August 2013

A Weekend of Web Development

The weekend of August 16th was a busy one for the 250 attendees of the Northeast PHP Conference, which took the NERD Center by storm! The three-day event was jam packed with workshops, speakers, and general sessions about PHP, web technology, and user experience (UX).

Northeast PHP logo

With the inaugural PHP conference a success last year, organizers and attendees were thrilled that the tradition continued this year due in part to Microsoft’s support as Platinum Sponsor and venue provider. It’s no surprise, however, that the conference returned, as it was a fan favorite, voted #1 in the Top 12 Events at NERD in 2012!

The conference, a collective brainchild of Boston PHP, Atlantic Canada PHP, and Burlington,VT PHP, united both experienced speakers as well as emerging talent in the northeast region of the United States and Canada. With 35 talks from 28 speakers, it’s safe to assume that attendees had plenty of options for speakers and topics!

Northeast PHP Conference

Eli White kicked off the conference with a well-received keynote on “Looking to the Past, to Predict the Future.” Judging by the 4 and 5 star ratings his talk received on, I would say his presentation was a hit! White’s counterpart, Terry Chay, wrapped up the weekend with a closing keynote on “Ten Evil Things: Features Engineering at Wikipedia.” Chay’s talk was highly anticipated, as the conference was his first appearance after a hiatus from public speaking. Welcome back Terry!


2013 Northeast PHP Conference speakers

Along with the PHP experts, there were also some newcomers to the show. Several first-time speakers, including Eryn O’Neil (You Can UX Too: Avoiding the Programmer’s User Interface), Ryan Freebern (The UX of URLs), Katelyn Sessions (Mobile-First Design), were introduced and well received.

So what’s in store for the conference next? In addition to the Boston event, you may also see the conference become a travelling show with satellite events across the northeast. We’ll keep you posted!

HandsOn Tech: Bringing Technology and Nonprofits Together

Congratulations are in order for HandsOn Tech Boston! Providing pro bono technology assistance to local nonprofits, the organization has successfully endured its first year in operation. Now on to year two! But first, a year-end celebration is in order and what better place to celebrate technology than at the NERD Center.

HandsOn Tech Celebration

Photo Credit: Dana J. Quigley

Last Thursday, August 15, HandsOn Tech brought together 170 people including a variety of nonprofits, HandsOn Tech volunteers, and community partners (Microsoft included) to recognize their collaborative efforts. Microsoft is thrilled to be a community partner and help HandsOn Tech fulfill their mission of improving the nonprofit sector’s use of technology. By assessing each nonprofit’s technology challenges, providing free technology trainings and tools, and implementing a sustainable solution, HandsOn Tech is able to transform the way in which nonprofits use technology and function overall.

HandsOn Tech Celebration

Photo Credit: Dana J. Quigley

Enjoying tasty appetizers from Whole Foods Fresh Pond, event goers networked in Microsoft’s modern space and listened to several speakers comment on volunteerism, philanthropy, and the intersection between tech and nonprofit communities. Microsoft’s Jim O’Neil was among the speakers, which also included James Magerman from Common Impact, Travis McCready from The Boston Foundation,  Matt Dunne (Founder of HandsOn Tech), and Sam New and Erick Olson from HandsOn Tech.

Sam New and Erick Olson

Sam New and Erick Olson from HandsOn Tech speak at the celebration Photo Credit: Dana J. Quigley

O’Neil, in particular, commented on Microsoft’s continued support of nonprofits and their importance in our community. He exemplified GiveCamp New England, a weekend-long program where developers camp out at the NERD Center and build web tools for nonprofits. The post-event buzz on Twitter was that these speakers were all phenomenal and the celebration itself was fun and engaging.

What will HandsOn Tech have in store for the community next year? Stay tuned and in the meantime follow them on Twitter @HandsOnTechBOS!



HandsOn Tech Logo



4 Ways to Spend the Last Weeks of Summer in Cambridge

You may not have had enough of summer yet, but those recent chilly mornings can only mean one thing: fall is on its way. Before you get weighed down by your oversized winter coats and snowed in by the inevitable blizzards (sorry for the reminder…) cherish your last few weeks of summer! Check out our list of 4 fun things to do in Cambridge before the end of summer.

  1. Get inspired at the MIT Museum. Being a tech company of course we included this one, but the MIT Museum is a must for everyone! Whether or not you’ve been before, spend a day submerged in invention, ideas, and innovation. My two exhibition picks? Hidden Heroes: The Genius of Everyday Things and Robots and Beyond: Exploring Artificial Intelligence at MIT.
  2. Grab a Hubway bike and explore Cambridge. For a few bucks you can bask in the summer sun, fit in your exercise for the day, and stop by all your favorite shops, restaurants, and parks. There’s no better way to see what’s happening in your city than to find out for yourself!
  3. Work out with Inner City Weightlifting at Microsoft. Summer is all about being active, so join us for a killer workout. You’ll be supporting an awesome nonprofit that is making a difference in our community while also doing some serious stress busting.
  4. Go on a Segway tour of Cambridge. Come on…we’ve all wanted to try out a Segway since we first heard about them years ago. Maybe they’re not all they’re hyped up to be, but you won’t know until you try!

There you have it! Four ways to spend your last few weeks of summer in Cambridge. Have any other fun activities or events to add to our list? Let us know on Facebook or tweet us!



innercity weightlifting





The Science of Marketing

What did I learn at the Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange’s (MITX) Data and Analytics Summit, held this month at Fidelity Investments? For one thing, my college marketing courses should have been counted as science credits!

Jesse Harriott and Dave Krupinski

Jesse Harriott from Constant Contact and Dave Krupinkski from deliver the opening keynote

You heard me right. In today’s age of advanced data and analytics, marketing has become a science – literally. Now more than ever, marketers are looking at the abundance of numbers, statistics, and formulas they collect to inform their best marketing practices.

At the Microsoft-sponsored Summit, The Science of Marketing: Using Data and Analytics for Winning, major brand executives from Constant Contact,, Mullen, Panera, and Microsoft (it was one impressive bunch!) among many others advised the audience how to harness the power of data to optimize the ROI of marketing programs. There was also a brief, but equally important discussion concerning the favorite Panera sandwich of Shawn Utke, Vice President of Brand Insights and Research at Panera Bread. It’s the Bacon Turkey Bravo in case you were wondering…

David Rothschild

David Rothschild

David Rothschild, Economist at Microsoft Research in New York City, also joined the conversation with an afternoon session on The Impending Transformation of Market Research. Rothschild’s powerful and real-time predictions have spanned everything from Obama to the Oscars, predicting 50 of 51 states correct in the presidential election, 19 of the 24 categories of the Oscars correct and recently dabbling with the Eurovision song contest. A look at his prediction page gives you a sense of the varied models (across political races, professional sports and entertainment, among other topics) he’s looking at, and how his research is changing the face of forecasting, collaborating with various Microsoft teams like Xbox (Live Polling during the Presidential debates) and Bing (Social Media Interest Scale) to build more relevant, real-time, accurate and extensible methods.

Data Summit Audience

Not a seat was empty!

In his session, Rothschild shared how his methodology for survey research can more efficiently and more cost-effectively determine both present AND future insights. With this new methodology, he is certain survey research will undergo a transformation for the better in upcoming years.

“I was able to share with the audience at MITX some of the insights I have gained as cutting edge projects in both polling and prediction games, initiated here at Microsoft, have started to come to fruition, along with my general work studying the market research industry,” said Rothschild. “I am privileged at Microsoft Research to have the freedom to pursue my research with an academic mindset, while also having the opportunity to spend the time to learn from the community of people who actively engage in the work I study and have my work feed back to them. Great events like MITX allow me to do both.”

Rothschild’s session was just one of many (full list of sessions here), however, that taught attendees how to build successful data and analytics plans in their own organizations. Whether a data expert or a newbie to the world of data and analytics, all summit-goers left with a new strategy, insight, or tool they can use to improve their own practices.

Special thanks to David Rothschild and Tom Parnell for their help in drafting this post!