Portland nerd dinner

October 19 2004

IBM, Microsoft, and Sun bloggers, all in a row -- and we didn't have a single disagreement!
Image:Portland nerd dinner
(me, Robert Scoble, Tim Bray - taken by Bruce Elgort)
Bruce has blogged and posted a few photos from tonight's nerd dinner in Portland.  There were about 30 people there, maybe a few more.  The main contingent was a group in for an XML devcon being held near here tomorrow; Scoble also clearly drew a crowd.  Everyone was friendly and cordial -- only a very small bit of quite good-natured ribbing about IBM vs. MS stuff.  Not too much shop-talk... just basic get-to-know-you and what-are-you-working-on kinds of stuff.   Duffbert and Bruce were there, as was Axel Nastansky.  All had been at the Portland Domino/Notes User Group earlier in the day, which was an excellent meeting with some good questions and lively discussion (especially about Domino/DB2 stuff).

With both Bray and Scoble I discussed 'corporate blogging' policy. Scoble had some good thoughts about "corporate fear" of blogging just the other day.  It was interesting to me that both of them has a perception that IBM doesn't seem supportive of blogs; I think it's more that the efforts are highly dispersed.  The IBM developerWorks blogs are making an effort to show a more centralized view of IBM blogging, and I see that they are now linking to Sam Ruby's blog, even though it isn't on ibm.com.  (InsideLotus weblog is also linked there)  I don't know if it makes sense to have IBM try to do more centralization or not -- it should be noted that neither Scoble nor Bray's blogs (well, their main ones, anyway) are on their employer's websites.
Neither of them were familiar with the powerful role that blogs have played in the Lotus community; both were quite intrigued.  Scoble seemed to like the story, even though it indirectly involved another part of his organization; mainly because it was another proof point to him of the power of weblogs, communities, etc.  And how different the world is from ten years ago, where, as he said, "20 customers could call your support department with a problem, and you could say, 'working as designed' and that would be the end of it."  Now, any one of those 20 hypothetical customers could have a blog, and write about their issue, and then the google hits will start coming, and suddenly that little problem is out of the closet.  Powerful stuff.  We're changing the way companies and customers interact.  

Lauren Williams from Marquam Group introduced me in a very flattering yet humbling way today at the Portland Domino/Notes User Group.  She said that she characterizes me as "accessible" -- that, true or not, she and many others in the Lotus community view me as a...or the...link between customers and the Lotus organization.  Wow.  This is why I blog -- with again appropriate thanks to vowe for kicking me into getting started -- to be part of the community, not just a vendor.  And clearly it has paid off -- in the customer situations I've been able to solve, resolve, or save, and in the new business won, and in a bunch of other ways.  Scoble and Bray each had similar stories.  Now, as long as I can get my day job done -- this blogging and evangelism stuff isn't a major part of that job, just one component -- we'll all be in good shape.
Oh, I got a Nine Guy -- I promise I won't set him afire.  And I've added Scoble to my blogroll.  I said it once before -- if Microsoft hires more people like Robert, that might be the single best way for them to change the mostly-negative perception of their market tactics and behaviors.  

If I had a functioning laptop display, I'd likely use the flight home to write about Portland itself.  This is my second visit, but both have been short and I really haven't had much of a chance to explore.  I'd sure like to -- Portland has a very different feel to it than almost any other city I've been to.  The downtown feels serenly semi-suburban, with plenty of beautiful green space, trees, and setback buildings.  You see a lot of Asia/Pacific influences in the food -- places with "bento" lunches that aren't Japanese, "Hawaiian-style" sweet bagels at Starbucks (never heard of this before).  There's a lot of street food in the downtown -- not just hot dogs and pretzels, but little shacks selling plate lunches, Thai curry, etc.  The city center is a "fareless square" for public transportation -- I got out to the nerd dinner and back for free.  The panhandlers are young and aggressive.  And this time of year, it's still dark at 7 AM -- with jet lag, that would be 9 AM Chicago time -- making for a disquieting morning outing for coffee.

Oh - and it's 11 PM local time, and there is a drum corps line playing outside a hotel down the street.  Hundreds of people just appeared out of nowhere.  A flash mob.  Portland, Oregon.

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