Month: April 2008

Silicon Florist internship challenge

A week ago, I went off on a little rant about the sorry state of Oregon’s technology and education mix. And how I hoped that all of us startup types could use our creativity to figure out how to fix the problem.

Well, much to my surprise, nearly 30 people jumped into the comments, a number of folks contacted me on Twitter, and a bunch of emails came rolling into my inbox.

And while all of this was inspiring, it suddenly meant that I actually needed to do something.

The problem is a big one. And we’re not going to solve it tomorrow. But if we take small steps, we’ll get there.

But, we need to get the ball rolling. And quickly.

So I’m happy to report that I think I’ve come up with one of those small steps. I think.

I was going to announce this on Tuesday, but given the date, I was concerned about the announcement being perceived as a joke. And then I saw the hubbub about April 3 being Good People Day. And that seemed like the perfect day to announce the idea.

You let me know if this sounds feasible and we’ll go from there.

The Silicon Florist Internship Challenge

Summer break is right around the corner. And at the same time, most of the startups to whom I’m speaking are crunching on more work than ever.

Let’s see, underly busy people and overly busy people. What could we do with some of those smart kids and some of those startups needing help?

That’s right. Internships.

Just think. What if you had had the opportunity as a high-school or college student to shadow an entrepreneur like you? What if you had had the opportunity to learn some of the secrets of business or coding or planning or writing or whatever? How cool would that have been? How much better prepared would you have been to do what you’re doing now?

I think the value to the students is pretty obvious.

So, I’m suggesting that we all work to take on some interns this summer. Could be paid. Could be just a learning and experience kind of thing.

I don’t really care how you structure the compensation arrangement. I just want to see you do it.

Set up an internship. Make it 6 weeks or so. Get a few kids to spend 5-10 hours a week learning about your work.

You can do it. I know you can.

Oh, I hear you. “That seems like a lot of work. What—besides warm fuzzies—is in it for me?”

Well, you get some help doing some of your work for one thing. You get a fresh viewpoint, for another. You have to explain what you do and why you do it to someone else. You get to validate your reasoning. You get to teach. And, perhaps best of all, you get someone who actually wants to listen to you blather on and on about your project.

But, I’ll also work to throw in some other benefits. I’m not exactly sure what they are yet. But every company that volunteers to participate in the Silicon Florist Internship Challenge will receive something along the lines of:

  • A dedicated Silicon Florist article featuring your company and your internship program. Maybe I even let your interns post some entries about why your startup is so cool.
  • A mention in the press release I plan to put out when I pitch this program to the traditional media and schools. As well as my help flacking that release and your company to the best of my abilities.
  • A free post on the Silicon Florist Gig board to advertise your internship, and just for good measure, I’ll throw in a free job posting for use whenever you like. (I know that your company is going to be growing.)
  • Some cool Web graphic that helps you promote your participation in the program.
  • My promise to promote your internship opportunity, to help you find the candidates to get it filled, and to continue to support your program throughout the summer.
  • Oh, and of course, there will have to be some Silicon Florist swag.

… and probably some other things that folks more creative than me will suggest. As I said, I haven’t really thought through your fabulous prize package, yet. But I will.

So what’s next?

Well, first, you need to tell me if this is even a good idea. I’m going to work to hire a couple of interns this summer, one way or the other. But I’d like you to join in the fun. If you think it might work.

Second, I need you to let me know in some way that you’re interested in doing this. And there are a variety of ways to do that: comment below, send me a message on Twitter, or drop me an email.

And while I’m really interested in seeing what the small Web startups and individuals are capable of doing, I’ll more than welcome the big tech companies around town if they want to join in on the fun.

I just need to know if you’re up to the challenge. We can discuss specifics later.

So let me know, as quickly as possible. We’ll plan on doing the heavy outreach and promotion of the program and its participants on May 1, 2008. That gives you a few weeks to get your ducks in a row. And it will give me a couple of weeks to help formalize the internship guidelines.

I’m looking forward to this. I hope you’ll join me. This could be really good for both the kids and companies of Portland, Eugene, Corvallis, Bend, Vancouver—the entire Silicon Forest—in a number of ways.

Let’s get going on this.

Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for April 3, 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.

Mapdango is Mashup of the Month

Mapdango from Portland-based CartoSoft has been named Mashup of the Month by Mashup Awards.

Evil Backwards Second Anniversary

The folks at Portland-based DB Clay’s Evil Backwards write “Yesterday, April Fools Day 2008, marked the (2) Year Anniversary of the official launch of evilbackwards.com. Image above was taken at our launch party 732 days ago- evil backwards has come a long way since and it has a long way to go.”

Central Oregon Web Professionals Usergroup: OSCON Discount

The COWPU blog shares “The O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) is returning to Portland, Oregon. Once again we’re offering a special discount to the locals–User Group members in Oregon and Washington. With this ‘locals only’ discount, you get 20% off the registration price for OSCON. Use code ‘os08pdxug’ when you register.”

COLOURlovers API Documentation and Showcase

The folks at COLOURlovers write “With the release of the COLOURlovers API, you can now access almost 1 million named colors and more than 325,000 color palettes for your creative projects and applications. Creating a theme editor and want to give your users some color theme options? Creating a visual project that ties keywords to colors? Who knows what amazingly creative stuff people will come up with.”

Women Who Code – where are they?

Selena Deckelmann writes “I ran a panel discussion about Women in Open Source at the PostgreSQL Conference East (last weekend). I talked about all the conference events that I’d seen in the last 1-2 years specific to women, and a pair of researchers talked about communication patterns among women on the KDE women’s list. Then we had a 2 hour discussion with the 10 people in attendance. Three issues that stuck with me from the discussion were…”

April 3rd 2008 is “GOOD PEOPLE DAY” Pass it on – my 2 minute take on life

This is a bit of beyond the Silicon Forest, but I think it still belongs here. As it really resonates with why I started the Silicon Florist in the first place: trying to recognize really good people who are doing really good things. Tangentially, I’m half toying with the idea that we woo Gary V. out here for a little Willamette Valley tour.

View all my bookmarks on Ma.gnolia

Sidecar: Ridiculously easy feedback widget for products, blogs

[HTML1]A couple of weeks ago, I got the chance to get a glimpse of Sidecar, a new widget from Portland-based widget wizards StepChange Group. The product is currently running in a small private beta with a couple of other Portland-based companies, Sandy and one other.

Sidecar, at its very most basic, is a simple survey widget. It was developed—with product managers in mind—as a way to make it easy for developers to embed surveys and feedback mechanisms within the interface of the Web-based apps they’re developing. The widget was specifically targeted at gathering feedback during the oft-cryptic and hectic “beta testing” cycle that every product experiences.

But, as we walked through the demo, I immediately saw the opportunity for it to do more. Much more.

I couldn’t help but think of all of its potential as a feedback mechanism, a means of managing context sensitive help, a supplemental page-ranking system (think “contextual Digg“), and—last but not least—the means for you (yes, you!) to truly engage in conversations with your users in a format that is easy for them and valuable for you.

That’s a lot to cram into a little widget. But I’m definitely seeing the potential. Even in this beta version.

So of course I piped up with, “You know, I could really see this being useful on my blog. Or any blog for that matter. Blogs get feedback via comments. But that’s post-by-post feedback. I could really use this to assess the impact of Silicon Florist, as a whole.”

So, I continued to beg and plead. (I could almost hear the engineering team cursing me.) And luckily, I was invited to the private beta. Then I saw Greg Rau’s presentation at Startupalooza, and I was convinced that I better get this thing deployed sooner rather than later. So, now, you can see the Sidecar widget running right now, over at the top of the Silicon Florist sidebar.

Feel free to bang on it.

Click to see the Sidecar admin screen fullsizeSidecar is simple. Ridiculously so. And that’s the best compliment I can give it. It took me less than five minutes to build that Silicon Florist widget—and that was with the not-ready-for-prime-time admin panel. The same thoughtful simplicity that informed the design of the widget interface clearly permeates the widget configuration tools, as well. (I’ve provided a screenshot of the beta admin screen for reference.)

There are a bevy of reports and dashboards, as well: feedback, pages, users, and widget-use metrics. But I can’t say much about those until there is actually some data from the widget.

The only downside to Sidecar, at this point, is the installation, which is still a bit geeky. Not overly geeky mind you, but it requires mucking with code. And while that will have little to no impact on the Web-app developer adoption, it may curtail adoption with a broader market. I’ll be interested to see how StepChange puts its simplicity-smarts into making the widget installation (WordPress widget or plugin, for example) as simple as widget creation and management.

I don’t have any word as to when the Sidecar beta goes from private to public beta, but I will be continuing to provide feedback to the StepChange team on issues I encounter and the features I would like to see. If you’d like to chime in, you have two ways: commenting on this post or, preferably, using the widget (hint, hint).

For more information on the widget, visit Sidecar. For more on the people behind Sidecar, visit StepChange.[

Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for April 2, 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.

VC funding for open source hits an all-time high

I don’t know about you, but I tend to think of Portland as an Open Source Mecca, of sorts. If you’re of the same mind, this can only bode well for us.

Wiki (Birthday) Wednesday

It’s an extra-special Wiki Wednesday at AboutUs this week, marking the birth of the Wiki. And I mean, really. What better way to celebrate the birth of the Wiki than with its father, Ward Cunningham?

Reality check

Not that this is Portland-based, but hey, sometimes I need to provide context. And that’s what this is. An extremely interesting comment on the state of Web 2.0. It’s a rather sobering reminder about the actual “saturation point” of the tools in which we tend to live on a daily basis. This is New York. And it’s youngins in New York, at that. Still a lot of folks out there who could become your “target market,” startups.

Announcing Ruby on Crack

This April Fools’ post was included purely for the RailsConf 2008 reference. Yes, RailsConf is a Portland event, you silly goose. For those of you with delicate sensibilities, these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Move along.

Sneak peak at new Jive video

Portland-based Jive Software has got some stuff simmering on the stove and cooking in the oven. But they’re going to give you a little taste of what’s in store. Sam Lawrence writes “I’ve seen the thing so many times now I may have convinced myself it makes sense so let me know what you think it means before you get the context of the rest of our new site. Love to hear your ideas.”

Startupalooza Photos

Aaron Hockley writes “Shooting Startupalooza on Saturday was a lot of fun, it was a great group of people in an environment with a lot of creative and positive energy. I love shooting events, from small gatherings to crowds of hundreds or thousands. I posted over 140 shots on Flickr, and here are a few shots that are representative of the event.”

InnoTech Oregon: Rollercoaster Ride

Sean Lowery writes “Producing an event of this size is like planning for the Superbowl or a giant wedding. You plan for six months and hope someone shows up. We expect close to 2000 people for InnoTech this year. Right now we have 500 people registered.”

Portlanteau: PDX, a Little Bit of This, a Little Bit of That

Nate Angell writes “And so I present a term that describes this wordly phenomenon: portlanteau, n. a portmanteau word that links the name of the city of Portland, Oregon to another word or concept.”

Startup Weekend Legal Issues

Steve Morris writes “I had wondered how the Startup Weekend process dealt with ownership issues — but apparently the SEC is the real problem. There’s a Startup Weekend project scheduled for Portland May 23-25.”

OEN PubTalk™: Reducing Startup Risk

(Full disclosure: I used to work for Dave Moffenbeier and I continue to do work for Pete Grillo. And what’s more, Pete has some folks working for him who used to work for Dave… Still, this sounds interesting.) Serena Regazzoni writes “OEN has put together a great panel of entrepreneurs who will discuss these risks as a way to help guide entrepreneurs towards minimizing each one, and maximizing their rewards. The panel will include three successful serial entrepreneurs: Kanth Gopalpur, CEO Monsoon Inc, David Moffenbeier, Co-founder/COO, Absorbent Technologies and Pete Grillo, Founder/CEO Iterasi.”

View all my bookmarks on Ma.gnolia

Vidoop secures Michael Richardson

The recently founded Portland Vidoop office, headed up by Scott Kveton, continues to make waves in the local tech startup scene. This time, Vidoop has announced that local Reed-schooled Python-magician Michael Richardson has signed on as part of the Portland team.

You may know Richardson as the coding muscle behind such hits as “Pulse of PDX” and “Tweetpeek.” He’s also a regular at Portland’s weekly Beer and Blog gatherings. And just an all-around scary-intelligent coding type.

According to the Vidoop blog:

Michael will be a software developer in the ever-growing Portland office working on OpenID, distributed social networking and other “open web” related initiatives.

For more on Richardson, read the Vidoop post announcing his hiring. For more information on Vidoop and its technology, visit Vidoop.

Grabb.it redesigns, incorporates personal MP3 tumblogs

Portland-based Grabb.it, the service which has the potential to help catalog Web-based MP3s for music lovers everywhere, picked a rather inauspicious date to release a new version of the Grabb.it site. But they’re not fooling around.

The new site now enables anyone to create tumblog posts based on the MP3s they grab.

Grabb.it is the group music blog where anyone can contribute. Sign up to create your own personal mp3 blog about songs you love and to send your posts to services like Tumblr, Blogger and Facebook.

This new feature holds promise, both as a way of allowing users to easily create reviews of the tunes in their respective libraries and—hopefully—as a means of increasing the reach and promotion of the Grabb.it service to active tumblog and Facebook types.

What’s a “tumblog“? I’m glad you asked. According to Wikipedia:

A tumblelog (or tlog) is a variation of a blog that favors short-form, mixed-media posts over the longer editorial posts frequently associated with blogging. Common post formats found on tumblelogs include links, photos, quotes, dialogues, and video. Unlike blogs, tumblelogs are frequently used to share the author’s creations, discoveries, or experiences while providing little or no commentary.

Other noticeable changes to the Grabb.it site include a highly simplified UI and a very slick, intelligent bread-crumb trail.

For more on the MP3-finding service and its new tumblogging capabilities, visit Grabb.it.

Portland Web Innovators: Five reason to attend

[Editor: Given the wealth of cool events happening in Portland on any given night, I thought it might be beneficial to have the people who drive these get-togethers give you their take on the events. “Why should you attend [whatever]?” So, with that, I introduce a new Silicon Florist series: Five Reasons]

Portland Web Innovators

Adam DuVander gives us five reasons we should all consider attending Portland Web Innovators.

  • You enjoy topics that are a mixture of tech, design, and business.
  • You like to learn about new projects and find collaborators
  • You love building on the web, no matter what your job title is or what technology you use.
  • You think about what can happen tomorrow, not what can’t happen today
  • You want to learn from a live collaborative discussion between passionate people.

Sound like you? Well you’re in luck. Because the next Portland Web Innovators get-together is this week, Tuesday (April Fools’!) Wednesday, April 2 at ISITE Design beginning at 7 PM. Entitled “Publishing Platform Wars!” the gathering will provide the opportunity to join the pdxwi types—the real users of these publishing systems—as they compare site publishing tools like Drupal, Bend-based ExpressionEngine, and WordPress.

To RSVP, visit Portland Web Innovators on Upcoming. For more information, visit (the spiffy new!) Portland Web Innovators.

InnoTech Oregon 2008: Too much good stuff

InnoTechI’ve been watching the InnoTech Oregon Conference grow into its own over the past five years. And while I was always close to attending (I think I may have even registered, last year), I never quite found the time to make it.

This year, I’m making time to attend.

I’ve always found InnoTech interesting because of its variety. Traditional business and cutting-edge technology. Green tech and CIOs. Non-profits and eMarketing. To me, it has the opportunity to be one of the few annual tech events that truly helps start and continue conversations among the different groups that work and live in Portland and the surrounding areas. Be those groups factions of the same business or complementary businesses working together.

In fact, there’s so much happening at the conference, I’m going to have to break it into multiple blog posts.

But I wanted to start with this. The folks at InnoTech have offered a 25% discount to all of you Silicon Florist readers. So, if you’re considering attending, please take advantage of it:

Discounted InnoTech Oregon Conference & Exhibits Pass includes Breakfast Presentation with Don Tapscott, Author, WIKINOMICS, at the reduced rate of $45.00 per person ($60.00 per person standard price.) Click to select INNOTECH GENERAL REGISTRATION and enter Discount Code SIL45D to confirm your place at the breakfast.

There is literally a busload of interesting speakers at this thing. But I wanted to highlight some of the Silicon Forest startup types, especially, like:

Look for more information from me as we get closer to the actual event. But if this post has piqued your curiosity, please take advantage of the “SIL45D” discount code at registration.

For more information, visit InnoTech Oregon.

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