Brian Shaler

Occasionally Interesting

Gravity is for chumps

Posts Tagged ‘Phoenix’

RSVP’d for Ignite Phoenix 3, Submissions Still Open

I just RSVP’d for Ignite Phoenix #3! If you’re in the Phoenix area, you need to go! If you’re not in Phoenix, see if your city has an Ignite event. If not, START ONE! They’re awesome. Look up videos online.

What: Ignite Phoenix #3
Cost: Free
When: Wednesday, February 25th
Time: 6:00pm to 9:00pm
Where: Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway
RSVP at Upcoming and/or Facebook!

If you want to submit, here is their submission page. The deadline is February 6th!

Videos from previous Ignite Phoenix events!

Phoenix Light Rail Opens

I’ve written several times about the Phoenix tech community. One of the issues is transportation. We’re so spread out and it’s not easy for people to meet up with others. Inevitably, you’ll have people driving 20-30 miles from all directions to meet up. It’s tough to get a group together to go out to some bars in downtown Phoenix if everyone has to drive home afterward.

While it won’t cure the problem, the Phoenix Light Rail will help scratch some itches and help feed the nightlife in downtown Phoenix, Tempe, and other cities struck by the route. The light rail was an extremely expensive project and will be convenient for a small percentage of the population, but it is a very welcome step in the right direction.

Follow the RailLife blog, and/or connect with Nick (@raillife) on Twitter to keep up-to-date with the Light Rail!

Twitter: A Catalyst for Change

Continuing the conversation on the Phoenix technology community, I wanted to describe what has been happening in the last year here in Phoenix.

More meet-ups are taking place around the Valley (of the Sun) and more people are attending them. Refresh Phoenix has been my favorite tech-related meet-up during the last two years and often draws the most people. Anywhere from 20-40 people from as far as 60 miles away would come out every month on the first Tuesday of the month.

This year, there has been a trend of increased attendance at Refresh Phoenix and other local gatherings. Refresh Phoenix seems to be maintaining an average of 40-50, jumping up to about 80 in February on Demo Night. There were about 47 people at last week’s Social Media Club Phoenix meeting, which was great to see.

Every Friday for the last few months, anywhere from 4-10 people have been meeting up at various local independent coffee shops. The meetings are casual, open, and planned in an ad-hoc style by whoever feels like showing up. They are organized on Twitter, sometimes as late as Thursday.

Meet-ups seem to be benefiting greatly from Twitter’s communication mechanism. It’s easier for people to hear about events taking place in their area, as long as they’re connected with enough people in their area.

Twitter is a catalyst for Phoenix. Phoenix has no shortage of talented and interesting folks. The problem is the network. People don’t know there are thousands of others in the city who share their interests. Twitter allows people to connect with a broader network and, most importantly, be subjected to conversations between people inside their circle with people outside their circle. This simple trait of an open communication platform does wonders for introducing people with similar interests to each other.

Thanks to Twitter, people are connecting — at least digitally — with more people. This means they have the opportunity to hear about more events going on in their area, thus increasing their likelihood of attending.

Geographic Micro-Communities

Continuing on my discussion about the Phoenix Tech Community, I wanted to describe some fascinating patterns I have seen while building my personal network in the Phoenix area. This applies to any large group of people, but it is very apparent in the loose and spread out Phoenix tech community.

Micro-Communities

When people only attend hyper-local social gatherings and don’t attend city-wide conferences, they tend to see only those who are also hyper-local. This causes circles of friends to be formed in physical areas as well as in interests (often very focused interests, like Linux desktop application developers, for example). Once a circle is formed, members of the circle may begin to think that the reach of the circle is more broad than it really is.

You don’t know what (and who) you don’t know.

These micro-communities can contain anywhere from 5-100 people and there are many of them throughout Phoenix. The trick to building and tightening the Phoenix tech community is to hunt down these small groups and plug their members into other groups.

The Phoenix Tech Community

Much of the technology industry’s history lies in Silicon Valley. Some other areas recognized for their technology communities include the Greater New York area, Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, Raleigh-Durham, Pittsburgh, etc.

[Wired Magazine: 10 Top Tech Towns]

Phoenix rarely receives a second of thought when people list technology cities. Many people think or say “Nothing is going on in Phoenix.” The frightening part is hearing people in Phoenix say that.

Reasons why Phoenix has a weak tech community

The Phoenix metropolitan area is very spread out. It is difficult for people to get by without a car. It is difficult for those who have cars to go out and meet people. How many people do you meet in your car on your one hour commute each way to and from work? None.

It is difficult to meet and stay in touch (in person) with many people in Phoenix, so most people in Phoenix seem to have fewer close friends (compared to cities like San Francisco or New York City). You have to go out of your way to attend group meet-ups. Usually way out of your way. How many people are willing to drive an extra hour after a long work day to stay out late with other geeks, then drive another hour to get home? Not many.

The internet makes it easy for people to communicate, but it is difficult to communicate with people you don’t know exist.

Why it is getting better

I have only lived in Phoenix for a few years, so it is difficult to compare current trends with those in the past. However, in the last 1-2 years, I have noticed much change for the better in the tech community.

For those who don’t know, Phoenix is the 5th most-populated city in the United States[1] with 1,512,986 residents. The Phoenix metropolitan area is the 13th most-populated MSA in the United States[2] with 4,179,427 residents. The Phoenix metropolitan area contains a number of other highly-populated cities, such as Mesa (#38 most-populated city, with 447,541 residents), Glendale (#72, 246,531), Chandler (#76, 240,595), Scottsdale (#79, 231,127), Gilbert (#115, 191,517), Tempe (#134, 169,712), and Peoria (#168, 142,024).

My favorite statistic is regarding the Phoenix metropolitan area’s growth rate during the last 7 years: 28.52%. That is a much higher growth rates than most of the other large metropolitan areas in the country.

[1 – Wikipedia: List of United States cities by population]
[2 – Wikipedia: List of United States metropolitan areas]

How many Phoenix-based bloggers do you know? Most people would answer that with a very low number. As I mentioned above, many Phoenicians are unaware of all the things going on in Phoenix. ReadPhoenix.com, a site maintained by Erica Lucci, currently contains links to 136 Phoenix-based blogs. The number is growing and efforts like ReadPhoenix should help connect people within the Phoenix community.

Meeting attendance seems to be gradually growing at groups like Refresh/Refactor/Refocus Phoenix, Social Media Club, etc. The number of meet-ups taking place around the valley seems to be increasing as well. It is still difficult for people active in the community and willing to attend events to find out where and when they are. In an effort to connect with more people in the Phoenix area and share with them the events I find out about, I have been searching for and connecting with Twitter users who have Phoenix-area cities listed in their Twitter profiles.

There are also quite a few conferences being organized in the area. If you haven’t heard of these, check them out: PodCampAZ, BarCamp Phoenix, Desert Code Camp, AZ Entrepreneurship Conference, etc.

Right now, Phoenix has a large, but spread-out and loose, technology community. The goal needs to be connecting all the separate threads. It’s essentially a marketing problem. We need to reach and mobilize people who are probably willing to meet up, but have no good ways of hearing about local events.