When I talk about the Portland software development and open source scenes, one of the first questions I always get—always—is “Sounds interesting. About how many people in Portland are involved in the software community there?”
And inevitably, as that question hangs in the air, I stare blankly. Smile feebly. And say, “A lot. There are a lot.” Because fact of the matter is: we have no idea. Maybe there are 50,000. Maybe there are 200. There’s no telling. Because there has been no measurement of that group. Until now. The Portland software community census is designed to take a stab at coming up with that magic number.
If you’re involved with Portland’s software community, you know that there’s an amazing variety and depth of work being created at companies large and small, in hobby side-projects, and open source efforts. The City of Portland has selected software as one of its economic development clusters for the economic plan currently being written. Agencies like the Portland Development Commission (PDC) are involved in documenting our software community and developing a plan for working with it, but they lack accurate data on the types of software development local organizations are undertaking, and have limited experience with the kinds of small companies, ad hoc organizations, and independent work that forms much of our technology efforts.
We’d like to assist the PDC and City of Portland efforts by initiating a software community census…
That means anyone—open source, proprietary, mobile, Web, and everything in between—involved in the Portland software community anywhere—working alone, working in a small shop, working in a larger corporation, working for the government—should participate. We can work on filtering by disciplines later. For now, it’s simply important to get the broadest view available. To get an idea of whether or not there truly is any there there.
The survey only takes a few minutes. Tops. And as Seth Shikora notes, some of the questions are optional. But rest assured, your participation could mean the difference between a valid count of the folks in this community and our continuing to toss around vagaries of incorrect assumptions.
So, it’s kind of big deal.
Still not sold? Well, you might want to read some of the background from Audrey on how this came about and why the group was motivated to pursue this tact. You’ll see a common theme: we just don’t know how many folks are involved in this community.
Last year, about this time, I was invited to participate in one of a series of conversations organized by the mayor’s office to connect with local businesses. We talked about the role of open source in Portland’s tech environment, and the things we saw happening with our startup and side-project colleagues. One of the things that became clear through this conversation was that city government entities don’t really know how to interact with our loosely organized, ad hoc organizations. We told them that this open source thing was really big, and we knew that a lot of us were working in informal and microbusiness settings, but we didn’t have any numbers to demonstrate what “big” was, or what sorts of things people actually work on.
Why don’t you stop what you’re doing, take a couple of minutes, and fill out the survey? It’s open through the end of May, but the sooner they get your response, the better.