Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The wind outside is whipping across the e-Coast as we now enter the "blow-dry" phase of the Floods of '06. Absolutely everybody had at least a couple inches of water in their basements, but so far as I know, most eCoast tech businesses survived the week-long washout. From a PR perspective, I believe the local and regional news media became preoccupied with the floods, and rightly so; however, as with any crisis, we all long for a return to normalcy.

With that in mind, here are a few of the local stories I'm still following, albeit with aquatic puns thrown in.

Savvy Software continues its powerful surge. They've got new clients seemingly every day, plus a newly redesigned web site, which looks fabulous, a new iteration of the Savvy CM (3.0), which includes a very cool image manipulator, and even a new blog, authored by ColdFusion Guru Josh Cyr. Perhaps most interesting, however, is how their web content management solution was put to good use by the Town of Exeter during the floods. One of the towns hardest hit by the flooding, Exeter town officials used the Savvy CM to post immediate news about which streets were washed out, updates on the town water supply situation, school closings, and other flood-related news. It's always great to see technology being put to good use and helping people, rather than just being technology for technology's sake. And given the media's misreporting of the "breached" dam in Milton, it speaks to the value of getting your information directly from the source, doesn't it?!

Also making waves are our old friends at Hatchling Studios, who have spoofed the DaVinci Code with "The Rockwell Code." Producer Marc Dole is quoted saying, "We researched real things about Rockwell's paintings that mean nothing and then slanted them." It's all in good fun; see for yourself here. It's a lot shorter than DaVinci Code, and it's a lot cheaper than Hoyts.

Meanwhile, plans to reluanch the free wi-fi hotspot in the downtown kiosk last week were doused due to technical difficulties. I haven't had a chance to get downtown to check it out but rumor has it June 1 will be the new launch date. I'm also looking forward to floating the idea of expanding the wi-fi to the City Council. Stay tuned. And stay dry.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

There continues to be a buzz around town about my favorite pet subject, wi-fi. Obviously wi-fi is a huge story nationally as well, with so many towns, cities, and even regions (Silicon Valley and the state of Rhode Island) contemplating or planning large-scale wireless Internet initiatives.

I've noticed that in the face of the overwhelmingly positive enthusiasm for free and available Internet access, stories are now inevitably surfacing about "failed" projects -- Orlando's frequently mentioned, but its failure is also being debunked in other outlets and on wi-fi blogs. Meanwhile, privacy advocates and the ACLU, with whom I agree 95% of the time, are airing their concerns, which is fine with me as long as they do their job of protecting individual's rights without being obstructionist to wi-fi's progress in general. And while ISPs and their lobbyists continue to grumble about "unfair competition" from cities offering wi-fi, I believe their issues are more about protecting the overpriced Big Cable/Baby Bell duopoly and the status quo in general. (But hey, maybe that's just me!)

The question of who should pay for it continues to pop-up, as well; you know "taxpayer associations" are going to be up in arms over even the minimal costs of municipal wi-fi. The charge of the subcommittee I sit on was to determine if an expanded wi-fi program would be beneficial to economic development, and it didn't take long to determine that it has, can, and will be a customer lure for downtown businesses struggling to compete with national chains and malls. We then bandied about ideas for exactly how to expand the wi-fi in a way that would be most beneficial to local business without being a budgetary burden on the city. Based on our discussions, my guess is that we could expand our wi-fi project to reach strategic areas (i.e., a larger swatch of downtown, public parks and recreation areas, tourist centers, etc.) for about 2 bucks a citizen. To me, that's a no-brainer, especially when you consider the 3 years of value the city has already gotten from the donated time, equipment, an services of the Portsmouth/eCoast Wi-Fi Project sponsor companies, and the valuable demographic data we have collected and compiled for them over that time (see below). I understand there is some considerable support and enthusiasm at City Hall and on the City Council for this, so we shall see how it plays out. Clearly it's got all the ingredients for a big story, and I expect the media attention to continue through the summer.

In fact, we'll make a little splash of our own here in Portsmouth on the 18th of May when we relight the wi-fi flame in the Chamber's kiosk (at right) for another season. Let the games begin!

Also, I've been working with a nice young man named Matt at a favorite alternative local rag called "The Wire" on a large piece about wi-fi. He's put a lot of work into it, and I think it came out great. As a bonsu, they also presented my synopsis of the demo data in a sidebar; this may help to make our case to the general public. See it for yourself here. Or even better, pick up a copy almost anywhere downtown. It's the cover story; look for the tabloid-style paper with the green vertical "signal strength bars" on it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I discovered today that Inc. Magazine has released its annual "Best Cities for Entreprenuers" list, and that our own little Portsmouth has been named as one of the top entreprenuerial cities in the country. In its 2006 Hot (obviously not talking about the weather!) Cities rankings, Portsmouth came in at #68 -- that's ahead of Portland/South Portland/Biddeford (97), Dover-Rochester (101), Manchester (105), and Nashua (135). When filted by "small cities" (employment bases of less than 150,000), Portsmouth is ranked at #44.

In fact, the magazine notes the business surge last year was centered outside of the traditional centers, which continue to "lag" behind smaller cities; they're calling the effect "The Revenge of the Boondocks." Read all about it for yourself here. Of course, I dutifully feed the story to P-Herald business editor Michael McCord, who then ran it as the #2 business story of the week here.

I also note that my mom's still-hurricane-ravaged city of Punta Gorda, Florida, came in at #22. Will New Orleans be a boomtown next year?