For two and a half years, my name wasn't Blagica. It was Barb.

by Blagica Bottigliero


You read that right, Jack. 

Before the days of the social web and today's version of online bullying, we had the typical setup for a pre-teen: face to face communication with other pre-teens. Back then, we all had our versions of labels.  In many circumstances, we never had the choice to pick the label - it just appeared some place between your locker and the bathroom. 

For me, it was gym class. The day I became Barb.

My family moved to a new neighborhood when I was 13. I was to start a new year at a new school, 8th grade. In my eyes, we were far far away from the little street I loved in Warren, MI. We went from 10 mile to 21 mile - a whole 11 miles! To me, that was another planet. A planet set in the middle of farm country. Fast forward to today and my dad calls it suburban mecca. Strip malls and outdoor shopping galore, car dealerships, more restaurant chains to shake a stick at and even a new community center with an indoor pool! Oh and let's not forget about the insane amount of choices as it relates to getting fruit, veggies and any other ethnic food. Having lived in Chicago for 16 years, I challenge any Chicagoan and Little Italy-ish area goer to visit Vince & Joe's, Randazzo or Nino Salvaggio.

So there I was, new school, the first day.  I vividly remember sitting on the gym floor and the dreaded routine of roll call was looming. I hated roll call.

I  waited for the typical song to begin:  

"Jane, Amy, Katie, Michelle, Lisa, Laura, Bah, Buh, what IS that name"?

"Blah-gee-tsa"

"Say that again?"

"Blah-gee-tsa"

Snickers began and the teacher's face curled up. Memories of what life was like back in my old school flashed in a blur. I spent my 7th grade year in utter hell. Leaving the safety net of my K-6 elementary school friends was horrible. Blending with the surrounding schools made for a year of constant fear, getting bullied on the bus and not wanting to leave my house. 

As I got caught up in my 7th grade brain, someone in the gym suggested:

"Let's call her Barb."

Then someone else piped up:

"That's easier. I like Barb."

I froze and didn't want to say no. I didn't want to start my new school year and build a rep for being that girl with the difficult name to say. So I agreed. I was Barb.

For the next few years, most people called me Barb. I made new friends and settled into our new neighborhood. I began this crazy obsession with dancing to music videos at home, then mimicking those moves at school dances. I wanted to dub myself Barb the Dancer. Anything to keep attention away from my real name. 

By the time sophomore year came around,   I had grown close with alot of people. The same people I'm going to see at my 20 year high school reunion in a few weeks. I don't know the exact day I decided to go back to my actual name, but I do remember a few friends asking me why I didn't just use my real name. No one asked me that before, well aside from my relatives. This feeling of complete acceptance washed over me. 

Looking back to that day at the gym, I know now that whomever suggested the name Barb wasn't doing it to be spiteful. They just didn't have too much exposure to someone who had a unique name. Today, we have names like Schwarzenegger, Obama, Oprah, Lupita and Apple. Do you know how excited I was to watch Oprah as a kid? I kept telling myself that if her name can get a TV show, then who KNOWS what my name can bring. 

I don't know what life would have been like if Facebook and cyber bullying existed. I had some dark moments hating life and not wanting to leave the house. Why do you think I read so many books and memorized the Presidents, dad? :) I was lucky to have parents who paid attention to how I was feeling and shared their stories of immigrant life in the U.S. to keep my head held high. Eventually, I had a solid group of friends who didn't care what my first name was. 

Now and then, I think about Barb and wonder how she's doing. Though I wasn't too keen on her name, I was thankful for the motivation she gave to push me to try new things and find a lifelong  passion for music and dancing.

I guess you can say this story is a core reason for why Michael and I decided to name Lily, Liljana and Niko, Nikola.  We tell Lily that this is her short name. Liljana is her long/real name. She knows who she is and has that second name to give someone on the first day of school.

Because we all deserve the chance to create our own labels and our own names. 

 

 


With all this buzz about content marketing, why are we forgetting about context?

by Blagica Bottigliero


I was running errands yesterday. In the car, seat belt on, drive to one place, finish the errand and then on to the next place.  In and out of the store, pick up the things I need, browse a few aisles, wait in line, pay, etc. One thing was consistent throughout the entire course of the trip - I was checking my phone at different intervals. 

  • At one point, Michael texted me to get XYZ items that weren't on the list.
  • As I was waiting for my cup of coffee, I decided to flow through my friends' Instagram feeds.
  • Someone tweeted me after I parked the car, so I checked it and looked up the name of the business they mentioned in the DM (they were following up on a request I had for a nearby place of biz).
  • Within every store experience, I was checking my phone for deals. I was also scanning bar codes and price checking.
  • In one store, I decided to take a picture of the outfit idea. Something for my evening Pinterest scanning.
  • Finally, I quickly skimmed my Facebook feed as I was waiting to get checked out by one of the stores.
  • When I unpacked everything at home, I plopped on the couch, put my feet up and used my Moto X's remote to change the channel on my Google TV. 

Every example above was about context. I was using different platforms for different needs at different times. Let's take some of the instances above and add a 'What If' element:

  • What if the outfit I snapped had some kind of sensor or device that would know I took a picture. What if that display encouraged me to take a picture of the ensemble? Could it have been possible for that brand to reach out to me later that night and send me a special deal and/or reminder on what I snapped?
  • I was in the checkout lane of a store and hopped on Facebook real quick. I was killing time and checking in on those friends I know the Facebook algorithm throws at me. Could a brand have sent me a targeted message knowing that I'm in my late 30s, it was evening time, Central time, I had two kids and had a few minutes to spare for an update? If so, how refreshing it would have been for that brand to show me an ad that went something like this: 'Hi. Enjoy your mini break/solo time. We like to enjoy by doing X.' Even better, if a brand just acknowledged that I was out and about versus trying to tell me to do something or buy something, bonus. Because I would leave that store with not only my goods, but a reminder of who Brand XYZ is and what they stand for.
  • What if Twitter knew that I was searching for that place of business as a direct result of the DM I viewed (with my permission, of course). Would they then be able to send that data to their advertisers to hit me up with more targeted content later?

Perhaps.

The theme here is context. We go to different online platforms for different purposes. I haven't used Tumblr in a while, but it seems to be the holy place for animated gifs. My Instagram feeds are full of gorgeous food platters. It's only a matter of time where Instagram/Facebook team up with some recipe site and enable direct linking and Instacart shopping. 

I'm all for lovely, gorgeous content. But we need to remember that what goes through a person's mind, especially the multi-tasking wizardry of a woman, is what drives platform use. The sooner we respect this intimate detail of a consumer's life, the better we'll all be.

And you can stop putting that same gif on 10 social media platforms. 

 


My mother in law was given four months to live - she died in two.

by Blagica Bottigliero


Her death taught our family lessons for years to come. 

It was around Christmastime of last year.  Michael came home from the hospital and his face was grim. If you know my husband, you know he's a quiet man. I knew something was terribly wrong. The routine hospital check ups his mom had for her cancer and post double mastectomy procedure wasn't so routine that night.

Ann was given four months to live, max.  My mother in law didn't want to hear her fate. The doctor, Michael and his brother left the hospital room and spoke in the hallway. Ann knew she was sick, but she didn't want to know the truth. 

The following months were a blur.  Imagine for a second, you are in your early 60s.  You check into the hospital for a check up to discover that things are so grim that you can't return home - ever.  We had to keep Ann in the hospital while finding hospice care in the area.  She couldn't go home, take things she needed or even say goodbye to her memories.  Michael found a reputable hospice facility and the boys checked her in.  This never felt right with us. 

Lily's birthday party was the weekend of December 17. Ann was able to attend, but barely had the energy to walk.  I know she wanted to see Lily hopping and skipping around the playroom. My mother in law was Lily's best friend. They sang songs, told old jokes from the 60s and talked about animals.  It was a bond that is only reserved for grandmothers.  We are grateful for that day.

Ann spent a short amount of time in hospice. We decided it was best that she was surrounded by family. My brother in law stepped up and took my mother in law in.  He made room in his apartment and took care of Ann 24x7.  Nurses visited and did their jobs, but it was my brother in law who made sure Ann had everything she needed. I can't see too many bachelors doing this. 

Our collective family priority was Ann. Michael took the kids to visit as much as he could. Lily would sit on Ann's bed, watch TV and eat hot dogs. Ann had the chance to spend more time with Niko and see his baby progress. Throughout this time, I was cranking on the business. From where I saw things, I wanted to make sure Michael and the kids saw Ann as much as they could. My job was to keep the business running and keep the household in tact. It soon became clear that we were running out of time. I needed to say goodbye.

It was a Saturday morning, February 1.  Ann had a rough night and was unresponsive. Michael came home after staying up with his brother by Ann's side. She was breathing slower.  They didn't know if she'd make it through the night.  I called a friend to see if she could watch the kids for us.  Without missing a beat, my friend said yes.  As we gathered our jackets for the car, Michael's brother called. Ann passed away 30 minutes earlier. Less than two months passed since the doctor gave us his prediction for Ann's life. We weren't prepared for how soon this day would arrive - but it did.

After dropping off the kids, we made it to my brother in law's. A priest was waiting for us and delivered Ann her last rites.  My body left me that day.  I couldn't believe that I didn't visit Ann earlier. I couldn't believe that she was gone so incredibly fast. I held on to Michael and didn't remember most of what happened that weekend. 

I do remember the Illinois Cremation Society finally arriving to the apartment. Ann's request was to be cremated. It takes about 10 days in the state of Illinois for the appropriate papers and approvals to go through for someone to be cremated. How terribly final it was to see two men arrive with a stretcher. I couldn't bear to look in the bedroom to see my fantastic mother in law lifted out of her bed and zipped in a bag.  I heard the sound of that zipper and just about lost it. I didn't want Michael to see me crumble. I needed to be strong for him that day. 

Losing Ann was a wake up call for our family.  Never again would my work get in the way of any family obligation - even though I thought the 'work' was important for the family at the time. Michael and I don't argue as much as we used to - especially for the small things.  We've spent more time putting effort into doing simple things like going to malt shops, playing with dirt and letting our kids explore the world. I began exercising more and being OK with taking more time for my well being. The outside factors like jobs, personalities and environments that we can't control no longer tick us off. 

I haven't written for a while because I wasn't ready to share again. I wasn't ready to process what I was feeling about life in general. I didn't think it was OK to talk about these things. With Michael's blessing, I did. And so it goes with the future of this blog. I'll be sharing a wide variety of thoughts on life in general, whether it's about the digital world or why Ted Cruz scares the heck out of me. 

We miss you, Ann. Thank you for helping us remember what is always first and foremost in life. 


Moving forward in the Twin Cities

by Blagica Bottigliero


One thing I learned about life is to take leaps, embrace change and try new things.

A few months ago, we all moved to Minneapolis.  I took on a job with Target. It recently became clear that the gig wasn’t a fit for Target and me. I decided to move on.

So what’s next? I’m not sure. Are we moving out of Minneapolis? Not any time too soon. The Bottigliero clan enjoys discovering new places and sinking our teeth into new experiences. We can’t get enough of the lakes, cycling paths, new restaurants, rivers and people of the Twin Cities.  And the Dairy Queens. There are Dairy Queens all over the place.

What I do know about the next few months is that I’ll be writing more. I stopped for a long time for reasons that will be covered in a future post. 

For now, we’ll be here.  We don’t know how long ‘now’ is going to be.  Book those plane tickets, gas up your car and know that you have friends to visit the next time you are in Minneapolis.  We’ve got a backyard BBQ setup waiting for you and an assortment of wine that continued to grow after our Chicago move. 


Opinion: Chicago Incubators, VCs and Co-Working Spaces Should Come Together

by Blagica Bottigliero


Over the last few days, my email’s been blowing up with feedback on a discussion that started over the weekend and now poured over to IRL.

The topic:  do startups and would-be startups feel left out if they choose one incubator/co-working space over the other?  Is there a perception that if you want to build something, you need to get in to one of THE best co-working spaces or know THE right people – or you’re toast.

I’ve heard both sides.

‘Blagica, that’s not true. We all work together’.

or

‘It’s true. I’m new to the city and the feeling I get is that if I’m not in the right crowd or right space, my idea is worthless.’ Then there is 'I have a great idea, am self funding it, but no one seems to care.'

So, here is an idea.

Let’s have all the Big Guns get together once a month or quarter and chat about their progress.  A meeting of minds, if you will. A way for the top VCs and incubators to share their objectives and keep the spirit of entrepreneurship and startups alive in Chicago.

Is this happening now? Nope.

If it were, the perception many people feel right now wouldn’t exist.  Why not add some transparency of actual change versus only sharing which company got funded or bought another company? Share the status of how we are working to attract the best talent and unknown idea out there.

I’m sure the community and would-be Chicago startups would appreciate it.

 


Why My Kids Won’t Be Allowed to Use Social Media Until Age 13

by Blagica Bottigliero


A chat with Tracy encouraged to finish this post. I started the topic back in November.  Thanks for the push, Ms. Schmidt! 


image c/o Wikipedia 

image c/o Wikipedia 

As much as I’ve worked in and around the tech industry, there is one tech innovation where I won’t budge - forbidding my kids to use social media networks until they are 13. This includes any online gaming sites or networks that are geared towards children and are safe, monitored and managed. I know plenty of experts in the world of community managing children’s games – they are fantastic and intelligent people.

But I won’t change my mind.

I have a four year old and soon-to-be one year old. They are both exposed to various forms of displays, tablets and videos in more ways than I can imagine.  Going against my anti first generation anything, my husband and I purchased Google TV. I love it. Yes, the UI is horrible, but at the time, we needed a flat screen. We also wanted an interactive experience.

Today, my daughter expects all TV to be paused. She is able to navigate her way to her favorite Netflix Kipper videos or DVR’d episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Then my little one became savvy enough to know that our Amazon connection enables her to see larger chunks of Daniel via Amazon Prime’s On Demand service.

This technical prowess is extending to my baby boy.  Before dinnertime, we have a hysterical rendition of Family Dance Party.  My kids know that the YouTube app is on the TV and I can call up any video I want.  Once YouTube is over, I typically switch over to Pandora and we put some light music on in the background for dinner.

Then there is the sweet little request from my daughter to call up her games on my Nexus tablet.  I have a parental lock on the apps, but it didn’t take long for my toddler to understand that there were certain games that I needed to purchase for her.  Today, she uses a reading app and sits with her brother and listens to stories being read to her by the magical lady.

To balance things out, my husband and I are adamant that there is more time spent reading, writing, drawing and literally destroying our house with non tech things.  Our daughter loves her Chicago Park District Pre-K class, but loves her weekly Kids Science Labs class more. She comes home with the most inventive experiments. Today she came home with a DIY eye. The other day she brought home a makeshift muscle and was telling me about blood going to the heart. She’s four.

Look. I already know that my kids will be using tablets, laptops and other fantastic gadgetry in school. I’m all for it.

But with all that time spent learning and interacting with something digitally, the last thing I want my kids to balance is building virtual connections and friendships with their peers. I’m also well aware of what images, messages and expectations can be delivered via social networks. I want my kids to be kids and grow up naturally. 

The ultimate social networking for a pre teen should be meeting at the bus stop, playing foursquare and running around the neighborhood.  Social networking should be the trials and tribulations of playground arguments, crushes on first loves and other ups and downs of adolescence.

That’s quite enough for my kids to deal with, let alone going online to get bombarded by more messages to process.

I am a realist. Technology changes daily. I have no idea as to what advancements may be out there in 2022. I will say this - I’ll be pushing the ideaof ‘IRL’ communication and interactions like a broken vinyl record until then.


How we did it: Two weeks in France with two kids under four.

by Blagica Bottigliero


(clickable picture gallery below)

When I began telling people that my husband and I finally booked a trip to France. I received warm smiles and high fives of congratulations. When I also added that the kids were coming with us, many of the smiles turned into ‘oh no’ faces.

Did I mention that I booked the airplane tickets before my son was even born? Yes, that was me alright.

Here’s the deal.  Life is short.  For us, we knew that going to France was a major bucket list item.  Before marriage and the kids, we spent a few weeks traveling around Italy and missed the experience and the food terribly. Of course, gallivanting around France with two babes isn’t as exciting as effortlessly hopping in a rented Mercedes and zipping down to Positano. For us, time away from everyday life in Chicago and getting a breath of much needed new culture was in our to-do list for 2013.

I am going to break down exactly HOW this whole trip happened. From the plane tickets to the apartments to what I packed.  Take any tidbits you’d like, if at all applicable.

The Plane Tickets

I was still pregnant with my son when I was on the phone with United booking the tickets. My Orbitz trained mind (I worked there for three years) told me to book early and book early again. With the husband’s blessing, I researched flights and decided to flight direct. One of the best decisions I ever made.  I wanted to have a completely European airline experience (Lufthansa, for example), but that means I would have to connect through Frankfort. There was zero way I was going to take two kids off a plane, then walk through an airport and attempt to board a plane again. Negative, Captain.  

We ended up going with United, direct into Paris.  I made sure I had three seats, in the middle of the plane. The baby was going to be eight months at that time so I arranged for a bassinet. (I won’t go into the back and forth drama when we arrive at O’Hare, but let’s just say that United made a mistake, we all had to be moved and I almost lost my mind thinking I would be split from someone helping me with two kids. Luckily this didn’t happen, but almost did).

Because of the mishap on the way TO Paris, we didn’t have the bulkhead like I wanted, but we did have it on the way back. This meant no one sat in front of us and I was able to have the kids’ toys on the floor, change the baby without going to the bathroom and, if needed, could have the baby ‘sleep’ in the makeshift bassinet the airline gave us.  Again, I was disappointed when I was told our seats were set up in an area where the bassinet attached to the WALL, but no dice. Good thing is, I mentally prepared for anything to go wrong and went with the flow.  That is a key here: go with the flow. Another tip: bring those plastic bags from the grocery store..they come in handy when you need to wrap up diapers. 

The Train Tickets

We spent one week in Paris, then took the TGV down to Dijon and stayed there another week. Then we came back up to Paris for one night and left. Do I recommend this? No. I would recommend staying in ONE place, but since my husband never saw Paris, I just couldn’t spend two weeks in a smaller French town without giving my husband the experience of Paris.  What was more amazing? Our then three year old girl had been studying Paris with me for some time and went nuts when she saw the Eiffel Tower, Mona Lisa and other Parisian sites. 

I booked the tickets via RailEurope.  The process was easy, BUT there was confusion at BOTH legs of the train trips because I was trying to find the confirmation # on the tickets and acquire our final tickets from the auto machines at the train stations.  I finally had to ask for help each time. I recommend going right to the ticket window if you have time pre train ride.

I did NOT buy our daughter a seat and wished I had.  My husband and I ended up carrying a child on our laps each way.  I regret not going ahead and telling the RailEurope system that I was buying four tickets for four adults.  The booking process of the site asks for children’s ages and decides if you can buy a ticket or not.  Had I bought four seats facing each other, we could have taken over a whole section with toys and what not. Lesson learned. 

The nice perk of the trip was booking first class on the way to Dijon. Not that much pricier and the seats were definitely bigger and made carrying the wee ones easier.

Next up, transportation methods. We did NOT take a specific baby car seat. After assessing our gear and how much we’d be afoot, I made the decision not to take one. Playing ‘pass the baby’ on the flights to and from Paris was a little rough, but even if the baby had a seat, he needed to be held. Boyfriend was teething and my breasts were a saving grace on the entire trip.  As soon as Mr. Teeting became upset, I nursed him and all was well.  Special shout out to the French women who told me to throw my cover away and just enjoy nursing my kid.  

Transportation from Charles de Gaulle to Paris Apartment

We hired a driver to pick us up from baggage claim and drive us to our apartment.

It was pricey, yes. A few points:

1.     I was not going to deal with two little kids who needed more rest while navigating our luggage through the airport. It wasn’t fair to them, either.

2.     I love the Parisian metro system. As a matter of fact, most trains get you right to city center with zero problems.  I do know that the main RER line to Paris tends to get targeted by pickpockets.  I didn’t have the energy or awareness to watch two kids, ensure the luggage was together and make sure someone wasn’t trying to get the best of me. Oh sure, I have a streetwise southsider for a husband, but I didn’t want to take any chances.  We landed, we found our driver, he found our luggage, the car was steps outside the door, he had a car seat for the baby and we were off. And yes, traffic getting to Paris was plain awful. Not going to sugar coat it.

Transportation from Paris Apartment to Gare du Lyon (which was the outpost station to Dijon)

We had the gentleman who was our house manager call a taxi for us.  It was a short ride to the train station. I held the baby in my lap and Ms. Toddler was buckled in the back alongside me. Michael sat in the front.

Transportation from Dijon train station to Dijon Apartment

Another short taxi ride. This time, we had to wait outside of the terminal for a ride. Dijon is a small town and taxi cabs aren’t as frequent. This is a situation where I took out my phone, called the Dijon cab company and, in broken French, managed to order five cabs for the people who were in line with us. Yes, I felt like a rockstar.  We also took a cab back to the Dijon train station.

Transportation from Paris hotel back to Charles De Gaulle Airport

Our last night in France, we stayed at the hotel right NEXT to the Gare du Lyon. It was also a pretty family friendly hotel. They gave us a sleeping blanket for the baby, along with a pop up crib. Our toddler had a fun play space (not so large, but something).  This meant that when our TGV train rolled in from Dijon, we were steps away from the hotel. Easy.

To get back to Charles De Gaulle, I pre-booked an airport shuttle via the Airfrance shuttle. You do NOT have to fly Airfrance to use their service. Another plus to the hotel location is that the Airfrace pickup stand was literally around the corner out front. Pay in advance, show driver your voucher, done.

Where We Slept

Apartments. Apartments. Hands down, if you travel for a length of time with little kids, the best option would be to rent a house or an apartment. We stayed in Paris and Dijon. In both places, we found amazing, spacious apartments. We were able to cook meals, have space and really feel like part of the neighborhood.  It’s France so bakeries were within a stone’s throw of each home.

Paris Left Bank

Though Paris’ 6th district is considered the most expensive to live in all of Paris, we managed to find a gorgeous and lovely apartment at the base of Luxembourg Gardens. It.was.perfect.  Located near a university and ample playgrounds, we had green space and places for strolling right outside our door. WiFi included.

We also used this as an easy home base when we walked all the way to the Louvre. I calculated it. We were 1.5 miles away. And we walked all of it.  On that particular day, we walked to the Louvre, then hit up Notre Dame, made our way to the other side of Paris, and came home. Our daughter was a trooper, but we also realized how much she relied on the stroller in Chicago. This changed as soon as we go back. Here is the website we used to book the Parisian apartment.

Dijon

We stayed in the City Center, with cobblestone steps and a bakery outside our door. No, we didn’t want to leave. WiFi included. Our apartment building was popular with American tourists. We loved our apartment.

Our Typical Daily Schedule

7 am – Get up, someone go grab croissants if we didn’t already have them

7-9 am – Eat, play take showers, pack up for day out

9 am – Toddler walks, baby in stroller. Explore.

Late morning – Baby hopefully sleeping, prep for lunch and/or go to market

Lunch – Usually at a café. And yes, we took the stroller. We ate in at small tables and made room for the whole family. One lunch, we actually had lunch in a pish posh, but casual Anthony Bourdain choice. I was hesitant when they saw us with two wee ones, but we were determined.  Our wardrobe was very French (I think this was the key to getting treated so well with kids) and me speaking some French was tremendous in getting great service with the kids.

Afternoon time –  If not back at an apartment, check out park/other part of town. Notice toddler getting whiny. Switch to toddler in stroller and baby in carrier. Baby and toddler potentially nap.

Pre dinner – Go home, have a snack. Unwind.

5/530 – Join the rest of the French and go out.  Pick up fresh protein for dinner (if you didn’t already do this at the market) and/or walk around, see who is selling what and watch the neighborhood walk home with their kids from school.

6-7  Family dinner, bath, playtime

730-on Wine, cheese, email French TV

Going Out at Night

No, this didn’t happen.  Meaning, we didn’t go out together at the same time.  As I mentioned before, this was a working vacation for me.  The updates, coupled with the baby teething meant that I needed to be close to home. That was OK for me – I anticpated this would happen. We checked into babysitters before going to France, but no dice. I was happy to see Michael go out and explore Paris and Dijon.  He took our daughter on a lovely Crème Bruele date one night. She came back with the biggest grin on her face. I did have the chance to meet a friend for wine. She’s an American now living in Paris with her boyfriend. It was lovely to hear about her transition into French life and have some one-on-one girl time.

 When We Took the Metro

Seeing the Eiffel Tower required use of the Metro, but that was also easy.  A quick jaunt north and some walking and we were there.  As soon as we go there, we had zero chance of getting to the top of The Eiffel Tower, lines were too long and we couldn’t secure tickets in advance.  We used this time to walk around, eat lunch, etc.  The four of us managed to leave The Eiffel Tower, make our way to the 5th, get to the Champs Elysee, visit the Arc de Triomphe, walk the entire Champs Elysee back to Concorde, hop on the Metro and come back home.  This is a day where I did quite a bit of Ergo carrying. 

The Gear

Ok, this one was tough. I started packing clothes and writing to-do lists two months before the trip. I was still nursing the baby and began supplementing with formula. He was also starting solids, so I needed to think about bringing extra food. Now, of COURSE you can buy food in Europe (I ended up buying formula and baby food in Dijon towards the tail end of the trip). With the Euro, I decided to bring as much as I could, knowing my load would be heavy on the way THERE, lighter coming home. I was right.

 

The Packing List

·      A single stroller. I decided to invest in an Uppa Baby G-Luxe. So well worth it. It was light enough to carry everywhere, sturdy enough for either kid and folded in a snap.

·      Ergo baby carrier.

·      One large red Longchamps bag and one leather large cross body bag.  The Longchamp bag because my food storage bag. The black leather bag became the everyday, walk around town bag that had the essentials for changing and feeding. The black bag was also basic enough and ‘nice’ enough to go in and out of restaurants, museums, etc. The key? It was a CROSSBODY bag. Easier to hold across my body if needed, especially when babe was in the Ergo.

·      One large rolling duffel bag and one carry on bag. That’s it. I stuffed all of our clothes and shoes in these bags. Since we had a direct flight, the duffel bag was considerably ‘safe’ for the trip. The carry on bag had a change of clothes for everyone, along with immediate gear/backup

·      One large red backpack. This contained the tech gear, cords, etc. We run our own businesses and though this was a vacation, it was also a working vacation. (Hey, drinking great wine and eating amazing cheese at night while checking email isn’t so bad.)

·      Two tablets, one wireless keyboard, two smartphones

·      One kids’ backpack which contained all of the toddler’s toys..but mainly busy things like coloring books, crayons, etc. I bought all of this a few days before the trip and she was exciting to try everything out on the plane and train trip.

·      A few books

·      Two containers of formula

·      Various packets of organic baby food

·      Bottles

·      Numerous Ziploc bags.  From potential bathroom accidents, diaper explosions, to storing used utensils, these bags came in handy the entire time

·      Mini toddler portable potty. I kid you not, this thing was amazing.  It compresses flat, but then opens in a little standing fashion so your child can go to the bathroom wherever needed. My daughter had to use the restroom in Paris, middle of the street. No bathroom in sight. We simple unfolded the seat, stood around her, she did her business and we threw the bag away (there is a bag that goes over the seat and is absorbent). In another instance, we were in the middle of a small wine town outside of Dijon. Public bathroom closed. No problem. Without flinching, I whipped out that little toilet sit and had my daughter do her business in the middle of the street (covered by us of course). Toddler bladders cannot wait for the bathroom that is too far away.

·      Small thermometer

·      Small nail clippers

·      Nasal bulb

·      Baby shampoo

·      Toothpaste

·      Diapers

·      Small spoons

·      Easy toddler snacks

·      Adult energy bars

·      Two child friendly fleece/throw blankets (one for each kid..on the plane, in the stroller, random naps on bed, etc. Gave a true sense of home and came in handy during chilly walks)

·      Outlet converters (this was KEY for charging all of our devices)

·      Copies of all credit cards and passports (in a separate Ziploc bag in a separate bag)

·      Copies of all credit cards and passports AND detailed itinerary sent to my parents’ house. This included names of apartment contacts and phone numbers, should we need to get stuck in a pickle.

·      Addresses of phone number of U.S. consulate

·      Phone numbers of nearby hospitals, doctors and doctors on demand (Paris sends docs to your house)

·      Pre set, downloaded maps of every neighborhood via Google maps. This trick came in handy A LOT.  Every major hot spot or walking path to museums, parks, etc. was already in my device via PDF. I would deactivate the WiFi and access the pre-saved PDFs.  The GPS was still active in my Nexus 4.  Bonus. We would open the PDFs, see our little blue dot and go on our marry way.

How Did It Go?

I spent 12 consecutive nights with my family in another country. We had our ups and downs. Our tantrums and the in-the-middle-of-the-park diaper changes. There were grouchy moments and moments of sheer anger (i.e. when Hertz ‘misplaced’ my husband’s reservation, thus making him miss all of his wine meetings outside Dijon).  All and all, it was some of the most magical times of my life. 

Not having my phone active to a WiFi signal for the bulk of the day was glorious.  Aside from taking photos, our phones weren’t used much during the day. Can’t lie to you, however. As soon as we walked into our apartments we checked our emails and uploaded phones. Quick skims of emails took place, but there was nothing ‘pressing’.

I saw my kids in different lights. Our little boy changed. New teeth came in. He realized he ‘wanted’ to crawl, but wasn’t there just yet. My daughter couldn’t stop talking about how close she got to the Mona Lisa. My husband was reveling in the affordable prices of French wine (we went through 18 bottles between the two of us).

The four of us were this little clan of hilarity, navigating around France and its shops with open minds and happiness. There was an afternoon where we threw away our planned trip to Montmarte. We all needed a break, especially the kids. Since we were so close to Luxembourg Gardens, it was decided that we would take full advantage of it.  Our daughter was in heaven playing in its massive kids’ area.  My observant mind enjoyed watching little French kids yelling at each other. At one point, a few French mothers and I struck up a conversation about maternity leave, healthcare and soups. Then I was invited to push a series of kids on this mini tilt-a-whirl of sorts.

From there, we rented a little boat for our daughter to push around with a massive stick – a Lux Gardens tradition for years.   My son enjoyed naps under trees and nursing sessions with cool breezes hitting his locks.

As for me, my spirit was back where it felt at its fullest.  France represents a place where both of my parents spent time as children.  It’s a place that I always gravitated towards and vowed that one day, I would be back with my family. 

Throughout the lower back pain from the Ergo carrier, beads of sweat from a warmer than usual September, frustration attempting to quiet my toddler during a tantrum, it was all worth it. We came back with new memories, a few new pieces of clothing and an appreciation for being able to handle any situation as a family.

Would I do it again?  Yes, but not for some time. I think the kids were the ‘right’ age to be portable.  Many things were cheaper or free for the kids, which was a bonus.  As soon as children are four years of age, everything goes up – train tickets, museum entry, etc. 

If you are on the fence, I say take a deep breath and just do it.  

You only live once. 


Tips for Exploring Chicago's Eataly

by Blagica Bottigliero


My, my, it's been quite some time since I wrote. Leave it to the Saturday night excursion at Eataly Chicago to bring out the writer in me. I kid (kind of). This post is also to help you navigate the ins and outs the Batali/Bastianich Italian treasure of awesome.

I'm not going to tell you about 'what' Eataly is. You are visiting this post because you either know what it is or heard of it. You can gingerly visit the Eataly site for more details. Now, let's get to the how-to of visiting.

If you aren't taking public transit or a cab, you can drive. Parking at the 10 E. Grand Avenue (The Shops at North Bridge) garage is FREE for the first hour if you spend $20 within Eataly's monstrous, glorious walls. After that, parking for 1-3 hours is $10.  My husband snagged a rare gem of a parking spot on State St. so we walked. If you do decide to drive, I recommend the garage.  You are almost guaranteed to spend $20. Here's why...

Navigating Eataly may seem daunting at first, but you'll get over that once you see the space.  Upon entering, a well dressed door man/guard will direct you to the right.  The massive coffee bar and Nutella bar (separate) smack you in the face.  On the other side of the wall, an endless row of pastries and gelatos sit in front of Eataly workers, eager to get you started with a $3.80 gelato (that's the cheapest scoop...a Hazelnut Cookie/Nutella sandwich will run you close to $5.00...an espresso at the downstairs coffee bar is $2.80).  The prices won't phase you.

Your mouth will be agape as you look at the choice of white space, design and presentation. The rest of the first floor includes a marketplace (fruits, veggies, pasts, kitchen gadgets, etc.) and the checkout lanes. The middle of the first floor includes a handy dandy guest relations area. Now, to the second floor.

In the words of my husband, 'Santa Maria!' That's what he said when the elevator doors open and we poured out of the second floor. This was a Saturday night. Around 9 pm. The place was PACKED. Here is how the 2nd floor is setup:

The middle has what you would equate as 'high top' seating near a bar.  This is a casual spot to have some wine, eat bread and cheese, people watch, etc. We ordered a few glasses of wine and walked around with them (smart move, Mario). One corner of the upstairs is a beer/wine nook. Another part has a sit down restaurant, Carne.  I noticed some other ad-hoc benches/tables rolled up to counters. Smart. So imagine going to the Cheese Guy and hanging around and actually eating the cheese at the same time.  

From pastas to meats to cheeses, the second floor of Eataly has a slew of options for getting exactly what your Italian loving heart desires. We picked up some cheese and Michael decided to get some brandy from his birth year (see what I mean...walking around with alcohol and ooh and aahing around food makes the wallet jump out of the pocket easier). Oh, but there is more.

There is a casual pizza/pasta 'space'. It's not really a restaurant, but moreso a mini interior 'piazza' where you can sit down and enjoy some quality casual fare. Note, no reservations.  Other highlights of Eataly's second floor include a massive wine section, baby products, bakery, book store, butcher, vegetarian restaurant, beauty lotions and another high end coffee experience. It's amazing.  

On our way out, I asked about baby changing stations. I was told those are on the second floor as well. Bonus.   

What can I say? There are definitely some premiums as it relates to pricing, however, Eataly Chicago is a game changer. As a woman married to a bonafide Napolitano guy, Eataly passed the test - and then some.

Another interesting tidbit? Eataly is open EVERY day from 8 am to 11 pm - including Sundays. With the location in the cross section of Chicago's River North gem + tourist artery, Eataly should do well. 

And yes, I hope to have the majority of my future date nights there. 


When the private Facebook group becomes a business

by Blagica Bottigliero


 

Online relationships have a certain type of flavor. The majority of us (including yours truly) understands that what we put out their publicly is seen by anyone who wants to look up your handle.

But when we are invited to ‘private’ groups on Facebook, Google or Yahoo, we expect a bit of tact as it relates to what that group is today and how that group will grow.  What I really mean to say is: Upon inception of a private group, you should include every intention of what you ‘may’ want the group to be. In addition, you should check in with your private group every month and give them status on what is going on.

I’ve done this before. I ran a nationwide community site called Gals’ Guide. It wasn’t a private group. It was an open site that any woman could read, comment, etc. I also ran ads. I pulled together a live-streamed summit.

The site wasn’t massive, but the key is that my readers and community knew I monetized the content when I could. Simple.

When you start using the number of members in your ‘private’ Facebook community in interviews and press for your new startup that blurs the lines of trust in my book.

It’s these actions that make me hesitate in joining any online private group these days


Coding is not the only answer to tech innovation.

by Blagica Bottigliero


The powers that be, both business and political, need to stop addressing the same

mantra as it relates to growing innovation and technology in Chicago. So I’ll say it here.

Learning how to code is not the answer for everyone. 

The irony is, this is a well known fact, but every blurb or opportunity I have to hear the Mayor or Deputy Mayor speak, it’s about finding more coding (engineering) talent in Chicago.

Here is some food for thought:

What about finding amazing warehouse managers? I can only imagine how complex the systems would be to manage a massive inventory epicenter like Amazon’s.

How about teaching the art of technical project management?

What if someone doesn’t want to code? What if someone truly can’t stand code?

I do agree with the majority of thought leaders that we need more engineers in Chicago. I get it.  But if you think about the greater Chicago AREA, there is a talent pool out there and we need many of them for non code related things.

Today, learning how to code is sexy. It will be sexy for a long time.

But so is being in that back office, analyzing data or calling up a client and checking in on their needs.

 

 


Why Chicago (and its women) Should be the National Hub of Lifestyle Startups

by Blagica Bottigliero


It’s an ongoing national trend.

Woman Post Its.jpg

The ‘it’ startup ideas like photo apps, video apps, coupon sites, etc. continued to get funded and/or win startup competitions yet the ideas that solve real problems typically.  In my experience, good portions of these ideas are founded by women and solve the everyday problems of many women.  Yet, the group who typically invest in startups or deem a startup scalable fits in the same demographic: men.

A few examples of lifestyle (aka 'soft') oriented sites that cater to the everyday problems women have:

Pretty Quick – Book last minute spa appointments at Chicago salons. Basically filling the gaps for the salon owner and squeezing in a last minute reservation for the guest.

Moxie Jean – Online resale marketplace for gently used children’s clothing.

Chicago is well poised to be THE place for more lifestyle startups to emerge. Why? 

Situated in the Midwest, the land of cereal giants, automotive innovation, CPG-ville and Mom’s Apple Pie, the women of Chicago have access to it all.  Why not continue the ‘sensible’ reputation we Midwesterners receive and put that online?  Create some of the newest startups that take care of the needs of women, families and everyday issues humans encounter.

Will they get investment capital? Perhaps not so much – at first.

The more lifestyle startups that get created, coupled with more women who are behind entrepreneurship, the faster Old Guard will get it and invest.

After all, how many men do you know were trampling down Sara Blakely’s door when she created Spanx? 


What a difference a year makes

by Blagica Bottigliero


On August 13, 2012, I received ‘the call’.

It was the day when we knew the first wave of major layoffs was coming. It was no surprise, we just didn’t know who was staying or going.

And damn it felt good to cry.

After the meetings occurred and the parting documents were signed, I wondered what I’d do next. Part of me wanted to relax, bake, read, hang out with my eldest and wait for the new baby. Then my phone started to ring.  A lot. Recruiters, former colleagues and new start ups were calling.  Companies were in need of digital marketing experts and my name kept coming up in discussions. I was happy, flattered and blown away by the reaction from the space.

zlatoLogoColor.png

I decided that a corporate environment, as great as it can be, was no longer for me. Within a few weeks, I decided to form my second LLC, Zlato Digital.  I didn’t want to define exactly what I did because I wanted to meet with peers, understand what the trends were and where the pain points are. Organic growth with no pressure. 

 

So I took meetings. A lot of meetings.

I began working on a few key projects. 

I went to baby checkups.

I began making up for the time I missed around my little girl.

I began getting back to the post Orbitz entrepreneurial roots I missed. From the days of my first consulting practice, Bsolutions, to the days of self funding a startup and running a community for women.

Before I knew it, I finished my initial projects and was in labor with my second child. I took a semi maternity leave, but kept on building this new ‘thing’. 

I took on co-working space at 1871.  It was fantastic to reconnect with old friends from the early tech years, but it quickly became time to find a larger space. I’ll be moving into new space at Industrious, early September.

Ladies Talk Tech_Final_300.jpg

I also decided to launch an online tech show, Ladies Talk Tech.

New company, new baby, new office space and new tech show.

In one year.  

Thank you to everyone who supported me this year. It's been a tremendous and rewarding transition.

Special shout out to Motorola for helping me lean in even more than I did before.  

The person who gets the biggest thank you? My husband. He's the one who looked me dead in the eye when I was pregnant and said, 'Go for it.' So I did. 


Registration for Chicago Park District classes needs an overhaul

by Blagica Bottigliero


If you are one of thousands of Chicago parents AND adults, you know of a fantastic resource: The Chicago Park District.  The CPD puts on a series of classes all year long - and they are uber accessible in price.  Every season, parents get ready to register online and attempt to snag one of the few precious spots available for the given class they would like to sign up for. Once those online spots fill up, Chicagoans can wait in line and register in person. 

Easy to understand. Fast clicker gets the spot. Got it. However. 

The user experience of the Chicago Park District's implementation of the 'Active' technology for online registrations is plain bad. I decided to take screen shots of the process and walk you through how precious seconds are lost when you attempt to sign up your kid for class. Yes, we will be those parents who will be in line at 3 or 4 am to get their daughter enrolled in Kiddie College. 

I attached screen shots of the long process you need to click through various screens and get your kid registered. 

  • First you have to add the class(es) to your cart.
  • Then you have to select the child(ren) you want to take the class (or adults too).
  • Then you see your class, price and description. This causes you to speed read the fine print to make sure everything is done right.
  • After that, you go to the cart and see the class again.
  • From there, you come to a screen asking you to check off on consent.
  • Then you get the credit card selector screen. You pay.
  • Nope, not over yet.
  • Then you have to click a box that states you are over 13 years of age.
  • Finally, you hit 'continue' to purchase the class and hope it goes through.

Let's say you and your spouse decided to work as a tag team and sign up a kid for class? You both get in? 

The Chicago Park District charges a  FEE for CANCELING a class out of their system. Even after this is done within minutes. You have to call them up, explain the situation and pay a fee to get the double class removed from the system. 

When I booked a CPD room for my daughter's birthday, I needed to move dates.  That date change resulted in a $15 fee. 

I am thankful for having the Chicago Park District and its hundreds of programs available within footsteps, but the process and fees to attempt to sign up are pretty bad. Some friends reminding me that those parents who don't have access to a computer or Internet also lose first dibs on sign up. 

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Consumers are getting control back from the wireless carriers

by Blagica Bottigliero


source The Verge

source The Verge

Some major developments are happening in the world of the cell phone business - and you should all take advantage of them. Let’s break down two of those changes.

 

 

 

 Second tier/pre-paid carriers are supporting smartphones

Gone are the days of thinking boost, Virgin and Straight Talk Wireless are second class carriers. The second tier carrier market usually BUYS BANDWIDTH from the Big Guns like AT&T and Verizon. In many cases, you are using a fantastic network, but at the fraction of the price.  The major carrier makes their money by selling some space to another line of carriers. You, the consumer, get the same high speeds at a lower rate and a less constricting contract.

T-Mobile’s moves

When T-Mobile announced their Uncarrier structure, the industry gasped. Huh? What? The two-year contract with a hefty cancellation fee, was standard. Not any more.

After the zero contract announcement, T-Mobile just stepped up the game with Jump, allowing consumers to upgrade their phones every six months, for a fee of ten bucks.

Today?

AT&T just announced their Next program.

It appears that Verizon may announce a similar model soon.

And so it begins.

 


Old School Meets New School at Techweek Chicago

by Blagica Bottigliero


Last week, the Merchandise Mart was aflutter with Techweek activity. Sponsored by Motorola Mobility, Techweek Chicago took over the 8th floor of the Mart. Everything you’d expect from a typical conference was there: table displays, giveaways, demos, start-up evangelism, panel sessions, VIP lounge, beer tasting, etc.

I’m not going to go table by table and provide a breakdown of the next up and coming startup or the technology I didn’t fully understand. This post is about the welcomed trend that continues to be on the rise in Chicago – old school digital meeting new school startups.

I first noticed this trend when I came back to the entrepreneurial side of things.  As soon as my time ended with Motorola, my phone began to ring and my email began to blow up with companies looking for deep digital talent. I thought it was a corporate thing as the bulk of the job leads, project inquiries and talent questions came from the Big Agencies and the Large Corporations.  That soon changed.

Soon, the inquiries came in from startups and their investors. Many of them are either aware or becoming aware of the deeper, strategic digital marketing prowess needed to take an idea to a profitable level.

Take BrightTag, for example. Founded by some ‘old school’ digital folks including Eric Lunt and Mike Sands, BrightTag is an established member of the Chicago startup scene, but is operating with a deep, experienced bench. They recently brought on Tony Bombacino to head up marketing. Tony is another old school digital person.

As Centro’s Shawn Riegsecker described, the senior marketing talent in the city is dwindling. I agree with him to an extent – I think many members of the Old School Digital Talent Pool are either a) not as familiar with the startup/new company opportunities b) accustom to working for large agencies or big brands c) don’t want to take a chance on smaller companies.

The good news here is that companies big and small are in need of seasoned people who understand the way to market online. A specific niche that is need of talent to come out of the woodwork? eCommerce. I met with a few execs in the last few weeks who are desperate for people who understand the eCommerce space – both digital marketing and social media.  

Which brings me to a surprising addition to Techweek’s startup roster. Jenny McCarthy joined the crew at Snip.ps. Snip.ps is a technology that is reminiscent of my early ad serving days – with a social twist.  Consumers can use the technology to shorten a URL, but the twist here is that an interstitial ad appears before the content. The interstitial is independent of the “snipped” website– the ad is merely a precursor to the content. Users who use the Snip.ps technology as a URL shortener get paid when the ad serves an impression.

Does the action sound familiar? It did to me. It reminded me of the endless amounts of Orbitz popunders I served. The gray area here is whether or not the snipper needs to disclose the paid ad component with every snip. The user isn’t promoting a brand or service, but clicking the URL triggers the ad, which pays the user.  Similar ideas exist in the marketplace, like CentUp, but I haven’t seen something this interstitial model.  

Jenny McCarthy liked the idea so much, she decided to join the Snip.ps crew and help promote the technology. Jenny uses the shortener for her own content appearing the Sun-Times' Splash blog. She’s also a fan of bloggers and other content providers getting a piece of the click action with a potential to receive revenue. I had a chance to chat with Jenny, get her POV on tech and discuss a few future projects (stay tuned for updates.)

Between seeing techies from yesteryear mentoring the new crop of startups to ‘Singled Out’ host Jenny McCarthy joining the tech scene, my main takeaway from Techweek was this: mixing old and new is the new black. 

 


The hottest real estate in Chicago? Near the Bloomingdale Trail

by Blagica Bottigliero


For years, an old train track remain unused. Three miles of elevated open space sitting there, waiting for someone to play kickball on it. 

That time will soon be over. 

The Bloomingdale Trail is located on the city's northwest side.  Three miles of track that spans four neighborhoods: Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park and Logan Square. Within minutes, people living in these neighborhoods will have access to brand spanking new parks and public space. There are plenty of parks in these areas, but nothing like the Bloomingdale Trail.  

Which is why any single family home that goes up for sale in these neighborhoods gets snatched up within days, sometimes hours.   The first phase of the park isn't slated until fall of 2014, but that's not stopping home buyers from thinking ahead and snatching up space. This would also be a solid time to consider selling your home. 

The Bloomingdale Trail has a new website and name, dubbed 'The 606'. You can download the full plan there, along with donating to the cause. 


Why Agencies Need to Recruit More Moms

by Blagica Bottigliero


This post isn’t going to go into the working mom vs. stay at home mom debate.

It will, however, go into a more pressing need I’ve noticed:

>Agency culture continues to be fluid and unpredictable in terms of hours and work/life balance (last minute presentation changes, last minute client needs, meeting that popped up in LA tomorrow, etc.). A working mom doesn’t mind the schedule change ups,but when teams are small and there is no backup, this can be exhausting.

>Large brands, especially CPGs, are looking for ways to connect with moms and dads in new ways (i.e. the term du jour ‘content marketing’).

>The majority of creative directors are still men

 

So what are we left with?

Moms who have children are looking for as much work/life balance as they can.  Their noggins are still fresh full of insights, data and productivity- they just do it all in ways that may not mirror the typical agency set up. For example, a working mom may leave the office at 5:30 to get the kids from daycare or relieve the nanny, but I almost guarantee that she can rock that pasta sauce stirring and still think about the presentation she is putting together. 

Because as soon as the kids go to sleep at 8 pm, she’s back on her laptop finishing that presentation or email.

Meanwhile, Client X is launching a new product and wants an agency team that includes a mom. Not just ‘any’ mom, but a woman who avidly uses social media, reads mom blogs, has visited Buzzfeed, may hop around HuffPo now and then, understands the technology of Vine and has a hearty following on Instagram and Twitter.

Personally, I know MANY of these women. I know more, but because of the inabilities for the agency life (advertising, media and PR) wasn’t willing to budge in terms of work/life balance, they left and started their own shops.

What’s left?

A Client who has an agency team made up primarily of young 20 something folks who don’t have kids but know people who have kids. Then the few agency moms are spread across multiple clients to provide the tidbit/insight/presence that a full time member should be doing.

No one is saying that every agency should instill daycare (a smart move if you ask me), but recruiting more working moms isn’t just good for women – it’s good for your agency’s bottom line.

 


Chicago - the First City of Open Data

by Blagica Bottigliero


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Last night, I attended the Open Government Chicago Meetup.  You may ask yourself, ‘There is an actual Meetup group about open government?’ Of COURSE there is. If you are wondering how popular the event is, space fills up very quickly. Over 100 people RSVP'd for last night's event and there was a waiting list. 

The topic of yesterday’s chat was more of a send off for Brett Goldstein, the first Chief Data Officer for the city of Chicago. I may not agree with the mayor’s policies on public education, but when it comes to transparency and data, I applaud his efforts. Mayor Emanuel specifically brought Brett in to focus on the idea of governing with real metrics, real data and actionable insights. 

Brett reviewed the numerous projects and data challenges he and his team faced in the last few years.  The first bold move Brett made was releasing crime data (Brett is a former Chicago cop who used predictive modeling for crime).  Not just three months worth of crime data, but multiple years worth of crime data. Many thought Brett was nuts.  How would city leaders be OK with the notion of releasing so much information? 

Because, according to Brett, it’s our data. Our public data. And he’s right.

Since the opening of the crime data kimono, Brett and his team released over 450 data sets. This data has since been used to create a myriad of popular websites like:

Was My Car Towed?

Chicago Lobbyists 

Chicago Councilmatic

In addition to making data more accessible, the Chicago open data movement is now a beacon for how city governments across the country function.  That's right, a beacon. For a town that has a history of closed-door politics and backs scratching backs, we’ve entered a new era of being comfortable with information being displayed in a new way.

But to the normal, everyday Chicagoan open data may not mean much.  Brett gave an example of how data can help fix a problem many of us may have, but don’t think too much about correlating trends.

What if the number of rodents in a neighborhood alley increased a certain number of days after someone phoned in a 311 call about an overly full garbage container? Could there be a trigger of sorts that counts down days like a clock? If the city knew rats would start to congregate at a garbage dump X days post the day the trash was supposed to be picked up, this would ensure that Streets & Sans teams would be on the job sooner than later.  Mapping 311 calls and the content of those calls is an example of how data can help a city run better.

Today, there are numerous meetups, hackathons and creative minds getting together and thinking about how all of this data can be presented in easier ways.  

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I am incredibly proud of what Brett and his team did in just two years. Two. Brett is moving on to a fellowship at the University of Chicago. He leaves behind a heavyweight team, in addition to city workers folding in open data in everything they do. Every department, for example, has an open data coordinator. That's huge. 

If you are working for a city or municipality eager to get into the open data movement, we'd be happy to help you get started. 

Good luck, Brett!