Month: March 2008

Oregon’s K-12 tech education sucks: A geek call to action

When I began the conversation about making Silicon Florist a self-sustaining entity, it was because I had—and continue to have—a number of ideas for trying to help startups in our area. And for helping Portland reach its potential.

And I’d like to spend more time doing that sort of thing. Because it’s important to me.

But there was another area I was thinking about helping, as well.

It’s a startup, of sorts. Full of creative entrepreneurial types. People who generally have more passion than you and I. People who really want to make a difference. People who, like many of the startups around here, don’t get nearly the recognition or support they deserve.

Students. The people who are going to inherit all of this crazy stuff we’re trying to accomplish. And people who are likely experimenting with technology and building some equally cool Web products in their free time.

We have a great deal in common, actually.

And so I’d been toying with some ideas. And thinking about some things. That might be able to help those people. Where I might be able to share some expertise or some time.

Because, quite honestly, not a day goes by writing this blog that I don’t draw on something I learned in my high-school journalism class. Not one day.

And so, I was plodding along slowly. Thinking about what we might be able to do.

Then, today, some news hit me right between the eyes: Oregon schools get a D for technology.

The 11th annual report of “Technology Counts,” produced by the specialty newspaper Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, gives Oregon schools an overall D grade on technology. Only Rhode Island, Nevada and Washington, D.C., scored fewer points than Oregon’s 66 out of 100.

A D? Are you kidding me?

And just like that, it dawned on me: this is the opportunity.

This is one of those special times when an idea meets an action. When the time to act is coupled with the ability to act intelligently. This is the tipping point. Or spark. Or whatever you want to call it. This is the call to arms. The call to action. For all of us geeks and geek-o-philes.

This is an opportunity for you, me, and every other startup. It’s an opportunity to help. It’s an opportunity to give something back to this community. And an opportunity to improve the technology base in Portland for the future.

How? There are literally tons of ways we could do it. Tons!

From interships to class visits to scholarships to events to competitions to apprenticeships to… well, as I said, “Tons.”

I don’t think this is a question of “if?” I think this is a question of “how?”

And I think this news only highlights how much these things need to happen. And how quickly.

Maybe I’m the only one. Or part of a small group. But I think this is our chance to really do something valuable for Portland. And for Oregon. As a group.

Who’s with me?

Startupalooza: Join fellow startups to compare notes

Anecdotally, I can tell you that there’s a great deal of interest in startups around Portland. But sometimes, it’s difficult to put a finger on just how many people are interested.

Until events like Startupalooza come along. And then that fuzzy “level of interest” becomes exceedingly obvious.

How obvious? Well, the event, like Legion of Tech‘s Ignite Portland events, currently ranks among the most popular events on Upcoming. And not just in Portland. On Upcoming. Period.

And with good reason. Startupalooza’s list of presenters reads like a who’s who of current and former Silicon Forest startups.

Companies and products on the docket include:

But wait, there’s more.

Sarah Gilbert, Marshall Kirkpatrick [Update: Just received word that Marshall will be unable to attend.], Justin Kistner, and I will be there on a “technopreneur” Q&A panel, as well.

I know, I know. I struggle to fathom how we’re going to squeeze all of this into one afternoon. But why not show up and see if we can? And then, plan to stick around. Word around the campfire is that there might be one or two after-event activities happening, as well.

Startupalooza begins at noon on Saturday, March 29, at CubeSpace. To RSVP, visit Startupalooza on Upcoming. For more information, see Startupalooza.

Still need more to do this weekend? You’re in luck, my friend. Go ahead, don’t be shy. Get your geek on.

Sweet! UI Candy for your application

UI Candy

More sticky sweet goodness from Portland-based Pixelmatrix Design—also known as local designer Josh Pyles—whose design chops have been highlighted on applications like Tweetpeek and Commuterfeed, to name a few. This time Pyles is offering you the opportunity to purchase a set of his glyphs for your application or user-interface development, through UI Candy.

The Glyph Collection is an essential tool in any Mac developer, or UI designer’s toolbox. With over 50 essential glyphs, this collection offers a great solution for any budget-conscious developer. These glyphs are fully resolution independent (vector), which means you can scale them to any size with no loss of quality. The glyph collection gives you the tools you need to make your app truly shine, for roughly the cost of a tank of gas.

For a mere $40, you could save yourself a ton of work. And pretty up your apps to boot. I’ve already bought them. No idea what I’m going to do with them. But, in my opinion, good work like this deserves support.

For more information or to purchase your set, visit UI Candy.

Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for March 26, 2008

Sometimes, a link says more than I could ever say. Here are some fragrant little buds I’ve found recently, courtesy of ma.gnolia.

Center Networks: Expert Network – First 3 Announced: Herman, Vaynerchuk, Turoczy

Ever feel like you got invited to the cool party completely by mistake? I did when Allen Stern wrote “Last week we announced plans to expand CN with a network of experts around the world who will provide content in their areas of expertise. Today I’d like to share the first three experts: Darren Herman, Gary Vaynerchuk and Rick Turoczy.”

Recession be damned, Intrigo’s still hiring

Nathan P. Bell writes “Intrigo’s search for top talent continues. Today we listed openings for three new job positions at Intrigo. You can find them on Silicon Florist’s brand spanking new job board or follow the direct links below.”

Paying rent to yourself for a home office

Kevin Spence writes “At the PDXwi event last week, I was asked a very interesting question: Should a home based single-member LLC pay rent to the owner of the home–the same person– in order to avoid any ‘piercing of the veil’ problems.”

Vidoop presenting at Startupalooza

Scott Kveton writes “This weekend (Saturday 3/29/2008 to be exact) we’ll be doing a demo of myVidoop and our ImageShield security technology during Startupalooza at CubeSpace in Portland, OR. If you’re in town and interested in learning more, by all means, come and join us!”

Get your geek on this weekend

This weekend, however, is an easily digestible precursor—an appetizer, if you will—to the geeky madness that will soon overwhelm Portland. So, it might be a good opportunity for you to dip your toe in the water. Or, to carry on the analogy, to get a taste of what the summer holds. Here’s what’s in store for those brave enough to venture out, this weekend:

View all my bookmarks on Ma.gnolia

Kistner joins Silicon-Valley-based Voce Communications

Justin Kistner, a fixture in the Portland startup, design, and social media scene (who also happened to create the “Conversation” theme that skins the Silicon Florist site), has shared with me that he will be going to work for Silicon Valley communications firm Voce Communications, starting in April.

Kistner is perhaps best known for his weekly gathering of influential Portland bloggers, Beer and Blog, and his own blog on the social media scene, Metafluence.

He will be joining Voce (in spite of Steve Rubel’s recent post) as a Social Media Strategist, focusing on:

Identifying the people, places, and conversations that are advantageous for a business to engage with and recommend an approach. Then provide engagement maintenance to keep our market position moving in the right direction.

I hear you. “I thought Silicon Florist was supposed to be about Portland news?” So, why am I writing about somebody bailing on the Portland startup community for the Valley?

Well, because he’s not bailing.

Turns out Kistner will be working from Portland—and likely still for Portland companies. And I think that makes this announcement especially interesting to the Portland startup and tech community.

Why? I have three specific reasons.

First, with this hire, Portland’s social media and Web scene gets a hint of some well-deserved “street cred.”

“They want me to stay here because they like that I’m part of the Portland tech scene,” said Kistner. “And they feel that gives them more perspective. It helps them if I’m not get stuck in the Silicon Valley echo chamber.”

Second, Portland—through Kistner—has the opportunity to expose the firm that handles social media strategy for companies like Yahoo!, Verisign, Sony Playstation, and eBay, to Portland’s way of doing things.

Third, Portland gains another diplomat for meaningful cross-pollination with the Valley—in the same vein as Scott Kveton, Raven Zachary, Marshall Kirkpatrick, and countless others—whom Portland is lucky to have acting as de facto emissaries in that important epicenter.

All of those things, in my opinion, can only be good for Kistner. And good for us.

I, for one, am interested to see how this progresses and seeing who stands to benefit most from this new relationship.

Mapdango tops Mashup Camp charts

Mapdango, a slick mapping mashup from Portland-based CartoSoft that has always impressed me, has now impressed a whole heck of a lot more people—including some folks down in Mountain View, CA—by winning the Best Mashup at Mashup Camp.

According to Andres Ferrate, CartoSoft’s Head Honcho and the development power behind Mapdango [Editor: Emphasis is mine]:

There were some great mashups in the contest, including several location-based product availability mashups, some mobile mashups (very cool to think about the emerging possibilities of mashing stuff around for devices), iMovie mashups, a Flickr history mashup, and more. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to see all of the mashups that were competing. Nice to think the little mashup from Portland gave those Silicon Valley mashups a run for the bling bling.

For more on Mapdango and other geospatial magic, visit CartoSoft.

Silicon Florist: Job postings

I wanted to highlight some of the interesting (read “the only”) jobs that have been posted to the Silicon Florist gig board, this week.

  • Marshall Kirkpatrick is looking for freelance Web design talent
    “I’m looking to have a couple of people I can refer to consulting clients who need web design help. These requests come my way every once in a while and I don’t know anyone who’s available and awesome. Let’s save the world from ugly web apps!”
  • MyStrands is looking for a Community Manager – Evangelist
    “This position will play a key role in creating a community around upcoming services. You will evangelize, create, execute, and evaluate community building and online marketing campaigns in line with MyStrands’ overall strategy. You will develop marketing campaigns, community programs and proactively drive communications, with a strong focus in Portland, Oregon and the Northwest.”

Remember, if you’re interested in test driving the Silicon Florist gig board, now would be a great time to stick your toe in the proverbial water. Until the end of March, you can post up to three jobs the first 20 jobs posted will be absolutely free of charge. (Turns out the Jobamatic discount code total isn’t “per user” as I had assumed.) First come, first served. Simply use the discount code “earlybird” at checkout.

Understanding the venture capitalist

One of the most enigmatic components of any startup’s life is “funding.” Do I need capital? Should I pursue capital? How do I approach venture capitalists? Should I avoid venture capitalists? What are the benefits? What are the drawbacks? Necessary evil or rite of passage?

There are a ton of questions.

And unless you’ve been fortunate enough to learn the funding mating dance as part of another company, it’s a completely foreign—and intimidating—proposition.

Well, have heart Web-app-mogul-to-be. CenterNetworks is running a series on venture capitalists that may help inform your understanding of this strange and elusive beast.

The topic? How VCs get their money:

NYC Venture Capitalist Mark Davis is authoring a four-part series on how a VC is funded. Davis notes the four methods are: diverse limited partners, family office, government or public capital. Today, Davis looks at diverse limited partners. The other three methods will follow throughout the week.

I highly recommend you follow the series. Not only will this provide a great vantage point for helping you understand the motivations for the venture capitalist, it may just help demystify the whole venture capital question for you and your startup.

Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for March 25, 2008

Sometimes, a link says more than I could ever say. Here are some fragrant little buds I’ve found recently, courtesy of ma.gnolia.

TweetPeek is Mashup of the Day

Portland’s Tweetpeek, a feed mashup that allows you to create group Twitter feeds comprised of anyone or anything that interests you, made Mashup of the day.

FriendFeed Comments Widget for Your Blog

The Portland Pipes, um, Plumbers get some more recognition. Dawn Foster’s FriendFeed Comment Finder Pipe serves as the basis for this blog widget.

PC World – Best Free Download is FreeRange

The folks at FreeRange write “PC World just did their 101 Fantastic Freebie’s list, not only including FreeRange in the list but choosing it as Best Download!”

View all my bookmarks on Ma.gnolia

GoLife Mobile: Chatting with James Whitley, CEO (Part 1)

Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with James Whitley, CEO of Hillsboro-based GoLife Mobile.

I went into the conversation hoping to answer two specific questions. First, I wanted to get more details about the business reasoning behind the GoLife Mobile developer framework, Vadowerx. And second, I was hoping to get a better understanding of why GoLife Mobile found Portland a viable place to found this mobile startup.

Turns out, we wound up spending a good part of the time talking over the top of one another as we shared our complementary excitement for the potential that Portland holds, the amount of talent around here, and the distinct feeling that Portland is on the brink of something big. Really big.

And, GoLife Mobile may very well be part of helping to usher in that next big thing.

Now, there’s no way I’ll cram the entire conversation into a single post. So let’s break it into two posts, shall we? I’ll save the “why Portland?” response for part 2.

In this post, I’d like to provide some high-level insight on Whitley’s response to my questions on the Vadowerx framework.

GoLife Mobile’s framework

I’ve covered the GoLife Mobile framework before. But my cursory understanding of the framework and what it meant to the GoLife business model was admittedly tinged with a prevailing ignorance and a healthy dose of cynicism.

Whitley not only helped me understand what GoLife Mobile hopes to accomplish with the framework, he convinced me that they had a plausible way for getting mobile developers to interact with one another, contribute to the codebase, and profit from their Vadowerx efforts.

From a coding perspective, the Vadowerx framework is designed to operate much like any other application framework. When I mentioned the Rails and Zend frameworks for comparison, Whitley nodded in approval.

“We had to go with an ‘open’ approach to this framework,” said Whitley. “It is the only way something like this is going to succeed.”

Like its counterparts in the world of Web application development, Vadowerx delivers a series of pre-built components for common functions that can be plugged into mobile applications, saving the developer from coding basic elements that are often the same for any application.

“We refer to them as ‘LEGO’s, for lack of a better term,” said Whitley. “They can be combined in a variety of different ways. Combining them one way creates one application. Combining them another way could create something completely new.”

Simplifying application management for customers

A framework is great for coding. But what about the business? What does this open framework mean in terms of customers and revenue for GoLife Mobile?

Customers will likely be attracted by the simplicity of the GoLife Mobile experience. Instead of installing multiple applications, the user installs one.

“No one wants to install and maintain 50 different applications on their mobile phone,” said Whitley. “With our framework, it’s one installation: the presentation layer. All of those applications? They’re distributed and built on-the-fly when and where you need them.”

That’s great news from an application management perspective. Better yet? The applications understand one another, a continual Holy Grail of sorts for any group of applications.

“If I have two applications that share one of these LEGOs, they’re both going to have access to the same information,” said Whitley. “And there’s an intrinsic value there as users continue to personalize the applications through use. That’s when we start seeing some really exciting possibilities.”

And it’s not just mobile users that could benefit from that type of thinking.

“We needed to start somewhere, and mobile was definitely the right place to start,” said Whitley. “But this presentation layer could be delivered to any number of distributed screens, like ATMs, PCs, consoles… you name it.”

More than recognition for developers

Part of making the framework viable is encouraging developers to share ideas and concepts.

“With our framework, sharing objects is built-in,” said Whitley. “It’s not a question of whether you want to share or not, but rather how you want to share.”

But getting that type of participation requires motivation. And GoLife has hit upon something there, as well.

The applications distributed on the framework are currently supported by advertising. That means revenue for GoLife Mobile. But it also means something to the developer community.

“Recognition is great, but we felt that we needed more ways to motivate and reward the developers who take the time to contribute to the framework,” said Whitley. “And so, developers who participate have the opportunity to take a portion of the ad revenue that their components drive.”

Sharing in the wealth should have a positive impact on development, for both the company and the businesses within the mobile development community.

“We’re talking about providing a framework that not only simplifies development, it provides an incentive to participate,” said Whitley. “Wow! Can you imagine?”

The developers who have received early access to the framework are already buying into the vision.

“We were chatting with a bunch of developers last night after 11:00 o’clock,” said Whitley. “They’re excited about this framework and the potential it holds for their development business.”

From the sounds of things, I would imagine a subscription model for the GoLife Mobile service is also likely in the offing, which could provide another predictable revenue stream for the young company. And for the developers.

“Imagine installing one app and then subscribing to all the services you need to use,” he said. “There’s definitely value there.”

More to come

It will be interesting to watch GoLife Mobile continue to grow into its role as the supporter of this framework within the developer community. It’s a role that’s rife with potential. With good reason, Whitley is cautiously optimistic.

“Development—and the mobile market as a whole—is completely fragmented, right now,” he said. “This framework holds the potential to provide structure. And to let people concentrate on the things they do well.”

And that’s just part of what has me excited about GoLife Mobile. The other important area in which this company could have an extremely positive impact? Portland. In part 2, I’ll share my discussion with Whitley about Portland and his opinion on its potential.

[Editor: On a tangential note, the first meeting for Mobile Portland—of which GoLife Mobile is one of the founding members—will be held tonight. To RSVP, see Mobile Portland on Upcoming.]

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