Table XI Blog

Chicago Ideas Week

Table XI’s Guide to Chicago Ideas Week

Chicago Ideas Week logoChicago Ideas Week is just a few weeks away! If you’ve been following our blog, or recent tweets, you’ve heard us talking a lot about the upcoming events. Not sure what to attend this year? We’re happy to share our cheat sheet. Here are some of the places you'll find us, and some of our top picks for 2014:

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Tech Done Right at Chicago Ideas Week

CIW logo and TXI logo

Table XI joined forces with Chicago Ideas again this year, this time as the organization’s official technology partner. We’re proud to be so closely associated with an iconic Chicago organization associated with innovation, thought leaders, and a community of curiosity.

When you attend an event this year, you might see our logo up in lights. And when you do, you may notice something different: We’ve added a tagline, “Tech Done Right.” But what does that mean, exactly?

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Biggest Mistake Night: Spend an Evening Celebrating Failure

Biggest_Mistake_Poster_FinaleChicago Ideas Week begins October 13, and before we kick off a week that celebrates innovation and the exchange of good ideas, we invite you to help celebrate some of the ideas you won't hear about.

Join us on Wednesday, October 8 for an entertaining evening of “Biggest Mistakes.” Eleven prominent Chicagoans will take the stage to share their stories. We’ll hear from everyone from entrepreneurs, to CEOs, to comedians and journalists.

The event is produced by Table XI, the official technology partner for Chicago Ideas Week, in collaboration with The Second City. The ability to embrace failure is a key value for both organizations, and "My Biggest Mistake Night" plans to celebrate it boldly.

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My Biggest Mistake

Event poster for "Biggest Mistake Night” by Table XIFollowing up on last fall’s successful Chicago Ideas Week session, “My Worst Idea Ever,” we’ve partnered with developer-training organization Dev Bootcamp to host a quarterly “Biggest Mistake Night”—aka, “Mrs. O’Leary Night,” in honor of the woman whose cow mythically started the Great Chicago Fire—in which smart people talk about the bad ideas they’ve had and what they’ve learned from them.

There is importance in failure—not only does it give you nuts-and-bolts experience that you can draw from later, but it also teaches you how to deal with making mistakes and, best yet, how to rebound from them. It’s empowering—especially for those just starting their careers—to hear experienced professionals openly and honestly discuss their mistakes. It reminds us that nobody’s perfect, that even the best minds need to ask for help sometimes, and that failing isn’t shameful.

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A Retrospective with Chicago Ideas Week

We were full of ideas around here this past fall, in no small part thanks to October's annual Chicago Ideas Week (CIW). This year we served as the organization's technology partner, helping the nonprofit launch its new website, enhance its online ticketing system, and develop a ticket scanning mobile app.

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Learning Agile with LEGOs: A Chicago Ideas Week Event

People playing with Lego blocks at Chicago Ideas Week.During this past month’s Chicago Ideas Week, we went back to the building blocks to teach Agile methodology—literally. We hosted 40 people for “Learn Agile with LEGO” at our office, where teams built “products” with LEGO bricks using the Agile process, and got to relive some childhood fun along the way.

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Josh Golden Talks to NBC Chicago about Chicago Ideas Week

nbc5txiEarlier this month, our CEO and founder Josh Golden chatted with Art Norman and Charlie Wojciechowski of NBC Chicago's Weekend Web. On the docket: The great work we're doing as part of our technology partnership with Chicago Ideas Week (CIW) (October 14-20).

Check out the interview below, where Josh discusses the new platform and ticketing system we built for CIW, and be sure to check back on September 1, when tickets go on sale to the public.

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We Have Partnered with Chicago Ideas Week!

The Chicago Ideas Week app shown on a mobile device.

While most people are thinking about summer BBQs and lakeside volleyball, we’ve already got our eyes on October. That’s when the annual Chicago Ideas Week takes place, and this year, we’re excited to announce that we’re a Platinum sponsor and technology partner of the organization. In addition to enhancing and launching their website this past month, we’re building them a new, customized ticketing system and a ticket scanning mobile app in time for their 2013 event. As part of our mission to support innovation and the sharing of ideas in our city, this partnership is an exceptionally good fit.

Heading into its third year, Chicago Ideas Week (CIW) brings together thought leaders from around the world for talks and panels that inspire innovation and foster idea exchange. Topics range from science to politics to entertainment, and once again, the CIW stage is hosting some serious talent and intellectual muscle. This year, notable speakers include astronaut Buzz Aldrin, best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell, and chef Cat Cora, and more are joining the lineup daily. CIW will also feature a variety of behind-the-scenes experiences and special events throughout the week.

Our strategy, design, and development work with CIW includes:

  • A new ticketing system. We’ve developed a completely new ticketing system tailored to CIW’s unique and specific needs, and integrated it with the organization’s website. On the backend, the CIW team will be able to manage ticket inventory with greater ease, accommodating sponsor and speaker tickets, different go-on-sale times, and other variables—a point of clerical strain in the past. On the user side, our new shopping cart will display event availability and let users buy tickets for multiple events at once, vastly improving the purchasing process.

  • Front-end design and user experience. While Chicago-based ad agency Leo Burnett handled the CIW brand redesign, we were tasked with simplifying the site’s navigation and helping visitors find the talks that interest them. Users will now be able to search all the events and view up-to-date ticket availability.

  • Ticket scanning mobile app. A new mobile app for the CIW team will let employees scan ticket QR codes at the doors with their iPhones, giving the team an unprecedented ability to manage and track event attendance. The app will streamline ticket redemption, significantly reducing queue times and speeding up event entry.

During CIW, Table XI will also be hosting a lab focused on navigating the relationships among clients, project managers, and software developers. Our COO Mark Rickmeier will lead this hands-on workshop (which includes getting to play with LEGOs). Learn more about Learning Agile with LEGO (Fri, Oct 18 / 3-5pm) and reserve your spot when tickets go on sale in early September.

It’s an honor to be working with CIW. Community and organizational partnerships are at the core of what we do here at Table XI, and CIW shares our dedication to exploring new ideas, inspiring great outcomes, and moving technology forward.

We invite you to explore the CIW site for more information about event descriptions, schedules, and when tickets will be available to the public. And in the meantime, make sure to mark your calendars for Oct 14-20!

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Building a Website? 4 Guiding Principles for Content Sites

Slide from the presentation during the “Building Community through Technology” event.How do you take a Big Idea and transform it into something that impacts thousands? This was what we set out to examine at our Chicago Ideas Week event, “Building Community through Technology,” which we co-hosted with Facing Disability.

Facing Disability connects individuals with spinal cord injuries to information, resources, and others who have shared similar experiences. While the site targets a (fortunately) relatively small and specific group of people, the learnings that emerged while building it can be universally applied by any organization seeking to make an impact online. Here are four insights that helped guide the development of Facing Disability:

1. Know your audience.

You can’t create a helpful resource if you’re not absolutely clear about the problem you’re trying to solve. Facing Disability founder Thea Flaum wanted to build an online resource for the spinal cord injury community, but to get constructive answers, she had to ask the right questions. She drew on her 35 years of broadcast television experience to interview numerous patients, their families and friends, and doctors and other experts in the field. She asked tough questions about life after a spinal cord injury, addressing everything from the first days in the hospital, to thoughts of suicide, to sex.

Panel of experts at the Chicago Ideas Week event, “Building Community through Technology."Despite the potential emotional impact of these questions, Thea deliberately created a place with “virtually no tears.” Having helped her step-daughter manage a new spinal cord injury, Thea knew firsthand that there’s little value in watching people cry on camera. “The people who are on this website don’t need to hear about how bad it is," she maintains. "Emotion would diminish communication." As a result, Facing Disability users can watch videos, get information, and find shared experiences, all without conjuring up the emotional pain associated with the injury.

2. Remember that the Internet is an impatient medium.

Thea’s background may be in television, but she knew that the same rules don’t apply to fickle, multi-tasking online audiences. Most of the videos on the site are less than 60 seconds, so viewers can quickly cycle through multiple responses to the same question. But shorter content doesn’t mean shorter engagement: the average visitor on Facing Disability watches 4-5 videos on the site before leaving. We made it fast and easy for users to find what they want, while offering up relevant video suggestions along the way.

A "people filter" on the Facing Disability's website, which allows users to search by gender, age, and relationship to injury.

3. Create intuitive navigation.

The most compelling aspects of Facing Disability are its faces and the personal experiences that power it—these give users people and stories they can relate to. So in addition to organizing videos by topic, we worked with Thea on the concept of a “people filter,” which allows users to search by gender, age, and relationship to injury. These filters provide more intuitive navigation and the ability to discover relevant videos based on shared experiences.

4. Test your technology where your users will use it.

Almost every project encounters an "oops" moment, and this was ours—as Josh says, “It’s what you don’t know that you’re going to have to deal with at some point.” One month after Facing Disability’s launch, the International Spinal Cord Society and American Spinal Injury Association agreed to feature it at a major spinal cord injury conference in Washington, D.C. At the conclusion of the conference, delegates notified Thea that “the site was broken.” We knew it wasn’t, but while we’d implemented extensive testing before the launch, we hadn’t accounted for one thing: YouTube. It turns out that many hospitals and rehab institutions—the very places where recently injured individuals would be trying to access the site—block social media sites. The videos were hosted on YouTube, and while we could see them, those behind the firewall could not. Ultimately, we migrated all 1,000 videos to an alternate, paid video hosting platform to remedy the problem.

People with disabilities in the audience at the Chicago Ideas Week event, “Building Community through Technology."

At the conclusion of our panel, Kris Cichowski, founder of the Life Center at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, took the podium to explain the impact that Facing Disability has made in the community and how it’s been incorporated in the staff education program for “Patient Perspectives.” Thea is also partnering with RIC to develop a similar website for families facing traumatic brain injuries. And finally, Marca Bristo, president and CEO of Access Living, shared a very personal perspective on what the site has meant to her:

Marca Bristo, an American disability rights activist, speaking at the Chicago Ideas Week event, “Building Community through Technology."“When I broke my neck in 1977 I was in the rehab institute for four months. Now people are in and out in about three weeks...I had the chance to bond with other people who were in the hospital. I could meet other people who were coming in and out of the therapy for out-patient work. I had an organic way to see other people who had already made the transition and who had started to accept the whole situation. Today they’re in and out so quick, they don’t get that chance, and once you get home it’s pretty lonely. Being able to [find answers] in your own home, and at your own time, at night when you can’t sleep, when you’re sitting there thinking, ‘What am I going to do with my whole life?’ enables you to start to get outside of yourself, start to feel some hope, and then hopefully get on with your life.”

We’d like to say a special thanks to Facing Disability, Chicago Ideas Week, our hosts at Access Living, and the brave individuals who shared their experiences online, making Facing Disability the important resource it is today.

Below, watch some highlights from our panel. Thanks to our friends at Fresh Giants for filming the event.

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Find Us at Chicago Ideas Week!

Chicago Ideas week logoWe're pleased to announce that we're partnering with Chicago Ideas Week this year to present “Building Community through Technology: Connecting Life Stories” on October 10 at Access Living Chicago (115 W Chicago Ave), from 5:30-7 pm. Our own CEO Josh Golden, Zócalo Group digital strategist and Table XI partner emeritus Jordan Ho, and senior designer Daniel Strabley will join our client, Facing Disability founder Thea Flaum (also well-known for her work creating “Sneak Previews” with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert), for an interactive presentation about digital strategy and what it takes to bring a vision to life online. We think it’s a perfect pairing with Chicago Ideas Week, an event which celebrates exchanging ideas, inspiring action, and igniting change.

Facing Disability is the first website to connect individuals with spinal cord injuries to information, support, and others who have faced similar traumas. The organization came to us to help refine and execute its vision, and now, one year later, the site has become home to more than 1,000 original videos, gained national media attention, and positively impacted hundreds of lives in Chicago and beyond.

"When we began our partnership with Facing Disability, Thea had a vision that we found incredibly compelling, but she didn't know how to get there,” says Josh. “We collaborated with her and her team every step of the way to further expand, then subsequently refine her vision into the compelling, easy-to-use, inviting online community that Facing Disability is today."

The site has proven so successful that the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago is currently working on a similar website for people with traumatic brain injuries. Josh finds it an interesting proof of concept. “Now they’re developing a whole new set of videos and reusing the technology for a new disease--it makes you think, can we do this for cancer patients? For amputees? Chicago Ideas Week has become an important event in the city, and we’re so excited to participate, since we believe this is a truly innovative way of doing things that was born and bred in Chicago.”

You can find more details and RSVP online, and don’t forget to check out the CIW website to get tickets to other events happening around town.

What else are you looking forward to at Chicago Ideas Week?

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