The Joy and Peril of Organizing Community Events

October 18, 2007

OK, I’m a bit of a geek as most people know. Yes, I organize tech events for fun in my “spare” time. 🙂

We are organizing the first Ignite Portland event next Thursday. Initially, we thought we would have 150 people – maybe 200 if we got lucky. We picked a nice, roomy space for the event (Wieden+Kennedy) holding 297 people. We did mostly word of mouth marketing: blogs, a couple of mailing lists, the pdxMindshare newsletter, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Nothing fancy, we just spread the word organically.

Well, we reached 300 people on the RSVP list on upcoming this afternoon. We faced similar issues with Barcamp Portland, but we only had about 250 people register for that event. In the week leading up to BarCamp, we went from about 150 people to 250 on the wiki. Yesterday morning around 9am, we hit 200 … today we crossed the 300 mark. Seriously?? 100 new RSVPs in a little more than 1 day!?!

While we are thrilled and amazed by the response to our simple event, we are faced with the unpleasant task of capping the RSVPs at 325 on upcoming. We also know that we will need to count people as they register, and if we end up hitting the 297 limit, we will have the even more unpleasant task of turning people away at the door.

On the one hand, Wow! look what we accomplished. On the other hand, we might have to turn people away (not exactly in the spirit of a community event).

Portland is a great place for technology enthusiasts, and we have an amazing tech community. Realistically, I think we will be fine. Assuming we get 325 RSVPs on Upcoming, a few people will have last minute conflicts, and we should be OK.

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Women in Technology (The Book)

September 29, 2007

All of the articles written for O’Reilly’s Women in Technology series, including my article about careers in technology, will be included in a book scheduled for publication in October.

All of the proceeds from Women in Technology will be donated to the Alliance of Technology & Women (ATW), a non-profit organization providing scholarships and other encouragement for women and girls preparing for careers in technology. I also just learned that we have a chapter of ATW right here in Portland!

You should pre-order now and buy a copy (or two). 🙂 It’s a great book supporting a great cause.


Advice on Careers in Technology for Geeky (and not so Geeky) Women

September 13, 2007

My article in the O’Reilly Women in Technology series was published today. In this article, I admit to always being a little geeky (big surprise), and I talk about the evolution of my technology career along with a bit of career advice for other women in technology.

Keep an eye on this series. More articles from some very successful women are still in the queue to be released throughout the month!


O’Reilly Women in Technology

September 4, 2007

O’Reilly just started a series of articles on Women in Technology with an article every day for the month of September. I will be appearing somewhere in this series along with Anna Martelli, Audrey Eschright, CJ Rayhill, Dru Lavigne, Gabrielle Roth, Jeni Tennison, Jill Dyche, Juliet Kemp, Julia Lerman, Kaliya Hamlin, Kirsten Jones, Lauren Wood, Leslie Hawthorn, Selena Deckelmann, and Shelley Powers.

“This series is comprised of articles written by women on the topic of “Women in Technology,” which will run through September. My hope is that the myriad of experiences you read about here will showcase how valuable it is to hear from different women at all stages of their careers and lives. Whether you believe that there is gender inequality within the tech community that we should all work to improve or if you think that there are no issues at all, one underlying truth is that we should support each other as individuals.”

(Quoted from Tatiana Apandi, the Women in Technology series creator and associate editor at O’Reilly Media Inc., on Women in Technology)


PDX BarCamp Tech Meetup Aug. 23

August 11, 2007

I wanted to remind everyone that our next informal Portland BarCamp Meetup is next week on Thursday, August 23rd. We had a fantastic time at BarCamp and are interested in continuing to network with other local techies. These events are held on the fourth Thursday of every month. The meetings are not highly structured, and you can arrive whenever it is most convenient if you can’t make it at 5:30.

When: Thursday, August 23rd
Time: 5:30pm – 8:00 pm
Where: Jive Software Office (317 SW Alder St Ste 500)
Sponsored by: Jive Software

Jive Software is located on Alder near 3rd. Parking is available in a nearby parking garage, and it is short walk from the Max / bus lines.

If you plan to attend, please RSVP on the Portland BarCamp Meetup wiki.

The meetup will be very informal and similar in format to previous meetups. We’ll network, do a few introductions, and talk technology for a few minutes about organizing the next BarCamp / DemoCamp, and then see where the discussion goes. This is primarily a networking activity, not a planning meeting.

Please feel free to invite a few others to join us (just make sure they RSVP)! Please encourage them to join our Google Group to receive email announcements about any last minute changes, future meetups, and other PortlandBarCamp communications.
The next meetup will be on Thursday, September 27th.


Why Attend Conferences? AKA Time for a Change

November 11, 2006

The buzz around the Web 2.0 Summit this week got me thinking about why we attend conferences in today’s world of near constant connectivity and information overload. I remember listening to TWIT sometime around CES when Dvorak talked about how he was “virtually”attending CES. He had decided to skip the travel and follow the news coverage virtually rather than physically attending the event. With thousands of other journalists in attendance, Dvorak decided that having one more technology reporter on the show floor was not a good use of his time.

Before every company had a website, before bloggers, and before RSS readers, we attended conferences because conferences were the primary mechanism for learning about new technologies. Now, we can read our favorite blogs, newspapers, and trade magazines from the comfort of our couches in our pajamas with wireless laptops. With so many great summaries of every conference appearing online and bloggers posting live updates whenever someone important sneezes, the need to attend conferences to gather information is greatly diminished.

Historically, we also attended conferences to hear the experts speak on relevant topics; however, podcasts are making conference keynotes, sessions, and even panels less relevant. I admit to being a podcast addict. I typically subscribe to more podcasts than any one human being could possibly process, but it does give me the opportunity to pick and choose based on my current interests. I regularly hear interviews with open source experts on FLOSS Weekly and the O’Reilly Foo Casts, web 2.0 experts on TalkCrunch, and a little bit of everything related to the tech industry from TWIT and PodTech. I do not need to attend a big conference to hear the experts and their latest ideas about technology.

Conferences have also become a mechanism for corporate PR and product launches designed to capitalize on the topical buzz around the time of a big conference, but in reality, the press releases and launches tend to get lost in the noise with dozens and even hundreds of press releases crammed into just a few short days. This is also a holdover from the days when people attended conferences to learn about the next new thing, and corporate types have the conference press release machine in motion.

I am not saying that we should stop attending conferences; however, our reasons for attending have changed over time. I currently attend conferences mainly to hold meetings with customers / partners and network with other smart people to generate new ideas and new ways of thinking about the tech world. The customer meetings and networking usually happen outside of the traditional conference format as lunches, dinners, and informal hallway conversations. Typically, I can learn more by spending 10 minutes in a hallway chat with someone than I can learn in an hour long conference session. Conferences are a great way to gather a whole bunch of experts and those wanting to learn more about a topic together in one place to facilitate learning and the sharing of new ideas and thoughts.

I am starting to wonder if technology conferences are due for a change. Maybe fewer talking heads and fewer keynote sessions with a larger number of small discussion groups giving people an opportunity to share ideas. I am also becoming a fan of the “un-conference” format popularized by FooCamp and BarCamp, which provide a framework for a conference where intimate discussions can be more easily organized; however, I do not know how well the un-conference format would scale when you get larger numbers of attendees. I recently had a discussion at a party with Identity Woman aka Kaliya who is an advocate for a hybrid approach like the un-conferences, but with a little more structure to keep people on track.

I am not quite sure if there is an “answer” to the conference dilemma, but I suspect that the time is right for a broader change in how we organize and attend technology conferences.


The Younger Generation and an Evolving Technological Culture

August 25, 2006

I am sitting in the Portland airport on the way to Foo Camp, and I just watched the guy sitting across from me with his laptop (maybe mid-forties) call his 10-12 year old son over to help him connect to the free wireless network. Kids today grew up with high speed and wireless technologies and have never lived in the pre-Internet age or even the dial-up era. This is a key reason for the success of sites like MySpace where these kids can interact in an online environment that is just as natural to them as interacting in the physical world.

The airport is also an interesting study in how people interact with technology. I am watching an older man peck at his Apple laptop keyboard with two fingers while simultaneously completing a newspaper crossword puzzle. Is this the ultimate in multi-tasking or is he cheating?

Gadgets are everywhere at the airport … laptops, cell phones, iPods, BlackBerries, cameras, and more. Even ten years ago, people reading books, magazines, and newspapers would have greatly outnumbered those using gadgets to pass the time. It is interesting to look around and observe how our culture is evolving toward technology-related pursuits over their low-tech counterparts. The airport seems to be an interesting location for this reflection.

Either I am particularly reflective today, or I just got to the airport WAY too early and have too much time on my hands (grin).