Philly Tech Week 2014 Recap

Apr 15 2014

The fourth annual Philly Tech Week wrapped up this past weekend and in my opinion it was the best yet. Why do I say this? Because I was exhausted by the end of it. Here's a recap of the events that I was able to make it out to but there are many more that I missed.

Saturday: With the weather finally semi-decent, I biked north to ImpactHUB for this year's Redsnake Philly, a throwdown of Python vs. Ruby presentations. Not really, it wasn't combative, but there were plenty of fresh ideas on how Python and Ruby can be used to build systems faster and smarter. I particularly enjoyed Chris Conley's exploration of the game of Hangman and how to optimize for information gain to win the game quicker on average. There's some code in his GitHub repo worth checking out. The most intriguing talk was by Stefan Natchev on Lapis, a web framework baked into Nginx written in Lua/MoonScript.

Included in the swag for RedSnake Philly was this beanie which was particularly useful as I rode down to the Art Museum for the Arcade @ The Oval where this was happening:

Last year's pong on the Cira Centre was amazing but Tetris took it to the next level. The video can't really convey how awesome this was. I hung out for a bit near the table where the person playing the game was and in true Philly fashion people were cheering on when rows where removed and booing when the person went into a tailspin and the pieces started to pile up to the top and the end of the game was imminent. The event overall was way bigger than last year with tons of video game consoles for people to play, DDR Connect Four, food trucks and great live 8-bit music from bands like Cheap Dinosaurs. Super fun event to cap off a great day.

Tuesday: It was tough to decide what to do go to Tuesday night but I ended up at Code For Philly which is a weekly hack night at Devnuts in Northern Liberties because I planned on starting a project that I'll be writing about here soon. CfP has always been a fun time but recently has been on the next level: there's a constant stream of new people getting involved and tons of projects popping up. At this instance there were some high school kids that wanted to start a coding club at their school. Their dad explained during intros that there's a lot of potential for teenagers to learn new skills for the future. I couldn't agree more that it can be a really positive place.

Wednesday: This evening I was on a panel at the Enterprise Center aptly named Bytes and Mortar that aimed to bridge the divide between Philly business, local governments data and the technology community. My colleagues and I briefly went over the APIs and bulk downloads of property, crime and geospatial data that are available for almost any use by the general public and then opened up the floor to questions. And there were a lot of good ones!

When that ended I rushed seven blocks east to catch the end of the yearly Node Philly event during #ptw with some awesome refreshments:

I was bummed that I couldn't catch it all but I managed to get to learn more about Node streams (which I should try to use more) and beyond Node v0.12.

Thursday: I woke up a bit earlier than I maybe would've liked to and took the BSL up to the Commit Pledge kickoff at Temple. Commit Pledge is a new initiative from, Jarvus, Temple's Urban Apps & Maps and the Knight Foundation to match up technology volunteers with non-profit organizations. I pledged 20 hours and you should pledge some time too.

There were some events that I wanted to go to after work but to be honest I was just too beat by this point. I had been biking all around the city + running around during work all week and just had to crash and get a good night of sleep.

Friday: Friday was probably the most fun day of all because finally North 3rd St. was proclaimed "N3RD ST." at the N3RD St. BBQ!

In case you didn't know about this already, there are some 30 tech companies along North 3rd St. from Market and Poplar (I could be slightly off with these details) that have affectionately called themselves "N3RD ST" for some time now. But last month it was made official by City Council and street signs like the one above are going up all along the intersections in that area. It's kind of a silly thing, but it's also a signal from City government that this area of Northern Liberties is a hub of technological innovation and new ideas.

Philly Tech Week ended with me, sort of fittingly, with a game of frisbee:

I think this is fitting because for a community of people that work and talk on Google Hangout, Twitter, GitHub and other screen interfaces, the week is a great time to get together and hangout. I feel really lucky to not only know a lot of these people that I respect, admire and share a lot of values and interests with, but even call some of them my friends. Until next year!

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Dave Walk is a software developer, basketball nerd and wannabe runner living in Philadelphia. He enjoys constantly learning and creating solutions with Go, JavaScript and Python. This is his website.