Home, Tweet Home: Jeff Moriarty Is Trying to Create a Cultural Identity for Phoenix, 140 Characters at a Time

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"I was at a place in my life where I was feeling like I was in a huge rut," Franklin says. "All I did was computer stuff. I just need something else." Several years ago, Franklin was a heavy-metal drummer and said his learning to play taiko drums reawakened that part of his past.

Now Franklin is volunteering to help with the registration committee for Ignite 5 on November 3. He's not the only audience member to become a volunteer.

Tomas Cariollo is a 33-year-old human specialist (meaning he helps out with Web sites and other projects) at a Phoenix-based software company called redPear. Before that, Carrillo worked for 18 years as a process engineer at Intel, where he heard about Jeff Moriarty through the company's internal blog. The two would meet face-to-face at Gangplank, a Chandler-based collaborative workspace for freelancers and small businesses.

"He [Moriarty] bugged me enough to the point that I actually submitted to Ignite," Carrillo says. His presentation on "10 new business ideas for Phoenix entrepreneurs" was part of the very first Ignite Phoenix. It was after his presentation that he saw a need for his help if there were to be more Ignites.

"I hated the fact that they had to manually advance the slides with a stopwatch," Carrillo says. He took over the behind-the-scenes work on the presentations at Ignite and created automated slides as well as finding presenters, answering comments, and posting submissions on the Ignite Phoenix Web site.

Now Carrillo is working to bring TedX — a series of public presentations that, like Ignite, happen all over the world yet tend to focus on technology, entertainment, and design and feature celebrity speakers such as Al Gore and Bill Gates) — to the Valley.

"I honestly believe that Phoenix is on the cusp of something big and I don't think people realize it," Carrillo said. It's a sentiment shared by Brandon Franklin, who said he finds the potential of the creative events around town exciting. "They're too negative or too involved with what Phoenix was to see that that's the case. I really think that this is just providing that little extra push."

But what about the people who aren't plugged in yet? How do events circulated primarily via Twitter and Facebook affect people who don't know a social-media platform from a URL?

"At the last Ignite, we had a lot of people show up who are not on Facebook and not on Twitter — because we've gone off of that now," Moriarty said. "People who heard about it on Twitter or Facebook came and they liked it so they brought their friend, their co-workers, their mothers, the kids, whatever, and they connected."

It's just after 7 p.m. on a Wednesday in August. The workday's been over for two hours and while the rest of us are at home sitting slack-jawed in front of Food Network, Jeff Moriarty is at Terralever, a Web design firm in Tempe, leading 25 people through a presentation on volunteering for Ignite.

Moriarty is already steadily working toward Ignite 5, scheduled for November 3 at Tempe Center for the Art. There are more Ignites on the way, including one for high school students. This month, Moriarty will continue running the Social Media Club. Meanwhile, he's planning on picking up the pace on Improv AZ now that the summer's over.

He tries to keep his weekends "sacred," Moriarty says, to spend time with his wife, Dannie, a corporate trainer for Verizon, and their two dogs. It must be a nice change of pace for a man who spends his weeks engaged in endless side projects.

On August 28, he tweeted ecstatically about the Whole Foods in Chandler having Dogfish Head Brewery's Theobroma on tap during "East Valley Friday Nights," which he regularly attends. On August 29, Moriarty attended Bar Camp AZ, an idea-sharing conference at Gangplank.

Such is the calendar of a social-media evangelist. And he's not slowing down.

"The thing that keeps me going," he says, "is all these things are fun."

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Jonathan McNamara