Welcome to my home page. I became blind at birth. I started programming computers at a young age. I also earned my general class amateur radio license, KA3TTT, a hobby to which I have returned with great joy. I practice Qigong and identify as a Taoist. I use Linux as my desktop and Android as my mobile OS. I eat gluten-free vegan meals. For the rest you'll have to read my blog.
This weekend I attended Philly Give Camp. At this weekend-long event, volunteers give their services to nonprofits who need them. The event took place at the Microsoft building in Malvern, PA. I also got a chance to try the Microsoft Surface. I worked hard, played hard, and helped a worthy cause.
My buddy Nick picked me up at 08:30 in the morning. It felt too early for me, but I pulled myself together. I couldn’t believe that I would actually go to a Microsoft building. I love my Apple products! We found it easily enough, a very impressive structure. They seem to use it for demos. We even saw a demo server, a large box with blinking lights and racks upon racks of processors and hard drives. Pretty cool.
We met a Microsoft employee named Dani. He said he read my article about Indy Hall. Nick asked him if I could try a Surface, their new tablet. He said sure, and got it ready while I had a blueberry muffin and Earl Grey.
The SUrface looks kind of like an iPad, but smaller. It has a solid feel, Dani said they made it from liquified magnesium. They really intend you to use it in landscape orientation as evidenced by the kickstand. This works well visually, though many product designers believe that vertical touch screens don’t work well over time. Still the integrated design feels solid but heavier. It has more weight than my iPad, even with its keyboard cover.
The Surface also has a keyboard cover. It actually has two: a touch keyboard and a tactile one. Dan swapped the one for the other. It felt good enough, a little thin, but definitely usable. I know that for me, having a nice tactile keyboard cover for my iPad has made all the difference. I use my tablet much more because of it..
We figured out how to turn on Narrator, though Dani admitted to not knowing about accessibility. It came up in the settings screen with a hint about how to see all the keystrokes. I figured out how to do basic navigation, and found my way through the list. At the end, the list of commands actually had a disclaimer which said that Narrator provides basic functionality for when people cannot use a more full featured screen reader. It also said that Narrator does not work with all applications. That pretty much said it all. Compare that with VoiceOver, which functions by design as a full featured screen reader, the real deal.
Despite this I started bumbling my way around Windows. I couldn’t get the swipe gestures to work for some reason, but remembered enough from using Windows XP years ago that I started doing some things. I tried the finance program, since that feature sold me on my iPhone. It started reading me the market indices, but would cut off when reading the percent. That made the experience feel less than perfect, and certainly less than what Apple offers.
I made my way to Internet Explorer, and started browsing my blog. I like the way I could easily change my view i.e. navigating by headings. Interestingly, it did not announce headings as such. I read some text, but didn’t have a chance to explore further. Honestly, even though I made some critical points here, I had a better experience than I had envisioned. Part of me felt ready to absolutely skewer this Microsoft iPad knockoff, but another part said to keep an open mind and just observe things from a neutral perspective. I feel glad I did, and honestly grateful to Dani for letting me try it. It works better than Narrator in previous versions of Windows, I’ll give it that. And I heard that NVDA will have a free screen reader for the Surface, which could make things exciting.
Some friends asked if I wanted to come brainstorm, so I decided to go. I walked into a big room with a few nonprofits meeting. Nick and I went around, Nick leading and asking if anyone needed help with accessibility testing, Unix administration, or general WordPress help. The last one seemed like the most in demand, lots of people needed help with WordPress. But nobody needed my help. We walked around a few rooms. It began to feel like a game. Then, one of the organizers told me that a new nonprofit just arrived, and maybe they needed help.
I came into another room and found two nice women named Judy and Marge. They run Tikvah Residence, a volunteer organization that provides housing to adults with mental health needs. Tikvah means Hope in Hebrew. They have run it for thirteen years, but didn’t have a web site yet. They came to Give Camp to get volunteers to build one for them. I settled in and began discussing what they wanted. We began to get a good idea of things, then took a break for lunch. They didn’t have much in the way of vegetarian options, but I got by. If we went to an Apple campus they would have.
After lunch we got down to business. Or at least we wanted to. They told us we had to move upstairs for some unknown reason. I also met a guy named Ben and a girl named Jess. We became the core team. Nick and another guy named Dan also chipped in when they could.
We found our dynamic. Ben and I know about Linux/Apache/MYSQL/PHP servers. Jess and I have WordPress experience, with Jess having the most. She likes using the Genesis framework, so they had a discussion about which theme looked the best. An organizer gave us a free hosting account with a WordPress install. The server went very slowly, but I said nothing, considering what I paid for it.
I got a basic installation going. Jess began installing the theme. Everything froze. The server crashed. We lost everything!
This really enraged me. Several hours of work had just evaporated. I swore and threatened to just start over on my server and let the chips fall where they may. Dani runs the server, so Jess and I went to seek him out. He apologized profusely. I said I understood, since I also run servers. Shit happens. He gave us a new account on a different server. So we had lost everything, but had a new server. We went back upstairs with the bad and the good news.
I felt kind of burned out, but redid what I had done. We all pitched in. Jess installed the theme right away and it worked. Before long we had gotten things back to the point before the tragedy. The time had come for dinner. I had pasta and salad, not bad. They ran out of water however, so I had to have Sprite Zero. It reminded me of the Bill Hicks routine about Orange Drink, especially given the setting. “You know, when I’m done ranting about an elite power that rules the planet under a totalitarian government, my throat gets parched. That’s why I drink Orange Drink!” They did have good brownies though.
After we dinner we finished what we had started. I even did what I wanted to do in the beginning, I made the site more accessible. Jess put in alt tags to the images. Ben came up with some great descriptions. If any screen reader users visit the site they will enjoy the images! It made me think about how many images go completely unnoticed. I’ll bet web sites have tons of them. Jess also felt thankful because she has a blind brother and sister-and-law.
The day had gotten on and we all felt frazzled. I figured I wouldn’t come back the next day, but Ben said they had a carpooling document in their directory of Google Docs. As any blind person knows, Google Docs suck with a screen reader. And yes, I did see the instructions: Screen readers hit Alt-backtick for keyboard shortcuts. I use a Mac, I don’t have an alt key, and I couldn’t figure out what they meant by a backtick. I tried Command-backslash but to no avail. The irony of reading Google Docs on a Mac in a Microsoft campus did not escape me either. Eventually it didn’t matter, because a girl named Andrea overheard my plight and agreed to give me a ride the next day. I thought I wouldn’t come back but realized that now I would. I thought the article would end here, but now realized that it wouldn’t.
Nick and I wanted to go out for beers. A girl named Gabrielle came with us, who worked with Nick on another project. We found ourselves at the incredible Dock Street Brewery and pub. This local brewery not only makes and serves their own beer, but they use the same yeast to make incredible pizza. I had their Man Full of Trouble Porter and we split a Sicilian pizza. It had tomato sauce, garlic, olives, capers, walnuts, and fresh herbs. Amazing! We all followed that up with a Prince oatmeal stout. The incredible pizza and beer had washed away our woes. We stepped outside feeling amazing.
A homeless guy came up to us. He said he just had some Oodles of Noodles, and wanted to buy some chicken wings, and asked if we had any change. We said no even though we obviously did. Then Nick called him back over and gave him the last two slices of pizza. I wouldn’t have minded it for the next day, but then I thought: well we did just go to Give Camp after all, and if that pizza blew my mind imagine how it will make him feel. He thanked us and we went on our way.
While eating dinner, Gabby’s friend Tom joined us. We discovered that they would go near where I live, so they offered to bring me with them. I said good night to Nick and went on my way. I had to choose whether I should just go home, or join them at their friend’s for a few minutes to have fancy cocktails. As we talked, we realized that we had some interesting things in common, including Discordianism and supporting Ron Paul. That felt like a sign so despite having to get up in a few hours I went with them to have fancy drinks at a complete stranger’s house.
We walked in and the smell of cigarette smoke immediately hit me. I think I started getting a contact high off the nicotine. I figured when in Rome smoke like the romans, so pulled out a tobacco pipe, much to their amusement. We all introduced ourselves and they gave me a drink with whiskey and spices. And on the television I saw they had on Reservoir Dogs. And of course I walked in right at the good part. We all relaxed but Gabby and I had to get up the next morning, so we said our farewells and I got home.
Somehow I got up the next day. I recalled Gabby’s words from the previous night. “It’s only one weekend…” “We work hard, we play hard…” “It’s ok, it doesn’t happen very often…” “You’ve just gotta soldier through it…” “We only have to make it to two o’clock…” Andrea met up with me and we returned to the Microsoft campus.
We found each other and continued working. Judy had to get a domain, and since nobody else had arrived she just decided to go with stupid Godaddy, which I won’t even link to. No matter, she got a good deal and they had their domain. Ben really wanted them to use another hosting provider and I sort of did too, but this seemed like the path of least resistance, plus it limited my liability. Lunch came and this time they had a selection of sandwiches from Subway. I had an good vegetarian wrap, though ate it with some trepidation, since pretty much all of my family has gotten food poisoning from there.
We would have the final wrap-up a little after 01:00 so that limited our time. Still we worked as hard as we could, and somehow or the other TikvaResidence.org came into existence. Judy said it felt like giving birth to a child, a good analogy, considering both can have their share of troubles. I thought of how the process of going from nothing to something invokes the process of creation, even on a small scale like building a web site.
We made it to the wrap-up and everyone presented their projects. Since I want to speak at the upcoming RubyMotion conference in Belgium, my fellow teammates nominated me to give our speech. I talked and Ben handled the visuals. Everyone laughed at something I said and applauded so I think it worked out well.
I now have to take a quick aside to tell you about a kid named Jesse. Nick first saw him the previous day and recounted to me a very funny scene. Jesse and his Mom stood at one of the original Surfaces, one of the large prototypes big enough to fill a table, playing chess. Behind them, a huge bank of servers blinked and beeped behind a pane of glass. Nick said it looked like how people in the 1950’s thought the future would look – a huge computer powering a huge screen on a table with a kid and his mom playing a game.
Jesse also attended the wrap-up and spoke for his group about doing WordPress work. Then something very funny happened. A group couldn’t make it, so made a Youtube video to play instead. Dani started streaming it and the video buffered. “Now, see, that’s Google doing that.” he quipped. He had taken a lot of friendly banter, working for Microsoft and all, and he would soon take more. Without missing a beat, Jesse replied: “Yeah, but it’s on an internet connection over a Microsoft network.” The entire crowd clapped and howled with laughter. Zing! Jesse should get an award for his comment, and Dani should get an award for handling it with aplomb.
After the presentations Andrea said she could take me home, and we all agreed that we could do any remaining work remotely. I suddenly realized that I would leave all these people. It felt exactly like going home from summer camp. You make friends and do things together, then suddenly you have to leave. You feel the connections torn away. Maybe you’ll see some of them next year, maybe you’ll see some of them even sooner, maybe you’ll never see some of them again. The full weight of the event hit me and I realized its value.
We exist to bring our highest potential good (heaven) into physical reality (earth). By the end of the day, a bunch of new friends came together and actually built a web site. When I saw it at the end it really brought it home. Everyone benefited. We had a very long weekend, but really enjoyed Give Camp. It feels good to give to people who need your services. I forget that not everyone owns their own server and can just throw up a new WordPress installation in five minutes. The founders of Tikvah Residence didn’t know anything about how to manage a web site, and now have something that should serve them for years, or at least until the next Give Camp. See you then!
In November I went to BarCamp. Of course, they had an after party. It happened at National Mechanics. At the time I wrote somewhat disparagingly, because of the loud environment. I now realize my error, and felt like I had to write an article to resolve the situation.
Lots of people attended BarCamp. They had a huge party afterward. We filled the place! One could hardly walk. People sang karaoke and played Rockband. It all made for quite a noisy time.
I just can’t stand situations like that, faced by a sea of sound from all directions. I imagine everyone feels this to an extent, but not having sight and therefore relying on my ears makes it even worse. I stuck it out and felt glad I did, but I longed for something quieter. I even talked about forming an alternative to the alternative at a quiet place with good conversation and vegetarian food. I figured I would only go to National Mechanics once or twice a year. I figured wrong.
Last week I joined Indy Hall. Has that only happened eight days ago? I feel stunned. Last Thursday I gave a speech at the Philly Cocoaheads group. Afterward, we went to National Mechanics. I figured I’d come along, since a beer sounded good after my ordeal. To my delight I founded it less crowded and therefore less loud and had a good time celebrating my victory. I even ate a good veggie burger and fries.
Today, Indy Hall had an event for something called Jellyweek. At first I didn’t understand the meme of jellying, but the guys explained it to me. When people meet somewhere with free wifi to work together, they call it jellying. Apparently the guy who originally blogged about it had a big jar of jellybeans at his house, and he’d invite his friends over to work together, so they called it jellying. Now this has spread. From jellying comes collaborative workspaces like Indy Hall. But it all started in a bar.
During Jelly Week, different events go on all around the world to celebrate collaborative coworking. Basically, if you have a laptop, something to do, and a good attitude, you can show up and do some free work. To go back to their roots, Indy Hall went back to National Mechanics. In the beginning they worked out a deal with them where they could come and work during the day, and of course give them business. Things worked out and that grew into the wonderful space we now know as Indy Hall. What a story!
I didn’t know what to expect, but figured I would have fun at anything they did, so signed up. The day started at 11:00. I showed up around 02:00. I had never worked at a bar before. It felt weird to reach over the bar to type on my MacBook Air or browse on my iPad, but I quickly adapted. I finished reading the RubyMotion book, which made me feel good. Then I started working on this article. The afternoon had started getting on. A friend and I stepped out for a smoke. I came in and enjoyed my free drink, a Great Lakes Porter.
While checking in to FourSquare, I learned something cool from unlocking a special. National Mechanics has an iTunes library, and lets you use Apple’s Remote app to request songs. What a great idea! I requested with All TOmorrow’s Parties, by the Velvet Underground. I started feeling really good.
I met a girl named Sonia and her boyfriend Ian, as well as their colleague Jim. They run Paperweight Design Studio. We chatted about all kinds of things, including the Mayan calendar, business, cats, computers, and beer. Sonia asked if I remembered Netbooks. My goddess! I started out on an Apple II/e way back in 1984! Have Netbooks really died that quickly? In the summer of 2009 I lauded them, calling them the end of note taker fascism.
I had started getting hungry. This felt truly novel. I had spent the afternoon working in a space, and now I would just remain and eat. I had one of their excellent veggie burgers and more of their amazing fries. Sonia had a hummus platter and shared a little. I also had another porter. I really felt the vibe now, so requested Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads, a classic.
Things started winding down for us, and heating up for the bar. The Indy Hall crowd had started thinning out. I decided I should go. Sonia helped me catch a cab home. On my way out I requested A Farewell to Kings, by Rush. It felt like a rallying cry for the spirit of Indy Hall and those who wish to build a better space! In retrospect perhaps Closer to the Heart would have served that purpose better, but oh well, I left and the song played.
When they turn the pages of history
When these days have passed long ago
Will they read of us with sadness
For the seeds that we let grow?
We turned our gaze
From the castles in the distance
Eyes cast down
On the path of least resistance
Cities full of hatred, fear and lies
Withered hearts and cruel, tormented eyes
Scheming demons dressed in kingly guise
Beating down the multitude and
Scoffing at the wise
I just gave a great talk at the Philly Cocoaheads group. We met at the life-transforming Indy Hall. I covered basic iOS accessibility, RubyMotion, and how the two go together. I’ve given serious thought to giving a similar talk at the RubyMotion conference in Belgium. We’ll see how that goes.
It all started last night at my first ever night owl session. Indy Hall has them every Wednesday night. They don’t count against your days, any member can go. They make a great social outlet and a chance to get a little work done. I did both.
I had started thinking about giving this talk, but didn’t know if I could actually do it, or if I should fly across the world to try. I met Mike on my first day there and that got me thinking about Philly Cocoaheads. I wondered if I could maybe persuade him into perhaps giving me a few minutes at the end of his meeting to give it a try. I messaged him on Twitter and he said he’d attend the night owl session. I got there and he found me.
“So what’s the agenda like for the meeting?” I asked, trying to work in my idea. He sort of laughed. “Well it’s pretty loose. Our speaker bailed at the last minute.” Perfect! I told him of my idea and he agreed. The pieces slid together like a puzzle.
I began preparing an outline then and there. I felt so excited. I took a break and wandered upstairs, where I found a girl named Kara cooking tomato soup and polenta. This place just keeps getting better! I ate and talked, working off my energy. I began wishing I could telekinetically teleport my beer from downstairs, then a girl brought it. That made me think about language as a lower form of telepathy. I finished the glass and wondered about more. Then they introduced me to the hard cider… Appleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee?!
I woke up the next day and finished my outline. I also got some tips from some blind developer friends as well as the awesome RubyMotion mailing list. Things really came together. I got an awful cab ride there. The interior smelled like an armpit and I wanted to vomit. I found myself at Indy Hall and had a quick smoke and word with Adam. He had recommended to me a service called Uber. I told him I would have to register for it for the journey home.
I went up to the second floor and found Mike and everyone else just hanging out. I had eaten so declined pizza, though would feel hungry later. I drank water and went over things one last time. I tried to stay calm and mostly succeeded. The meeting began.
They went over some business issues and had a cool show and tell period. One guy showed off some custom layouts he made for images. He encouraged people to publish them on github, which fit perfectly into my talk, as a number of developers have released open source RubyMotion apps. A high school kid showed a sweet jailbreak tweak he made to make the iPhone have a universal QR code scanner. I wanted to bring up the accessibility implications, but didn’t get a chance. Very cool! And great to see someone of that age doing this stuff. Keep it up man, just stay out of trouble.
The time for my talk had come. Mike offered a patch cord and suggested an audio demonstration. I hadn’t thought of that, but liked the idea. I tend to gloss over all this basic stuff, but forget most people have never encountered it before. I got everything set up and began. Listen for yourself.
First I covered VoiceOver basics, explaining just how a blind person uses an iPhone. The iPhone changed my universe as soon as it entered it. I wrote an article which went viral. So many amazing apps make such a difference. I mentioned Color ID, Looktel Money Reader, and BlindSquare as examples, though hundreds more exist. Someone asked a great question about how one would begin, in other words if they just walked into an Apple store what kind of help would they get? I told them of my experiences which I recounted in my very funny article entitled Rejoining the Apple Family. Someone asked if BlindSquare provides contextual information of your surroundings like a sighted person would have, they got it exactly. It also helps you not get ripped off by cabbies.
Next we turned to the exciting world of RubyMotion, which lets you write iOS apps in Ruby. I apologized in advance for pushing Ruby, even though I love the language. I also plugged TinkerLearn, a great course for learning iOS and Objective C. I recounted my initial experience hearing about RubyMotion, like a vision crystalized into physical reality. I covered some things that make Ruby great, and RubyMotion especially. I mentioned some common gems including BubbleWrap, sugarcube, formotion, geomotion, and Motionmodel. I also discussed creating views. We prefer to do it programmatically, which works better for a blind developer as well. To that end the Teacup gem provides a domain specific language for designing stylesheets.
I then brought the two topics together, and discussed how RubyMotion helps accessibility. I started by restating my opinion that I just seem to get more work done in Ruby. It also sounds better with speech to me. I also know plenty of blind C programmers, so don’t take that as a generalization.
Now I got into one of the big points of the discussion. RubyMotion has unit testing, something quite cool in itself. This lets a developer write automated tests on various parts of their app. Not only that, RubyMotion also provides functional tests. This lets you simulate the effect of tapping a button in a view. And how does it know the name of the button? From its accessibility label! In other words, if you write specs like a good developer, you will have to label your buttons properly, the main complaint.
After making more fun of Xcode, I covered a challenge for blind developers. The iOS Simulator doesn’t work well with VoiceOver, so it doesn’t matter which language you use. Either way testing an app on an actual device works much better. This means that you can’t use the super cool REPL which RubyMotion provides. Instead you have to use the debugger. Based on GDb, it works well enough, but the developers intend to create a more friendlier and higher level debugger in the future.
I finished my main talk and opened it up for questions. Someone asked how I used Xcode when I tried it. “Oh, I didn’t try very much.” I responded matter of factly. That got a laugh.
I explained about interacting with items with VoiceOver on a Mac. Xcode has a very complicated layout. I had no idea. Mike asked about build settings. And of course you just add them in your Rakefile, just edit a plain textfile. Nice and easy. He also asked about constraints. Some of the gems I mentioned have begun supporting them, but I don’t know much about them yet. I understand more now though, thanks to the wonderful Cocoaheads.
Someone asked another good question, if I see difference in accessibility across Apple devices, an iPad vs an iPhone for example. I said they behave very similarly, though iPad screens do have more complicated layouts with more going on. The iPhone does give a more streamlined experience. I also forgot to mention Zoom, Apple’s large print magnification software. Someone asked about Siri. I said it works as well for me as it does for anyone, except for me it seems to have happened in reverse. I’ve always enjoyed having my text messages read to me. Now sighted people have finally discovered it.
Someone asked about any egregiously bad apps, in other words really inaccessible ones. My mind went blank. We always have one or two apps in mind and they change over time. For lack of a better answer I said the one I had most recently thought of: theLost Treasures of Infocom. I also recommended Applevis which has ratings.
My brain felt shot. Beer and tobacco sounded good. We made our way to National Mechanics. I had a bad opinion of this place because we came here after BarCamp and it sounded so loud. This time it had a more tolerable volume. I had a double cream stout, then felt hungry so ordered a veggie burger. I also wanted a beer from Belgium to get that vibe going, so got a Corsendonk Christmas Ale. You Belgians make some good beer!
I felt like a nice ride home plus I had gotten some credit for it so tried Uber. Within minutes a nice black car pulled up and brought me home. I had a very pleasant experience. I’ll take fake vanilla over real armpit any time.
As I sat down to write this article I got another delightful surprise. A guy named Drew mentioned me on Twitter. “Worlds collide.” he said. He referenced Alex, one of the organizers of Indy Hall, so I thought it had something to do with my talk. I asked if we know each other. He said he didn’t attend my talk, but he rememberd playing Barneysplat! I wrote that game in the nineties and it became insanely popular. It always warms my heart when someone else remembers it. It made my night.
I just went with a friend to a great vegan restaurant called Vedge. The same cooks used to run a placed called Horizons, which I also reviewed. As soon as I learned that I knew we had picked a great place. We had wonderful food and a wonderful time.
My friend Liz and I felt like going somewhere nice since we didn’t get to hang out over the holidays. My mom told me of Vedge, 1221 Locust Street. Directory Assistance didn’t have their number, so we began to wonder if they even existed. I found their web site, and eventually found their contact information. Why do restaurant web sites never have the location and phone number on the main page? This one proved no exception, but eventually I found the number and Liz called. She learned that we could not get a reservation, but if we showed up early enough we could probably get a seat. We figured we’d just walk right over since they open at 05:00 and just see what happens.
To our delight, they could take us. We quickly met our waitress named Alison. She helped us the whole time and took good care of us. I had a Cadillac Mountain Stout and Liz had some red wine.
Alison started naming all the wonderful things they had and my brained turned a summersault. As with Horizons, you can easily get overwhelmed. I eventually decided on Korean spring rolls and squash pierogis in a wine sauce. Liz got some wonderful turnips and kale, and a lentil crepe thing. We shared portions and sampled each other’s and had a good time. I could eat those spring rolls every day, and you can’t lose with squash pierogis in wine sauce. Liz enjoyed her’s as well.
I felt a little confused by the meal format. They have starters and main entrees. At first I didn’t know if I’d get enough food, but as I ate I began to get very full indeed. I called it an incremental feast.
We both felt so content, both from the alcohol and the wonderful food. Of course I had to save room for dessert. I got this triple chocolate thing with a pretzel crust on the bottom and peanut butter. It also came with some stout beer ice cream which tastes exactly like how it sounds, and some chocolate bar. I don’t know exactly what I got, but I described it as intergalactically good. It made me hallucinate. Liz got some vegan cheese cake and loved it. Alison also gave us some dessert wine. Even though they call it wine, it seemed a lot more potent, and I felt glad we just had to get a cab home, which they called for us.
As with Horizons, I highly recommend this place. They have similar food but with differences. A lot of the food had subtle flavors. This doesn’t apply to everything, those spring rolls had some real spice, but it seemed to hold true for the main courses. And those desserts left us speechless. Make a reservation ahead of time, or show up right at 05:00 and you will have an unforgettable night. We did.
At long last I have finally come to Indy Hall, a coworking space in Philadelphia. Many people told me I HAVE to check it out, and now I see why. The web site has testimonials of people saying how it feels like home. I agree. I love it here!
I signed up for a tour on their very accessible page. The email said to reply with any questions so I replied and made sure they could assist me. Adam wrote back and said of course they could. He also checked out my blog and said it blew his mind. Good.
I don’t live far, so took a cab. The ride only cost me nine dollars. I stepped out of the cab and heard some people talking about hackers and knew I had found the right building. I pulled out my tobacco pipe and lit up. “Is that legal now in Pennsylvania?” a guy quipped. “This is just tobacco.” I said. “Oh I know.” he laughed. “But it will be legal soon enough.” I added. I think I will fit in just fine here.
I went inside and Adam met me at the desk. He wanted to know what I saw with echolocation. “I see a big space with a lot of desks.” I said. “That’s exactly what it is!” He showed me around the two floors. The actual tour didn’t take long. They have done a lot to bring a good ambience to the place. They have lots of art and plant life, as well as an aquarium with a turtle. They have a full kitchen, a healthy snack machine, and plenty of caffeine. And they have two wi-fi networks.
I didn’t really know what to expect at a coworking space, but I quickly got the idea. People rent desks, and the open area lets people talk and mingle as they choose, or work when they need to. Some people come in a day or two per month, some come every day. You can choose the plan that works best for you. And on Wednesday nights they have their night owl sessions. As a night owl myself I appreciate this, and will go to one very soon. “We also tend to drink more beer then.” “Then I’ll definitely have to go.” See I told you drinking beer made me more friends!
Adam found me a desk and said I could just hang out. I didn’t bring anything specific to do but figured I could read mail or something. I met Mike who sat across from me. I quickly dove into my email and spent a half hour doing that.
A friend of Mike’s named Corey came over and they started talking. I overheard something about the Shindig app of which I wrote about. I had wanted to talk to the developers about improving the app’s accessibility, and now by chance or design I found myself sitting with them. “That’s great! We’re all about that.” they said. Mike also runs the Philly Cocoa Heads group. Cocoa refers to the frameworks used in Mac OS and iOS. I promised I would show up for sure. They also want to know more about RubyMotion which I raved about despite still learning it. I spent the remainder of my time writing this article.
So in my first day I made some new friends, found a new user group, and a new place to work. I know i will come back here regularly. It feels so good to hear people talking about programming, HTML, games, whatever. They have created something very special here, one of Philadelphia’s gems. Anyone with similar interests should come to Indy Hall. The more the merrier! Oh and by the way they have seventy-two quartz of Baskin Robbin’s ice cream.