Last night, I attended Ignite Wilmington, the first such event held in Delaware.  Ignite is like Pecha Kucha– it is a short form presentation format, where presenters have 20 slides, time limited to 15 seconds each- giving people 5 minutes to bring their passions and projects to life before the crowd.  Presentations last night ranges from an artist talking about his work with bee’s wax, to someone talking about brewing your own beer, to cloud computing, to “The Nerd test”, by my friend, Ken Grant.   The presentations that were best where those that were fun and visual, and spoke about things people cared about from the heart.

While I learned a lot from the presenters, I was more impressed by the great turn out at Ignite and the last Delaware social media event, the Delaware Tweet-up I attended. Delaware is starting to come alive, and be more than a bedroom community for more important places.

Delaware is a small state sandwiched between Philadelphia on one side, and Baltimore and DC on the other, giving us an inferiority complex.  While we’re all extremely proud of Joe Biden and our other politicians who have made a name for themselves beyond our small borders, it’s still a State that feels more like a town, where everyone knows your name.  (Rep. Mike Castle initiated the State Quarters program, and our former Senator Roth is whom everyone’s IRA is named after, for example.) With only 880,000 people in the whole state, it doesn’t even take three degrees, let alone six degrees of separation to reach whomever you want.

As a result, I guess I felt pretty alone as a New Media person and Podcaster in this community for a long time.  It seemed like there were very few digital media types around, and even if they existed, there wasn’t really a community scene- we all seemed to glom onto what was happening in Philly and ignore what was going on in our own backyard.

Recently, there’s been a big upsurge in the number of people blogging and tweeting from Delaware, but more importantly, an upsurge in people leaving the house and going out to meet other people interested in the same thing.  The Delaware Tweetup was very crowded, and people were having a grand time, and this was surpassed by the enthusiastic crowd at last night’s Ignite Wilmington, hosted by the awesome Archer Group.

It’s been fun and amazing to see Delaware staring to come together as a young and vibrant community.  It’s no longer just an extension of Philly’s main line, although Wilmington certainly has that component to it as well- it’s also becoming more of a city for younger folks looking to make a difference.  One presenter at Ignite, for example, was reimagining what could be done to take some rather ugly parts of the city and create more interesting and vibrant spaces from them.

Just the fact that people are out, participating in the night life andcivic life of the town is exciting- it’s breathing life into what has been kind of a ho hum place, where downtown seemed to shutter except for theatre and a few restaurant spots after 6pm.  I’m really excited about what’s happening in Wilmington- it reminds me of how the Philly tech crowd began to coalesce between BlogPhiladelphia and  Podcamp Philly over two years ago now.  Along with the great guys like Alex Hillman and Geoff DiMasi of Independent’s Hall, a coworking space started to solidify just after that point, all the folks involved in these events and subsequent ones have become the hub of Philly’s digital media and marketing scene.  The isolated people came together and formed a simply amazing community, and the same thing seems to be happening in Delaware.

I wanted to say thanks to the Archer Group for hosting Ignite, and next time, I’ll have to sign up early and give it a go myself!  It’s one of my favorite presentation forms, along with “Battledecks” (20 random slides come up, and you have to stay on your subject and make the slides work for you-  it’s lots of fun- like presentation karioke).

Maybe, before you know it, we’ll have a Podcamp Wilmington as well!