Meet Thrival Keynote Speaker Ann Makosinski

While still in high school, Ann Makosinski created the “Hollow Flashlight,” which was recognized with several awards at the 2013 Canade-Wide Science Fair, won the 2013 Google Science Fair, and won several awards at the 2014 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Makosinki appeared on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon twice on the GE “Fallonventions" segment to demonstrate her inventions. In 2014, she was named one of TIME Magazine’s "30 Under 30." As of October 2015, Makosinski has been featured as the global ambassador for the Uniqlo Fleece product line that highlights the similar harvesting of thermal energy in the Uniqlo product and the “Hollow Flashlight.” She is currently a second year student at the University of British Columbia. Read on to learn more about Ann and register for her keynote at Thrival.

You can also buy tickets for two days of Thrival Music featuring The Chainsmokers, CHVRCHES, Thievery Corporation, Ty Dolla $ign, Hudson Mohawke, and more.

You’ve won prestigious awards at the Google Science Fair, Intel Science and Engineering Fair, were featured in TIME Magazine, and appeared on the Tonight Show — twice. When do you first recall having a deep interest in creating and inventing?

Ann Makosinski: I think I've always had an interest in creating things, just by taking the resources around me and trying to piece together something "better" or that could solve a problem. Because my parents didn't give me many toys when I was a kid, my first problem I really remember having was finding a way to entertain myself, so instead I made my own toys. While the physical act of making something is quite satisfying, I have also found an outlet for creativity in areas like writing and film to be quite enjoyable.

You’ve called yourself a “differentist”. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Ann Makosinski: "Differentist" is a term I made up while I was a kid, meaning that I wanted to be different and also do things differently than everyone else. While this is obviously not completely possible (and I do admit to falling into the trend of skinny jeans), I still try to follow this philosophy. Why do and look the same like everyone? Be creative!!! Follow your passions, and be PROUD of their and your individuality. If people don't like what you do and love, so what? 

You’re one of four keynote speakers at the Thrival Innovation + Music Festival this year, and you’re already a veteran public speaker. What are some common themes that you share with each of your audiences that speak to the work you do?

Ann Makosinski: When I speak, I usually tell a summarized story of all the awkward stages of me growing up (including the time I resembled Harry Potter and got literal bowl cuts), and then depending on what struggles I'm going through in life, I give five pieces of advice at the end to the audience (and myself). I also always try to think about what advice I'd like to tell my younger self (because 18 years old is really old folks!!!), and then present it in a way that relates to things the audience may be going through. My speeches are casual, and I try to make the audience feel like they're listening to a close friend talk. While the style of more formal speeches is a wonderful medium to employ, as per my rebellious teenaged spirit/devil child style, I like giving my talks a twist. 

What artists are you most excited to check out during Thrival Music?

Ann Makosinski: Probablyyyy Wild Child, as well as CHVRCHES and Chainsmokers! I listen to a lot of dead people, so the ones that are alive and at the festival I'll be doubly excited to listen to and see!

Any projects you are working on now that you want to tell us about?  

Well the most major project I'm working on right now is Gilmore Girls, I'm on the last season and on the edge of my seat. Just kidding (not really), I'm also writing an autobiography/self-deprecating memoir, as well as attempting to write a series of STEAM related graphic novel books for teens that I hope to be turned into a TV show. I also am working on a bunch of legal stuff that is not entertaining to write about for the flashlight, and once that is done I will hopefully be signing a deal to finally get them out in production. Also in September I'll have started second year university at UBC, so that's fun (other than the frantic all nighters studying part)!

Thievery Corporation's Rob Garza Talks New ALBUM, Touring with a 20-PERSON Band+

Thievery Corporation's Rob Garza Talks New ALBUM, Touring with a 20-PERSON Band+

Thievery Corporation are about to come to Pittsburgh as a full 20 piece band for the first time and Rob Garza is very excited. The band has had a busy summer, touring at festivals across the US and traveling with a 20 person ensemble isn't always simple. In addition to touring, Thievery Corporation is about to release a brand new album in February 2017 and in between shows, are working on finishing the production process. Read on to hear what they have been up to and buy tickets to see their debut full band show at Thrival, where they just might debut some material from the new record.

Chris Messina Talks Inventing the Hashtag and The Future of Tech

Chris Messina is a designer, writer, avid Twitterer, and speaker who’s known for inventing the hashtag. He works with developers, product designers, entrepreneurs, and communities to bring to life projects that should exist but don’t. Ahead of his speaking engagement at Thrival, we took a moment to speak with Chris Messina, one of our esteemed guest speakers about inventing the hashtag, the future of technology and what it's like being a "Developer Experience Lead' at Uber. This talk at Thrival is free to attend, however if you would like to experience 2 days of music featuring The Chainsmokers, Ty Dolla $ign, CHVRCHES, Hudson Mohawke and many others, you can buy tickets here.

There was a time when people just called it the “number sign” or the “pound sign.” Now, the hashtag has become its own digital phenomena. So to begin, how does one actually invent the hashtag? What went into that idea? What was the process?

I was an early Twitter user (#1186, to be precise) and many of us back then (as now) were looking for ways to make Twitter more topical and relevant to our interests. Lots of folks suggested that Twitter add conventional group functionality (with all the typical management overhead) but I felt that wouldn’t really work in the on-the-go, mobile context. But a lot of people were using Twitter on the desktop and weren’t thinking about that. Keep in mind that I proposed the hashtag on Aug 23, 2007; the iPhone had just been announced in January. 

It seemed to me that IRC (Internet Relay Chat, a protocol for Internet text messaging) had a useful convention for different “channels”, so I cribbed that but suggested you could have as many “tags” per tweet as you wanted. So to add a tweet to a “tag channel”, you could just prefix a word with the “#”, and it’d get added. Simple, clear, and concise — and it worked over SMS (which was the primary way I used Twitter back then). Best of all, there was no group management — and you could add a tag wherever you could type text, so you couldn’t prevent people from using them either.

From global movements to revolutionary ideas, and perhaps to just random thoughts — the hashtag demonstrates that people can find common ground. What is the most valuable role the hashtag serves? Has it evolved in its meaning and application since its creation?

The widespread adoption of social media wasn’t a sure thing. There’s always been a lot of skepticism that people would ever get past sharing updates about what they had for breakfast, or what the latest celebrity gossip is — but the reality is, we’re all looking to connect and have thoughts and opinions that we want to share. We’re also pretty lazy — we want the most impact with the least amount of effort. 

The hashtag works because it’s universal (i.e. works anywhere you can type text, just like emoji), it doesn’t take much effort and is easy to learn (just imitate other people who use them), and the rewards are significant (relative to not using them). Social publishing platforms have also responded to their users’ use of hashtags by improving the signal-to-noise ratio, and adding layers of meaning and context on top of trending topics.

As a result, social media has become the dominant way for people to make sense of the world around them, and to connect with other people who are interested in the same topics, or have similar views. The challenge, now, is to make sure that we don’t get trapped in our own echolalic filter bubbles, only seeing and hearing from people that believe the same things we do, and tricking us into adopting a view of reality that is inaccurate.

To the question specifically: no, I think the original intention I had when I proposed the hashtag still applies. I never anticipated that it’d become as ubiquitous as it has, but I’ve seen many, many things come out of Silicon Valley that have affected and changed culture, and I’m humbled by their success as well. 

Your day job is “Developer Experience Lead” at Uber. Can you offer us some insight on what the day-to-day looks like at your job?

Other folks might call this role a “developer advocate”, but I focus more on design and product issues as well as marketing duties that relate to our developer platform to take that mantle. I also don’t code on a day to day basis, but I do understand technical systems, APIs, authentication, and other aspects of integrating software systems. So, my work is broad: I work with partners and companies that want to build on the Uber API, I speak at conferences about our work and the future of technology, I work with internal teams to encourage them to open up APIs or do integrations that I think will mutually serve each other’s companies, and so on. I’ve only been on the job about eight months — but it easily feels like it’s been two years given the pace at which we operate!

Pittsburgh has increasingly become a hub for technology and innovation. What excites you most about the city of Pittsburgh and what do you see it achieving in the next five to ten years?

I like the size and intimacy of Pittsburgh. I like its history and its resolve to modernize and create a truly liveable environment, given its industrial heritage. The student population keeps things fresh and flowing, and its world class universities are incredibly valuable as well. There’s also a great presence and appreciation for art, and that helps keep things in balance. It’s been several years since I’ve been back to Pittsburgh so I’m not fully aware of everything that’s changed, but from my friends who are there, I’ve heard that things have really improved. Of course, Uber has a presence there as well, and while I can’t say much about that, I am bullish on how that will work out. 😄

We’re going to ask you to see around corners for a minute and be clairvoyant. If you are to forecast out, what are one or two major developments within the global economy that will revolutionize the way we do business, or perhaps live our daily lives in the not so distant future?

Wow, that’s a tough one. I find that predicting the future never works out so well, but I do tend to live five years in the future anyway, so if I were to just describe what I see happening in my life or around me, I’d point to the rise of conversational software (bots, AI, voice) and ubiquitous computing finally becoming, y’know, ubiquitous. 

Young people drive a lot of future technology trends because they’re not nearly as precious about the stuff, whereas people in my generation grew up without it, and so have more reverence for it. That’s why apps like Snapchat and Kik are so worth watching — teens gravitate to spaces without adult supervision that allow them to experiment and explore. Snapchat is teaching people to interact with augmented reality (as is Pokemon Go), and that trend creates a new kind of dynamic between people and their environments. Then you have Kik with its bot store, and that’s teaching young people to interact with software agents as though they’re just like their friends, and to use digital currencies like real money, which is something the west hasn’t fully adopted yet. 

On the ubiquitous computing side of things — the technology that surrounds us and pervades our daily experience is getting smarter and more cognizant of our habits and behaviors, and is offering up ways for developers to take advantage of this new information. Uber, for example, launched the Trip Experiences API in January of this year to allow you to share details about Uber trips you take with third party apps. They can then use that information to predict where you’re going to be and when you’re going to be there to serve you better and more personalized information. It’s a tiny example, but with this kind of contextual information, entirely new classes of apps and experiences will be able to built, and that’s just one example.

So, these examples may not be about revolutionizing business or the way we live, but they certain spell vectors for evolving our relationship with technology!

Ty Dolla $ign (Taylor Gang): New Album, Touring, Thrival Festival+

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With a brand new album and a nonstop  tour schedule at festivals and sold out shows across the US. Ty Dolla $sign has been busy this summer. His album 'Free TC' features a great cohesiveness with an impressive list of collaborator friends including Wiz Khalifa, Kanye West, Rae Sremmurd, Future, Fetty Wap and several other huge names in hip hop.

Ahead of his debut at Thrival Festival, we spoke with Ty Dolla $sign to hear what he's been working on, how he creates on the road and what to expect in Sept. You can buy tickets to see him live at Thrival Festival and read on to hear more about what Ty Dolla $sign has been working on (below).

Thrival Innovation + Music Festival is all about connecting people with music, technology, new ideas and shared experiences while elevating the profile of its home city, Pittsburgh. When you think of Pittsburgh, what is the first thing that actually comes to mind?

Ty Dolla $ign: Taylor Gang

How do you make time to “be creative” and write music on the road amidst a busy summer tour schedule? Is there a method to the madness?

Ty Dolla $ign: There's no method to the madness. It's what I love doing. I wake up every morning and head to the lab  to record and if I'm on the road there's a studio on the bus.

What new projects are you working on?

Ty Dolla $ign: I just finished "Campaign" and I'm about to start working on 'Beach House 3'. I'm also working with all my homies and have a few projects in the works, Taylor Gang and my artist TeeCee4800 are up next!

Planning on debuting anything new at Thrival Innovation + Music Festival this year or during your summer schedule?

Ty Dolla $ign: Definitely a few records off of "Campaign".

Many, many musicians are entrepreneurs who experience the ups and downs of starting something new. Looking back, what was it like first starting out, and what advice would you give to aspiring startups, musicians, or entrepreneurs looking to go out on their own?

Never give up keep going - stay in your lane! 

Thrival Innovation Speaker Sam Fotias (Paxahau/Movement Detroit) On Building a Music Town

Thrival Innovation Speaker Sam Fotias (Paxahau/Movement Detroit) On Building a Music Town

Sam Fotias is Vice President of Operations at Paxahau and Operations Director of the Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit. Sam began producing underground dance events in Detroit in the early 1990s. Working on these shows, he discovered and developed his talent for pulling elements together to deliver a powerful event experience. He immersed himself in the surging Detroit electronic music scene, working as the in-house promoter for Plus 8 Records and Plastik Produkts, and running Intellinet Record Distribution out of his basement.

Thrival Innovation 2016 - September 20-22

Thrival Innovation 2016 - September 20-22

Celebrating its fourth year, the Thrival Innovation + Music Festival announces the lineup and scope for its immersive, interdisciplinary, and celebratory programs and two day live music experience.

Thrival introduces an array of keynotes, demos, panels, after-parties and programming that will provide occasion for a cross-pollination of thought leadership and unique social engagement with vital issues and ideas relating to sustainability, art, education, investment, health and cutting edge technology...