Tag: Portland

Sidecar: Ridiculously easy feedback widget for products, blogs

[HTML1]A couple of weeks ago, I got the chance to get a glimpse of Sidecar, a new widget from Portland-based widget wizards StepChange Group. The product is currently running in a small private beta with a couple of other Portland-based companies, Sandy and one other.

Sidecar, at its very most basic, is a simple survey widget. It was developed—with product managers in mind—as a way to make it easy for developers to embed surveys and feedback mechanisms within the interface of the Web-based apps they’re developing. The widget was specifically targeted at gathering feedback during the oft-cryptic and hectic “beta testing” cycle that every product experiences.

But, as we walked through the demo, I immediately saw the opportunity for it to do more. Much more.

I couldn’t help but think of all of its potential as a feedback mechanism, a means of managing context sensitive help, a supplemental page-ranking system (think “contextual Digg“), and—last but not least—the means for you (yes, you!) to truly engage in conversations with your users in a format that is easy for them and valuable for you.

That’s a lot to cram into a little widget. But I’m definitely seeing the potential. Even in this beta version.

So of course I piped up with, “You know, I could really see this being useful on my blog. Or any blog for that matter. Blogs get feedback via comments. But that’s post-by-post feedback. I could really use this to assess the impact of Silicon Florist, as a whole.”

So, I continued to beg and plead. (I could almost hear the engineering team cursing me.) And luckily, I was invited to the private beta. Then I saw Greg Rau’s presentation at Startupalooza, and I was convinced that I better get this thing deployed sooner rather than later. So, now, you can see the Sidecar widget running right now, over at the top of the Silicon Florist sidebar.

Feel free to bang on it.

Click to see the Sidecar admin screen fullsizeSidecar is simple. Ridiculously so. And that’s the best compliment I can give it. It took me less than five minutes to build that Silicon Florist widget—and that was with the not-ready-for-prime-time admin panel. The same thoughtful simplicity that informed the design of the widget interface clearly permeates the widget configuration tools, as well. (I’ve provided a screenshot of the beta admin screen for reference.)

There are a bevy of reports and dashboards, as well: feedback, pages, users, and widget-use metrics. But I can’t say much about those until there is actually some data from the widget.

The only downside to Sidecar, at this point, is the installation, which is still a bit geeky. Not overly geeky mind you, but it requires mucking with code. And while that will have little to no impact on the Web-app developer adoption, it may curtail adoption with a broader market. I’ll be interested to see how StepChange puts its simplicity-smarts into making the widget installation (WordPress widget or plugin, for example) as simple as widget creation and management.

I don’t have any word as to when the Sidecar beta goes from private to public beta, but I will be continuing to provide feedback to the StepChange team on issues I encounter and the features I would like to see. If you’d like to chime in, you have two ways: commenting on this post or, preferably, using the widget (hint, hint).

For more information on the widget, visit Sidecar. For more on the people behind Sidecar, visit StepChange.[

Vidoop secures Michael Richardson

The recently founded Portland Vidoop office, headed up by Scott Kveton, continues to make waves in the local tech startup scene. This time, Vidoop has announced that local Reed-schooled Python-magician Michael Richardson has signed on as part of the Portland team.

You may know Richardson as the coding muscle behind such hits as “Pulse of PDX” and “Tweetpeek.” He’s also a regular at Portland’s weekly Beer and Blog gatherings. And just an all-around scary-intelligent coding type.

According to the Vidoop blog:

Michael will be a software developer in the ever-growing Portland office working on OpenID, distributed social networking and other “open web” related initiatives.

For more on Richardson, read the Vidoop post announcing his hiring. For more information on Vidoop and its technology, visit Vidoop.

Grabb.it redesigns, incorporates personal MP3 tumblogs

Portland-based Grabb.it, the service which has the potential to help catalog Web-based MP3s for music lovers everywhere, picked a rather inauspicious date to release a new version of the Grabb.it site. But they’re not fooling around.

The new site now enables anyone to create tumblog posts based on the MP3s they grab.

Grabb.it is the group music blog where anyone can contribute. Sign up to create your own personal mp3 blog about songs you love and to send your posts to services like Tumblr, Blogger and Facebook.

This new feature holds promise, both as a way of allowing users to easily create reviews of the tunes in their respective libraries and—hopefully—as a means of increasing the reach and promotion of the Grabb.it service to active tumblog and Facebook types.

What’s a “tumblog“? I’m glad you asked. According to Wikipedia:

A tumblelog (or tlog) is a variation of a blog that favors short-form, mixed-media posts over the longer editorial posts frequently associated with blogging. Common post formats found on tumblelogs include links, photos, quotes, dialogues, and video. Unlike blogs, tumblelogs are frequently used to share the author’s creations, discoveries, or experiences while providing little or no commentary.

Other noticeable changes to the Grabb.it site include a highly simplified UI and a very slick, intelligent bread-crumb trail.

For more on the MP3-finding service and its new tumblogging capabilities, visit Grabb.it.

Portland Web Innovators: Five reason to attend

[Editor: Given the wealth of cool events happening in Portland on any given night, I thought it might be beneficial to have the people who drive these get-togethers give you their take on the events. “Why should you attend [whatever]?” So, with that, I introduce a new Silicon Florist series: Five Reasons]

Portland Web Innovators

Adam DuVander gives us five reasons we should all consider attending Portland Web Innovators.

  • You enjoy topics that are a mixture of tech, design, and business.
  • You like to learn about new projects and find collaborators
  • You love building on the web, no matter what your job title is or what technology you use.
  • You think about what can happen tomorrow, not what can’t happen today
  • You want to learn from a live collaborative discussion between passionate people.

Sound like you? Well you’re in luck. Because the next Portland Web Innovators get-together is this week, Tuesday (April Fools’!) Wednesday, April 2 at ISITE Design beginning at 7 PM. Entitled “Publishing Platform Wars!” the gathering will provide the opportunity to join the pdxwi types—the real users of these publishing systems—as they compare site publishing tools like Drupal, Bend-based ExpressionEngine, and WordPress.

To RSVP, visit Portland Web Innovators on Upcoming. For more information, visit (the spiffy new!) Portland Web Innovators.

InnoTech Oregon 2008: Too much good stuff

InnoTechI’ve been watching the InnoTech Oregon Conference grow into its own over the past five years. And while I was always close to attending (I think I may have even registered, last year), I never quite found the time to make it.

This year, I’m making time to attend.

I’ve always found InnoTech interesting because of its variety. Traditional business and cutting-edge technology. Green tech and CIOs. Non-profits and eMarketing. To me, it has the opportunity to be one of the few annual tech events that truly helps start and continue conversations among the different groups that work and live in Portland and the surrounding areas. Be those groups factions of the same business or complementary businesses working together.

In fact, there’s so much happening at the conference, I’m going to have to break it into multiple blog posts.

But I wanted to start with this. The folks at InnoTech have offered a 25% discount to all of you Silicon Florist readers. So, if you’re considering attending, please take advantage of it:

Discounted InnoTech Oregon Conference & Exhibits Pass includes Breakfast Presentation with Don Tapscott, Author, WIKINOMICS, at the reduced rate of $45.00 per person ($60.00 per person standard price.) Click to select INNOTECH GENERAL REGISTRATION and enter Discount Code SIL45D to confirm your place at the breakfast.

There is literally a busload of interesting speakers at this thing. But I wanted to highlight some of the Silicon Forest startup types, especially, like:

Look for more information from me as we get closer to the actual event. But if this post has piqued your curiosity, please take advantage of the “SIL45D” discount code at registration.

For more information, visit InnoTech Oregon.

GoLife Mobile: Chatting with James Whitley, CEO (Part 2)

Last week, I published the first part of my interview with GoLife Mobile’s CEO, James Whitley. That post focused on the discussions of the GoLife Mobile Vadowerx framework. Now, I’d like to touch on our discussions about Portland, it’s culture, and the potential it holds to become something extraordinary.

(As an aside, it was a pleasant surprise to run into James at Startupalooza. “Where’s part 2?” he asked. Right here, Mr. Whitley. Right here.)

Portland as a venue for startups

I’m always interested to get anyone’s take on Portland. But it’s especially interesting talking to people who are running businesses here. They often have a multitude of things that they love about Portland, but there are still those little perturbing issues that keep the environment from seeming “too perfect.”

Luckily, those perturbing issues are generally issues that are surmountable. That’s why I’m always happy to help people get those issues out on the table.

Whitley did.

And as I began to question him on his reasons—“Why Portland?”, “What does this area offer?”, and the like—his affection for the area was palpable. And his deep ties in the region only further that affection.

But what I got most from Whitley was not his impressions of the past—it was his enthusiasm for the potential here in Portland, for today and for the future.

“I would put the talent in this town up against talent anywhere else,” said Whitley. “The Valley, Back East, anywhere. The people here are exceptional.”

And, in Whitley’s opinion, that talent is not in limited supply.

“There is a ton of talent here in the Portland area,” he said. “I am always talking to people with whom I would like to work. I don’t think many people realize the sheer wealth of talent we have here.”

So, if we’re so talented, I asked, egotistically and presumptuously lumping myself in with the “exceptional talent” here in the Portland area, why aren’t we seeing more growth? Why aren’t we seeing more startups taking root?

And that’s when we get to those problems. Those issues that are holding Portland back from achieving its extraordinary position. Those problems that we have the opportunity to fix.

“Portland has a problem with being a classic underachiever,” said Whitley. “So much talent. So much promise. But we’re not capitalizing on it.”

In staunch agreement, I asked for further details.

“We’re always hearing how we’re ‘not as good as whomever,'” he continued. “And unfortunately, I think many people have begun to believe that. I don’t. But I think some people do.”

And in Whitley’s opinion, that stance is only exacerbated by another problem: finding sources of funding.

While a number of Silicon Forest startups have seen continued confidence in follow-on funding as of late—MyStrands, Jive, iovation, and SplashCast, to name a few—the prospect of early funding remains a bit of an enigma for Portland companies.

“Portland is lacking is terms of early startup funding,” Whitley said. “There really isn’t a good network for seeding smaller companies, at this point. We could use some people working to fix that because it would really help the town as a whole.”

And that lack of early stage funding, coupled with the underachiever mindset, is tending to suppress the vigor that is bubbling just below the surface. Tends to prevent us here in the Silicon Forest from realizing our potential.

“There are a number of incredibly intelligent people working jobs that aren’t even intellectually stimulating, let alone challenging,” said Whitley. “Simply because they haven’t found the opportunity and funding to pursue their passion.”

I’m sure Whitley would agree, that we’re on the cusp of something big.

No doubt, GoLife Mobile and Whitley could have a very big role to play in that growth and success. And our realizing the potential of the talent in this area.

I’m looking forward to being part of that change.

Startupalooza launches 1,000 conversations

StartupaloozaWell it’s official. The first Startupalooza is in the books.

Designed to be a “more business-oriented BarCampy unconference,” the event more than fulfilled its goal. And, in so doing, completed a successful trifecta for the Portland Legion of Tech, adding Startupalooza as an equal among the successful BarCamp Portland and Ignite Portland events.

The best part, in my opinion? The new voices. And hearing new stories from the old ones.

In a town where you tend to run in very small and similar circles, Startupalooza both introduced new voices into the conversation—like the Garage Games guys from Eugene and the soon-to-be-a-Portland-fixture Intrigo team—and drew well-known, yet not-oft-seen types out of the woodwork to both observe—and participate.

Prior to the event, the primary coordinator and Legion of Tech Treasurer, Todd Kenefsky, intimated to me that he had some concerns about the lack of networking time built into the schedule. But guess what happens when you put a bunch of intelligent and entrepreneurial people in a room together? Those conversations just start to happen. In the audience. In the cubes behind the presentation area. In the lunchroom. In the hallway (which served as a bit of an echo chamber at times).

Every minute of the event was a time for networking. And for learning. And for sharing.

And, from the looks of things, everyone is still recovering from all of that energy concentrated in one place. Because posts about the event have been few and far between. Here’s some of the coverage I’ve been able to track, so far (if you have a wrap-up post that I’ve missed, please leave a comment, and I’ll add it to the list):

  • Scott Kveton “Startupalooza or Bust!”
    “All in all I was amazed at the vibrance of the Portland startup scene … clearly there is something here, clearly we’re just starting to pick up the pace here … I can’t imagine anywhere else on earth I’d rather be working and living.”
  • Bram Pitoyo “Startupalooza”
    “If learning from and having conversations with Portland’s greatest innovators (and, in some cases, even luminaries) for a whole day failed to excite your mind to want to create something bigger than yourself (a startup, collaborative, group, side project, community activity, etc.), I don’t know what else will.”
  • Michael Sigler “Startupalooza”
    “It’s obvious I moved to the right town. The collaborative spirit here is awesome. There is so much to take part in and everyone is eager for feedback and participation. Though it was still mostly a sausage-fest, it was good to see a number of women in the audience. I was also pleasantly surprised by the range of ages represented.”
  • Paul Biggs “Startupalooza and #drunkgeeking”
    “While I very much enjoyed learning about some really cool new projects in PDX, as is the case with most structured events, the most rewarding part for me was all the side conversations buzzing in hallways and nearby bars. It’s all about the people!”
  • Gabriel Aldamiz-echevarria “Taste sharing for web personalization”
    “So when we were asked to talk at Startupalooza (a really cool Portland tech event, put together by Todd Kenefsky and the Legion of Tech) we decided this should be the topic of our talk: taste sharing for web personalization… something which is of extreme importance for MyStrands and the entire recommender industry.”
  • John Poelstra “Superb Startupalooza”
    “Of late I’ve been trying to get more involved in the local tech scene where I live. On Saturday I went to check out Startupalooza and had no idea what to expect. It was superb in every respect. The facilities at CubeSpace were great and all the presentations and speakers were excellent. I wish I could have stayed for the whole thing!”
  • Joanna Kane “Startupalooza a high-tech hit”
    “The crowd in attendance ranged from those with decade-long entrepreneurial careers to wide-eyed observers hoping to absorb tips and tools to get their new ideas off the ground. The energy in the room was palpable, conversations were animated, and new ideas were being generated as fast as they were being shared. If I had to pick one theme for the day, it would be the common interest in making life easier through technology, coupled with making technology accessible for anybody and everybody.”
  • Flickr photos tagged “Startupalooza” (Please note, Aaron Hockley was hauling around two rigs for 7 hours, snapping almost 400 shots. It’s going to take a little while for him to comb through them, but they’re coming.)

If you missed the event, Legion of Tech was working to record the entire thing. Hopefully, we’ll all soon be able to have a listen, post processing. I, for one, am curious as to what I actually said while I was up there.

Hacking PDX: Compiling a geek’s guide to Portland International Airport

[Editor’s Note: Why an article on airports? What does that have to do with startups or geeks? Well, there are a couple of things.

First and foremost, when I started out on my own, I thought I would be sitting around in my home office, eating bon-bons while the world beat a path to my door. In reality, I wound up traveling far more than I ever had—and I thought I traveled a lot in other gigs. So PDX has become like a home away from home to me. No doubt as your startup begins to gain traction, you’re going to be wishing you had a personal parking space at PDX, too.

Second, we’re just beginning to enter the crazy jam-packed event season here in Portland. And no doubt there will be a number of our geeky friends from other locales attempting to navigate PDX. It seems only neighborly to give them a few tips, as well.

So, either inbound or outbound, I give you, Scott Kveton‘s…]

Hacking PDX: Compiling a geek’s guide to Portland International Airport

In the last year, I’ve flown about 40 legs through Portland’s airport, which we most commonly refer to by its call-sign designation of “PDX.” 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.

Here are some things that I’ve learned:

  • Take a picture of where you parked with your camera phone. I know it sounds dumb, but the more you travel, the more the visits start to blur together. I’ve been at the airport and gotten on the wrong bus and looked around the wrong area for a long time only to remember, “Oh yeah, I parked over there,” only to have to get back on the bus. Which brings me to my next point.
  • Park in the same area each time you fly out of the airport to avoid the previous problem.
  • Park in area “X.” Have you noticed that there are oodles of people that are waiting at the area “X” for parking? There’s a reason: it’s the best spot. Why? First of all, it’s the last stop on the blue bus route. That means that, once you’re on the bus, the next stop is the terminal. Another reason is that when you return from your trip, you can take either the blue or the red bus and get off at “N” or “A” and be very close to X (both of these are the first or second stops for each line). Now, when it gets past 12 midnight, only the red line runs so again, you’re in good shape. I know, I know … how often are you there after 12 midnight? Well, it only takes once my friends … 🙂
  • This may sound like a no-brainer but participate in the frequent flyer programs for the airlines you fly. The sooner you can become an MVP, 1K, or super-mega-ultra-all-star, the sooner you can take that cool line for people flying first class or in the “elite” of travelers to get through security faster. With my Alaska MVP status, I can get to the airport a full 45 minutes later and not worry about long lines.
  • Taking a day trip to San Francisco or Seattle? Think about using the short-term parking lot. I know, its $24 for the day, but there is nothing like stepping off that plane and walking straight to your car. I find levels 3 or 5 the best as you can take one flight of stairs to one of the walkways and be over to the terminal without dealing with crossing traffic. Also, the handy-dandy overhead “free parking” lights help you find the perfect spot in only seconds instead of minutes. Time is money people!
  • Speaking of money… take the MAX red line. Did you know that for a little less than $2 you can take Trimet’s MAX line straight into the city? If you’re a reverse commuter and coming to Portland there’s nothing like taking the MAX to downtown Portland and your hotel. (It amazes me that people from out of town don’t know this, but then again, I’m a Portvangelist and need to remember that not everybody knows everything about Portland).
  • PDX was at the forefront (IMHO) of providing free wireless Internet throughout the airport for the last few years. Even though I’m rarely stuck in the airport for any length of time, it’s nice knowing that if I get there early before a flight I can be productive anywhere in the airport with laptop + coffee. Did I mention this was free?!

Okay, so those are my tips for gaming the Portland airport … how about you? What are the little tips and tricks you’ve found help make travel so much easier at PDX?

iovation secures $15 million

Portland-based iovation, the company with whom I hate to start sentences, has announced the closing of its latest round of funding. The round contains an additional $5 million follow-on from SAP Ventures and the brothers Samwer’s European Founders. The round is, well, rounded out by a promised $10 million from Intel Capital that was announced last November.

Mike Rogoway at The Oregonian‘s Silicon Forest blog reports:

SAP and European Founders both have good ties abroad, which Iovation [sic] is counting on to help the Portland Web security firm expand overseas.

iovation (argh!) says they “pioneered the use of device reputation for managing online fraud, abusive behavior and multi-factor authentication.” I say, they have stuff that helps online companies prove you are who you say you are and not some bot. But, easily the best description? “iovation exposes known fraudsters and abusers.”

One of Portland’s new breed of startup success stories, iovation been especially successful in areas where high traffic and small amounts of cash are in play, like online gaming and ecommerce, areas where spoofing and bots can result in millions of dollars of lost revenues.

Or, as I like to think of it: with iovation, the plots of Hackers and Office Space become completely implausible. (Please note: I refuse to listen to any comments that claim the plots of those movies were implausible prior to iovation.)

For more information, visit iovation.

(Hat tip Lisa MacKenzie)

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?

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