AUSTIN – In the Courtyard Rio Grande Hotel, just across the street from the Austin Convention Center, BarCamp Philly organizers Roz Duffy and Kelani Nichole walked up the escalator with a burlap sack and hustled down the hall.
“It’s our bag of balls,” said Duffy with a smile.
Culminating Philly’s strong presence here (TP has seen our share of Phillies caps and jerseys) was the Saturday session “How Geeks Grabbed Philadelphia by the Balls,” a panel led by Indy Hall co-founders Alex Hillman and Geoff DiMasi that aimed to help residents from other cities foster a tech community.
“So, a lot of shit has happened in the past three years,” said Hillman to a crowd that was half-filled with non-Philadelphia residents.
DiMasi and Hillman did their best to chronicle the development of Independent’s Hall, from the time the two met on a PANMA mailing list to the expansion of the space last year. The duo fielded questions from audience members asking how to replicate Philly’s rapid arrival to the national technology community.
One of the main talking points was Philly’s tech community’s relationship with local government. Several people asked if they should chase down government grants, and Hillman and DiMasi preached a hands-off approach to local government, repeatedly referencing CTO Allan Frank‘s and Councilman’s Bill Green’s recent interest in the community.
However Hillman was quick to criticize aspects of the government’s involvement saying that Frank “totally blew” his Ignite presentation and said his following presentation (“How to get people to do what you want”) was a direct reaction to Frank’s.
“I don’t know if he was upset, and quite frankly I don’t care,” he said.
The crowd responded strongly to the recent Google Fiber effort and the hackathon meeting that took place last weekend at Indy Hall. DiMasi and Hillman said that Councilman Green even said that he would think about working from the co-working space.
To emphasize the panel’s title, DiMasi and Hillman then tossed out rubber bouncy balls, surprising those looking down and taking notes on their laptops.
While “How Geeks Grabbed…” was the only Philly-specific panel, Philadelphia residents had a presence elsewhere here:
- Happy Cog, with offices in Philly and New York City also led its own panel titled “We F*cked Up: Happy Cog and Friends, Exploring Failures, Together”that was well-attended in one of the Convention Center’s main ballrooms.
- The Science Cheerleader, Darlene Cavalier, is on the scene, holding contests to promote science literacy.
- Good Company Ventures threw a SXSW party.
- Daring Fireball‘s John Gruber led a session with The Deck‘s Jim Coudal about Daring Fireball’s early struggles to monetize and The Deck’s less-is-more approach to an ad network.
- Azavea developer Reed Lauber, Allied Pixel designer Brian Crumley, Blue Cadet’s Jason Grandelli and consultant Michael Lies were also in town (Thanks to Crumley for his Twitter list).
- At SXSW Film, “Lebanon, Pa” detailed the plight of a Philadelphia man who has to bury his father.
- Dr. Dog and Drinkup Buttercup, both Philly staples, are set to perform at SXSW Music.
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