A dozen long stemmed Rose City years: Silicon Florist is 12 years old

This is just weird. And every year it just gets more so. There’s no other way to put it. I literally had no idea that the night I scrambled out of bed and to my computer — inspired to register a new domain name, discovering that name was taken, and then tongue-firmly-in-cheek registering one that was available — would result in this. How could I? And yet, here we are. Twelve years later. And this side project just keeps going. And going. Yep, it’s still here. It’s still Silicon Florist.

Twelve years ago was a very different time. In a very different Portland. And a very different me.

I had soured on being a startup employee. I was looking for new inspiration. And new ideas. So I found myself spending an increasing amount of time with the Portland open source community.

It was an incredible group of developers and engineers. Filled with vibrancy. Driven not by financial outcomes or proprietary secrets. But rather, focused on collaborating to craft the best products they possibly could. Not because of business opportunities. Not because of the promise of venture capital. Not because of some vision of attaining wealth. But because of problems. Because there was something wrong — or missing — on the Internet.

It wasn’t part of their day job. It wasn’t a consulting gig. It was more of a hobby. A calling. A way of giving back. A way of making the world a better place.

And I found that attitude and that passion ridiculously inspiring and refreshing. Especially after being immersed in the world dotcom flameouts, ridiculously improbable growth trajectories, and financially motivated venture funded companies.

Open source was a fresh take on the power and potential of technology. And the potential both developers and users had to leverage it. And it felt as fresh to me as the first time I sat down at a TRS-80, poked at the keyboard, and hit Play and Record on the tape player to save my work.

It felt like opportunity.

But being only a hobbiest developer and lacking the skills to do much more than write BASIC, LPMud, HTML, and some poorly structured ActionScript, I couldn’t really figure out an effective way to contribute to the community. And I desperately wanted to contribute. I wanted to take part. I wanted to help.

But I was a marketing guy. I wrote copy. I was, by all accounts, about as antithetical to the open source community as anyone could be. How was I suppose to give back to this community that had unknowingly provided me with so much inspiration?

And then it dawned on me.

Throughout my professional life, I had inevitably been the geeky marketing guy who was directed to the engineering department to learn more about the solutions our developers were building. I was the employee tasked with describing those solutions in pithy phrases and concise yet hyperbolic paragraphs.

In short, I was the one who tried to promote highly technical solutions in plain English.

So why, I thought, couldn’t I simply do the same thing but by borrowing a more open source ethos? Why couldn’t I take my marketing communications skills and use them to highlight what was happening in the open source community and a burgeoning new generation of tech startups being born out of that community? What possible reason could there be to not open source my marketing and put it to use for the community?

There wasn’t one. At least not one that seemed to be preventing me. And so, I started blogging on Silicon Florist. Twelve years ago today. (NOTE: It would still take me another couple of days to work up the courage to actually hit “Publish.”)

It wasn’t perfect. It took me a while to find the right voice. And I made a bunch of mistakes. (Honestly, I still do.) But I eventually transitioned my late-90s blogging snark into a weird overly optimistic and supportive Gonzo journalism that worked for me. Sprinkled every so often with a cynical screed. And that seemed to resonate with the community.

So despite traffic (or lack thereof), despite lack of a viable business model, despite lack of pay, and despite a whole bunch of other stuff, I still wake up every single morning as enthralled, enchanted, and excited about the Portland startup community as I was that night, 12 years ago. And excited to work on this side project. Or side hustle. Or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

You know, kind of like open source.

Because I still see the potential. I still see the opportunity. I still see the problems. I still see the struggle. And I still see you. And that product you believe in. And I want other people to see if too. Because they should. And because you should keep building it. And you should keep trying. Because if not you, then who?

So let’s both keep at it, shall we? Despite everything else. Let’s keep going.

Happy Birthday, Silicon Florist. And thank you so much to the Portland startup community for putting up with it for 12 years. I really really appreciate it. Sincerely.

Until the next poorly written post…

(And if you really really feel like celebrating this milestone, why not join us at the PIE 10 year celebration, next week.)

Previous Silicon Florist birthday posts

Birthdays make you nostalgic? Me too! So if you feel like wallowing in that nostalgia with me, please have at it. Here are a bunch of old birthday posts from yesteryear.