TekMountain Mentor

I’m genuinely honored to have been invited on as a Mentor at TekMountain, a forward-looking tech incubator here in Wilmington, NC, where I live. I’ll co-work my first real day there today!

TekMountain has been a fantastic host, thought leader, and citizen in this region since it started up a couple years ago, partnering with Cucalorus on Cucalorus Connect, a new film sub-festival celebrating tech and entrepreneurship, hosting innumerable public forums and meetups on technology and business, taking the lead here in opposition to NC’s loathsome HB2 bill, chartering Cape Fear Women in Tech, tons of stuff.

I imagine I’ve been tapped for my credentials as an IBMer, dilettante technologist, and local gadfly. To earn my keep, I’m proposing to convene, assist or participate in the following projects, many of which we’ve sort of got underway already.

Projects and ideas

  • With John Cornelius at Wide Open Tech, UNCW Psychology chair and brain guy Julian Keith, Watson University IBMer Mike Orr, and Tanner Clayton, we convened a tech talk on artificial intelligence at Tekmountain last year that was really well attended, energetic, and thoughtful–and that only scratched the surface of this topic.Mike and Julian, the two panelists, have already plotted a follow-up and I really want to bring it to TekMountain and enlarge the conversation even more.


  • In that context or some other, I’d like to show off some of IBM’s Cognitive Computing APIs, services like Emotion Analysis and others in our Watson Developer Cloud that you can build into cognitive applications on IBM’s Bluemix cloud development platform.


  • More generally, I think I can demonstrate a bit about Bluemix development, like my man Jeff Sloyer, who works as an evangelist at IBM and at an incubator in Raleigh.


  • Blockchain is white-hot right now. I’d love to talk about hyperledgers, blockchain applications, and how this technology works with transactions, security, and business processes. I’d of course have to learn this stuff first.


  • In similar fashion (i.e., learn by doing, learn by presenting), I  think we could talk about the Swift programming language, which Apple has open-sourced and IBM is building into the enterprise, Linux, and the server side). Maybe also Whiskwhat it has to do with Swift, “server-less” architectures, Internet of Things, and stuff like that.


  • I’m already working on putting Wilmington on the very short list of cities that will host one of Sandy Carter’s tremendous Hackathons


  • I’d love of course to write for TekMountain, and more about the area and technology generally.


  • I really want to do something with programming for kids at TekMountain. For the last few years, I’ve lead tech club and “code camps” at my son’s elementary and in the summer, using MIT’s  Scratch programming environment to introduce kids to coding and, like, systems thinking type stuff, design.


  • I’d also like to connect TekMountain and the Cape Fear Economic Development Council, where I’m a director, in ways beyond the friendly and partner-ish relationship we have now. These two organizations want many of the same things and have great individuals and brain power to combine.


  • Just for fun, and since I’m the guy in the area who in the past has organized informal lunches of IBMers in the region, and there are many (Kure Beach, Ogden, Wrightsville, etc.), I thought it’d be fun to have an IBMer mixer at TekMountain, show my colleagues the facility, the co-working, TekMountain’s new brewing powers.


I’m working on a project that I hope you will find interesting and maybe even help out with: memetrade.org is (will be) a site for investing in and shorting viral phrases, or memes. Like a stock market for memes. A game. But maybe with real money. Like: “I’m shorting ‘In da club’ and putting money on ‘Starfish'”, and so on. It’d be so awesome.

Like the now-deceased Popdex (“WTF happened to Popdex?“), which allowed you to build a portfolio of celebrities and earn as those celebrities became more celebrated, lose as they lost relevance. But for words and phrases. Memetrade uses tools like Google Trends, memetracker.org, and others to track the rise and fall of expressions. Expressions like “It’s complicated”, which as everyone knows became a coy, self-regarding way for Facebookers to list their relationship status and then, inevitably, the name of a rom-com movie that probably didn’t do well because it was conceived as a vehicle for the cool meme. I’m picturing the focus groups and executive pitches here. Don’t launch movies because everybody is saying this thing around the office or the school yard, like “It’s complicated”. It’s not enough.


But what happened to “It’s complicated” in the early twentieth century just before 1920 in the chart above? What was “it”? Freud’s psychoanalytic method? Andre Gide’s fiction?

“Hella” is also a meme that inspired this. It won’t go away and it was one of those that I would have shorted immediately and lost my shirt on.

So I haven’t built that much—just got a Django server running, got the domain, been poking around for tracking sources and good APIs. Want to do some building? memetrade.org would be a great mix of linguistics, pop culture, collaboration, building things on the web generally.

Keeping up with the Devcenters

A nice way to keep up with what’s happening in the developerWorks Developer Centers, which are a rapidly growing set of developer-run microsites that I oversee at IBM, is to put all their headlines in one place, as I have on this Devcenter headlines page.

I’ve used RSS, which I still think is underrated and kind of a good gateway drug to web development and scripting, and the Multi Feed Reader plugin in WordPress, which we also use in the devcenters themselves, plus some simple templating and CSS.

I use Feedly with this and most of my other news feeds, but it’s nice to get them onto a page like where you can send readers to see what news items, blog posts, new videos, and code samples are coming out of our product development teams.