Category: Editorial

Guest editorial: Growing an inclusive tech community

[Editor: This is a guest editorial from Thursday Bram.]

James Damore is scheduled to speak at Portland State University in February. I don’t think you should attend. I could give you a dozen reasons why I’m not interested in Damore’s opinions on diversity, but plenty of people have already written that article. The fact we really need to talk about is that a speaker like Damore isn’t exceptional in the Portland tech community. Damore will fly in and fly out and we’ll still be working on our local issues.

Read More

Calling Oregon entrepreneurs to action: Do-it-yourself healthcare reform

From friends who own small traditional businesses to my tech entrepreneur friends, most are aghast at how severely they’ve been hit by healthcare cost increases. It’s simply unsustainable. This post will outline an alternative approach to getting your healthcare needs met that may be a better route for you and your organization.

[HTML4][Editor’s Note: Dave Chase provides us with another guest post. This time, he focuses on what entrepreneurs can do to reform the US healthcare system. It’s an area near and dear to his heart and, as you’ll see, where his latest startup is focused.]

Imagine a cost in your business or personal budget that grew 3400% faster than all other costs. Would you do something about it? That is what has happened to healthcare costs over the last 50 years. While other goods have gone up 8x in the last 50 years, healthcare has gone up 274x. Read More

Iron Man? Spider-man? Batman? Most super heroes are side projects. Just like yours.

Most of your favorite super heroes are actually side projects. Most super heroes don’t do that whole super hero thing as their full-time gig. In fact, most of them have got a day job.

I know you’re busting your ass, Mr. and/or Mrs. Startup type. I know you’re working hard on a side project or idea while continuing to slave away at the day job. All in the hopes that someday—someday—you might get to turn that side project into a full-time gig. But it can be taxing. I know it.

So every once in awhile, I like to try to give you a little motivation. A little help. A little something that makes staying up that extra four hours a little easier. And that little something today is this: Most of your favorite super heroes are actually side projects. Read More

Health Information Technology: Why is it important to Portland?

I have long taken an outward-looking view and advocated that Portland could become a hub for health IT at the intersection of industry, academia, and its health care systems.

[Editor: Health Information Technology has always had a interesting spot in the Portland startup scene. And I say that, most likely, because I’ve been part of it from time to time. But I’m probably not the best person to write about it. Enter Bill Hersh, MD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology (DMICE) in the School of Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland, Oregon. Here’s his perspective on HIT, its role, and its potential for the Portland tech scene.]

I appreciate the opportunity to contribute a piece to this blog about a topic of great interest to myself and many others, which is health information technology, also called health IT or HIT. Read More

Editorial: Is Oregon Reddit being used to its full potential?

Oregon RedditAs is probably exceedingly obvious, there’s one thing I try to do everyday: Get Oregon’s Web-startup scene the recognition it deserves.

Granted, mine is a small voice, but I do what I can.

One of the ways I’ve found to help get some of this cool stuff out in front of a wider audience has been working with OregonLive Oregon Reddit, as both a submitter and an active participant.

To date, I’ve found the service a valuable means of helping put what you’re doing on the virtual front page of The Oregonian, if only for a brief time. And, undoubtedly, garner exposure from a much wider and diverse audience than the existing Silicon Florist reader base.

But, this morning, I noticed the image above. No stories. And it got me to thinking. Either the staff was working to tweak the algorithm or—worse yet—there were actually no stories submitted.

Which, as much as I like the potential of the service, brings me to the drawbacks to Oregon Reddit:

  1. Participation is exceptionally low for a social media service
  2. Due to low participation, political stumpers tend to downvote other stories in favor of getting the latest Merkley or Novick post on the front page
  3. Even though it should be a vehicle to get other publications on the site, the stories that tend to get the most attention are stories that are from The Oregonian or OregonLive staff, already

That said, Oregon Reddit isn’t by any means broken. In fact, it’s working exactly as it should. The majority of the users vote down stories they don’t want to see and vote up stories that appeal to them.

The problem is that the user base of Oregon Reddit is too small, not very diverse, and generally working with an ulterior—if not paid—motive. And that makes those votes largely irrelevant.

So, here’s what I’m asking you to do: participate.

I would much rather receive 100 downvotes that help me understand what kind of content readers are seeking. Or split of 50 up and 50 down that help me determine when a story is appropriate to submit to Oregon Reddit.

Some may say that Oregon Reddit isn’t the answer at all. That another locally focused news service would help garner this kind of feedback. I’d love to come around to that argument—if the potential for Oregon startups getting the recognition they deserve from a wider audience is just as high as it is with Oregon Reddit.

Long story short, I’d rather get completely negative feedback, than little to no response on the stories I submit.

Maybe the stuff I write isn’t interesting at all. Maybe it’s only interesting to an incredibly small subset of the population.

But I would like to know that. I simply don’t have the data points to make that determination.

I mean, other than the fact that the Merkley and Novick folks hate my writing.

Oregon’s K-12 tech education sucks: A geek call to action

When I began the conversation about making Silicon Florist a self-sustaining entity, it was because I had—and continue to have—a number of ideas for trying to help startups in our area. And for helping Portland reach its potential.

And I’d like to spend more time doing that sort of thing. Because it’s important to me.

But there was another area I was thinking about helping, as well.

It’s a startup, of sorts. Full of creative entrepreneurial types. People who generally have more passion than you and I. People who really want to make a difference. People who, like many of the startups around here, don’t get nearly the recognition or support they deserve.

Students. The people who are going to inherit all of this crazy stuff we’re trying to accomplish. And people who are likely experimenting with technology and building some equally cool Web products in their free time.

We have a great deal in common, actually.

And so I’d been toying with some ideas. And thinking about some things. That might be able to help those people. Where I might be able to share some expertise or some time.

Because, quite honestly, not a day goes by writing this blog that I don’t draw on something I learned in my high-school journalism class. Not one day.

And so, I was plodding along slowly. Thinking about what we might be able to do.

Then, today, some news hit me right between the eyes: Oregon schools get a D for technology.

The 11th annual report of “Technology Counts,” produced by the specialty newspaper Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, gives Oregon schools an overall D grade on technology. Only Rhode Island, Nevada and Washington, D.C., scored fewer points than Oregon’s 66 out of 100.

A D? Are you kidding me?

And just like that, it dawned on me: this is the opportunity.

This is one of those special times when an idea meets an action. When the time to act is coupled with the ability to act intelligently. This is the tipping point. Or spark. Or whatever you want to call it. This is the call to arms. The call to action. For all of us geeks and geek-o-philes.

This is an opportunity for you, me, and every other startup. It’s an opportunity to help. It’s an opportunity to give something back to this community. And an opportunity to improve the technology base in Portland for the future.

How? There are literally tons of ways we could do it. Tons!

From interships to class visits to scholarships to events to competitions to apprenticeships to… well, as I said, “Tons.”

I don’t think this is a question of “if?” I think this is a question of “how?”

And I think this news only highlights how much these things need to happen. And how quickly.

Maybe I’m the only one. Or part of a small group. But I think this is our chance to really do something valuable for Portland. And for Oregon. As a group.

Who’s with me?

Editorial: I could use your advice

First of all, I wanted to thank you. For your readership and your support. And, for your continuing to pursue your side projects, your part-time projects, and your full-on entrepreneurial pursuits.

And especially for being brave enough to read a post called “I could use your advice.”

This one is a tough one for me. And I’ll apologize in advance for my rambling explanation. But here we go…

It’s no secret that I started Silicon Florist on a whim. Because I saw a gap in the news coverage. Because I saw incredibly exciting things happening in Portland that didn’t seem to garner coverage—either by local pubs or by the juggernauts of the tech industry.

In short, I’ve been humbled by the response to the blog. And I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your continuing to read it.

I started Silicon Florist because I thought it was a good idea. But I like to think I have a lot of good ideas. It was a side project. A passion project.

But as Silicon Florist continues to grow, it begins to slide into the “part-time gig” column. And I’m happy to see it do that, because I can confidently say that my passion for Silicon Florist and the potential it holds only continues to grow.

After talking with literally hundreds of people (with whom I would have never had contact without this blog), I can see a number of other “gaps” that could be filled. That could improve our startup community here in the Silicon Forest. That could help other folks—kids, business people, venture capitalists—get more involved in the tech industry, here. That could move help Portland and its surrounding areas take a rightful place on the technology map, again.

And that’s something I desperately want to do.

But. (There’s always a “but,” isn’t there?)

There are only so many hours in the day. And I would very much like to dedicate some of those hours before midnight to Silicon Florist pursuits. And to the greater good.

But in order to do that, I have to reduce the number of consulting hours to which I commit. And we all know what that means, don’t we?


Well, it means, I need to find another way to replace that cash that’s currently underwriting all of the Silicon Florist efforts. So that I can spend more than side-project time on Silicon Florist. And, quite honestly, to keep this burgeoning dream alive that maybe—just maybe—Silicon Florist has the potential to be a full-time gig.

So, finally, we come to my question:

What should I do?

I have some baggage about even considering this whole thing. But, someone far wiser than I told me, “The first time you covered a topic because you felt you had to cover it, rather than because you wanted to cover it, Silicon Florist stopped being your blog.” And that message has been echoed by others.

So, I feel I have logical justification. But, it’s that selfsame logical defense that also tells me that this blog belongs to you, too. So, I need some more feedback. I need to ask those of you in the silent majority who haven’t had the chance to say your piece.

I’ve been thinking about this a great deal. And I see a number of potential options for getting Silicon Florist out of my basement and on its way to paying some of its own bills. But I’m also open to your feedback.

Here are some ideas I had:

  • Do nothing different from today. Keep the coverage at the same—or lower—level. Keep on keeping on, and look for other passion projects to which I can dedicate my time.
  • Introduce the OPB-esque idea of “Sustaining sponsors,” be that individuals or corporations, who provide funding to underwrite Silicon Florist projects.
  • Pursue good old fashioned Web advertising. Rest assured, I’m not talking about anything gaudy, whack-a-mole-ish, or mortgage-financing-ish. I have to look at the site, too. And ideally, it should be advertising that actually helps Silicon Forest startups and other readers. Shocking concept, I realize.
  • Come up with a more creative solution for solving the problem with which I find myself faced.
  • Or, your idea may be the right thing to do. So feel free to share your ideas in the “Other” area or via comments.

Suffice it to say, that my most important concern is that, you, as a reader do not feel put upon or alienated as a result of my pursuing this direction. Because if this blog fails to keep you interested or if you’re going to be offended, I’d rather suck it up and do nothing.

Wow. That was a lead-up if I’ve ever composed one. If you’re still awake… without further ado, is my appeal for your feedback. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. (Poll not showing? Please access the Silicon Florist poll here.)

And, as always, please feel free to use the comments to expound upon your answers.

Thank you. Sincerely. I really appreciate your advice.

Guest Editorial: Scott Kveton

[Editor’s note: Continuing the Silicon Florist’s guest editorial series, we welcome Scott Kveton, a well-known force-of-nature in the Portland technology community. And, as you’ll see, the de facto Chamber of Commerce for the Portland startup scene.]
Made in Oregon

Image courtesy Modified Enzyme under Creative Commons

Falling in love with Portland again and again

Last week was amazing. I spent most of it with Luke Sontag here in Portland, meeting with folks, spreading the good word about Vidoop and generally being in the city.

Having grown up in-and-around Portland, it’s always fun to see the reaction to everything-that-is-Portland from someone who doesn’t live here. (Oh, and the weather we had last week didn’t hurt either.)

I got a chance to talk a little bit about this at Ignite Portland 2, but I’ll say it again: This is the beginning of a fantastic renaissance period for Portland. It’s such a vibrant, eclectic, talented and diverse city with so many things going on, that it inspires the mind and spirit around every corner you turn. Even more, I think Chris Logan had it right: it’s time for Portland to step up and take its place.

There has been some talk about how “if you don’t live in the Bay Area and you’re in tech, you’re basically a wuss.”

So be it. The very last thing I want is for Portland to turn into the Bay Area or Seattle. I want it to be Portland. I want other cities to be saying “wouldn’t it be great if we were more like Portland?” I simply want Portland to come into its own in tech, in the arts, sustainability, green, etc.

But, how do we get to that point?

Well, it takes a bunch of us, it takes some time and, ironically, the city does most of the work for you.

For the past couple of years, I’ve made it a point to try to help people who are considering a move to Portland. I’ve spent countless days taking people around the city, introducing them to others in the city, and generally trying to give them a “locals’ view” of the city.

Now, the tour I take folks on covers a bit of ground and I’m seeking some input on the route. A couple of places I go to:

  • Tour of SW waterfront area with gondola love
  • Sellwood district (possibly for lunch, definitely for dinner at Saburo’s if it’s a weekday night)
  • SE towards 78th or so … Marshall has been kind enough to meet me more than once at the Bipartisan Cafe… soooo PDX
  • Alberta or Killingsworth… I used to live at Billy Reed’s at the turn of the century and I can’t believe how much it’s all changed since then
  • Pearl District for coffee (Caffe Umbria is amazing) or drinks (the Vault or even the Clyde Commons)
  • NW on 21st or 23rd… just too much to do, to eat, to see

Where would you take a touring visitor to get a taste of Portland from a local’s point-of-view? Bear in mind, I’m not looking for just a tech-person view on this. I’m all about diversity here.

The key to all of this, and the thing that I keep in mind at all times, is serendipity. Yeah, yeah, I know. Hard to quantify, huh? Well, I’m not the cheerleader type unless I really, really believe in it. Portland I can believe in. This city, the people, the places. It’s easy.

If you’re not predisposed to drink the PDX Kool-aid, then you’re probably not the type of person I’d want here anyway. And, if you’ve ended up in my Inbox or with my phone number, odds are, there’s a reason.

I’ll put this out there; if you have a friend or colleague that is thinking about making the move to Portland I’ll offer up my time for coffee or even the full-fledged tour to introduce them to the city and the people I know. It’s just the right thing to do. And, I’d challenge you to do the same.

Again, it’s not about trying to make Portland something it’s not… it’s about embracing serendipity and helping Portland realize its potential.

P.S. – first round is always on me … 🙂

Scott Kveton is a digital identity promoter, open source advocate, and Chairman of the OpenID Foundation. He has worked at Amazon,, JanRain, and MyStrands, and founded the Open Source Lab at Oregon State University. He is a regular speaker on the topic of identity and open source. Kveton currently serves as the Vice President of Open Platforms for Vidoop, a company he recently wooed to the Silicon Forest.

Guest editorial: Is Portland behind when it comes to mobile?

[Editor’s Note: In a brief flash of humility, I came to the realization that there were any number of experts here at our disposal in the Silicon Forest. Experts who have important things to say. Experts who can help us place the Rose City and the Silicon Forest within the context of a larger picture. Experts who are—quite frankly—more interesting than just little ol’ me.

And with that, I decided that some other viewpoints would be valuable. So welcome to a new feature on Silicon Florist: guest editorials.

First up, please welcome Jason Grigsby of Portland-based Cloud Four.

Knowing full well that one of Jason’s areas of expertise was mobile, I asked him “What’s up with mobile? And how is it going to play in Portland?” And he has graciously replied.

If you find his take interesting (and I know you will) make sure to peruse the mobile series he’s writing for his company’s blog. Or, you might seriously consider attending his presentation at Portland Web Innovators on Wednesday, February 13.

Ack. Looks like my intro is rivaling the length of the content. So, with that, I’ll hand you off to the honorable Mr. Grigsby. Grigs?]

Is Portland behind when it comes to mobile?

People keep asking me whether Portland is behind when it comes to mobile?

I would have never thought to ask this question. If we were behind, what would we do with this information?

Better yet, who would we be behind? San Francisco? Austin? Poughkeepsie?

We might be behind Chicago if Katherine Gray’s out-of-town guests are correct. She wrote to me on Twitter to tell me that her friends wondered why they hadn’t seen many Blackberries in Portland.

Apparently, we specialize in the kind of blackberries that grow on the side of roads and not the ones you carry in your pocket. (Actually, this isn’t true. Oregon’s largest employer, Intel, provides Blackberries as standard issue, and I’ve seen many other business people with them as well.)

If we are behind, what would be the proper measure? The percentage of mobile phone users per capita? The number of smart phone users?

Perhaps these metrics would tell the story. Unfortunately, city-specific data isn’t available.

In the absence of data, I have to fall back to my original, knee-jerk reaction: Of course Portland is behind. The whole country is behind.

In Europe and Asia, both consumers and businesses are more savvy when it comes to utilizing their phones.

  • In Japan, South Korea and China, more people access the web via mobile phones than via PCs.
  • Finland-based Nokia claims 40% of the worldwide market for phones—by far the leading phone manufacturer.

Portland is no more behind than the rest of America. This is one technology surge that we’re late to the game on. And with 3.3 billion mobile devices and growing, it represents the most widespread technology in the world—far surpassing PC, credit cards, and televisions.

Fortunately, there’s still time to catch up before things really take off. Things are lining up for 2008 and 2009 to be big years for mobile. Portland has the perfect combination of technical and creative communities to explore what is possible in this new medium.

I’m excited to see what Portland produces for the Mobile Web.

Jason Grigsby is a founder, Vice President, and Web Strategist at Cloud Four, a Portland-based Web consulting firm focused on Web, Mobile and emerging technology. For more information on Grigsby and Cloud Four, visit Cloud Four. To RSVP for his Portland Web Innovators talk, visit Upcoming.

Silicon Florist field trip: DEMO 2008

Next week, I’m in the enviable position of getting the opportunity to travel down to DEMO 2008 with one of my Silicon-Forest-based clients.

Although I’ve been tracking DEMO for years, this will be my first actual trip to the event. And, quite frankly, I’m looking forward to being a bit shellshocked by the whole affair.

What’s DEMO? DEMO is very much the grand ball of high-tech product launches. A very hush-hush, invite-only, keep-your-product-under-wraps-until-the-show kind of thing. Or, as the DEMO folks put it:

DEMO is the premier launch venue for new products, technologies and companies. For more than 16 years, DEMO has established a reputation for identifying and presenting to an elite audience the products most likely to have a significant impact on the marketplace and market trends in the coming year. Each product is carefully screened and selected by DEMO’s Executive Producer, Chris Shipley, one of the top trend spotters in the personal technology product industry.

Who’s the Silicon-Forest-based client? The embargo on DEMO product announcements lifts on Monday morning, at which point, I’ll cover the client’s product (with full disclosure of my consulting relationship with them).

Suffice it to say, they’re small, they’re out of Vancouver, Washington, this is the CEOs third trip to DEMO, and I think they’ve come up with something that will have utility for a wide-range of folks.

But for now, let’s just leave it at that. Please tune in Monday for more.

Now, I’m going to cover that client because they’re part of our community. And I hope you are okay with me doing that. I’m not doing it to push the product. I’m covering it because it’s as newsworthy as any startup I cover here. And I’ll strive to be as objective as I possibly can.

Obviously, I’m hoping to cover any of the other Silicon-Forest-based companies that come out of stealth mode down there. (If you are one of those companies, please drop me a line and let me know, so I can plan to jump on the coverage.)

What I won’t do is provide generic coverage of the event, itself. Or profile every single one of the more than 70 products that will launch at DEMO. In fact, after Monday’s post, this may be the last you ever hear of DEMO from me. Unless I uncover a story that has a specific Silicon Forest angle. (Or unless you’re following me on Twitter, as I’ll likely tweet some coverage of the event, just for my own historical reference of my babe-in-the-woods naivete.)

Just because I’m down there doesn’t mean that the blog should lose its focus.

If you are interested in more insightful coverage of DEMO, I know Portland-based blogger Marshall Kirkpatrick will be providing coverage—though not entirely product-focused—for Read/Write Web, Allen Stern of CenterNetworks has proposed a sort of blogger bullpen of writers to cover the event, and Rafe Needleman of Webware usually does a bang up job. Plus, the DEMO folks post videos of each and every one of the six-minute presentations to the DEMO site, so you can watch at your leisure.

If you are planning to be down there, as well, please let me know and let’s try to find one another. And if there is anything specific you would like me to cover from DEMO, please use the comments to let me know.

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