We’ve been trying to do a lot more community building in Portland these days. Kandace runs the PDX Design group, and I’ve started the PDX Rails mailing list to try to bring the web community in Portland closer together. But sometimes I feel like there’s subtle conflicts of interest.
Often, folks feel like we should consider ourselves competitors. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth! If I run a coffee shop, and a Starbucks opens across the street from me, that’s competition. But I don’t think any other web designer in Portland (or anywhere, for that matter) is a competitor to our business. Partly, it’s because we make unique designs, partly it’s because we’re so darn organized… really, there’s dozens of reasons.
Most of all, though, it’s because web design is a complicated industry, changing every day. Look around you – here comes Web 2.0! What threatens the business model of the individual designer or programmer is not other people doing the same thing – it’s the rise of community, blogs, content management systems, and the dreaded templates! Lots of bands who might otherwise want to hire a designer to make a simple website might now look favorably at MySpace, where they can pretty much get all the stuff they want to share with the world up for free and edit it at any time. Of course, it looks like hell and there’s ads everywhere… but the simple fact is that this is a trade-off that more and more potential clients are willing to make. I’m not just talking about MySpace – there’s dozens of similar offerings, in lots of different arenas. Artists, galleries, bands, wine sellers, restaurants… all of these and more are becoming long tails catered to by new business models. And that is where the threat lies for the little guys.
What can be done? Admittedly, we’re working on our own ideas for giving the little guys an upper hand, but in the meantime, please don’t consider us the competition. We love what you’re doing, and want Portland to be the best place in the world to be doing it!