I love you.
When it comes to a loving a place, it’s always a combination—the place itself and the people you meet there.
For example I met wonderful people living in Washington DC, but the place itself stressed me out. I kept ending up in the Pentagon parking lot by accident. I love the people in DC, don’t love the city.
Philadelphia has wonderful people and I seriously loved the town. The stress and celebrity get siphoned off to New York and DC and leaves the big, badass, City of Brotherly Love to keep its awesomeness secret.
Greater Philadelphia contains 5.8 million people, making it the 5th biggest metro area in the USA. It has a big, robust mass transit system, and a constellation of colleges and universities to rival Boston—University of Pennsylvania, Temple, Drexel, University of the Arts, Villanova, Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Swarthmore, St Joseph’s, and Rutgers -Camden, and the University of Delaware (yes, much of Delaware is basically a Philly suburb) to name just a few. Philadelphia has history to burn, picturesque streets, layers of immigration, a solid international airport, interesting neighborhoods, and if you have lived in DC and New York City as I did, you will find Philly rent and real estate prices a steal.
Philly is an hour and a quarter from the Jersey shore,
an hour from Amish country
Plus, if you need it, you’ve got easy access to New York and DC. It’s just two hours each direction.
As geographer Jim Russell put it to me, Philadelphia is ideally placed for locational arbitrage. In English, that means Philly has a great location between two mega nodes of business, government and Culture, NYC and DC. And it’s big enough to have its own critical mass.
Like other big cities, Philly was punched in the gut by the decline of heavy industry in the 1970’s and 1980’s. But it’s been long enough for the city to stabilize and let its other assets flower.
With the emergence of networked culture, the many dots of Philly are starting to connect to each other and create a beautiful picture. Here are a few of my favorite people that are connecting the dots or who just made Philly a place that I love.
Roz Duffy. Roz helps organize dot connecting events like BarCamp Philly, Refresh Philly, and now TEDx Philly. She also is just straight up good people and has a very nice cat. Roz has good taste and paradoxically puts that good taste to effect organizing open, self organizing events, proving that not all self organization is created equal.
Alex Hillman. Alex helped found Independents Hall, a coworking community in Old City. When I moved to Philadelphia, I joined Independents Hall and had an instant network of hackers, designers, telecommuters, scientists, and homebrewers. Indy Hall is a membership club which provides its devotees with shared workspace, an active online discussion group, and excellent social and educational events. Meanwhile, I’ve seen Alex build up his business and community ventures. Inspiring stuff. Aside from his own ventures Alex helps create spaces where other people can shine. He is dangerously awesome.
Geoff Dimasi. Geoff is also one of the founders of Indy Hall, but works offsite at his own company, P’unk Ave. Geoff helps organize community events like the Junto and Ignite Philly. He partners with the Free Library of Philadelphia to help them connect with a younger, more digitally connected generation and was always a friendly face in the neighborhood.
Chris Bartlett. Chris is an uber connector and a mensch. He recently took a position as the director of the The William Way Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center. Sexual identity is something that cuts across all socioeconomic groups and neighborhoods, giving Chris a unique window into the fabric of the whole city. Chris also makes a point to connect to Philadelphia’s technology, government, and business communities. Among his many initiatives, Chris started the Philadelphia Gay History Wiki which documents the lost generation of gay Philadelphians who perished in the AIDS onslaught of the 80’s and 90s. Chris has been thinking about what healthy community means for decades. Philly is lucky to call him its own.
Kelani Nichole and Howie Ross. Just plain good people. OK, they are smart and good looking too. Kelani helps connect the art world to the nerd world and vice versa. Plus she is one of the main forces behind BarCamp Philly. Thanks for being awesome.
Kevin Werbach. How many business school professors do you see narrating a slideshow called “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in World of Warcraft?” If you know a single one, I guarantee that his name is Kevin Werbach. Kevin connects the world of DC telecommunication policy wonkery to the worlds of business, government, and culture with his Supernova Forum conference. This year is the first time he held it in Philadelphia, where he brought together representatives from Google and Comcast, raconteurs like Dana Boyd and Jeff Jarvis, and representatives of startups like Etsy and Packlate. Kevin brought me in to do large scale visual notes of sessions at Supernova and he was a pleasure to work with. Tip of the hat to Kevin.
John Coffey. John Coffey is a sailor, windsurfer, videoblogger, and a friend. One day I was going to shoot photos at a political rally and when I brainstormed with my wife who I should call if she was not available and I got caught up in the craziness and needed to get bailed out of jail. We locked eyes and simultaneously said “John Coffey.” (I know we should have consulted you first John, but now you know). How many people do you know who you would call in that circumstance? For me, John is that guy. And a big hug to Sam who is always a blast to hang out with on Chesapeake Bay or or on terra firma.
Liana Dragoman and Brent Boyd. Liana is an artist turned UX designer and Brent is a machinist turned engineer who I met at the PhillyCHI Design Slam. Brent took us fly fishing in Pennypack Creek in North Philly and Liana hit us up with some homemade jam. Here’s Brent’s homemade backyard hydroponic garden.
And here’s a link to a salad Liana made with her backyard produce.
Michael Carvin. Mike is one of the people who makes PhillyCHI the excellent organization that it is. I appreciate his contribution to the Philly UX/CHI scene and give him a long distance hi five.
Bill Green. I met city councilman Bill Green during Philly’s push to get Google to install a high speed local data network in a Philly neigborhood.
We shot this little video:
Bill gets the potential of the tech sector’s contribution to Philadelphia. I even see him coworking occasionally at Indy Hall. Here’s to a new school vision in a historic city.
Gloria Bell. Gloria is always out and about promoting Philly businesses and supporting them through her consulting services. Gloria is an ambassador of social media marketing to normal people, and that is a crucial niche.
Yuriy Porytko. Yuriy has a helpful spirit combined with business, finance and technology acumen that make him a gift to Philly’s emerging technology startup scene. And he knows how to have a good time. Nazdrovia!
Manny Rechani. With Manny, I’m reaching into central New Jersey, but since I met Manny in Philly and he does trek down to the city frequently, he makes my list. Manny and I met after TrendCamp. After years helping big companies wrangle massive dataflows, he started the Innovators Club where old dogs mingle with new dogs to exchange wisdom and learn new tricks. Manny gets the official Jonny G. stamp of awesomeness.
Kevin Lee. Kevin is a charismatic introvert, an original thinker, a storyslammmer, and a stubborn dreamer. Since I’ve known him, I have seen him pushing himself to learn new things from visual thinking, to storytelling, to iPhone app development. He dreams, and he has the stubborn persistence to follow those dreams. That is the recipe for awesomeness.
Jonas Milder is the Chair of the Masters of Industrial Design (MID) Program at University of the Arts. Jonas has reinvented the department with the goal of helping each student become a “…facilitator, enabling a dialog among the various stakeholders involved and affected by the project or challenge at hand.” In doing this students help create cross disciplinary approaches to help real world clients like Campbell’s Soup, Independents Hall, and the City of Philadelphia with complex challenges. Jonas is a visionary who actually knows how to build.
Noticing a theme here?
Fraser Marshall and Justin Witman. Justin and Fraser recently completed the MID program at UArts, Their project was an exploration of how to integrate design processes into facilitation. They call their precess Humantic design, and I am inspired by their practical approach to using design to help groups converge around productive ways to untie knotty problems.
So this is a VERY partial list of the people who made Philly a wonderful place for me. I am really enjoying Pittsburgh. I am looking forward to meeting more people here and contributing to the social fabric in this city, but a big bleeding chunk of my heart is in Philly.
P.S. I’m going to keep adding people to this entry as they pop into my head so keep checking back.
Melinda Emerson. Her mission to prevent small business failure. She practices what she preaches, working with targeted intensity over time to help businesses succeed.
Will Evans. About half way into my two year stint in Philly, Will Evans moved to town adding a strange X factor to the fabric of the my personal geospacetime continuum. Will didn’t open doors for me so much as show me that certain doors existed. For that, and for pure entertainment value received, I am in his debt.
Bianca Cevoli is funny, smart, and stylish. In fact she is the bomb (the one on the left in the picture above).
julia pellicciaro I almost did not include her in this list, because she is no longer in Philly. Funny enough she moved to Pittsburgh where I now live! Julia was a big part of VizThink Philly and is a soulful humanist with an analytic mind and warm heart.