of Numa Numa. I boggle at the convergences coming down on me. (Here’s a detailed history of the Numa Numa phenomenon.)

‘m listening to the conversation to my right: It’s a couple of generations, mostly sisters in their (I’m guessing) 60s, with a spouse and a child or two, describing a past event in classic Boston accents. I should know which neighborhood they’re from — I’m tempted to say South End but I’m unsure.

Now from upstairs we’ve got "You Shook Me All Night Long," and it’s clear that I need to wrap it up for the night.

But I feel a need to come up with a final thought.

(Now the upstairs DJ has mixed together Guns and Roses’ "Sweet Child of Mine" and something else that’ll come to me in a minute. It might even be a cover of "Sweet Child." Gotta wrap this and retire for the night, or I’ll have to crash that party for the sheer ridiculousness.)

The hotel lobby has made a transition from wayplace for the weary traveler to gathering spot for eager visitors. I dislike drawing a labored parallel with the discussions of the conference. but it’s so easy to see disparate groups of people within the same physical markets, ships passing in the night. The trick of this lobby is making everyone feel welcome, and to a great extent it succeeds. That’s what each online space wants to do too. And to make money along the way, if possible.

But that’s not a final thought … because each time the environment changes, our expectations change. The key skills become agileness, nimbleness, adaptability. Great companies are those that are able to focus on the bottom line while fully supporting their clients.

Is that different from the rest of the world? No. My lasting thought for the night is that everything has changed, yet I need to continue on the current course. The thoughts can’t be reconciled, but they have to be.

The fun bit is that this is a world in which I’m completely comfortable. For me, that’s the best result of all.

Immersed in the environment

Continuing my Cambridge/Boston nostalgia trip: I ate lunch at Legal Seafoods. When I was an undergrad, my parents were apparently concerned that I would not eat properly. So my dad gave me a credit card, and instructed me to eat at Legal Seafoods once a month. He’d eaten there when bringing me up to school for the first time, and been particularly impressed by the clam chowder.

As I remember it, I said I didn’t want to go to a restaurant alone, so I was allowed to bring one person with me for my nutritious meal of the month. My favorite items were the bluefish pate and the ice cream bon bons. I took various friends to dinner in turn. I don’t think my visit did much to affect my health and nutrition, but they did create in me an appreciation for fresh fish.

When I came back to the area for grad school, I didn’t eat at Legal’s very often, but now and again my dear friend Sharon and I would get lunch there, chowder and a sassy beer from the tap.

So today for lunch I ordered a cup of chowder, a salad with goat cheese, apples, and avocados, and a pint of Harpoon I.P.A. The chowder was fine, although a couple bits of grit snuck into my cup. The salad was uninspired. But the beer was cold and crisp, a lovely compliment to a chilly fall day.

Of course, I’m not actually enjoying much of the lovely, chilly, sunny day. I’m in a theatre in the basement of a building on the MIT campus (Bldg E15, for those in the know), for day two of Futures of Entertainment. Now I’m settling in to listen to people from Linden Labs (makers of Second Life), Multiverse.net, and MTV talk about virtual worlds, online spaces, and immersive experiences. Just before lunch we had a spontaneous countdown, from ten to one, bidding tongue-in-cheek farewell to Web 2.0 (this morning’s panel talked about MySpace and fan-based communities) and welcoming in Web 3.0.

Like many people, I have opened an account in Second Life and created a self, but haven’t done anything with it (her?). In fact, she’s only half designed, wearing some weird combination of default clothes and appearance. At some point I’ll get back to her and finish the setup, and go through the training area to learn how to make my way around. I’d like to understand more about what’s available in these kinds of environments — it’s a rapidly changing space, and there’s no way to know what will happen. As with much in this conference, I’m pleased to listen, watch, and learn.

Futures of entertainment

Today and tomorrow I’m in Boston for the Futures of Entertainment conference at MIT. This conference is looking at "developments such as user-generated content, transmedia storytelling, the rise of mobile media and the emergence of social networking." (Find liveblogging by members of the Convergence Culture Consortium here.)

This is conference month for me: Last weekend I participated in PodCampPittsburgh, a two-day conference "for people who create, enjoy or are interested in learning more about the following: blogs, vlogs, audio podcasts, web video, content networks and new media monetization." In the end, the weekend was mostly about putting video and audio media on the web and trying to make money from it, but there was talk too about content in general and more.

There’s so much to say about both these events, and about the trip in general. I’d like to take the time to put my thoughts together, but that would mean delay, and I’d rather get some things online quickly. So here’s a rapid-fire list of unconnected thoughts.

1. It’s tempting to compare this Futures of Entertainment conference with PodCamp: the topic areas overlap significantly, in that they both include online media. But they’re really quite different. PodCamp was an UNconference, in that people could and did spontaneously generate sessions, where this conference is a series of panel discussions by big industry leaders like Flickr, DC Comics, CBSNews.com, and more. Last weekend was lots of how-to, this weekend is big thinking about what new media means, where it’s all going, what we know and don’t know.

Last weekend I spent the whole time meeting people and making connections. So far today I’ve spoken briefly to only one person, and have otherwise been listening and making notes. I feel nearly at cognitive overload, soaking stuff up and processing it, thinking how to apply it to projects I have on hand and will be starting in future. I’m still processing the stuff by last weekend, so partly I may be just cumulatively full for the moment.

Another unexpected difference: PodCampPittsburgh invited sponsors, and so despite even though the conference was free to attend, there was great free food throughout the event and lots of swag. Futures of Entertainment, also free to attend, has no corporate sponsors but some academic sponsorship, so we had a small (nice) continental breakfast this morning, some terrible MIT Catering coffee throughout the day, fend-for-yourself lunch, and a little wine and cheese event on campus tonight. I don’t mind that there’s no free lunch here, but I think some networking/discussion opportunity has been lost.

Then again, we’re not being hit on the head with particular sponsor messages, which is nice. It’s a different vibe. (I am tired of the Flickr and YouTube worship, incidentally.)

2. When I stepped out of the Government Center T station last night, walking to my hotel by Faneuil Hall, I felt a rush of joy at being back in Boston. This morning, taking the T to MIT, I was positively elated, smiling at strangers and skipping through puddles. All day I’ve felt that I’d like to move back here. I think that feeling will wear off, and what it really means is that I should visit here more often than only every eight years.

3. An area where the two conferences are alike: Mac users seem to outnumber Windows users. By a lot. I believe this is due to Macs having a combination of better online and media generation tools and greater cool factor.

4. At home in Butler, I frequently find myself explaining what blogs are and why they’re neat. Here, everyone knows already. I am among my people. That’s kind of nice, but then again I feel like I have more to offer the folks back home. Again, this probably means I need to take more trips and see what’s out here, and take it home with me.

5. The MIT campus is prettier than it was in the 1980s. It’s still kinda ugly though.

6. After PodCampPittsburgh, I felt it was urgent that I get moving and get into online media. Today, in the middle of this conference, I’m practically in a panic about it. I’m having trouble staying in my seat, so great is my desire to run back to the hotel and work. But then, the information here is so interesting and valuable I also can’t leave, for fear of missing key pieces. This may also help explain why I’m not talking to anyone: I’m so tense I’ve temporarily lost my ability to socialize.

7. The Media Lab’s open wi-fi is terrific. But having a constant connection to the web during a panel discussion is beyond distracting. I’m having to shut the computer so as not to miss things.

OK, must get back to listening. Will post more later.