Thoughts on Greenlight Greater Portland

Thanks to the generosity of Rick Turoczy, I recently attended the Greenlight Greater Portland luncheon.

I waited a little while before posting my thoughts because I wanted to read through the materials to get a better sense of what the organization was about before commenting. I went into the luncheon knowing nothing about the organization.

Thankfully my delay gave me a chance to read some of the thoughts from David Abramowski about how Greenlight Greater Portland is no place for startups.

Ostensibly I was at the event to provide a startup perspective. However, the luncheon didn’t really touch on that so David’s write up will have to suffice if you are interested in that perspective.

Instead, I want to talk about two things:

  • What a great speaker Tom Szaky of Terracycle was. What an exceptional story.
  • What a shame it is that the best part of the luncheon had to be imported from New Jersey.

First, Terracycle is an amazing and inspiring story. Even if Terracycle wasn’t making a difference by dealing with waste, the business story and innovation alone would be noteworthy.

If you ever have a chance to see Tom speak, do it!

Unfortunately, Tom’s speech was preceded by two different individuals from Greenlight Greater Portland who read off scripts, droned on, and bored the audience.

One of the speakers tried to engage the audience in a gimmick where the audience would have a single clap after each talking point. This was attempted at the same time our food was served creating a dilemna for the audience between eating our meal and acknowledging the speakers pleas for single claps.

(Blah blah. Put down fork. Single clap. Pick up fork. Eat quickly. Put down fork. Single clap. Repeat.)

I normally avoid criticizing public speaking. It takes a lot to get on stage and not everyone was fortunate enough to have had a traumatic high school experience that eliminated the fear of public speaking.

However, in this case it detracted from what otherwise is really interesting information. The data gathered by Greenlight Greater Portland in their 2009 Greater Portland Prosperity Index is great stuff.

The printed version of the report is well designed, easy to read, and full of interesting notes on why Portland is well positioned for growth.

(You can also download the report from the Greenlight Greater Portland web site, but you apparently need to register to download it and the registration form does not say why they require you to register nor why they need your email. Consequently, I’m not linking to it.)

As far as the policies are concerned, they seem to be basing their work on policy and programs that worked in Austin. They sound reasonable enough, but consistent with what David wrote, I doubt it will have any direct impact on our business. If they succeed, then I’m sure the overall economic prosperity will help our business.

I did have a good time at the event and was inspired by the end. It’s just unfortunate that the promotion of what makes Portland special wasn’t inspirational. In fact, it was pretty boring. And that part that was inspirational came from New Jersey of all places.

Thanks again to Rick for the invitation and to my table mates for the good conversation. And despite my comments about the presentations during the luncheon, I wish Greenlight Greater Portland tremendous success.

Let’s Play Sheriff and Tully. I’ll Be Sheriff.

Tully & SheriffAs many of you know, we lost our beloved dog Tully this summer. We didn’t plan on getting another dog, but Sheriff started showing signs of separation anxiety (he and Tully were litter mates), and we finally relented.

So in September we got a puppy from our friends. The puppy was their favorite of the litter. Our friends gave him the name Primo in honor of his first born status.

Primo & Sheriff 2

As you can see from the photos above, there is a slight resemblance between Primo and Tully. Yet while friends commented on the similarities, I didn’t see it.

Or more accurately, I didn’t want to acknowledge it. We didn’t pick Primo because of the resemblance. And no dog was ever going to replace Tully.

After last weekend, I’m ready to admit it. Jeez, Primo reminds me of Tully!

We took him out to the beach for the first time last weekend. He quickly fell into the same pattern as Tully did. Sheriff fetches the ball and Primo attacks Sheriff. Tully used to get into a crouch, wait for Sheriff to get close enough and then pounce.

It made me wonder if Sheriff’s personality was so strong that any new dog would by necessity end up playing the role Tully had played.

Dana’s Uncle Jim had a funny take on it. He imagined a conversation between the two dogs that might go something like this:

Sheriff: Hey Primo, I’ve got an idea. Let’s play “Sheriff and Tully.” I’ll be Sheriff.

Primo: Oh man, I wanted to be Sheriff this time.

Sheriff: Sorry. You can be Sheriff tomorrow.

Primo (under his breathe): Man, you always say that.

It was a blast. It was great to see Sheriff enjoying himself and to know that his new buddy was helping all of us both move on and remember Tully at the same time.

More adorable puppy photos on Flickr.

Portland Tech Community

Lately I’ve found myself in a lot of conversations about the Portland Tech Community.

It started with a conversation with people at Software Association of Oregon (SAO) about their interest in creating a Mobile SIG and wondering how that would relate to Mobile Portland.

Then there was Thrive PDX which attempted to bring together the growing tech community that orbits around Legion of Tech activities and the different community that attends SAO events.

Finally tonight, Rick Turoczy led an interesting retrospective at the PDX Web Innovators on where the tech community has been in the last year and where it might go in 2009.

To varying degrees, all of these discussions have had some tension between those who want to bridge the different communities in Portland and those that desire a more organic approach. At ThrivePDX, someone suggested that we needed one group to coordinate all of these subgroups.

I dislike approaches like that. They are massive undertakings that never quite succeed. I prefer distinct problem statements that you can solve.

Which is why I became interested when someone tonight said that they had problem connecting to the Portland Tech Community when moving here from out of the area.

Over the last year, I’ve written several emails to people moving here describing different events to attend and at those events introduced people new to the area to others in the Portland Tech Community.

Despite the fact that I had found myself doing that multiple times, I never really thought about it as a need. I just considered it some ways part of being a good host for the town I grew up in.

As Selena pointed out tonight, our community is actually pretty good at pointing people in the right direction once you connect with someone in the community. She described it as latching onto a spoke and getting pulled in.

But there is a clear need. If someone doesn’t know to ask or whom to ask, they may never find their connection.

So it is with that in mind that I purchased tonight. I don’t want to solve bridging gaps between communities. I don’t want to replace existing organizations either formal like Legion of Tech and SAO or informal like I don’t have a desire to recreate other efforts like creating central calendar of events for the community.

Instead, I envision a site that solely exists to introduce people from out of town to the Portland Tech Community and connect them to one of the spokes. A short simple problem statement that we should be able to solve. It will benefit those moving here, and it will benefit Portland by highlighting how vibrant the community is and how to get involved.

Portland’s Tech Community has given a lot to me. This is one way of giving back. If you’re interested in helping out or have specific ideas on the best ways to accomplish the mission of the site, please leave a comment or contact me via Twitter.

How to Give a Successful Ignite Presentation

(CC) Randy Stewart,’ve given a lot of presentations, but nothing compares to Ignite. Preparing for an Ignite presentation requires a different methodology.

Last June I gave a presentation at Ignite Portland 3 on Cup Noodle: Innovation, Inspiration and Manga. You can watch the original presentation on YouTube.

What you won’t see from the video is that up to an hour before I left for the theater, I had not yet successfully rehearsed my presentation. Here’s why.

I treated this like any other speaking engagement. I started with an outline of what I wanted to say. I then built slides to the outline and worked on speaker’s notes to go with the slides.

I then read aloud my speaker’s note and refined them until each set of speaker’s notes fit perfectly into the 15 seconds I had for each slide. I did this over a couple of nights and thought that I was in good shape.

Then I rehearsed it and failed miserably.

I couldn’t even get past the first slide without screwing up. And once I screwed up, I couldn’t get back on track.

Here is what I didn’t realize:

  • My presentation voice and writing voice are very different — I was already aware of this from other presentations, but in other presentations there wasn’t a penalty for stumbling over words or finding that something takes longer on stage than when I read it to myself.
  • You will stumble. What’s important is how you recover. — By scripting everything so carefully including transitions from slide to slide, when I stumbled I couldn’t recover easily. I had to find my place again. By the time I did that, I had runaway slides to catch up with.
  • Improv Editing. — Ignite is as more about editing than presenting. When you stumble, you have to make up time somewhere. You have to be comfortable changing the script to make up time or fill time.

So I threw out my speaker’s notes and did the following:

  • Picked key concepts and formations I wanted to use on each slide — Instead of sentences, I worked on key things I wanted to say like “3 reasons: Great Lessons, Japanese Comic Book, and Less Time to Cook than an Ignite Presentation.” I didn’t care how I said those three things, just that those were the points.
  • Rehearse. Rehearse. REHEARSE! — Find a place where you won’t disturb anyone. Stand up and give your presentation like you’re in front of the audience. And do it as many times as possible.
  • No Notes! — Don’t use notes when you rehearse. Don’t use notes when you get on stage. They will distract you. Focus on the slides, remembering the key points, and connecting with the audience.
  • Don’t Stop. Practice Recovering — You will screw up when you rehearse. Don’t get frustrated. This is EXACTLY what you want. In fact, if you don’t screw up, you’re in trouble. The point of practice is to learn to recover from mistakes. So when you make a mistake, don’t start over. Continue with that rehearsal to the end of the presentation. Make adjusts and then run through the entire presentation again.
    I can’t emphasize this enough. You are not practicing recitation of your presentation. You are practicing adjusting and editing your presentation based on whatever circumstances you find yourself in on stage.
  • Don’t Expect Consistency — I have not once in all the times I’ve rehearsed or given the presentation said the same words. Each time I do it is different. This is to be expected.
  • Know Your Key Moments. Use Them as Anchors — Whether it is a joke that you’ve planned or a poignant moment when you want to move the audience, know where they are in the slides and as you practice improvisational editing, make sure you edit in a way that keep those key moments intact.

In addition, if you are presenting at Ignite Portland, you should consider these additional tips:

  • Don’t Wait for Your Slides to Start — There are slides in between each presenter that automatically change after a few seconds. Often presenters will get on stage and wait for their slides to start. This is a mistake. Start the moment you have the microphone. It gets the audience going and gives you more time for your first slide.
  • Your Audience Will Be…Well…Drunk. Plan Accordingly. — The audience is expecting interesting ideas, but they are also expecting to be entertained. This isn’t the audience for a serious academic speech. That’s not to say you can’t have deep and incredibly thoughtful presentations. Some of the best presentations cover complex subjects. It just means don’t be dry. Be energetic. Be funny.
  • You Shouldn’t Be Drunk — Feel free to take the edge off a little, but you’re going to need to be sharp to be the best improvisational editor you can.

Finally, have fun. Presenting at Ignite Portland was one of the highlights of my year. It’s a blast. And as long as you rehearse and practice recovering, I’m certain you’ll have fun and be wildly successful. I look forward to watching your presentations!

Join us for Obama ’08 for iPhone Launch Party & Debate Watching

Live in Portland? Come join us Tuesday for an Obama ’08 for iPhone launch party and watch the next Presidential debate.

Doors open at 5 pm at the Mission Theater in NW Portland. We’ll be joined by Representative Earl Blumenauer and representative from the Oregon Obama for America campaign.

More details and RSVP information are available on You don’t have to RSVP to attend, but please show up as early as possible because the venue will likely sell out.

Obama iPhone App Blogging Resources

If you want to blog about the Obama iPhone App, here are some resources you can use:

Team Member Info

Announcing Obama ’08 iPhone Application

The main reason I became excited about mobile technology—excited enough to quit my job and start a new company—was because of the potential for mobile technology to be something that can literally change the world.

With that in mind, I’m happy to announce the Official Obama for America application for iPhone and iPod Touch users.

This is a secret side project that I’ve been working on for the last couple of months. The development started in earnest in the middle of September. The application was developed in 22 days.

The application is a great example of how mobile technology and the iPhone in particular can be used to change politics. One of the things we are proudest of is the fact that it helps people become what we started referring to as two-minute activists. The application organizes your address book by battleground state and provides mechanisms for you to track who you called and what they said.

Have a couple of spare minutes? Make a quick call and get out the vote.

I’m terribly proud of this application. I’m also honored to have been part of making it happen. It’s not simply that we built something that we believe will empower people to bring change to Washington, but it is also the fact that we assembled an exceptional team.

It’s a rare opportunity in life to work with a great group of talented people who are working long hours on a tight timeline for nothing other than their belief that they can make a difference. Our ten member team consisted of:

There’s much more that can be done with mobile technology to create social and political change, but for now, download the Obama ’08 for iPhone application and see the first steps in that process.

P.S. It probably goes without saying, but just to be clear: I don’t work for nor speak on behalf of the Obama campaign. I’m just a geek who wanted to help out. :-)

Gnomedex this Weekend

I’m heading up to Seattle this weekend for Gnomedex. Josh Bancroft was kind enough to include me in the Best of Ignite Portland session.

Like my Ignite Portland presentation, this won’t be on any of the familiar topics of mobile development or web site performance. Instead I’ll be talking about Nissan’s Cup Noodle.

It’s a fun five minute presentation. It will be interesting to see how it is received at 9 am in the morning at a conference instead of in the evening at a theater pub with a, well let’s just say, happy audience.

If you’re attending Gnomedex, let me know. I’ll be watching Twitter while I’m up there.

Slideshow of the Day

My Web Visions presentation has been selected as the “Slideshow of the Day” on You can view the presentation here. Or use the embedded version of it below.

As soon as the conference organizers post the audio recording of the presentation, I’ll link to that as well. Some of my slides require explanation.

Thanks to everyone who attended my session and to for featuring my slides.