And, that’s not all. We’ve got the OpenID contingent with Vidoop and JanRain, too. What’s more, Portland is home to a bunch of cool open source shops and developers. Oh, and don’t forget, we used to host RailsConf, too.
But there’s one little get-together that causes our collective open source head to swell ever so slightly. And that event is just around the corner.
OSCON 2008, the premiere open source conference, will be again gracing Portland with its presence, beginning July 21. And with it, thousands of open source types will be descending upon town. No doubt, many of them will be wondering, “What the heck am I supposed to do when I’m not in sessions?”
Have no fear, open source aficionado! There are a few activities with which you can keep yourself entertained, a handful of establishments where you can slake your thirst, and a joint or two where you can get your fill of vittles.
As you’re planning your trip to Portland, here are some links that might help:
- Hacking PDX: A geek’s guide to Portland International Airport
“We have a great airport with plenty of features that just about any traveler could need. But, despite all its ease-of-use, there are always a few tips-and-tricks that make the experience that much better.”
- Falling in love with Portland, again and 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.”
- Amy Winkelman says “Hi Vidoop, Welcome to Portland!” (An extensive primer on the Rose City)
“As a native Oregonian and fanatic Portlander, I love recommending things to new folks visiting the city.”
- What to do in Portland while you’re at RailsConf (or OSCON)
“If you’re attending RailsConf this year and are from out of town, you might be like me when you’re in another city: I don’t really find much outside of the touristy areas, or what’s immediately around where I’m staying. But you’re in luck! I live here in Portland, Oregon and I have a list of places to go and things to do that I think are quintessential Portland.”
- Portland’s top 30 tech Twitter-ers
“And that got me thinking. I began to wonder: Who is at the top of the Twitter heap when it comes to Portland startup and tech types? Who has the most ‘influence’? Who is the holder of the mythical ‘Twitter juice’?”
Still feel like you need some help? Drop a comment here, or feel free to ping me on Twitter. Or look for me at OSCON. I’d be happy to answer any Portland questions for you.
Whatever your question, rest assured that Portvangelists are standing by.
Photo courtesy Matt McGee used under Creative Commons.
Much has been said about you as a user being able to use your data more intelligently—making your data portable—among Web 2.0 properties and social networks. But what about all of that data you’re creating—and own—on the corporate side of the firewall? How do we make that type of data portable?
“The benefits of data portability are not confined to consumer social networks,” said Matt Tucker, CTO, Jive. “Corporate users maintain profiles behind the firewall as well as in external communities and third party platforms, and the ability to simply and securely migrate that information as necessary will be a boon to the IT organizations of tomorrow.”
I hear you. “Data port-uh-what?” Let’s step back.
What is Data Portability?
According to the Data Portability Project, “Data Portability is the option to use your personal data between trusted applications and vendors.”
Heretofore, those “applications and vendors” have dealt with data that resided in the public space with companies like Digg, Drupal, Facebook, Flickr (and by association Yahoo!), Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Netvibes, Plaxo, Six Apart, Corvallis-based Strands, and Twitter.
Porting the data relies on standardized and publicly accessible means of transferring that data from service to service, which enables one service to “listen” to another service or “scrape” the data from an existing profile.
To accomplish this, a number of open standards, formats, microformats, and protocols have been established. These include APML, FOAF, hCard, OAuth, OpenID, OPML, RDF, RSS, SIOC, the XHTML Friends Network (XFN), XRI, and XDI.
Okay, I can feel your eyes rolling back in your head. Enough alphabet soup.
What’s the big deal about Jive, a corporate-side technology, joining a group of the cool kids on the social networking scene?
In my opinion, Jive’s decision to become the first corporate-side technology company to adopt this standard is momentous and game changing.
Why? Because it shakes the very foundation of what businesses think they own.
Today, most any of you on the corporate side of the firewall have signed some form of agreement. It could be a “noncompete” or simply a contract for employment. If you’re an exempt employee, it’s generally pretty strict in terms of what the company owns.
And generally, most companies will take the opportunity to cast a wide net over your work—claiming the company owns the intellectual property for anything you create while you’re employed by the company.
That means your IM, your email, your time on Facebook, your tweets, your voice mail, your iTunes playlist… All corporate property.
Seems a bit at odds with the way things are going, doesn’t it?
And as more and more of the “Web 2.0-esque” technologies find their way behind the corporate firewall, it’s going to seem even more and more wrong.
Even today, we’re beginning to see glimmers of the data we’re generating in public beginning to mesh with the type of data we’re generating at work. (LinkedIn anyone?)
The burgeoning workforce who lives and breathes in this brave new world will expect that the data they create is data they own and can move. And this is at direct odds with what the old school corporation thinks that the business should own.
It’s not going to be a pretty battle. But with this announcement, Jive is taking a step in the right direction—siding with the future instead of the past.
So what will enterprise data portability entail?
Honestly, it’s going to take a little while to figure that out. But Jive has started the ball rolling.
Jive’s latest high-profile hire, Gia Lyons, a former IBMer, understands the depth of this undertaking:
Think about all the bits and pieces of your worklife, strewn about all those different systems: HR systems, skills databases, LDAP directories, employee whitepages, LinkedIn, etc. Wouldn’t it be great if you could manage all that personal data from a single spot? It can live where it lives – I would call it data transparency, though, not data portability. This can already be accomplished by using data mapping tools in market today, but it takes some serious customization muscles to pull off, not to mention many lunches and cocktails to woo the czars in charge of all of those internal systems so they play nice.
And Jive CMO Sam Lawrence has grand plans for where this enterprise data portability might have the chance to go:
In the meantime, we’re interested in working with the Data Portability group to help contribute to these standards as well as new ones as well. Hopefully, the organization is now at a point in its evolution to proceed with formal and elected leadership, a standards body, voting process and the rest of the stuff that makes organizations successful.
Again, a vast project with which to grapple, but one whose time has potentially come.
It will be interesting to see where this one goes, and to see watch Portland’s role blossom—as the de facto hub of open source and as a growing proponent of open standards—in this new way of thinking about who owns what.
[Editor: Nino Marchetti, a local freelance technology writer, recently put together an article about the local Web community. And while it’s a little strange to see myself quoted in an article on my own blog, I was happy to oblige. Thanks to Nino for offering up this story.]
The Portland Internet Effect
By Nino Marchetti
What makes Portland such a hub of potential for Internet companies? Is there something in the water? Do factors like a well-established creative class, support for open source, and a lower cost of living make this a place for Web outfits to call home?
I recently set out to find answers to some of those questions. I spoke with local Web company owners, analysts, and investors. The answers vary but one thing is clear—Portland is making plenty of waves sandwiched between the tech power houses of Seattle and the Silicon Valley.
In the realm of Portland Web companies, Jive Software could arguably be considered one of the more established enterprises. Jive, which focuses on “online collaboration tools that make it easier for people to work together,” came to the local market via New York City. CEO David Hersh feels the area offers his company the right mix of things to make it easy to call this home.
“Portland has the best mix of lifestyle, business clients, and software cluster,” said Hersh. “It is less expensive and easier for us to grow a company here then in the Bay Area or Seattle.”
Hersh added Jive feels there is a good local software programmer group to draw from, but that the downside is there aren’t as many talented bodies as one might hope for—deeper pools of potential programmers exist in other markets. The local talent that is available, however, is potentially quite entrepreneurial—there is a group of Jive employees who might at some point strike out and start their own operations.
“There are plenty of opportunities,” said Hersh. “Anybody with a big vision can make it happen here.”
A smaller Web-based operation which has been trying to make it happen here is SplashCast. This company offers what vice president of business development Tom Turnbull calls a “rich media advertising and syndication platform” for media companies and brands like Sony to connect with consumers in popular social networks such as Facebook.
Turnbull, like Hersh, sees positives and negatives to Portland as a Web company cluster location. On the positive, the company loves the area for things like creativity, a growing Internet community, and less expensive house prices. He has never thought about relocating anywhere else. On the downside though, many of its clients are elsewhere.
“We pay a soft price for being in Portland,” said Turnbull. “The media companies that we partner with are not located in here. Most of the ad agencies are located in the bigger markets. Therefore, we are familiar with Jet Blue’s red eye to New York and make trips to California on a regular basis.”
Even very small Web companies are finding some success and challenges in the Portland area. One of these is Values on n. This outfit, founded in March 2006, has had some success in developing Web services which focus on “personal and small group productivity with a particular emphasis on harnessing everyone’s de-facto productivity tool: email.” This is according to company founder Rael Dornfest, who reflected on some local start up thoughts.
“By being even such a short distance from the Silicon Valley,” said Dornfest, “Portland start-ups are buffered to a certain degree from the ‘startup scene’ and so tend to spend more time thinking about building community and customer base—and, at least within the group of start-ups we know, those are viewed as fairly synonymous. There’s just something about the Portland startup gestalt that’s different—in much the same way as Portland itself feels different somehow to those who visit (and almost invariably want to stay).”
In looking at what seems to make Portland tick for Web companies, tech consultant Marshall Kirkpatrick has made some interesting observations. Kirkpatrick, who said he consults “on everything from product road mapping to site usability to social media marketing ,” has made a name for himself in the online world, writing for tech industry blogs like TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb.
“I think there’s an unusual feeling of camaraderie among startups here,” said Kirkpatrick when asked to compare Portland to other tech hotspots like San Francisco and Seattle. “It’s less nasty than San Francisco and less obscured in the shadow of a monolith than Seattle.”
Kirkpatrick highlighted that a lot of local programmers are involved in “pseudo-geekish” technologies like RSS and wikis, as well as there being a strong community of open source developers. This all adds up to a lot of “self-made Web application power users here.”
You can, of course, have local Web outfits, consultants, and others promoting the values of Portland as a tech spot on the radar, but without venture capital funding many projects remain in the garage. Portland, until late, has definitely flown under the radar in this area and one could say it still has some growing to do.
“In terms of fund raising,” said SplashCast’s Turnbull, “Portland has a bit of a bad reputation in the startup community. There are certainly fewer VCs here. That being said, we are having great success in the Portland angel investment community and are very optimistic about our future VC prospects.”
Kirkpatrick echoed Turnbull in the VC perception of Portland, saying “venture capitalists are sometimes hesitant to invest in startups based in Portland, because of the perception that this is a place you move to enjoy the quality of life—not to ruin your life giving everything you’ve got to a startup.”
Not all VCs are hesitant though about Portland Web company investment opportunities. Erik Benson, managing director of Voyager Capital, sees local outfits as offering great potential products for end users, though he also feels they “could stand to aim for a bigger scale.”
“We are enthusiastic about the level of passion and creativity that’s coming out of the Portland Web scene, particularly around Open Source and social Web technology,” said Benson. “JanRain, the leader of the OpenID movement, and Values of n, a social-Web-enabled personal assistant, are examples that highlight those areas.”
“There are a number of companies in the Portland area I’ve looked at that I would consider quite interesting,” said Wiggins. “There’s a good pool of talent both on the engineering side and, to an extent, on the executive side as well.”
Wiggins has observed a lot of local Web companies focused on using the Internet as a tool for taking care of some kind of problem. This can range from online collaboration like Jive does to managing multiple fast food locations as a franchisee.
Also observing the Portland Web scene are analysts like Raven Zachary of The 451 Group and bloggers such as Rick Turoczy of Silicon Florist. It is observers like these which can fan or quench the flames of potential hot companies with their comments.
“With this many highly-independent, intelligent people in Portland,” said Zachary, “you’re going to see a lot of startup activity here… Portland is becoming a destination for the California tech scene as they grow up and want to settle down and have a family while continuing to pursue tech.”
He also noted, realistically, Portland is not the “center of the tech universe.”
“That won’t change,” said Zachary.
Turoczy, for his part, maintains feverish coverage of local Web companies as information is passed along to him. This perhaps gives him one of the most insider views of all on what works locally and what doesn’t.
“I think the Silicon Forest—if we define the Forest as stretching from the coast over to Bend and quite a ways down south and up past Vancouver—has the potential to be a hot bed for Web startups,” said Turoczy. “I don’t think we have really realized its true potential, yet. We’ve taken steps. And I think we have a good start.”
The Web world—and the world of distributed social applications—is buzzing with some momentous news. And happily enough, a Portland company is right at the middle of all of the excitement.
Suffice it to say, this is huge.
Messina and Norris are among the most recognizable names in the Web world today. Specifically for their efforts on the next generation of social technologies—technologies that promise to transform “social networking” from its current form of “destination sites” to being part of the very fabric of the Web, itself.
Their chops are, quite frankly, legendary. So much so, in fact, that Portland’s Marshall Kirkpatrick admits that he expects “nothing less than magic”:
Vidoop has had a strong team of engineers from the start. As someone who’s excited about standards based identity and the innovation that open technology makes possible – I am very interested to see what Vidoop and its new additions will be able to do. Check out what the two have sought to do for some time over at the DiSo Project. Now that they are doing that work with backing and as a part of a substantial team, expect nothing less than magic.
Messina sees opportunity
So—clearly—those of us on the outside are all excited about the news, but how do the DiSo guys—the people actually in the middle of this—feel about it?
Messina posted some of his thoughts about his new gig, highlighting:
Working full time on this means that Will and I should be able to make much more progress, much more quickly, and to work with other projects and representatives from efforts like Drupal, BuddyPress and MovableType to get interop happening (eventually) between each project’s implementation.
And, he was kind enough to answer a few questions for me, to provide some additional insight.
What’s your new position at Vidoop going to entail?
Well, for the most part, doing what I was already doing with DiSo, but actually focusing on it full time.
What this means is that Will and I and other project leaders will be hunkering down and working out how we’re going to architect the project to better include external contribution, to better explain what DiSo is all about and how to get involved, to explain why and how to use the core technologies that we’ll be leveraging in DiSo, and to start formulating a more coherent roadmap for the project that other platform implementations might follow along with (for example, while we’ll be focusing on WordPress and working with the BuddyPress folks, we want to see MovableType and Drupal also getting this kind of functionality and open API support).
What were some of the key reasons for your deciding to join the Vidoop team?
Well, the conversation started innocently enough, but when I met many of the Vidoop folks at SXSW, I became more generally interested in what these guys were up to. When Kveton joined up and then, along with Luke Sontag, the co-founder, offered me the chance to come work on DiSo full time, and offered me resources to make it happen, there was really no way that I could turn that down.
As I’ve gotten to know more of the Vidoop team, I really think these are world class folks ready to make an impact on the world. That they have faith in open source and open technologies and were smart enough to bring on folks like Kveton and Kevin Fox speak to that wisdom, and suggests that I’ll be working alongside folks who get it and want to do the “right thing” is equally motivating.
It also helps that Vidoop is still small and scrappy and looking to define itself as a leader generally in the secure identity space… I think that that’s going to start mean more things to more people over the next couple years, so getting in at the ground floor to help set that direction is tactically something that also appeals to me.
What problems are you most excited about helping Vidoop solve?
Well, I think there’s a gaping hole in the marketing of OpenID right now about what you can do with an OpenID, or why they’re URLs and not, for example, email addresses. Providing a salient, compelling answer to that question is one of the first things I hope to tackle, and is essentially what the DiSo Project is predicated on.
That we can also help turn Vidoop into a leading open source factory is also a nice bonus, and something that, well, I don’t think exactly happened with Flock (for contrast).
What are some of the biggest opportunities you see for Vidoop and OpenID in general?
As I mentioned, it’s kind of demonstrating what an OpenID endpoint should look like. I don’t think anyone quite has this right yet, but we’re still early.
I also think that there are A LOT of user interface problems with OpenID (Kyle Neath cited some the other day) that are inhibiting its adoption. So rather than lead with a technology and expecting people to be like, “Oh yeah! OpenID! I want one of those!” we need to address real use cases and develop opportunities where it just so happens that OpenID is the easiest and most compatible solution for the job.
That Google’s Friend Connect supports OpenID is huge, but it’s really only the first page of the next chapter. The opportunity is writing the volumes that come next.
What are some of the biggest hurdles you see for Vidoop and OpenID in general?
Well, apart from better demonstrating what OpenID is really good at, I think that there are serious issues with the mobile OpenID experience (Twauth is one approach to making it better). I think this is going to require conversations with mobile providers, but also will require a more critical consideration about what expectations are when people are using apps in a mobile context or environment.
Part of that is going to necessitate the development of human interface protocols that help people recover when OpenID fails, or when errors occur that don’t have obvious solutions. In some ways it’s about educating people about the ways in which OpenID can stumble, but also the ways in which you can recover gracefully. Frankly, hardly any discussion has materialized around those topics yet, and I think without more thought and design put to those matters, OpenID will continue to be seen as a developer or geeky tool not ready for the “masses” (i.e. people who really don’t, and shouldn’t have to, care about the background technology that makes the web work).
Will we be seeing a lot more of you around Portland?
Dude, I love the Ace Hotel and Stumptown, so I’ll definitely be spending more time up there! Seriously though, I imagine I’ll definitely be up there pretty regularly.
How long can you resist Kveton’s Portvangelist charm before you feel pressured to move up here?
Portland is definitely one of my favorite cities, and if I ever leave San Francisco, it’ll probably be where I end up next.
In fact, my half-sister used to live in Portland, and I remember when I was in college I came to visit her and her family for a week. Since her husband was a day trader, we had to get up at the ass-crack of dawn to be at the office at like 5AM so he could be trading when the east coast markets opened up at 9AM. Anyway, I decided that I’d walk around the city that morning rather than stay in the office, and I remember clearly the cool fog, the sun, walking by Powell’s and the seeing the Willamette Week in newsstands (its design was an inspiration at the time, given that I was in design school!). Anyway, my point is that I pretty well fell in love with the city that morning, so at some point, I’d definitely love to come back and stay some day!
Anything else you’d like to make sure the Portland tech community knows about this news?
Well, I’ve always been really impressed by the openness and inclusivity of the Portland crowd ever since (and even probably before) I attended BarCampPortland.
With Vidoop making Portland its new home, I think we can only expect to see more and more interesting things emerge, and continue to emerge, from the Portland tech scene. What with Ignite, Startup Weekend, BarCamps, werewolf!, all this bodes well. Oh, and if there are any passionate WordPress devs looking for a project to hack on in their spare time, DiSo is certainly looking — and imagine we’ll start doing meetups in the not-to-distant future as well… watch our Twitter account for more.
Vidoop continues to impress
Obviously, this is a huge win for Vidoop, a company which has already done an impressive job of attracting top local talent to its rapidly growing Rose City footprint. And with this move, Vidoop steps into a whole new arena: attracting leading talent from San Francisco.
“We’re excited about Chris and Will joining Vidoop,” said Scott Kveton, Vidoop’s VP of Open Platforms, another recent tech rockstar hire for Vidoop. “We’re seeing a set of open technologies are emerging to help describe the ‘digital you,’ and Chris and Will have been at the center of those discussions. These are the technologies that will really enable the Open Web.”
And it’s not just the execs. The Portland team clearly realizes the opportunity that now lays before them: helping define the future of the Web.
When I mentioned to Michael Richardson, another recent Vidoop hire, that he just happened to luck into the dream team. He concurred.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to work with Chris Messina and Will Norris,” said Richardson. “It’s a great chance to work with people who not only have great experience but also possess a clear vision of the upcoming open web. I look forward to working with them and the rest of the Vidoop team to make that vision a reality.”
Vidoop’s Kevin Fox sees similar potential—and opportunity—for the burgeoning Vidoop talent pool.
“I have had the pleasure of working with Chris Messina on past projects and have always found his enthusiasm and honesty refreshing,” said Fox. “His ability to form a vision, then create and galvanize a community is unmatched. I look forward to helping build communities around the great products that Chris, Will and the rest of the stellar Vidoop team create.”
Now, it’s really starting to get exciting here in Portland.
[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.]
Image courtesy Modified Enzyme under Creative Commons
Falling in love with Portland again and again
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, RuleSpace.com, 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.