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Refresh Philly Recap

By Phil Charron on January 16, 2009

Earlier this week, Russ and I presented at Refresh Philly. The best way to describe Refresh is to quote from their site:

Refresh is 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.

The Refresh Manifesto:
Let’s Gather Great Minds
Let’s Share All Of Our Knowledge
Let’s All Grow And Learn
Let’s Promote Local Talent
Let’s Be More Than We Think Can Be
Let’s Make Our Cities Better

We were preceded by two great presentations: Shaun Gering showing off Chirp – (a new tool for online communities for TV viewers from CIM) and Tom Boutell from P’unk Ave walking us through Symfony, a technology solution that employs a full-stack framework and a library of cohesive classes written in PHP5. Our presentation was titled Experience Design Step 1: Starting on the Right Foot and focused on the first step of any design project: Problem Statements and SMART Goals.


One of the great things about Refresh is that it’s wide open – the members get to define what their intentions are and how they will execute the Refresh Manifesto in Philadelphia. Our interpretation was that this is a unique opportunity in the design & development community to use our skills in an altruistic way to improve the city – however we, as a group, decide where we can have the most impact. Russ’s analogy of us all being like the “Superfriends congregating at the Hall of Justice” focused on the fact that some of the brightest designers and developers in the Philly area were overlooking our city on the 45th floor of the Comcast Center looking for ways to improve it. We opened the floor to a discussion of the types of things that could “Make Our City Better” – trying to be open-ended and idealistic about it in order to eventually come up with some goals and then figure out what skills and technology could be used to achieve them rather than the other way around.

What was even more exciting to me were the conversations that occurred after the sessions. As the crowd dissipated, everyone was buzzing over what Refresh would/could become. The Think Brownstone crew retired to a local watering hole with some friends to talk about where we fit into the Philly design community. The next day, Tom posted an entry on the P’unk Ave blog that began a discussion over the difference between front-end, back-end and design – and what the most productive relationships between those in each camp might look like. Jonny Goldstein posted a napkin sketch of our presentation.

I hope Russ’s superhero metaphor continues to prove itself: by day we could be mild-mannered competitors, vendors and clients, but by night we could band together to use our talents to refresh our communities. It will be interesting to see how this one pans out.