Friday, October 26, 2007


Ignite Portland: the Event

As the blogsphere has documented, last night's Ignite Portland was a surprising success. The organizers expected between 50-100, hoped for more, and were excited to have 300 people sign up. I was one of them.

Weiden+Kennedy was picked as the host, in part because they generously offered to share their facility, but maybe more because their offices provided that cutting-edge, urban hip feel that the attendees expected at IgnitePortland. It was my first inside the building since it was converted from warehouse space, and the interior layout left me admittedly disoriented. Climb one flight of stairs, then climb another, and then one came to the Nike court -- named for Weiden+Kennedy's best-known client -- yet at least three more floor loomed above the visitor, beyond planes of concrete and laminated wood stretching in all three dimensions. I was left with the feeling that the environment was designed to make people to think about the poetics of space within a building, but instead I felt vaguely uncomfortable because I knew this environment would not make me think productively.

The people there were an eclectic bunch, most of whom were not the folks whom I had met or seen at Portland Bar Camp, OSCON, or Recent Changes Camp. Which is I consider a good thing, because it proves that the Portland technology scene is still vibrant and growing; the bleak jobmarket of five years ago is still wel-remembered by those of us who struggled through it. I did see a few people I knew -- but met a few I hadn't, like Mike Lucich (of Return and Kumquat), and Rick Turoczy of the always enjoyable blog, Silicon Florist. It was a thrill for this C-list blogger to talk with a couple of bloggers further up the food chain, and we wondered if Mike Rogoway, the technology reporter at the local newspaper, was there.

As for the presentations, I saw that they were being recorded, and eventually video files should be available; so I won't go into detail about their subject matter. One that I enjoyed were Kevin Tate talking about "Emergence in Business" -- maybe because I'm fascinated with the way, evocative of the language of the Tao Te Ching, that groups, networks and communities form their own environments, or maybe because he alluded to a number of books he recommended to us to read. Another was Scott Huber bemusedly recounting a real-life discovery that, in this time of posting and uploading so much information on the internet, some people inadvertently share too much information. On the other hand, a few presentations were very much contrarian, on such topics as re-wilding our environment, knitting, making cornbread, and a proposal to create an Oregon-style chain of gas stations.

Maybe those contrarian presentations were clearly post-Web 2.0, by forcing us to think about the tension between the context and their subjects in a post-modern way, and therefore examples of Web 3.0 technology. We should think of them ironically, not as open and sincere attempts to share something that the presenters had a genuine interest in; true sophistication has come to Puddletown. Then again, we all know that bloggers will say the most outrageous things just to attract hits, a tactic entertainers have used to drum up an audience for millennia. Is there any point in worrying that a large number of people got together, were exposed to some new things, and had a good time? Learning things and sharing them is one of the joys of being a nerd. And Web 2.0 has brought a new interest to the Internet because it is one more way to bring people together who then share, not because it makes its users more sophisticated.


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