Bram Pitoyo, Etc., Interlude, Links, Portland Creative/Tech Event Review

So, You Want To Grow A Community? The Big Picture

As we look forward to a new year for Portland’s thriving technology and creative communities, I thought I’d end this one with a big picture overview of why even the smallest community events, planned by people like you, could contribute to the city’s social and economic prosperity.

This is the fifth of a five-part series.

  1. Introduction: why Portland is the perfect place to start, and what to do about it
  2. Plan: write a goal statement that demonstrates depth and details
  3. Manage: help your sponsors use their time wisely
  4. Measure: continue to engage after and throughout the event’s lifecycle by using a social intelligence dashboard
  5. The Big Picture: examining Portland’s capacity for creativity and innovation, making a case for more grassroots initiatives (you are here)

Where does Portland rank in capacity for innovation and creativity? Where does it succeed, where does it lack? And how might they be enhanced by grassroots action?

Landry, Bianchini, Ebert, Gnad, & Kunzmann (1996) pr-posed fourteen mark of a creative city, all of which play an important role in how successful can a creative, innovative and grassroots initiative survive and prosper. Portland exceeded this metric in several aspects, but fell behind in another.

I chose to use their measures because it focuses on more ‘soft’ factors (the human–organizations–government connection) rather than ‘hard’ ones (infrastructure availability, cost.)

1. Hard factors and facilities

The quantity, quality, variety, accessibility of a combination of facilities are important for encouraging creative processes in a city. (p. 10)

Portland has its State University and Health State University research center located right in its heart, a small but burgeoning metro library system and education programs that interacts with the world around it. All of which helps transform information into knowledge. Portland State University’s Senior Capstone program, one that gives its students a chance to apply their learning to work on a community project, coveted America directly’s Best Colleges Programs to Look For in both 2005 and 2006 (Portland State University, 2006)

2. History

On the one hand it can inspire. On the other hand it can become a burden, a weight, (Portland State University, 2006)something that holds a city back. (p. 12)

Perhaps more true in reputation and perception than anything else, Portland had been casually called the place with a creative, idiosyncratic mind and soul of its own. The familial and sharing sensibilities left from the 60’s are still evident, though the danger of attribution of stereotyping Portland as a “tiny village where everybody loves each other” still remains.

3. Individuals and open communications

Innovative and creative projects are generally driven by committed, even obsessed, original and sometimes eccentric individuals. (p. 13)

Portland positively sanctioned creative and innovative deviance of its citizens. Not only is this evident in the wealth of fringe events that many such individuals participate outside of their workdays (the naked bike ride, Pedal The Bridge, etc.) Portland Development Commission specifically dedicated the Design and Creative Services as one of its target industry (Portland Development Commision, 2002)

4. Networking
The network between composers, artists, art galleries, collectors has created not only benefits for the participants, but also for the city which now has an important per-centage of jobs in the cultural industries as well as image advantages from the ‘public good’ that this grouping has created. (p. 15)

For a city of a relatively small size and close acquaintances, its design and technology sector had surprisingly wide arrays of associations and alliances, old and new alike, from PADA (Port-land Art Dealers Association) and SAO (Software Association of Oregon), to POSSE (Portland Open Source Software Entre-preneurs,) The Linux Foundation and Legion of Tech.

5. Organizational capacity
[…] elements of creativity and innovation need to run throughout the city’s decision making processes be that public, private or voluntary institutions or be they actors in the economic, social, cultural or environmental field. (p. 16)

Unfortunately, what Portland has in networking and open communication, it somewhat lacks in this factor. Case in point: Portland Development Commision’s Creative Services Center.

6. The recognition of a crisis or challenge to be solved
It is thus more difficult to generate innovation in situa-tions that are perceived to be satisfactory. (p. 17)

Many small creative and technology communities in Portland started with relatively little influence and power, and thus be-came innovative in their initiatives. In growing over the months with a more steady base of participants, they quickly becomes comfortable and, often, complacent. This is often evident in the fact that many groups are “clique”-y.

7. Catalyst events and organizations
Catalyst events and catalyst organisations are one way of creating opportunities for people with different perspec-tives to come together and to share ideas. (p. 17)

The mark represents one of the key pillars of this project: the bridge between the creative and the technology communi-ties. Currently, some events of this nature are present (and more is needed.) But this brings a clear need for the establishment of an organization that specifically addresses this issue, either from within the city (working with PDC, for instance) or in-dependently. This organization will serve as a voicebox for opinions and ideas from grassroots initiatives and individuals.

8. Creative spaces

A creative city requires land and buildings at affordable prices […] Cheap spaces reduce financial risk and therefore encourage experiment… (p. 18)

Compared to nine other creative cities around the US, like San Francisco, Austin and Denver, the Greater Portland area consis-tently ranks low in cost of apartment rent, Class A office space, total industrial space cost and median housing price (Greenlight Greater Portland, 2008, p. 25)

One other factor that’s equally as, if not more, important, is the availability of coworking space: a community-managed col-laborative work spaces for independent knowledge workers, who often needs non-traditional office space away from their homes. This can not only resolve their basic need for space for less money than a traditional office space, but also create a new work style more conducive to creativity and innovation called “coworking.” These are evident in Japan and Europe in the form of Art and Design Centers.

Old warehouse and textile factory that are no longer used were utilized to create the Kanazawa Citizen’s Art Center […] these facilities are designed to be used freely “24 hours a day, 365 days a year” […] The buildings were remodeled to serve as space for performance as well as practice, and di-rectors of these facilities were chosen from ordinary citizens. (Sasaki, 2005)

While a center in the true sense of the word is currently lacking, Portland possesses many coworking spaces for its size, whether they’re open/rent-anytime like Cubespace, Souk, Portland Innovation Center and ActivSpace, or closed/reservation-only, like LessDistracted and TENPOD.

9. Breaking the rules

…a more radical democratic approach to [incorporating creativity into city management] could turn this potential liability into an asset by creating new channels for a flow of creative ideas from the grassroots to city government. (p. 19)

Innovation means nothing if the desire to adopt it doesn’t come from the top-down. Mayor-elect Sam Adams dedication to supporting the creative, artistic and cultural initiatives are evident in his appointing of representative to chair a Coordinating Committee in the Regional Creative Capacity Strategy Project. The project aims to “build and support a sustainable creative community through prioritized strategies with clear costs and achievable ways to fund them” and ultimately make “creativity and innovation a regional value.” It serves to address three issues: expansion/extension of access to creative tools across the state, support of existing organizations and growth/advocacy of the creative community in general. Perhaps most importantly, the Creative Capacity Strategy team is composed of nonpartisan citizens.

By interacting directly with community members, the government unclogs the flow of creative ideas from the grassroots by removing bureaucracy. Unfortunately, there is no research-based evidence from this factor.

10. Bringing in outsider opinion

[…] immigrants, if their contribution is seen positively and is allowed to flourish rather than engendering a xenophobic response [can bring in outside opinion and influence] (p. 20)

Portland has seen increased influx of immigrants from across the US who seek to escape from rising cost as well as environment detriment to creativity. Citizens are usually more than happy to welcome them, and in this sense, Portland fits the definition well. But anecdotal evidences indicate that many moves here for similar reasons. This means that Portland attract likeminded individuals, with relatively few difference in mindsets, opinions and backgrounds. This means that a wide diversity necessary for any creative city to flourish in long term may be reduced.

In addition to this, Portland’s predominantly white demographic presents another challenge to overcome.

11. Attitudes toward risk and failure

[…] failure may contain the seeds of future success if it is analysed and not automatically punished […] Success, on the other hand, can lead to complacency. (p. 21)

One of the ways to encourage experimentation (and thus inno-vation) and better attitude towards risk is through the planning, development and launching of city and statewide pilot projects. Portland, like many other cities, has numerous. To encourage developments of projects, it will be critical to built a convinc-ing, evidence-based argument to stakeholders, using tools like the Toolkit Citizen Participation.

12. Approval and recognition

Innovation is risky and can be scary, as there are few guidelines to assess whether projects are being successful. For this reason, mechanisms to show approval and recog-nition are essential. (p. 22)

These mechanisms can best be demonstrated by citywide de-sign, architecture and art competitions. Currently, not many of these exist locally. The only notable example is the Portland Courtyard Housing Design Competition.

13. Self-reliance

[…] it is important to encourage internally generated ideas, in order to motivate people as well as a degree of lo-cal self-reliance and independence. (p. 23)

A report from groups conducted in Portland in February 23 and 24, 2004 by Impresa Inc. and Coletta & Company stated that “coupled with the creative climate is Portland’s independent, entrepreneurial climate. ‘People here are independent maver-icks, not part of the machine.’” and ECONorthwest’s research for PDC showed that 41% of the city’s creative services indus-try workers do so in non-employee firms, most of them as self-employed freelancers (Portland Development Commision, 2002). In addition to this, Portland also has the highest per-centage of small businesses per capita (Impresa, Inc., 2004)

14. Paradigm shifts

Taken seriously, the holistic, overarching concept of sustainability has implications for every aspect of urban life – [providing a] historic break at every level. (p. 24)

Much like what the concept of sustainability has brought to the consumer society, the ultimate goal of this project is for creativity and innovation to influence every area of urban life it touches. The challenge is to improve factors that the city lacks (diversity of internal and external opinions, recognition of problem among citizens, organization capacity) and ultimately use what it already has to its advantage (forming alliances between disparate groups of creatives through formalized organizations or informal events.)

Looking for the bibliography?

I’m still continually revising the paper. It’s going to be available shortly as a part of the next one or two posts.

Happy new year!

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Etc., Interlude, Links, Portland Creative/Tech Event Review

So, You Want To Grow A Community? Help Your Sponsors Use Their Time Wisely

This is the fourth of a five-part series of a guide that gives you the tools to plan, manage and measure a great technology or creative event—then demonstrate that it can not only impact your community, but also the industry sector surrounding that community, and ultimately, the city-at-large.

This guide is primarily written in the context of my experience living through Portland’s thriving technology and creative communities, and is organized in five sections:

  1. Introduction: why Portland is the perfect place to start, and what to do about it
  2. Plan: write a goal statement that demonstrates depth and details
  3. Manage: help your sponsors use their time wisely (you are here)
  4. Measure: continue to engage after and throughout the event’s lifecycle by using a social intelligence dashboard
  5. The Big Picture: examining Portland’s capacity for creativity and innovation, making a case for more grassroots initiatives

Often, even the most generous and perceptive sponsors are dumbfounded when faced with the prospect of speaking to the event’s audience. What, for instance, should they talk about in what little airtime they have?

In this section, I’m going to switch my gears and speak from a sponsor’s point of view.

The answer is threefold. You, the sponsor, should know your:

  1. Sponsorship objective
  2. Company’s background, and
  3. Event expectation

Before you start, it helps to think of this speaking engagement as a pitch. Remember: your company has paid for this, so it is your responsibility to make your money’s worth.

The first step to building a successful pitch is to know why you or your company, sponsor this event. My personal experience, unfortunately, says otherwise. More often than not, a speaker would say something along the lines of:

Hi. My name is [your name here.] I’m a brand developer at [this company.] We’re a full-service advertising agency with a strong PR front. And we’re trying to, you know, engage in this ‘PR 2.0’ movement. So talk to me if you’re interested. Thanks.

This is fine if you’re a big company with a nearly limitless budget that is able to sponsor any event without breaking the bank. But you’re not them, and this event may be your only chance to get the words out this months.

What should you do? First, know your sponsorship objective.

For instance:

  • If your company is seeking to be the next Facebook, then your objective for sponsoring an event like Lunch 2.0, a monthly informal lunch for tech professionals, is probably to recruit developers and talents for your next big feature release
  • If your company is a design agency that wants to expand into the interactive and social media area, you probably want to discover talents and talk to as many people as possible. Maybe not necessarily to recruit them, but to see which one has the best fit.

Knowing, for example, that your objective is to recruit, the speech now could say:

Hi. My name is [your name here], a brand developer at [this company.] We’re a full-service advertising agency with a strong PR front, who is looking to expand into web application development. And we need talent. If you’re a Ruby on Rails, Java or PHP developers, we want to hire you. Talk to me at lunch.

Better.

The second step is to know your company’s background.

Mind you, aside from the fact that you’ll be asked questions relating to this when you talk to people individually, everyone will say that her company is, in fact, unique, and occupies the number 1 spot in its category.

So you need to change your angle.

If your target is a talented group of developers, you must convince them as to the reason why they should work at your company. Why is your company unique? What would compel them to work there? Is it about the perks? The work environment? The in-house beer tap in the breakroom? The answer can differ wildly, but it must be there. It’s simply not enough to say that you’re “the market leader.”

Knowing this, the speech now could say:

Hi. My name is [your name here,] a brand developer at [this company.] You may know us from our work with Microsoft Silverlight and Nintendo Big Brain Academy. We’re a digital agency that are looking to expand into web application development. We’re searching for people who “get it,” and can get us up to speed in this wild frontier: developers, designers, researchers and anthropologists. We like to surround ourselves with smart, rock star developers. If you’re not getting proper recognition, talk to me during lunch. Thanks!

Again, better.

The third step is to know the event expectation.

Is it big or small, formal or informal? Where is the venue? Is it standing room only, sit-down, or a mix of both? Who will be there? Designers, developers, PR people, a mix of any of the above?

My experience: standing room facilitates more rapid interactions (on a Lunch 2.0 session at Vidoop, I talked to about 20 people over the course of two hours) but is also more chaotic. Conversely, a sit-down venue means slower pace, but is in dan-ger of getting stagnant quicker.

Your speech should consider all these factors. In smaller venue, you could afford being more intimate and allow some interaction. In larger ones, you must be dynamic and move through quickly.

Here is an example of speech for a smaller venue:

Hi. My name is [your name here.] I’m a brand developer at [this company,] an agency who works with Microsoft Silverlight and Nintendo Big Brain Academy, but serve beer at the end of ever week and provide endless bowl of M&M’s. How many of you would consider yourself rock star developers? We’re a digital ad agency who wants you to get us smart and up to speed on web application development. And we’re hiring. So come talk to me at lunch if you’re a developer, designer, researcher or anthropologist. Thanks.”

And a speech for bigger venue:

Hi. I’m [your name here.] I’m a brand developer for a digital agency in town called [this company.] We usually do traditional interactive works around the web, like the ones for Microsoft Silverlight and Nintendo Big Brain Academy, but we decided to come here because we hear that all of you are smart about web application developments. We want you to get us up to speed on that. We’re hiring developers, designers, researchers and anthropologist. Like you, we like to be surrounded by the very smartest people. Talk to me if this sounds like you. Thanks!”

Much better.

Remember, the three rules for creating a better sponsor speech are to know your:

  1. Sponsorship objective
  2. Company’s background, and
  3. Event expectation

With some planning and knowledge beforehand, both the attendees and your company will benefit from it. Now if only there is a way to track all the information surrounding the event…

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Etc., Interlude, Links, Portland Creative/Tech Event Review

Building Social Intelligence Dashboard: A Real Time Online Content Analysis Tool

This is the third of a five-part series of a guide that gives you the tools to plan, manage and measure a great technology or creative event—then demonstrate that it can not only impact your community, but also the industry sector surrounding that community, and ultimately, the city-at-large.

This guide is primarily written in the context of my experience living through Portland’s thriving technology and creative communities, and is organized in five sections:

  1. Introduction: why Portland is the perfect place to start, and what to do about it
  2. Plan: write a goal statement that demonstrates depth and details
  3. Manage: help your sponsors use their time wisely
  4. Measure: continue to engage after and throughout the event’s lifecycle by using a social intelligence dashboard (you are here)
  5. The Big Picture: examining Portland’s capacity for creativity and innovation, making a case for more grassroots initiatives

This post is, in essence, a combination of methods I learned from:

In her book Internet Marketing, Carolyn Siegel wrote that online analysis will “lead to predictive accuracy in spotting gaps in a market, product usage trends and commercial opportunities.” In fact, “Content analysis software is already used online to analyze word bursts, words or phrases that appear frequently in online communications.”

Today, these services are available as integrated packages like Radian6, Social Radar, SM2, Brandwatch, mediasphere360, Trucast, Cymfony, Umbria and Nielsen BuzzMetrics. These packages are recommended if you’re going to work with a medium to large-sized client.

But what if your client isn’t as large as you hope they could be, or what if the client is, in fact, you, and you just want to see how conversations can be analyzed online, in real-time, or to simply see what the internet has been talking about you, that you might not know before? You may be surprised with the result.

(And, holy Batman, the list of software packages above sure sounds daunting.)

Anyway, it turned out that with a combination of various technology that are already available today, you can build an environment that’s nearly as good as paid system—for free. Sure, it’s going to take a lot of research, but you’re going to learn it in small steps, from scratch. And, if you ask me, small steps are the best way to do it. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to name this tool like Marshall, Amber, Dawn and Justin called it: Social Intelligence Dashboard.

Establish our case

Let’s say that I have a bottled water that I want to launch a website for. Let’s call it Steamboat Springwater. Steamboat Springwater is different from every bottled water product out there, because it’s going to be sold in recyclable tetra pak packages, and because it’s going to emphasize the fact that it comes from a single spring source in none other than Springwater, Oregon.

Determine what information we need

If I’m going to assemble a social intelligence dashboard for this product, then, where should I start? First of all, we know that there are several kinds of information that we need to gather. For instance:

  • What is our industry? What is the sandbox that we choose to play in?
  • What are trends that has been happening in this industry?
  • Who are our competitors?
  • What are they doing: in the news, on the conversation streams, and at events around the world?
  • Who are influentials and opinion leaders in our field?
  • What do they have to say about the industry, the competitor, and us?
  • Where do our audience live, work and play online?
  • What are they saying about us?

As you probably know, conversations about all these subject can happen in many places:

  • Blogs
  • Forums
  • Social media channels (Twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed, just to name a very few)
  • Chatrooms, which probably couldn’t be monitored easily

Get to know the workflow and tools

Our information analysis process will go through this flow:

  • Get
  • Filter
  • Access

To get this information, we’re going to use several tools:

To filter, we’re going to use:

And to access, we’re going to use an RSS reader like Netvibes, Pageflakes, Google. I chose to follow the example of experts I mentioned above and use Netvibes. Generally, I try to use online, Dashboard-style newsreaders, so I’m not tied to my computer, and I have a Bird’s eye view of see the information.

Netvibes vs. Newsfire

So, in summary, we’re going to research the industry, competitor and opinion leaders for our Steamboat Springwater product.

Let’s get to it.

Get

Step 1: Gather

Punch in industry and product related terms through various search engines to look for information sources (news sites and blogs) that we can subscribe to. In the example below, I use a very general term, “bottled water.” But as the rule says, the more specific you can make it, the better.

Searching for the term “bottled water” on search engines BlogCatalog, Technorati, Google Blog Search and IceRocket

Also, search for the same terms on social bookmarking sites.

Searching for the term “bottled water” on social bookmarking websites Magnolia, StumbleUpon, delicious, digg and reddit

And don’t forget to track conversation on social media channels like Twitter, by punching the same terms (“bottled water,” “Evian,” “Perrier,” “Steamboat Springwater”) on search engines like Twitter search.

Step 2: Analyze

This is the analytical part of the job. Find as many blogs and news sites that has high credibility (ie. often mentioned, cited and linked by other sites) as you can, and collect their RSS Feed.

There are nuances to this step. For instance, this is the steps I learned from Marshall Kirkpatrick in his presentation at WordCamp Portland:

  1. Search for relevant blogs and news sites
  2. Collect their RSS feeds
  3. Aggregate them with Yahoo!Pipes
  4. Filter them through AideRSS
  5. Let AideRSS go for a period of time and see ones that are ranked higher
  6. Pick the higher ranking ones
  7. Repeat step 3

Filter

Step 3: Aggregate

Grab the RSS feeds of these relevant blogs and news sites. Copy–Paste their URLs to Yahoo!Pipes, then generate a new Pipe and grab its RSS feeds. These are my steps.

Grabbing an RSS from a blog, feeding it to Yahoo!Pipes, generating a new pipe and subscribing to it

Step 4: Dashboard

After that, we’ll Paste the RSS feeds to Netvibes ‘Add Content’ field, and drag the resulting Feed into an open area in Netvibes to create a Widget.

Adding newly created pipe RSS feed to Netvibes and making it into a widget

Step 5: Repeat

Collect more blogs, filter more things and add more widgets to your dashboard!

Tips

Categorize the blogs you collect into several categories, and generate Yahoo!Pipes and Netvibes widget thusly. For example, in our Steamboat Springwater online content analysis research, we may have 4 categories that we need to analyze:

  • Industry (trends, landscape, news)
  • Thought Leader (opinions)
  • Competitors (press releases)
  • Vanity (what are they saying about us?)

The method that I outlined above only covers searches for the Industry and Thought Leader categories.

To do a search on Competitor

Simply change your search term from “bottled water” to, depending on your market research (you didn’t forget to do it, right?), “Evian,” “Perrier,” “Aquafina,” and so on. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the RSS of their corporate site. Usually, the feeds are located on their “News,” “Events” or “Press” section.

To do a Vanity search on yourself

Change your search terms from “bottled water” on all of those search engines to “Steamboat Springwater.” The rest of the steps are identical.

The result

Itching to see what the actual Social Intelligence dashboard actually look like? Since “Steamboat Springwater” is a fictional product, I’ve created, using a similar method, two dashboards for two events that I’m managing the communities of: Refresh Portland and CyborgCamp.

Here’s Refresh Portland’s Social Intelligence dashboard, and here’s CyborgCamp’s.

Access

Now that you have all the data that you need in your hand, you need to monitor and analyze them for breaking news, and participate in conversations that your brand will benefit from.

Monitor and analyze

See that the plastic bottles are topping the list of biggest environmental waste on an information site, or a blog somewhere? Post it to your company’s blog. Hear that your competitors are launching a new ad campaign touting the taste of their water? Go against the trend and launch something viral.

Participate

See a blog post that rants about how plastic water bottles are polluting? Post a comment about the fact that Steamboat Springwater is packaged in fully recyclable Tetra Pak. Hear somebody on Twitter say that they’re having trouble getting bottled water where they live? Offer your water’s affordable delivery program two minutes after they post the message.

Ultimately: why should I use something online?

Because you’ll get up to the minute data, and thus can respond to them accordingly. The maximum delay of a feed is about an hour, and the minimum is usually several seconds after the article, post or news item is published. Compare this with your PR or ad agency’s reports and news clippings. Sure, they may do something bi-weekly, or even weekly if you’re lucky. But they won’t know that Evian is opening up a new company right by where your main natural purifying facility is next Monday, or that everyone in the industry is abandoning the plastic bottled water in favor of ones that are made from corn, starting next month.

Up to the minute competitive informations, assembled through an online content analysis tool like the Social Intelligence Dashboard, will allow your brand to gain a competitive advantage with the ability to respond to all situation swiftly. It’ll also allow you to keep track of your social media presence—and, if you ask me, that’s pretty important.

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