PopTech Blog

Know your rebels: Meet Erin McKean

With PopTech: Rebellion just around the corner, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Get to know some of the fascinating people you’ll see take the stage and sign up to join the Rebellion this Oct 23-25 in Camden, Maine. 

Speaker: Erin McKean, Founder of Reverb Technologies 

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
Even though I'm a dictionary editor and people often expect me to do so, I won't correct your grammar. At all. Ever. But I will probably compliment your shoes!

What does being a rebel mean to you?
The word 'rebel' often brings to mind Marlon Brando in “The Wild One” -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkdqCTcDkbc ('What're you rebelling against, Johnny?/ Whaddaya got?')

But most people who are called rebels are just folks who looked up one day and realized that "the ways things are" doesn't have be the way things stay. 

What are you reading?
As usual, everything I can get my hands on. Lately I'm a big fan of various TinyLetters, especially Dan Hon's Things That Have Caught My Attention and Elizabeth Lopatto's The Weekly Wunderkammer.

I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy -- I think we're in a golden age, again, of science fiction being the literature of ideas. A few titles that stood out for me lately were “Constellation Games,” by Leonard Richardson and “The Golem and the Jinni,” by Helene Wecker. I'm also slowly making my way through The Culture novels by Iain M. Banks, and counting the days until William Gibson's next book comes out!

Other than that, at any given time I probably have twenty browser tabs open to various blog posts about trickier bits of JavaScript. I also read a lot of Twitter. Like, all of the Twitter. (Luckily the Reverb app (itunes.apple.com/app/id602336025) lets me keep up with articles shared via Twitter easily!)

What are you listening to?
Currently I'm addicted to the Hype Machine's iOS app -- there's a "Popular" feed which aggregates the most popular songs on blogs. You can check it out on the web at http://hypem.com/popular. It gives a great insight into both pop juggernauts and indie darlings. And remixes, lots of remixes and covers (I love covers).

What are you working on at the moment?
A lot of my time is spent on Wordnik for Reverb, which I love, but I'm also looking into our assumptions about how we find things that are interesting to us ("discovery") and when those mechanisms are transparent and when they're hidden. There's so much going on around this right now and not much real investigation or discussion so that's fascinating to me. People say "algorithm" like it's something that people find, not something that people make. Algorithms are just the choices we make for computers!

And I'm sewing (dressaday.com). I'm always sewing...

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
I am *really* looking forward to hearing the talks, but my favorite part of PopTech are the discussions after the talks! So maybe I'd have to say I'm most looking forward to hearing the audience talk?

My rebellion soundtrack would be:
I have a pump-me-up playlist that is all Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def, Talib Kwali, Common, and Kanye. Never fails...

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
I'd love to hear talks by some of the pioneering women scientists of the past -- Sophie Germain, a mathematician at the time of the French Revolution; Trota of Salerno, who practiced medicine in the 13th century; or Maria Mitchell, the first American woman to discover a comet.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
I've only ever done karaoke once! (Not through any aversion, it just hadn't come up until about six months ago.) I sang Chaka Khan's "Feel For You." (Most of the witnesses were inebriated, so evaluations of my performance are lacking.)

PopTech Fellows: A time to review, reflect, rebel

Since the launch of the PopTech Fellows programs in 2008, we’ve had the honor of welcoming 142 social innovators, scientists and domain experts into the PopTech community, many of whom were in the early stages of their social innovation journey. Over our first six years, this extraordinary group of thinkers and doers has made major strides to alleviate poverty, injustice, and violence, and improved access to healthcare, water, power and other vital services that reach millions of individuals worldwide. The Fellows program, at its core, is a reflection of our instinct to create a deeply connected network with a talent for cutting-edge problem solving and lasting impact. 

This year, we won’t inaugurate a new class of PopTech Fellows. We are grabbing instead for the rare and opportunistic moment to bring our existing community together. Life moves fast these days, and time, particularly for review and reflection, seems to be a commodity in short supply. It’s said that a rebellion without a thoughtful strategy is simply just acting out. In the spirit of our conference theme, this year we’re going deep, reviewing what the Fellows program has accomplished, and developing a strategy for how to continue our rebellion against complacency.

Alumni from both the Science and Social Innovation Fellow programs, as well as the 2014 Bellagio/PopTech Fellows will join us at PopTech: Rebellion. We’re spending dedicated time with these alumni Fellows and other key stakeholders to look back at where we have been and more importantly, to thoughtfully and collaboratively plan the journey ahead. We are excited by the luxury to consider the future in a high-speed world that doesn’t often stop to reflect, iterate and plan for what’s next.

Throughout the year, we look forward to finding new ways to inspire collaboration across the Fellows network and within the broader PopTech community. Stay tuned for what’s to come. In the meantime, we hope to see you at PopTech 2014: Rebellion!

Know your rebels: Meet Doreen Lorenzo

With PopTech: Rebellion just around the corner, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Get to know some of the fascinating people you’ll see take the stage and sign up to join the Rebellion this Oct 23-25 in Camden, Maine. 

Speaker: Doreen Lorenzo, president of Quirky

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
I spent the majority of my teenage years at CBGB's.

What does being a rebel mean to you?
I don’t think there is any such thing as being a rebel; if you call yourself a rebel you are a fake.

What are you reading?
Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn.

What are you listening to?
Ike and Tina Turner Compilation.

What are you working on at the moment?
About a 100 new products.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
David Burstein.

Word association: Maine...
Cold.

My rebellion soundtrack would be:
Adele.

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?  
Mother Teresa.

Best piece of advice you've ever received: 
Don’t be emotional.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song? 
I am a listener. 

Sonos Studio at PopTech feat. Richard Reed Parry & CATHEDRALS

We've been working closely with our partners at Sonos to craft a rebellious music program. Today we're excited to reveal the artists who will take the stage at the Camden Opera House for Sonos Studio performances and Q&As that tap into their creative thinking. PopTech: Rebellion is almost sold out. Don't miss the chance to hear amazing music and speakers!  

Sonos Studio at PopTech featuring Richard Reed Parry 
Friday, Oct 24
Richard Reed Parry is a core member and multi-instrumentalist for Arcade Fire. His solo project and classical music album, Music for Heart and Breath, was released July 15. Described by Pitchfork as having "palpable aliveness," the album has an interesting concept to tie it all together: each musician wears a stethoscope over his or her chest to keep time. In other words, their bodies act as a metronome. Parry told NPR "every note, and everything that any of the musicians plays, is played either in sync with the heartbeat of that player, or with their breathing, or with the breathing of another player." 

Sonos Studio at PopTech featuring CATHEDRALS 
Saturday, Oct 25 
Bay Area-based CATHEDRALS creates an infectious sound that you can't stop listening to. As put by Spin, the experimental electronic duo — comprised of Brodie Jenkins and Johnny Hwin — "possess an excellent collective ear for post-Aaliyah mood-making, pulsating bass, gorgeous harmonies, and XX-like guitar-play." Fun fact: Johnny Hwin runs an art/tech collective in San Francisco called the SUB. You can catch CATHEDRALS in New York at CMJ and be sure to check out their self-titled EP. 

Know your rebels: Meet Parker Palmer

With PopTech: Rebellion just around the corner, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Get to know some of the fascinating people you’ll see take the stage and sign up to join the Rebellion this Oct 23-25 in Camden, Maine. 

Speaker: Parker Palmer, Quaker elder and author of “Let Your Life Speak” and “Healing the Heart of Democracy.”

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
I have three granddaughters who bring me great joy, ages 5, 8, and 23, a joy I also experience in the wilderness. At the other end of the spectrum, I've had three bouts with deep depression in my adult life. Of course, I would not wish that experience on anyone, but all three episodes have been powerful "schools of the spirit" for me.

What does being a rebel mean to you?
Following my own inner guidance—not merely against something but in service of something better—after testing it in community with people I trust.

What are you reading?
Maira Kalman's "The Principles of Uncertainty." Volume One of Mary Oliver's "New and Collected Poems." I'm also re-reading a lot of Wendell Berry, especially his remarkable novels on the people of Port William. And I'm re-reading Courtney Martin's fine book, "Do it Anyway."

What are you listening to?
My friend and colleague, the singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer, has a new album called A Permeable Life. We worked on some of the songs together, and I'm listening to it over and over, amazed by the magic she does with words and music.

What are you working on at the moment?
I'm writing a new book, my tenth, titled "The Poem I Would Have Writ" after a couplet by Thoreau: "My life has been the poem I would have writ/But I could not both live and utter it." I'm 75, and I think of this as my "old man book." My ninth book, "Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit," has just come out in paperback with a new Introduction and Discussion Guide, and I'm working hard on creating more citizen conversations across the lines that divide and disempower us.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech
Everyone! And I look forward with special pleasure to appearing with my friends Krista Tippett— a Renaissance woman and the finest interviewer in the land—and Courtney Martin, a brilliant young culture critic and creator who always teaches me a lot and gives me hope. Courtney is on the board of the Center for Courage & Renewal, a nonprofit I founded twenty years ago, so she's kind of my boss!

Word association: Maine...
Hurricane Island Outward Bound thirty years ago; being frozen with fear in the middle of a rappel; being asked by an instructor what was wrong; hearing a whiny voice (mine) say, "I don't want to talk about it!" Then hearing the instructor say, "If you can't get out of it, get into it!" I've tried to live by her words ever since—and it's good advice for rebels, I think!

My rebellion soundtrack would be:
Three Leonard Cohen songs—"Democracy," "Anthem" and "Hallelujah"—and two from Carrie Newcomer: "If Not Now" and "Room at the Table."

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
Leonardo da Vinci.

Best piece of advice you've ever received:
Get over it! Also, "Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana." 

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
"Tower of Song" by LC. But Quaker midnight is at 10 PM, so I don't know if I'll be able to show at Cuzzy's!

Know your rebels: Meet Josh Klein

With PopTech: Rebellion just around the corner, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Get to know some of the fascinating people you’ll see take the stage and sign up to join the Rebellion this Oct 23-25 in Camden, Maine. 

Speaker: Josh Klein, hacker of all things 

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
When I was 9 I tried to use Darwinian evolution to breed man-eating spiders in my bedroom. 

What does being a rebel mean to you?
Striving for a goal with real consequences.

What are you reading?
Thomas Picketty's “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.” 

What are you listening to?
Skalmold and Puffy Ami Yumi.

What are you working on at the moment?
That's a big list - but top two are a email platform for improving your network (Ntwrkr.is) and a Distributed Autonomous Corporation using the block chain mechanism from Bitcoin to decentralize and democratize high-wealth tax mitigation strategies to force policy change.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
Don't make me choose just one!! 

Word association: Maine...
...is a state?

My rebellion soundtrack would be:
That unique, soft inhalation of breath that happens when someone understands that you've just substantively changed the rules of the game without them noticing.

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
Franklin Roosevelt.

Best piece of advice you've ever received:
If you care, do something about it. Nothing else matters.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
No promises!!

Know your rebels: Meet Helen Fisher

With PopTech: Rebellion just around the corner, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Get to know some of the fascinating people you’ll see take the stage and sign up to join the Rebellion this Oct 23-25 in Camden, Maine. 

Speaker: Helen Fisher, PhD, is a Biological Anthropologist at Rutgers University and Senior Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute, Indiana University. She's an expert on romantic love.

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
I’m an identical twin. So long before I learned about the Nature/Nurture controversy, I was busy weighing how much of my behavior was biologically based, and how much was learned. In fact, most of my projects have been investigations into how humans are ALL ALIKE, instead of how we differ. For example, I have been interested in the basic ways that we all love, as well as four broad biologically-based personality styles that I suspect are seen in all societies.  

What does being a rebel mean to you?
An iconoclast. An independent thinker.

What are you reading?
I’m reading “Orange is the New Black,” by Piper Kerman. It’s a searing view of life in a women’s prison. 

What are you listening to?
Jazz, specifically Catherine Russell. (I’m not well educated in jazz.)

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m tearing through myriad academic articleson everything from Ardipithecus ramidus who lived 4.4 million years ago to articles on the evolution of female orgasm—all part of my current project to update my 1992 book, “Anatomy of Love.” 

Word association: Maine...
Avia peragro loca. (I travel to places off the beaten path.)

My rebellion soundtrack would be: 
Let’s rock!

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
Jonathan Swift.

Best piece of advice you've ever received:
“Keep your eye on the ball.”  And “Be useful as well as ornamental.”

Know your rebels: Meet Adam Steltzner

With PopTech: Rebellion just around the corner, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Get to know some of the fascinating people you’ll see take the stage and sign up to join the Rebellion this Oct 23-25 in Camden, Maine. 

Speaker: Adam Steltzner, Engineering Fellow at Jet Propulsion Laboratory and leading the development of the Sampling System for the Mars2020 project.

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
I really like building trucks and camping in the Mojave and Death Valley back country. Building stuff with my hands forces me into intimate contact with my limits and takes me out of the theoretical and shoves me squarely into the practical. Building stuff by hand is hard and slow and so agonizingly real. It is great therapy for me.

What does being a rebel mean to you?
Following your vision regardless of how it is viewed by others.

What are you reading?
My overwhelmingly voluminous emails…

What are you listening to?
Sylvan Esso, my latest crush, St. Vincent who I had the good fortune of hanging out with at last years Smithsonian Ingenuity Awards, M83, some old school Phoenix and I am sort of stuck on Bon Iver.

What are you working on at the moment?
Landing on Europa, softening the suspension on my 1998 3/4 ton Cummins Diesel Ram 4x4 and raising a very willful 2 year old.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
My brilliant friend, Joe Palca.

Word association: Maine… 
Granite.

My rebellion soundtrack would be: 
Wide open desert vista and old school Air.

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
Enrico Fermi.

Best piece of advice you've ever received:
When one looks back on life, one remembers the great highs and the great lows, but the stuff in the middle fades away. Don’t shrink from striving for the great highs for fear of the great lows.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
No. 

Know your rebels: Meet Jessica Lawrence

With PopTech: Rebellion just around the corner, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Get to know some of the fascinating people you’ll see take the stage and sign up to join the Rebellion this Oct 23-25 in Camden, Maine. 

Speaker: Jessica Lawrence, executive director of NY Tech Meetup (NYTM) 

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
I inherited both a sweet tooth and a love of baking from my dad, who got his sweet tooth from his father and his baking gene from his mother. I like to bake everything from soft pretzels to butterscotch pie to blackberry lavender scones. When I travel I love exploring whatever baked goods are the local specialty. And I often look at the dessert menu before ordering dinner so I know how much room to save.   

What does being a rebel mean to you?
I think being a rebel means some of the traditional things we associate with the word: being willing to speak truth to power, questioning the status quo. It means choosing to do the thing that you believe in even when it’s not the socially acceptable choice. But I think it goes beyond simply rebelling against the external world – I think it can mean rebelling against your inner world as well. It means questioning the definitions you’ve created for yourself – the limits that you’ve placed on yourself through your own internal dialogue. Sometimes we keep living stories about who we are that we first wrote for ourselves in middle school or high school. Some story about how we are socially awkward or not good at math. That story doesn’t have to stay with you or define you for your entire life.

What are you reading?
I’m reading “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown, “Wellbeing” by Tom Rath and Jim Harter, and I always keep something like a collection of Robert Frost poems or a classic Seth Godin book handy when I need an old friend. 

What are you listening to?
I’ve been listening to Beck’s new album Morning Phase and have been revisiting Paul Simon’s Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints albums – albums I remember dancing around the kitchen to with my parents when I was growing up. And my favorite non-music listening right now includes “This American Life,” “On Being,” “Good Life Project,” “99U,” and “The School of Life.”

What are you working on at the moment?
My day-to-day work centers around leading NY Tech Meetup, thinking about how we can best support a community that has grown rapidly over the past few years. I’m also looking at the bigger picture of the impact that technology companies have in the world: how do we harness technology for the most good, to benefit all of society, not just a select few? How do we innovate without creating collateral damage that counteracts the good? How do we build businesses that challenge us to be more human, that bring us to a high point of wellbeing, and enable us to tap into our full potential?

And as I little side project, I’ve also picked up pens, pencils, and markers and have started drawing and learning hand lettering. 

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech
I’m a big fan of “On Being,” so I’m especially looking forward to hearing Krista Tippett’s conversation with Courtney Martin and Parker Palmer

Word association: Maine... 
This might be a little unfair, but here’s my natural way to complete that sentence: “…is next to New Hampshire.” Maine has all the wonderful things typically associated with it but for me, whenever I hear “Maine,” I can’t help but think about my experience growing up in the great state next door. 

My rebellion soundtrack would be: 
A mix of The Clash, Girl Talk, Beastie Boys, Lauryn Hill, Queen, and Pharrell Williams might be just about right. 

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
Martha Graham – I would love to know more about how she saw the world.  

Best piece of advice you've ever received:
My grandmother used to sit next to me at every family holiday meal. I was a picky eater, and usually had white turkey, white rice, and mashed potatoes on my plate at Thanksgiving and that was it. In her gentle and jovial way, she always pushed me to “try just a little bit” of the other foods on the table. I didn’t listen to her very well at the time, but that advice to just try something, to just take one little step forward, is advice that resonates with me now.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
Karaoke is not a typical activity for me, but that doesn’t rule it out.

Got FOMO? PopTech schedule is now live!

Today we’re excited to reveal the PopTech: Rebellion schedule! Coordinate your travel plans accordingly so you don’t miss your favorite speaker, the opening cocktail party, the Friday night bash and the Saturday finale.
 
There are only a handful of tickets left, so be sure to secure your spot ASAP at the Rebellion this Oct 23-25. See you in Camden. Show me the schedule!