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Ignite Vegas offers tech-geeks the chance to inspire others

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Crystal Chang, the organizer Ignite Vegas starts things off at Beauty Bar in downtown Las Vegas Wednesday, August 3, 2011.
Photo: Leila Navidi

Filling up the backyard at Beauty Bar is not easy—ask the dozens of local bands who have tried unsuccessfully—but one group managed to do it last week without breaking a sweat.

Geeks.

Ignite Vegas

Here, the term is meant lovingly. These aren’t the type of men and women you look down on. These are tech-savvy people who know how to sling code, think entrepreneurially and embrace the opportunity to help shape a future increasingly intertwined with the digital world. Tonight, they have convened in a Downtown hot spot for Ignite Vegas, an opportunity for them to give and listen to five-minute talks on whatever idea inspires them.

The night begins with a lecture titled “Why I Love Booze,” complete with a crude chart illustrating how many drinks speaker Nicholas Shook is able to handle before reaching the danger zone of puke and hangovers. Then, it switches gears into a thought-provoking talk by writer and web developer Joshua Ellis examining the cultural implications of evergreen metadata online. The two-hour event also covered tips for dating an entrepreneur, gambling theory, the dot-com bubble burst and instant ramen noodles, among others things.

At best, the talks leave you itching to get to Google or Wikipedia for more information on something you’d never thought about before, like the fact ramen has been adapted for consumption in space. At worst, the talks only waste five minutes of your life. You might view Ignite Vegas as a lecture series for the Twitter generation—short, punchy, social.

Ignite events have been held in cities across the world, including Boulder, Colorado, which boasted 1,300 attendees at a single event, and San Francisco, where Vegas organizer Crystal Chang first attended one. Vegas’ inaugural event drew approximately 150 people. Many seem to be employees of Zappos, the golden child of Las Vegas-based business and a sponsor of the event.

Chang hopes to get Ignite Vegas’ attendance up to 200 or 300, enough to leave a bar setting and maybe rent a small auditorium. The next Ignite Vegas is tentatively scheduled around CES in early January.

Chang says she believes the interest and potential for tech-based events for both hardcore techies and lightweights in Las Vegas is here and growing. Ignite Vegas isn’t the only recent example. Fellow Ignite organizer John Hawkins recently launched vegastechevents.com to highlight both large and small conventions and meet-up groups focused on things like online publishing system WordPress and programming language Ruby. In late June, El Cortez hosted Startup Weekend, another Zappos-sponsored event, which focused on building mobile or web applications with business potential.

Adds Chang, “There is definitely a group determined to bring more tech events to Vegas.”

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