A cluster is defined as a group of the same or similar elements gathered or occurring closely together; a bunch. That bunch of something can be almost anything at all. What’s of interest to me as a systems engineer turned editor are two very different clusters: 1) emerging technologies and 2) social media, respectively. For now, let me focus on the first cluster. I’ll save a discussion on social media clusters like Facebook, Twitter, etc, for another blog.
I first started thinking about technology clusters back in the 2002, while writing a piece on emerging 3G networks: Has 802.11 Burst the 3G Bubble?
That article was based on a long interview with David Chen, a venture partner with Oregon Venture Partners. OVP has been described as one of Oregon’s most visible venture capital firms, though they have recently scaled back their presence in Oregon.
Years later, I had a more direct discussion with David on technology clusters: Oregon Can Still Have A High-Tech Future. During that interview, I asked him about two of Portland’s emerging and–in my opinion–converging technology clusters: software development and programmable devices. Unfortunately, both of those clusters have suffered setbacks in the recent years, with the reduction of key personnel in the software clusters and the closure of Mathstar and Ambric in the programmable device gathering.
Still, the importance of clusters remains a crucial indicator of emerging technologies. When asked (see above link) a panel of experts listed these key elements as essential for the growth of technology-focused clusters: IP, capital, infrastructure, and communication. Many experts believe that technology clusters form around a center of intellectual property like universities and labs. Capital follows this IP. But capital investments won’t stay around if an infrastructure–for both data and personnel–is missing. The final ingredient for a successful technology cluster is communication–that is, courting media to spread the word.
This last part is critical: technology clusters need a way to communicate with one another. This was one of the key lessons that has stuck with me. It is why I believe our technology portal concept will work: System-Level Design and Low-Power Design (launch date of Feb 15, 2009). Ed Sperling and I have recognized these technology clusters systems and low power as areas of emerging growth but which lack a cohesive mechanism of communication. That’s where our portal concepts come in, providing an interactive means for professionals to communicate. These communications are anchored around meaningful content written by independent, recognized editors using the best delivery mechanisms that the online world can offer. Which brings me back to my original question: What do technology and social media clusters have in common? The answer IMHO is that they both need to communicate!