ePDX and #PDX11 resources!

UPDATE: Oops. Wrong URL for youtube originally. :)

Here’s a quick video showing you how tags work in ePDX and how the PDX11 community is starting to use ePDX to link together resources specific to the entrepreneurs, startups and founders who have participated in the Financing network.

We’re looking into how to display, remix and present individual items from this collected information in the future.

For now, if you want to see the latest that’s been added, check out the resource list as it grows over the next few days.

The PDX11 Financing group continues to collect this data, and has put together a form that shows the type of things the group is interested in. Take a moment and add your resources to that list!

ePDX – Identify yourself as a mentor

UPDATE: We’ve already got at least one person interested in being a mentee, so go ahead and tag yourself as ‘mentee’, and we’ll be in touch. :)

I made a quick little screencast for adding yourself as a potential mentor on the ePDX.org site.

We’re cooking up a feature that will let mentors and mentees connect through this software, but we need a few intrepid beta testers to label themselves.

To do join in, you need to add the ‘mentor’ tag to your profile. That’s what the video above shows you how to do.

The idea driving this is that people wanting mentorship will have specific requests in mind, such as:

  • Developer mentorship: “I’m learning Rails, and need someone to advise me on wedging Postgres into the ORM”
  • Business mentorship: “I’m starting a new business and need feedback for my business model and pitch.”
  • Marketing mentorship: “I’ve got this awesome project, and I wish other people could see how awesome it is. Help!”

If you’ve got a sense of adventure, and would love to give your opinions about things to an impressionable, mentee-mind, sign up today!

PDX11 Civic Unconference Hacking report

Last weekend we had more than 70 people out for a civic hackathon associated with PDX11, the joint effort between community, the City of Portland and the Portland Development Commission to promote software development in Portland. We kicked things off last Friday with a 30-minute, whirlwind status update since the kickoff of three initiatives in December 2010. Scroll down for a video! The next morning, Saturday April 2, we had another orientation, but focused on people’s hacking projects and an unconference. Many thanks to Kris Wetzel of Emma who organized all our food and drink Friday and Saturday, and to Tropo, who sponsored Saturday’s lunch. A big thanks to the project coordinators who prepared feature lists, wrote out tickets, and mentored others during the event:

  • Aaron Pareki
  • Amber Case
  • Audrey Eschright
  • Igal Koshevoy
  • Kyle Drake
  • Reid Beels
  • Kirsten Commandich
  • Don Park
  • Rafa Gutierrez

There were definitely more folks working on things — sorry I didn’t get all your names. Here are the project reports!

Continue reading

UpdatePDX: NOSQL, operational complexity and hiring

Last night, Tim Anglade, Bradford Stephens, Sarah Novotny and Alex Payne put together a three-part discussion to talk complexity, caching and collaboration, and in some cases, skewer popular notions of problem-solving around NOSQL.

Big thanks to Michael Schurter and Rick Turoczy for organizing and providing us space at PIE.

Tim was the thinker and designer behind the event. Many thanks to him for putting so much energy and time into it, and helping many leave inspired.

“Catchy phrases are red herrings.” -@timanglade

The night began with stories of failure: Bradford touched on the horror of 300-line SQL and the value of applying computer science to solve problems; Sarah recalled not having restorable data in an emergency because someone had tested a new backup strategy – for six weeks; Alex talked about the hard problems in computer science (ok, caching) and the value of culture and mentoring.

What I loved about this part of the evening, is that each person had a story. Technical presentations sometimes lack guideposts, but these stories all had villains, heros and a lesson.

“Usually they should just hire a MySQL consultant.” -@timanglade

And then Tim followed with a wickedly funny sendup of “the NOSQL movement”. The thing that struck a nerve and made the audience laugh uproariously was: “Only use NOSQL if you reach a certain point of despair.

His other points included: Never forget the operational complexity; Some things will always be better achieved with an RDBMS; Distribution Model vs. Data Model vs. Disk Data Structure (invoking the Moon Methodology); Hardware will always help, but it will never save you; Given enough time, most NOSQL projects gravitate towards a MapReduce-like model for computations (and querying); Trust no one. That goes double if they talk about CAP.

And then we talked.

The audience had plenty of questions, starting with how do we address collaboration in the context of scalability?

The answers from the panel, disappointingly, seemed to came down to separation of databases and people. While it’s true that it is easier to give out more databases than trying to communicate, it shows how far we have to go as an industry. Another point made was that it’s not typically possible to repurpose a DBA to maintain something like a Hadoop cluster.

In my notes, I wrote: “when problems are of a certain size, and affects the DNA of a company.” And when that happens, the typical separation of responsibilities between developer, DBA and operations break down.

Alex made my night by mentioning that sometimes solving a problem just takes getting a fresh set of eyes on it. He talked about replacing a particular bit of technology by applying some features of Postgres, with the help of a new hire.

I asked the final question – how does a company hire for the types of skills needed to solve these types of problems? Most agreed that finding someone with a passion for learning was critical. There was a dissenting voice – I think Bradford’s. My notes trailed off at that point, unfortunately. My guess is that he spoke up for logic and patience, and that some of the problems companies face have been largely solved, if you spend the time to study the science.

Epilogue

We wrapped up the night out at Little Big Burger and the Teardrop. Several people commented on how lovely Portland was – even in the rain. But damn, they wish they could hire the types of people they needed here.

So, people who are interested in big data: consider that a call to action.

Visit us for OSCON Data this summer. Then, move to Portland.

Three marketing areas where PDX11 fails

I had a short conversation yesterday about what I wish PDX11 was doing better with it’s marketing. I was the person who suggested we call this effort PDX11, and I bought the domains and asked the Open Source Lab to host our sites. I created the mailing lists and setup and ran the hackathon.

So, really, if anyone is to blame for this, it’s me. :)

But I’d like some help, so I’ll lay out to you what I think is wrong:

  1. Ensure that the Portland open source community knows what PDX11 is.
    Work in progress by the Knowledge Network is starting to address this issue. But much of the open source community has no idea what PDX11 is, or why they should care about it.
  2. Align some of the goals of open source community and the proprietary software community.
    Right now, it seems as though the values of one community diverge greatly from the other.

    The Mentor network seems like the most likely place for the groups to come together, but there’s still quite a significant cultural gap between the Software Association of Oregon and a very large open source community. It makes me wonder if the SAO hasn’t realized that open source developers are a meaningfully large and growing group that they should be serving the needs of.

    This reminds me of a post I did back in 2009 about growth in PostgreSQL job postings.

    So I looked up the relative growth rate of jobs with “open source” in the description:

    Seems like growth worth paying attention to, especially given that “Mobile App” has explosive growth, but still only represents .0007% of all job postings – whereas “open source” is in .004%:

  3. Marketing to the general public about why it’s important that the PDC focus effort on the software industry cluster.
    A friend asked the other day “Why should a non-geek care about PDX11?” And, I didn’t have a snappy answer. One thing that was said today during the unconference that I’m still mulling over was: “Software is the last growth industry we have in the US.” That’s maybe too agressive. :)

    Talking with Audrey today, I learned that it’s an established practice to target growing industries in a municipal area for public investment, and software industry was identified through an objective measure to be clustering and growing at a rate that warranted the city’s encouragement. The PDC has a site that shows some stats, but it’s far from clear to me, even as a person working on this project, exactly what is relevant to the general public. A bunch of this data was put into a PDF. One key number is that there are over 1,400 software companies in Oregon, and employment in this industry grew 19.2% from 2004-2009.

So, we could use your help. How should we address this?

Why should a non-geek care about the City’s and software community’s efforts to bring more software industry to Portland?

This year is so nuts for having conferences in Portland, OR

UPDATED! Just added Open Gov West! Rearranged, and just listing these all in order now. And added #140Conf in Vancouver, WA. It’s close enough. :) And just added Digital Journalism Portland.

For real.

This summer belongs to the nerds, geeks and hackers. I can’t believe that Portland’s tech scene got no love from Portlandia this year. Thank heavens they got a second season!

I did some research, and found TWENTY distinct conferences happening from now through November in the Portland area.

Anyway, there’s a sweet new service that you might not have heard of called Lanyrd, and a quick search over there revealed 20 conferences.

And over the next few days, several people suggested a few more:

  1. Agile Open Northwest 2011, 8-9 February 2011
  2. SearchFest 2011, 23rd February 2011
  3. Python Software Foundation Sprint, Feb 26th
  4. PDX11 Civic Hacking Unconference, April 1-2, 2011 (Plans are coming together now.. so pencil it in!)
  5. Innotech, April 21, 2011
  6. TEDxPortland, April 30, 2011
  7. JSConf US 2011, 2nd–3rd May 2011 (Rumors of crazy fun abound for this, also a party open to the public. Epic!)
  8. NodeConf 2011, 5th May 2011
  9. Open Gov West, 13-14 May 2011
  10. Digital Journalism Portland, 14th May 2011
  11. #140Conf Northwest, 19th May 2011
  12. WebVisions 2011, 25th–27th May 2011
  13. World Domination Summit, 4th–5th June 2011
  14. HotStorage ’11, 14th June 2011 (Third workshop on hot topics in storage!)
  15. USENIX ATC ’11, 15th–17th June 2011 (USENIX’s annual technical conference)
  16. WebApps ’11, 15th–16th June 2011 (Second annual conference from USENIX on webapps!)
  17. Open Source Bridge 2011, 21st–24th June 2011 (Third year! CFP still open!)
  18. IndieWebCamp, 25th–26th June 2011
  19. OSCON 2011, 25th–29th July 2011 (Back in Portland, Again! And @gorthx is on the committee!)
  20. Community Leadership Summit 2011, 23rd–24th July 2011
  21. Vida Vegan Blog Conference, 26th–28th August 2011 (Blogger conference for vegans! Crazy!)
  22. DjangoCon US 2011, 6th–8th September 2011 (Organizer recently relocated to Portland!)
  23. Pacific NW Drupal Summit, October 14-16, 2011
  24. SPLASH 2011, 22nd–27th October 2011
  25. Onward! 2011, 22nd–27th October 2011 (@al3x is on the committee for this!)
  26. Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2011, 9th–12th November 2011

Sources: Lanyrd, Plancast, Calagator and the comments.

What other geekery did I miss? Let me know in the comments.

UPDATE:

Here are the conferences without dates:

Event organizers: spaces to have tech events or conferences in Portland

I’ve been asked more than a couple times about places to have events in Portland.

When you google for ‘event spaces portland, or’ you don’t get anything that I’d call useful.

So here’s the list that I’ve compiled:

East Side:

West Side:

Checklist for new event organizers: how to schedule and get people there

I was talking with @schmichael today and he brought up that it was insane how many different organizing tools are out there, and there’s no handy list of tools for new event organizers to use!

So, here’s my list of helpful tools if you’re trying to run an ongoing tech event:

  • Put your event on a calendar like Calagator.org: This may be pretty Portland specific, but if there’s an event calendar in your area, be sure to put your event on it! Calagator is great also because it shows you a list of venues – possible places for you to hold events. When you need space, its likely best to ask other event organizers. In Portland, we have a special list for event organizers. Get in touch if you are an event organizer, and not already on it!
  • Create a meeting event on something like Meetup.org: So many groups still use this. Several PostgreSQL groups do, and PDX Lean Startup Circle swears by it. There’s also Upcoming.org, but we don’t seem to use that as much
  • Create a google group! Mailing lists are still the best way to keep in touch with people. All the research on electronic communication says this. Tweeting is not enough!
  • Don’t put tons of interested people on CC or personally-managed Outlook lists. This is spam, and the people on the CC list can never unsubscribe! It’s not just annoying, it is rude.
  • Make a twitter account for your group! Twitter is a great way for the always-connected crowd to stay on top of what you’re up to. Easy to search, and quick to post. Try out Cotweet if you have more than one organizer!
  • Tell other event organizers about your event. They likely know other individuals and groups that would be interested and can use their best judgement in passing an email or tweet along. Don’t spam a bunch of unrelated groups!
  • Make an event announcement 2 weeks, 1 week the day-before and day-of your event.
  • Include the following in your announcement: event name, date, time, speaker name(s), talk title and location including zip code of your event (so people can use maps to find you easily!)

What else do you think an event organizer should have in their checklist?

#PDX11 going strong, and a site update: feeds for mailing lists

The PDX11 groups have all met in person and initiatives are underway:

And, I’ve been making some small changes to the PDX11 site:

We could definitely use some help, so ping me if you’ve got some spare cycles! Particular skills of use are: Drupal panel and feeds configuration, CSS and writing.

Thanks!

#PDX11: Conversation about VC, investing and trends in the Portland

I wanted to continue talking about the perceptions stemming from the “quality of life” versus “financial success” juxtapositon from this slide:

A friend pointed out that maybe this issue is being framed in the wrong way for “outsiders”. If we’re going to pitch people on Portland being the best place to build a startup, values are certainly part of the equation, but what do investors want to know?

Maybe problem is similar to the process of gentrification… And as far as Portland’s software scene is concerned, we’re out of the blight, well into the “artists and weirdos make a home” phase and maybe just about to transition into “developers buy up a lot of land and artists start moving on” phase. But capital investment is in companies rather than land.

Maybe the story we as a city need to tell is that we want early adopter investors and more “artists and weirdos” who are passionate about what they do.

It’s a tough analogy, because we don’t have the same geographical or physical world indicators. When gentrification occurs, there aren’t always clear signs in the beginning. But as the process unfolds, people physically move in and out of a tight geographical area.

To put a spotlight on what’s going on with the tech industry, we need for some better indicators! Have a look at the employment graphs like the Oregon tech job employment indicator:

I don’t think it tells the whole story. There are also indicators about VC, but again, I don’t think it is capturing the nature of what is happening in Portland.

To start, I’m interested in a finer-grained look at the jobs associated with small software and IT firms. I’m not sure if there’s a way to pull that data out of what is typically tracked, but I’m going to try.

What indicators do you think we should be tracking?