Month: August 2008

Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for August 13

Zapproved: A Lightweight Decision Making App

Marshall Kirkpatrick writes “Want to go to fewer meetings at work? By making group decision making faster, easier and more accountable, new app Zapproved may help you avoid hours of painful face to face drudgery or endless email loose ends and get back to work. Zapproved is a lightweight hosted decision making service, it’s essentially like Evite for approval processes.”

Platial Testing Out Ads on Frappr

Via the Platial blog “We thought it was about time to see if we could support ourselves with some minimal Frappr advertising. For this test we’re just advertising our own iPhone app. Please let us know what you think. We’re close to being able to let you opt-out of the ads as well.”

Seattle VC firms Maveron and Voyager Capital venture southward » VentureBeat

Via Venturebeat “Meanwhile, Voyager Capital has made moves to the south, as well, bringing on a new partner, Diane Fraiman (right), to open an office in Portland, Oregon and adding another, Daniel Ahn, as a managing director of its franchise in Menlo Park, Calif. — home of the big Silicon Valley venture capital firms.”

In which Verso has a Lunch (2.0) date

Verso writes “Earlier today I happened to be reading my friend Rick Turoczy’s blog and imagine my surprise when he offered to buy me lunch! Well having had a good experience last time I had lunch with Rick I figured I would be foolish to pass up his offer. So off I went to CubeSpace and imagine my surprise when I saw a number of people there whom I recognized! Turns out Rick had extended his invite to a number of others as well, but somehow I had mistakenly read it as just for me.”

Portland Lunch 2.0 at Cube Space courtesy of Silicon Florist

Gary Pool writes “I had a great time at lunch today. It was called Lunch 2.0. We played networking games like meet someone you don’t know. I met some new friends and networked with some old ones. We shared some job related war stories and tall tales.”

Lunch 2.0: My Twitter-y Experience | Our PDX Network

Via OurPDX blog “In all of about 45 minutes I was able to put faces with names of people I already knew, and connect with them face to face outside of the Internets. There is one thing to be said for just walking up and talking to strangers at a networking event, but when you already know what goes on in their daily lives, it’s so much better.”

So, can I buy you lunch today?

Well, it’s finally here: Portland Lunch 2.0, the Silicon Florist first anniversary edition. And to celebrate, I’d like to buy you lunch. But don’t tell anyone. This will just be our secret.

All that you have to do is meet me down at CubeSpace around noon. That’s it!

Now, it’s no secret that I’m not the best in front of a crowd. So I’m currently wallowing in a near-death tizzy about forgetting to thank some very important people. (And it’s just you and me. Imagine what a wreck I would be if more people decided to show up?)

So, rather than risk it, I thought I’d do what I do marginally well: write a post.

First and foremost, thank you, um, you. Thanks for reading this blog for a year. For the amazing support. And for the true feeling of community. I completely stumbled into this. And I continue to stumble—and be humbled by the amazing community we have here. I feel incredibly lucky. And, I really, really appreciate your support. Thank you.

Thank you to all of the cool side projects and companies Portland and the Silicon Forest. Thank you to each and of every one of you—geeks, bloggers, and leaders—who take a risk, try to bend technology to your will, and in the end, wind up creating some incredibly cool things about which—in my opinion—everyone should know.

I love hearing about what you’re doing. And hopefully, I’m doing a little bit to help other folks understand what all of those late hours and crazy conversations truly mean.

And I’d also like to thank some individuals:

  • Thanks to Jake Kuramoto for bringing Lunch 2.0 to Portland. Without him, I wouldn’t have this knot in my stomach right now.
  • Thanks to CubeSpace for always being the gracious host for the Portland Web tech community. Without them, we would all (and by all I mean you and me) be trying to stand in my backyard during lunch.
  • Thanks to Marshall Kirkpatrick, who has been a true mentor, a connector of dots, and a consummate promoter of the blog. I can honestly say that I’ve never received a better introduction than, “Rick follows everything going in Portland tech. And then he blogs the shit out of it.”
  • Thanks to Justin Kistner, who has truly codified a community with Beer and Blog, who has helped Silicon Florist reach a wider audience, and without whom, we’d still all be seeing that little watering-can guy in the header.
  • Thanks to Scott Kveton for his Portvangelist magic, his seemingly unshakeable belief in what this blog could be, his guest posts on Silicon Florist, and of course, for his indefatigable (that’s right, I said “indefatigable”) role in all things Open. He definitely keeps me cranking content.
  • Thanks to Mike Rogoway and Steve Woodward at The Oregonian, for the link love, the kind support, and for realizing that there is something happening here. Something that’s important. Something that deserves a wider audience.
  • Thanks to Darius Monsef, for sharing his insight, his intelligence, his scheming, and his guest posts which always lead me to wonder if my servers are actually going to be able to withstand the traffic.
  • Thanks to everyone who has ever written a guest post, thought about writing a guest post, or read a guest post here on Silicon Florist. It’s really rewarding for me to have the opportunity to share other voices and views, and it’s made this blog a much better resource because of that sharing.
  • And finally, thanks to everyone who has ever read, subscribed, commented, trackbacked, and shared articles. It is, after all, a conversation.
  • And thanks, of course, to my family and friends without whose support I’d never be able to do what I do. “I thought you were a workaholic before, but this year took you to a whole new level.”

I could go on and on and on. Literally. And hopefully each and every one of you—whom I would love to list—know who you are. I hope. I hope I do a good job of letting you know that.

And I’d like to do a better job of that in year two. Making sure that people know not only what’s happening in Portland but who is making things happen. And there’s plenty of other stuff cooking, too. Let’s see if we can’t make this thing even better, shall we?

So come on down to CubeSpace, grab some lunch, and let’s celebrate a wacky, wonderful first year of Silicon Florist. I can’t wait to see what we accomplish in year two.

And don’t forget, Shizzow will be the guest of honor, so beta accounts will be flowing like honey.

Counting down to Inverge 2008

InvergeIn less than a month, a number of luminaries will descend upon the Rose City for Inverge 2008, a two-day opportunity to share their insights about the convergence of media platforms.

So far, the following speakers have been confirmed:

For more information on topics and timing, see the Inverge schedule.

Need more reasons to attend? Okay, you’re a tough sell, but I’m a soft touch. How about this:

Inverge brings presenters and attendees together from a variety of professions and disciplines to explore changes and opportunities presented by the increasing digitization of media, the democratization of distribution and the proliferation of connectivity into new areas. The big picture is revealed via the unique integration of disciplines at the event. The presentations are high-level, informative and conceptual, pointing the way toward the future and facilitating advanced professional development.

Still not biting? Okay, well… How about a 2-for-1 deal? That’s right. I’ve been authorized to give you a 50% discount when you register two people. That means the price per person drops to below $200. Split the cost with a friend. Give someone a ticket as a gift. Or look to scalp it on eBay.

To get your discount, simply visit the Inverge registration page and enter the code 2for1SF. That’s it. Easy!

What’s that? You don’t have anyone with whom to split this deal? Oh my. That IS a sad story. Okay, well enter the code SF and get a 25% discount. See there? Buck up, little camper. It’s all better.

Inverge 2008: the interactive convergence conference will take place Sept. 4 – 5 at the Armory in Portland’s Pearl District (128 NW 11th).

Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for August 12

AboutUs page count tops 12 million

Via the AboutUs blog “Back in February, I posted that AboutUs pagecount tops 11 million*. At the time, our statistics page was broken so there was nothing to link to. Now it’s fixed, sort of. We still don’t have a way to filter out stubs, personal pages or meta pages.”

My Big Changes at DuVinci

Adam DuVander writes “I want to help others create on the Web. There are designers with great skills who want to learn to program. And there are bright business owners who can’t execute on their ideas. I believe anyone can learn to program. I’m looking forward to proving that.”

Substance at SXSW – Substance

Via the Substance blog “We’re really excited about the ideas for the presentation, but first we need your help. If you’d be so kind as to visit the SXSW Interactive Panel Picker (here’s a direct link to our presentation), register, and give our presentation a high star rating, we’d sincerely appreciate it (you have until August 29th to voice your opinion). And if there’s specific stuff you’d like us to cover in the presentation as it pertains to the session description, please leave it in the comments. Thanks in advance, and we hope to see you in Austin in 2009.”

PDX Critique at CubeSpace (Monday August 25, 2008)

PDX Critique meets once a month to share feedback on works in progress. Please see our website for details on how to sign up to show your work.

Listen (If You Wanna Know a Secret) – ClickZ

What’s becoming clear, especially for marketers, is that ignoring the conversation of your audience is hazardous. You miss things. Big things, like well-connected customers upset about things you could probably fix and capitalize on if only you knew about them. Jive Software CMO Sam Lawrence summed it up like this: “When Marketing can feel comfortable becoming listeners instead of blasting sales messages, dramatic change ensues.”

Fuelly: Saving fuel through social networking

FuellyTake two well-known Oregon tech types—Portland’s Matt “matthowie” Haughey (of Metafilter fame) and Corvallis’ Paul Bausch (of Blogger and ORBlogs fame). Give them a problem, like skyrocketing fuel prices. And a couple of weeks.

Shake. Stir. Code. Sprinkle in some social networking and some cutting edge app development and what do you get?

Fuelly, a service designed to help you keep track of your fuel use and improve your fuel economy through social pressure err… networking.

As simple and straightforward apps go, Fuelly is a winner.

Don’t believe me? Well, okay. But maybe you’ll believe Gina Trapani of Lifehacker, who says:

Overall the point of Fuelly is to make saving fuel more fun by connecting your stats with your friends, and at this early point in its life, it does a pretty great job.

What’s that? You need more proof? Man oh man. Gas prices have definitely made you grumpy and cynical.

Okay, how about Get Rich Slowly, which offers:

I think this is a great idea. Fuelly taps the power of the masses to compile real fuel efficiency data so that users can find ways to save money. Brilliant.

With kudos like that, it didn’t take Fuelly long to catch on.

Me? I’m just happy to see these two Oregon folks getting some of the recognition they so richly deserve for solving yet another problem with a simple and thoughtful solution.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Fuelly helps me and my family reduce our fuel consumption.

Fuelly is a site that lets you track, share, and compare your gas mileage. Simply sign up, add a car, and begin tracking your mileage. By recording and analyzing your mileage, you can see how much money you can save with small driving changes. You can also see how your mileage compares with EPA estimates and the mileage of other drivers using Fuelly. Tips and a discussion forum also offer ways to save. The site is free to use, so sign up to start tracking your miles today.

(Hat tip Travis Cannon)

Shizzow knows Portland, Oregon. Now get to know Shizzow.

ShizzowSharing information about your current location with people you trust has always held this glimmer of potential. The glimmer of actually finding the time to meet face-to-face during our ever increasingly busy schedules. The glimmer of that impromptu meetup with people whom you would like to get to know better.

To date, that potential has always remained a glimmer.

The reality? That’s been slightly less beneficial. Reality has tended to be a useless stream of updates, declaring your friends are “in Portland, Oregon” or, worse yet, at some random address that holds little to no meaning.

Introducing Shizzow

And that’s why I’m so glad to see Portland-centric Shizzow opening its private beta, today.

What’s Shizzow?

Shizzow provides the technology for you to notify your friends of your location, with as little effort as possible, so you can spend more time hanging out with your peeps and less time trying to coordinate bringing them together through phone, email, SMS and IM.

I hear you. “Another one?” But hold your horses. I think Shizzow’s got a number of things going for it. And, as far as Portland goes? I think Shizzow has nailed it.

First and foremost, Shizzow is for Portland, Oregon. And only Portland, Oregon. Not the world. Not the Northwest. Portland. And that’s it. Shizzow isn’t about the video-game mentality of adding as many followers as possible—followers you may never ever meet in person. Shizzow is about knowing where your friends in Portland are. So that you can meet them, face-to-face, when those opportunities avail themselves.

Simple and local. By Portland, for Portland. And in my book, that’s huge.

Second, Shizzow is designed to understand where you are—and to tell people where you are—as simply and easily as possible. And I’ve been duly impressed by how hard they’ve worked to make sure that the database of locations is as deep and intuitive as possible.

Why is that important? Two reasons:

  1. No more (or far less) “Please enter the address of your location.” When you “shout” with Shizzow, you just need to know the name of the Portland place in which you’re currently standing. Not the address. Not the GPS coordinates. The name of the place. Easy.
  2. I know places better than addresses. When I’m reading the shouts of my Shizzow friends, it’s a lot (a lot!) easier for me to process “EcoTrust Building” than it is for me to process “721 NW 9th Avenue Portland, OR 97209.” That means, that I’m more likely to go meet my friends or plan my trips accordingly.

Sounds good, huh? I know! So let’s get you involved in this private beta.

Beta invites available

Dawn Foster has been helping Shizzow with its community, so if you’re in the Portland area and interested in an invite, she’s the best person to ping… but you better hurry:

Right now, the beta invites are limited to a couple hundred people living in Portland. I’ll be sending out invites today along with the rest of the team.

Even now, I’m already happily getting a flood of new friends (thank you!), so I know the Portland gang is getting involved. I can’t wait to see how this works once we get big group shouting.

A true side project to startup story

And the final reason that I’m so happy for these guys? They’ve truly made the leap from side project to startup:

Each member of the Shizzow crew has a full-time job outside of Shizzow, and it’s taken a ton of sweat equity and sleep-deprived nights to bring Shizzow to fruition. But because we’ve believed in our vision and believed in the idea of bringing friends and like-minded people together, the sacrifices we’ve made have not seemed like work but instead like… something we simply had to do. And now, 10 months and tens of thousands of lines of code later, we’re ready…

I can’t really put into words how proud I am of these guys. And how excited I am to get everyone in Portland on this service.

That said, what if you don’t happen to make the initial round of invites? Fear not, gentle reader. There’s still another way to get into shouting with Shizzow. As Dawn says:

If you want an invite, and don’t hear from me today, you can get one from me at Lunch 2.0 on Wednesday.

That’s right! Shizzow will be the guest of honor at the Silicon Florist’s Portland Lunch 2.0, this Wednesday. So come on down to CubeSpace, grab some lunch, meet some people face-to-face, and get signed up with Shizzow, so that you can continue those discussions—and continue getting to know your Portland peers.

Call me evil and conniving, but I’m seriously hoping you don’t get an invite. Because that way I get the chance to see you, in person.

In any case, I’m really, really looking forward to all the shouts from CubeSpace, this Wednesday. And to running into you in person—thanks to Shizzow—in the near future.

 

Shizzow is a location-driven social networking service that encourages quality relationships via face-to-face interaction. Dig in at http://shizzow.com . For more information on the launch and Shizzow’s story, see the Shizzow blog.

Here’s the Deadliest Catch: Hiring an Agency to Build Your Startup

startup_catch_agencies.jpg

[HTML1]You just launched your new startup. You’re caught up in the excitement and energy of it all and happy to see your baby in the world… Here’s the catch, the deadliest: You can’t change or adapt your site because you hired an agency to build it.

Please know that I’m not picking on Agencies here… I’m picking on the entrepreneurs that hire agencies to build their startups. We have some of the best agencies in the world here, but you should NOT hire them to build your startup. (I mean no offense to any agencies that are reading this, but for startups to work with you they risk the future success of their business.)

Agencies Build Great Websites

Startups are not just websites. With a website for a small business you can get away with building it out and then other than keeping the content fresh and minor tweaks here and there, not mess with it much for a year or so. With a startup, you’re going to change, modify or add something major within the first few days, sometimes even hours of your site’s life. In some cases between the original site map and spec phase and the actual launch of the site, you’ll change something major.

No Ability to Change or Adapt

With any agency built site you’ll be able to update most of the content, maybe even add some sub content pages in your CMS area… But the startup world is extremely fast and chaotic. In order to survive a startup needs to be constantly evaluating their service, the market and the latest industry trends. When you exist in a market where a company can pop up overnight and completely shake things up, you need to be ready to adapt.

It is important to keep in mind that you can’t possibly create an exact plan for the first 18 or even 6 months of your startup. 50% of what you do will simply be wrong. You need the flexibility to constantly be testing out ideas, trying new things and you need the financial freedom to do a lot of the wrong stuff. If you’re paying an agency to be wrong 50% of the time, you’ll run out of money very quickly.

Agencies Are Not Cheap

I’ve worked in the agency world and I know that there are a lot of overhead costs to keep a small company afloat… I also know that you get what you pay for and getting great work from an agency means having to spend some money. But for the same price a startup would pay an agency to build their site, they can hire a solid designer and a talented programmer for an entire year. With your own developer you can test out ideas and be ready to respond quickly to problems and opportunities.

Lack of Speed Kills

Bids, Quotes, Objective Summaries, Wireframes, Etc. Speed kills when driving drunk. but it is what keeps your startup alive. The web world has the attention span of a goldfish and to stay on top of their rapidly shifting focus, you need to stay tuned in to what your users need / want.

Internet Startup Red FlagsNone of the Founders Can Actually Develop the Website.

It should be a huge red flag for the founders and their early investors when none of the founders can develop the site. This isn’t to say that a startup without any developer founders can’t succeed, but it will take a bigger financial investment and be a bit slower to get it off the ground.

When you don’t hire an agency, you have to know what you’re doing… you don’t have to know how to program your site… but you should know why you built it in PHP rather than ASP, why a certain framework is best for you or why you should custom build, etc. It is hugely important that somebody on the early team can build the site… or you immediately hire on a developer. If you simply can’t learn enough about what you’re trying to start to manage some technical contractors than find a partner who understands the technical part… If you just can’t learn it, then don’t start your site.

A Real World Scenario

Fantasy Land: You love sushi. You live on the stuff… You can rattle off all kinds of different rolls and fish delicacies… so you want to start a fishing company. You know how it generally works. Get a boat, hire a good crew, find some good fishing spots and viola! you’re rolling in the tuna.

Reality Land: You know nothing about how the fishing business actually works. You aren’t fluent in the terms… “Your sharemen are saying your prime berth is no good, so you’re talking to a banker about any naked mans that can point you in the right direction.” What kind of boat is right for what kind of fishing… long-lining, crabbing, etc.? How do you evaluate the skills of a good captain & crew? What is the appropriate equipment you need to buy to be effective? How do you know when you’re spending too much on something or not spending enough?

A Cure for Agencyitis

So what if you’re one of the entrepreneurs who has already hired an agency… or are a non-technical founder not sure how to go about learning what you need to learn to hire the right developer?

I didn’t want this to just be a harsh critique and not offer solutions, but the answer to the above question is a long answer and this post has already exceeded most people’s internet attention span. So I’m going to write a part 2 of this post with a hopefully helpful and in depth answer. Look for it here, or the coming soon www.InternetAstronauts.com – A Bootstrap Startup Blog

The Darius’ Advocate

The points above are from my experiences, but I’d love to hear your thoughts… even if you completely disagree. An agency perspective could be useful too.

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And now on a lighter note… and sticking with the fishing theme:

6 Ways Bering Sea Fisherman are Like Startup Entrepreneurs

boatinice.jpg

They Risk Big

Alaskan king crab fishing reported over 300 fatalities per 100,000 in 2005. While startup entrepreneurs rarely directly risk their lives like the bering sea fisherman, they risk their financial security, personal relationships and often put huge burdens on their loved ones.

They Love What You Do

If you’ve watched the deadliest catch than you would know that Bering Sea fisherman love what they do. They hear a calling to the sea and she beats the hell out of them every season… but they come back every year because they love being fishermen. Many of them have been generations fishermen and they pass down their love of the sea to their kids.

People Think They’re Nuts

It’s hard to watch the show and not think these guys are all missing a couple key connectors in their brain. The weather is as hostile as it gets, the work is back breaking hard and you stink like fish for weeks… oh yeah, and you’ll likely get sea sick enough to know what you look like from the inside out. To the outside person, it just doesn’t make any sense. Why give up the security of a comfortable career and balanced home life in order to work ridiculous hours and risk so much? Because they love it.

They Are Nuts

Let’s face it… you do have to be a little nutty to suffer as much as they do. But crazy ideas are often the most successful. It takes that stretch of the imagination and sanity to come up with something that doesn’t yet exist.

They Smell Bad

Startup entrepreneurs definitely don’t smell as bad as a fisherman, but chaotic working hours often throw a wrench in any plans you have to do basic things like grooming, working out… and sometimes even eating and drinking non-caffienated fluids.

They Need to Be a Bit Lucky

Fishermen have Charts, Maps, Expert Team Members… and if they drop their pots where the crab aren’t it could spell disaster for the season. They also can’t prepare for the random rogue waves that have been known to steal fishermen from the decks of the boat. A startup entrepreneur can have a solid launch plan, the right team and at the end of the day… a little bit of luck could be the difference between your rockets igniting or exploding on the launch pad.

They Make Good Money

The last one doesn’t count… because if you can’t handle the previous 6, then it doesn’t matter how much money you could make it just wouldn’t be worth it. Being a startup entrepreneur like being a Bering Sea fisherman is not about the money. It is about doing what you love and doing something new, exciting and hard as hell.

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[Editor: Thanks, once again, to Darius for sharing his ideas and opinions on the startup scene. I always look forward to hearing his insights and first-hand accounts from the trenches. For more from Darius…]

Darius A Monsef IV, Internet AstronautDarius is an Internet Astronaut and the creator and editor of COLOURlovers.com. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for August 10

Who Loves You, Baby?

Michelle “mediachick” Anderson writes “Last night I spent a couple of hours at Beer and Blog, a weekly get-together for those of us in Portland, Oregon. The premise: Bloggers helping bloggers over beer. We usually meet at the Green Dragon (who love us). Sometimes we work together, and sometimes there is a specific (and tasty) topic of discussion. Suffice to say, it’s a popular event among local bloggers, and when you have a popular local blogger/author/startup entrepreneur leading the discussion, you can be sure lots of people will show up.”

Beer and Blog – Narrative Techniques For Blogging: An Event Review « Link En Fuego

Bram Pitoyo writes “Beer and Blog is undoubtedly the best way to meet members of this growing [Portland tech] community in an informal, relaxed environments—if by ‘informal’ and ‘relaxed’ you mean ‘meeting local Tweeters and bloggers that you followed and subscribed to 24/7, but could only see in 48×48 pixel avatars.'”

Recent OpenID vulnerabilities | The Vidoop Blog

Scott Kveton “We have evaluated our myVidoop OpenID provider and have determined it is not vulnerable to this attack. Additionally, based on your feedback we have updated our SSL certificate on myVidoop.com to support secure redirection for identity URL’s (for example, going to https://username.myvidoop.com by default as an increased measure of security).”

Social Media: A Different Approach for Businesses at Fast Wonder Blog: Consulting, Online Communities, and Social Media

Dawn Foster writes “Jeremiah Owyang’s recent post about The Many Challenges of the Social Media Industry got me thinking about how social media requires a different approach from the way that many companies approach traditional marketing or customer engagement. Jeremiah’s post seems to be more targeted at companies whose main products and services are based on social media, but I’m going to take some of the ideas that he discusses and outline how they can be applied to companies using social media as part of their strategy for engaging with customers or communities or users.”

2009 SXSW Interactive Panel Picker

Welcome to the Panel Picker voting interface. This web application gives you the power to browse all programming proposals and give us your feedback on which ideas you think are most appropriate for the SXSW Interactive Festival (scheduled March 13-17, 2009 in Austin, Texas). You will need to create an account to begin voting.

Tapping into the collective intelligence

Janet Lee Johnson writes “I’ve been fortunate lately, learning the Art of RSS Mixology from Marshall Kirkpatrick, in one of his last extended consulting contracts before he begins writing for ReadWriteWeb full time. Marshall is an RSS and ‘market intelligence systems’ (I like that phrase) guru who’s helping me figure out how to efficiently and completely monitor the social web – including forums, social networks and the blogosphere – for the Academic Network and one of their large pharmaceutical clients.”

The Startup’s Journey

[Editor: Over the past couple of months, I’ve had the pleasure of getting into a number of fairly deep conversations with the Portland-based Back Fence PDX crew, Frayn Masters and Melissa Lion, about the power of story. You see, that’s what they do. They help people understand and formalize their stories.

I mean, technology is great and all, but the stories of the entrepreneurs in this town—the folklore—is what really brings these technology stories to life. But I could never really effectively capture that concept.

So why not let a real writer—an author—step in? Enter Melissa and Frayn—two real authors.

Melissa was kind enough to swing by Silicon Florist to write a guest post about the power of story in the world of startups.

Do you like what she says? Disagree? Why not take the opportunity to have that discussion with her, in person, at Beer and Blog tonight, where Melissa will be the guest speaker. And the beer is free. That’s right. Thanks to TeachStreet. Win, win, and, um, win.

Now, on with our story…]

The Startup’s Journey

by Back Fence PDX

Storytelling is appealing at its core because it’s gossip—that delicious thrill of knowing a person’s hidden life a little bit better. The details of the person’s story stick in the listener’s mind to be retold to others due to the history and flawed point of view of the teller. And, like a game of telephone, as it gets passed on, the little details change making the story more and more enticing, adding to the lore.

Business plans, white papers and websites all tell a hygienic story—none have a distinguishing voice—they are the musings of robots. None share the shiver of a whisper in your ear, or the eyes-wide-with-anticipation surprise of what comes next. That gossip, that raw story, is the reason blogs and social networking sites bloom. They are a break from the bullet points and style guides. Voiceless PowerPoint presentations don’t make for juicy party chatter.

People crave a voice. People desire a story.

The Startup’s Story

There is the official story of the company. And then there is the lore. It’s the legend, the myth, what Joseph Campbell calls the Hero’s Journey. Campbell identifies the elements of the Hero’s Journey as the separation, the initiation and the return.

The separation is the moment the founder decided to do something different. Why the change? What was that moment? Was he or she on a bike ride? At dinner with a friend? Suddenly woken in the night? What did it feel like when the idea appeared?

The company is initiated through its initial mistakes, trials, additions and edits. It is the discovery of what works.

The return occurs when past life is melded with the present. When the business is at once, something totally new and yet blended with the past, with lessons learned and warnings heeded or ignored. It is the after shot of the makeover story—the person is still the same, but they are improved through the trials of the initiation.

Narrative Arc

Though storytelling is a natural element of humanity and the original social networking tool, an engaging and repeatable narrative is difficult to capture. The tools of the story from plot to character to voice can be unwieldy. The craft of narrative is one learned through years of trial and error. Skilled use of the craft is what separates lore from idle chat.

Professional storytellers have a trained ear for the details of the arc; they understand that it is not about perfection, but about flaws, the real humanity of the journey. They brush aside the static of the story, the starts and stops and craft a tale that is simple, compelling and easily retold so the lore is passed like so many legends through the community.

A story crafted by professional storytellers is the beginning of the buzz. There is a twist of the unexpected, or the make-over that engages the reader or listener. It’s the whisper that starts the cacophony.

It gives even the newest companies a past, a humanity that can never be felt through white pages. It is the history that all humans relate to. A well-told lore adds value to all companies, and invites a personal connection with those who hear the tale.

By creating a lore, a start-up invites others to become characters in the tale. The Venture Capitalist wants a role, they want to be character in the story. The Angel wants to be a hero. The lore provides a structure for people to better see their potential role in the start-up.

What’s your story? What’s the gossip passed around the community? What is the lore that is yet untold?

Back Fence PDX is a storytelling series in Portland. Co-producers Frayn Masters and Melissa Lion are professional storytellers, crafting the lore of Portland companies.

Melissa Lion of Back Fence PDX will be presenting at Beer and Blog, this evening. To RSVP, visit Beer and Blog on Upcoming.

Silicon Florist’s links arrangement for August 07

Meet us in Portland (tonight & tomorrow night!) | TeachStreet Blog

Via the TeachStreet blog “And, on Friday night, we’ll be swinging by the Beer and Blog event, from 4-6 pm at the Green Dragon Bistro & Brewpub — address info for that here.”

Voyager expanding in Portland – Portland Business Journal:

“We expect to invest in two companies a year in the Portland market,” Benson said. “We’ll probably do one more later this year in Oregon,” which for Voyager’s purposes, could include Vancouver and Camas, just over the river in Washington State.

Melissa from Back Fence PDX will share narrative techniques for blogging at Beer and Blog

Via the Beer and Blog blog “[T]his week we’re going to hear from Melissa Lion of Back Fence PDX fame who will be sharing some narrative techniques that can be applied to blogging. If you haven’t had the good fortune to meet Melissa yet, here’s some background about her from her site”

BlinkGeo » The Geospatial Social Network: Will It Stick?

Via the BlinkGeo blog “If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, I encourage you to take a look at the Geospatial Professionals social network on Ning. Last week, the network grew from 5 members to 22…small by most standards, yet if the network continues to grow at that rate it may well be on its way to being a viable network.”

Will BlogHer ‘09 happen in PDX? | Our PDX Network

Well done, Portland! A thousand thanks for the effort. “BlogHer has closed the poll after receiving thousands of votes. The top three contenders are Portland, St. Louis, and Philadelphia. BlogHer’s conference organizers will now begin the task of locating a venue, hotels, ensuring the space fits the conference’s needs, and so on.” P.S. St. Louis is like the Portland of the Midwest, so if they get it will be like we got it. Almost.

Blog Off!

Via Portland Mercury’s Blogtown PDX “Call me a geek, but I’m really very excited about this: August 18-22, the Portland Water Bureau and the Oregon Trail Chapter of the American Red Cross are having a BLOG OFF to see which is the best!”

Relax, Bloggers: Nobody Is Keeping Score, and There’s No Quota.

Louis Gray writes “Unfortunately for many of us who participate in the tech blogging space, there are many examples of blogs or individuals who can crank out more than one post a day, every single day. There are examples of people who seemingly offer strong content with every article. And there are also the uber-connected, who are seemingly ever-present in a wide variety of social networks, always seem to get to things before you do, and are ‘ahead’ in every statistic, be it number of contacts, comments, or posts. And this doesn’t even begin to take into account the professional multi-author blogs, run like an assembly line.”
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