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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

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You should attend events, meetups, and conferences

I published the following article on LinkedIn in March. However, their publishing tool removed all of the photos from the post when I published it and I was so frustrated that I did not bother to go in and fix it. I’m republishing the post here with photos.


For over a decade now I’ve put in a lot of effort to present at and attend as many technology and business events as I can. I’ve attended events in Austin, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Orlando, Jacksonville, New York City, Philadelphia, Greenville and a half-dozen other US cities. But you don’t have to hop on a plane to attend events. I also attend several regional events per year that gets me back at home before bedtime.

In 2014 I wrote a blog post titled You should go to meetups and in it I wrote about one of the advantages of attending meetups or conferences:

Because there is a lot of energy at meetups. The presenters are generally at the beginning of their product cycles and they have a lot of positive energy to make something happen. Those in the crowd all have their stories, their ideas, their goals. And, in addition to those building startups you’ll generally find lawyers, venture capitalists, programmers, marketers, etc. who are willing to offer their help for your project. It is a very, very good way to meet people that you’ll likely work with.

This past year has been no different. Each event I made the effort to attend has yielded some professional and personal fruit. If you haven’t yet gotten to many events in your area, or elsewhere, I strongly encourage you to give it a try. And not just once.

Here are a few highlights from the events I’ve attended or presented at in the last 18-months alone.

NEPA BlogCon 2016

I’m going to start a few months prior to 2017 because I attended a few amazing events near the end of the year in 2016. First up is NEPA BlogCon 2016.

At NEPA BlogCon, an event specifically catering to those just getting started in blogging, social media, and marketing, it was evident the amount of care that went into organizing the event. Each year NEPA BlogCon has been refined to be more engaging, valuable, and fun. One thing this event always reminds me of, now matter how mature an industry or technology appears to be there are always new faces seeking to learn.

TecBridge Entrepreneurial Institute 2016

Marywood University is the host to an excellent annual entrepreneurship event that always proves valuable for its attendees. The 2016 event was very well attended and had an excellent panel discussion, workshops, presentations, and more.

At the time I wrote this about the event on my blog:

Rather than a panel simply answering questions broadly, the workshops helped the attendees to work through a problem and see the processes work step-by-step.

I think what I appreciate about this event each year is the focus on practical takeaways for attendees. If you are there to learn you will.

Cropped! A rebranding competition

Cropped! is a fun event held by AAF NEPA that pits a few creative talents against each other to rebrand a local nonprofit organization that could use the help.

Branding is my day job and so watching as these teams tried to solve the problems of organization’s current brand was fun.

Branding is about exposing an entity’s core purpose, principles, and offerings to the world. Rebranding is about fixing any problems the current brand has encountered.

I wrote the following on my blog after the event:

Branding is an exercise in getting a company’s culture, message, and purpose demonstrated and communicated through every single thing the company does. I know it has been said a million times but it worth reiterating that branding is not a logo. Branding permeates a company’s activities from the way they answer the phone to how easy it is to unsubscribe to their monthly email newsletters. I was happy to see that everyone at Cropped! knew exactly what branding was.

PhillyBurbs WordPress Meetup

You will not find a more inclusive meetup within 100 miles of my front door as the PhillyBurbs meetup. This one is always well worth the drive and some of their organizers have returned the favor to attend meetups in northeastern Pennsylvania.

One takeaway I had last year at this event was the impact a more inclusive culture will have on our industry. As more and more groups of people are represented in our industry the better it gets. For far too long the industry’s perspective has been dominated by white males. This is changing. For some it isn’t changing fast enough but I’m simply happy that it is.

Ask The Web Marketing Experts panel

Speaking of white males… 🙄

I, along with several other web marketers in our area, were invited to participate in a panel discussion and recording session at NEPA Alliance organized by the Scranton Small Business Development Center.

The questions from the SBDC and local businesses were great and I know all of the “experts” learned a lot from each other as well.

NEPA.js and NEPA Tech Events

I attended, and presented at, at least 7 monthly NEPA.js (which has now been rolled into NEPA Tech) events throughout 2017. In late 2016 Mark Keith decided to bring together a group of JavaScript enthusiasts each month to discuss JavaScript-things which bled into discussions on all sorts of technology, business, marketing and even cryptocurrency. The amount of value this one event has generated for our area is already incalculable.

I blogged about ever single event I went to so you can read all of my notes on my event tag on my blog at cdevroe.com.

Inventor’s Guild at TekRidge

I’ll often pop into some events with no real reason for me to be there other than to soak up whatever information I can. The Inventor’s Guild is just such an event. This event caters to people that want to invent things (or already have) and, hopefully, profit.

One thing I was reminded of at this event was how little the inventor typically profits off of their inventions when compared to the companies that license them and how important it is to understand patent and IP law if you’re an inventor of a physical product.

Wilkes-Barre Programmers meet up

I’m not a Python developer (which this Wilkes-Barre programmer event was geared to) but I was interested to see how this group was run. I found it very informative and challenging. One thing I realized by attending this event was how these events have a small gravitational pull. If you remove any mass from them by not attending they may just drift off into the ether. Never to coalesce again. It is important to support a small group with your presence even if it doesn’t align with your skillset or desired path. By helping to keep these groups together when they are small they can continue to grow and mature and eventually split off into the groups you want to see in your area.

In other words, don’t skip events just because their small. Small events beget larger ones.

SAIL by Second Wind

In March 2017 I flew to Orlando partly to get away from the winter and partly to learn as much as I could about running a digital advertising agency at Second Wind’s idea lab.

I learned a lot. There was hundreds of years of experience in the room and all were willing to share with one another. In fact, nearly a year later, this event still comes up in conversations with many agencies on a weekly basis.

I felt privileged to learn how other businesses throughout the country are solving problems of recruiting, employee compensation, retainer agreements, agency IP, and much more.

tecBRIDGE Entrepreneurial Institute 2017

I held a workshop at this years TEI event and it was a blast. The workshop format allowed me to bring practical value to those that attended it. The Q&A session was very good and I received emails from attendees for weeks afterward.

The entire event was very good and many business owners and students in our area, well over 200 of them, got a taste for what it means to be an entrepreneur and the inevitable challenges they face.

Other events

I attended a few other regional events including one for Unmanned Ariel Systems used in Surveying work at Penn State University, other WordPress meetups that I spoke at, a presentation about my as-yet-unreleased step counting mobile application Summit to the Lehigh Valley Tech Meetup, and also Ben Franklin’s VentureIdol and many others.

There has been no shortage of long-lasting benefit from each event I’ve attended over the years. I cannot overstate this enough, especially if you’re a remote worker or are operating from the hinterland — get out of your home office and shake some hands.

Are you an event organizer? Consider using Jujama to power your next event.

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Penn State Worthington, Scranton, PA  – October 2016

NEPA BlogCon 2016

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I often wonder what it would be like to be a first-time attendee at a conference like NEPA BlogCon. Even with the speakers attempting to keep things easy-to-understand I’m sure the flood of information can be overwhelming. I think that is why the mix of presentations at these sorts of events is so important. It can’t be all buzzword-ridden tips and tricks and how-tos. Some of it needs to raise high above the how and address more of the why. Principles rather than rules.

I think NEPA BlogCon does a decent job at striking this balance. This year’s presentation line-up showed how to add visuals to blog posts to make them more effective but they also discussed motivations and passions. No matter what blogging or social media platforms you use yourself, everyone can identify with the passion behind the topics they choose to write about or create media for. There is emotion behind why we do what we do (even if you do it for work) and many times that emotion was palpable during the presentations.

Blogging started as journaling. Public diaries written to connect with someone outside of your bedroom out in the world where hopefully someone would read and listen and understand what you were going through. That same passion has spilled over into every topic under the sun including parenting, technology, food, wildlife preservation, and vacation planning. People love these topics and so they write and create and share and record and speak and draw about them. And they put this media out into the world to hopefully connect with someone outside of their offices that will understand and connect with that passion too.

How can one harness that passion to achieve their goals with their content? That’s the question that ultimately gets answered at events like NEPA BlogCon. The goal could be to earn a buck. But the goals also could be to change minds, to educate, to have fun!

NEPA BlogCon may have the word “blog” in the name but blogging has become so much more than a singular activity and toolset. Tools do not matter any more. One’s blog may be rooted at one source web site (hopefully) but one’s content spreads out over the ether like daffodil seeds blowing in the wind passing over the plains of Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. How does one harness these tools? Which one’s should I use for my audience? Which one’s shouldn’t I use and why? NEPA BlogCon touches, and rightly so, on all of these things also.

If you are passionate about something and have been attempting to share that passion through online media, and if you’re reading this because you are curious about whether or not you should attend next year’s NEPA BlogCon then you’ve already answered that question. Yes, you should.

This year’s conference was held at Penn State Worthington Scranton in Dunmore, PA. This was the closest NEPA BlogCon has ever been to where I live. And, it will be at the same location next year. I’m very excited about this because a few attendees have already expressed interest in adding an activity or two to the day prior to the event as a result. I hope to see some time slated for hacking on our blogs and also for doing something outdoors (like a hike) and using the experiences and photos we gather on the hike to help new bloggers share that online. Should be great.

Thanks as always to the organizers and volunteers and sponsors.

Here are a few photos I snapped at the event followed by a few other blog posts shared by attendees.

James D. Gallagher Conference Center

Videographer

Food and coffee

Food and coffee

Rubik's Cube

My capturing setup

5th anniversary cake

Orange Whip Band at SBC in Pittston

A few other attendees have shared their experiences. Britney Kolodziej shared a very Buzzfeed-esque, gif-filled post. P.J. shares his first experience at the con. And I’m not sure who did this but there is a shared Google Doc with tons of notes from the presentations.

Oh, and don’t miss the official NEPA BlogCon 2016 Photoset on Flickr.

Popped into #NEPABlogCon and now I’m uploading the audio bit Danny and I recorded yesterday. This is what you do at a blogcon.

Nominated for Tech Blog of the Year

NEPA BlogCon 2016 is fast approaching and with it comes this year’s nominations for Blog of the Year in several categories. Out of nowhere last night, as I was hiking the Dunmore Pine Barrens (again), my Twitter notifications were springing to life as I realized that my blog has been nominated in the Tech category.

I’m humbled and honored that someone took the time to nominate my blog. Who ever did that, thank you. Especially in the tech category. I’m not sure I’ve ever tried to classify my blog’s content since it is a personal blog and site, but I have covered a few things in tech I suppose.

If  you find the time go and vote for your favorite blogs in our area. Whether or not you vote for my blog be sure to check out all of the other great blogs that have been nominated. I’m going to set aside some time this evening to visit each one and see what they are all about. You can also vote on NEPA Scene.

On the chance that you’re visiting my blog because of this nomination, welcome! Consider subscribing! But, I thought I’d point to a few recent tech-related blog posts since my latest posts have mostly been about hiking and flying my UAV and you might be puzzled as to why my blog was nominated in this category.

Here are just a few:

I wish I wrote more and, honestly, I wish I wrote a lot more about tech-related things. I’d like to share more code and stories about things I’ve made or fiddled with. I have a few decades worth of posts that I could sit down and write. Perhaps this nomination will motivate me to get off my duff and do just that.

I’ve attended, and even sponsored, the NEPA BlogCon for several years running. You can see some past posts in the NEPA BlogCon tag. This year I’m not in the position to sponsor but I do hope to be able to attend. It is a great conference and great event that I’m really happy happens in our area.

Update October 11, 2016: I lost. But at least I lost to my friends at NEPA Geeks.

Photos from NEPA BlogCon 2015

To date I’ve been typing NEPA BlogCon as NEPABlogcon — the organizers of the event can please accept my deepest apologies. I’ve gone back and fixed my mistake.

This past weekend’s event was very well attended, executed, staffed, and organized. Kudos to all that volunteers to make the event go smoothly.

Here are a few photos I snapped. Sorry for the blur, I’ll do better next time. (Also, there are a few photos of The Gem & Keystone Brewpub)

 

 

At NEPA BlogCon on Saturday

As I said in early August, Kyle and I are going to NEPA BlogCon again this year. Both of our businesses; Coalwork and Plain, are sponsors and we each purchased a personal ticket.

I’ll be the guy with the GoPro camera clicking away. Will we see you there?

NEPA BlogCon 2015

Last year Coalwork sponsored NEPA BlogCon, which I wrote about on the Coalwork blog at the time, and this year we’re sponsoring the conference again.

From their press release:

NEPA BlogCon is designed to bring together bloggers of all experience levels, as well as those interested in marketing, social media, creativity, leadership, and branding. It’s also an excellent event for marketers, small business owners, nonprofit organizations, and students.

As the release says, the event isn’t necessarily for “bloggers” in the traditional sense — those that type away on their personal blogs about their lives, experiences, and life lessons — but it is for people who use blogs in their day-to-day job. It is more a marketing event than the name implies. However, it is the only event of its kind in our area and so we’re really happy to sponsor it and happy to see people getting together. Also, the proceeds always go to a good cause.

This year the event is happening at East Stroudsburg University and we already have our tickets. You can get yours on their site.

Side note: Last year was when I got to see Salvador Dalí in print. Hopefully this year’s venue will turn up something interesting to photograph too.

#nepablogcon

Shane Burcaw

Speaking of NEPA BlogCon… the closing presenter was Shane Burcaw. Shane suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Three years ago he started a Tumblog and decided to hit publish. The rest of the story can be found in a book that comes out tomorrow titled after his non-profit foundation; Laughing At My Nightmare.

Shane’s presentation was, as you might expect, pretty inspiring. It was also very funny. It was evident that just being on stage and speaking to us with very difficult for him. Thanks Shane and all the best with the book!

 

Salvador Dalí in Print

This weekend we at Coalwork sponsored a local blogging event called NEPA BlogCon. You can read more about that on the Coalwork blog.

While visiting Misericordia University I popped my head into the Salvador Dalí in Print exhibit, which they have on loan from Elizabeth Marrow.

Dalí was a trip. Nice exhibit. (Side note: Check out his full name. Wowza.)