Coming out of Rick’s excellent presentation on the State of Portland Tech there’s been some discussion of whether this community is succeeding. Aaron Hockley reminds us that there are really multiple communities here, so I want to talk about metrics that make sense, even with this overlapping set of groups we call a community.
First: we have at least two major subgroups looking for different kinds of outcomes. There’s the business-oriented professional technology subset that’s interested in specific economic activity: startups, growing businesses, investment. At the same time there’s a sort of bohemian technologically-mediated social activity taking place among people who define themselves as writers, hackers, and explorers of what technology can do. Positive outcomes for this set involve interaction, new ideas, experimental projects.
I firmly believe that barring significant shortages of labor or monetary capital, or highly dysfunctional governance, communities build what they need. We can have different outcomes in mind and still talk about success in that context. Here’s what I’m looking for:
- Can we earn a living? Without food and shelter, everything else is moot.
- Is there room for new ideas to incubate? I found this comment on Boing Boing relevant:
Cheap real estate is only part of [bohemian places] — but there have to be (pause to smile) community organizers … — and hospitable places to lounge, not in isolation, but among other bohemians.. to do the silly intense version of next-to-nothing bohemians do. Performing and partying come next, then distributing artifacts (texts, music, art etc).
Creative activity needs a lot of space to shake things out, and it may not look especially productive at the time.
- Can we grow into what we want to be? This needs business funding, but also educational opportunities, social support, and the autonomy for each of us to determine where we want to end up. I think this may be the hardest piece to pull off, but essential to really thrive.
So that’s my take. Do you have what you need? Are you building it? Why or why not?