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5 min, 20 slides – My Lady Gaga Ignites Portland

with 5 comments

A few years ago I took the job as a Software Community Manager focused on educating and promoting Parallel Programming (writing software that runs on multiple processors simultaneously). I am not an expert parallel programmer but was up for the challenge of creating an online place for global software developers to meet and learn about techniques, trends, frameworks around this specialized area of software development. During the past few years I’ve seen the community grow to what many developer think of as the leading community on the web for all things parallel. I’ve had the opportunity to meet many great developers and am honored to have their continued contribution to the community.

As word of the community success spread I’ve been asked to share my learnings and experience. I started with a few presentations showing how managing a community is like having a party. You need to be a gracious host and take care of your guests. This metaphor has been well received and seemed to have inspired a few fellow community manager. Bob Duffy took another direction and compared managing a community the P. Diddy way (Bob added build a posse and go on road trips to the party metaphor. I really liked his ideas and incorporated them into my presentation. I added the concept of super fans as the fourth key step and knew that I now had the foundation for an humorous and engaging talk that would be perfect for an Ignite event.

The Ignite format is simple; tell a 5 minute story with 20 slides that auto advance every 15 seconds. I saw my first Ignite in 2006 when attended the Gnomedex conference in Seattle. The Ignite idea has spread all over the world and on October 2007 the magic happened in my town when Josh Bancroft and the Legion of Tech organize the first Ignite Portland.

When I found out that the 9th Portland Ignite event was looking for presenters I wrote up an abstract and made my pitch. The committee liked my ideas and I was selected to present on September 23rd at the Bagdad Theater.
I put together my deck and then practiced with anyone who I could get to sit down and watch me talk for 5 minutes. I presented to geeks, artists, athletes, marketeers, friends, my staff, and my boss’s staff. I would like to thank all of those who heard it multiple times and everyone who provided great feedback and suggesting for telling an even more engaging story.

I selected Lady Gaga to be my pop culture and accessible reference that would guide my audience from the general to the specifics of a community focused on Parallel Programming. Gaga is a global icon and has been successful at implementing the four key techniques for building a community; Entourage, Road Trips, Super Fans and Parties. So having a locked in presentation I now need to consider wether to go all the way with a costume or play it safe.

I had no fear about pulling the costume off but I did not want to have the costume be a distractor (eat into my 5 minutes) or be a mask that would prevent me from connecting with who I am with the crowd. I had a fun hipster outfit from being in my brothers wedding party that I knew would work for the foundation. And for my face and head I went platinum blonde with HUGE black sunglasses. It all came together perfectly!

Once word of my prevention got out I had a great group of friend turn out to watch me present. Ignite has been held at the Bagdad Theater in Portland for the past few years and for most of the shows they have hit the ~700 person fire capacity. For Ignite 9 they filled up again. They set up a simulcast in the back bar to get even more people engaged in the event to watch the 19 presenters.

Getting up a stage was a total head rush. My 6’5″ frame in shorts topped with a wig and sunglasses set the crowd off the second I took the stage. Ignite attracts Portland’s creative class and the totally loved the edgy appearance and over the top Gaganess. I thought that I’d be much more nervous but the lights were so bright and my pitch so rehearsed I just went into auto pilot and presented to the abyss of darkness. I kicked of my presentation with a few shout outs and the  crowd loved it. The transition from Gaga to Parallel Programming was smooth and the programmers in the house added even more energy.

When it was all over I was relieve. It was exhilarating and if I got a chance to do it again I might change a few elements of the story but for the most part it was EXCELLENT! I can’t wait to come up with another idea so that I can take what I’ve learned and do it even better! Watch the video and let me know what you think.

Written by mediumtall

September 28, 2010 at 12:06 am

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. Love the hair and the shorts.

    Clay B

    September 29, 2010 at 4:06 pm

  2. Thanks for the lesson in all things Gaga and Parallel Programming. Unique idea.

    P.S. I like the blonde.

    Lori G

    October 1, 2010 at 6:28 am

  3. Clay & Lori – Thanks for the comments. Great to hear you enjoyed my little colorful talk.


    October 1, 2010 at 5:44 pm

  4. Nice one Aaron!

    Jon Mountjoy

    October 5, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    • Jon,
      Great to hear you enjoyed.
      I thought about doing a “What Jon teaches us about building a community” but I don’t think that Jon has the draw that Gaga has.


      October 5, 2010 at 7:52 pm

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