Monday, June 18, 2012

Digital Vermont: Four App Developers Share Their Challenges and Successes

Leaders in Vermont’s growing digital economy will be at the 2012 Woodstock Digital Media Festival this weekend, June 22-23, 2012. One reason is that the popular “Digital Vermont” session, held at last year’s Festival, will be returning this year at 3:30 PM on Saturday in the Woodstock Historical Society to cover some of the achievements and current issues facing the digital media sector in the state.

Cathy Resmer, associate publisher and online editor for Seven Days ( has pulled together a panel of application developers in Vermont, who will demonstrate and talk about their apps. Resmer hopes to hear what it’s like to develop mobile apps here in Vermont, which “…is not Silicon Valley, where there are engineers all over the place.” Resmer would like the session to explore the challenges as well as the successes in developing cutting-edge applications in Vermont, and to hear from the panel’s digital entrepreneurs, “How and why do you work in Vermont?”

Tom Jaros, Empower Mobility

Tom Jaros is president and founder of Empower Mobility (, which designs and develops applications for a variety of mobile platforms and clients. Jaros is also Vice President of the Vermont Technology Alliance, a nonprofit supporting Vermont's tech industry with projects such as the magazine, Tapping Tech, and the VT Tech Jam, a two day event showcasing Vermont technology firms and job offerings.

In the Digital Vermont session, Jaros will speak about his work with the University of Vermont Extension to produce a mobile app for Vermont farmers. The state requires farmers and companies that apply manure to follow regulations designed to protect the environment, including reporting on the amounts and types of manure used on their fields. Jaros’s new app, developed in partnership with an agronomist from the UVM Extension, enables farmers to record details on their manure usage right from their tractors using a mobile device, and then to upload that data directly to the state’s monitoring database.

Darren Clarke, Redaranj LLC

Darren Clarke is mobile application developer and native Vermonter. After building databases and web sites in New York and Boston, Clarke returned home to found Redaranj LLC. The company's first product is a music sharing application called Recollect, which integrates with Twitter to allow users to create, collect and share music recommendations. Billed on the company website ( as the “best way to recommend and discover new music on Twitter,” Recollect has been an Apple "staff favorite" and appears in the social networking and music discovery "essentials" sections of the iOS App Store.

Anna Palmer, WinWin Apps

Anna Palmer is Founder and CEO of WinWinApps, a software development and micro venture capital company. According to its website (, the company “studies behavior and seeks technological solutions to increase efficiency in what people are already doing,” whether in school systems, non-profit organizations, families or groups of friends. A popular WinWin app is “Marble Jar,” which helps families set goals, track progress and celebrate success. Marble Jar can be used on an iPhone, iPad or Android to devise and track simple goals, like getting out of the house in the morning, and even more complex concepts, like learning how to be a good friend. In the Digital Vermont session, Palmer will talk about WinWin’s newest app in development, “Shake It Up.”

David Tyler, Green Mountain Digital

As the director of strategic partnerships at Green Mountain Digital (, David Tyler is responsible for identifying and maintaining partnerships for the Woodstock-based developer of nature and wildlife apps. Tyler joined GMD after eight years with Apple’s consumer- and enterprise-facing businesses in San Diego. Tyler will present GardenMinder, GMD’s new application billed as a  “personal gardening assistant” and developed in partnership with Burlington-based Gardener’s Supply.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mapping for Accessibility with AXS Map at the Woodstock Digital Media Festival

Join Jason DaSilva and Alice Cook of and help map the accessibility of Woodstock, Saturday, June 23, part of the 2012 Woodstock Digital Media Festival.

In today’s digital world, finding a good restaurant or locating a new store is no problem. Use Google Maps or MapQuest to get directions to an unfamiliar address. Access Yelp on a smartphone for a review of a local restaurant, and then use the phone’s GPS to get there. It’s all easy and almost effortless.

Unless picking the restaurant with the best food, and finding it on smart phone, still means you can’t meet your friends and family there. Filmmaker Jason DaSilva faced that problem. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005, DaSilva can no longer walk and travels by motorized scooter.

“As I adjusted to my new life, I was surprised to learn that anytime I wanted to get out of the house, there was no way for me to know whether the places I planned to visit were accessible,” DaSilva says. “Today, a set of six steps in the entryway might as well be a six story impenetrable wall.”

Building Tools for People with Disabilities

Jason DaSilva of
Jason DaSilva
DaSilva created the nonprofit AXS Lab to tell the stories and build tools for people with disabilities through new media, innovation and documentary film. In May, AXS Labs launched AXS Map (pronounced Access Map), a new website and tool that allows people to search and review the accessibility of buildings, shops, restaurants and all kinds of places.

Jason DaSilva and AXS Lab executive director, Alice Cook, will be in Woodstock on June 23 to present their new website as part of the Woodstock Digital Media Festival. Now in its second year, the Festival explores the latest in digital art and innovation through exhibits, panel discussions and a Saturday evening gala presentation.

Digital “explorations,” such as “Mapping the Accessibility of Woodstock with Jason DaSilva and Alice Cook,” are also a part of the Festival, and offer attendees the chance to learn about and use new digital tools from the people who have made them. The mapping exploration begins on the Woodstock Green at 12:30 pm on Saturday, June 23. Like most of the Festival’s activities, the exploration is free and the public are encouraged to attend. A complete schedule of the Festival is available at

AXS Map is a web-based application that can be accessed through the web browser of a smart phone or other device. Mobile apps for the Android and iPhone also are in the works. Users join the AXS Map community at, and once registered in the application, can rate on a five-star scale the wheelchair accessibility, spaciousness and noise levels of local businesses and buildings. Numerous videos on the site explain and demonstrate AXS Map’s rating system.

Helping People Find Places That Accommodate Their Needs

AXS Map’s goal is to offer people with mobility disabilities the ability to share knowledge of their local communities, and to help people find the places that accommodate their needs. “AXS Map gives me and others the ability to know exactly which locations are accessible,” DaSilva says, “And the freedom to travel to new communities confident that we will be able to find places and bathrooms that are accessible.”  
Alice Cook Executive Director of AXS Labs
Alice Cook

AXS also provides communities with a way to begin to gather information that will help them understand what their accessibility looks like, says Alice Cook. “AXS Map is about sharing the user experience,” she says.

Recent discussions in Woodstock regarding the accessibility of the town’s businesses have raised interest in the AXS Map exploration at the Festival. Representative Alison Clarkson is part of a group trying to address accessibility in Woodstock, which is complicated by the desire to make Woodstock more accessible while maintaining the town’s historic integrity. Clarkson wants to make sure that people are aware that Woodstock is actively working to address these issues, and says the group plans to meet with DaSilva and Cook when they are in Woodstock for the Festival.

As a part of its recent website launch, AXS Map held a “bicoastal mapping event” in which volunteers mapped a neighborhood in New York and in San Francisco on the same day. “The best part is that the tool is powered by individuals and communities,” DaSilva says. “The more reviews that are shared, the better it gets.”

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Birding Obsession

Join birding expert Kent McFarland of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, and media savvy birder, James Currie, host of Birding Adventures TV, for a Digital Bird Walk on Saturday, June 23, part of the 2012 Woodstock Digital Media Festival.

“Once you get involved, birding can become an obsession,” McFarland says. His began after college, during a stint in the Peace Corps in Paraguay, where the bright birds attracted his attention. After a few months—and the purchase of a cheap pair of binoculars and a bird guide—McFarland was a fanatic.

Twenty years later, he is still studying birds through the Vermont Center for Ecostudies (VCE), an independent research group dedicated to the understanding and conservation of wildlife. VCE biologists also involve amateur “citizen scientists” in their efforts to inform scientists, policy makers and the public about sound conservation goals and practices.

All of which make Kent McFarland a natural to lead the Digital Bird Walk on June 23rd. He expects to be able to easily spot 30 different species, but says that if the walk were earlier in spring and just before sunrise, participants easily could expect to hear 60 different species of birds.

“Once you get involved, birding can become an obsession.”  
Kent McFarland, Vermont Center for Ecostudies 

“Proficient birders do a lot by ear,” McFarland explains. Identifying bird songs is one of the areas where apps like Audubon Birds add to the experience, he adds. McFarland often will use an app when guiding because “showing a picture of the bird and playing its song helps people to be able to hear it, and then possibly see it, when they’re in the field.”

A Passion for Birding Data

McFarland’s passion for birding and data feeds his contributions to eBird, a giant database of bird observations from recreational and professional bird watchers. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, eBird’s goal is to maximize the collection and use of bird observations to create a huge biodiversity data resource for educators, land managers, ornithologists and conservation biologists. 

Real-time data from eBird also can be accessed in the field by the Audubon Birds app, allowing users to find out what birds others have seen from anywhere they are standing.

In March 2012 alone, participants reported more than 3.1 million bird observations across North America to eBird, which collects the data through portals managed by local partner conservation organizations. The first localized portal was in Vermont, in large part due to McFarland’s urging, and today he still monitors the quality of data entered into eBird by Vermonters.

For McFarland, all the time and effort spent in the field and with the data is worth it. “Taking people’s fun and using it for conservation is priceless,” he says.

Digital Bird Walk, Saturday, June 23 at 8:00 AM

Join Kent McFarland and James Currie on a Digital Bird Walk with the Audubon Bird app from Green Mountain Digital. The walk leaves at 8:00 AM on Saturday, June 23, from the overflow parking lot on River Road across from Billings Farm and Museum. Interested participants can download the Audubon Birds app prior to the walk at However, everyone is encouraged to attend the Digital Bird Walk, even without the app or a device, to learn about birds and new digital technology.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Digital Bird Walk at the 2012 Woodstock Digital Media Festival

Kent McFarland’s passion for birds and birding is unmistakable—and contagious. A co-founder of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, McFarland is a conservation biologist, photographer, writer and naturalist with over 20 years of birding experience across the Americas.

In the course of our conversation early one morning in May, I was not the only one intrigued by what McFarland had to say. A woman sitting at a nearby table approached us half way through the interview to find out more, saying it was the most interesting conversation she had ever (over)heard.

You can catch Kent’s contagion—and pick up on some of his extensive knowledge—by joining him for a Digital Bird Walk on Saturday, June 23, at the Woodstock Digital Media Festival. The walk leaves from the Billings Farm and Museum at 8:00 AM, and will explore the Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Historic Park using the Audubon Birds mobile app from Green Mountain Digital.

Digital Bird Walk at the 2012 Woodstock Digital Media Festival

The Woodstock Digital Media Festival brings artists, entrepreneurs and academics together for two days in June to explore the latest in digital art and innovation. The Festival includes an art exhibition, panel discussions and presentations, and digital “explorations” like the bird walk, many of which are free and open to the public. A complete schedule is available at

Birding with Kent McFarland
McFarland will be joined on the Digital Bird Walk by Justine Riegel and David Tyler of Green Mountain Digital, and by media savvy birder, James Currie, host of Birding Adventures TV. Currie also will give a talk and Audubon Birds app demo at 2:00 PM on the Woodstock Green.

Woodstock-based Green Mountain Digital has developed the best-selling series of National Audubon Society Field Guides into mobile applications for iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, NOOK and HP Touchpads. Green Mountain Digital offers interactive field guide apps for wildlife and nature from birds, mammals, insects and amphibians to trees, flowers and mushrooms.

The walk will utilize the company’s flagship Audubon Birds app to track and record the group’s observations. Interested participants can download it prior to the walk at However, everyone is encouraged to attend the Digital Bird Walk, even without the app or a device, to learn about birds and the new digital technology.

Next: An Obsession with Birding

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Issues in Digital Media Art

Woodstock Digital Media Festival, June 22 and 23, includes a panel discussion with critics and curators  on issues in digital media art.

Vermont is the place to explore the latest in digital media art at the Woodstock Digital Media Festival, June 22 and 23, and influential artists, critics and curators from New York to California are making the trip to participate.

This year’s Festival includes a panel discussion on current issues in digital media art and panelists include Barbara London, curator of the MOMA Visual Media Center, and Paddy Johnson, founding editor of the blog, Art Fag City.

Johnson says that one of the most important issues for discussion at the Festival is that “many digital artists are not making money and that’s a problem.” To illustrate her point, she says that a survey of the New York gallery scene in Chelsea today would turn up well over 500 galleries, only about three of which show digital art.

She looks forward to discussing other related topics, such as the uneasy acceptance in the traditional art world of new media art and artists. “While there has been more acceptance in the last few years,” Johnson says, “It is still a topic of discussion and concern among many digital media artists.”
"Ultimately, art is a result of community. Digital media forms communities online, but those bonds are much more significant when you meet in person."
Paddy Johnson, Founding Editor,
Paddy Johnson looks forward to the Festival in Woodstock, and says that its beautiful location offers a connectivity of a different sort. “Woodstock is a beautiful place—remote, wooded, connected to nature,” she explains. “Ultimately, art is a result of community. Digital media forms communities online, but those bonds are much more significant when you meet in person. Having a ‘healthy Internet life’ means connecting with the outside world, and bringing the networked and the outside world together as much as possible,” Johnson says.

Johnson found last summer’s Festival to be a great opportunity to meet other people in the field. She is looking forward to seeing Ursula Endlicher, who she met at last year’s event and who will be participating in the Micro exhibit at this year’s Festival.

Ursula Endlicher, whose work combines Internet art, performance, and multi-media installation, is participating in the Micro exhibit at the Festival.  Her current work includes “Light and Dark Networks, which are part of a series of Internet art projects that the Whitney Museum commissioned specifically for its website to mark sunset and sunrise in New York City every day.