I have lived in Las Vegas for the past 7 years and I have said on many occasions since then that I don't think I could live anywhere else after living there. One weekend trip to Portland later and I believe I may have to amend that statement. In a word, Portland is awesome!
This trip to Portland, like so many of my trips this year, was based around attending a WordCamp event. When I stepped off the airplane and headed for ground transportation I found the first gem of the weekend. They call it Max. Max is the light rail tram system that will take you all around the Portland area for pretty darn cheap. You can buy a day pass for $4.75. I hopped on the tram and it dropped me off 1 block from the WebTrends offices where WordCamp was being held.
WebTrends definitely stands out as the second gem of my trip. They have a nice office on the 16th floor that they graciously donated to WordCamp to host the event. Apparently they are very active in the local Portland tech scene and are the hosts for a great number of local events. I have a hint for companies looking to get some exposure in the tech field, take a look at what WebTrends is doing. They are doing it right!
Then there is Aaron Hockley. This is his second go-round as the head organizer for a WordCamp event. Though I wasn't at the event last year, I can say that he sets the bar high for other cities looking to put on a WordCamp. He has an amazing group of people who help put together the event and the local community of businesses really step up with food and service donations that help to make the event a comfortable and welcoming environment for everybody. Having two kegs just inside the door certainly didn't hurt, either.
If you only look at the list of presenters posted on the site, you'd be missing more than half of the content available at the event. While I have seen the idea of “Unconference” style presentations at other WordCamp events, never have I seen a group of people take to it so well. I sat in on an excellent group discussion about WordPress and affiliate marketing.
I was able to get out and walk around a bit in Portland and check out some of the surrounding area. There were several groups putting on demonstrations in Pioneer Park including belly dancers, a group of people dancing with colored trash bags, a guy preaching to anyone who would listen (at full volume, I might add), several hacky-sack players and some guy who had a cat on a leash that looked like a cougar. All were cool/interesting in their own way.
But the biggest gem of them all has to be the people I met this weekend. Tons of amazingly nice people at WordCamp itself, the people I met at Pioneer Park, the shop keepers in the area… Everybody was friendly. At the end of my presentation somebody asked if I would move to Portland and become @PortlandGeek. “We don't ask just anybody”, she said.
So as I sit in the airport waiting on a plane to Vegas, I'm excited to get home and see my wife and kids, but I'm sad to be leaving such a great city and the amazing tech scene up here that has made me feel so welcome.
Thank you, Portland.