How Much Does a Software Developer in Portland Earn?

One of the topics I’ve become interested in through PDX11 and other economic development discussions is the variation in wages for local programmers. Surveys like the one we did last year reveal a wide range of annual incomes for developers, so while software development pays better than the local median, that gain appears to be more significant for some of us than others.
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Upcoming Presentation: Interactive Fiction

Tomorrow night I’m giving a talk at Code n Splode about interactive fiction. I’m planning to do an intro about how the history of these games has had some interesting outcomes from the technical side (including encouraging open culture/open source practices), do a coding demo with Inform 7, and have some group game play time (9:05, Aisle, and maybe the intro of Lost Pig). It should be a lot of fun, and I’m excited about being able to share what I’ve learned so far.

Note: Code ‘n’ Splode is a women-focused technology user group. If you need more details about the group and our guidelines for participation, see here.

Games in Text

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been spending some time thinking about text adventure games. Or Interactive Fiction (IF), which is what most of the people actively writing and playing these things call it.

It’s interesting, as someone who hasn’t paid more than casual attention to this area of games since childhood, to see where it’s ended up. There’s a very lively online community of people working in text games, but it’s primarily amateur, unlike most other areas of game creation [1]. It also seems pretty insular, in the same way that leads Elizabeth Bear to describe science fiction short story writing as a club scene [2].

One of the general things that caught my attention is that there’s a ton of informed, well-considered discussion within this community about storytelling in games, and about game structure and technique in general, but the scope of games in practice seems much narrower. If, like me, you’re not likely to touch anything involving medieval fantasy, fairy tales, or steampunk, that can really limit your options. I’m finding that the text nature of the game means I’m much more likely to judge the game on whether I find the story compelling, not just whether I find the gameplay enjoyable.

Most of the things that normally combine to make play compelling are absent here, as well. There’s rarely a timing or physical performance issue [3], moves can be made at any speed the player desires, and while many games do award points for solving puzzles, that seems to have more of an effect on the sense of pacing (if you have 4 out of 6 tokens, you’re about that close to finishing).

Anyhow, enough general babble. Here’s what I’ve been playing and what I’m using to play it.
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Why I Write Code

There are many stories I could tell about why I’m a software developer, but since my current topic [1] is text adventure games, here’s one that ties into that:

When I was in grade school, we acquired an Osborne computer. It was a hand-me-down from my grandfather, who had purchased it to run Visicalc (or something pragmatic like that). You could write programs on it in BASIC, though this version of BASIC made it difficult to get the programs from the back of 3-2-1 Contact to work (they included instructions on changes needed for common systems, which the Osborne was not).

It came with one game: Adventure. I was already an expert at the graphical Adventure game on the Atari (thanks to tutoring by one of my uncles), but this was different. You typed at a command line, instead of using a game controller. The computer interpreted this and responded with a game action (or not, if you couldn’t figure out the right commands). It was something of a disaster, in that I could barely accomplish everything, I was always struggling to work out what it wanted me to type, and I couldn’t save my progress, so every time I played I started over from scratch.

Still. That left a mark, the idea that I could type things into a computer and something else would happen. I think many of my later interactions with computers continued to be driven by that idea, that I would find something interesting if only I kept typing and reading the result.

[1] The previous topic was Antarctica. Thus the images of sled dogs and icebergs.

A List is Not a Blog


My digital notebooks are full of scribbles about user groups, determining which are active, which need help with meeting space or other things, contact information for various group leaders.

ways to measure the health of user groups
things that are inputs to technology innovation
things that are outputs of said innovation (and the industry it supports)
common narratives when talking about the technology industry in Portland
activities that may be useful for welcoming people new to Portland (or new to technology work in Portland)
potential partners for said activities
more possible metrics on the value of all of these things
ways to pitch these ideas to people who might help
a recipe for quiche
an outline for a book on community tech event organizing

And so on.

One of my notes says “document everything”. I do this, or I try, but right now I don’t know which parts to share.

What would you like to know?

Build Up

Things I’m thinking about:

  • Antarctica
  • The ridiculous face Kirk is making right now (he’s napping in one of those sprawled out poses)
  • Coast Trip, July 2010 Coast Trip, July 2010 Coast Trip, July 2010
  • Documentation for unconferences, code sprints, and other tech activities, and how much time it’ll take to produce the docs I want to use
  • This report (PDF) on personal income gaps between Oregon and the rest of the country, and in particular the parts about lower proprietor incomes, and lower wages in higher paying industries (like technology)
  • Pondering whether tech workers getting paid lower while working in Oregon is a conscious choice (maybe it’s a partial choice, but then the workers getting paid below the median don’t realize they’re paid less, so they think they’re making a smaller trade off than is actually the case?)
  • Nonprofit regulations (we wrote bylaws for Stumptown Syndicate over the weekend). There’s so much good information for nonprofits in Oregon I wish I had on hand a few years ago.
  • Stuff.

It’s Been a While

There was a friend’s wedding, and Christmas, and snow shoeing and hiking and a day trip to the coast.

I finished my graphic design class, and started one for screenprinting.

I disabled my Twitter account, and unsubscribed from most of the mailing lists I was on. So I could focus on other things. I managed to renew my Flickr account finally, but I’m still not sure if I trust Yahoo enough to use it much.

Our kitten Spock got sick (very sick) and had to be put to sleep.

I read about Antarctica, and vintage knitting, and polar exploration in general, and Mt. Everest, and watched documentaries about everything except the knitting. I tried to read about the history of outdoor clothing, and the gear used in exploration, but found many gaps in what’s in print and on the web. (If you have good references on say, the technical aspects of clothing history and other outdoor gear, leave a comment or email me, please.)

I knit a few things.

I did some Shiva Nata. And some other yoga.

I still have a big stack of books to read next.

I don’t think I’m really back in the land of “public web contributor” just yet. I may continue to be a hermit for a while. But I’m here. Quietly.