Delaware has a lot of lessons for PA: Whitney Hoffman - Technical.ly Delaware

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Nov. 25, 2014 12:04 pm

Delaware has a lot of lessons for PA: Whitney Hoffman

Whitney Hoffman is a one woman operation: digital media expert, politician, educator, podcaster and traveler. She just ran for the Pennsylvania statehouse, but she hasn't truly left Delaware yet.
A digital media consultant, Whitney Hoffman keeps a healthy dose of Delaware ties, despite living in Chadds Ford, Pa., and recently running for public office there.

A digital media consultant, Whitney Hoffman keeps a healthy dose of Delaware ties, despite living in Chadds Ford, Pa., and recently running for public office there.

(Photo courtesy of Whitney Hoffman)

Whitney Hoffman has one of the more eclectic résumés you will ever read.

From owning her own digital media company to her recent (unsuccessful) Democratic run for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (she currently lives in Chadds Ford), Hoffman has been part of Delaware and Philadelphia tech communities for years.

Long before she formed Hoffman Digital Media, Hoffman was drawn to science and technology. She spent her teenage years learning how to program in BASIC.

Hoffman later attended the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied biology, before heading to Dickinson Law School.

She got deeper into the tech scene in 2005 by podcasting, blogging and producing for LD podcast, which features weekly posts on learning disabilities. She was also inspired by the Podcamp in Boston and helped form the first Podcamp Philly soon thereafter.

With longtime Newark, Del., resident, lawyer and lobbyist Turner Madden, who died last year, she contributed several chapters and served as a research assistant to his legal writing career. The pair worked to create ADA access for the Super Bowl’s early online presence and stayed on for eight years of web services.

“Surprisingly, we couldn’t talk the NFL into doing some things early on to ease information access at the game,” she said. “I still own the domain NFLSuperBlog.com.”

Here, we talk about her time management and view of Delaware-Pennsylvania relations.

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What’s your background in the tech world?

I’ve been interested in technology since we had an Atari 2600 at home growing up. I learned how to program in BASIC in high school — back when hi-res graphics on an Apple II was a pretty nifty thing to be able to do — and for my science projects in high school I built a digitizer and a computer operated electromagnet/light beam set up that would allow us to calculate the acceleration and gravitational force on objects. It was pretty cool.

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What’s kind of funny is that you can do all of this now with Lego Mindstorms, but back in the late 70s, early 80s, this was pretty cool stuff.

As an adult, I started podcasting and blogging in 2005. I joined Twitter very early on — I [was] the 10,234 person to join — and with a bunch of folks I met at Podcamp, we went through many social media milestones together, like joining Facebook the first day it was open to people without .edu addresses and staying up to reserve our “custom” Facebook url, etc.

Podcasting was sort of the second iteration of my tech self. For many years in the middle there, while I was in college and law school, I taught classes in things like Word Perfect, but I wasn’t doing a ton of programming, mostly using the nascent web and services like Nexus Lexis, learning boolean search, etc.

You have Delaware ties but live in Pennsylvania. Talk about that dynamic.

We moved over the border to Chadds Ford after living in Delaware for nine years, mostly because of the schools. I often feel like I still live in Delaware because so many people work, shop and send their kids to (other) schools in Delaware.

Delaware could annex a large part of southern Chester County and Delaware County and no one would notice.

Even having just run for the State Legislature in PA, I feel like the challenges we face are regional rather than totally dependent on state borders, and I think PA can learn a lot from the efficiencies Delaware has put in place, and a lot of the business development programs Delaware has. I had hoped to win to get many of these started over the border here in PA.

The strength of Delaware is in the ability to take an idea, pilot it and get it adopted statewide without years of passing the buck around.

In larger states, there’s often so much resistance and inertia that it’s much more difficult to make the big changes, even to a state’s website, that Delaware has done and ended up serving the community so much better in the process.

How often do you check your email?

More often than I should. Three times a day, minimum. If I’m stuck in traffic or waiting in line, add a few more times.

What’s your design and computer gear (program preference/ones you use the most, Mac or PC)?

I have been “bilingual” but when our last PC crashed, we went all Mac. The design and digital production studios are wonderful to work with, and much less fussy than many similar programs on the PC.

For audio production, I use Audacity, Garageband and The Levellator (to bring audio levels in line). For video, Final Cut and iMovie.

I love WordPress for most websites, because most themes are mobile responsive and that saves a huge amount of time. While I use Pages and Keynote frequently for presentations and handouts, I’m equally comfortable in Word or Google Docs. I do hate normal Powerpoint, though.

Skitch is one of the easiest programs ever to take and annotate screen shots, which is incredibly handy when constructing “how to” guides for folks. And I love Evernote and Dropbox for keeping things organized and available regardless of what device I’m using.

So many things are going web-based, I love anything that allows me to be device-agnostic and get the information I need, anywhere, any time.

What’s one way in which you believe your day-to-day work is better now than it has been in the past? Is there something you do now (or don’t do) that has made a big difference?

Finding a work flow is critical.

I try to set out the things that must be accomplished the next day the night before, because it’s much easier to stay on task by doing a few minutes of planning in advance.

My day typically starts early getting the family up around 5 a.m., and I use that quiet time to check email, headlines, and get myself ready so as soon as everyone else is out the door, my day can start quickly.

Working as a consultant, time management is key, and making sure to have a schedule set up in advance prevents me from wandering too far off course. That took some time to learn, but now I’m super productive early on in the day, so anything that comes up later, once the rest of the world is starting to get up to speed, doesn’t throw the must-do’s off track.

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