Tag: Portland

Beyond the Forest: OpenID and the bigs, all hat and no cattle

It’s no surprise that Portland is rapidly becoming one of the de facto hubs for OpenID evangelism and development.

Scott Kveton, the chairman of the OpenID Foundation now calls Portland home. Portland-based JanRain is a leading force in the OpenID development effort and new Portland-transplant Vidoop is also coming on strong. If Beer and Blog is any indication, we’re all interested in getting more use out of OpenID on our blogs. And having the opportunity to sit down with David Recordon, the vice chair of the OpenID Foundation, is something that’s appealing to quite a number of us.

And while the big companies that we often encounter one way or another—Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and AOL—have all claimed to jump into the OpenID pool, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch is beginning to wonder if this isn’t all a bunch of OpenID lip service. Or to put it bluntly: Are the bigs all hat and no cattle?

The problem, though, is that the Big Four Internet companies that I mentioned above have made big press announcements about their support for OpenID, but haven’t done enough to actually implement it. Microsoft has done absolutely nothing, even though Bill Gates announced their support over a year ago. Google has limited its support to Blogger, where it is both an Issuing and Relying party. Yahoo and AOL are Issuing parties only.

This is a tenuous position at best. For as much ground as we can cover from a grassroots perspective, it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to get anyone—beyond early adopters—to take on OpenID without the support of some of these bigger entities.

Without the bigs, there is no OpenID tipping point.

But the funny thing—not funny “ha ha,” but funny “sad”—is that all of these gigantic companies are struggling with one very similar issue that would be partially—if not completely—solved by an effective implementation of OpenID: bringing acquisitions under a common login credential.

Yahoo! throws its acquirees’ respective user bases into turmoil every time it asks them to move over to a Yahoo! ID. Google takes years in its struggles to get everyone on the Google credential system. Microsoft and AOL are no different.

To me, it seems obvious that OpenID could solve this issue, now and for the foreseeable future. And I can’t be the only one seeing that.

As hard as it may be for them to accept it, the bigs need to move away from their proprietary credentialing structures. They need to embrace concepts like OpenID and OAuth for what they can do to solve their problems, today.

In short, they need to let go and let OpenID.

For now, the jury is still out on when and how the big company momentum will fall behind OpenID in terms of something more than spin and lip service. But let’s hope that day is soon approaching. For all of our sakes.

I can tell you one thing: from a grassroots level, Portland is sure to be leading the charge. And we’re not going to slowing our OpenID fandom anytime soon.

Portland widget startups on the cusp of something big

Portland is well-known as an creative town. Especially when it comes to marketing and advertising. It’s hard to avoid the moniker with a powerhouse like Wieden+Kennedy in town.

But, anyone who lives here realizes that it’s not just W+K. There are marketing and advertising agencies and boutiques of every size dotting the Portland corporate landscape.

Within that environment, it’s not surprising that marketing and advertising wend their way through the culture of the city. Lately, however, I’ve begun to see this marketing influence popping up in a rather unexpected—but extremely interesting—space: Portland’s Web startups. Specifically those startups that focus on widget development.

It seems that the heretofore lowly widget is taking on the role of something more than a cute small-footprint app. It’s beginning to appear that it may be more than just a way to serve up some content, remotely. Today, in fact, it’s becoming clear that the widget is starting to take on a very important role in the world of marketing communications as one of the most tangible means of interacting with customers.

And two Portland startups on the leading front of widget development have the potential to capitalize that trend.

Earlier this week, Portland-based SplashCast revealed that the company’s Facebook widgets for popular recording artists were outperforming traditional online advertisements. Well, that might be an understatement. SplashCast pegs that performance at “75 times better than the clickthrough rate of traditional banner ads.

Now, to put that in context, SplashCast is seeing about 3% clickthrough rates on those Facebook apps. And that 3% is 75 times better than banner ads are performing.

But, the dismal downfall of banner ads as a format is not the focus, here. The point is that banner ads are an accepted and prevalent format for advertising that don’t hold a candle to the performance of widgets.

Later in the week, SplashCast continued to tout this finding by beginning to describe their apps, not as widgets, but rather “social advertising”:

SplashCasting represents a new form of online marketing called social advertisements – tools marketers use to reach the growing demographic of social network site users.

Social advertising. I might have left it at that, had not another Portland-based widget-building startup taken a tangential and complementary position on the issue.

That startup is StepChange (conspiracy theorists may begin churning on the “companies named with a capital ‘s’ and capital ‘c'” theories, forthwith), a small consultancy that both develops widgets for a number of customers and has some widget-based side projects in the offing, as well.

StepChange is beginning to notice a similar trend. And StepChange’s insight only lends credence to the position that SplashCast is taking on the world of widgets:

While we’ve done some basic Flash/Feed widgets, most of our design and development work has been on Social Media Apps that function more like true “applications” – with our clients requiring a relatively high degree of administration, content management, targeting reporting and integration.

I think these kind of ‘super-widgets-turned-applications’ need a better name, so I’m going to start calling them Distributed Marketing Applications.

In my opinion, the position that StepChange and SplashCast are taking is one that makes absolute—if not completely obvious—sense: social media marketing should be, well, social.

Social media is about interactivity. And feedback. And conversations.

Traditional online advertising—with its dancing gifs and whack-a-mole come-ons—just isn’t cutting it anymore. Traditional advertising is not, for lack of a better term, “interactive.” It’s one way. It’s broadcast.

And those who are deeply engaged in social media are hesitant to consume—if not completely avoid—those grating and annoying advertising formats, leftover remnants from last century’s dotcom failures.

Today’s Web consumers are wanting more. And they’re wanting something with which they can interact.

Widgets—and by extension Portland’s widget developers—offer that interaction for users. They offer something more than broadcast. They offer the potential for communications that are far more interactive.

To put it quite plainly, widgets offer us a form of marketing communications that we, as those being marketed to, “can actually do something with.” And if Portland’s widget developers can crack that code for the untold billions interested in interacting with us as customers, then they stand to have marketing and advertising executives beating a path to their door.

StepChange’s Kevin Tate makes a bet:

I’m also willing to bet that, as more and more companies look to extend their existing sites and services into Social Media, we’re going to see a significant market need for these types of platforms.

I’m beginning to agree with him. And I’m excited to see Portland continue to serve its role as a creative town. And, as a leader in marketing and advertising for what could truly be the next generation of ads.

New Feature: Silicon Forest Job/Gig board

It’s officially Spring. And Spring is always a good time to plant some new stuff.

As I strive to make this site more useful for both the folks who are trying to create startups here in the Silicon Forest and the folks who are interested in following those startups, one thing has become abundantly clear to me: there are a lot of people looking for other people to help them.

And sometimes, they’re looking for people to work for them.

So I thought it might be helpful to launch a gig board of sorts. And then I posed a hypothetical question on Twitter. And the response absolutely convinced me it was the right thing to do.

So, I scrambled to create the Silicon-Forest-startup-oriented job and gig board.

Now, it’s not terribly pretty (neither was this blog up until a short while ago), but it is functional.

In the interest of time, I decided to use a canned solution for the proof-of-concept. Call it an agile mentality or use Guy Kawasaki’s phrasing. Either way, it seemed best to get it out there so we could start gathering requirements. But I would like to build something custom that better meets your needs.

So please bang on it, and then let me know what features you would like to see. And if I can’t accomplish that with the canned solution, I’ll work your ideas into the custom solution I’m planning to commission.

Oh, and at this point the job board is completely blank. Which is sort of detrimental to the whole “job search” thing. And, really, who wants to be the first to jump into the pool? [Update: Thanks to Marshall Kirkpatrick (Web designer) and MyStrands (Community Manager – Evangelist) for taking the plunge!]

Well this may help. Until the end of March, anyone can post up to three jobs completely free of charge by using the discount code “earlybird” at checkout.

What have you got to lose?

Now, I know many of you have more than three jobs to post. And the “underwriting the Silicon Florist” survey directed me to get creative about finding ways to fund the continued development of this site. So, I’ve started the cost of a job posting at $50 for 2 weeks.

That seems reasonable without being exorbitant. So, let’s see how that goes.

Again, I’m looking forward to your feedback. And I’m hoping that we can make the Silicon Florist Job and Gig board a valuable resource for all of the startups here in the area.

Don’t forget “earlybird” gives you a chance to try it out for free. So please do.

SplashCast “social advertising” tees up $4 million

Man oh man. With all of these Silicon Forest startups attracting funding, it’s about time I establish a “graduating class.” And here’s one of those startups that’s definitely in the running for Salutatorian, if not Valedictorian: Portland-based SplashCast.

First, the funding. Because that’s the real news here.

SplashCast announced today that it has secured $4 million dollars in Series A funding, led by Mark Bayliss, an Australian (remember the Australia trip not too long ago?) media and advertising executive veteran of some of the world’s largest advertising and media companies who runs in the same circles as fellow Aussie and media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Emergent, an emerging growth investment fund also with strong ties to advertising and consumer brands, was a follow-on to the round.

I asked Mike Berkley, SplashCast’s CEO, to put this funding—and the organizations providing it—in perspective for me.

“What does this mean for the company?” said Berkley. “The relationships that Bayliss and his partners bring to SplashCast gives the company a monumental step-up in social marketing.”

Which bring us to my second point. I’m a marketing geek. So, let’s talk about SplashCast’s newest take on their positioning. Or better yet, let’s not use some stupid buzzword. Let’s talk about how SplashCast is describing their product as of late.

If you haven’t been watching SplashCast, this probably would fly right by, unnoticed. But, I’ve been watching these guys ratchet down on the language they’re using and their efforts to make the product more attractive to a broader big-media advertising market. They continue to make definitive changes in describing what they do. And they seem to be honing in on something new.

SplashCast started in user-generated content. Then they moved to more of a “branded content” sort of play, building custom apps for big names like Justin Timberlake, Britney, and Hillary Clinton. Now, they’re directly positioning themselves as an alternative to what—as silly as it sounds for me to describe it this way—can only be referred to “traditional” online advertising models.

SplashCast calls this new focus “social advertisments.” I call it “advertisements that actually do something.” But regardless of what you call it, they’re pushing this message very strongly as of late:

[SplashCast’s] New Social Marketing Solution Viewed As Breakthrough For Advertisers Looking To Reach Users On MySpace, Facebook & Other Social Networking Sites

And:

Splashcasting represents a new form of online marketing called social advertisements – tools marketers use to reach the growing demographic of social network site users. SplashCast’s video-based social advertisements on average receive click-through-rates that are about 75 times higher than typical banner advertisements used on MySpace, Facebook or other social network sites.

This seems to be their new home: taking on traditional online advertising. And that puts them directly in the sites of some very big players.

Now, some may look at these recent changes and cast aspersions. Claiming that this belies a lack of focus.

In my opinion, these changes don’t seem to be wishy-washy or “searching for a problem to solve.” These are simply the pains that any growing company goes through as it works to figure out where its true market lies.

And there’s a very clear reason that the messages have been moving in that direction.

You build a product based on your ideas and passion. You tend to build a company based on what people will buy.

And given that SplashCast is securing funding and landing customers with this new positioning, it only makes sense—from a business perspective—that they continue pursuing this stance.

I, for one, will be continuing to watch them.

For more information on the funding and social advertising, visit SplashCast.

Portland’s top 30 tech Twitter-ers (#1 may surprise you)

Before you scroll down. Before you read any further. Just guess.

Who do you think it is? Who is Portland’s top tech Twitter type?

I’ll tell you what I thought. I thought it was probably Marshall Kirkpatrick. Or Josh Bancroft. Or maybe even Scott Kveton.

But I was wrong…

Let’s start from the beginning

You see, I get a great deal of Silicon Florist fodder from Twitter. Interesting tidbits. Snippets of conversations. Clues about what’s happening where. And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

And while I don’t think there is ever one single good way to rank things, I do have to admit that I find the Portland Start-up Index to be an interesting way of looking at things.

And then there was Aaron Hockley crossing the 5000 tweet mark last night.

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”?

I had a fitful sleep of metric-ridden dreams, last night.

So, this morning, I—very unscientifically—started combing through the Portland metropolitan area Twitter types. Trying to figure it out.

After some fits and starts, I had gathered a number of folks from the area. I had their number of followers, the number of people they were following, and the number of updates they had.

Some of the more prolific people weren’t exactly “tech” or “startup” types, so they were the first ones I cut them from the list.

Then, I looked at the number of updates that these folks had. And I cut some of the people with lower numbers of updates.

Then, I looked at the number of followers each of these people had. And the number of people they were following.

To me, it seemed that influence has something to do with the number of people who listened each time a person updated. But, logically, not all of these people were listening from day one, and because of that, a direct multiplication would be inaccurate and misleading.

So, I massaged those numbers a little. And mucked with some of the weighting. Then I took all of that unscientific research and ran it through the Silicon Florist 5000.

And guess what it spit out? I was surprised. And I was wrong with my #1 guess. I’m willing to bet you were, too.

And the #1 isn’t the only surprise.

So here’s what I came up with:

Portland’s top tech Twitter-ers

  1. Hajime Kobayashi
  2. Marshall Kirkpatrick
  3. Josh Bancroft
  4. Rick Turoczy
  1. Aaron Hockley
  2. Scott Hanselman
  3. Alex Williams
  4. Scott Kveton
  5. Tim Lauer (Okay, maybe not exactly a “tech” Twitter type, but given his use I’m throwing him in here.)
  6. Verso
  7. Matt Haughey
  8. Raven Zachary
  9. Paul Colligan
  10. Sarah Gilbert
  11. Audrey Eschright
  12. Jason Grigsby
  13. Steven Frank
  14. Dawn Foster
  15. Josh Pyles
  16. Betsy Richter
  17. Sam Lawrence
  18. Jason Harris
  19. Simeon Bateman
  20. Jake Kuramoto
  21. Michael Buffington
  22. Holly Ross
  23. Jessica Beck
  24. James Keller
  25. Rael Dornfest
  26. Chris Brentano
  27. Justin Palmer
  28. Greg
  29. Peat Bakke*

* Within a hair of the 30th 31st 32nd 33rd spot were Eddie Awad, Justin Kistner, and Chris Griffin.

Now, again, fairly unscientific. But interesting nonetheless. (I had a number of other models for ranking, but this one seemed to do the most justice for the larger group.)

No matter what the case, there is one thing for sure: this is a great group of people to follow if you’re interested in keep track of Portland tech.

Did I miss you? Think I’m off? I’d love to have your input. And I’ll be happy to adjust the list, as needed.

Platial goes mobile

Portland-based Platial, the de facto leader in “social mapping,” has just announced a move that is sure to increase both their user base and their overall utitlity: Platial is going mobile.

Using services from mobile partner, Lightpole, Platial users will now be able to:

… take their maps to go with Lightpole’s new local aggregator for mobile. All Platial maps will now have a Lightpole icon which allows people to send their data to any java enabled phone. Most of Platial’s location-based content will be available with the download of Lightpole’s application meaning that even non-Platial members can access Platial content.

For more information on this new feature, see Platial’s post. To try out Platial and Lightpole for yourself, visit Platial maps using a mobile phone.

Russell Shaw: A tribute to a Portland Blogger

Alex Williams has offered that the Portland Metblog meetup, this Wednesday at the Green Dragon, would be the perfect place to toast former Metblogger Russell Shaw, whom we lost, last weekend:

Bloggers, everyone – come on out Wed. night to the Metblog party at the Green Dragon and raise a pint with me to good ol’ Russell Shaw. I’ll be there to remember my good friend and Metblog colleague who passed away last weekend. Let’s share a laugh and a story about the hardest working blogger in the business. Russ and I both blogged for Metblog so it will be good to see some friends and familiar faces. Hope to see you there.

To RSVP, please visit the Portland Metblog meetup on Upcoming.

Twitter: 7 Silicon Forest creations that will improve your experience

Something dawned on me this weekend as I was watching the streams of Portland-based tweets stream across my screen. I think Portland may have more another “per capita” stat we can start quoting. I think it’s highly likely that Portland has more tweets per capita than any city in the US.

With all of these Twitter users and tweets flying by, it comes as no surprise that Portland and the Silicon Forest have created a number of cool side-project Twitter-related tools and views. I use a number of these tools every single day. And they’ve greatly improved the utility of Twitter—and the information it holds—for me. (Of course, as always, I also remain hopeful that some of these side projects have the potential to form—or at the very least inspire—full-fledged Silicon Forest startups.)

While I’ve covered most of these individually, I thought it might be wise to round them up for future reference. Both to highlight the work that is going on, and to hopefully, stimulate some more ideas for development.

In no particular order:

  • Pulse of PDX provides a view of Portland Twitter users and what they’re posting to Twitter. The best thing about Pulse of PDX? You don’t even have to be a Twitter user to use it, so it’s a great way to dip your toe in the proverbial Twitter water. Of course, once you use it, you may want to become a Twitter user.
  • Twitterwhere let’s you find all the Twitter users in a particular geographic region. Want to find all of the Twitter folks in Corvallis? What about Vancouver? Portland? And since the service provides a feed, it’s another “try before you buy” Twitter tool. Add the feed to your feed reader if you’re still debating whether to sign up for Twitter or not.
  • Tweetpeek allows you to create quick widgets and pages using the followers of a particular entity. Think Pulse of PDX for whatever you want. Create a Twitter entity, follow the folks you would like to include, and run it through Tweetpeek. Easy.
  • Ever wish you could see Twitter conversations in a threaded, rather than linear, format? Well, then Twitterthreads may be for you, my friend. Simply log into Twitterthreads with your Twitter credentials, and you’ll be able to see your
  • Heavy Twitter users will find times when they simply don’t see all the replies that were meant for them. And that’s where Portland’s Twitter Reply Sniffer comes into play. Use the tool to search for your Twitter name and you’ll see all the replies from all the folks who are interested in conversing with you.
  • I don’t use public transit as much as I would like, but when I do, NextTrimet has been a welcomed addition to my Twitter toolset. Simply follow NextTrimet (and wait for it to follow you back), then send your stop number in a direct message to NextTrimet and it will let you know when the next ride will be arriving.
  • Sandy isn’t a Twitter tool per se. But I have to tell you, since I discovered Sandy’s Twitter account, I’ve been working with her more and more. Like anyone else on Twitter, she’s cordial, intelligent, and helpful. And she’s helping me keep track of more and more things.

Wow. Portland and the Silicon Forest are definitely a Twitter.

Those are just a few of the cool tools built on and around Twitter that I’ve been lucky enough to find. I, for one, can’t wait to find more hometown-built tools that make Twitter even more valuable.

Have you built a cool Twitter app or found one that I haven’t listed? Please, by all means, let me know.

Russell Shaw, RIP

It is with a heavy heart that I report that well-known and beloved Portland tech blogger Russell Shaw has passed away.

Aaron Hockley, Alex Williams, and Portland Metblogs have written farewells to a man who truly was a professional blogger, in every sense of the word.

He will be missed.

Portland Start-up Index for March 2008: AboutUs retains top spot

It’s the 15th of the month again. And that means its time to update the Techvibes Portland Start-up Index. While there was neither much movement this month—the top 4 remain in the same positions as last month, with AboutUs retaining the #1 spot—nor, apparently, any new sites added to the index, I do find it interesting that two of the most newsworthy companies in the area, Jive and SplashCast, have actually dropped down the list one and two spots, respectively.

Given that the list changes month to month, here’s the ranking, for historical reference. To see the metrics and movement, please visit Techvibes. And, as always, I offer this with the “fruit salad” caveat: This is a very apples and oranges comparison, in terms of companies and products. The other caveat that bears mentioning is that widget- and mobile-based tools often report far lower Alexa and Compete numbers than Web-based services.

So, here’s the list:

  1. AboutUs
  2. Discogs
  3. Kongregate
  4. MyOpenID
  5. Earth Class Mail
  6. Sandy
  7. Splashcast
  8. Jive Software
  9. eROI
  10. Gone Raw
  11. Stikkit
  12. NetworthIQ
  13. Walker Tracker
  14. Attensa
  15. Grabbit
  16. Pibb
  17. GadgetTrak
  18. Active Reload
  19. Iterasi
  20. Art Face Off
  21. Iovation
  22. Rocketbook
  23. Lunarr
  24. ChoiceA
  25. UrbanDrinks
  26. WeoGeo
  27. FreeRange
  28. GoLife Mobile
  29. KnitMap
  30. Goboz
  31. VocalNation.net
  32. MomHub
  33. Lightfleet
  34. Cendix
  35. Pheedo
  36. fmyi
  37. Picktastic
  38. Imindi
  39. Workplace2go
  40. Kryptiq
  41. Techchex
  42. Jama Software
  43. Avnera
  44. GoSeeTell
  45. Lumeno.us
  46. Box Populi
  47. Worldwide Nest
  48. Kumquat
  49. IDP Solutions
  50. YourList

The Portland Start-up Index is compiled by Techvibes using an average of Alexa and Compete rankings. It is updated on a monthly basis.

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