Pittstarter: Play Games with LFG

Last week, I took a trip out to Brookline to sit down and get defeated at a variety of games at Looking for Group (LFG). The name and its abbreviation is a well known phrase in gaming communities- the online call of “does anyone want to play with me?”

Looking For Group's storefront

Looking For Group’s storefront on Brookline Boulevard


LFG hopes that you want to do more than just play. LFG is positioning itself as an unusual hybrid: it’s a co-working space combined with a pay-to-play gaming space. John Lange, one of the founders, doesn’t think that combination is odd at all. It grows out of his own interests: he’s an IT professional and a passionate gamer. John talks about that passion and how it develops his friendships in a talk he gave earlier this year.

“I think a lot of people don’t have the same community that I’ve built with my friends and family and I want to share that with everyone,” John says. That community focus shows even now, as the space is still finishing construction. They’ve already hosted a game jam, and while they’re doing work, they’ve invited the neighborhood to pop in and play some games and chat. While I was there for a few hours on a Tuesday afternoon, several neighborhood kids popped in for a few rounds of games. By combining work and play in the same space, LFG hopes that a playful, open and inviting community forms.

John explains:

I think gaming startups and even established gaming companies would be interested in our coworking space because it feels really awesome, when you’re getting burnt out on working, to come see everyone in the gaming side smiling and laughing together and have that instant reminder of why you’re working and sweating and bleeding to build a game.

The storefront portion of the space is the gaming floor. The first thing you’ll notice is the large television facing the street as a lure for the passerby. PCs line the walls, with ergonomic chairs that steal their design cues from race cars. Console “pods” take up the center of the floor- dedicated televisions and gaming machines for each player. The storefront is open to the public in the late afternoons and evenings.

John and Edd take a break from installing floors to school me at several games

John and Edd take a break from installing floors to school me at several games

Behind the gaming space, separated by thick doors and sound-insulating walls, is the co-working office. John guarantees that between keeping gaming to the later portions of the day, plus the insulation, it’s a perfect space for heads-down concentration. There’s a small kitchenette and a modern conference room, which covers all of the vital amenities- with one more.

While the gaming storefront isn’t open to the public during core business hours, the members of the co-working space have unrestricted access to the building- including the games- 24 hours a day. I can’t imagine a better way of resolving conflicts in your team than settling your differences over a competitive round of a game like Speedrunners or Gang Beasts (two of the games John and his fellow founders were happy to beat me at while showing me the space).

But you don’t have to be a member of the co-working team to start making games. Their gaming PCs provide all of the software that you’d need to make your own games, and they’re planning a series of technical events to teach the public how to do everything from write code to a “Build Your Own Console” event, where participants take a Raspberry Pi computer and turn it into a gaming console.

I asked John what his vision of success was for Looking For Group, and he explained:

I think a lot of people who are my age miss playing games together and a lot of the younger kids out never had the chance to really play games with their friends next to them. It’s too hard to bring your computer over to play Minecraft next to your best friend. It really doesn’t matter how good or bad the game is when your friends are next to you, playing with you.

LFG has already secured their core equipment, and has enough funding to guarantee their operations for the near future. They’ve launched a Kickstarter, not to launch the space, but to secure even more equipment and make the space better. They’ve already cleared their modest goal of $2,000, and are shooting for stretch goals. You can check the space out yourself by visiting them at 924 Brookline Blvd, 15226. They’ve been doing a soft launch through September, and the gaming space goes officially live this Saturday, the 25th.

Get Started Programming With Code & Supply

This Saturday, at 1PM, Pittsburgh technology community Code & Supply invites you to their latest installment of their #StarterSeries. Their #StarterSeries project promotes basic programming and coding literacy and encourages everyone to code. Their hope is to grow the Pittsburgh technology community, not just by making it attractive to existing developers, but by teaching Pittsburghers how to be great software developers.

MVC Diagram (Model-View-Controller)
This month’s installment expects a basic familiarity with programming. They intend to explore the Model-View-Controller (MVC) pattern and the fundamentals of Object-Oriented-Programming (OOP). MVC and OOP combined are the basis of nearly every program and application you interact with, and this is a great opportunity for aspiring programmers to learn the basics.

To keep up to date with the #StarterSeries and all of Code & Supply’s other events, join their meetup group.


#StarterSeries: Software Design Patterns: MVC and Object Oriented Programming

Saturday, Jul 25, 2015, 1:00 PM

The Cloakroom
5972 Baum Blvd Pittsburgh, PA

8 Members Attending

Take your code to the next level by learning about the Model View Controller design pattern. In this lecture, our instructor will present the principals of object oriented programming and then dive into making your code more organized and optimized with the MVC pattern.You’ll learn- Object oriented programming- Classes- Inheritance- Object rel…

Check out this Meetup →

Techburgh: Show and Tell with Code & Supply

This Monday, local Pittsburgh software community, Code & Supply gathered some of their best and brightest in the old Paramount Film Exchange (now a co-working space) to show off what they’re working on.

Matthew Beatty (@beattyml1) gave the developers a tour of his code generation suite called “Codgen“. This little library lets programmers speed up ShowAndTell211their development by helping them generate the same basic code architectures in a way that works on Android, iOS, the web, and anywhere else a developer wants to target, without forcing them to rewrite the same code again and again.

On the softer skills side, Marie Markwell (@duckinator) shared her new blog project, Inatri. Businesses gather personal inforShowAndTell212mation and interact with the public in ways that can rapidly become problematic. After a personal disaster involving her private information being abused to harass her, and interactions with businesses which misgendered her, Marie decided enough was enough. She assembled Inatri as a place where businesses could received guidance on how to gather personal information and use it in a way that respects and protects their users.

Her key point is that the personal biases and assumptions of developers can and does “leak” into the software they develop.

Matthew Elper (@kinographCC discovered a very different problem. While traveling in Jordan, he discovered thousands of film canisters of Jordanian cultural history- and no one knew what was on them or what how to preserve them. He put together his own home-made film digitizer, using off-the-shelf parts, and discovered lost footage of the previous king of Jordan- an act that drew the attention of the current king.

ShowAndTell213Digitizing film is expensive- it’s roughly $1,000 per reel, and standalone machines cost upwards of $250K. Small archives, universities, and libraries simply can’t do that, and so Matthew started the Kinograph project, an open-source platform that uses cutting edge computer-vision software, mixed with off the shelf (and sometimes 3D-printed) hardware. You can follow the instructable for the hardware (although Matt recommends holding off- he has a cheaper, easier to build version in the works), and the get the software from GitHub

His project’s been featured in Make Magazine, and he’s looking for collaborators who are passionate about saving cultural history before it’s forever lost.

Finally, Jackie Vesci (@JVesci) came with her startup project, Tagalong Tour. This project is a passion project among friends that offers walking tours of Pittsburgh, with audio guidance. They’re still experimenting with ShowAndTell214what makes a great tour, but they’ll help you “Meet the Neighbors” in East Liberty, find the highlights of public art in Downtown, or play the best pinball in Lawrenceville.

iPhone Screenshot 2They’re looking to expand their tours, and grow their user base- which is growing at roughly 10% a week. You can check them out at the next OpenStreets, where they’ll have a Karaoke booth, and you can download the app and try it out yourself.

It was a great night to see what’s going on in the Pittsburgh tech scene. If you want to get involved, join Code & Supply on Meetup to learn about these events. Their monthly Build Night is a great place to meet and network with technical folks, and if you’re not a technical person, don’t worry! They have a #StarterSeries event every month, which will get you started. The next one is July 25th, and will cover a key design pattern for building software.


Three weeks ago, IheartPGH was featured in the Tribune Review’s article about the #MySummerin5words – Tweets connect Pittsburghers with the world, each other in 5 words (Tribune Review, May 27, 2015).  It took me a few tries but here is how I summarized my summer in 5 words:

I also posted a tweet that sums up a Pittsburgh summer with 5 Twitter accounts:


What 5 words and/or Twitter accounts would you use to summarize your Pittsburgh summer? Share your answers with the #PGHsummerin5words.

Digging into the Data on Vacant Land on the North Side #HackforChange

Screenshot of vacant parcels from GTECH data set.

Screenshot of vacant parcels from GTECH data set.

Today, Saturday, June 6, 2015 is the National Day of Civic Hacking. Civic Hacking events are being held all over the country and here in Pittsburgh. For the afternoon we have split into groups and are working on different challenges with open data sets.  My group is working on comparing two data sets about vacant land on the North Side.  Here are some of the things we learned from the data about vacant land on the North Side.

  • Data Set 1: Survey of Vacant Land on the North Side conducted by GTECH. You can see a map of the GTECH data here.
  • Data Set 2: Allegheny County Assessment Data

Total Parcels of Land on the North Side = 23,000

Vacant Lots on the North Side:

Data Set: # of vacant parcels:
GTECH 6089
Allegheny County 8172
difference 2083





How many properties in the North Side are currently vacant but the Allegheny County Assessment file does not list that parcel as vacant?

  • 622 properties in the North Side are currently vacant but not listed by Allegheny County as vacant.