Art Documentation: Lo and Behold, I am Become as a God

The following two videos documents the little berlin gallery space during the >get >put exhibit. The first video is an overview of the gallery space after the previous nights panel discussion, the second video is documentation of how people experienced "Lo and Behold, I am become as a God." Enjoy.

What is a Mentor?

There are many types of mentors, from those that form relationships with young boys and girls to executives of large companies that guide promising new managers. The types of mentors this thesis is concerned about are experienced entrepreneurs "who actively contribute time, energy, and wisdom to startups" (Feld, 42). These mentors usually play an important role within their respective startup community (Feld, 42).

Mentors are different from advisors in their relationship with the startup. Even though an advisor and a mentor may have similar experiences, an advisor "has an economic relationship with the company he is advising" (Feld, 42). This difference between advisor and mentor stems from their motivation to contribute their experiences to the startup. The mentor's rewards from putting in time and energy is not a clear return on investment, but is a return on involvement. A return on involvement, the new ROI, is another way of saying that you're willing to "give before you get." Both Startup Communites by Brad Feld and The Rainforest by Hwang and Horowitt address the same cultural norm about entrepreneurs using different verbage. This norm, which extends to entrepreneurial mentors, is the willingness to give some of your time, energy, or wisdom to a startup or the community without having a clear return on your investment.

An infographic quantifying the relationship between a mentor and entrepreneur can be seen here.

Source: Startup Communities by Brad Feld

Back to Table of Contents.

Philadelphia Tech Startup Community

When I first began my thesis about mentors enabling entrepreneurial learning, I spent several months interviewing people looking for an area to focus within the Philadelphia Tech Startup Community. I began noticing patterns in the roles people played and eventually grouped their roles.

I then refined how everyone was interacting into a polished diagram, which aided as a tool to further discover where I should focus my thesis.

I then used this map as an interviewing tool to have interviewees show me where they perceive different resources to be allocated, for example, funding and mentorship. An example of one such interview is depicted below, a lengthier post about these interviews is here.

Finally, I went back to my studio and put the interviews all over the walls and again began looking for patterns and began drawing conclusions. A post about the analysis of these interviews is here.

View Table of Contents.

Thesis Committee Presentation: Mentoring System

My presentation to my thesis committee went well this past Wednesday. The final pieces of research and prototype implementations that need to occur are only a few months away. Two major steps that need to be taken is to collect ten to twenty more recordings of mentoring conversations and visualize them. The purpose is to create a baseline measurement before implementing the request for mentoring form. Creating a baseline will let me measure whether the request for mentoring form is effective or ineffective at enabling knowledge and experience transfer from mentor to entrepreneur. An example of one such conversation visual is shown below:

A few minor steps that need to be taken includes fleshing out the design for the different pieces of the mentoring system. I used prezi to present a poster of the mentoring system to my thesis committee, which you can interact with below. The only piece from the mentoring system that's reached a state for implementation is the request for mentoring form. The other pieces that need to be designed include the business readiness intake, the match-making system, the follow-up form, and the mentor sign-up form.

PSL ListServ Streamgraph

Has the PSL ListServ lost it's mojo? Short answer, no. But take a look at the streamgraph below to see the ebb and flow of various words used by the community. It seems that the amount of times the word "help" is being used has significantly increased relative to other categories this past month. This means people are using the word "help" in one of two different situations: one where people are asking for help, the other for giving help. Without going into each email containing the word help and highlighting each sentence, it's difficult to know whether asks or gives are occurring.

This streamgraph was built using processing and adobe illustrator.

RSA Animate - The Power of Outrospection

A great visualization of a talk about the power of outrospection and the role of empathy in figuring out who we are in order to live the eudomonic life. The speaker, philosopher Roman Krznaric, argues that the main tool for the twenty-first century is empathy. He dives beyond just the concept of empathy and shows why taking on other peoples perspectives can be revolutionary. He focuses on cognitive empathy, instead of affective empathy, as the main driver for a revolution of human relationships.

Mentoring System: Iteration 3

I've been working on making the mentoring system easier to read and understand the flow of entrepreneurs and mentors before and after they meet for a mentoring session. Any feedback is appreciated.

Back to Table of Contents.

Source Code: An Interactive Image Grid with JQuery

Over the weekend, I spent a few hours putting together a jquery script that allows for mouse detection over a 10 x 10 grid. I then placed an image over a 10x10 grid, as the mouse moves to different parts of the grid, different images appear. A demo of this can be viewed here. Take a look at the source code on the page to see it in action.

This is the portion of the code doing the main work:
And you can grab this code from my gist.

>get >put closing reception - panel discussion

Last night was the closing reception for the exhibit >get >put. The panel discussion from the evening can be viewed on this ustream. The panel discussion begins about 15 minutes into the ustream and is then followed by three performances about an hour and a half into the ustream. Enjoy a few pictures from the evening:

Video streaming by Ustream

Good Company Group Pitch Day

Good Company Group's pitch day went well. The company's have come a long way in crafting their message and focusing in on their target audience, customer acquisition, and business model. The summer  accelerator program was a great place to meet and work with a group of motivated and world-changing people. Each of these companies all have a social mission and they're doing it in an economically feasible way. They're focused on scalability for the greatest amount of impact.

Good Company has also attracted new businesses to the Philadelphia area as a result of their socially conscious accelerator. And some exciting news, which we learned about at the pitch day is that Good Company Group is finalist for Bloomberg's Mayor Challenge.

The companies presenting on the pitch day include Wash Cycle Laundry, psGive, PaperWool, Ziyron, StartSomeGood, EdiBikes, PhilanTech, TuvaLabs, and Regalii. Well done guys!

Enjoy the pictures from that night:

Listless Lincoln

Over the weekend, I was playing around with my girlfriend's cat, Lincoln. The idea hit me to immortalize him in the halls of the internet. You can interact with him here. Enjoy.

Mentoring Progress Report

The mentoring progress report is another building block for a mentoring system. The purpose of the progress report is to create a simple way for mentoring organizations to keep track of the businesses they're mentoring.

I imagine the progress report being filled out at least once a month or before an entrepreneur requests for mentoring. The first iteration of the progress report is below.

If you take a look at the mentoring system below, the mentoring progress report is section six: follow-up.

Visualizing Mentoring Conversations

To discover a way to measure the efficacy of a mentoring session, I listened and re-listened to a recording of a mentoring conversation. I was trying to discern themes in the conversation to help make it easier to compare different mentoring sessions. I noticed five major themes: questions, examples, application, current/past strategies, and future strategies.

Questions are denoted by red lines, and appear every time a questions is asked.

Examples: Real world examples are used in several ways by both the mentor and entrepreneur. They’re used to learn from competitors’ strategies. Some times examples of potential customers are discussed to notice how a market segment may be profiled for product-market fit. Other times, they’re metaphorical to convey a concept about human nature and business strategy.

Application: Whenever an example is presented in conversation, it is then applied to the entrepreneurs current situation.

Current/Past Strategy: Current/Past Strategy denotes whenever the mentor or entrepreneur discuss where the entrepreneur’s business currently is or has been.

Future Strategy: Future Strategy is a discussion about steps that can be taken to move the business forward.

The following two infographics are my first attempt at visualizing a mentoring conversation. They are both visuals of the same conversation, however, the larger graphic includes the questions asked by both the mentor and entrepreneur.

Noteworthy Observations:

1. During the course of this mentoring conversation, there seems to have been a shift between the 18:00 to 22:30 minute mark, where the mentor begins providing strategic advice. I believe this shift occurs because the mentor has figured out what to focus on with the entrepreneur, and where to delve deeper in order to sketch next steps for the entrepreneur to tackle.

2. Towards the end of this mentoring session, 31:30 and onward, the entrepreneur shifted towards applying what he’s learning from the examples to his own business. This is particularly noticible when the applications appear without a preceding example on the entrepreneurs side of the conversation. The entrepreneur is taking the example the mentor has provided and is directly applying the pedagogical purpose of that example.

This second infographic of the mentoring session is too busy and requires a simpler way to convey the key questions asked by the mentor.

Back to Table of Contents.

Simulating the Future of Political and Cultural Forces

Adam Kahane gives a great example of a nine day workshop he gave in the Republic of Columbia between conflicting political groups. He noticed that the same types of tensions and conflicts apparent in the larger country revealed themselves within the microcosm of the nine day workshop. As the workshop progressed, the conflicting sides co-created four different stories as scenarios that might unfold for the future. After sixteen years passed, Adam re-visited Columbia and met with an intellectual from the country. The intellectual pointed out that every one of those stories unfolded in a prophetic nature.

Adam's discussion and example of this group workshop he facilitated reminded me of the type of design that human centered designers are trained to do. This is the same type of facilitation performed by IDEO, the same type of design taught at the at Stanford, and the same design I've learned at MiD at UArts. Part of what I find innovative about the curriculum at MiD is learning how to design and facilitate the experience of a group workshop. Designing group workshops requires a certain experience with human groups and being able to leverage how small and large groups work. These are based on psychological practices developed by Wilfred Bion and experienced through the Tavistock model. One key element about a group's life is that it parallels the life of an individual from birth to death, over the course of a workshop. This means that a group experiences anxiety, fear, tension, conflict, sadness, happiness, and complex emotional states that resemble an individual. As long as the individuals of the group are committed to staying a part of the group, the group will continue to grow. Growing as a group implies emotional maturity, just as individuals become emotionally mature with age. Each individual within the group brings past experiences, various cultures, and thought processes that determines the conflicts the group will face, which at times become representational of larger forces in the culture. For example, these forces can include racial differences, language barriers, gender differences, political differences, etc. Furthermore, these conflicts arise as the group is working towards a common task, which Bion calls the work task. I think this observable phenomenon about group life can be applied to make sense of what Adam Kahane is saying about the national tensions and conflicts reflecting in the microcosm of the nine day workshop.

Since these national tensions and conflicts reside in the individuals at the workshop, it seems that the group became a simulating environment for the different political forces. It's a simulation in the sense that we may  observe how the conflicting political forces may mature together - in another sense, they become as one individual, developing emotionally over time. Those political forces from sixteen years ago played out their growth over a period of nine days because that's how long the group had to mature. By the end of the workshop, the group had completed the task and had completed its developmental cycle. Those nine days simulated the future sixteen years.

Following this train of thought leads to applying facilitation workshops as a tool for simulating the future of organizations, nations, and the global political climate. The purpose would be to simulate an outcome in order to prepare for that outcome, whatever it may be. Preparing for outcomes by means of simulation is something humans naturally do. This is evidenced by the development of mathematical and physical models of the world. If facilitation workshops can be used as simulations of political and cultural forces, then humans should design facilitation workshops to predict certain outcomes for a melting pot of cultural and political forces.

Tutorial: Using Xuggler in Processing

It took me a while to figure out, but Xuggler is a powerful audio and video java wrapper of ffmpeg. For a recent art project of mine titled "Lo and Behold, I am become as a God," I had to use Xuggler to sync audio and video in real time. In the processing forums, there's a lot of questions about how to use processing to sync audio and video in real time, but the GSVideo library doesn't capture audio, it only captures video. Another option is GSPipeline, which can sync audio and video, but seems to only work well in Linux - I haven't tried Mac To write a program that can capture audio and video in java within Windows 7, I turned to Xuggler.

The follow steps are what I've done to make Xuggler operate with Processing 2.0b5 or 2.0b6 with Windows 7 64 bit:

Step 1: Download and Install the Xuggler 64 bit Build for Windows. Available here.

Step 2: Download the necessary Xuggler jars, I've zipped them together and can be downloaded from here. I've placed the jars files in the zipped folder within my processing sketch, in a folder called 'code.'

Step 3: You can either download and run my example code from here (jars included), or look at the example code below the video.

Here's an example of some work I did with Xuggler in processing:

My next tutorial will be about how to set up the Youtube data API with processing, to be able to automatically upload these videos to your youtube account.

import java.awt.image.BufferedImage;
import java.awt.image.ImageObserver;
import java.util.concurrent.TimeUnit;
import java.awt.*;
import javax.sound.sampled.*;

IMediaWriter imw;
IStreamCoder isc;
BufferedImage bgr;
int vidRate = 30;
long sTime;
long fTime;

Capture cam;

final int audioStreamIndex = 1;
final int audioStreamId = 1;
final int channelCount = 2;
int sampleRate;

AudioFormat audioFormat;
AudioInputStream audioInputStream;
TargetDataLine aline;
AudioFormat targetType;

byte[] audioBuf;
int audionumber;

int widthCapture=640;
int heightCapture=480;

boolean recording;

void setup() {
  size(widthCapture, heightCapture, JAVA2D);
  cam = new Capture(this, widthCapture, heightCapture);

void draw() {
  if (cam.available()) {;
    image(cam.get(), 0, 0);

    if (recording) {
      if (imw.isOpen()) {
        //video recording stuff
        long cTime = System.nanoTime()-fTime;
        if (cTime >= (double)1000/vidRate) {
          bgr.getGraphics().drawImage(cam.getImage(), 0, 0,
          new ImageObserver() {
            public boolean imageUpdate(Image i, int a, int b, int c, int d, int e) {
              return true;
          imw.encodeVideo(0, bgr, System.nanoTime()-sTime, TimeUnit.NANOSECONDS);
          //audio recording stuff
          if (aline.available() == 88200) {
            int nBytesRead =, 0, aline.available());//audioBuf.length);//aline.available());
            if (nBytesRead>0) {
              IBuffer iBuf = IBuffer.make(null, audioBuf, 0, nBytesRead);
              IAudioSamples smp = IAudioSamples.make(iBuf, channelCount, IAudioSamples.Format.FMT_S16);

              if (smp!=null) {
                long numSample = nBytesRead/smp.getSampleSize();
                smp.setComplete(true, numSample, (int) audioFormat.getSampleRate(), audioFormat.getChannels(), IAudioSamples.Format.FMT_S16, (System.nanoTime()-sTime) / 1000);
                smp.put(audioBuf, 1, 0, aline.available());
                try {
                  imw.encodeAudio(audionumber, smp);
                catch(Exception e) {
                  println("EXCEPTION: " + e);
          fTime = System.nanoTime();

public void keyPressed() {
  if (key == 'r') {
    if (!recording) {
      recording = true;
  if (key == 's') {
    if (recording) {
      recording = false;

void avSetup() {
  audioFormat = new AudioFormat(44100.0F, 16, channelCount, true, false);
  sampleRate = (int) audioFormat.getSampleRate();
  DataLine.Info info = new DataLine.Info(TargetDataLine.class, audioFormat);
  try {
    aline = (TargetDataLine) AudioSystem.getLine(info);;
    println("audio line");
  catch (LineUnavailableException e)
    println("unable to get a recording line");
  int bufferSize = (int) audioFormat.getSampleRate() * audioFormat.getFrameSize();
  audioBuf = new byte[bufferSize];
  targetType = aline.getFormat();
  audioInputStream = new AudioInputStream(aline);

void avRecorderSetup() {
  imw = ToolFactory.makeWriter(sketchPath("D:/myVideo.mp4"));//or "output.avi" or "";
  imw.addVideoStream(0, 0, IRational.make((double)vidRate), widthCapture, heightCapture);
  audionumber = imw.addAudioStream(audioStreamIndex, audioStreamId, channelCount, sampleRate);
  isc = imw.getContainer().getStream(0).getStreamCoder();
  bgr = new BufferedImage(widthCapture, heightCapture, BufferedImage.TYPE_3BYTE_BGR);
  sTime = fTime = System.nanoTime();


Context for Mentoring: A Mentoring System

My meeting with Aaron Mclean went well. I presented the first version of the mentoring system to him and he provided feedback and filled in missing information about how the match making system could actually work. I took my notes from the meeting and created a second visual showing the complexity of the mentoring system. I've realized that the Request for Mentoring form is a small piece of the puzzle. The following visual is still a rough sketch, it's missing a few more pieces: the business readiness intake and the follow-up form still need to be designed. The match making system will need front-end mock-ups and an architectural sketch of the back-end system that will make everything electronic.

Our discussion also went over what the business readiness intake would look like and how to measure the efficacy of a mentoring conversation. I learned that the business readiness intake is dependent on the entrepreneur's level of commitment and passion for the business, but will also be greatly influenced by their stage in life. The entrepreneurs life stage is determined by whether they're in college, graduated, married, single, children, siblings nearby, etc. All these social pieces of information reveals the entrepreneurs competing commitments, responsibilities, available social capital, and safety nets. To measure the efficacy of a mentoring conversation, I learned, is based on asking questions during the mentoring conversation to make sure the mentee is following. From observing mentoring conversations, this seems to be true. 

Update: Another key element I've finally gotten around to designing is the follow-up section, which I'm currently calling the Mentoring Progress Report.

More to come...

Back to Table of Contents.

Photos from the >get >put Opening

Pictures from the art opening last night at little berlin:

Lo and Behold, I am become as a God

The art opening went really well this evening! Little Berlin's museum goers contributed their voices and contours to the art piece. If you too want to contribute, you can go and visit little berlin's show called >get >put. The piece will be on display from now until the 30th of November. A link to the youtube playlist is here.


Title of art piece: Lo and Behold, I am become as a God

Short bio of my piece: “Lo” - the first letters ever sent over the internet. Meant to be the word "login," the internet crashed after the second letter was sent from UCLA to Stanford. These two letters have now come to symbolize "lo and behold" - giving weight to the significance of the internet's birth. I find M. Square's journey in Abbott's Flatland to parallel our human journey with the internet; experiencing the internet as a space for individuals to create new bodies, a place to upload our minds into a land that is eternally virtual and for the moment, virtually eternal. It seems that John of Patmo's Revelation has come true – his vision of a new earth, a new heaven, and our new bodies. John writes as if he saw the internet, “Lo, a great multitude, which no man could number of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues,” all spoke together (Revelation 7:9 KJV). This new medium may make us feel as a God, but it still reflects humanity's basic anxiety of death and our will to overcome it. We will to upload our minds into new bodies, into a land that might be eternal and endless. This art piece is our crowdsourced bodies and voices experiencing an ascendance, an upload, into a new dimension where all knowledge is available with a single download. I'll end with Abott's words, “Lo, the secrets of the earth, the depths of the mines and inmost caverns of the hills, were bared before me.”

Halloween Night: Setting up at Little Berlin

Just a few shots from last night's set up. Building the upload booth for my piece and placing the projector stand onto the ceiling.

Rhizome: The Download

Check it out! The Rhizome's put up a downloadable piece for the exhibit >get >put. There's short bios of each of the contributing artists: Alexandra GorczynskiA. Bill MillerGiselle ZatonylDerek FrechTravess Smalley, and myself. The gallery we're showing our pieces is little berlin, between November 2nd to the 30th. Come visit if you get the chance. 

The image below is from the Rhizome, and is a compilation of downloadable pieces contributed by each of the artists.

Request for Mentoring - Iteration Six

After test out iteration five of the request for mentoring form with a few entrepreneurs and also getting more feedback from mentors, there are three changes made since the last version. The first change is removing the value proposition section and replacing it completely with the elevator pitch section. A few of the entrepreneurs that filled out the previous version wrote the same first sentence for their elevator pitch and value proposition. The value proposition is redundant and has now been removed. The second change is adding a clear distinction that sections 4 - 7 refer to the strategic area that the entrepreneur has chosen. Entrepreneurs that had filled out the previous version were not correctly attributing the past objectives, past strategies, results, and future objectives with the strategic area they had chosen. Adding a clear distinction now clears up that confusion. The third change is the addition of section eight: questions. In discussion with a mentor from Cofounders Bridge, he pointed out that it's valuable to know what an entrepreneur is expecting from a mentor. To communicate this expectation, it has been framed as a series of two to three questions the entrepreneur needs to ask the mentor.

Mentoring Network: Rough Sketch

After presenting to my thesis committee, one of the pieces of feedback I received was that I was too focused on just the conversation between the mentor and entrepreneur. They asked me to take a bigger perspective to understand to structure of the system around the request for mentoring form, and how the different pieces of the puzzle would then fit together.

To answer this question from my thesis committee, I had to go back to my notes I took while meeting with Garrett from Good Company Group. While Garrett and I were discussing applications of my thesis research, he sketched out a rough framework of a mentoring network. He pointed out four major segments to this mentoring network.

The first segment includes all possible entrepreneurs that are interested in mentoring, which means that the first segment also has to create a filter that weeds out entrepreneurs that aren't committed to their business and moving it forward.

The second segment is the group of entrepreneurs that have passed the initial business readiness filter. This group of entrepreneurs may then submit requests for mentoring when they want to have a mentoring session. However, a key factor that Garrett pointed out is that mentors are a valuable resource, their time is valuable so it shouldn't be wasted. To ration mentoring to the group of entrepreneurs in segment two, we can look at three possible areas to design a mechanism that prevents over-usage of the mentors. The first area is frequency and is determined by the amount of times an entrepreneur meets with mentors. The second area is feedback from the mentor to the mentoring network, letting the mentoring network know that the entrepreneur did not value his or her time. The third area is price, which basically means the entrepreneur would have to pay a small sum in order to meet. For example, this could be from purchasing the mentors coffee, to paying ten to twenty dollars. The purpose for price is to create a sense of value of the time the mentor spends with the entrepreneur.

The third segment includes the organizations within Philadelphia, or any other startup ecosystem, that acts as an interface between the mentors and the entrepreneurs. Essentially, the matchmaking group receives the request for mentoring form from the entrepreneurs in segment two, and then sends it off to the group of mentors in segment four. The organizations in segment three can also provide a space for the mentor and the entrepreneur to meet and discuss the entrepreneur's business.

The fourth segment includes mentors from various areas including business development, customer development, finance, fundraising, legal, marketing, operations, product development, sales, and team. Furthermore, there would have to be a hierarchy in place that would allow for a time manager to know the schedules of all the mentors from each mentoring area. The time manager would then distribute out the request for mentoring form to the mentor that has time to meet.

Finally, the match is made and the entrepreneur meets with the mentor.

To second iteration of the mentoring network visual.

To Table of Contents.

Lo and Behold, I am become as a God

Title of art piece: Lo and Behold, I am become as a God

Short bio of my piece: “Lo” - the first letters ever sent over the internet. Meant to be the word "login," the internet crashed after the second letter was sent from UCLA to Stanford. These two letters have now come to symbolize "lo and behold" - giving weight to the significance of the internet's birth. I find M. Square's journey in Abbott's Flatland to parallel our human journey with the internet; experiencing the internet as a space for individuals to create new bodies, a place to upload our minds into a land that is eternally virtual and for the moment, virtually eternal. It seems that John of Patmo's Revelation has come true – his vision of a new earth, a new heaven, and our new bodies. John writes as if he saw the internet, “Lo, a great multitude, which no man could number of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues,” all spoke together (Revelation 7:9 KJV). This new medium may make us feel as a God, but it still reflects humanity's basic anxiety of death and our will to overcome it. We will to upload our minds into new bodies, into a land that might be eternal and endless. This art piece is our crowdsourced bodies and voices experiencing an ascendance, an upload, into a new dimension where all knowledge is available with a single download. I'll end with Abott's words, “Lo, the secrets of the earth, the depths of the mines and inmost caverns of the hills, were bared before me.”

More to come... pictures will be uploaded after I set up the piece at Little Berlin's >get >put.

Successful Blob tracking with Audio and Video Sync

I'm currently using the Xuggler wrapper for ffmpeg to record audio and video together. I had previously tried using GSVideo to do this, but it wouldn't work on Windows - only seems to work on linux... maybe mac? Anyways, I'm also using javacv to access opencv in a processing sketch. I'm still getting audio spikes, but I'm not yet sure why...

Get Put - Update

Some of the ideas I've been throwing around as having a preamble available to download for my art piece includes images of an Earth-rise as seen from the moon. The only thing about these images is that they were sent through the OpenCV blob detection library in order to make it look like it could be a scene from the book Flatland by Abbott. Having the book, since it's in the public domain, also available for download, seems like another nice addition.

Enjoy the images:

Does the sound of downloading make you want to upload?

I'm currently working on an art piece for the exhibit >get >put. The following video is a rough preamble to my piece. More to come as I begin constructing it this week and weekend.

Thesis Committee Presentation and Feedback

Late last week, I had my thesis committee meeting. The people on my committee include Sharon, Jonas, Jeremy, and Angel. The expertise they bring to the table includes entrepreneurship, design, and writing. I had presented a summary of the thesis work I had been doing over the past two months. You can see the slides I used on slideshare:

There were two main takeaways from the feedback they were giving me. The first important piece of feedback is that I did not make explicit the jumps I made from observations of mentoring sessions to the request for mentoring (RFM) form. The second takeaway is that I did not show the system that would have to be in place to support the RFM.

Working With TuvaLabs at The Alley

Exciting work is going on at TuvaLabs. For the past week, we've been working out of a coworking space in New York City called The Alley. Harshil, Jaimin, and I have been hard at work redesigning and building a user friendly and engaging tool that will help kids learn math from the news and other subjects they love.

For the past month I've been commuting to New York City for one to two days out of the week to work with TuvaLabs. It's almost like a camping trip every week: sleeping bag, clothes, snack bars, and an umbrella. The pictures tell the rest of the story.

The crew.

Commuting back and forth from Philly to NYC, feels like a camping trip.

The Workstation

What is 'community'?

A friend of mine recently asked me what 'community' means to me, and once I sat down to think about it, I kept going... and going... and going... So I thought I'd document these thoughts here for anyone else that's interested in starting a dialogue.

The broadest definition I can think of for what community means to me is a community as a group of individuals or a group of groups. Examples of this could be understood from the way people describe the international community, which is a group of human groups. Or, community could be understood from an example of a hacker community, which is a group of human individuals that have a common interest. These examples point us to a definition of community that means a group is at least more than one individual or more than one group. I think my friend was specifically referring to human groups, and not a group of chimpanzees or a group of wolves. 

A human community is a group of human individuals or a group of human groups. Irregardless of the type of group, whether ant, human, or wolf, I think all individuals must have the ability to communicate with any other individual within the group. This means that a community does not need to exist at the same time or in the same place as long as there is some way for the individuals of the group to communicate with one another. Communication between the individuals of the group or between groups is not limited to speaking or facial expressions, if we're thinking about humans. I think communication can occur consciously, subconsciously, and be understood on either the conscious or subconscious level. The most important factor about human communities is communication, and communication occurs when two or more individuals understand each other.

Instead of asking, what is a community, I think we should be asking, what is communication between human individuals and how does it give rise to a human community?

Creativity: Combining and Recombining

Richard Florida in a talk he gave at the RSA brought up an idea that peaked my interest. He observes that creativity, the process of combining and recombining different parts in order to create something new, is taking place in cities all around the world, and this process of combining and recombining will continue to grow as more of the worlds population begins to live in cities. He claims, and I agree, that cities are the most important human creation because it paves the way for people to creatively work together.

He provides the example of people taking different pieces of technology or music and creatively making new technology and new music. While listening to his talk, I realized that people can also combine and recombine the different relationships they have with other people in order to leverage their skills in creative ways. He observes that the boom of tech startups around the world in major metropolitan areas is a result of the rise of the creative class. However, he doesn't delve into why the creative class is rising and what has created them, and I think it may have to do with the ease at which talented people can communicate. Communication for the purpose of bringing people together requires knowing people's occupations and talents. For example, Linkedin has made accessible people's professional skills, which then allows for entrepreneurs to easily find and combine and recombine people of different skills, talents, and ideas into a startup. 

The other factor that Florida doesn't talk about are transaction costs of creatively bringing people together. In other words, there exists an inherent social barrier that prevents people from communicating when they don't yet know each other. In other words, they don't yet trust each other. This is a topic that is deeply discussed in The Rainforest by Horowitt and Hwang. They observe that "human systems become more productive the faster that the key ingredients of innovation - talent, ideas, and capital - are allowed to flow through the system" and combine together in various ways. They also argue that human nature tends to get in the way of creatively bringing talent, ideas, and capital together. Specifically, trust is given to those that are closer and distrust exists between those that are further. Trust and distrust does not refer to geographic separation, but cultural separation. For individuals to "rise above short-term selfishness and focus on long-term mutual gain" is the behavior that humans do not naturally have, which leads to what Hwang and Horowitt call a transaction cost when people are creatively brought together.

I would argue that the creative class has risen out of combining and recombining people of various talents, ideas, and capital for the benefit of a human community. I don't think creatively bringing people together always has to take the form of a startup, because people sometimes come together for a cause and form a charity. I think the reason the term creative class has become prominent in our vocabulary in the past few years is the pace of creatively organizing people has increased due to an increased number of people living in  major metropolitan areas. Sharing the common city space then allows for people share experiences together, eventually leading to talented individuals trusting each other.

Update: I just saw this great Ted Talk by Rachel Botsman talking about trust being built on reputation and credibility within a community, whether that community is airbnb, ebay, or taskrabbit. Allowing for people's trust within a community to be accessible and known may lead to lower transactions costs between people that do not yet know each other.

RSA Animate: The Truth About Dishonesty

The following video is Dan Ariely's talk about the circumstances under which people cheat and lie. He argues that our ability to rationalize our occasional lies allows for us to satisfy our need to feel good about ourselves while also benefiting from cheating. He takes this micro effect of many people lying and shows how it can have a macro effect on the economy.

Request for Mentoring - Iteration Five

Over the past week and a half, I met with Sean Steinmarc from psGive and he filled out the fourth iteration of the RFM. I took the completed RFM to Aaron Mclean, a mentor who has open office hours, to see if he can actually provide business advice and pose relevant questions based upon the information that was on the form. I learned from meeting with him that the RFM doesn't provide enough context to the information the entrepreneur provides. The context that needs to be added is similar to an elevator pitch, where the entrepreneur describes the market and problem, the competitors and market size, the solution their making, etc. The following image shows the next iteration of the RFM, it incorporates the elevator pitch section.

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Request for Mentoring - Iteration Four

Having email out the third iteration of the RFM, I received feedback from Todd, founder of Side Arts and program and marketing director for the Corzo Center. He noticed there are two ways the RFM could be interpreted, influencing how it's used. The first interpretation is a filtering tool for the mentor, to evaluate whether she would want to meet with the entrepreneur. The second interpretation is as a tool for following up.

I think both interpretations are valid because they are both part of the interactions between mentor and entrepreneur. I think the first interpretation is the one that should be focused on because this thesis is about how mentors and entrepreneurs identify each other. Creating a secondary tool, or modifying the RFM to afford a simple way for the entrepreneur to follow-up on objectives with the mentor will increase the scope of this thesis, which will hinder me from completing my thesis on time.

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Request for Mentoring - Iteration Three

The third iteration of the RFM builds on top of the second version by using the same graphical language and information hierarchy. The greatest change you'll notice is providing greater scaffolding for the entrepreneur's input - specifically, it's the addition of the ten strategic areas that mentors can provide business advice. These ten areas were determined from a survey of ten startups, which involved asking these startups how they describe their own problem areas. Doing this survey and meeting with Garrett from Good Company, a mentor to startups, informed the changes to language being used.

You'll also see the addition of the value proposition because of the need for the mentor to understand the startup's problem and opportunity as succinctly as possible. The user's input is further constrained in order to streamline the entrepreneur's input and the reading of the RFM by the mentor. Finally, two managerial changes include the addition of "email address" and 'phone number."

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Request for Mentoring - Iteration Two

The second iteration of the RFM builds on top of the first version, and takes into consideration information hierarchy by graphically guiding the entrepreneur's eye from title to question to answer. You'll notice an addition of an icon that visually represents the interaction between mentor and entrepreneur. There is less wasted space and slightly more scaffolding guiding user input when compared to the first iteration.

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