Refresh Baltimore Makes a Comeback

| In Refresh Baltimore | by Sarah Jones

What started in 2008 was the idea of refreshing the Baltimore tech community through the Refresh movement.  What followed were several monthly events, some more memorable than others, that did exactly that.  The concept is simple: bring together sharp design and development professionals to learn from each other and build a more prosperous community. And so began Refresh Baltimore.

After a two year hiatus, it's official-- Refresh Baltimore is back.  It's been an exciting few months planning Refresh and spreading the good word on it's comeback.  As a newcomer on the Baltimore scene, a lot of time was spent getting to know the community - the Baltimore tech community in particular.  Not only did I meet A LOT of really great people, I learned what makes them tick, what Refresh used to be, and what it potentially should be.  I started planning, the Vim team began building the new site, and come January, I could hardly wait for my first Refresh Baltimore.

So, last Thursday, nearly 100 Baltimore techies, creatives, and the like congregated at Betamore: the newest hot spot for movers, shakers, game changers, and enrepreneurs.  

After some light refreshments (thanks again to Smartlogic and Natty Boh for providing), the lovely Tracey Halvorsen of Fastspot gave the most thought provoking presentation on BigTree CMS: an open source content management system built on PHP and MySQL created by — and for — user experience and content strategy experts.  The presentation covered everything from the inspiration and thought processes of creating BigTree to the leg work and logistics of building out the service.  Of all the points Tracey made, what stuck with me most was why. Why create a service for FREE?  Why put so much time and effort into a project, having an entire team bring it to fruition and then give it away for free??  


Tracey explains why in her company's blog Think Design Interact, "Today we live in a world where the tools we make in order to create more beautiful things are best given away in order to build community. Community is more valuable to the end result than hoarding the tools and only breaking them out for "our" projects. I don't want the things we've built and that we love to gather dust and eventually run the risk of becoming obsolete... If you have created software, the only way to guarantee it will survive is to get lots of people using it. The best way to get lots of people using it is it make it free. The best way to make sure people use your free thing is to make sure you're giving away a really awesome free thing. We've done that and 2013 is the year we make sure we announce this from the highest peaks, and lowest basements of our connected worlds."  (Check out video coverage and Tracey's slides below)







The presentation was solid. Tracey informed, enlightened, inspired, and refreshed the audience from start to finish.  Everyone that I've spoken with since agrees that Tracey's talk left us with the same ultimate goal in mind: promoting and supporting each other's efforts in hopes of building community. I must say, there's nothing like being enlightened with with a cold Natty Boh in hand, a great view of M&T, and in the company of some of the smartest people you know (or just met).  There were moments when I stopped and thought, wow.. Balitmore is where it's at. And then, we wound up in the Super Bowl.

"While we are making sure every web developer out there takes a good close look at BigTree, we will be doing something else as a by-product. We will be promoting the city of Baltimore because that is where we are from... I hope Baltimore realizes that by promoting each other and celebrating our community and our efforts, we increase the visibility for ourselves and our city. I think we'd all agree that's a good thing for everyone."  Agreed.


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