May 4th, 2010

Portland Development Commission (PDC) releases initial results from Software cluster survey

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.

And as Mike Rogoway over at The Oregonian highlights:

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.less than a minute ago via Twitterrific

@skipnewberry Aim at developers, not managers. Ask about tech used, access to business opportunities, economic viability of current work.less than a minute ago via Twitterrific

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.

Example? PDC will be hosting Portland Lunch 2.0 on May 19.

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.)

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11 Responses to “Portland Development Commission (PDC) releases initial results from Software cluster survey”

  1. The PDC-sponsored Lunch 2.0 is scheduled for May 19th, and the PDC gathering to scheduled for May 21st. Has anyone noticed that these dates are during Web Visions, and that virtually everyone who would be interested in software will be at Web Visions, and therefore unable to attend either of these events?

  2. Jmartens says:

    Check your link to the Facebook group…looks like there are two: PDX Software and Portland Software. The one you linked to is smaller and less active.

  3. Rick Turoczy says:

    @jmartens I was linking to the group mentioned on slide 23 of the presentation above. I believe the group was just started to support this conversation, hence its size and activity level.

  4. ralph w. says:

    I would say that the methodology, content and then presentation of this “economic development” initiative sums up why PDX is a failed, backwater location for start-up tech businesses.

    Let’ not cut these guys any slack and say it’s a “good start…gets the ball rolling” kind of thing — This kind of discussion should have commenced years ago. Or, be managed now on a fast-track to Action, even experimental baby-steps, not creating extremely annoying online presentations of survey results. If someone is spending time and money creating annoying online summaries of a survey, I fear they don’t have a clue how to bring out tangible progress.

    I would project that the Survey was completed by a minority who are not indicative of the whole. There is no accurate picture painted here of the reality of the situation (“oh, we all love Portland, hugs, kisses…” – you can get that info at any coffee shop), we are in an economic downturn, employment is low and the prospect for all but a very small handful of low-job creating iPhone people is bleak.

    It could change. But, it requires people with vision and interest beyond pal’ing around with the hip/tech circles. It requires someone who will create an incentive for Investment in this region that appeals to the few successful (and cash rich) corporations that call Portland home and perhaps getting some real VC firms (people who understand the market, the trends and risk) from California to manage funds that are designated to OR start ups. No more incubators sucking up time and money. No more conferences. No more surveys. How about some Action. Or, Portland remains a third-rate location for new, quality job creation.

  5. [...] week, Cami Kaos (@camikaos) and I (@turoczy) talk about the Portland Development Commission (PDC) software cluster survey, Beer and Blog with the Timbers, InnoTech and the SoMe Awards, Apple moving 1 million iPads, and [...]

  6. [...] PDC has been active lately, including tech as part of their Economic Development Strategy and polling Portland software community for input and [...]

  7. [...] this Wednesday. We’re hoping to use that to start a conversation with them about how to do further studies and planning for economic development that reflects the needs and concerns of the communities we’re a part [...]

  8. [...] to get it out on the page. I’ve been very frustrated with the first round of PDC surveying, as Silicon Florist noted. The questions in the survey seemed completely oriented toward the executives and managers of large [...]

  9. [...] better understand the state and size of the software industry in Portland. To this end, they have engaged the community in an initial survey and they have plans for at least two [...]

  10. [...] Portland Development Commission (PDC) releases initial results from Software cluster survey [...]

  11. [...] Remember a few months back when you took that Portland Development Commission (PDC) survey about the state of the Portland software market? Remember the kerfuffle—albeit a justified one—that took place immediately following the release of the results? [...]

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