Pre-Ignite lecture: U.S. Government Response to Hackers

The next Seattle Ignite is Wed February 20th, at 6:30pm. We’ll have our usual pre-show games, but an alternative is this lecture on the U.S. history of government response to hacking, including commentary on the Aaron Swartz story. One ticket gets you access to both!

Phil Lapsley: The Government’s Response to Hackers, Then & Now

When: Wednesday, February 20, 2013, 6:00 – 7:30pm

Where: Downstairs at Town Hall; enter on Seneca Street. $5. Double feature!

Phil Lapsley, author of Exploding the Phone; believes today’s war against hackers is  more aggressive that decades past. With an eye toward culture, technology, and current events, Lapsley illuminates the forgotten history of the phone phreaks—and addresses how the FBI’s pursuit of them differs from the legal tactics used today against people such as Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide while facing more than 30 years in prison. Prosecutors alleged Swartz broke into a secure MIT computer closet in 2011 and downloaded articles from a subscription-based academic research service; his death has led to calls by lawmakers to amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Get tickets here (includes access to Seattle Ignite).

How to write a good bio

Many good people write bad bios for themselves. We want you to sound as awesome as you are so please take our advice. These five simple rules make writing bios take less time, less effort and make everyone happy to learn something about you.

1. The more impressive you are, the shorter your bio can be.

For example, compare this:

Bob Smith won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, twice. He’s currently the head of Amazingness at Wonderment University.

With this:

Bob Smith spent 2001-2004 developing yard waste in Atlantic City, NJ. Then the better part of the 90’s working on psoriasis in Libya. For kicks, he studied in 2002-2008 licensing regulations for circus clowns in West Palm Beach, FL. Garnered a second place industry award while merchandising mouse yogurt in Las Vegas, NV. Had some great experience consulting about near-UFO experiences among visitors to  Ocean City, NJ. Spent two years licensing cannibalism for farmers, and recycling Pez dispensers.

Everyone wants your bio to be shorter. The shorter it is, the more people who will read it. No one is impressed by a long series of unimpressive things. If you have a great one sentence bio, people will be curious enough to find out more. On the other hand, if you have a bad and long bio they are certain never to want to learn anything about you.

2. Write for the real audience

If you are asked for a bio because you are speaking somewhere, perhaps Ignite Seattle, shape your bio to best fit what you are speaking about. Your bio will be read by people at that event to help them understand what you’ll be talking about.

For example, if you are speaking on fly fishing, don’t do this:

Sally Shmeckes is a software developer and designer who has written code in every language known to mankind.  She works mostly as a hired gun for startups in trouble, who need a superhero to help turn trainwreck projects around. She studied 3-D Film Theory and Anti-Nuclear Architecture at the University of Ridiculousness, and has 3 children if you count her husband.

Do something like this instead:

Sally Schemkes is a veteran software developer and designer. Her Dad taught her to fly fish before she could walk and she has fished every day since he died. She’s on twitter at @sallyschemkes56.

3. Invert your pyramid

Put the important facts first. The fancy term for this is the Inverted Pyramid. Assume with each word in your bio that fewer and fewer people will keep reading.

This is good:

Bono is the lead singer for the rock band U2. He is an advocate for many important political and social causes. His real name is Paul Hewson. He owns many interesting pairs of glasses.

Not this:

Bono likes the color red, especially on Tuesdays. He loves to drink whiskey (on all days). He learned to drink whisky from his childhood friend Zippo, when they went to school together at Mount Temple Comprehensive School. His real name is Paul Hewson, He is best known as the lead singer for the band U2.

4. Be clever only if you’re certain it’s actually clever

From the Department of Made up Facts:

  • Percent of people who think they are clever: 64%
  • Percept of people who are actually clever: 6%

If you think you are clever, and write what you think is a clever bio, get feedback on it from someone you know who is actually clever. If they approve, you have our blessing. One good joke in a bio is more than enough.

5. Watch the slashes Jack

A sad trend born of Twitter are bios where people self describe themselves by a dozen different traits. This makes you look like someone who sucks at everything. It’s fine to be a Jack of All Trades, but to insist on telling everyone you’re a Jack of All trades mostly makes you Jack of Many Annoyances. Our species has small brains: we need you to tell us the one or two of your trades that will be most relevant to us, or to what you will be talking about.

Instead of:

Nina Nana is a designer/juggler/smuggler/hellraiser/accountant/anti-ninja/metallurgist/snake charmer

Since this is a bio and not metadata listing for SEO purposes, have some courageous clarity:

Nina Nana is a designer who has mastered juggling, smuggling and many glorious pursuits of diverse ingenuity.

That’s all. Happy bio writing!

[Note: The second example from #1 is a revised creation of the auto bio generator.]

Pitches vs. Talks

For every Seattle Ignite we get dozens of submissions. Some fall right on the line between being an interesting talk and being a sales pitch. Sales pitches have their place, but Seattle Ignite isn’t it.

We know our audiences don’t like it. They don’t want to merely be sold something.

Instead the heart of any Ignite talk should be one of the following:

  • Inspiration
  • Education
  • Entertainment
  • Great Storytelling

If along the way or at the end you mention the URL for your website, or your twitter handle, that’s great! We very much want people to learn more about you, or your project, when your talk is over. But don’t confuse your 5 minutes of fame with a free 5 minute advertisement. If you go too far we’ll have a hard time inviting you back.

If you want to talk about a book or blog:

  • Pick stories, facts and lessons and talk about those (one chapter or post is enough)
  • Think of the talk as the movie version of your book, not the trailer for the movie
  • Deliver substance, not teasers

If your talk is about an organization or company:

  • Focus on a personal story: such as who founded it, how and why
  • Focus on a meaningful result: the story of one person, family, place or thing that was helped (or not)

If your talk is about a cause or campaign:

  • If it’s a non-profit there is more room for pitching – we’re a community and like to help community builders
  • You should still focus on telling a great story though

If you’re not sure if you’re going to far, we’re happy to help guide you. If you really just want to market to our audience, consider being a sponsor.

Catch Dan Pink at Town Hall January 9th

Our friends at Seattle Town Hall have a nice doubleheader next week on Wed. January 9th.  If you buy tickets to either talk you get entry for the other.

at 6pm: William Janeway, an active venture-capitalist for decades leading the Warburg Pincus Technology Investment team (which sounds impressive but I’ve never heard of), will be talking about his new book Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy, an examination of the triad of government, finance and entrepreneurs. He thinks in triads and wears a bow-tie: what more could you want? Tickets here.

at 7:30pm: popular business writer Daniel Pink offers a fresh look at sales and persuasion, showing how economic forces have changed how people approach convincing each other to do things, in his new book To Sell Is Human, a title that either makes you cringe, or gleeful at the prospect of the sales that await in your friendships – Please go and tell me my cynicism is unfounded! Tickets here.

Also coming soon at Town Hall:

  • Jan. 14, James Weatherall discusses The Physics of Wall Street (or: Predicting the Unpredictable). Apparently he also likes cats. Tickets.
  • Jan 21Oliver Burkeman: The Positive Power of Negative Thinking – advocates a “negative path” to happiness by embracing failure, pessimism, insecurity, and uncertainty, a perfectly timed talk for Seattle in January. Tickets.

Author of The Black Swan at Town Hall (tickets 1/2 price for Ignite fans)

Our friends at Town Hall have a special offer for the Ignite Community. Tickets are 50% off  for a great talk by one of the most controversal figures in intellectual circles today: Nassim Nicholas Taleb. He’s in town promoting his new book AntiFragile. He’s the author of the bestsellers The Black Swan and Fooled By Randomness. If you’ve read his books, which I have, he is sure to entertain, as his sizable ego and intellect take no prisoners in his critiques of politicians, executives, enemies and our species at large.

When: Wednesday, December 12, 2012, 7:30 – 9:00pm

To get your special Ignite discount, buy tickets and use the code: ignite on the checkout screen (4 tickets max at discount).

Here’s more about the lecture:

Called “the hottest thinker in the world” byThe Sunday Times of London, the always-provocative (and often-hilarious) Nassim Nicholas Taleb outlines the fragile world we live in—and how and why we should become more “antifragile.” What Taleb calls the antifragile actually benefits from shocks and stressors (just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension); this, he says, makes uncertainty not only desirable, but necessary. Posing a revolutionary message (“There is no stability without volatility, and what is not antifragile will perish.”), the author of The Black Swan and the new Antifragile explains how we can gain from disorder and chaos while being protected from fragilities and adverse events. Presented by Town Hall and University Book Store as part of The Seattle Science Lectures, sponsored by Microsoft. Series media sponsorship provided by KPLU.

Advance tickets are $5 at or 888/377-4510 and at the door beginning at 6:30 pm. Downstairs at Town Hall; enter on Seneca Street.

Ten amazing reasons to come to Ignite 18 on Thursday

This Thursday (11/8) at 6:30pm is Ignite 18 – we’re thrilled to bring you another great show. If you’ve never been before, or have missed a few, this is a great one to come check out.

Here are ten amazing reasons to come to Ignite 18:

  1. We are at Town Hall, an awesome new venue with a fantastic bar (cash)
  2. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn will be a speaker (and yes, he’ll be in the Ignite format)
  3. It will be livestreamed, so the back of your head might end up being broadcast around the world!
  4. If you’re a healthy cheapskate, we’ll teach you how to build your own standing desk
  5. CommonCraft founder Lee Leefver will teach you how to explain things
  6. Dr. Shelly Farnham will share why you should hate Facebook
  7. Alex Alviar will explain why being deaf is a SUPERPOWER
  8. Learn about life from a SURVIVOR of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting
  9. It’s our 18th ignite, a number cleanly divisible by 6, 3, or 9! WOOT!
  10. Shauna Casey, VP of Decide, will confront her fear of public speaking LIVE
  11. There will be 8 more amazing talks that will blow your mind
  12. If you come early you will play an interactive game that will make you love your life
  13. We’re so excited we forgot how to count
  14. We promise not to say the words: election, ballot, pundit or poll

You will hate  yourself if you don’t come. Go here to buy tickets.

Doors open at 6:30pm. Talks start at 8:00pm.