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People Powered Billboard

I sat on a small plastic folding chair 15 feet off the ground on a three-tiered metal scaffolding. Along with 63 other people (42 of them directly above me), I held a giant red poster-board with the letter H printed on it. Together with my letter H, and the letters held by others, we spelled out the phrase “Behold the power of collaboration! And arm strength.

It was a People Powered Billboard organized by Red Hat, a global open-source software company with headquarters in our city of Raleigh. The effort focused on collaboration and what could be more collaborative than 63 people coming together to deliver that single message? Indeed, when we flipped our poster board, the second message was “You should see our synchronized swimming routine.

The folks at Red Hat invited local community members to participate in the billboard and, as representative of a local nonprofit, I was lucky enough to join in this incredible project. I was joined by other fabulous organizations such at StepUp Ministry, Band Together, SAFEChild, Dress for Success, LGBT Center of Raleigh, and Habitat for Humanity of Wake County.

The People Behind the Red Hat People Powered Billboard
The People Behind the People Powered Billboard

The 50 foot billboard was located right on Salisbury Street across from the Raleigh Convention Center where the “All Things Open” software conference was taking place. We amassed quite a crowd and, as I sat there balancing my sign and checking twitter, I could see people posting photos from distant offices in the surrounding buildings.

In all there were six messages displayed on three boards. For each rotation we had to pass boards down the row. We held them above our heads for the first reveal and then flipped the board to the other side for the second. It was a well-orchestrated effort with each board assigned an alphebetized letter that was checked thoroughly before revealing. I snapped a few behind-the-scenes photos.

PeoplePowered Billboard BehindTheScenes
Behind the Scenes of the People Powered Billboard

In addition to the two message above, others were:

“63 people are doing this together! [one guy without a board checking his phone] Okay 62, but still.”
“The more brains the better. No, a zombie did not write this.”
“We have more to say on collaboration but space is kind of limi”
“Collaboration photo op time! Grab your camera & yell smile!”

Hats off (pun intended) to the hardworking folks at Red Hat who made this happen. From the safety of the structure (yep, city inspectors were involved) to the messaging to corralling 63 individuals, it was a monumental planning effort all the way around.

Amazing project. Amazing day. Thanks, Red Hat, for helping us visualize collaboration!