Yesterday, the great folks at AboutUs graciously opened their offices for the third time to Lunch 2.0, celebrating the second birthday of our Portland chapter.
I was curious, so I checked, and in the last two years, we’ve had 24 Lunch 2.0s, averaging one a month, just like I like it.
I always like going to AboutUs. Their space in the Olympia Mills Commerce Center on the southeast waterfront has fantastic panoramic views of downtown and of the northeast neighborhoods. It’s a great, open space with lots of light, a really inviting space.
Portland has gone acquisition crazy. Why? After surviving a lean year, there’s lots of good affordable technology out there. And that means that Portland-based businesses are snapping it up or other businesses are looking to Portland products to augment their own offerings.
Usually when it comes to entrepreneurial awards in the Silicon Forest, I do my best to cheer for the Web, open source, and mobile startups who receive nominations. And then I usually wind up crying in my beer when the awards are handed to apparel and biotech startups.
But not this year, my friend. Oh no. This time around the OEN Tom Holce Entrepreneurship Awards recognized three Web types with awards: Ray King of AboutUs, Jama Software, and Monsoon. All Portland-based, respectively. Read More
For many Portlanders, there are few things that taste better than a cool microbrew on a hot summer day. In fact, I can really only thing of one thing that might top that: making that beer free. And that’s just Beer and Blog Portland has done this week in conjunction with AboutUs, the awesome Portland-based wiki.
And I’m happy to report that, with the announcement of the finalists for the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network Tom Holce Awards, there are a couple of Silicon Florist regulars—out of the 14 nominees—getting the recognition they so richly deserve.
[HTML3]Now, I know many of you continue to work and slave on your entrepreneurial pursuits because you’re driven to do so. Quite frankly, you can’t help it. You just have to do it. So, whether you’re recognized or not, you’re going to keep doing what you’re doing.
We all realize that there’s a ton of stuff happening in town. New startups, exciting side projects, crazy cool events. And every day it seems like we’re learning about more and more opportunities to draw the community together—or cool new technologies to test drive.
This leads to two issues. First, how do we keep track of all this stuff? And second, how do we filter all of this stuff?
Silicon Florist wiki to the rescue, my friends! Well or you can refer to it by its more common name: AboutUs. Read More
Yesterday, a number of us celebrated the 14th anniversary of a gift Ward Cunningham gave to the world, the Wiki. So today seemed like an appropriate day to celebrate a new gift that Ward—and his current company AboutUs—have given to the Web community. Something that features some of that same Wiki goodness and yet, brings something new to the table, the AboutUs widget.
What’s the AboutUs widget do? Quite simply, it provides a chunk of dynamically updated information about any Web site referenced in AboutUs to any blog—actually any site for that matter. Or, as the creators of the widget describe it:
Whatever your blogging forte, the widget is a way for you to serve your readers better by providing an unobtrusive introduction to websites you’ve mentioned. The best part is, if you or your readers have ideas for improving this info, editing the AboutUs page updates the widget automatically.
And now, you can use the widget, too. Just go to any AboutUs page and look in the right sidebar for the widget code.
What’s that? The site you want to feature doesn’t have an AboutUs page? It only takes a few seconds to add it. Just add it, provide a short description and some topics, and voila! Widget worthy.
But how did the this little piece of widget magic come about? That, my friends, is an interesting little story. Gather round and let me spin a little tale….
AboutUs Widget: The True Hollywood Portland-collaboration Story
Not so long ago, I was a wee bit frustrated. I wanted to provide additional information on the companies about which I was writing, but I didn’t want to keep repeating the same boilerplate over and over—and I wanted to make sure that it remained as fresh as possible.
What I wanted was something like the CrunchBase widget. Something simple and compact that provided necessary details about the company.
But there were a couple of problems with the CrunchBase widget as far as Silicon Florist was concerned. What were they? I’m glad you asked (because I’m going to tell you anyway).
First, most of the companies I write about aren’t in CrunchBase—and aren’t likely relevant to the majority of the CrunchBase population. Once they reach that level, they’re a bit above my pay grade. Second, an important part of the CrunchBase data set is “funding.” Given that most of the startups I profile are pre-funding side projects or garage gigs, that was a gap. Third, in my experience with CrunchBase—when I tried to edit the content for Vidoop to indicate that it was, in fact, a Portland company not a Tulsa company anymore—the updates weren’t “dynamic.” They required approval. Meaning, that the CrunchBase information could be incorrect for the time that the majority of the folks were reading the posts. Finally, as much as I loved the CrunchBase content, it simply wasn’t homegrown.
So that got me to thinking: maybe I should build a little database and widget of my own? A database that contained relevant details on the companies or projects that I write about. That contained the information I thought was relevant—and that I could edit on a moment’s notice so that it was always fresh.
And after about two seconds of thinking about the time and effort required to build and maintain that kind of resource, I smacked myself for even letting that thought enter my head. Or I noticed some shiny new Silicon Forest startup about which I could write.
Honestly, it’s a bit cloudy.
Besides, if I built it, it would only be available to me. And seriously, how useful is that? That’s right. Not very.
If only, I thought. If only there were some structured database of Web site information that I could access. Some set of data that was always up-to-date, that was easy to embed, and that had access to information on the types of companies and projects I tended to cover.
And if only it existed in the Silicon Forest. A homegrown solution, as it were.
And then, there I was standing at Portland Lunch 2.0. And there was Ward standing there.
And then it hit me.
AboutUs has a structured database of the Web site information I need. AboutUs is always up-to-date—and if it’s not, I can change it. I mean, it’s a wiki, right? And AboutUs has every single Web site ever—and if it doesn’t I could add it in a matter of seconds. Best of all? AboutUs is a homegrown Portland, Oregon, Silicon Forest production.
So, I walked up to Ward and said, “If you’ve got a second, I have an idea….”
And Ward was kind enough to listen. And we talked it through. And it turned out that there was something interesting for AboutUs there, too. It provided another way to distribute the AboutUs content to a variety of providers and a way to get folks back to AboutUs to edit and update their content.
So a few meetings, some note card sketches, and countless hours of coding that fell on someone else’s shoulders besides mine, and we have the first iteration of the AboutUs widget.
I can’t help but take pride in helping this little widget come into being—if only as being one of the sparks of the idea. And I couldn’t be happier to get the chance to work with the amazing AboutUs team—Ward Cunningham, Didip Kerabat, BJ Clark, Vinh Nguyen, and Jon Farr—to bring the idea to fruition.
This is still an early first step. And there’s room to improve. So give the AboutUs widget a shot. Embed it. Test it. Give me or them feedback about what you’d like to see.
We’ve already got some ideas on how we can improve it and what features can be added. But it would be great to hear from you—and to see you adding it to your blogs and Web sites.
At the very least, you’ll find the widgets a regular addition to Silicon Florist blog posts. Hopefully, they provide you with some relevant and meaningful information beyond my usual blather. And if not? You can always change them—unlike my blather.
[Full disclosure: Iterasi is a client and I’ve been working with AboutUs on a top-secret widget project.]
If you’ve ever been looking for dated information on the Web, you’ve likely come across the Wayback Machine on the Internet Archive. No site provides such a detailed reference to the yester-Web, allowing us to reach back to forgotten history and grab snippets of the Web as it once was.
But for all the compliments I can pile on the Wayback Machine, it is not without its flaws.
The biggest gripe? The Wayback Machine only archives HTML. That means that any image files or CSS that is needed to render a page doesn’t get archived. Which means if that information gets deleted from the original server, then the Wayback Machine archives don’t render properly.
Needless to say, a bunch of pages render poorly.
My other complaint? The Wayback Machine wasn’t created in the Silicon Forest. But that’s just how I am.
Okay. That’s Wayback Machine 1.0. Hold that thought.
Now, when it comes to accessing current information about any Web site, few resources can compete with the simplicity and ease-of-use of Portland-based AboutUs. Even if AboutUs doesn’t have a current page about a site, they’ll render one in a matter of seconds. So, typing “http://aboutus.org/%5Bwhatever URL you want]” is about the easiest way to get information on any site—as it currently exists.
There’s just one problem: seeing how a site looked in the past isn’t always that simple. You can review the Wiki change tracking, but that’s not always the best way of assessing the changes to the site. And if you just added the site to AboutUs, you have no idea what the site looked like previously.
Now for that historical reference, Portland-based Iterasi is about the easiest way to see how a site looked in the past.
But Iterasi has its own flaw: the archive isn’t terribly broad. It’s deep for certain “Web 2.0 cool kid” sites, but it could use more breadth.
If only AboutUs could find a site that helped provide the historical reference they’re missing. If only Iterasi could find a site that could help extend the breadth of their Web archive.
Well welcome to a “You got your archive in my current information! You got your current information pointing to my archive!” moment as two great Portland tastes have found a way to taste great together.
That’s right. AboutUs and Iterasi are partnering. And the result could be what we’ve all been wanting the Wayback Machine to provide: current details and accurate historical renderings.
Welcome to the Wayback Machine 2.0.
Sure, the Iterasi link isn’t huge, but it is important.
Now, you can visit AboutUs to get the latest information about any given site. Looking for historical information? Iterasi is there to provide the archived pages that they have on file. Voila!
So why is this cool? Well for a whole bunch of reasons. It gives the AboutUs user a very cool new feature (obviously…right!). AboutUs users can now search through the iterasi archive to research the evolution of the Website, search for information of historical significance, whatever. For iterasi, it should be a source of traffic to our site where we can hopefully turn them into happy users as well.
Now, we’ve partnered with the smart folks at Iterasi to give their archive greater visibility and provide the people visiting AboutUs with an additional resource for information about websites and the organizations and people attached to them. Now at every AboutUs page, you’ll find a link to the Iterasi Archive of pages relating to that site.