Ignite Seattle Was an Amazing Success!

Dan McComb of Biznik presenting at Ignite; Photo by Bre Pettis

Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you for coming!
Ignite Seattle ended just a couple of hours ago. It was an amazing experience. Over 200 people saw 13 popsicle-bridges being made and 25 speakers each give 5 minute talks. The speakers had 20 slides with 15 seconds a slide. See Laughing Squid and the Ignite Flickr Pool for photos. The speakers and crowd were great. We will be posting their slides and videos in the next week. Most of the talks were tech-oriented. Here were some of the new sites that appeared tonight (some of them were publicly revealed for the first time tonight):

300002.gifThe Darfur Wall – Jonah Burke left Microsoft to found the The Darfur Wall with his father and brother a couple of weeks ago. If you’re not aware Darfur is in a crisis. The Burkes have created a novel website for collecting money. There are 400,000 subdued numbers on the site; each time a dollar is donated a new number is lit. All of the monies go to Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children and others. In just 21days, they have raised $5052 from 445 donors. Buying a number is fast and easy; consider it. (Blog)

Biznik – Biznik is a social-network that is devoted to radical self-promotion and helping its members start businesses. They are event-focused. The membership is centered around Seattle right now, but that will change in 2007 with an upcoming release. (Blog)

Reality All Starz – Where people do crazy things with their lives… and earn points. This is another Seattle-based social-network that hasn’t broken its geographic bounds. On the site you can issue challenges such as: Arm Wrestle Someone, Ask out a girl, or Go to Burning Man. People can then upload text, video, or photographic evidence of their having completed the challenge and the community decides how many points they should get for it. You can invite people to the site by issuing them a challenge (I still have to upload a video of my first sky-dive if I am going to earn 50 points this month). For a fun exercise check out the existing All Starz and issue them a challenge. It’s interesting to note that both Biznik and Reality All Starz are built using Ruby on Rails. (Blog)

Ontela – Dan Shapiro, the founder, spent the majority of his talk discussing the process of getting a startup going (the big take-away: it has to be a full time commitment, don’t expect your after-work project to morph into a company on it’s own). Luckily, I’ve seen this product before. They have built an incredibly simple way to pull photos from almost any phone and send them where you (the consumer) would like without having to lift a finger. This could be your home computer, Flickr, or any number of services that accept photos (MTurk for text analysis anyone?). When it is released, this software will finally make the camera on your phone useful.

We look forward to seeing you all at the next Ignite in February. Thanks to Ontela, Amazon Web Services, Seattlest and Lockergnome for sponsoring!

3, 2, 1, Ignition!


Seattle geeks packed the house to build bridges out of popsicle sticks and hot glue at Seattle’s geek event, ignite. 13 teams basked in the glory of success or had their dreams crushed into tiny shards of wood as they stepped on their bridges and found out if their bridge would hold their weight. While the winners won the latest magazine, an amazing amount of applause was given to teams whose bridges were crushed. Hurray for destruction!


Props go out to the team that used 998 of the 1000 popsicle sticks allotted and managed to hold 5 people on their bridge. They brought an iron that they plugged in and turned upside down to heat up a makeshift aluminum foil pot of hot glue. Props also go out to the family that made the artistic bridge that managed to hold the 4 year old member of the team!

After the last bridge had survived crushed into the ground, Ask Later began. Moderated by Brady Forrest of O’Reilly Radar, the audience was enthralled as the superstars of local start-upscreative innovators, scientists, hackers, puzzle-makers, and regular folks doing cool things managed to dump their brains into five minute power-point presentations.

Thanks to all the Make: and Craft: peeps who came out to have a great time, I look forward to seeing you all again at the next ignite in February. [My photoset] [Scott Beale’s Photoset]

Speaker Schedule for Ask Later

The Ask Later talks are going to begin after the Bridge Building Contest. Here is the schedule for the speakers. I expect each round to last about an hour (including a break).

First Round:
Brady Forrest (O’Reilly Radar) – Introduction & Welcome
Shelly Farnham (Farnham Research)- Dorkbot Seattle
Jeff Barr (Amazon Web Services) – Uses of Amazon Web Services
Beth Goza (Microsoft) – Second Life
Buster Mcleod (Robot Coop)- McLeod’s
Ario Speedwagon (Real Arcade) – Mortality and User Experience
Dan Shapiro (Ontela) – Founding and Fundraising
Brian Aker (MySQL) – Asterisk @ Home – Adventures in VOIP

Second Round:
Bre Pettis (Make:)- Make: Project Disasters
Bruce Leban – Puzzles
Scott Berkun (Independent) – Innovation
Jordan Shwartz (Microsoft; Creator of Pixie Hunt and SLAM) – Make Your Own SMS Service
Kathleen Dollard (GenDotNet) – Of Progress, Canaries and Workflow
Peter Brown (Independent) – Secret Project
Rob Flickenger (Hacker Friendly)- Lightning fast publishing
Stuart Maxwell – 19 Pings: Stuff That’s On My Radar

Third Round:
Beth Kolko (UW) – Info Tech in the Developing World
Chris Johnson (Phrase Train) – Phrase Train
Danyel Fisher (MSR)
Dan McComb (Biznik) – Biznik: Radical Self-Promotion
3ric Johanson (Shmoo)
Rob Dolin (KCD) – King County Democrats use of Social Networking Software
Jesse RobbinsBRC Credit Union
Jonah Burke – The Darfur Wall
Scott “The Closer” Ruthfield (Amazon) – Replacing Something That Sucks (Corporate Style)

This post will be revised as we get more speakers or some drop out. Speakers, don’t forget to send me your presentations! For now I am not going to sign up anymore talks – there will be other Ignites in the future. 🙂

Bridge Building Rules

bridge building materials

I’ve got 20,000 popsicle sticks and I’ve done some tests.

First, here are the rules:

1. Your bridge must span 15 inches. That means it needs to be a bit longer than 15 inches.  The popsicle sticks are 4 inches long so you’ll need a bridge that is 4 popsicle sticks or more long.  You will use hot glue and get 1000 popsicle sticks.  There will be lots of teams and so it wouldn’t hurt to bring your own glue guns and glue.
2. You will have 30 minutes to complete your bridge.  In reality, some teams will have more time as we test the first bridgets

3. When you are done, you will put your bridge between to bricks spaced 15 inches apart and then you will put a scale on top of your bridge and then you will start to stand on it, calling out the amount of pounds that it can hold.  If someone on your team can stand on your bridge, each person on your team will get an issue of craft or make.  If there are more winners than magazines, I’ll collect emails from your team and send out digital editions.

4. You need not be a structural engineer to play, this is for anyone who likes to make things.
5. There may be more rules if they make sense at the time.


Here’s what I learned from messing around with popsicle sticks for 1/2 hour with my brother:

You are going to be on a team and someone on your team needs to come with a plan.  I finished 1/3 of a bridge in 30 minutes.  My brother made 1/5 of a bridge in 30 minutes.  His is the shorter one with an awesome overlapping design.  How many people should you have on your team? I suggest at least three.  Be friendly to people who come alone and join your team, they may be the missing link that give you an edge.

Above all the goal is to have fun, I’ll see you there at 6:30!

Sponsor: Thank-You Ontela

Ontela logo

Dan Shapiro, CEO and founder of Ontela, has agreed to both sponsor and speak at Ignite. The following blurb about his Pioneer Square-based company explains them quite well. Thanks Dan and Ontela!

Ontela is a venture-backed startup that makes it ridiculously easy to get pictures from your camera phone to your PC. We just raised a bunch of money so we could hire smart, creative people JUST LIKE YOU — see our web site for job openings!

I’ve seen their product; it really is easy to use.

Speaker Notes: Read This If You Want To Speak

After the Make Bridge-Building contest we are going to be holding the Ask Later talks. There’s been a lot of questions around the talks so I wanted to let people know how things will work.

Format: The Ask Later talks will *all* be 5 minutes long. They will all have 20 slides and each slide will be on the screen for 15 seconds. The presenter will not have control of their computer. That’s part of the fun. 🙂 We’re going to try to keep things tight, but we’ll allow a minute or two for questions after the talk.

Content: I consider these talks to be on the INFOtainment side of things. Informative, but due to the nature of the format they won’t be able to drive home deep topics. (but does anybody want that on a Thursday night at a bar?) Some of the known topics include: web projects, product demos, social computing research projects, home Asterisk hacks, Dorkbot, Make: projects, interesting uses of Amazon Webservices, and a new tech-art space in Seattle. I expect things to be geeky and tech-oriented, but I don’t think that people should shy away from other fare.

Current Speakers: Currently, there are about 18 speakers signed up; add yourself to the comments. Sign-ups will be available the night of the event (and I expect some people will even make their talks up at the event). I will list the speakers in a future post.

Timing: The talks will begin soon after 8:00 (after everyone has had time to get a drink), but no later thn 8:30. They will happen in 45 minute blocks. We’ll have 7 (maybe 8) talks in the first block and then take a 20 minute break. We’ll then start the second bock with ~7 more talks and then take another break. That wil be followed by a third block. If there is interest we will continue — the beauty of the LowerLevel is that there are two rooms (both with WiFi). If you don’t like the talks the other room has tables, the bar and probably Werewolf.

A/V: We will have a CHAC-hired A/V guy for the night. All of the slides will run from my machine (mac) which has Powerpoint. You can include audio, video, whatever on your slides. The slides will be advanced via the “Set Timings Feature”. I am going to try to have Keynote and PowerPoint 2003 for Windows (I just installed Parallels this week) available as well.

Logistics: I’ll need all slides before the session starts. Please entitle it with your name and include all necessary files. You can email them to me or we will use a thumbdrive for transfer during a break.

Physical Setup: The room is long and narrow. The stage is along one of the long walls with a large screen behind it. The talks will be projected onto the screen. The speaker will stand to the side of the screen. The laptop with the talks will be on stage on a table so that the speaker will be abe to see the screen. We will probably have to iterate on this setup through out the night. 🙂

If there are ay questions, leave them in the comments or contact me. This (and actually all of Ignite) is experimental and not set in stone. It’s a new format. It’s meant to be fun and informative. We’ll adapt it to our purposes and if something isn’t working it will be changed.

Update: I will be able to accept 3 types of presentation formats tomorrow night: PowerPoint For Mac, PowerPoint For Windows (2003), and Keynote.

Sponsor: Thank-You Amazon Web Services


Amazon Web Services (blog) make things like The Sheep Market, SmugMug, UnSpun, and NowNow possible. We’re happy to welcome them onboard as a sponsor. Thanks!

Here’s a little bit about what they will be presenting Ignite:

In the space of just 5 minutes, Amazon Web Services Evangelist Jeff Barr will review Amazon’s entire line of web services including the E-Commerce Service, the Simple Storage Service, the Elastic Compute Cloud, and the Amazon Mechanical Turk. The talk will include complete technical details and a myriad of customer success stories.

Prep for Werewolf


Werewolf is a very fun bluffing game. It has been a standard part of every tech conference I’ve been to in the past year and a half. We know people will want to play at Ignite.
It’s very similar to Mafia; it just has better branding. If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about (or don’t understand the t-shirts) here’s a brief explanation of the game:

A game of Werewolf lasts about 30 minutes and is played through alternating day and night rounds. There are two teams: the Villagers and the Werewolves. At the beginning of the game people are secretly assigned roles via the Moderator. Except for the Moderator, every person is either on the Villager’s side or the Werewolve’s side. The werewolves hide their true nature and try to secretly kill the Villagers at “night”; the Villagers attempt to root out the Werewolves during the “day”. Once a player is dead they are out for the rest of the game. The game ends when either all of the Werewolves are dead or the number of Villagers equals the number of Werewolves. The Moderator’s job is to be neutral and keep the flow of the game going.

For a more complete description of the game (including a number of variants and roles I didn’t cover) check out Zarfhome’s page.