May 4th, 2010
Portland Development Commission (PDC) releases initial results from Software cluster survey
Remember a few weeks back, when I asked you—well, actually, implored you, begged you—to respond to a survey about the current state of software development? You remember, the one sponsored by the Portland Development Commission (PDC) (@pdxdevelopment)?
Well a whole bunch of you took the time to respond. (Thank you!) And now the PDC has released the results of the survey.
So without further ado… Let’s play the Feud. Survey says!
You can review the published results above for yourself and make your own assessments. But I’ll offer some high-level analysis for you—since none of it is likely to come as a shock:
- Folks are pretty positive about the software development environment in Portland over all.
- A lot of the work done in the software sector comes from outside of Portland.
- And we’re pretty sure that we’re extremely talented, citing that most of the “cutting edge researchers” (67%) for our software pursuits are right here at home.
Perspectives from the 271 who took the survey were generally upbeat… The results are more favorable than I’d understood when Thompson (from Portland-based i-OP) presented preliminary conclusions at a Software Association of Oregon chat last month.
It’s a good start.
Questioning the questions
The most difficult part about this process—figuring out what exactly the “software cluster” in Portland means—is that you have to start somewhere. And wherever you start, it probably won’t be perfect. But at least it will be a start.
This survey was that start.
Now admittedly, this survey creators opted to release quickly and iterate quickly. And they had to start with things that they knew. Things that might have seemed a little off kilter to many of the folks in the startup and open source communities.
As such—because of the hurried pace and the plans to iterate—some questions in the first survey may require some retooling to get at the true heart of the matter. Or, they may just require new questions altogether.
Example? Well, there is one question that sticks in my head. It has to do with the presence of peer support and mentors in the community: “Do you have local mentors or trusted peers that you can bounce business ideas off of?”
Anyone who has participated in the startup community in Portland recognizes that you can answer both yes and no to that question. So that creates a bit of problem. I mean, I’ve got tons of peers with whom I can discuss ideas. But mentors? Not so much.
Others, like Audrey Eschright (@spinnerin) voiced similar concerns.
The idea that our software industry's main issues are "Education, Political Engagement, Taxes & Fees" makes my head hurt.
@skipnewberry Aim at developers, not managers. Ask about tech used, access to business opportunities, economic viability of current work.
And I’m sure there are equally valid—and conflicting—opinions that abound throughout the community.
But I have to give the PDC credit. Because even flawed, the survey was a start. And it actually got out of the gates. Whereas other efforts have either failed to materialize. Or have failed to attract enough responses to make them worthwhile.
Continuing the conversation
I think the most important thing to bear in mind—and the folks who ran the survey reiterated this to me—is that this is an initial step. A beginning to the conversation. We’ve all got a long way to go. If we’re truly interested in making the Portland software scene the most successful it can be.
What’s more, this is just the beginning of your chance to work with the PDC and help them develop a well-rounded view of the software industry here in Portland.
I have to believe that they’re doing this for the right reasons. And they’re very willing to admit that they don’t know what they don’t know. They’re looking for your feedback. And your critique. They’re also looking to engage with the community as much as they can.
And then, on May 21 at 3 PM, they’ll be holding a roundtable at the PDC offices. To discuss these findings in more depth. And figure out next steps.
Two additional surveys and conversations are already planned. To continue to flesh out the issues and accurately describe our current environment. And they’ve started a Facebook group for the PDX Software discussion, if you’re into that sort of thing.
It’s a start. And a good one.
While the initial survey might not have nailed the questions we’d like to see, it was a good start. And it has gotten the ball rolling.
Now, only continued participation is sure to help both sides find a happy middle ground. One where the PDC better understands the small startups, independent developers, and open source community. And one where this community gets more opportunity to partake in the resources that the PDC and other municipal organizations have to offer.
I’m hopeful that this is moving in the right direction. And I’m looking forward to seeing where the conversation goes from here.
(Image courtesy Keith Skelton – Chiaroscuro Photo Workshops. Used under Creative Commons.)