To tell the story of Refresh Philly, you have to go back to last November. It was then that Web developer Roz Duffy and friend J.P. Toto planned Philadelphia’s first ever BarCamp. In the spirit of BarCamp’s success, Duffy and BarCamp attendees Aaron Held, Arpit Mathur and John Riviello of Comcast Interactive Media decided to start Refresh Philly.
Coming up with a succinct description of Refresh Philly can be rather difficult for two reasons. The first is that the organization’s motto of “refreshing” industries purposefully leaves a lot of room for interpretation. And second, the group is in its infancy with only three meetings under its belt. But under the guidance of Duffy, Held, Mathur and Riviello, Refresh Philly is growing. The next gathering is planned for March 5th at the Comcast Center (Disclaimer: I am scheduled to give a brief presentation at the March event). Technically Philly sat down with Duffy to get the details behind one of Philadelphia’s newest meetup groups. Q&A after the jump:
Technically Philly: I suppose the obvious first question, what is Refresh Philly?
Roz Duffy: Refresh Philly is based on refreshingcities.org – “a community of designers and developers working to refresh the creative, technical, and professional culture of New Media endeavors in their areas. Promoting design, technology, usability, and standards.” A lot of people from CIM (Comcast Interactive Media) attended BarCamp Philly in the Fall of 2008, and wanted to continue the momentum. John Riviello, from CIM, had been involved with Refresh DC, and noticed that there wasn’t a Refresh in Philly, so we decided to create one!
Technically Philly: Can you go into a little detail about what is thought process behind “refreshing?” Is it new companies? New ideas?
Roz Duffy: New ideas. We also want to call attention to all of the great work that is happening in Philly. So far we have had Tom Boutell speak about Symfony, an open source PHP framework. Tom works at P’unk Ave which is a local firm that is responsible for the Junto. We’ve also had Phil Charron and Russ Starke from Think Brownstone – an experience design firm. They started a dialogue about what Refresh is and where it could go.
Technically Philly: Was this at the last event?
Roz Duffy: The last Refresh had Johnny Bilotta talking about the relationship between designers & developers in the software development process. He provided a bunch of resources about what kinds of applications to use and where to go to get inspired and learn more. He also talked up IndyHall Labs. Refresh meets the first Monday of the month, so we met January and Feb so far.
Technically Philly: How has the community responded to the events? How’s the turnout?
Roz Duffy: The first event had close to 100 people, I think they were curious more than anything. We had close to 60 for the 2nd one.
Technically Philly: So what can we expect at the next one?
Roz Duffy: The next one is going to be awesome! We will have the leaders behind three upcoming *Camps, Mary Ann Geier from HealthCamp, you from BarCamp NewsInnovation, and Dave Konopka from HigherEdCamp give a short presentation on what their events are all about. Our two presenters are Luke Crawford, the CTO of Muxtape (not sure what he is talking about) and Todd Warfel, a design researcher, giving a talk on rapid iterative sketching.
Technically Philly: And finally, what do you have to say to anyone who is reading this and debating whether to go?
Roz Duffy: COME! I would say that each Refresh has a different variety of people, new faces and old faces, designers, artists, developers, programmers, activists, writers, etc. We build in time to network and hang out before the presentations start, and offer up audience participation through Q&As after each talk.
Technically Philly: Thanks, Roz.
Refresh Philly (RSVP)
Where: Comcast Center, 45th floor
When: March 2nd, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Every Friday, Technically Philly brings an interview with a leader or innovator in Philadelphia’s technology community. See others here.