The Great Portland Interview Project: Dawn Foster Edition

I’m participating in the Great Portland Interview Project, and I was recently interviewed by Grant Kruger. According to the rules of the project, I’m posting the results of the interview here for your reading pleasure. Grant even slipped in a few extra questions, including an obscure question about Sausage the goat. The questions came from Grant, but the answers are mine.

  1. Tell us the short version of who you are and what you are up to.
  2. I am a Consultant, Community Manager, Event Organizer, Blogger, Podcaster, Vegan, and Technology Enthusiast. I help companies build online communities and social media strategies through Fast Wonder Consulting. I am also the community manager for a small, bootstrapped startup called Shizzow, which is a social service that we built with the goal of making it as easy as possible to find and hang out with your friends in the real world. I am also the co-founder and chair of Legion of Tech, which holds free events in Portland for the technology community. I spend a fair amount of time blogging on Fast Wonder, Shizzow, various Legion of Tech blogs, and occasionally elsewhere. The first venture (Fast Wonder Consulting) is how I earn my living, while the other pursuits are things I do for fun because I am passionate about the Portland technology community and love to do what I can to make Portland a better place for technology enthusiasts.

  3. First time I met you you were part of the team running BarCamp and you volunteer elsewhere. Volunteers get paid in two ways, ego and thanks. Have you been paid? (more than a yes or no answer).
  4. The first event that I ever organized in Portland was a Monthly BarCampMeetup event. It came out of the desire to get together with a group of cool people doing interesting things with technology in a very informal setting. I couldn’t find anything quite right when looking at the existing Portland events, so I decided to organize a new event. The other events that followed came out of similar desires for something that didn’t already exist in Portland (BarCamp, Ignite Portland, etc.) Basically we organized events that we wanted to attend. We eventually formed Legion of Tech to have an organization to manage the logistics and sponsorship dollars for the events.

    My “payment” is that we now have some very cool events that I love to attend, and I’ve met amazing people and formed friendships that I never would have formed otherwise. I learn so much from these people at every event and every gathering. These friendships and knowledge are my payment in exchange for organizing and volunteering at events.

  5. Are you an Open Source evangelist, or a pragmatic Open Source lover?
  6. Can I be a pragmatic open source evangelist? I am a firm believer in using the right tool for the job and finding the solution that works best for you and for your situation. The evangelism part comes into play when I try to make sure that people at least consider the open source alternatives. I also try to get people to look at open source applications, not as cheap knock-offs of proprietary apps, but as great applications with their own merits and strengths. Firefox, for example, has innovated way ahead of Internet Explorer and other browsers, and OpenOffice has some great features that I prefer over Microsoft Office. People won’t always select the open source alternative, and I don’t always select an open source product. However, I try to use an open source solution wherever possible.

  7. What about the PDX tech community do you love most?
  8. I love the openness. The Portland tech community as a whole is very accessible, and it is easy for new people to get involved in the Portland tech community. We try to make people feel welcome and included.

  9. What about the PDX tech community do you think needs the most improvement?
  10. I would love to see the tech community be more unified and less fragmented. We get an amazing crowd of freelancers, independents, and really interesting people at the Legion of Tech events and other less formal events around town. However, we also have some other great groups of people who attend the SAO and OEN events, but we don’t see enough overlap and integration of the two audiences. I would love to see more people who normally attend SAO and OEN events coming out to the informal events, and I would like to see more events being held by the SAO and OEN that attracted a broader audience of independents and freelancers. We’re starting to do this with the ThrivePDX events, but we have a long way before we accomplish this integration.

  11. The Open Source Bridge project is well underway, but remains a fairly modest proposal. What do you think we are capable of here in PDX and what can we realistically attain within the next five years or so?
  12. Events in Portland tend to exceed our modest expectations for them. I remember thinking that if we could get 75 people at the first BarCampPortland, we would have a successful event: the final count was ~250. For the first Ignite, we thought we would have 150 people: we filled the W+K atrium with 300 people. We’ve had Ignite Portland events with over 750 people. It seems to be easier to plan small and expand as needed if the demand grows. I like the modest start to the Open Source Bridge event, and I think that in a couple of years, we could end up with something amazing that brings people into Portland from around the world with attendance in the thousands.

  13. I see you enjoy reading SF&F. Have you ever been to OryCon, a local SF&F convention with 1,500 to 2,000 attendees, run entirely by volunteers. Or one like it. If yes, what was it like, and if no, why not?
  14. I’ve been on a science fiction kick lately, but I tend to read in phases. I even spent a couple of years where I read business and technology books, but little to no fiction at all. I love science fiction, and I am a huge Star Trek fan, but it is really more of a way for me to wind down and relax. Technology is something that I get passionate enough about that I want to work with people and attend events. Since science fiction is a way for me to relax, I’m not really motivated to attend SF&F conferences or events. I’m more motivated to lounge on the couch with a book or a Star Trek rerun.

  15. On OryCon and other conferences like it: As a conference it is more complex than most professional tech conferences and many of their attendees are techies who attend both kinds. As an all-volunteer-run event, they may have many tricks to teach us, and we them. Should different gift-economies work together more, sharing ideas and concepts?
  16. Absolutely! I think we can learn quite a bit from each other, and I am a big fan of sharing ideas across disciplines to make both more successful. It would be interesting to talk to one of the lead organizers for OryCon to learn more about how they organize their volunteer run events and share what we have learned.

  17. Outside of professional and community-building spheres, what is your greatest personal achievement?
  18. I have a really hard time separating my “personal” achievements from my “professional” ones, since technology for me isn’t really a job. It’s a passion, a hobby, and something I spend quite a bit of free time doing. I am fortunate that I can also make a living doing something that I enjoy. I am most proud of what we have built with Legion of Tech, which I do in my free time because I love it, and I would consider that my greatest personal achievement.

    Outside of technology, I have a bunch of small achievements that I’m proud of: I make my own jewelry; I’ve managed to stay in pretty good shape for a 37 year old woman; I’ve never missed my nephew’s birthday (he’s 10 and lives in Ohio); and I make a damn good vegan apple crisp.

  19. Again, away from work, what are a few personal goals, e.g. travel, write a book, etc?
  20. I would love to spend more time traveling for pleasure, especially in locations where I can lay on a warm beach in the shade and read books. I started fulfilling this goal with a trip to Cancun for Thanksgiving last year and trip to Maui with my mom in May. Before last year, my vacations involved big cities or trips to visit family in Ohio, and these two trips were my first beach vacations. I think maybe we’ll hit Jamaica next year.

  21. I see you are a vegan. Is this for health reasons, ethical reasons, habit, etc?
  22. Once I started thinking about what I was really eating, it was all over. I grew up on a farm, and I’ve participated in the entire process, so maybe I had a more intimate knowledge of the origins of my food. It was a gradual process based on when I started getting grossed out by certain foods. I stopped eating hot dogs and red meat in 1987 or 1988, went vegetarian in 1989, and I’ve been vegan since 1995. At this point, it is habit, and I don’t really spend any time thinking about it. I feel healthy and the doctor says that I am doing everything right, so I feel pretty comfortable with my choices. I’m also not a preachy vegan. We all make our choices about how we want to live our lives, and this is the right choice for me, but I’m not going to tell others how to live (or what to eat).

  23. Do you like to get back to nature, and if yes, where do you like to go when you need to recharge.
  24. Absolutely not! I’m allergic to nature (OK, maybe not allergic, but I’m definitely not fond of roughing it). When I relax on a warm beach with a book, I expect to see someone walking around with a cocktail tray and tropical drinks.

  25. Tell us a little more about Sausage the goat.
  26. I don’t think I’ve ever put the Sausage the goat story in print, so this will be a first. As I mentioned earlier, we grew up on a farm where we raised chickens, rabbits, goats and a few other animals. Most of our goats were milk goats, so we kept them around for a while, and they become more like pets. We’d milk them a couple times a day, they would have more babies, and some of them stuck around for years. We also occasionally bought meat goats at a livestock auction in Kidron, OH (Amish country). When my step-dad bought this goat, he told us that her name was Sausage because that’s what she was going to be when he took her to the slaughterhouse in a few weeks, and he didn’t want anyone to get too attached to her. She was a huge goat, and we thought we’d get quite a bit of sausage out of her. On the day of her “appointment”, my step-dad was outside getting the truck ready to take her away, and he heard terrible noises from the barn. He ran over to find her lying down, thrashing around in the pen and making awful noises as if she was in pain. At this point, we thought that she was probably dying from some horrible disease that would make her unfit for sausage and just a huge waste of money. A few minutes later, she gave birth to two healthy kids. I still have no idea how nobody noticed she was pregnant, and Sausage had some very fortunate timing. Anyway, we kept sausage for years as a milk goat, and she bacame more of a pet. She continued to occasionally produce more kids, and we continued to call her Sausage for many years.

It’s not too late for you to participate in the Great Portland Interview Project!

7 thoughts on “The Great Portland Interview Project: Dawn Foster Edition”

  1. Having been a dairy goat farmer, I actually understand how someone could miss a goat pregnancy. We had American Alpines, and while most of them went seriously barrel-shaped when they were pregnant, we had one named Empire who was excellent at hiding her pregnancies. As she tended to produce some of our best milkers with good temperaments (and she herself was both), it was important that she get pregnant every year. She had a long and elegant body with plenty of room for her fetuses, which meant that she could be carrying twins and we would never know it. So we started bringing out a vet with a portable ultrasound machine to verify pregnancies before we sent the stud buck back to his owner.

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