Monday, January 25, 2010

The X PRIZE Foundation Website Gets a Redesign

The X PRIZE Foundation’s website had maintained a design that was created in September of 2006 and after a much needed facelift, we finally launched a re-design a few weeks ago. In this post I’ll provide some details about the process and share some resources we used.

First a little background. I’m Mark Krynsky and I joined the Foundation as a contractor in April of 2007 to migrate several of their static websites to be built atop a CMS platform to make them more dynamic and easier for staff to publish content. In addition to that we would launch a new website for the Google Lunar X PRIZE announcement in September of 2007 on this platform. After considering several options including commercial off the shelf systems and a custom built one, we chose an open source CMS called Drupal. It was a very challenging project that I could write a whole separate post on but we successfully launched all the sites.

So although we overhauled the backend of the main site, the design stayed the same. I continued doing contract work for the website and in October of 2008 I joined the Foundation as Manager of Web Production. We continued to add on new pieces of content and functionality but the site began to look Frankensteinish so we started planning a re-design. We created an internal survey, started documenting content and functionality to add, and had several meetings to discuss this. We quickly realized that our new vision would require a very large undertaking. So with limited resources available, and wanting to do something quickly we took a new smaller iterative approach.

In mid November of 2009 we decided to focus on re-designing our home page and several other design changes but maintain the current navigation, pages, and other content for the most part. Our goal was to incorporate some of the higher impact changes requested from the feedback we received that could be completed in a short timeframe. We fast tracked this with hopes of launching it in January 2010.

The process involved creating a simple document outlining the content of the new page along with a graphic mockup. After a few rounds of reviewing, a design concept was agreed upon. At the heart of the new redesign was a new featured stories section. We researched several tools to implement it and selected the Frontpage Slideshow which offers some great options along with a module for Drupal integration.

The rest of the design consisted of creating cleaner ways of displaying existing content and highlighting some new areas such as our PRIZE groups and videos from our in-house production team's YouTube channel.

click image to visit the new X PRIZE Foundation Website

We launched the new redesign on time and on a very small budget. The Frontpage Slideshow module was only $30 and besides the in house content and assets created, I worked with just one developer on this project. I've always been very mindful of leveraging free or low cost services and open source software for web projects. This has become especially important now that I'm at a non-profit trying to maximize a tight budget.

We have many more changes planned for the website over the coming months. I look forward to sharing more insight on what goes on behind the scenes of our web production department and share more details on the tools and services that bring our sites to life.

Friday, January 22, 2010

XPRIZE News 2009: A Year in Review

2009 was a great year for X PRIZE and the media coverage the Foundation received helped to mark some memorable events and moments - including the five-year anniversary of the Ansari X PRIZE! From national outlets like the Today Show and the New York Times to the international WIRED UK, the X PRIZE message was pumped through airwaves, documented in newspapers and pictured in magazines. In no particular order, we’ve compiled a few X PRIZE media moments of 2009. We hope you have already had a chance to see, but if not, enjoy!


An Online Sensation

Perhaps one of the most exciting pieces that featured X PRIZE was Bloomberg News’, the “X PRIZE Effect.” The segment was part of Bloomberg’s “Innovators” series and provided an up-close account of the Lunar Lander challenge, including interviews with some of the teams. It also told the X PRIZE story, highlighting X PRIZE CEO/Chairman, Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, and his inspiration and driving force for creating the Foundation.

X PRIZE Makes an English Entrance with Wired UK

We love it when you can flip through a magazine to find a story about X PRIZE, but we love it even more when our signature “X” lands on the cover! And that’s just what happened with the October 2009 issue of Wired UK. In this cover story, writer Mathew Honan went “Inside the X PRIZE” for a comprehensive profile piece on the Foundation, our mission, what we’ve accomplished and what to expect (not to mention some very cool photos of Peter floating mid-air). It later spotlights the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE, chronicling a few teams and their accomplishments in the competition to date.

Throughout the year, X PRIZE was also featured in outlets like the Boston Globe, Discover Magazine, New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Several X PRIZE stories also featured profile pieces on Peter, including Entrepreneur Magazine, Philanthropy News Digest and Voice of America. Of course, every story about X PRIZE isn’t just about the Foundation. Each of our prizes also generate coverage on their own.


Writing DNA

The $10 Million Archon X PRIZE for Genomics is always a hot topic in the science world. In April 2009, the Economist’s “Getting Personal” explored genome sequencing. Other outlets like CNN and the Scientific American discussed Knome’s (a genetic firm based in MA) $68,000 genome sequencing auction, which was held on e-bay, with proceeds benefitting our genomics prize.

The New Race to Space

2009 was an important year for the space community as it marked the 40th Anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing. Naturally, science publications paid tribute to this event and the $30 Million Google Lunar X PRIZE was included in such pieces as seen in BBC Focus and the Explorers Journal, to name a couple. The prize made additional headlines throughout the year in publications like the Asia Times, Newsweek Poland, and was often discussed on and

Lunar Landers Rake in Millions

This year’s Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X PRIZE Challenge was a rocket showdown not to be missed! Outlets like Discovery News, Los Angeles Times and MSNBC closely followed Armadillo Aerospace, Masten Space Systems and Unreasonable Rocket as they worked rapidly against an impending deadline in their respective fights for that $1 Million prize purse. In the end, Masten Space Systems claimed the prize with their rover “Xoie,” in a sweet victory putting them over the moon (no pun intended).

On the Fast Track to Green

The $10 Million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE had a busy, successful year and outlets like Popular Mechanics, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Wired were there to capture events, new partnerships and team highlights as they unfolded. Perhaps you caught the Auto Prize on the Today Show in October? If not, click here to view!

As mentioned above, this is just a quick glimpse of the media attention X PRIZE received in 2009. We look forward to see where we’ll land in 2010. Shall we revisit the Ansari days and land on another cover of TIME? Perhaps a documentary? A stint on Oprah? The possibilities are endless, but as long as you keep reading and hearing about us, we know we’re doing our job!

To view a sample of X PRIZE media coverage visit our press album on our Facebook page!

By: Valerie Arias, Associate, Communications

Monday, January 11, 2010

Alliances Takes us Back to School with the Newly Launched X PRIZE Lab at UW

It’s a new year, the holiday break is over and that means back to school. Most students aren’t very anxious to hit the books but there IS one group of excited students at the University of Washington Evans School of Public Affairs. For them, the New Year marks the launch of the X PRIZE LAB at UW. For those of you who don’t know, the X PRIZE labs leverage the academic resources at top universities to provide an incubator for research and teaching on incentive prizes and prize philanthropy. You may ask, “What does that mean, exactly?” Well, during the winter semester, students will hear from leading innovators and philanthropists that will introduce the use of prize philanthropy and innovation to solve some of humanity’s greatest challenges. Exciting speakers that are confirmed include: Peter Diamandis of the X PRIZE Foundation, John Stanton and Bradley Horwitz of Trilogy Partners, Stewart Parker of Targeted Genetics, Nelson Del Rio, and Mark Emmert of UW. Then, in the spring, students will take the knowledge gained from the speakers to create and propose designs for new X PRIZEs.

The UW lab is the second X PRIZE lab of its kind, the first at MIT. The X PRIZE Lab @ MIT was established in 2007 and has successfully established itself as a unique academic center for the study of innovation and entrepreneurship by engaging MIT students and faculty to explore how incentive prizes drive resolution of the grand challenges that face humanity. Last weekend the X PRIZE Lab@MIT held a special workshop, Brain-Computer Interfaces: Igniting a Revolution, which discussed what it would be like to create a direct connection between the human brain and the world’s most powerful computers. Special guests included Ed Boyden, director of the MIT Synthetic Neurobiology Group and Ray Kurzweil, Chancellor of Singularity University, an interdisciplinary university whose mission is to assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies in order to address humanity’s grand challenges (SU was also co-founded by our very own Peter Diamandis). We are excited about all of the work that the X PRIZE Lab@MIT has done and we look forward to reporting to you all of the great things the UW lab will produce.

By: Lindsey Burris, Executive Assistant, Alliances

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ringing in 2010 with our NeXt PRIZE Blog

The new year (not to mention a new decade) brings changes to many things…including the NeXt PRIZE Blog! Beginning next week, you will see weekly blog updates…and maybe, a blog or two in between :)

So what’s to expect from the forthcoming blogs? Well, we thought it would be fun to share the “behind-the-scenes” stuff, in addition to some of the things that interest us here at X PRIZE. Each week, a different department will share their thoughts….this can range from events and activities in their department, a newsworthy item, or even a profile piece on one of the members of their team.
Our goal is to have each department give a little insight so that you can have a better understanding of the X PRIZE world.

To jumpstart this new venture, we thought a little overview of the Foundation’s operations might help. Here goes!

The Foundation is located in Los Angeles – more specifically Playa Vista, which is nestled between LAX and Marina del Rey (a coastal community filled with yachts, bike trails and dinner cruises). Being about two minutes from the beach, we are pretty lucky to see some amazing sunsets just about any night of the week. Last night’s was exceptionally beautiful.

There are approximately 50 people who work at our headquarters, not to mention our consultants (and other employees) who are spread across the country in cities like New York, Chicago, Detroit, Boston and D.C. (maybe 10 or so). The Foundation is divided into eight departments. Below is a little breakdown that gives a little info on our departments, their roles and how they all fit into the bigger X PRIZE picture.

Recognize these names? Arianna Huffington, Dean Kamen, Will Wright, Ray Kurzweil, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Eric Schmidt….these are a few of our XPF supporters and what a fantastic group they are! Our Alliances department is responsible for connecting the X PRIZE with individuals and other Foundations so that we (being a non-profit) can be funded. They work hard to secure
donors and align X PRIZE with the right people. This department is constantly on the road!

Archon X PRIZE for Genomics
Launched in October 2006, the goal of the
$10 Million Archon X PRIZE for Genomics is to develop radically new technology that will dramatically reduce the time and cost of sequencing genomes, and accelerate a new era of predictive and personalized medicine. This prize technically falls under our Life Sciences Prize Group, which manages this prize.

The public face of X PRIZE. We’re the ones who get the Foundation in the
news, send out the press releases and handle all other media relations. We are also responsible for internal communications (like our monthly newsletter) and fun activities like social media (thank YOU for giving us an audience).

Creative Services
Our most visual department! Creative services are the great people who are in charge of video production (have you visited our
YouTube site?), events and web. Put simply - our team rocks.

Marketing & Sponsorship
This is another department that is always on the go! This team works hard to generate corporate sponsorships – both for the Foundation overall and individual prizes and departments. In the marketing sector, they are responsible for items like branding, collateral and Foundation messaging.

Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE
The goal of the
PIAXP is to inspire a new generation of viable, super-efficient vehicles that help break our addiction to oil and stem the effects of climate change. Be ready to read and hear a lot about this prize this year…we will crown a winner in 2010!

Prize Development
This department is one of a kind. These guys are tasked with the awesome job of developing and shaping
future X PRIZEs. Their work is extremely crucial and they are constantly flushing out new ideas, new designs, new structures, etc. Our office is right next door and it can be safely said that this department is definitely a fun and exciting place to be.

Space Prizes
Because of the wild success of the
Ansari X PRIZE, people most associate the X PRIZE with Space. So this is a very popular department – and rightfully, so! Under the Space umbrella, there is the operation of the $30 Million Google Lunar X PRIZE, as well as the management of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X PRIZE Challenge. Not to mention, their awesome online community!

So there you have it! Hopefully, this provided a good overview of the Foundation. Stay tuned for next’s week’s blog…coming from…(drum roll please)…Alliances!

In the meantime, keep up with us on
Facebook and Twitter – let’s continue to spread the word about X PRIZE!

Until next post!