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.

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.

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.

Firefox for Mobile Devices

I’m quite excited about this month’s Mobile Portland meeting. Dietrich Ayala from Mozilla will be presenting the future of Firefox for mobile devices.

I’m greatly looking forward to learning more about the Mozilla plans. It seems like webkit has taken a lead in the open source mobile browser space. IE has a larger installed base, but the browser renders poorly. Opera is great, but not open source.

So far, Mozilla’s plans for mobile have been unclear to me other than their obvious statements of plans to support mobile devices. I’m anxious to hear when their plans and timelines.

Firefox is my workhorse browser for development. I wonder what, if any, of the plugins that I rely on for development might work in the mobile space.

If you have any of these questions or others, I encourage you to RSVP and attend this meeting.

Tricia Starts New Portland Catering Business

My former co-worker Tricia Butler has reduced her hours at her job and started her new catering business Sassafras Catering. I’m so happy for her.

I remember a couple of years ago during one of her performance reviews, Tricia felt like she had to break bad news to me. She talked about her love of her job, her respect for her co-workers, and her thankfulness at being given the opportunity and responsibility of her position.

BUT, she had to let me know that she was eventually going to start a catering business. Owning a catering business was a life-long dream of hers. She was sorry that her path and the company’s path might not be the same in the long term.

To which I replied, “Where is the bad news?”

Too many people spend their lives in fear of their own aspirations. For all of our talk about people in America having the freedom to chase their dreams, most people are afraid to really do so.

So from that day forward I’ve known Tricia as a caterer who happens to work in technology instead of a technologist who happens to love cooking. That’s why I’m so pleased to see her make the jump and get her business going.

I’m also pleased because I can unequivocally vouch for both her ability to cater events and the food that she has provided. Since that meeting, I’ve both attended and helped organize events that she has catered. Combine that with her business’s commitment to sustainability, and you have an amazing combination for the Portland market.

So congratulations to Tricia for following through on her dreams. If you are in the Portland area, I highly recommend hiring Sassafras Catering for your next event.

Speaking at Web Visions in May

I’m happy to announce that I will be speaking at Web Visions on May 23rd on “Going Fast on the Slow Mobile Web.”

Speaking at Web Visions has been a goal of mine for a few years now. Every year Web Vision brings the best and brightest to Portland to talk about the future of web development. After each conference, I’d tell my co-workers that the following year I was going to put together a presentation for Web Visions. Well, I finally did it! :-)

My topic this year combines two interests of mine: the mobile web and web site performance. We’ll be covering the steps necessary to make the web as fast as possible on mobile devices including looking at device-specific details that make performance on mobile devices more challenging.

I’m honored to be included with such a list of illustrious speakers. As I mentioned in my previous post, Jeffrey Veen’s presentation from Web Visions is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Roger Black is one of the big names in design. I’m stunned to be sharing the stage with them. Then we’ve got fellow twitterers and friends like Erica O’Grady and Scott Kveton. And I could go as there are so many names on that speakers list that I admire.

I’m truly overwhelmed and looking forward to May. I hope to see you there. Sign up today for early bird rates.

Web Visions Early Bird Rates End Tomorrow

If you are interested in attending Web Visions, I encourage you to Jeffrey Veen whose last keynote at Web Visions was worth the price of admission alone. His presentation remains my favorite and is something that I’ve used to inform my thinking many times.

So if you do anything web related, I can’t recommend this conference enough. Plus, you may recognize a familiar name on the speaker list. :-)

Why Posting Presentation Files is Difficult

At last week’s talk at Portland Web Innovators, I promised to post the slides on Cloud Four’s blog. It seemed like a simple promise at the time, but boy has it turned out to be an ordeal.

  • My slides don’t make sense without my narrative — My slides are typically photographs or illustrations that augment the story that I’m telling instead of bullet points that I’m reading aloud. This makes for more dynamic presentations and fits my belief that my job is to tell a compelling story by adding a visual and hopefully an emotional component to the narrative.

    Unfortunately, a slide that has a picture of a wall covered in post-it notes and a title that says, “And she married me anyways” doesn’t make a lot of sense to those who weren’t at the presentation.

  • To add context to the slides, you need to add presenter’s notes or audio — Unless you created presenter’s notes from the beginning that can be digested by other people, at the very least you will need to go back to the slides and edit them all to add presenter notes. If you choose to record audio, you have to find the software to do this and learn how to record and compress the audio correctly.
  • Some slides have to be edited to simplify their transitions — I also found that I had to edit some slides that had automatic or timed transitions to no longer have those transitions because I would no longer control the timing of the slides.
  • No good solution for posting presenter’s notes online — My first choice was to add presenter notes. In fact, I added presenter notes to every slide before I realized that the services for uploading slides and embedding them in other sites didn’t support presenter notes very well. There appears to be no way to see the presenter notes if you embed a viewer like Slideshare into your site.

    I ended up copying all of my presenter notes (including the onerous task of converting non-ascii quotes which Slideshare wasn’t escaping correctly) into comments on each slide. I then added a large note on the first slide instructing viewers on how to view the slides.

    Ultimately, I was disappointed in this solution because if I embed the slides into Cloud Four’s blog, the presenter notes won’t show up.

  • Recording audio isn’t fun — Actually, I’m sure it is for people who do it more often than I do, but I had several aborted attempts including one complete run that didn’t have enough volume.

    The lessons here are that Garage Band is much easier to use than Audacity, that I can’t listen to my own voice for any length of time so I didn’t try to edit the audio at all, and that 3/4 quarters of the way through the audio I realized that I had said that things were going to “radically change” far too many times (yet another reason why I *will not* be listening to the audio again).

  • Slideshare has been processing my audio for almost 24 hours now — The final hold up on posting the slides appears to be problem with Slideshare that is preventing me from uploading the audio file successfully. I’ve submitted a few support tickets, but have no idea when it will be resolved.

Throughout this process, I’ve found myself thinking, “This shouldn’t be this hard.” But the reality is that the type of presentation that is compelling live is very different than one that can be comprehended by someone reading online. Any way you slice it, it takes a lot of work to repurpose your slides for online posting.

So for those who are waiting for the slides to be posted, I apologize. They are truly on their way. And believe me, I want them posted as soon as possible. :-)