Monday, November 15, 2010

mass innovation night at the mill #min20

Everything old is new again in the great cycle of innovation in Massachusetts, so it was great to experience Mass Innovation Night #MIN20 at the very mill that nurtured the minicomputer revolution decades ago. The mill, now known as Clock Tower Place, is once again the home of lots of small companies -- with room for more -- building the future. It was a very cool setting for this month's innovators and a trip down memory lane for this writer. Little did I know just how much of a trip down memory lane it would be though...

Webiva Demo Table
I managed to check out all the presenting companies at their tables during demo time:

Active Interview – Web-based video interviewing. Should help hiring managers cut through the piles of resumes.
Novell Pulse — Real-time enterprise collaboration technology and cute stuffed penguins.
iCreate to Educate — Innovation in K-12 learning.
Spreadable — Tool for word-of-mouth marketing, way better than just sticking a Tweet This button on your web site.
Active Interview Demo Table

Other companies with tables that I made it to were:

Webiva — a web Content Management System with analytics built in.
Weed lance — a seriously cool and clever weeder. This would really have helped when I was trying to rid my yard of invasive Oriental bittersweet.

Big Crowd

In the Experts Corner, I chatted with Springboards  and Structured Information. Springboards provides communications coaching and English language training and Structured Information writes articles, white papers, and other types of marketing communications for technology companies.

Experts Corner
A friend and former co-worker from MASSCOMP days, Chuck Palmer, stopped by. He works at a company in Clock Tower Place and had seen flyers for the event and finally decided to come when he saw my Facebook status that I would be there.  We had a great time checking out the demos, peppering Webiva, Active Interview, and Weed Lance with questions.

Chuck and Janet (me)
As we were standing by the Novell table looking for someone to take our picture, I noticed a familiar face from very long ago. I blurted out "I know you" and it turned out he recognized me too. Jim Burrows. We worked together in this very mill a very very very long time ago. I remembered arranging standalone time on his RSTS machine so I could reproduce a FORTRAN compiler bug. It was that long ago. I am amazed that we recognized each other. Naturally, Chuck and I got Jim to take our picture.

Our reactions to Active Interview got us talking about innovation. Some of us have noticed how often companies hire people who have done exactly XYZ before and then those employees do XYZ exactly the same way they did it before. That's not a good path to innovation.  I love it when Mass Innovation Night results in some new insight in addition to cool new tools.

Mill memories, new technologies, new ideas, old friends, new insights, old connections, and new connections made for quite a night. As if that weren't enough, I also rendezvoused with my cousin so I could lend him a sander I borrowed for him from one of my friends, thus weaving virtual connections into real ones. Oh, and I was pleased to see that Irene's Stitch It Shop, who repaired so many of my clothes back in the day, and the Maynard Outdoor Store, where I bought lots of my camping equipment, are both still in business.

What the old poster on a wall on 5-5 once said of Geneva could be said of Silicon Valley or anyplace else today: "It's nice, but it ain't Maynard."

1 comment:

  1. The last quote (from a DEC wiseguy) refers to a beautiful poster of a yacht in front of the Jet D'Eau in Geneva, being humorously compared to the former Digital Equipment Corporation location in Maynard, Massachusetts.