Month: April 2008

Zloop: Simple social networking for almost anyone

I know. I know. You read the headline and let out an exasperated sigh. Another one? Seriously? But stick with me for a minute or two. Because I honestly think Portland-based Zloop has got something interesting happening.

Zloop helps anyone—and I literally mean anyone—create small social networks. They call them “loops.” And they can be about something extremely limited, like my family, or something larger, like Portland startups. These loops can be created on the fly. And you can belong to as many or as few loops as you like. You can manage multiple profiles, like a personal one, a business one, full details, limited details…

Again, I realize this sounds pretty standard.

But Zloop makes small social network creation so easy that even the ungeekiest person you know could use it. I’m not talking about your coworkers. I’m talking about your parents, your grandparents, your kids. Anyone. It’s like the—and I mean this in only the most positive way possible—the AOL of social network creation.

In fact—like AOL—it, quite simply, may be too easy and seemingly constricted for you to have any interest in it. And that, my friend, is the sheer genius of it.

This isn’t for you and me. You and I can go geek out on Ning or some other existing social network. We can jump on Drupal or slap some Django components together and bang one out. We don’t need simple tools like this.

And that is exactly the point. This is for the other 99.9% of the population. And that’s what I think makes it interesting.

So simple, I’m confused

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Brett Meyers, the community evangelist for Zloop, to talk about their solution and where they were hoping to go with it.

“So how do I find new friends via the interface?” I asked.

“You don’t,” Brett replied.

“So, if I want to join a bunch of different groups…”

“You don’t really do that here.”

“Can I get an RSS feed off of this?”

“No.”

So there I am, sitting there with a confused look on my face. I mean, in terms of Web 2.0 social networking functionality, Zloop wasn’t pushing the envelope. They weren’t even bringing the common, roll-your-own feature set. What they were bringing to the table was, to my Web 2.0 addled brain, boring.

“But… hmm. What about… um,” I said, continuing to struggle.

And that’s when it hit me: some people—arguably the majority of the human race—form “social networks” in an entirely different way than the infinitesimal segment of us Web 2.0-focused geeks do. In real life, it seems, these social networks are actually formed in person.

No, I’m serious.

It seems that there are any number of groups—schools, churches, businesses—where people actually meet and get to know each other in person before they ever think about interacting with one another online.

Weird. But to each his or her own.

And that market—that gigantically broad market—is the group whom Zloop hopes to serve. Or as Brett put it, “We want to provide something that helps strengthen the communities that are already happening in real life.”

Zloop, with their inherent simplicity, their gentle and thoughtful AJAX transitions, and their “just enough” functionality, have some thing very interesting to offer. And that is Zloop’s genius.

Just like a Basecamp or a Twitter, Zloop—at first blush—is both incredibly difficult to explain and seemingly surreptitiously lacking some sort of whiz-bang that would make it of any use whatsoever.

And that’s why I think they’ve got something here. Something simple. Something pared down. Something straightforward. Something for a specific use that applies to a very, very large segment of the population.

Is it cutting edge? Absolutely not. Is it entirely unique? Not by a long shot. Does it have a chance? If they play their cards right, I think it does. A very good one.

If you’re interested in trying Zloop, just let me know by—ironically enough—dropping me an email or sending me a message on Twitter. I’d be more than happy to give you access to Zloop and hear your take on it.

Webvisionary Awards to coincide with WebVisions 2008

There’s a new award in town. Literally. Thanks to the Portland-creative triumvirate of WebVisions, Pop Art and 52 Ltd announcing the Webvisionary Awards, a new award designed to highlight exceptional work online. Winners are to be announced on the first night of the WebVisions 2008 conference.

The first annual Webvisionary Awards is accepting submissions of outstanding work in a range of categories, from mashups and pimped out personal pages to advertising and mobile. Entries must be submitted by April 30th and there will be a fee of $15 per submission.

The categories are extremely broad, so it will be interesting to see where this goes.

  1. Advertising
  2. Interactive Campaign
  3. Business
  4. Viral
  5. Experimental
  6. Community
  7. Blog
  8. Mobile
  9. Technical Achievement
  10. Web Application
  11. Mashup
  12. Games
  13. Video/Motion
  14. Educational / Resource
  15. Pimped Out Personal Page
  16. Student
  17. Best of Show

And while I’m not much of one for the flash mob mentality, I, for one, think it would be really nice to see some of the cool Portland companies around here get some of the recognition they deserve. Especially given the crowd that WebVisions tends to draw to town.

For more information on the award categories or to nominate your favorites, visit the Webvisionary Awards.

Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for April 11, 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.

The New Jive Site

Josh Pyles writes “For the entire month of March, as well as a little bit of February and April i’ve been helping the folks at Jive with their new website. This was the single largest project i’ve ever been a part of, and it’s brought a lot of challenges my way, but in the end it’s turned out quite well.”

Next Calagator Code Sprint is April 12

Audrey Eschright writes “We have our next code sprint this Saturday, 4/12. We’ll start at CubeSpace at 10AM, in our regular spot. Possible projects for this week include: fixing bugs, UI improvements, making the duplicate-squashing tool we’ve been quietly testing ready for public use, and importing more events.”

Jive Talks: Clearspace 2.0 in the spotlight

Sam Lawrence writes “Our Clearspace 2.0 was very exciting. The media, blogosphere, and twittersphere response was overwhelming. Our team has been cranking hard for many months to bring Clearspace 2.0 to market, and it is an honor to have this much interest in our work. A big thanks to everyone at Jive. Below is a sample of the about 34 articles that were written about the new 2.0 and the Jotlet acquisition.”

Monthly Pricing Plan for Rails Boxcar!

Robby Russell writes “By popular demand.. we’re happy to announce that we’ve just rolled out monthly subscription plans for Boxcar, our professional VPS hosting solution for Ruby on Rails applications. That’s right! You can now order a new Boxcar on a month-to-month basis for just $99/month.”

Tagging My Unconscious with Twitter

Nate Angell writes “Clearly my unconscious has been dominated recently by the revolutionary debate between the valiant Portvangelistas and their nefarious nemeses, Portvangelists like @kveton, @chrisorourke and @metafluence. I have a dream that one day we will all be marshaled to a common purpose, and my unconscious and tweetcloud will move on to brighter, shinier subjects”

Getting Closer!

Jaybill writes “In other news, if you’re a freelance PHP developer that’s local to the Portland, Oregon area and would like to both help out with communit.as and work on paid implementations thereof, please do not hesitate to contact me at heybill [at] jaybill [dot] com. There’s a job posting over at Silicon Florist that explains in further detail.”

View all my bookmarks on Ma.gnolia

Free Silicon Florist Gig board postings and other tweaks

I always try to be completely open with you about what’s going on behind the scenes with this blog. Sharing my thinking. This is another one of those posts.

Silicon Florist Gig board

When I started the Silicon Florist Gig board, I had hoped to kill two birds with one stone:

  1. I wanted to provide a valuable resource for Silicon Forest startups to find the talent they needed.
  2. I was hoping to find a revenue stream to fund continued—and expanded—Silicon Florist activities

Unfortunately, rather than killing two birds, bird #2 simply killed bird #1.

And so it goes. (The one person who did pay to post, Josh Pyles of Pixelmatrix, will be getting a full refund.)

Given that little lesson, I wanted to announce that the proof-of-concept gig board is now completely free. (But I have to provide a little workaround, given the canned solution I’m using.) Post as many jobs as you like, as often as you like. Simply use the discount code “freebie” at checkout.

But, be forewarned: freedom comes with a price.

Please bear in mind that the Silicon Florist Gig board is designed to help local Web-based startups (product or service), social media departments within larger organizations, and bloggers.

If you don’t fit into one of these areas, please do not post here. I will delete it.

A good frame of reference would be “Would Silicon Florist cover my company, product, or clients?”

If your answer is “Yes,” “Totally,” or “You should,” then post away. If your answer is “No,” then you should probably find another job board. If your answer is “Um,” “Maybe,” or a slight raising of your shoulders toward your ears, drop me a note or ping me on Twitter. I’d be happy to let you know.

And who knows? I might even start covering you because you post. How’s that for turning everything on its proverbial ear?

As an added bonus of this new found freedom, you can now post for positions wanted, as well. Simply start the title of the job with “Wanted,” “Seeking,” “Available,” or whatever. For example, I might post “Wanted: Paid blogging position for covering the Silicon Forest tech scene.” Have at it.

Again, that’s “freebie” at checkout.

Oregon Reddit buttons

Speaking of coverage, you’ll likely notice one other minor tweak to the site. On individual posts, down at the bottom, you’ll see a little “Vote for this post on OregonLive” Oregon Reddit button.

What’s with that thing?

Now, the primary reason I spend my time pontificating and waxing philosophic about under-the-RADAR startups is quite simple: I want people to see what’s happening. I want old-school tech and people in Oregon and the traditional media to see what you guys are doing. Because, honestly, it’s really cool.

Well, we live in a town with very few news pubs, and even fewer business pubs. This means that OregonLive, the online version of The Oregonian, gets a substantial amount of local traffic.

Oregon Reddit allows two of the most popular stories to sit on the front page of OregonLive and other sections of the site.

So, if you see something covered in Silicon Florist that you think would be valuable for more Oregon folks to read—or if it’s your company and you’d like to see it on the front page of the OregonLive site to impress your friends and family—please feel free to use that button to submit or vote.

Likewise, if you think something I’ve written is total and utter crap that doesn’t deserve to see the light of day, please, by all means, vote it down.

Long story short, it’s your chance to get the types of stories in The Oregonian that you think should be in The Oregonian.

Thanks for listening. As always, I welcome your feedback on these decisions.

Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for April 10, 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.

Packing Light for Travel with Power and Geek Style

Scott Hanselman writes “I’ve been traveling lately, and last week I posted 10 Guerilla Airline Travel Tips for the Geek-Minded Person. Next week I’m going to Seattle for the week and I really prefer to pack as light as possible. There’s lots of tips on the net on how to squish your clothes (I use SpaceBags) and what luggage to use (I like half-sized wheeled totes) but what’s really interesting to me is what gadgets and electronic equipment to pack that gives me the most functionality in the least space.”

New York Times: A Silicon Valley Slowdown

We haven’t seen this sort of East Side West Side himming and hawing since Tu Pac and Biggie Smalls. First it was tech bloggers. Now, the New York Times says Silicon Valley is sliding. “Less cash coming into the Valley means less cash to purchase homes, and go out to nice dinners, spend on consumer products and go on vacations,” said Hans Swildens, founder and principal of Industry Ventures, an investment firm that buys stakes in start-up companies that need infusions of cash.

Tech firms flock to Portland city’s core

Time to welcome The Oregonian to the party! This coverage is a really, really good sign that all of you under-the-RADAR types are starting to make the rest of Portland begin to take notice. Congratulations!

Free Coffee at Starbucks Every Wednesday Through May 28 (Portland area)

Please forgive the coffee heresy. But it’s free. And I know, as a startup, you’re watching every penny. So, please take advantage. And eat something. You look too thin.

You Know You Want It

StepChange’s Jenn Lynch writes “I Want is something relatively new for Facebook — a true application with a purpose, not just another communication device or game. For ThisNext, Facebook is about much more than games. Like many successful destination web sites, ThisNext hopes to expand its footprint on the web and its touchpoints with customers into places where those touchpoints can be more contextual, relevant and personalized.”

Oracle AppsLab: Year One

Jake Kuramoto writes “A year ago was my first day at AppsLab. Paul and I huddled (virtually) to talk about plans for the team. It was exciting stuff. We had a unique opportunity to operate like a startup within the bowels of a huge corporation.”

Treasurelicious stickers?

Scroll down. Or click the “sticky” tag. Treasurelicious stickers could be making an appearance on a laptop near you. Stay tuned.

Waxy.org Redesigns

Andy Baio writes “For the first time since I started blogging in 2002, I’ve redesigned Waxy.org. Over the last six years, I’ve grown pretty sick of the old design but never found the time to rework it. Mostly, the changes are cosmetic. Cleaner design, new logo, bigger type, headlines, better iPhone support, and more space devoted to Waxy Links.”

View all my bookmarks on Ma.gnolia

Tweet for tweet: Top 30 cities on Twitter

Portland-based TwitterLocal, the service built by Matt King that allows you to create an RSS feed of Twitter users for a particular location, has just moved added a feature that takes the site from a one-time visit to a regular destination—a leader board for the top 30 cities on Twitter.

The leader board currently ranks cities by the number of tweets by residents in a rolling 24-hour period.

Glancing at it a few minutes ago, Tokyo was in the lead with San Francisco running a close second. Paris leads the Europeans. And our hometown of Portland is sitting around #14 or so.

From 8:00PM, April 8, 2008 through 8:00PM, April 9, 2008, the list looked something like this:

  1. Tokyo
  2. San Francisco
  3. New York City
  4. 寅島市南区
  5. Paris
  6. (Japan)
  7. (Entre mi cuarto y mis zapatos)
  8. London
  9. São Paulo
  10. Los Angeles
  11. Chicago
  12. Seattle
  13. Toronto
  14. Portland, OR
  15. Boston
  16. Washington, DC
  17. (United States)
  18. Austin
  19. (Mexico Distrito Federal)
  20. (California)
  21. Atlanta
  22. Taipei
  23. Sydney
  24. London
  25. Osaka
  26. (Brazil)
  27. Madrid
  28. (Mexico)
  29. Melbourne
  30. Barcelona

As you can see, there is some weirdness can show up in the results. King notes these flaws in the system:

  • The seemingly high count of random places like “my pc”, “cybertron”, etc. are the geocoding service’s way of having fun. It seems some fake locations get assigned coordinates to somewhere in Kansas.
  • There is also a very high count of locations with asian characters, which again the geocoding services give only one location. Other than that the numbers are fairly accurate.

Despite these minor foibles, TwitterLocal’s leader board is the first location-specific Twitter analysis that I’ve encountered which actually begins to show which locations have caught the Twitter bug.

And as impressed as I was with TwitterLocal’s service, I’m sure to find this type of competitive ranking completely addictive, at the very least. I’m sure I’ll be checking TwitterLocal leader board, obsessively, over the coming months to see if we can get Portland to crack the top 10. At the very least.

Did your hometown make the list? There’s only one way to find out.

COLOURlovers chases Webby for the second year in a row

How’s this for a little local color? Err… colour? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Portland-based COLOURlovers, the community site that allows those enamored with hues and saturation to share their palette creations and ideas with the artistic community worldwide, has been nominated for the Webby AwardsBest Community Website” for the second year in a row.

What are the Webby Awards? They’re awards that are so cool they actually survived the dotbomb implosion:

Hailed as the “Oscars of the Internet” by the New York Times, The Webby Awards is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet, including Websites, interactive advertising, online film and video, and mobile Websites. The Webby Awards is presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a 550-person judging academy whose members include Internet co-inventor Vinton Cerf, R/GA’s Chief Bob Greenberg, “Simpson’s” creator [and Oregonian, I might add] Matt Groening, Arianna Huffington, and Harvey Weinstein.

If you’re like me (and I know you are), I’d really like to see a Portland site walking away with one of these awards. Especially given that this is COLOURlovers’ second nomination.

But they’ve got some tough competition. Some would call it “insurmountable.” I mean, they’re up against the likes of del.icio.us, Flickr, and StumbleUpon. And I know “the nomination is an honor in and of itself.” But wouldn’t be nice to give COLOURlovers a fighting chance?

Well, you can. Through the “People’s Voice” voting.

That’s right friends. American-Idol-esque voting has permeated the Webbys, as well.

So, if you haven’t visited before, swing by COLOURlovers and take a look. They boast and extremely active community in an extremely niche space. And they’re just darn pretty, to boot.

So, if you like what you see, consider giving them your “People’s Voice” vote. And spreading a little of that Portland hometown spirit.

Power to the people. The Portland people. If you catch my drift.

Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for April 9, 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.

Obopay Selects iovation For More Robust Fraud Protection

Obopay will use Portland-based iovation’s device-based fraud management service to reduce the risk of online payment fraud by enhancing its ability to proactively identify devices that have been associated with fraudulent activity.

Innotech Portland Website Reviews

Scott Hendison writes “Three members of SEMpdx, Benjamin Lloyd of Amplify Interactive, Kent Schnepp of Engine Works, and myself, Scott Hendison, will be on the panel critiquing participants websites, answering specific questions, and providing specific information to the site owner, as well as to conference attendees. The panel will be moderated by SEMpdx president Kent Lewis, of Anvil Media.”

Ego surfing: Tweet Clouds for turoczy

File this one under “interesting” and “self-serving.” This is my Tweet Cloud. Glad to see Portland ranking right up there. As it should be.

View all my bookmarks on Ma.gnolia

Six map apps that put Portland on the mapping map

Maybe it’s the fact that we’re a major inland port. Maybe it’s the affection for the outdoors that permeates the Portland culture. Whatever it is, we’ve got something for maps around here. Portland is map happy. And nowhere is that more evident than our obsession with the mapping APIs that further the technology of cartography.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the mapping and location apps that call Portland, Oregon, home. (Thanks in no small part to the reigning King of mapping, Matt King. An “*” below identifies each of his mapping projects.)

Platial

The most well-known Portland-based mapping application, Platial, is the largest independent social mapping application. According to the Platial site:

Platial enables anyone to find, create, and use meaningful maps of Places that matter to them. Our dream is to connect people, neighborhoods, cities, and countries through a citizen-driven common context that goes beyond geopolitical boundaries. We are building Platial because we adore Places.

Unthirsty*

The admittedly “we did it for the fun of it project” that helps the would-be lush-on-a-budget find the nearest happy hour. And fast.

In Unthirsty‘s own words:

Unthirsty is the work of a group of like-minded souls who were always struggling (for obvious reasons) to remember where and when they last enjoyed that good happy hour. A plan of action was drawn up on beer sodden napkins over bargain pints and some mighty fine nachos. Thus, Unthirsty was launched and dedicated to the good of all mankind’s legally drinking denizens.

KnitMap*

Yearning for yarn? Look no further than KnitMap, your way to finding all of your needling knitting needs or simply getting your Turkish Cast-on on.

KnitMap describes itself as:

[A] site that catalogues and maps the locations of retail shops that sell yarn, knitting supplies and knitting accessories. You can search to find these locations in the US, Canada, UK and most of Europe. Its anywhere that Google maps will work, and the list is growing everyday! Once you’ve found a shop, you can rate it’s attributes, leave comments, upload photos, and add it to your Favorites.

SocialMap*

Think Unthirsty and KnitMap are cool, but interested in putting your own spin on the “plot and find [whatever] via Google Maps”? Then look no further than SocialMap, the mapping technology that powers both of those properties.

Why release SocialMap?

SocialMap was created to help solve the problems we encountered on the web within the communities we are a part of. Through its humble beginnings as a national Happy Hour finder, then a Knitting store locator, we noticed regions and groups that had a passionate user base, but were very underrepresented online. Existing websites and search engines were not only dated in their technology but lacked the ability for users to interact with the information presented.

Mapdango

Winner of the “Best Mashup” at this year’s Mashup Camp, Mapdango takes other API-accessible content and plots it on the map.

Mashup Awards described Mapdango as:

An extensive Google Maps mashup that lets you explore locations with helpful information including weather (WeatherBug), photos (Flickr), facts (Wikipedia), events (Eventful), news (Google News) and more.

WeoGeo

New to the Portland mapping scene, WeoGeo takes a deep dive into online cartography, providing extremely detailed mapping options.

[WeoGeo] supplies surveyors, engineers, cartographers, and scientists with the ability to conveniently store, search, and exchange high-resolution CAD and GIS mapping products. Mappers easily list their data for sale. Researchers quickly find the data they need.

(Bonus) TwitterLocal* (formerly known as TwitterWhere)

It’s not a mapping application, per se, so I didn’t want to include it on the list. But TwitterLocal is another Matt King project that makes location information useful in the context of Twitter. Simply plug in a location and TwitterLocal will provide an RSS feed of the Twitter residents in that area, like Portland, for example. It’s a valuable tool for getting a feel for your neighborhood Twitter types.

That’s just a short list. But, admittedly, there’s so much mapping occurring in map-happy Portland, that I may have missed some obvious maps. If I did, please feel free to admonish me in the comments.

Oregon technology startups and education: Being part of the solution

A few weeks back, I wrote a rant about the abysmal state of Oregon’s tech education in which I encouraged anyone in tech—but especially those folks at startups—to consider his/her potential role in helping to resolve the issues currently plaguing our educational system.

Talk, as they say, is cheap.

So how can we act?

Well, admittedly, this is an awfully big problem, but to wax—and perhaps unintentionally slaughter—more platitudes, the journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.

And, I’m proud to say that we, as a burgeoning collective, have already taken two:

  1. Oregon Tech & Education is an online discussion group designed to gather interested parties, encourage discussion, and facilitate action. If you are at all interested in helping, participating, or just watching what’s happening. I encourage you to join. Even if you just lurk. And I encourage you to invite the teachers and administrators in your life to join, as well.
  2. Silicon Florist internship/mentorship challenge is a call to all Silicon-Forest-based startups to consider offering a summer internship for high school or college students in your area. No one knows more about what you do than you. And teaching someone who knows nothing about what you do could be one of the most rewarding things you ever accomplish as an entrepreneur. If you’re interested—not even yet to the “willing to participate” phase, just interested—please throw your hat into the ring as one of the participating startups.

From time to time, I’ll keep you posted on these steps, and other steps that the resourceful folks of the Silicon Forest are taking to resolve this issue.

I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish.

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