Tuesday, December 01, 2009

N'ville Software Golden Age?

Roughly five years ago, Nashville Technology Council, then led by David Condra, launched a Software Developers Roundtable. The energy in the room during the SDRT's first meeting at the University Club was amazing. People were there, open-minded and energized to plug into other people who cared about creating new technologies and applications. There were modest young startup geniuses there that day, as well as older hands (Tim, Major, Al and many others). Soon, volunteers cobbled-together a nice website (now gone into the ether), a few more meetings were held, but following Condra's retirement from his post, interest shifted to other things. I was reminded of the excitement around the SDRT this morning, while reading a story on the San Jose Mercury News' Silicon Valley site. The focus? The myriad opportunities associated with developing applications for new technology platforms. Whether SDRT or some other vehicle, maybe it's time to uncrate this idea, again.


Bob Duthie said...

The Roundtables were the most interesting events held at NTC. They were a great way to keep up-to-date with the latest and greatest. They evolved out of the SCP (Society of Computer Professionals) which merged with NTC soon after NTC started. Roundtables gave local software entrepreneurs an opportunity to present what they were working on and helped to either find customers or bury the idea.

Nicholas Holland said...

SDRT's are great when they have 2 critical elements:
1) Structure
2) Attendance

When I first joined the NTC, I hooked up with a Network Round Table (CentreSource was an IT firm before it became an Interactive Agency) & enjoyed the fellowship. However, we didn't have structure and each week it was just a loose-nit discussion about whatever was the latest topic.

Given our current work loads & life commitments, people don't stay motivated through networking alone - especially when there are so many other networking avenues.

Recommendation? Perhaps each RT should have a 'yearly' project. This promotes longevity, lets the group create the goal, and establishes a feeling of accomplishment each year. Its how Greek-Life has done it for years :)


Venture Nashville Connections said...

'Should have mentioned in original post that ALL those who participated in the initial Software Developers Roundtable were owners of firms that did significant amounts of software development. My hunch is part of the reason momentum faded was that -- with every good intention -- some work went off into one or more committees, rather than SDRT operating as a 'committee of the whole', keeping the premium on building personal and potentially strategically important business relationships. Milt Capps

Ed Dodds said...

If NTC were to form a subgroup on LinkedIn of folks who would be interested in a webified "lunch-n-learn" format with concall would any VN readers personally perceive that as being of any value (say on a monthly or bi-monthly basis)? An annual project (Nick's idea) could be undergirded with CMS, Waves, Wikis, etc. with brief progress reports taking place at the webinars as well as thru other venues/delivery systems.

Tim Choate said...

I have to admit a certain nostalgia for the old SCP style mtgs. There was a raw quality to the presentators and presentations that kept it interesting. In retrospect, I think the program committee may have done that intentionally.

In any case, it was a forum for the presentation/validation of ideas more than anything else. In most cases, the presentors had a least a working prototype to demonstrate their ideas and we only had one or two cases of extreme "vaporware" along the way and even those were good fun.


J. Tod Fetherling said...

Let's schedule one, learn from the past, and create a little innovation from the future leaders. January good? A question I have is how did the SDRT integrate with the various user groups already established? LAMP, #net, python...

Venture Nashville Connections said...

Great! Tod. If in January, suggest doing it after your annual meeting, so you can plug it there. The group purposefully did not integrate with other groups, because it was for owner-entrepreneurs leveraging software development, not a technical group, per se. The idea was to see if a sustained network could help encourage people taking risks that might produce game-changing products. It's technical at one level, but more like the Chamber CEO-owner groups, at another.

Unknown said...

I would love to see this re-launched. And all of Nick's and others' comments make a great deal of sense.

This group is more than welcome to fully utilize the digitalnashville.net infrastructure to organize this (http://www.digitalnashville.net/groups). DN's infrastructure is designed specifically to enable things like this: community-organized events and collaborations.

We can help by providing the landing page, way to invite and connect directly with other members of the group, discussion forum for conversations in between meetings, and most importantly an easy base from which to organize the monthly roundtables. As with most efforts, it probably needs a facilitator to help guide structure (per Nick's points). Nick: you interested? We should make Tod an admin of the group as the NTC can be hugely helpful in getting this going.

Tod Fetherling said...

I can provide a link to our community software to post on DN. We have a group in our plan that is identical in makeup called Leadership Technology. I would like to use that platform for this group. Beyond just software platform, our plan includes fostering ideas and innovation from the technology community's leadership (CEOs). I will put something out in a few days announcing the program and formation.

Venture Nashville Connections said...

This is the kind of energy the SDRT produced.. I'm a little uneasy about it getting integrated within a broader 'platform', right outa the gate, with a gatekeeper already established... the energy and direction should come mainly from the committed participants, and fostering that energy shouldn't be secondary to formal ownership... The more volunteer-oriented, non-membership dues structure of Digital Nashville may be better for the lead, but it's great to see it moving, again.. Milt

Anonymous said...

Bob, Tim and myself put together most of the original energy behind SCP and later NTC roundtables. The original audience of SCP was independent software developers and that somehow went by the wayside along the way with NTC as corporate interests began to prevail. The roundtables became more complicated and rules were superimposed that prevented independent developers from participating. For example, I was banned from SDRT because I did not have the prerequisite ten employees. Another time I was asked to leave a Network Roundtable meeting that I helped organize because someone complained that I didn't spend the majority of my time on *network-related activities*. Eventually, people seizing on some perceived marketing opportunity killed the roundtables.

With the SCP we somehow were able to happily coexist with the few sales people that came to the meetings. This is the challenge that someone has to overcome. How to be successful but not too successful! Maybe Bob, Tim and I need to have lunch one day to figure out how to do it again. ;-)

tod fetherling said...

As always, my interest is purely in helping Nashville's Technology community succeed. I was here before the first SDRT met and I will be here long after the next one meets. It filled a valuable need in the community and probably has a role going forward.

I am glad to help, seed, support, grow, or drop it.

Like the Entrepreneur effort, software development is a focus for me and our members, so pardon my passionate response. I love Nashville and technology.

I do my best to attend and support Geek Breakfast, Geek Social, CentreSource Mixer, the Entrepreneur Center, the Chamber, the Healthcare Council, Enterprise Lamp, numerous user groups, and Digital Nashville. Can't be at everything, but I do my best. We have a vibrant tech community and we need to do everything we can to grow it and the companies in the community.

How about we host a roundtable lunch discussion of interested parties to answer the important questions related to SDRT: Who, what, where, why, when, and how? I am glad to host. All are invited.

Milt, I respect what you do day in and day out to report on and support the tech community. It is a must read every day. However, your comments are interesting to me about where the best place to house this type of initiative. Ordinarily, I would drop it, but this public positioning concerns me.

Digital Nashville is not a non-profit. It is a for-profit LLC according to State records, http://tinyurl.com/ycmmynb. Elin is listed as the managing member with majority ownership. It is routinely positioned as a non-profit, but is in fact a corporate structure. Nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but when this is used to position why a function should or should not be managed by our group, I think it is relevant to the discussion.

As you know, the Nashville Technology Council is a federally qualified 501C6 Non-Profit Membership Organization.

In addition, Digital Nashville does have membership levels from free to $85. The membership fee is per individual versus our membership fee that averages $5-30 per individual based on number of employees per company.

Feels a little awkward for a member of the media to be advocating for one organization over another, so I would challenge the discussion of where this group is best served to grow and flourish.

We have several hundred volunteers that work tirelessly throughout the year to lift up Nashville's technology community, so I feel like these comments are dismissing our mission, our members, our history, and our volunteers. Not to mention the fact that we have thousands of hard core developers among our 20,000+ membership base in Middle Tennessee.

Venture Nashville Connections said...

Tod, interesting stuff. Would've published it last night, but I powered-down early. Best, Milt

Ed Dodds said...

I would like to say thanks to all the folks who have done so much to promote the growth of tech in Nashville/Middle Tennessee/the state as a whole. But I would challenge the premise that Nashville needs yet another "physical meet" based initiative. One of the reasons it is difficult to get local management to trust the cyberly distributed work force is that nobody is openly modeling and explaining how the available tools can be used to allow a firm to prosper as a results-only work environment. As we build toward distributed energy generation, global broadband, smart grids, rural economic development and inclusion of folks with disabilities in the economy (70$ unemployed) can only occur if we as a city/state management culture stop insisting that everybody has to drive 30/60 minutes into cubeville to work and 30/60 minutes into the "currently hot location" for a meeting easily handled via concall/webinar. Folks with disabilities (especially those in rural situations) who do not have access to reliable accessible transportation are functionally excluded from the very economic engine most likely to benefit them most greatly. "Best shoring", distance education, cloud/distributed/grid computing and eHealth/mHealth/Telemedicine, etc. rely on these management skills and for some reason we continue to insist on surrendering these now and future sectors to other players.

Venture Nashville Connections said...

Ed, first, thanks for your many tips over the past 18 months, and more. You are freakin' ubiquitous. On this score, I gotta disagree a bit. There's a major role for dxcomms of many types, of course, but I think there's no substitute for inperson meetups, if not overdone. Proximity makes a huge difference, not just in sharing info, but in generating actual understanding, particularly at the level of values.

Ed Dodds said...

Point well taken. Persevere! (and thanks for the kind words)

Unknown said...

It's disappointing to see the conversation headed this way, but since it's being done publicly, I feel I have an obligation to at least set the facts straight:

1. Milt may have been misunderstood: he said nothing about Digital Nashville being non-profit. He said "volunteer-oriented, non-membership dues structure". Digital Nashville is volunteer-oriented, and we do not require membership dues (of our 2,200 members, 2,197 are members for free).

2. Digital Nashville doesn't claim to be 501c3 or 501c6. We're structured as a multi-member LLC. We do not, however, run it as a for-profit. All this information has been and continues to be available on our website: http://www.digitalnashville.net/page/organization-1#structure.

3. My intention in this conversation, and my original comment, was only to offer Digital Nashville's community tools and infrastructure for use by this group in case they found that useful to the cause of supporting software developers in Nashville, which I think is a great cause.

- Elin

tod fetherling said...

Thanks Elin for clarification. My misunderstanding comes from your website as well.

Why are we fundraising?

• Digital Nashville is not-for-profit and critically dependent on your contribution.

Venture Nashville Connections said...

So, how 'bout getting SW co owners and others together and y'all talk it through, maybe somewhere like VU, Belmont or Lipscomb IT or a tech firm ... Soon... That's my last on this here...milt

Venture Nashville Connections said...

Tod Fetherling of NTC has taken steps this week to explore what would be of interest to movers and shakers with software interests. I'm sure we'll be hearing more on this, very soon.

Anonymous said...
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Kevin Kline said...

The ability of a community to share and support mutual growth directly correlates to the economic strength of a community.

I think if Nashville wants to compete with the likes of Austin, San Jose, Seattle, or Montreal, then it's essential that we implement every means of connecting and reinforcing our community members.

One request - let's make sure such a round table is open to individuals as well as corporate entities.