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Startup Weekend Detroit

Originally posted by Charlie Wollborg on the TEDxDetroit LinkedIn group. I just had to spread it. I attended the first Startup Weekend Detroit a few years ago and had a great time and met some amazing people. I would recommend the event to anyone!

We love to highlight the many cool startups springing to life in Detroit every year at TEDxDetroit. Here’s your chance to be part of one.

Startup Weekend is returning to Detroit February 17th. It’s a 54-hour celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit. 100 makers, thinkers and doers walk into a building Friday night and 10 new web-based companies emerge on Sunday. From forming teams to brainstorming to business plans to designing mockups to coding prototypes to making the big pitch to venture capitalists, it all happens in one crazy weekend. It’s an amazing experience.

If you’re an artist, technologist, designer, geek, illustrator, coder or entrepreneur, you need to be part of Startup Weekend Detroit.

This year’s event will be even more special as it’s being held at the spectacular Madison Building (the home of Detroit Venture Parters, Detroit Labs and several other budding tech companies). It’s hosted by a couple of Xs – Brandon Chestnutt and Henry Balanon (who presented at TEDxDetroit in 2010). Networking, innovation, inspiration and education will surround you. It’s the perfect environment in which to test crazy ideas and take the first step towards launching a company that becomes the next big thing.

You can learn more and register at: but don’t delay, this event sells out every year.

Come fan that entrepreneurial flame that burns bright inside you. Who knows – we might be hearing all about your success story on stage at the next TEDxDetroit.

Keep Creating –

Charlie Wollborg
curator, TEDxDetroit


Help me climb 70 stories in the Fight for Air!

On March 4th, 2012 I am going to take on Michigan’s tallest building (the Renaissance Center) all the way to the 70th floor by climbing 1,035 stairs. I am climbing in the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb to help raise money for lung disease research, education and advocacy.

I am doing so because I am able. I can breathe freely and there are many people who are not as lucky. I am joining a team of likeminded Web designers and developers from Detroit on my journey, our team name is the “Quadzillas“.

I am writing this blog post because I would love your support

For the 2012 Fight for Air stair climb my team would like to raise a minimum of $1,035 dollars, or $1 for every step in the GM Renaissance Center.

We need your help! You can donate to one person, or spread it out among the members. You can donate $1 (one step) or $15 (one floor) or any amount you want! Either way you choose to donate is greatly appreciated! Or if you would like to join me I would be honored to climb with you!

Your donation to the American Lung Association will sustain their commitment to the prevention of all respiratory diseases including lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (emphysema and chronic bronchitis) and asthma.

Thank you for your support of my effort to raising money for this very important cause.

More Information | Donate


Time lapse: From the suburbs to the city – Detroit

Inspired by a video I stumbled upon years ago (can’t find the link anymore), I decided to bring everyone on a journey through an hour of my life every day. Detroit is a unique environment because the majority of people who work in the city live out in the suburbs. While talking to people that live in other major cities the idea is foreign to them. The city is suppose to be the place to be, why would you want to live outside and commute? In a city dominated by the auto industry, the idea of public transportation was looked at as a “poor man’s” way of getting around. I’m not sure where the idea came from but it was bread into every single person around the city. Secondly, city services are just not there for us.

My journey

Time lapse: From the suburbs to the city – Detroit from Nick DeNardis on Vimeo.

Above is a time lapse video I put together to bring you on my journey to and from work (Wayne State University) every day. I live 20 miles from campus and it takes me roughly 30 minutes each way. That’s a large chunk of time carved out of my day that I can’t get back. I hope you enjoy the ride and the tunes.

A few notes about the video. I actually did drive the speed limit although it looks like I’m flying down the road. It also looks as if I am getting pretty close the the vehicles in front of me, I blame it on the camera making it look like I’m closer than I really am. Just wanted to put that out there before I get too many comments.

Video production

I am a huge believer in using existing tools to do work, so I did just that. I didn’t use anything special to create the video above that I don’t already use to create EDU Checkup each week.

I now drive Andrea’s old car, a Ford Focus, to work to save on gas. I simply added a tripod between the drive and passenger seat, which fit nicely. Attached a Kodak Zi8 to the top and I was ready to rock and roll. I cracked the windows open a little bit to get the ambient noise. I also had to make sure it didn’t touch anything in the center of the car because it shakes the camera a lot.

Once the drive to and from work were recorded I downloaded the video to iMovie and started playing around with the speed settings. Thanks to Mallory Wood for making me aware the setting was even there. I found that 800% seemed to be a happy medium. Slower was just too slow and anything faster you can’t really make out the small details passing by.

I added some title slides and contemplated putting a few lower thirds to point out landmarks but I scrapped the idea for now. I might replace it if people ask me a lot of questions about the environment. I added two songs to overlay the sound of the engine, Lupe Fiasco’s Daydreamin’ and Streets Of Tomorrow by Carla Vallet.

Wrapped it all up with a thank you slide then sat and watched it render. I don’t know why I did this all on my Mac Mini but I did and it took far longer to encode than I imagined. But in the end it all worked out.

Learn something from everything

Initially I thought this would be a cool project and I didn’t really think about how to get this done before hand. I think everyone should at least once per month have a project they just jump into and figure out, something completely different than their every day work. Although the work on this video only took a few hours to put together it took a far different part of my brain than I typically work with on a daily basis.

event thoughts

TEDxDetroit Wrap Up

TEDxDetroit Logo

This last week I attended TEDxDetroit. An independently organized TED event held at Lawrence Tech University in Southfield, Michigan. The idea of TEDxDetroit is to spread positive ideas for the world from Detroit. Seating was limited and I was one of the lucky 150 hand picked attendees. Although the videos from all the speakers will be available shortly I wanted to take some time and reflect on the event as a whole.

The Event

All the speakers were either from the Detroit area or had some connection to Detroit. Charlie Wollborg along with a few others did an amazing job bringing in such a diverse group of speakers. The day was broken into four sections, powering, educating, perceiving and connecting.

The powering section started out strong with some inspiration and then got down to business with an alternative way to gather wind energy and a different way to think about electric cars. Mixed in was musical performances about Michigan and Detroit.

Educating section was a filled with local Detroiters who are really making a difference in the community. Chazz Miller stood out the most because of the amazing things he is doing with art, Detroit and the youth. He was referred to many times by other presenters as a “hurricane”, fundamentally changing Detroit with amazing force.

The perceiving section had some amazing stories about the current and future state of Detroit. Two presenters really stuck out, the first was a poem by D Blair titled “Detroit (While I Was Away)”.  You can see an unofficial recording of it at the link. It’s a view that many of us have of Detroit, it’s what makes Detroit home. Although it’s not the best view it shows the passion, drive and determination of the entire city. The second was Lee Thomas talking about his struggle with vitiligo and turning all lives experiences into positive power.

The last section connecting was also highly inspiring. PJ Jacokes talked about demanding imagination. PJ runs Go Comedy, an improv theater and encourages all of us to take time to explore our imagination. He asks “When was the last time the floor was made of lava”? A world without imagination is boring and mundane, we cannot get caught in the impression of “adulthood” and just let go and dream every once and a while. It will make you focus on the things that are really important.


The attendees were amazing, everyone I met was very open, friendly and doing great work. All the speakers were very inspiring and uplifting and had a very clear vision for Detroit and how to move it forward. The ideas have to start someplace and these speakers took full advantage of their time to inspire us.

I am so glad I was invited to attend TEDxDetroit and have been inspired to go forth to inspire others and move Detroit forward.

I also posted a few photos to Flickr from the event.


Refresh Detroit March Meeting

So I attended the Refresh Detroit meeting a few days ago in Ann Arbor, MI. The speaker was Barb Hernandez, User Experience Manager at TechSmith. She talked about refreshing the UI of SnagIt.

SnagIt is a screen capture application for Windows. I am not familiar with too many trialware applications for windows since its not part of my daily routine. But I know there are quite a few programs like this out there since it is not a built in feature.

She went over the previous UI and some initial problems they identified. Then brought everyone through how they do user testing and what methods they found useful to make changes to the UI.

My opinion was they did a good job, I am not use to software being so clunky since I work mainly on the web and on Apple products so the UI changes they made looked pretty good. Hard to relate them to the web tho since Windows has a pretty constricting (boring imo) layout options.

It was interesting how their process worked. They did impression testing where they showed the mockup for 5 seconds then asked the participants to sketch as much as they remember. They also used emotion cards but she did not explain exactly how they conducted it, she just showed a list which seemed to be completely contradictory items, not very much help.

One thing I was disappointed about was how she made a big deal about Ethnographic Testing but could not explain how they conducted it or really explain it in any detail because it would ruin their “next release”. Funny because all the people in the room were pretty much from the web world and they are releasing it in the next few weeks, its not like we would have stole their idea and recreate their software.

Anyways, all in all it was a good meeting. Talking more with the Refresh Detroit leadership really got me excited for the upcoming meetings.

To see if there is a refreshing meeting near you checkout the Refreshing Cities site. It is a great way for web developers, designers and usability professionals to get together and learn from each other.