New Year, New Gig

tl;dr: I’m excited to announce that I have joined AppFog as their new Community Manager.

When I decided to move to Portland a year and a half ago, the choice was obvious. I was looking for a city filled with creative, brilliant people, a vibrant tech scene and a DIY attitude. I wanted to live in a place that was just on the edge of really being noticed for all it had to offer. Somewhere I could take the time to enjoy life while still making a noticeable impact in the tech world and my local community. Portland was the perfect fit.

After getting settled in, my goals became more focused. Improve my health and well-being. (I’m proud to say that I’m now about 50 pounds lighter.) Help the technology industry in Portland be most successful. Volunteer with local open source projects. Raise visibility for the Oregon State University Open Source Lab. Enjoy life. I’ll squelch my inner perfectionist just enough to take a “done, with more to come” on all of these goals.

While I was busy getting things done in academia, I simultaneously realized that I wanted to be more hands on in the local start up scene. I participated in Angel Oregon 2011 to get a better sense of how Portland’s businesses seek capital. I scoured Silicon Florist daily for all news start up. I had tacos with any number of folks who had great ideas and needed initial guidance or sage advice. The entrepreneurial energy in my new hometown was palpable, but I hadn’t quite found the best way to fit into it.

Enter Lucas Carlson and AppFog. I found my way into Lucas’ inbox via our mutual friend Nat Torkington, and while I was ending the year stint I’d promised to the OSUOSL, I wasn’t really looking. Yet. But “everyone gets tacos,” so I met with Lucas hoping I’d have some useful referrals for his marketing team. By the end of our meal, despite my initial hesitation, I was willing to interview. By the end of a brief code walk through by Jeremy Voorhis, I was figuring out how I could squeeze in time to interview before leaving for a month long trip to Sweden. (That’s a different long story.) I managed to make that happen and am excited to let folks know that I joined AppFog today as their Community Manager.

So why did I decide to join AppFog? Honestly, I missed the faster pace of industry and the opportunity to work with cool products and with a small team. As I mentioned previously, I moved to Portland wanting to see its technology sector getting the attention it deserves, and I’m confident that AppFog’s success will be a great part of that. The product has gotten rave reviews from my friends who’ve used the service, all of them noting that it will make their lives a lot easier and let them focus on what they love most: coding. Most importantly, though, I was incredibly impressed by the team. They’re sharp, they’re hungry, they believe in the holy mantra of getting stuff done and they’re real. I’ve been treated to conversations today on everything from anarchocapitalism to creating quality user experiences to what’s broken in our model and how we’re already fixing it. And it’s only day one and half the team is out of the office, wrapping up the holidays. I can’t wait for what the rest of the week is going to bring.

Posted in AppFog, portland business | Tagged | 5 Comments

CASH Music: What, Why and Where You Fit In

So, I’ve mentioned my many side projects. Like in my penultimate post. And the time has come to talk about another one, namely CASH Music. I sit on CASH’s Board and provide guidance regarding outreach to the open source community, overall strategy and engaging with the many resources the Portland area has to offer this organization.

What is CASH Music? I’ll let the fine folks from CASH explain it themselves. From http://cashmusic.org/about/:

We want to make the Internet easy for musicians.

What WordPress did for bloggers, we’re doing for musicians. CASH Music is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and our mission is to create open source tools and services that benefit artists and music. The goal is to help artists find sustainability and to encourage innovation in the music industry. We’re doing this by building world class open source software designed specifically for the new music industry: tools handling promotion, distribution, commerce — creating the connection between artist and audience.

Too many companies have tried to control the music market and instead have stifled real innovation and freedom for artists. An open source solution will allow tools to be built for the community and improved upon as they are used by that community. We can stop reinventing ways to collect email addresses and focus on real innovation in the music tech space. This benefits artists, managers, labels, and even tech startups.

CASH Music began with the vision of Kristin Hersh, Donita Sparks, Robert Fagan, and Billy O’Connell and has since grown into the organization it is today. Led by Jesse von Doom and Anthony Batt, CASH Music is working on solutions that will range from an instant-setup hosted solution for music sites right down to fully customized, host-your-own code. Every line will be released in the open source and built on open standards.

We want to change everything by creating open source software that freely gives musicians total control over the presentation, sharing, and sale of their music — enabling them to make a living off of their art, building strong direct relationships with their audience.

My involvement with CASH started much the same way my involvement with most of my projects starts – meeting someone with an amazing vision that will make the world a better place. And the huge bonus here is that that Jesse actually had a plan to make it happen, along with working code. I meet intelligent, dedicated people often, but never before had I found someone willing to move his family cross-country to a new town, sight unseen, in pursuit of said vision.

(Aside: Behold the awesome power of Portland. We have awesome doughnuts. And Trek in the Park. And there’s that whole hotbed of open source, DIY, craft culture we’ve got going on. The food’s pretty darn terrific. You know you want to move here.)

So, where do you fit in? Chances are, if you’re reading my blog, you’re a developer. You may even have some spare cycles to devote to improving CASH’s code base, thereby helping musicians more effectively distribute their works, engage with their fans and – gasp! – make money. That’d be pretty sweet. The applications are written in JavaScript and PHP, and you can find all the delicious bits on GitHub.

Also, if I have it right, Maggie and Jesse are working on setting up a series of hack days on CASH in Portland in the next few months. I look forward to seeing you there!

Posted in open source, volunteer work | Tagged | 3 Comments

Negotiation: Avoiding the Vale of Suck Starts with You

Ed. Note: This post also serves as my wrap up of all things OSCON 2011. I didn’t give a talk, I had a great time in the OSL Booth, saw lots of awesome people, as usual. Went to Trek in the Park. Twice. You can read all about that stuff on the OSL News Blog. Well, not the Trek in the Park stuff.

After enjoying the first day of the Community Leadership Summit, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a Negotiation Training Workshop organized by Selena Deckelmann and facilitated by David Eaves. We had about fifteen women in attendance, from a variety of open source projects and non-profit organizations. The workshop lasted about eight hours and, sadly, there’s no way I am going to do it justice in this post. The day was incredibly useful for me and I encourage everyone who has the opportunity to go through this training with David to do so. You’ll never look at communication the same way again.

Since I can’t summarize all that I’d like, I’ll highlight one aspect of the workshop. Very early on in his presentation to us, David posted a diagram that looks a lot like this one (only much better drawn):


The point of this diagram is to illustrate the types of conversations we have with people. For example, you may really not like someone and know that they’re highly against cute kittens, which you adore. Asking that person to donate to the awesome kitten fund would be a conversation falling squarely into the lower left quadrant.

We talked through this diagram and much of what was said is the best kind of common sense. When you are friends with someone, but know they have different objectives in a situation than you do, you’re in the lower right quadrant, etc. And, of course, when you enjoy a good relationship with someone and you both want the same general outcome, the conversation is bound to go well and you’re operating in the upper right quadrant.

Now, here’s the interesting bit: David pointed out that while each type of conversation is a negotiation of one sort or another, we never think of those conversations in the upper right quadrant as negotiations. We’re speaking with people that think well of us and that we think well of and, given that alignment, chances are we are fairly like-minded and that each party would like to see the other happy. We walk away from these conversations with both sides “getting what they want,” but we mentally classify these as conversations instead of negotiations because these conversations are generally easy.

Note: Diagram Adaptation My Own

On the other hand, relationships in the other quadrants we immediately approach as negotiations. We assume, based on generally useful data (having a poor relationship with the other party, knowing each wants different things, or both), that talking to this person is always and already going to be a walk through the vale of suck. We approach the discussion having pre-gamed how it’s going to go poorly. We make assumptions about how to counter the other party’s objections and how to make sure that we get what we want. We spend the majority of our energy trying to decide how we are going to outfox, out-persuade or even apply political force to the other party to get them to comply with our desired outcome.

Stop. Halt. Hold the phone. First of all, let’s notice just how much those thoughts are a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you assume it’s going to suck, it probably will. Your body language shows that you think you’re wandering through the vale of suck. It will be reflected in your diction. These things will be apparent, more or less obviously, to the person with whom you are negotiating. All these things make it harder to accomplish our goals.

So how do you make these sorts of situations better?

  1. Assume each negotiation in the heretofore named “Vale of Suck” quadrants is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship, better align your interests, or both.
  2. Do not proceed into those conversations with assumptions about the other party’s interests. Ask them what they’d like to get out of a given situation.
  3. Be candid about your own interests in a given situation. Displaying trust strengthens relationships.
  4. Spend little to no time worrying about how your candor may mean that you give away information that can be used against you. Remember, you always have the option to let the other party know that you feel they are acting in this way, and that such behavior will color your perception of future negotiations. Chances are probably good that you won’t need to make such a statement.

Remember, the only person you have control over in any negotiation is you, so walk in with an open mind and assume that there will be an effective exploration of interests. You may not reach consensus or an agreement. You may not get what you want. But you’ll certainly be much better prepared to achieve your goals.

I’d like to express my sincerest thanks to David for sharing his knowledge with us and making me see negotiation and communication processes in a completely different way. Thanks to Selena for organizing the workshop and bringing us all together. Thanks to my fellow attendees for the opportunity to learn from them and get to know them, many of them for the first time. Lastly, thanks to the sponsors who made the workshop possible: Google, Mozilla, O’Reilly, Technocation, and Wikimedia.

Now go read Dave’s blog.

Posted in conferences | Tagged | 4 Comments

Why PIE? Oh yes, and startups apply now!

A friend once told me that whenever you want to get something done, you ought to ask a busy person. I’m pretty sure I was also the person he was asking about how to get something done.  Over the last two months, I’d pretty much decided against anything else that vaguely smelled like YASP – yet another side project. Then Rick Turoczy approached me about mentoring for PIE, and I was so excited about the opportunity that I promptly had YAYASP.

Applications for PIE close on August 1, 2011. If you’re wondering what PIE is and why you should care, here’s more from Rick:

http://piepdx.com
What’s PIE you ask? Well, let us tell you.

Since August of 2009, PIE has been home to more than 20 startups, including Urban Airship, Bac’n, PHP Fog, BankSimple, Geoloqi, VodPod, and COLOURlovers, among others. We hosted a number of tech events, including the DjangoCon 2009 Hackathon, WhereCamp PDX Hackathon, GeolQ Hackathon, Portland CivicApps Hackathon, and many more.

What sets us apart from our inaugural year is we now have
several strong brands collaborating with PIE, including
Nike, Target and Coca-Cola, as we embark on our first
brand-focused experiment in 2011. The brands provide five
cross-disciplinary mentors during the 3-month period, who
collaborate with the startups, provide knowledge share and
explore new business challenges and opportunities.

In 2011, we’re aiming to help brands find unexpected solutions,
accelerate new business and keep innovation at the forefront
of what we do. PIE’s ability to curate technology and
innovation, combined with W+K’s connection to brands and
popular culture, should produce some interesting results
in this next round.

We’d love to have you be a part of this. Join us. And make it.

I’m thrilled to be joining this world-class team of mentors and working with entrepreneurs in Portland. Don’t be shy, start working on that application now!

Posted in portland business, volunteer work | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Southern Hospitality and Saving the World: SELF!

I’m also a big fan of sibilance.

Southeast Linux Fest Logo

I’ll be heading back to South Carolina next week to speak at Southeast Linux Fest on Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software: Saving the World One Bit at a Time.  I (re)met a few of the SELF organizers at POSSCON back in March and couldn’t resist the chance to finally head to this grassroots, community driven event. Plus, how can you say no when the conference organizers take special requests for your adult beverage of choice so they’ll have it on hand when you arrive? (For the insatiably curious, I requested Bushmills but noted I would not turn down a bottle of Aberlour 15 year, either.)

I would love suggestions about which HFOSS projects to profile. It’s my goal to raise awareness of the humanitarian open source community in general and, more importantly, to help these projects gain new contributors. Please feel free to give me suggestions in the comments, on Twitter or via Facebook.

I’m currently planning on profiling these projects:

  • HFOSS Project: an academic mentoring community dedicated to increasing participation of underrepresented groups in computer science and IT via creating “Free and Open Source Software for Society”
  • Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team: a team of contributors to OpenStreetMap supporting various humanitarian initiatives with a geo component
  • OpenMRS: a medical record system created for HIV care in Africa and deployed worldwide to augment care for patients living in poverty
  • Sahana Software Foundation: a disaster preparedness and crisis management software suite

I am debating whether Koha counts at HFOSS in the strictest sense given that it’s an integrated library system, but I love the project and consider useful access to knowledge a human right, so there you go. They’ll be in there too.

If you find yourself at SELF, please come and say “hello” and come to my talk at 5:00 PM on Friday June 10th if you’d find the material useful. I will likely have whiskey to share, too. Cheers to Southern Hospitality!

Update: My friend Amanda pointed out that Random Hacks of Kindness should be on this list. Duh and done!

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Going Forth and Doing Good with Sahana

I have recently accepted an appointment to the Board of the Sahana Software Foundation (SSF), a humanitarian free and open source software project. The SSF is dedicated to the mission of saving lives by providing information management solutions that enable organizations and communities to better prepare for and respond to disasters. My contributions thus far have largely involved helping to create and relaunch the Sahana website and to provide guidance on marketing and developer outreach.

Sahana Foundation Logo

I’m honored by the opportunity to work with this community in their work to create excellent software to help those most in need. Current deployments of Sahana include relief efforts for the 2011 Sendai (Japan) Earthquake and Tsunami, as well as the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the City of New York’s Office of Emergency Management. You can take a look at historical deployments of Sahana in response to various global disasters on the Sahana Deployments page.

As with every open source project, there are not enough hands to do all of the good work that needs doing for Sahana. The community is actively seeking developers and folks to do translation work, and we’re working on spinning up more contribution opportunities for those who don’t live code. If you are interested in helping, and I certainly hope you are, you can find more information in the project FAQ.

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Notes and More: Press Training for Community Projects

I was fortunate enough to attend Jennifer Cloer’s session at the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit earlier this month, and her talk Press Training for Community Projects was incredibly useful. Before I say anything else, I want to thank Jennifer profusely for taking time out of her very hectic schedule at the Collab Summit to help the community do a better job of marketing and outreach to the media. A big thank you Dave Neary, as well, for suggesting the session topic.

Joe Brockmeier has already penned a spectacular article summarizing key points from this talk, so my ability to add more value will be slight. For those interested in raw notes from the session, mine are hanging about on this Etherpad. I hope other attendees will be interested in adding their notes/thoughts to this resource.

Jennifer did an excellent job of focusing on the importance of key messages when doing outreach to the press. Taking the time to sit together and throw key messages at a white board, then whittling them down to the top 3 things you want a reporter to know about your latest announcement can be an incredibly valuable exercise even before you speak to a member of the press. These meetings can help build consensus within the community and will provide a great deal of fertile ground for other marketing efforts. Notice a point that lots of folks think is important that doesn’t make it into your top 3 messages? Great! There’s a follow up blog post just waiting to be written. Notice that there are differences of opinion around a particular key message? Wonderful! Follow up to build community consensus before going live with your announcement or choose a different key message entirely, one that resonates well with all of your project’s spokespeople.

Last but not least, I want to add to the chorus of voices noting that successful FOSS projects need effective marketing. I think some in our community continue to labor under the notion that marketing is done only by used car salesmen or other unsavory types, which is unfortunate. Marketing, done properly, is really about telling the story of what is important to you, as an individual and as a community. Telling that story well means that other people will want to join you around the proverbial campfire, listen as the next set of stories is told and add their voices to conversation.

Posted in conferences, open source, open source lab | 1 Comment