August 2017

PLAY NYC, New York’s Premier Games Convention, Launches Summer 2017 at Terminal 5

Dan Butchko, CEO and founder of Playcrafting, has announced Play NYC, the premier convention dedicated to video games in New York City. Connecting players with creators alike, this family­ friendly event will take place Aug. 19­ & 20. It features three floors of games, over 100 developers and 20 presentations from industry leaders (including Microsoft).

“Basically, what we are doing is putting together New York’s version of PAX meets GDC,” said event organizer Dan Butchko. “We’re going to finally give New York the dedicated games convention it deserves.”

Video games and the art that comes along with them have invaded other conventions, making up 20 percent of New York Comic Con each year.

“We’ve been doing Playcrafting expos for about four years now,” said Butchko. “What started as originally ten developers sitting in a room and showing their games to each other has exploded. It’s a huge indicator that this is the kind of event the New York community needs.”

Nationwide, Playcrafting has contributed to the professional advancement of over 25,000 developers by hosting more than 200 classes and courses generating over 150 new games annually. Their quarterly expos are attended by over 1,000 gamers and developers. Play NYC is the next step in its mission to provide developers the tools to get a leg up by impressing the industry and bringing their games to a whole new level.

Play NYC events will run Aug. 19­—20 from 10 am to 6 pm at Terminal 5. Devs and Pros passes are available starting at $50 for both days and allow entry to two days of talks and panels. Tickets can be purchased online at play­nyc.com.

The Future of Coworking in NYC — From Microsoft to Beyond

As real-estate prices in urban centers continue to climb across the nation, companies like WeWork have stepped in to offer start-ups, non-profits, and other ventures affordable co-working spaces. However, a number of groups have reimagined coworking spaces as more than just an efficient solution to expensive city office space. Organizations like Civic Hall, Prime Produce, and Cornell Tech have embraced coworking spaces as a means through which distinct organizations can achieve beyond their individual capacities. From co-ops to accelerators, collaboration spaces have started to focus on strategically selecting companies with a shared value set, development phase, or industry focus. Building a community of similarly oriented ventures across sectors and functions allows for both informal and formal collaborations that amplify each organization’s effectiveness and reach.

One such co-working space, Civic Hall, has an application process and requires that its members be working on projects related to civic technology. A core tenet of the space is that no endeavor can succeed without at least some degree of cross-sector collaboration. The diverse set of members at Civic Hall, from Microsoft to small start-ups, mingle at weekly lunch events on civic tech related topics, network over coffee in the shared kitchen, and ultimately leverage one another’s unique skill-set and talents.

Other coworking spaces are more focused on members having a shared process or phase of development. For example, Prime Produce, a co-op that describes itself as a “guild for social good,” is committed to serving as a shared working environment and community for organizations focused on decelerating their growth trajectory to focus on supply-chain, process, and quality. By working with a diverse set of companies, the team at Prime Produce hopes they will identify shareable insights and a consistent framework for both their members and non-members.

The insights on collaboration that places like Prime Produce and Civic Hall are working to codify are already being embraced by larger institutions. The much awaited Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, for example, is designed to intentionally foster run-ins between researchers, students, and industry leaders. One campus center is made of two separate wings, one for students and one for researchers, connected by a giant glass bridge that serves as a cafeteria and shared space. A lead designer on the project, Michael Manfredi, explains, “it’s about making connections between someone who might be working at Microsoft and some doctoral student who is working on ways of assembling information.”

In each case, coworking spaces, have begun to shift from a reaction to the realities of city-living to intentional forums where the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts! We can’t wait to see how coworking develops and expands in the future.

Fulfilling the Promise of Open Data through Data Literacy Training

In June, the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) at the Urban Institute and Microsoft released a collection of resources and recommendations on extending and expanding training opportunities for staff at civic organizations and governments to help them leverage data and technology to tackle local priorities.  To illustrate the foundations, learnings, and impacts that informed the NNIP study, we are delighted to have NNIP partners from around the U.S. sharing their experiences in developing and operating their local training programs in a series of guest blogs.  Below is one of these experiences. Other posts in this series are available from the Urban Institute and the DetroitOakland, and Seattle partner organizations.

— Elizabeth Grossman, Director of Civic Projects, Microsoft

Working together, the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center (WPRDC) and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) have discovered that providing data and technology training to Pittsburgh-area residents advances our common interests in supporting resident learning, informed decision making, and community engagement. Our two organizations have complementary missions. WPRDC maintains Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh’s open data portal, provides services to help with publishing and using data, and organizes events to connect publishers and users. CLP launched a major initiative last year focusing on open data, data literacy, and the ways that data might inform sound decision making.

Motivators for the Training

When participants at a 2016 WPRDC User Group meeting asked for more support around using data on the website, the opportunity to partner on data and technology training became clear. Together we designed Data 101 — an introductory series of workshops designed to increase data literacy regardless of past experience.

Hosting Data 101 was an ideal opportunity for the library to reinforce core data concepts and help residents overcome the barriers to using open data. Open data only becomes public data when other critical elements are in place, such as equitable access to technology, opportunities for learning, and community relationships. Public libraries are well positioned to connect people to these pieces that are often missing.

How Training Has Impacted Participants’ Community Work

Data 101 participants came from a variety of organizations, including city and county government staff, foundation program officers, non-profit staff, students and library system staff.  The CLP lead for Digitization and Special Projects was one of ten Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh participants. She attended to learn more about how data could intersect with her life, both personally and professionally. “I am a visual learner and [as a result of attending Data 101] I’ve found myself actually creating data visualizations to better understand data I’ve either accumulated or been given. The best thing I took away from the series is identifying what data is and how it can tell a story.”

The non-profit staff were often looking for support in grant writing, service outreach, and program evaluation. One grant writer from a local community center first came to the training at the request of her organization’s CEO. She found herself dealing with data often — presenting them to managers, directors and funders — but wasn’t confident about her technical skills. She attended all 4 of the workshops in the initial series and learned to think about how to present and explain data in new ways. Because of the trainings, she has used her new skills to help her organization focus their efforts geographically by identifying municipalities with lower income and higher unemployment rates and also which of their partner agencies served those areas. This helped her organization target career development services where it was needed most.

“I liked that the series encouraged everyone to think about the concepts of visualizing data, before learning about the tools that are available. These activities also gave us opportunities to work with others and share ideas, rather than just working separately on laptops. As a result, I learned how others use data in their jobs, from those who work directly with clients, and record data points, to those looking at the big picture with data to make programming decisions.”

New Toolkit to Share Lessons and Empower More Libraries to Train

We keep trying new things and learning along the way. We discovered quickly that it is better to teach concepts separately from tools. We have taught concepts with paper-based activities so we can democratize the workshop, allowing all participants to participate equally regardless of their technical skills. Using paper also allows participants to work together more easily, making our workshops highly collaborative. While the series was designed for people starting at the very beginning, more advanced users also found the interactive format appealing and learned something new.

We will be finalizing a Toolkit for Public Librarians later this summer — which will offer a variety of training activities that public librarians can use in their own work around data literacy. We tested an early version of the toolkit at a National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) meeting to get feedback from other practitioners who may want to facilitate similar trainings in their communities. The NNIP network and its training catalog help nurture, develop, and propagate structures and trainings — such as Data 101 — that ultimately help ensure data are used in service of communities. We encourage all organizations, especially public libraries and open data providers, to consider providing local data and technology training and joining us in this cause.

About the Authors

Elizabeth Monk (Liz) is a Research Specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Social and Urban Research where she manages the Southwestern Pennsylvania Community Profiles and contributes to the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center. Liz also contributes to University research reports and community outreach.  

Eleanor Tutt is the open data and knowledge manager at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. By opening library data, connecting library measures to community impacts, and supporting residents as they build their skills and confidence using data in the civic realm, she hopes to contribute to a more equitable and accessible open data space. Eleanor joined the public library world after serving as a data analyst and mapmaker for a regional community development nonprofit in St. Louis.