| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter RSS Feed

Northern Liberties : Innovation + Job News

51 Northern Liberties Articles | Page: | Show All

Yards, La Colombe and Shake Shack team up for a limited edition Coffee Stout

A new collaboration between Shake Shack, Yards Brewing Company and La Colombe Coffee Roasters is giving Philly a rich and tasty new brew for the cold-weather season, available on draft at select locations while supplies last.
On January 8, Shake Shack Culinary Director Mark Rosati, La Colombe co-founder Todd Carmichael, and Yards founder and brewmaster Tom Kehoe officially launched their limited-edition Coffee Stout at Center City’s Sansom Street Shake Shack location.
Kehoe chatted with Flying Kite while taking full advantage of an impromptu Shake Shack combo -- making a vanilla custard float with his stout. The collaboration has been in the works for about two months. The strong, dark, and smooth ale gets bright notes of lavender, orange and caramel from ethically sourced beans that come to Philly via the Haitian village of Fatima (as part of La Colombe’s three-year investment in the Haiti Coffee Academy). 
The base stout is very similar to Yards' Chocolate Love Stout, brewed with the same chocolate malt. It gets its mellow coffee flavor directly from the beans in a secondary fermenter.

"Coffee really works so well with the beer," said Kehoe. "It’s definitely a beer for winter because of the robustness of it."
Sales will benefit the City of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program (MAP), Center City Shake Shack’s official charitable partner. $2 from each pint purchased will go to MAP.
So where can you get your hands on some of this buzzy brew? Pints are on sale for $5.75 at Yards’ Northern Liberties tasting room, La Colombe’s Fishtown café (1335 Frankford Avenue) and all three Philadelphia-area Shake Shack locations (Center City, University City, and King of Prussia).
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Tom Kehoe, Yards Brewing Company

MilkCrate, a Yelp for local sustainable living, launches on Indiegogo

Morgan Berman was living in West Philadelphia when she experienced what she calls her "first burst of sustainability consciousness," and began attempting to live a life that was aligned with her newfound values.

She joined a neighborhood food co-op, took a job as Grid magazine's director for community engagement, and slowly became more involved in the local sustainability scene.
"But there wasn't a central hub where I could go and understand what sustainability means," recalls Berman. "It didn't feel like anyone had quite created the tool that people need to answer their quick questions about [sustainable living]."
Berman's new app for Android and iOS, MilkCrate, aims to fill that void -- initially here in Philadelphia, and if the app takes off, nationally.
Described by its nine-person team as a digital hub for sustainability, MilkCrate currently exists as a database-style listings service -- not unlike Yelp -- with a collection of more than 1,600 Philly-area businesses that operate sustainably and promote economically responsible practices.

"Everything from fashion to food to furniture [to] energy," explains Berman in a video created for the app's current crowdfunding campaign. "Anything you could possibly want that fits into your local, sustainable lifestyle."   
At the moment, MilkCrate-approved businesses are organized in both listings and map layouts. But with the infusion of the $20,000 Berman hopes to raise through an Indiegogo campaign (launched on August 25), users will be able to write reviews, add news businesses, and search by keyword and neighborhood.      
Perks for campaign funders include MilkCrate T-shirts and tickets to the app's upcoming launch party. Click here to donate. 

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Morgan Berman, MilkCrate

Welcome to N3rd Street: Officially rebranding the city's tech hub

Thanks to the efforts of Indy Hall's Alex Hillman and the local tech firm Jarvus Innovations, the expanse of North 3rd Street between Market and Girard is celebrating a transformational moment. As a nod to the growing number of tech operations and innovative companies located in the area, the stretch has been officially dubbed N3rd ("Nerd") Street.
According to Hillman, during a casual conversation some three or four years ago, Jarvus founders John Fazio and Chris Alfano pointed out that the corridor's street signs -- which are written as "N. 3rd St." -- could very easily be interpreted as "N3rd St."
"We all sort of slapped ourselves on the forehead for not having realized it earlier," recalls Hillman. And while the phrase was initially nothing more than an inside joke, "before we knew it," he adds, "it was being used in circles outside of our own."
Both the city's Chief Innovation Officer Adel Ebeid and Mayor Michael Nutter have referenced N3rd Street during discussions on the city's tech community. The group is careful to point out in its N3RD St. Manifesto that the street's renaming applies not only to "technology nerds," but also to the entrepreneurs and creatives from any number of fields who are doing important work in the area.   
"The long-term, large-scale vision for N3rd Street is for us to create a community that makes the area better to work and live in," says Danny Harvith, the Jarvus employee responsible for the majority of the project's outreach work. "And that attracts great people doing great things."
A N3rd Street BBQ will take place at Liberty Lands Park on April 11 (2 p.m. - 6 p.m.), with an official naming ceremony scheduled for 4 p.m. 

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Alex Hillman, Indy Hall; Danny Harvith, Jarvus Innovations

Jarvus Innovations grows Slate, online portal for high schools, into separate company

Sometimes a product is so compelling that it's worthy of its own brand. Take Slate, an online portal for high schools, for example. The platform, which centralizes data and digital tools, was created by Northern Liberties-based software company Jarvus Innovations and has garnered more demand than the company can keep up with. As a result, Jarvus is developing Slate into a separate company, with the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) and the Sustainability Workshop as clients.

Slate was created by Chris Alfano, Jarvus’s CTO and SLA's Director of IT. The product has been developed through partnership with SLA for three years. The students, teachers and administrators at SLA had been using multiple networks including Google Apps, Moodle and SchoolNet -- and had separate accounts for each. Jarvus links those networks into a single database which users access through their Google account.

"Schools usually have four or five different systems that they use," says John Fazio, CEO of Jarvus. "Slate offers central access to connect different systems."

The program streamlines communication for both students and staff. In the past, when a teacher tried out a new digital grading book, for example, those numbers had to be exported to an Excel spreadsheet. With Slate, administrators can access information as the teacher adds it, regardless of what app the teacher uses. Likewise, teachers can maintain a history of their lesson content as they experiment with new digital programs.   

"There's this flood of education technology tools," says Fazio. "Trying out new tools has a big adoption factor. Slate acts as that underlying dashboard system because we have their data centralized."

Jarvus recently enrolled Slate in Good Company Ventures. They are hiring developers and senior software engineers, and will consider adding product managers with development backgrounds.

Source: John Fazio, Jarvus
Writer: Dana Henry

Super stealth: Perceptual Newtorks scores $1M in seed round funding without the details, hiring

He's not going to talk about specific products. Cheyenne Ehrlich, CEO of Northern Liberties based Perceptual Networks, says, "We have not really gotten into much public detail about what we are doing."
Nonetheless, whatever he and partner Jim Young are planning is sufficient to have garnered $1 million in a seed funding round from some of tech's biggest players. At least 20 players, including First Round Capital, founders of YouTube, PayPal, Rackspace, Bebo, and Demand Media have put chips on the table.

But Ehrlich remains mum on specifics. "Jim has a track record of building products that consumers love. People fundamentally get excited by people who make products that people love." Ehrich is referring to Young's product hotornot.com, which skyrocketed in a matter of months from launch to being one a top 25 web property.
Perceptual Networks, says Ehrlich, is in the process of building a suite of products intended to connect people to one another for work, for love, and for community. That's all Ehrich is willing to divulge at this time to everyone but investors. "Apple is an example of a company that builds great products that people love. That's what the focus should be on," says Ehrlich.
Ehrlich was scouting cities for some time, considering New York, the San Francisco bay area, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, and ultimately chose Philly for its combination of great educational institutions, regional access to capital, easy access to New York City, lower cost of living and better quality of life, with great restaurants and culture and the growing tech community as added benefits.
With five on staff, Ehrlich says Perceptual is aggressively hiring right now, particularly in engineering to create products that will live on iOS, Android and the web, with possible expansion to other platforms in the future.

Source: Cheyenne Ehrlich, Perceptual Networks
Writer: Sue Spolan

A reason to celebrate: Girl Develop It Philly approaches 600 members on first birthday

Girl Develop It Philly turns one year old this month, and founder Yasmine Mustafa has been hard at work organizing a kick ass party on Thursday, Sept. 27 at SEER Interactive in Northern Liberties.
"We're going with a nerd theme and we'll have a photo booth, a tattoo artist making geeky temporary tattoos, a scavenger hunt, nerd glasses to give out at the door, candy, food, liquor and beer, of course," says Mustafa. The winner of the nerdiest costume gets a free GDI class. The event, says Mustafa, is not just a celebration of GDI, but also of the city's burgeoning female-centric tech community, with award winning organizations like TechGirlz and Girl Geek Dinners. TechGirlz, in fact, will share in the proceeds from the GDI raffle.
Mustafa is thrilled with the number of sponsors who have stepped forward to provide over $3,000 in prizes for the raffle, with a list that includes Rackspace, Treehouse, Wildbit, Indyhall, ThinkGeek, and O'Reilly Media all donating goods and services. "We already have enough sponsors, so we're asking companies that want to come on board to provide funding for an unemployed woman to take a class."
Girl Develop It Philly has grown enormously since inception, launching 12 classes and over 2 dozen Meetups with 400 members, with the goal of increasing technical literacy among women. The GDI Meetup counts over 560 members in its ranks. Mustafa won top prize for her presentation about GDI at ignite Philly 9.
Mustafa seeks to vanquish the intimidation factor in the developer community, which she cites as about 90% male. GDI's classes include both basic and advanced topics, like server side programming, the ins and outs of Wordpress, intro to HTML and JavaScript for non-programmers. 
Girl Develop It Philly is part of a larger international organization with six chapters including New York, San Francisco, Ottawa and Sydney, and over a thousand participants.

Source: Yasmine Mustafa, Girl Develop It Philly
Writer: Sue Spolan

Azavea and Temple prof team up to pack digital heat against crime

It's a new chapter in intelligence-led policing. Azavea, in partnership with Temple University's Center for Security and Crime Science, has released ACS Alchemist, a free open source software tool that harnesses census data for the purpose of reducing crime. Funded by the National Institute of Justice and helmed by Jerry Ratcliffe and Ralph Taylor, ACS Alchemist will be used by crime fighters and researchers nationally. 
ACS Alchemist has the power to be of immense value to police commanders in precincts and districts, city planners, as well as locally  to Commissioner Ramsey and team, says Ratcliffe. "Crime is not the best predictor of crime. Where crime was last year will not be where crime is this year." Rather, one must look at where crime was last year with the additional information of demographic changes.
"Normally, there's a census every ten years. In the intervening years, we have no idea what changes are taking place in the population," says Ratcliffe, a former East London police officer turned internationally known researcher. New immigrant groups or a surge in a particular age range can play a major role in crime analysis. Ratcliffe says that there are changes at the Census Bureau which will lead to a rolling collection process and yearly updates, which is a huge leap forward in terms of understanding demographic changes, poverty, unemployment and travel patterns. While the evolution of data collection is a great leap forward, tens of thousands of data points are stored online in a confusing and complex manner. Some researchers just give up, says Ratcliffe, who never meant to become an academic, but a mountaineering accident in his 20s retired him from active duty on the force.
"I've been working closely with the Philadelphia Police Department for nearly 10 years," says Ratcliffe, who has some programming background. He became interested in how changing demographics affect the likelihood of crime, but says the project required programming skills beyond his abilities. Enter Robert Cheetham of Azavea, who himself used to work for the Philadelphia Police as a crime analyst. "Azavea makes the indecipherable actually fathomable," says Ratcliffe.
Cheetham, for his part, says he has been working with the police in one capacity or another for a decade, and gives props to the current leadership. "Ramsey is very much interested in data driven policing. It's the center of what he did in DC, and he brought that set of ideas with him."
Previously, Ratcliffe worked with the Philly PD to create The Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment, during which violent crime was reduced by 23% by when teams of officers walked the beat past the city's most crime ridden corners. Incidentally, Ratcliffe says the number one reason for crime is not poverty, lack of education, drugs or poor upbringing. Rather, it's opportunity. 

Source: Jerry Ratcliffe, Temple University, Robert Cheetham, Azavea
Writer: Sue Spolan

Center City's HigherNext gets an A for funding; hiring marketer, developer

You come out of school, a whole lot of money spent on that degree, and the next thing you know it's nearly impossible to get a job. "We help students and recent college grads make a less painful and more efficient entry into the job market," says John J. Brady, COO of HigherNext.  "It's a very tough market right now for those folks." Consider a confounded 22 year old, fortified with a college degree, playing by the rules, and emerging into a very tight market.
HigherNext revealed late last week that it is about to close its second round of funding led by Next Stage Capital, with 83% already spoken for, and the remainder just about in the bag. The Center City based startup, with offices at Venturef0rth, began life in May 2011. 
HigherNext administers a Certified Business Laureate skills test which rates aptitude in a variety of employer friendly areas: marketing, accounting, finance, Microsoft Office skills and writing. 
For just $79, the test taker answers HigherNext's questions at any computer, with proctoring via webcam. Brady calls the process super secure, and it comes with a money back guarantee at the laureate level. Test results, says Brady, likening them to Advanced Placement exams prior to college, provide prospective employers with a very detailed analysis of a candidate's skill set.
"The higher ed community has been getting a lot of pressure from several presidential administrations about outcomes based assessment," says Brady. "There's a lot of discourse on the cost of higher education. We believe it is worth it. We feel it is our place to help those students who wish to stand out, regardless of where they went to school."
HigherNext now has 5 employees, with two more open positions for a marketing account manager and a web developer. Brady says that while he is not at liberty to disclose specific numbers, registrants for the Certified Business Laureate test are now in the thousands. HigherNext also runs a blog filled with tips for job seekers, and offers a free crash course in business skills.

Source: John J. Brady, HigherNext
Writer: Sue Spolan

United By Blue's do-good approach to apparel working well, hiring 'several' in coming months

They do the work of a non-profit, but United By Blue is a for profit company. Started by Temple University grad Brian Linton, the clothing company, guided by a deep sense of social entrepreneurship, aims to clean up the world's waterways.
Linton, an American by birth who grew up in Asia, founded the eco-entrepreneurial venture in 2010. He says, "We sell sustainable apparel that leverages technology, social media and environmental activism."
Now 200 stores in the US and 60 stores in Japan carry the United by Blue clothing line, in addition to online sales. The company headquarters is at 12th and Callowhill, where seven are employed full-time and Linton says there are plans to hire several more staffers in the next few months. United By Blue is set to hire a full-time developer within the next few weeks, bringing a job that was previously outsourced in house. UBB also hosts up to eight interns per semester in the spring, summer and fall.
For every product sold, UBB removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways through company organized and hosted cleanups. "We've done 85 cleanups in 17 US states, removing 138,000 pounds of trash, working with about 1,900 volunteers," says Linton.
UBB also has two major corporate partnerships. Subaru of America donated two new Outbacks in April 2012, and a co-branded line of apparel sells on the Subaru website as well as in dealerships. "We wouldn't have expected it from a car company, but they can move a significant amount of apparel. The Subaru customer is the United By Blue customer." UBB also partnered with Sperry, known best for its sailing shoes and apparel.
The concept behind the company name is that we are all united by blue. We all need water to live. Its not a theory; it's a fact.

"Life does not exist without water," says Linton, a seasoned world traveler. "Water on the streets of Philadelphia could be on streets of Beijing years later. If we mistreat water, the implications are for the whole world."
To date, UBB has been bootstrapped and is self-sustaining, and Linton says that the company will be looking to raise a round of funding this fall to pursue more retail outlets as well as bolster its online presence.

Source: Brian Linton, United By Blue
Writer: Sue Spolan

Free and Open Source Software Convention coming to Philly next month

The creators and supporters of free and open source software have always bucked the current of commercialization. It's events like FOSSCON, the Free and Open Source Software Convention, that allow developers to gather and gain strength in numbers. FOSSCON 2012 takes place Saturday, Aug. 11, at Venturef0rth at 8th and Callowhill. 
Organizers are looking for free software enthusiasts, user group members, coders and users to join them at the grassroots event, aimed at creating a common meeting place for people all over the Northeast US.
"We've been doing FOSSCON for 3 years now," says Jonathan Simpson, event coordinator. "The first year was actually in upstate New York, but we moved to Philly.  I live outside Philly myself so it's personally a lot easier running an event an hour away instead of several." Plus, he adds, Philly is a pretty FOSS-friendly city.
The event features six general-interest talks, and workshops on topics including development, community building, hackerspace activities, and more. Ubuntu PA and Hive76 will be on hand for demonstrations and workshops. 
The community will have a chance to explore topics from 3D printing to privacy. Keynote is Bradley M. Kuhn, Executive Director of the Software Freedom Conservancy.
"There are other FOSS events around the world and in the US," says Simpson, who mentions CPOSC in Harrisburg, and SELF, which serves the Southeasterm US. "This is the only one that goes by the FOSSCON name, but there is a longer term plan to spawn others."
FOSS tends to put control in the hands of users, says Simpson, and that represents a threat to the control of media companies, as well as to most of corporate America. "FOSS, as well as the culture it encourages, endangers that control." Simpson also cites Linode, which has been a conference sponsor for years, as a great example of a successful services based FOSS company.
"The temptation to close the source of software is real, especially in the startup world where competition is really aggressive. FOSS are beneficial in the long run, but those benefits are often ignored to protect short term gains. Reminding computer scientists and entrepreneurs of the benefits of FOSS, and that their latest project is 90% dependent of those FOSS softwares, is important work," says Simpson.
Basic admission to FOSSCON is free, but organizers encourage attendees to level up to paid admission of $25 to help keep the event open to as many people as possible.

Source: Jonathan Simpson, FOSSCON
Writer: Sue Spolan

Roots of innovation planted with 15 new Philly Fellows

Literacy, health, poverty, and the greening of the city. It's all in a year's work for the newest recruits to Philly Fellows. Now heading into its seventh session, Philly Fellows was founded by two Haverford College grads with a dual mission: to support recent college graduates as well as urban change.
Philly Fellows just announced its newest class of 15, to begin a one year program of service to the city July 30 in cultural, educational and social-service organizations including Philadelphia Youth Network, Project HOME, Calcutta House, Fleisher Art Memorial, and The Pennsylvania Health Law Project. Co-founder Tim Ifill reports that Philly Fellows received a total of 123 applications for the 2012 class.
Each Fellow receives $12,191 for the year, health insurance,student loan forbearance, a transportation allowance and a $5,350 education award, all through the AmeriCorps*VISTA program. 
They're either graduates of local colleges, primarily Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, Haverford and the University of Pennsylvania, or they grew up in the Delaware Valley and attended schools outside the local area.
It's a real world Real World. A gentle extension of college life, each participant commits to 40 hour work weeks at a non-profit, sharing co-ed quarters with 4 to 6 others in one of three group houses located in West Philadelphia, South Philadelphia, or Northern Liberties.

"About two-thirds of our graduates end up staying in Philly, and a handful are hired by their host agencies," reports Ifill, who counts a total of 102 alums, with 16 more graduating from the 2011 program at the end of this month. Erika Slaymaker, who worked at Project HOME this year, says. "I am staying on next year to continue to implement the projects that I started as a Philly Fellow.  Julia Cooper, who is a part of the incoming group of Philly Fellows, will be joining me to create an Environmental Sustainability Team at Project HOME."
The deadline for applications to next year's class is January 2013, and host agency deadline is November 2012.

Source: Tim Ifill, Erika Slaymaker, Philly Fellows
Writer: Sue Spolan

Overheard at Venturef0rth: Million/Million for SnipSnap; CloudMine releases version 1.0

It wasn't up there for long, but the upstart startup CloudMine celebrated the release of version 1.0 by attaching one of its massive company logo banners to the water tower atop the large white building at 8th and Callowhill where it calls home at Venturef0rth. Talk about eyeballs. The water tower got the attention of tens of thousands of Friday commuters. 
While none of the CloudMine founders was willing to take credit (or in this case, blame) for the guerilla marketing stunt, CloudMine's presence is hard to miss. With a newly redesigned website, the year old Backend-as-a-Service company has put its beta to bed, according to CEO Brendan McCorkle. But developers were not so fortunate, with Marc Weil reporting that the team worked well into the wee hours to make the launch happen. Developers are now running more than 1,500 apps on the CloudMine platform.
Meanwhile, just yards away at Venturef0rth, Ted Mann of SnipSnap announced that he's raised a million dollars in funding for his coupon snapping app, and a million coupons have been entered into the system. Adding to recent Ben Franklin Technology Partners of SE Pennsylvania funding, Mann says Philly's Mentortech Ventures and Michael Rubin contributed to the round.SnipSnap is hiring two in leadership positions, and according to Mann, is engaged in a national search to hire a VP of Marketing and a VP of business Development and Sales.
Keya Dannenbaum, founder of ElectNext, and late of Project Liberty Digital Incubator stopped by to check out the space, and reports that the candidate choice engine is now closing in on a round of funding. She also mentioned that co-founder Paul Jungwirth has moved on and is no longer with the startup.

Source: Brendan McCorkle, CloudMine, Ted Mann, SnipSnap, Keya Dannenbaum, ElectNext
Writer: Sue Spolan

Venturef0rth welcomes new companies, hiring office manager

Three-month old Venturef0rth is growing fast, and announced this week that DreamIt Ventures grads Cloudmine, MetaLayer, Grassroots Unwired and SnipSnap have all taken up residency at the incubator, located in an in-between neighborhood the team has dubbed Southern Liberties. Elliot Menschik, Jesse Kramer and Jay Shah even registered the domain solib.org to help classify their spot at 8th and Callowhill, which is neither Center City nor Northern Liberties.
Opening its doors just three months ago in March 2012, Kramer notes that the endeavor is picking up momentum with the goal to enable the next big thing. Certainly, Cloudmine qualifies. From its original founding three partners, the back end mobile solutions provider has grown to nine employees, and occupies the entire eastern section of Venturef0rth.

"They had us when we came in and saw the space," says Cloudmine co-founder Brendan McCorkle. "I have to keep the engineers happy."

McCorkle says his team looked all over the city, seriously considering a standalone office in Old City that was the former home of Indy Hall. But looking forward, McCorkle knew that Cloudmine would soon outgrow that space. Also, adds McCorkle, "We offer our customers pay as you go pricing, and that's what they're doing here."
With eight companies in residence, and one already graduated, Menschik says, "We built Venturef0rth to be an inspiring place to work. It attracts certain types, and repels certain types. You can see when they walk in whom it resonates with. They either love the 14-foot ceilings or think, 'How am I going to have a conversation here?'"
Russ Oster, whose Grassroots Unwired adds mobile connectivity to door to door campaigns nationally, was the first paying tenant in March.

"We looked at all the coworking options, and realized that with Venturef0rth, you also get the wisdom of the three co-founders."

Within a week of moving in, Grassroots Unwired received a term sheet from a West Coast VC, and got great advice on handling the process. "We did close our seed round based on that term sheet," says Oster.
The company that's moved on is Lessonsmith, which has merged with Defined Clarity. Founder Dan Lopez is Venturef0rth's first alum.
Venturef0rth also announced that it's hiring. The team is in search of a killer office manager, which includes the task of keeping the refrigerator stocked with local craft beer.  

Says Kramer, who comes from a marketing background, "Think about every brand that you love. There's not one thing that makes you love it. You want to identify with it because of a variety of attributes."

Source: Elliot Menschik, Jesse Kramer, Brendan McCorkle, Russ Oster, Venturef0rth
Writer: Sue Spolan

Growing e-commerce firm O3 World hiring, moving to Fishtown

It's a three thing. "O3 stands for ozone," says Keith Scandone of the name of his e-commerce agency. "Ozone is made of three parts oxygen, and our company incorporates three aspects: marketing, design and technology." O3 World, founded by three partners, is now hiring both a front-end and a back-end web developer.

Currently located at the Piazza, O3 World is poised to move north to new headquarters in Fishtown this fall. Scandone reports that year over year growth is 45% from 2011 to 2012, which is the group's most dramatic gain since its 2005 inception.

Now with two owners and 12 full time employees, Scandone attributes the expansion to new business. He points to work with Comcast's Project Open Voice and referrals through relationships, some of which were developed through Scandone's participation in the Philly Ad Club.

"We specialize specifically in e-commerce, and it's a complicated process you can't fake," says Scandone, who will refer out any work that's out of O3's area of expertise. For example, clients with SEO and SEM needs are sent to NoLibs neighbor SEER Interactive. "We won't sell something to a client and then outsource it."

O3 is a full Magento partner, a deal they struck just a few months ago,and is positioned to provide the full package to clients, from design, through hosting, development, and integrations.

The firm's other clients include Grayhair Software, Pravda Vodka, Timberlane and Back on My Feet, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit begun that now operates in 11 cities nationwide.

Source: Keith Scandone, O3 World
Writer: Sue Spolan

A 41-hour digital fast to raise digital divide awareness

Could you step away from the keyboard? This weekend, Philly Tech Week (PTW) curator Tayyib Smith, in conjunction with KEYSPOTS, asked the tech community and everyone else in the city to participate in a 41 hour digital fast beginning Saturday April 21 at 3 p.m. No computer. No email. No social media. No mobile apps (those participating in Philly Startup Weekend get a fast pass). The fast ended when PTW began, with breakfast on Monday (April 23) at 8 a.m.

Brandon Shockley, a content associate at Mighty Engine, did his best to participate in the fast, but couldn't make it even a quarter of the way. "I can't say I was successful, despite my best efforts. I cracked," reports Shockley. "The internet is habit forming. I made it about 7 hours, and then had to go back to the safety of my inbox."
Nearly half of Philadelphia lacks basic computer skills and internet access, according to Smith, who did make it through an internet free weekend in which he says he stopped himself 15 or 20 times from reaching for his phone and computer.

In the lead-up to Philly Tech Week, Smith, founder of 215mag and Little Giant Creative, called attention "to the 41% of Philadelphians who still don’t have basic computer skills and Internet access, which essentially means a  lack of basic opportunity." Smith curates this year’s Access and Policy track for Philly Tech Week.
"One of the biggest dangers to the people in our city who can’t communicate digitally is the risk of being underrepresented in media, government, and culture," says Smith, who notes that a new discourse is being developed, the language of programming, and it seems to him as if a monolithic group of people are explaining that language, disproportionately affecting minorities. "That’s why the first step is closing our city’s digital divide is raising awareness of this issue."
Smith hopes the fast will help publicize KEYSPOTS, an initiative of the Freedom Rings Partnership, that offers over 80 public computing sites where residents can get free internet access and training. "Do nothing and support our efforts," reads a banner on the website. Well, not totally nothing. In the next few days, Smith encourages connected people to spread the word about the fast via Facebook, Twitter and email. And then shut it all down. 

Source: Tayyib Smith, Digital FAST, Brandon Shockley, Mighty Engine
Writer: Sue Spolan
51 Northern Liberties Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts