How should the Boulder Denver New Tech Meetup evolve?

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Photo by katerha

I attended BDNT last night and four of the presenters had cancelled the day before.  For shame!

Instead of scrambling to find new presenters, Robert Reich, the organizer for nine years(!), had a free ranging discussion about the nature of the meetup and how it could best serve its audience.  He also asked for suggestions on how to make the meetup better, from both new attendees and regulars.  People came up with a wide variety of suggestions:

  • fostering networking
  • setting up mentoring
  • focusing on technology rather than business
  • having a joint meetup with other meetups in the area

In a testimonial to the willingness of the people who run BDNT to experiment (or to the lack of imagination of participants), Robert had tried almost all the suggestions at one point or another, and they’d all been abandoned because of either lack of manpower, lack of success or lack of adoption.

Robert also mentioned that the BDNT seems to be a great ‘top of funnel’ meetup for people who are new to town.  They come the BDNT, learn about the Boulder scene, and move on to other, more focused groups and meetups.  Because so many different types of people use this meetup as a jumping off point, that can make it difficult to focus.

I think it is great that we could have such a discussion, and someone suggested ‘discussing roadblocks’ as a topic that the meetup could focus on.  Robert immediately asked ‘who has a roadblock’ and someone mentioned hiring as a tough one.  There then was a fairly free form but moderated discussion about hiring–what the best way to hire was, what the right questions for founders, employers and employees were, and how to think about risk profiles.

Unlike in past meetups I have attended, the room wasn’t packed (only about 100 people, which makes that a small BDNT).  Additionally there was very little Twitter backplane discussion (I saw three comments on the #bdnt hashtag, and two of them were mine).

There were also two of the more typical presentations, from a marijuana dispensary product search engine and a piece of hardware that modifies music based on sensor input.  I unfortunately wasn’t able to fully view either of these presentations, but it was nice to end up where I think the BDNT is unique: demos and pitches.

I don’t have any great advice for Robert on making the meetup better.  It seems that getting 100-400 people to take a few hours out of their lives to discuss new technology for almost a decade is a success any way you measure it.  If he still loves the meetup and the people he’s meeting, he should continue on.  If he doesn’t, then it might be time to quit, if he can’t find someone to take it over.

Sometimes things end.


An open letter to Robert Reich about BDNT

Hi Robert,

I attended another BDNT on June 4, as I do every quarter or two.  You asked some questions tonight of the community that I think deserve a more measured response than I could muster yelling out in the auditorium.  Questions like: why do you come here?  What does the future of BDNT look like?  Jeez, won’t anyone volunteer to take video?  How can we leverage all the great people at BDNT during the time when we aren’t all in the same room?

First, I want to thank you, Robert, and all the many volunteers and sponsors of BDNT that make it possible.  I have been to a number of them, presented at two, and know some of the volunteers.  I can’t say I’ve met friends there, but it is a great place to go with existing friends to get pumped up about the Colorado tech scene, and new technology in general.

BDNT is, and has currently been, a fantastic presentation venue and gathering place for local tech community.  The focus has always been on building community and helping presenters (and their companies) get better (check out the second to last question on the ‘submit a presentation’ form).

I see two major BDNT constituencies: fly by nighters and regulars.  I’m a fly by nighter–I won’t attend when I get busy or BDNT falls off my radar, so I make it about 2-4 times a year.  Beyond speaking and attending, I have posted a few jobs on the job board, some reviews on my blog, some tweets, and exchanged some cards and some emails from people I’ve met there, but that’s been the limit of my involvement.

The quality and diversity of the presentations is BDNT’s biggest strength–the five minute format and enforced time limits (as well as the coaching) make presentations so tight.  And if a snoozer slides in, the audience only waits for five minutes.  Therefore, BDNT is a quality, time efficient event where I can check on the pulse of the tech community (is technology XXX going to be big?  how many jobs were mentioned for technology YYY?).

Because the presentations are so important, the biggest service BDNT could provide to us fly by nighters is to video tape the presentations.  I understand, Robert, that BDNT is a shoestring operation and that video takes time and money.  I don’t know exactly how to tackle that–two ideas that jump to mind are: ask a local video production company for sponsorship (People Productions jumps to mind) or set up an ipad and share to youtube, and provide cheaper, lower quality video.

As for the regulars, I don’t have the faintest idea of what they need.  Robert, you or the other volunteers probably do–they reach out to you with requests for features, help, etc.  So, I’ll have to rely on you to guide BDNT to serve their needs.

A caution: please don’t turn BDNT into another local, professional social network.  I already have too many ‘networks’.  I also fear that BDNT doesn’t have the mass to avoid being a ghost town.  (How many of those 10k members have only been to one meetup?  how many people who are not recruiters post to the message boards?)  We have all seen digital ghost towns before and they aren’t much fun to be around.  And I don’t want another place to keep a profile up to date–please ask to pull from LinkedIn and StackOverflow all you want, but please don’t make me fill out another skills list.  (I just joined the BDNT LinkedIn group (well, I applied for permission to join) because that’s the right place to do professional social networking.)

I will say that I’ve enjoyed the various experiments I’ve been a part of through BDNT (e.g, the twitter backplane, the non profit hack fest, the map of tech in Colorado).  Robert, if you want to experiment with a social network because of what the regulars or your gut is saying, do so!  Just don’t be surprised if us fly by nighters don’t really participate.  But whatever you do, please don’t stop experimenting.

It is worth asking how BDNT could be better, but, Robert, don’t forget that being ‘only’ the premier technology meetup in Colorado and a place where many many people come to check in on the tech community, present ideas, meet peers, and learn is quite an achievement.  Ask Ignite and Toastmasters about being ‘just’ a successful presentation organization–it is a success in this world of infinite opportunity and limited attention.

Bask in the glory of creating a successful community.

Finally, for everyone who wasn’t there, some fun facts from the June 4 2013 BDNT:

  • The unemployment rate for software engineers in the USA is 0.2%
  • The New Tech Meetup site code is available on github (no license I could see, however)
  • There was a really cool robot company (Taleus Robotics?  I couldn’t find a website for them) that is selling the computer needed to drive robotics for $299 that will expose servos and motors as linux devices.

Update on GWO for a non profit

Well, after a week or two of data collection, the GWO experiment I had set up for the WILD Foundation caused an issue–apparently it was preventing a javascript shadowbox from working. I didn’t want to get into troubleshooting a javascript component that I had never used on pages I had never seen, so I recommended turning off the experiment to see if that solved the issue.

It did. I knew there was a way to include the GWO javascript just where it was used, on the home page, but I got busy, and by the time I was able to do this, they were hip deep in a website rework. I’ve been involved in website redesigns with too many cooks in the kitchen, so I just asked them to let me know when the dust has settled so I can restart the experiment.

Lessons learned:

  • sometimes volunteer projects take a long time to get to results, and almost definitely will take longer than you plan
  • other opportunities can spring out of volunteering–I showed Emily some space available via another non profit I’m involved in, and she’s looking at possibilities for a fundraiser there.  This never would have happened if I hadn’t volunteered previously
  • the process opened up some ideas for the non profit around changing the home page to highlight things they wanted to focus–sometimes, any perspective from outside an organization is useful

    I’ll let you know when I get a chance to re-enable GWO on the WILD site, but I thought I’d give an update.


    My experience implementing GWO for a non profit, part 2

    I was finally able to get access to the wild.org server via FTP (previous cliffhanger resolved).  After cautioning me to be very careful (“please proceed with caution and help keep wild.org from blowing up…warnings from my IT guy”) Emily handed over FTP access.

    I proceeded very carefully.

    We had already had discussions about what we were going to vary to test the donation button.  Pictures, location of button, text of button, and text around button were the major variables.  One of the hard things about GWO is deciding what to test–the possibilities are infinite.  Even with our handful of variables, we ended up dropping some options and still have 100 variations to test!

    Actually installing GWO was pretty easy.  The only wrinkle was the fact that the goal was a click of a button and not another page.  This post was helpful.  One item that that post didn’t cover was validation–GWO doesn’t let you start an experiment if the program can’t verify that the script tags are installed correctly.  Since we were doing a non standard install, I gimmicked up a goal page for validation, then added the goal tracking to the onclick event as described in the post.

    So, the experiment is currently running on The WILD Foundation homepage.  It’s been running for about a week, and has only 1 non test conversion.  I worry that we are not testing big enough changes (a donate lightbox, rework the entire front page), but I think it makes sense to let the test run for a few weeks and see what kind of data we get.


    My experience implementing GWO for a non profit, part 1

    A few weeks ago, I went to the most recent BDNT and saw a number of non profits present.  It was very interesting to see the vast range of needs and technical experience across the twelve non profits who actually presented.  Everything from a small webapp project to any web presence at all to updating a custom php webapp.

    Most did a good job of containing their request to something manageable, though one group did get asked “Do you need a super volunteer or an employee” by Andrew Hyde, I assume because their needs seemed so vast.  The answer: no employee would be hired :).

    After pizza (thanks BDNT sponsors! ) I wandered up to the group that had piqued my interest the most.  The WILD Foundation had an employee (Emily) whose job responsiblities included social media, a blog, and actively engaging the online community.  This strategy had worked wonders for the foundation’s web traffic, but for online donations?  Not so much.  This was the challenge she asked us to attack.

    The session was moderated by Derek Scruggs and there were lots of great ideas.  To paraphrase, you could see where someone sat by what actions they suggested.  I mentioned Google Website Optimizer (a tool I’ve been a fan of for a long time); marketing folks wanted to focus on the message; some people wanted to change button color.  There were about 10 suggestions at the end.  Derek and Emily and the group then ranked them by effort (mostly group input) and priority (mostly Emily input).  Then we assigned tasks to volunteers.

    I volunteered to set up a GWO test for the donate button on the WILD.org homepage.  We’re going to vary images and text to see if we can drive greater click through to the donate page.  Eventually, it’d be nice to optimize the whole process, but the actual donation page and donation thank you page are hosted on a vendor’s server, so I’m not sure whether we’ll be able to.

    It’s been a week or so, and I still haven’t gotten write access to the template so I can add the code.  There are a number of reasons, and I think they might be common to all technical volunteer efforts, so I thought I’d outline them.

    • Exploration of technology takes some time.  I looked at the GWO for wordpress plugins, and found that they didn’t quite do what we wanted.  I also nosed around the existing site and found which file to change in the theme.  And I suggested what elements we might want to vary and ran those by Emily.
    • Time was a big issue; both mine and Emily’s was generally lacking.  Since it was a volunteer effort, I squeezed it in around work that paid.  Emily had to do her job first too.
    • Trust had to be established.  These folks didn’t know me from Adam, and yet were letting me edit one of their primary faces to the world?  Emily’s IT guy was rightly concerned about this, and insisted on a website backup.
    • IT issues–I had trouble editing the theme files, and working through Emily (with this being neither of our highest priority) to resolve the IT issue (basically, getting me an FTP account) took some additional time.  As mentioned above, there’s still an issue of not being able to track the entire donation process (so as to optimize it) because the WILD foundation uses a third party donation acceptance service.  I think we can make it work but wanted to get a win and build trust without having to involve a third party like the donation acceptance vendor.

    However, it’s all coming together.  Once I get GWO up and running, I’ll let you know.


    December 2009 BDNT writeup

    I went to the Boulder Denver New Tech Meetup last night, and as always, had a good time.  I ran into Brett Borders, and had a good discussion with him about why BDNT is worth going to.  I only go every couple of quarters, but I always learn something, and meet some interesting people (last night, including Marty Frary), and get jazzed about technology again.  This particular episode was packed–standing room only.  In addition, in the spirit of the season, there was a food drive, which was a nice touch, and a giveaway.  One additional change was that the twitter stream was off during presentations, though available during the q&a period (here’s a twitterstream horror story from the presenter’s point of view).

    Brad Bernthal gave an overview of Silicon Flatirons (and asked for $ support).  This is a center focused on tech, law and entrepeneurship, which puts on a number of programs supporting the Boulder tech scene (I attended and reviewed one a while back: IP Crash Course for Entrepeneurs).  Which raises the question–where is the CU CS department?  Why is the Law school hosting BDNT and other users’ groups?  The CS department does host Colloquia (I attend about one a year), but I don’t think those compare to BDNT, et al.

    After Brad, we moved on to jobs and events.  I was glad to see a number of jobs pop up.  Over the last year, at BDNT there were always some developer jobs available, but this time there was also a marketing job.  Hope it’s a sign that the Boulder tech job market is thawing (for folks other than developers).  There were 8 job announcements, though one of them was equity only.  About half of the presenting companies said they were looking to hire as well.  As far as events, KGNU is having a fundraiser called ‘Beers With Brad’Ignite Boulder 7 is only a week away (here’s an interesting post on how to organize Ignites).

    On to presentations…

    • The Blog Frog presented on their platform to turn blogs into communities.  This is an interesting space–you can see competitors in Ning, MyBlogLog and Google Friend Connect, though they all approach the issue from a different angle.  The Blog Frog is aimed at automating community creation, and have focused on mommy bloggers (as a large, valuable group).  We did not get a demo from them, and I haven’t signed up for their service for any of my blogs, but they definitely have a cool value proposition–helping niche content providers build their communities and reach advertisers and interested people.  You can see a presentation from them 7 months ago; it sounds like their business model has evolved significantly.
    • The Unreasonable Institute presented next.  They bill themselves as ‘Techstars for social entrepeneurs’, but they have a few differences.  Instead of picking applicants and providing them money, they want applicants to fundraise to provide a fee and idea validation.  After applicants are selected, they do get funds throughout the 10 week program, as well as mentoring, chance to pitch, etc, etc. The presentor said that the applications already received were split equally between the for-profit, non-profit and hybrid models.  So, the funding pitches would include VCs/angels as well as foundations–an interesting twist and a great way to increase connections between those communities.  They are accepting applications for the 2010 summer until Dec 15th.
    • Letitia Pleis, from Metro State College of Denver, gave a great talk on the tax implications of equity as payment.  She covered three scenarios.  Unrestricted (‘here’s 10% of the company, please write software!’) which is taxed as income at the time of the grant and also implies a great deal of trust in the payee.  Restricted (‘here’s 10% of the company, it vests in 3 years’) which is taxed as income at the time the grant is vested, possibly leading to a massive increase in taxes due, unless you perform an section 83(b) election within 30 days of the grant (one person spoke up and said they’d be bitten by this).  Unrestricted profits interest gives the grantee claim on a percentage of future profits.  She was at the end of her time, so we didn’t hear as much about this option as I would have liked.
    • Next up was a gadget review.  I’m not a gadget head, so I didn’t take notes on this, but they did give away a Sonos system.  Well, the winner earned it by knowing what the original cost of a Apple I system was ($666.66).
    • Public Earth presented next.  They are a wiki of places; the presentor said just like Netflix lets you collect your favorite movies, Public Earth will let you collect your favorite places.  (And they hope to have scale like wikipedia–he said that they plan to move beyond the ‘where’s the nearest restaurant’ level.  I looked for ‘slot canyons’ in UT, for example, and they had some.  I think they need to work on their linking, because I couldn’t get a link for my query to post.  But, on the upside, they don’t support IE6!)  They have 5M points in their database already, and just went live.  The wiki aspect is very interesting to me; I wonder whether they’ll get a critical mass of users to do spam policing.  It’s an interesting contrast to Google My Maps–PE has a slicker interface and more sharing features.
    • Last was RTP, with their sick iphone app, Real Ski.  This is an augmented reality application that helps you locate points of interest (bathroom, particular runs) when you’re out skiing.  They obviously couldn’t demo it at BDNT, but they had a video demo, and it looked killer.  It should be on the App Store soon–5 area maps free, 99 cents for every other ski area map.  They also asked for advice from the community about selling a B2C app; RTP apparently is a B2B company.  Pricing, scale, and accuracy were mentioned, but nothing really profound.  This question might be a better asked on twitter, or in some forum that allows more interaction.  (I searched, and was interested to see that no one had posted advice for them on twitter.)

    The only complaint I had with this BDNT was that there were no demos (apart from the gadgets).  Several pseudo-demos (aka powerpoint slides/videos), and interesting and relevant presentations, but I think that live demos really add a lot and are in the spirit of the meetup.


    List of Front Range Software Networking Events and Conferences

    Updated March 21: crossed out ‘conferences’ because I don’t do a good job of listing those.
    Boulder, Colorado, has a great tech scene, that I’ve been a peripheral member of for a while now.  I thought I’d share a few of the places I go to network.  And by “network”, I mean learn about cool new technologies, get a feel for the state of the scene (are companies hiring?  Firing?  What technologies are in high demand?) and chat with interesting people.  All of the events below focus on software, except where noted.

    NB: I have not found work through any of these events.  But if I needed work, these communities are the second place I’d look.  (The first place would be my personal network.)

    Boulder Denver New Tech Meetup

    • 5 minute presentions.  Two times a month.  Audience varies wildly from hard core developers to marketing folks to graphic designers to upper level execs.  Focus is on new technologies and companies.  Arrive early, because once the presentations start, it’s hard to talk to people.
    • Good for: energy, free food, broad overviews, regular meetings, reminding you of the glory days in 1999.
    • Bad for: diving deep into a subject, expanding your technical knowledge

    User groups: Boulder Java Users Group, Boulder Linux Users Group, Rocky Mountain Adobe Users Group, Denver/Boulder Drupal Users Group, Denver Java Users Group others updated 11/12 8:51: added Denver JUG

    • Typically one or two presentations each meeting, for an hour or two.  Tend to focus on a specific technology, as indicated by the names.  Sometimes food is provided.
    • Good for: diving deep into a technology, networking amongst fellow nerds, regular meetings
    • Bad for: anyone not interested in what they’re presenting that night, non technical folks

    Meetups (of which BDNT, covered above, is one)

    • There’s a meetup for everything under the sun.  Well, almost.  If you’re looking to focus on a particular subject, consider starting one (not free) or joining one–typically free.
    • Good for: breadth of possibility–you want to talk about Google?  How about SecondLife?
    • Bad for: many are kind of small

    Startup Drinks

    • Get together in a bar and mingle. Talk about your startups dreams or realities.
    • Good: have a beer, talk tech–what’s not to like?, takes place after working hours, casual
    • Bad: hard to target who to talk to, intermittent, takes place after working hours.

    BarCamp

    • Originally started, I believe, in response to FooCamp, this is an unconference. On Friday attendees get together and assemble an interim conference schedule.  On Saturday, they present, in about an hour or so.  Some slots are group activities (“let’s talk about technology X”) rather than presentations.  Very free form.
    • Good: for meeting people interested in technologies, can be relatively deep introduction to a technology
    • Bad: if you need lots of structure, if you want a goodie bag from a conference, presentations can be uneven in quality, hasn’t been one in a while around here (that I know of)

    Ignite

    • Presentations on a variety of topics, some geeky, some not.  Presentations determined by vote.  Presentations are 20 slide and 5 minutes total.  Costs something (~$10).
    • Good: happens in several cities (Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins) so gives you chance to meet folks in your community, presentations tend to be funny, wide range of audience
    • Bad: skim surface of topic, presentation quality can vary significantly, not a lot of time to talk to people as you’re mostly watching presentations

    CU Computer Science colloquia

    • Run by the CU CS department, these are technical presentations.  Usually given by a visiting PhD.
    • Good: Good to see what is coming down the pike, deep exposure to topics you might never think about (“Effective and Ubiquitous Access for Blind People”, “Optimal-Rate Routing in Adversarial Networks”)
    • Bad: The ones I’ve been to had no professionals there that I could see, happen during the middle of the work day, deep exposure to topics you might not care about

    Jelly

    • Cooperative work environments, hosted at a coffee shop or location.
    • Good: informal, could be plenty of time to talk to peers
    • Bad: not sure I’ve ever heard of one happening on the front range, not that different from going to your local coffee shop

    Boulder Open Coffee Club

    • From the website: it “encourage entrepreneurs, developers and investors to organize real-world informal meetups”.  I don’t have enough data to give you good/bad points.

    Startup Weekend

    • BarCamp with a focus–build a startup company.  With whoever shows up.
    • Good: focus, interesting people, you know they’re entrepeneurial to give a up a weekend to attend, broad cross section of skills
    • Bad: you give up a weekend to attend

    Refresh Denver

    • Another group that leverages meetup.com, these folks are in Denver.  Focus on web developers and designers.  Again, I don’t have enough to give good/bad points.

    Except for Ignite, everything above is free or donation-based.  The paid conferences around Colorado that I know about, I’ll cover in a future post.

    What am I missing?  I know the list is skewed towards Boulder–I haven’t really been to conferences more than an hours drive from Boulder.

    Do you use these events as a chance to network?  Catch up with friends?  Learn about new technologies, processes and companies?


    Denver BDNT Sep 2009

    I helped Brian Timoney, of the Timoney Group present last night at the Boulder Denver New Tech Meetup.  It was my second experience presenting at BDNT.  (I presented in Jan of 2008 on GWT.)  But it was my first time at BDNT Denver–down at the Tivoli.

    Co-presenting is always different than presenting alone.  I actually had a pretty small role in the presentation–I mostly just drove the demo (underwater navigation with Google Earth to visualize sonar coverage data–it’s very cool, but I don’t feel comfortable putting the demo login up–contact me if you want to see it).  I worked with Brian on the presentation format.  Brian has deep knowledge of GIS concepts (he recently ran a workshop at GIS In the Rockies), but he’s used to having more time to cover concepts, and 5 minutes just enforces a certain brevity.

    We had a mentor–Josh Fraser of EventVue took some time to run through our presentation with us.  It was really great to have a third party, especially one in tune with the BDNT, give us feedback.  As I told Robert Reich last night, we went into the mentoring session with one presentation, and left with an entirely different one.  If you’re thinking about presenting at BDNT, please get a mentor (and you might have to ping the organizers a few times to get one–we did).

    If I ever present at BDNT again, I’ll follow the format we arrived at:

    • 15 sec intro
    • 1 min talking about problem
    • 2-3 min demoing software solving problem
    • wrap up
    • contact info on screen during questions

    However, one of the difficulties in presenting for 5 minutes to a varied audience is that it is hard to know what knowledge to assume (about, say, GIS).  I talked to some people after the presentation, and it seemed like we assumed our exposition of the problem was better than it actually was.  I guess one way to address that would be to have a 30 sec intro spiel that you could deliver or not deliver based on a show of hands.  Not sure if there are other ways to deal with this issue.

    Finally, we were the only formal presentation last night.  It sounds like BDNT Denver isn’t as supported by the community as BDNT Boulder, in terms of participation.  I hope it doesn’t end–so, if you’re in Denver, consider attending this meetup–it’s a great place to network and get excited about tech.  Here’s the calendar of meetups.

    Instead of other presentations, we went unconference style, a la BarCamp.  People broke into 5 groups and discussed a tech issue (personalization, structured data, real time web) in detail for 10-15 minutes.  Then someone from each group presented 1-3 minutes.  The twitter feedback seemed pretty favorable.  I like BarCamp formats, and enjoyed the change.  I found that everyone in my group had lots to say about personalization, including some pretty creepy personal storied about advertising on the net.  I believe someone was going to write up the resulting presentations–will link to it when I find it.

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    June 2009 New Tech Overview

    I just attended the Boulder Denver New Tech Meetup (the one in Boulder) and it was fun and enlightening as always.  The presenters were:

    First, after the networking over beer and snacks, we all went into the auditorium.  We started off with some crazy Ted video, while everyone chatted.  This was the first event I’ve been at with a twitterstream.  Robert Reich did some administrative stuff, including a plea for money.  Apparently, the new tech meetup requires about 1300 dollars a month to keep going–mostly for food and drink–and sponsorship has dried up.  Then there was an opportunity for job announcements.  There were 4-5; most were for php programmers, though I did hear one for a Django programmer.  We did not do ‘looking for work’ announcements–is that ominous?

    Events were announced after the job announcements petered out.  Andrew Hyde announced that Startup Weekend Boulder is this weekend. The Boulder Small Business Development Center (who knew there was one?) is having a workshop June 3rd about ‘access to capital’.  There’s an Ignite Boulder coming up in July.  I’m sure I missed one or two announcements.  Then we were on to the presentations. Apparently, if you launch at the New Tech Meetup, you have the option of going ‘under the microscope’.  I think this means that you crowdsource some of your business ideas to the New Tech Meetup; Robert mentioned that it also included some other services, including 30 minutes with one of the Foundry Group founders.

    LocalBunny apparently launched last month and chose to go ‘under the microscope’, and had an open board meeting tonight.  They have a service that allows users to ask questions on facebook, sms (soon) and twitter, and get answers from companies.  They used to have some kind of consumer play, but after a month of market feedback, have decided to focus on providing ‘white label’ social media integration to businesses.  The use case is, I ask a question of the Boulder Theater via my facebook status.  This goes to the Local Bunny servers, which attempt to answer it in an automated fashion, via whatever avenue you asked the question.  If the answer is not available, it is passed on to the company in question, and you are notified of that.  My take is that this could be very useful, but it will be hard for me as a user to know how to contact the appropriate company.  In addition, one of the selling points is that the answer to the question may be broadcast on your facebook status (again, depending on how you ask the question)–I’m not a fan of that.  And the idea of automated answers seems like a hard sell; I did miss the initial launch and perhaps that demoed this crucial piece.

    Next up was Ken Zolot, who was a TechStars mentor.  He’s an MIT professor, interested in the ecology of entrepeneurship, and specializes in taking products from ‘tech push to market pull’.  He mentioned that ta key peice of the ecology for startups is mentors, and not famous ones.  Real local mentors who engage with you and help you through your mistakes.  Specialized mentors who have rolodexes, specialties in team dynamics and/or market connection expertise can be especially helpful.  And Ken doesn’t have a blog!

    Then there was a presentation from a representative of the Singapore government IT department, aka IDA (I did not catch his name).  He had some difficulties with his presentation, but he called off some great statistics about Singapore.  It has 4.5 million people in an area smaller than the San Francisco Bay.  Singapore has a national infrastructure plan: Intelligent Nation 2015.  They are really good at building infrastructure–they’ve already saturated the entire country with wifi (7500 hotspots) and will have 1GB fiber everywhere by 2012.  (They are also replicating the infrastructure throughout Asia.)  His presentation wasn’t all that focused, but he was evangelizing Singapore as a hub for tech development, especially for companies that need fat pipes (video, etc).  He did tell a funny story about an investigation into a GPS driven bus location system, so that you could know exactly when the next bus will come.  He said the proposal was considered, but not funded when further research showed that the buses ran every three minutes anyway!  (Shades of the NASA pen urban legend and Nextbus!)  He didn’t really address concerns about the government choosing winners (versus the marketplace); I guess with the US financial crisis and China’s rise, the marketplace is out of favor a bit.  He did say that the government doesn’t want to run, say, a fiber optic network, so it hands over operations to private concerns; however, the government still apparently has a say in the pricing.  All in all, it is pretty impressive that the meetup can draw a foreign representative.

    Then Matt from Clixo presented.  They are a boutique search engine marketing and conversion firm in Denver.  He condensed a one hour presentation into 5 minutes.  Matt gave a great example of improving the conversion for a software company.  Their focus is on lead generation and basic SEO–they primarily aim at taking companies that have awful websits and making them better by researching and focusing on target audience and measureable outcomes.  I think Matt might have missed his aim a bit–I can’t imagine anyone at the BDNT not taking conversion seriously.  I talked to one of his coworkers afterwards and pointed them to GWO, which I thought might complement their current offerings nicely.

    The iVolunteer folks did something different with their five minutes.  They talked about 30 seconds about the concept–networked apps on the phone and elsewhere that make it easy for you to volunteer–and then asked for help from the crowd.  Apparently, all the good domain names with anything resembling ‘volunteer’ in them are gone; these folks wanted help with a new name.  They wrote down a bunch.  Interesting use of a lot of intellectual firepower.  And by interesting, I mean I’m not sure if it was wise or not.

    Last up was Lijit.  After a quick overview of what Lijit does (combines a bunch of sources of online information into one profile; allows you to search on them via a javascript widget; they also run their own ad network), the presenters (Micah and Grace) gave an overview of Lijit’s new, pre-alpha tool that allows you to measure online influence.  Influence, according to Lijit, consists of three things.  Audience, trust and expertise.  Return visitors and discovery based visitors are proxies for audience.  Relationship number and strength is a proxy for trust, and Lijit searches are a proxy for expertise.  He showed a demo of ‘influence’, which Lijit condenses down into one number.  Currently, it is done at a large granularity, but the plan is to have it get finer and finer.  This seems like a great idea, especially if you are Lijit and want to sell ads, until you realize that influence is a very fluid thing.  I might be an influence on GWT to some folks, (friends that are evaluating it).  I would not be to others.  My parents consider me influential regarding computers; my IT friends don’t.  I guess where Lijit loses me is that they don’t appear to treat ‘audience’ with enough respect–the type of reader is at least as important as my content.  Again, this was all based on a 5 minute presentation of a pre-alpha project, so I’m sure it has room to grow.  Lijit certainly has the data to make it interesting.

    And that was all of the June 2009 Boulder Denver New Tech Meetup, Boulder edition.  As always, it was a great networking scene, lots of energy and excitement, and good laughs.  I will say that the twitterstream made things more interesting; there were at least two funny comments that got everyone laughing up on the screen.  I think it would be interesting as a presenter to see the stream (it was behind them) and hae a chance to interact more.

    Update June 5, 10:37 am: Via the the CO Startup Tracking Twitter feed, I found that RockyRadar has a nice write up of the June BDNTM.  I’ve written about them before, glad to see they’re still going strong.

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    Colorado Tech News Roundup Site

    Via Kevin Cawley (who also has an interesting post on the changing nature of blogging), I found Rocky Radar, which claims to be “Colorado’s Technology Record”. We’ll see how long the folks behind it keep it up–I certainly hope they do.

    The Radar started in Sep of 2008 and covers info tech, clean tech, life science and CU news. They do have a nice calendar of Colorado Tech events, even if there’s no ical format exposed.

    Hey Rocky Radar founders, here’s an idea I’ve been toying with. CU has a ton of mailing lists announcing free talks across a number of academic interests. Why not

    1. aggregate them all in one massive list, or
    2. provide some kind of calendar interface to them


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