I’m pleased to announce that the last few months have been very productive and exciting for Port 80. Firstly, we had a great WA Web Awards last August, which reaffirmed to me what great talent and work comes out of our neck of the woods.
Secondly, our first interstate chapter opened in December, with the launch of Port 80 Canberra. They’re having another meeting tonight, so from all feedback received, Canberra is behind this idea.
Thirdly, we’ve been working with Dave Horan and Tracy Logan in starting Port 80 Rochester – that’s right, a New York chapter of Port 80 is kicking off at their inaugural meeting on March 2nd.
I’m hoping there’s plenty more chapters on the way.
A number of people have asked me about the reasons behind the original decision to start Port 80, and so here are some of my thoughts on what was racing through my crazy mind back in August 2002.
The reasons behind my original decision to start Port 80, was three-fold;
1. Many people in the industry are either freelancers or very small teams. This makes it hard for them to communicate to one another or learn and network with similar peers. I was facing a similar situation at the time, when I decided to go freelance instead of full time from a team of 4. I didn’t want to miss out on having that contact with my peers, and I am always partial to a beer.
2. Many of us in the industry are already members of groups such as Macromedia Users Group, Web Standards Group, Blog Meet-ups, etc, but you’ll find that most of these groups are very specific to what they cover (many are software-centric), and what they exclude, and often it’s a case of not wanting to listen to two hours of talks just to ‘hang out’ and meet up with others in the same industry.
3. I believe that everyone needs to better understand each others roles – designers need to grasp what makes a develop tick, and vice versa – what better way than over a relaxing beer at a bar somewhere local?
One of the reasons Port 80 has become popular is that we are inclusive with other groups – we actively encourage ‘cross participation’ amongst our own members and other groups, so we’re not about trying to woo members away from these other groups – they do a great job of informing their members about Macromedia products / CSS / etc but there’s also a dire need within our industry to ‘cross borders’ to a certain degree, and have CSS zealots speaking (arguing?) with tables lovers, with Macromedia versus Open Source purists, etc which is where Port 80 comes into play.
We’ve been running monthly meetings at a local pub since September 2002. We get anywhere from 8 – 40 people along, we sit/stand around and drink beer/wine/soft drink and informally chat about everything related to our industry (and quite commonly, things that don’t :)). It’s a fantastic way to meet your peers, find work, offer work and generally find out where the industry at a local level is at.
There’s no entry fees (however you are encouraged to become a member), there’s no structured format, and no forcing speeches on anyone. We have 500+ people on our lists, and as you can see on the forums, a fair amount of forums users that either don’t come along to the monthly meets, or come to one per year.
This was all mainly my doing until June 2004, when we incorporated as an official not for profit organisation, to help fund projects such as the WA Web Awards, pay for hosting, pay for any out of pocket expenses and just provide a vehicle for those who want to get more involved.
We have a fantastic committee of passionate people in varying roles, who meet up every second or third month to talk about bigger picture ideas, such as opening in other states, organising other events, write industry documents, consult to government, etc.
I have heard plenty of stories over the last few years, with people saying they found work or found employees, collaborated on projects, created new friends, learnt new things and plenty of other anecdotes. Speaking personally, it’s a very valuable experience – I am always learning new things off my peers, I hire most of my staff as a result of meeting them at Port 80 meetings, and I get a good warm fuzzy feeling from doing my part to help the local industry.
If you’re interested in discussing starting a chapter of Port 80 in your part of the world, have a look around the website, perhaps join the conversation on the forums, and get in touch with me – we’re keen to see the fantastic community we’ve built here in WA replicated elsewhere.
Photo: The winners at WA Web Awards 2005. Photo by Blinc Studio.