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Conference Review: Wharton Web Conference 2014

Today I got to attend the Wharton Web Conference, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I had gone last year, when Felicia Day had done the keynote. It’s a really fantastic tech conference to go to that offered three different tracks this year: content, developer, and design. (I did the content track!).

A few things were different: they had volunteers with plaid shirts to guide people (VERY helpful), with our badges we were given the opportunity to put stickers on them to make networking easier, and they had created an app (that I didn’t use) that had a list of all the talks and where they’d be.

So, let’s begin, shall we?

Breakfast 

Since I knew the conference would have nom-tastic food, I chose to skip breakfast at home and partake in some sugar-y delights. It’s amazing how good the food was (superior to the food I had at GDC in every way!). And I got to run into Amanda Lange there, who I originally met at Lady Hacks earlier this year.

Breakfast

Breakfast

Keynote: Danah Boyd

Danah Boyd

Danah’s speech was… amazing. Even though she spoke a bit quickly, I loved her talk. One of my biggest issues at tech events is the overwhelming lack of diversity: if there are women at the event, they tend to be white (or asian). The entire time I was there, I only saw three other black women despite an attendance of 300 people.

I will say, though, that I was thrilled that Wharton chose another woman as the keynote speaker (and oh.my.God was she brilliant! I’d never met anyone who instantly inspired me and made me want to follow them to the ends of the Earth while in their presence).

In her talk, Danah made consistent mentions to systemic oppression, societal injustices, racism, capitalism – the whole nine yards. I immediately became interested in her work, particularly the intersectional lens between big data and social justice.

After her talk, I thanked her for talking about these issues (especially since they’re not as prevalant in tech as they need to be), about how these kinds of events tend to be geared toward white, hetero, cis men and no one ever really talks about social justice. (Afterward, one of the volunteers told me that Wharton strives to be as inclusive as possible, which I appreciated, though I didn’t catch the volunteer’s name).

Danah Boyd

Session 1: Links as Language: A Contextual Approach to Content Creation by David Dylan Thomas

Link As Language

This was definitely my favorite talk all day. First off, David’s definitely a nerd (which naturally I appreciated!) and mentioned video games and movies that had a gameplay narrative (a non-linear way of telling a story, like Groundhog Dog or Edge of Tomorrow).

But for me, the key to a good talk is that my mind is expanded in some capacity by the speaker, and that that knowledge can be applied to my own life and thinking.

I loved this quote (that I tweeted) from David’s speech:

And… that’s just so ground-breaking to me. In his talk, David showed us pictures of the Universe, of the brain, and talked about how it’s not just the web that’s interconnected, but all of us too. To me, when your blog is small (and therefore lacks any kind of readership, community or notoriety), it can feel like you’re talking into the ether, that no one is listening. Having links can help connect you to others (it’s probably why so many bloggers do weekly link round-ups!) while building your presence online.

Link as Language
Links, I think, are often overlooked because they’re so common. But they’re SO important to our content and they’re a key component in how giving you are as a blogger. It’s perfectly acceptable to link others to awesome, and worthwhile content that’ll help or entice them!

Lunch

By this point I was completely starving. Even though lunch wasn’t phenomenal, it was pretty tasty. (I definitely wish the salmon had been warm instead of cold).

WWC Lunch

WWC Lunch

WWC Lunch

WWC Lunch

WWC Lunch

Session 2: How Videogames are Changing the Way We Learn by Chris Stubbs 

The reason I had attended this talk: GAMES. I love anything that’s about games, so naturally I felt compelled. Even though educational games are interesting to me, it’s almost purely conceptual. I did, however, love his example of EconU – a game designed to help students in a Microeconomics class – and enjoyed his examples of how playing games helped get the students really engaged (such as the class that used Guitar Hero to get middle schoolers interested in music education). And I did particularly enjoy this one tweetable (that I paraphrased):

Chris Stubbs

I also liked how he talked about gamification – an idea that still alludes me at times – where businesses will do things like include badges and leveling up components (ie: Starbucks upgrading you every time you buy X amount of coffee). And Chris mentioned how his team needs to make games for the blind – and accessibility in tech is pretty important (and often overlooked).  Overall, I really enjoyed this talk. 

Break

Cupcakes! Cookies! And other delicious things! Oh my!

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Snacks

Session 3: Orchestrating Content by Sara Wachter-Boettcher

This is the talk that allowed me to discover how I learn best: context (which is one of my strength finder’s actually), big picture, and applicable metaphors that break down the big picture stuff into succinct and understandable concepts.

It’s not that Sara was a poor speaker, but the construction of her speech didn’t align with how I learn best. Immediately, she dived into her presentation and began talking about her work as a content strategist and for the entirety of the talk I wasn’t sure what she meant by content – she had never defined it, or placed it within a framework for her speech.

Orchestrating Content

Upon further reflection, I realized that she also hadn’t really integrated the concept of an orchestra into her talk, instead giving a hat tip to it before quickly moving on to the next topic.

I definitely wish she had created a foundation by explaining who she was, what her work was, and what she would go over in her talk. It felt like random information, and I can’t say I was completely engaged. Perhaps her next speech – if she gives another talk here in Philly – will be much better.

Happy Hour! 

The end of the conference! The food was – again – delicious. I didn’t really stay long – I was full, and tired from being around people all day.

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Overall Impression: I loved being at the Wharton Web Conference – the talks are diverse and interesting, and there’s definitely something for everyone! I’m excited for next year already!

Outside Kitty

Using Regret To Create Clarity

Note: Some images I took with my new 50mm lens!! I loved these so much I wanted to share them with you. Please don’t edit or re-use without my permission!

Call Box

As I was working on another post, I realized that I struggle with clarity because I have no idea what will make me happy. In the past, I realized that a lot of the decisions I made were based around survival and trying to escape from trauma of some kind. I’ve never really had the opportunity to explore my interests in any significant or meaningful way.

I’m not entirely sure I understand why.

But through the rocky road of entrepreneurship over this past year, I’ve been given a crash course in Who I Am. I’ve certainly uncovered more about myself since working on my own than in the 20 some odd years I’ve been on Earth. If nothing else, working for myself and having to rely on myself for an income has tested me.

There were definitely a lot of growing pains, missteps and fuck-ups. Things didn’t work out, ended up being a waste of my time, or probably would’ve worked out had I been in a different place at that particular moment. And although I struggle with clarity around my future, I do have fantastic hindsight. (Doesn’t everybody?!).

Outside Kitty

Spending a lot of time trying to survive, doesn’t lend itself well to self-exploration. When everything you do is about making sure you have money for food, or a roof over your head – there’s little room to think. Even decisions that I thought were centered around “happiness” were tinged heavily with the worrisome energy of desperation, uncertainty and survival. I got attached to these decisions because they often represented something I needed: freedom, money, stability.

Moving to Philadelphia to pursue Americorps was one of those decisions. Living in cramped, and impoverished conditions at home, the atmosphere quickly grew stifling. Suddenly I was too old to be living at home, I needed a higher paying job, I wasn’t doing anything, etc etc. Americorps, despite all of its failings as a program, gave me the one-way ticket out that I needed. Living with family has never been an option for me and this continues to be the case.

And while living here has mostly been the opposite of pleasurable, I don’t live with family anymore – and for that I’m eternally grateful.

But it’s a decision that nonetheless has left me in a tailspin as I become more complacent and risk averse. Staying here has been one of my bigger regrets – but finances have been keeping me here. As I try to figure out what my next step should be, I think of the more persistent regrets I’ve had over the past two years:

  • Not moving out of the city
  • Not taking the time to develop my tech skills
  • Not prioritizing my French, and working to develop it
  • Not writing :(

In a lot of posts about personal development, a lot of people talk about passion, pursuing happiness (or bliss), or some other overwhelming emotional state. I think for me, my goal should be to have a life with as little regrets as possible. What this means is doing what I want, when I want to. I’ve pursued things when I didn’t have the skills to back myself up – and I don’t regret those decisions at all – and I’ve done things that I thought were rational and would help me – and I regret several of those decisions all the time.

Solo Flower

At the end of my life, I’d like to think that I took the opportunity to do with my life what I wanted and that I trusted myself to know I could handle the consequences of those choices.

I don’t know what I want my life to look like 5 or 10 years from now – and there’s no reason why I should. But, at least a year from now, I’d like to think that I took a chance on myself – on my life – and didn’t let myself get sucked into complacency (or risk aversion) because I didn’t trust myself enough.

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Top 5 Favorite Travel Blog Instagrammers

 

Ever since I got Instagram a few months back, I’ve become SUPER addicted to following people. Sadly, it’s become the first app I check when I wake up (and I check it consistently throughout the day as well). I love the new editing features, and being able to take a peak into other people’s lives. And since I’ve been on Instagram there are definitely a few feeds that I’ve been FEELING enjoying! (They’re in no particular order).

1. C’est Christine

Honestly, I’ve been following C’est Christine for so long, I can’t remember how I found her (where or when!) but I really love her photos. She recently spent her birthday in Turkey and the images were ah-mazing! I loved them (and of course was envious of her time spent there).

2. Cheryl Howard

Cheryl is another blogger I’ve been following for ages. I had been really drawn to her blog because she was living in Berlin at the time (now she’s back in Toronto) and I was really curious about how she funded her stay over there! I consistently love her photos – they’re so magnificent!

3. Roving Altruist

I’ve been following JoAnna (aka: For The Intolerants) for awhile now (back when she was living in Egypt) and have been a huge fan of her food-centric adventures! Her blog is a lot of fun (especially since I don’t consider myself much of a foodie – it’s pretty great to watch other people appreciate it). I do believe I met her via the #WOCTT (which is either defunct or on hiatus) chat that used to meet every Wednesday. (I also love the cool editing feature she does to the edges of all her pictures! I wish my Android could do that… I need an iPhone!).

4. Mevallieres

This blog is SUPER new for me. I actually found out about Marie via clicking around on Instagram (and didn’t even visit the blog until I wrote this post!). When I first stumbled across Marie, she was in Iceland – taking the most beautiful photos but now she’s back in Montreal continuing to take great pictures!

5. Andi Fisher

Andi is another new travel blog person for me, and I also discovered her Instagram while clicking around and getting sucked into the Internet. And again, I’m just now visiting her blog to write this post. (As an aside, I’m IN LOVE with her blog header. I don’t know where she got it from but I want it!). And although I just said I’m not a foodie – I LOVE DUMPLINGS. *nom nom nom*

Who are your favorite Instagram peeps? I’d love to know (and follow more people!).

Girls Rowing

Photo Diary: My Time at Boathouse Row

A few days ago I decided to experiment with my dSLR (which I’m still learning) and wanted to spend some time hanging out at Boathouse Row, which is where the local colleges keep all their houses for the students that row. Anyway, without further ado, my day visiting Boathouse Row in images!

A picture I took of a mom and her son. I loved using my longer lens so I can get a shot like this. Definitely reminds me of the limitations I experienced with my old point and click!

Mom and Son

I really liked these pictures I caught of the Philadelphia skyscrapers. Though it’s not the skyline EXACTLY, it’s still pretty cool.

Philly Skyline
Philly Skyline

And of course, the main reason I went: to see people rowing! I also found it really fascinating because it reminded me of The Social Network. (Love that movie!). (You’ll probably see a few repeating faces since there were only a few boats out that day).

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