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Cognition

Connecting TEDxPhiladelphia through content and code

Happy Cog is a content company. It’s the thread through all of our projects, regardless of industry, and always has been. We connect people and ideas. It’s in our DNA. When TEDxPhiladelphia reached out to us, we knew this was an opportunity we wanted to explore.


Happy Cog has long worked to solve the complex challenges inherent in connecting users with the content they seek intuitively and enjoyably. With an organization like TEDxPhiladelphia as our partner, and Philadelphia as our canvas, we had an opportunity to build something truly special. TEDxPhiladelphia.org is the beginning of a conversation. This dialog will lead through this year’s TEDxPhiladelphia conference, into a series of events in 2015 that connect communities and ideas in meaningful and unexpected ways. We’re thrilled to create a forum for this collaboration, and excited to see its results.

-Joe Rinaldi, Happy Cog President


The challenge in the TEDxPhiladelphia project was building an extensible framework that intuitively and enjoyably powered content discovery. Mapping out those content relationships was no easy feat, so that’s where we started.

We completed an extensive audit of content from previous years. What had several years’ worth of TEDxPhiladelphia events produced? We spend a lot of time in spreadsheets at this point. There are more complicated and labor intensive ways to map these patterns and relationships, but we aim for an artifact that our back-end development team can consume as quickly as possible.

One of the central content types produced by the organization is video. After every conference TED, the nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas which spearheaded the global TEDx community, approves and hosts videos from TEDx conferences held around the world, including TEDxPhiladelphia’s, on their Youtube account, making them available for broader public consumption beyond the local events. Additionally, each legacy speaker has a wealth of associated content – publications, biography, suggested resources, associated organizations, and more. The TEDxPhiladelphia team also regularly produces blog content both about upcoming events and subject matter related to speakers and their talks. We mapped how these content types and others were related and structured the information architecture around how people might explore and consume related content. At the same time, we mapped WordPress around the same content hierarchies and relationships. Content strategy starts in code.

From there we applied all that we could consume about the TED and TEDx brands, as well as our fluency with the city of Philadelphia, to strike a balance between these mature, well-defined global brands, and our hometown. We study and gracefully implement and extend global brands. It’s a passion for our entire team. TEDxPhiladelphia organizer Emaleigh Doley pitched this project to Happy Cog as “VisitPhilly.com for the city’s great thinkers and ideas.” Once we identified that target, brand relationships became much clearer. We worked through low-fidelity design explorations to arrive at the right balance between an identity native to the city, but still responsibly aligned with the TED and TEDx brands. We’re building a digital workshop where ideas and opinions can be forged and refined.

From here we’re moving into the future beyond the annual TEDxPhiladelphia conference event. The site is built with the appropriate hooks needed to grow into supporting future state ideas and year-round events. In discussing what a next phase of the project might look like, we’ve identified a set of extended user account and community features. What would a regular user of the site want to contribute to the broader TEDxPhiladelphia community and dialog? How could they organize resources on the site and share their favorite talks (favorites, watchlists, etc.). How can we encourage users to establish relationships on the site and contribute to future events and generate and grow ideas beyond the annual live conference?

TEDxPhiladelphia as a group is committed to supporting this conversation endlessly moving forward, but they balance this dedication against their full-time day jobs. The system has to be powerful, but painlessly extensible. We constructed the entire platform within the constraint that WordPress had to do what WordPress does well, and at the same time meet TEDxPhiladelphia’s content managers’ needs. We’re excited to see where the conversation goes from here!

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