Portland Web 2.0 update

Web 2.0 activity in Portland is still a big interest area for me and a number of Portland sites popped up this week. Seems things are really getting going around here.

TwitterWhere

TwitterWhere is a cool new project from local Portland developer Matt King. Similar to how Local Signal tracks an assortment of feeds for a specific city to filter and discover news, events, and people, TwitterWhere tracks Twitter activity for a given location, making it easy find local breaking news and other Tweeters. (Silicon Florist and Read/Write Web coverage)

ChoiceA

ChoiceA is a new national real estate FSBO site (Silicon Florist and Read/Write Web have more).

Platial

Platial made a pretty bold move it seems in acquiring one of their direct competitors in the social mapping space who had been doing better, traffic ranking wise. Should be interesting to see what happens with the combined companies.

Occaisonal Round-up

Local Signal

Continuing to fill out the local content (mainly news, biz and sports) for all the cities in Local Signal. In marketing news, the site was added to the Programmable Web mashup directory which helped drive a nice amount of users this week. There’s a great new logo, produced by Craft Is The New Black. Turns out there are brother-n-laws who are in fact good designers. It’s pretty cool to be sitting around with the family and get some real progress made on a project. Those usually don’t go together very well. Popular items coming this week I hope.

PDX Web innovators

We had a great meeting last week with Kevin, Michael, and Bryan (sp all ok?) from StepChange giving us the ins and outs of widgets, the economy around them and the development of them. Like others have commented, I thought it was one of most productive discussions yet, with the brains cranking on great new ideas. Justin has the round-up, and be sure to take a look at his excellent new design while you’re there.

Ignite Portland

The popular Ignite series is coming to Portland this month. Looks to be a fun night.

Kicked out some CLIQers

As the CLIQ leader for the Portland Web/Tech group, it appears that it is my responsibility to keep the CLIQ relevant. So, I have booted a couple of blogs that were definitely not Portland Web/Tech focused. I will restrain myself from abusing my power by booting those with more views than me ;-).

With CLIQ now in public beta, anybody can join, so get over there and sign up if you’re looking for a little bling for your blog and want to connect with other Portland bloggers.

Coming full-circle with MVC

Interesting how software design repeats itself so much as different groups discover old patterns and make them new again to a whole segment of developers. I’ve been developing for about 8 years, only a fraction in the history of software, but already I’m looking at repeating myself. I’m reading today about the ASP.NET MVC (Model View Controller) announcement from this past weekend. I think it was a little over 3 years ago now that, in my day job, I left Java for .NET. For the bulk of my Java days I was doing MVC development with a custom IBM framework (which I wasn’t too fond of) and with Spring (which I had a lot more fun with). I consider myself pretty agnostic with software, I’m not religiously tied with any group, but I made the switch to .NET because I wanted to write web apps, and .NET was the direction my company’s technology roadmap was going, leaving Java mostly behind as a web front-end.

Thanks to Rails generating an increased buzz in the .NET community about MVC, Microsoft is now going to ship its own MVC framework as an extension to ASP.NET. I’ve been doing traditional ASP.NET and ASP.NET with the Model View Presenter (MVP) pattern now for 3 years and am not a big fan of it’s workings, with viewstate, postbacks, controls and event lifecycle. Too often I find myself having to work too hard to do fit what I’m trying to do into the framework. The web is a simpler medium, and I like the software stacks that web apps are written to be simpler too. I’m looking forward to exploring this new framework more along with Rails and MonoRail.

LocalSignal preview release

Thanks for all that voted in my “name this app” poll. LocalSignal.com won by an 8 to 6 margin over SocialMetro.com. I’m going to trust the voters on this one and go with it. It’s also time to announce the preview, since Silicon Florist and Metroblogging Portland have already covered it. Yes, I know it’s aesthetically challenged (though it’s much better than the first preview thanks to Matt at CouldBe Studios who hacked up my css), but I would love to hear feedback on the idea, content, and if you feel so inspired, design ideas.

Jump right into the Portland news to take a look.

LocalSignal is built for 3 types of uses:

  1. Quickly get the latest news, event info, and social media content from around the web for your city
  2. See what’s happening in a city you’re traveling or moving to
  3. See who’s online around you in your city

As is my custom, I usually give a back story when launching an app (here’s Web 2.0 Innovation Map and NetworthIQ). Basically, I was subscribing to a whole bunch of Portland feeds, and it was beginning to clutter up my reader. Feed readers are great, but the more feeds you follow the more difficult it is to keep up and need arises to find faster ways to filter. Also, when I took a trip last year to San Diego, I had been looking for something like this to get an idea of what was going on down there, maybe if there were any Web 2.0 type companies or events to check out. I also like to know what’s happening in Seattle to get a feel for overall Northwest happenings, but I certainly didn’t want to subscribe to those feeds, and didn’t want to build a new page in PageFlakes/Netvibes for any city I all of a sudden cared about. Finally, I’ve met a number of great people locally here in Portland as a result of my online activities, and would like to continue that tradition by finding the local people using various social platforms.

Putting those ideas together with my increasing use of Original Signal for news scanning, and the city-based single page aggregator now known as LocalSignal was born. Originally I was just trying to filter out universal social media platforms for local content (topix, newsvine, del.icio.us, technorati, MetaFilter, Ball Hype, Upcoming). If a site had feeds and some way to filter content by tag or location, I tried to utilize it. Unfortunately, I think the vision falls short by only relying on that method. Some feeds were too stale for that fine grained of content, and some too busy to find anything useful. For that reason, I’m starting to add more locally produced content.

If you’re wondering what the heck I’m doing building another app right now, as if I have the time. Well, I wonder myself sometimes. Focus was never my strong-point. But, I like to tinker and the feed plumbing was built back in February as I was brushing up on my PHP. Todd and I discussed some organization and design ideas in Aprilish, but I still let it simmer. Some recent events have given me the motivation to bring it down from the attic and get it out the door.
There’s still a number of things to do: UI improvements, showing new items since last visit, showing popular items (determined by clicks), and of course content content content (adding, removing, ordering) for the 53 cities currently being tracked.

Here’s some additional resources about news filtering methods:

Mint finally launches

Mint finally launched yesterday at the TechCrunch40 conference. Congratulations Mint! I had been referring to Mint as the great vaporware of personal finance apps. They first started promoting it back in March, and was beginning to think it would never launch. 6 months later they have a public beta out (I believe they actually started working on it on December ’05). Good to see there is something there after all, so I guess I have to stop calling it vaporware. Their blog has been great, even inspiring one of NetworthIQ’s new features, but hopefully for $5 million in VC money, we can get something better than a blog.

I should be happier for them, more exposure for the personal finance space and all. But, I’m feeling a little down today. As is the case with Wesabe, Expensr and Geezeo, I don’t view them as a competitor. They are more traditional Personal finance managers, focusing on expense tracking and bank account aggregation. NetworthIQ looks beyond bank accounts into your whole financial picture at a simpler/higher level while adding a social support network and way for you to chronicle your financial decisions. It’s really more of a complement to any of these apps. Unfortunately though, even if we’re not competitors, NetworthIQ will be viewed in the same general realm and thus be buried further in the noise and battle for new users. This also hit home reading this month’s Money magazine article about social personal finance that ignored NetworthIQ (Jean Chatzky, what’s a guy gotta do to get on your radar?). We were the first doing anything personal finance related in Web 2.0/social software. Now, there are lots out there. One thing’s for sure, I’m going to have to pick up my game a lot more.

As a personal finance software user myself, I’m not impressed with Mint. It’s web-based and very pretty, but I’ve been using MS money for 8 years and there’s nothing in Mint that will make me switch. I’m a BIG proponent of web-based software, and Money is probably the only reason I keep Windows around (ok, I guess I need it for .NET development too, but it’s the only software app that I use on Windows). It would be great to have a web app for this, but I’m not ready to give a new web service my usernames/passwords (I gave one to test it out), and it only tracks bank and credit card accounts. It can’t track mortgages, brokerage accounts, etc, so it’s not really a “track all your accounts in one place” app. I’d still have to use Money. The weekly email summary was a neat thing I admit, but I think there’s a lot more power in a client PFM in analyzing and reporting on spending. In the end, Mint feels more like an affiliate marketing scheme than a PFM.

To win the “best presenter” award at TC40, I honestly think that’s ridiculous, but really says more to me about the conference than Mint. For two reasons. 1) If this is the best app out of the 40, I can promptly ignore the other 39. 2) This has to be one of the best funded companies there, and I don’t think companies with VC funding should be in the running for conference grants. Those should be reserved for companies still battling in the funding game.

LUNARR Launch

Portland company LUNARR, cut through the TechCrunch40 noise nicely this morning with their release. Silicon Florist has a good roundup.

This is interesting to me, one because I love trying collaboration tools and two, because I noted LUNARR way back last february and for the longest time, I was getting a good chunk of my paltry traffic from google searches for Toru Takasuka, the CEO. I’ve now been relegated to page 3 of the google results.

So, now that LUNARR is out, let’s look at the description from back then:

“He says he will develop a Web-based product that will allow business people to handle their computer needs, boosting productivity through collaboration. Information will be accessible via anything from a personal computer to a cell phone to a television.”

The collaboration part is definitely there, and I see some interesting things there. The whole “turn the page over” idea is kind of cool, and importing web sites to comment on was a nice touch. We’ll see how the cell phone and television part plays out.

If you want an invite, let me know.

Weekly round-up

It’s Friday already, here’s some news to note from the past week or so.

Silicon Florist marks its first month – The best new blog around, if you live in the Portland area and are interested in web/tech, this is a must read. I left a comment about how reading Silicon Florist reminds me of the early days of TechCrunch, Read/Write Web, and Mashable when I was always anticipating the next post to see what great new stuff was coming. I’ve become a bit jaded following the general web 2.0 blogs lately, with their growing need to be businesses and post constantly, and I rarely get excited about anything that is posted there anymore, nor can I ever hope to keep up. So having a locally focused blog makes me feel so much more connected again.

Marshall leaves SplashCast to join Read/Write Web – Speaking of Read/Write Web, Portland’s most famous web guy makes the jump to one of the top Web 2.0 blogs. I love this move. Marshall’s one of the top minds on web analysis and news and it’ll be great to have him back covering the whole web again. BTW, as part of his consulting practice, he’s now offering a social media starter kit which will be great for anybody interested in learning how to corral the vast information on the web. Also, if you’re already fully up to speed on finding news and feeds, but you find too much of it, check out his post on how to read feeds more efficiently and avoid information overload.

CLIQ beta announced – Portland’s StepChange group launches a beta program for CLIQ, a new blog community widget that lets you share content from your “clique” of bloggers. If you’re interested in widgets, either developing or the bursting economy around them, Kevin from StepChange will be speaking at the October Web Innovators meeting. Also, as you can see on my site here, I’ve added a CLIQ widget that features Portland Web/Tech bloggers. If you’re interested in joining, sign up for the beta, or let me know and I’ll send you an invite to the Clique.

Portland Web Innovators on OpenIDAdam put together a great topic and place and the turnout was fantastic. OpenID has many challenges ahead to reach mass adoption, but its great to see people tackling this important area. Special thanks to Jive Software for hosting. I haven’t been as active this year in the Web Innovators but am thrilled to see it thriving now.

Advanced Operators posts its 4th topic – AdvOp is a great new community that brings bloggers/technologists (lots of Portland ones) together every week to focus on a single topic in the form of blog posts and comments. Like Silicon Florist, its another great way to get connected to those around you, and that share your interests. I haven’t participated yet, but hope to one of these weeks, and I enjoy following the threads.