[UPDATED] Ravens Fan and Game Watch Groups Around the Nation

I’m moving from Austin back to Baltimore today, and over the last two and a half years, I’ve been privileged to be able to participate in an incredible community of Baltimore Ravens fans deep in the heart of Texas. We’ve grown as a group to over 100 fans during peak games, while living in the shadow of the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans.

When I moved to Austin, I was only aware of one Ravens fan group outside of Baltimore – and that was Atlanta. I was stoked to hear about the Austin group (We call ourselves the 512 Nest) and I have watched every game with this group except when I have been at the games themselves.

With the AFC Championship game this coming week, a lot of folks around the country will be jumping on the bandwagon of the Baltimore Ravens or the New England Patriots, the Atlanta Falcons or the San Francisco 49ers.

If you’re looking to cheer on the Ravens and are looking for a group of fans in your area – whether or not you are a Ravens fan is irrelevant, as long as you want to watch with other Ravens fans – here are my currently known list of groups:

  • Austin, Texas – The 512 Nest – The Upper Decks, 301 Barton Springs Rd, Austin TX 78704
  • Los Angeles/Hollywood – The West Wing, The Parlor Hollywood, 7250 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046
  • Atlanta, Georgia = ATL Ravens, Sports & Recreation, 942 Peachtree St, Atlanta GA 30309
  • Houston, Texas – Houston Area Ravens Fans, Pub Fiction, 2303 Smith St, #100, Houston, TX 77006
  • Ft. Lauderdale, FL – The Florida Flock (South), Maguire’s, 535 N. Andrews Ave., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301
  • Ft. Lauderdale (Juno Beach) – The Florida Flock (North), Kirby’s Sports Pub and Grill, Plaza La Mar, 841 Donald Ross Rd, Juno Beach, FL 33408
  • San Francisco, CA – Ravens in the Fog, Thieves Tavern, 496 14th St, San Francisco, CA 94103
  • San Diego, CA – Dirty Birds, 4656 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109
  • Denver, CO – Baltimore Ravens in Colorado – Chopper’s Sports Grill, 80 South Madison St, Denver, CO 80209
  • Orlando, FL – Orlando Ravens Flock
  • Jacksonville, FL – Duval Bad Birds, Blackfinn American Grille, 4840 Big Island Drive #05, Jacksonville, FL 32246

I know there are more. Please let me know of any I didn’t list. Enjoy the game Sunday and GO RAVENS!

Updated: Ft. Lauderdale, San Francisco, San Diego and Denver groups added per Dave in comments. Thanks!

Update 2: Added Orlando, Jacksonville, and a second Ft. Lauderdale location thanks to the Florida Flock.

What Makes a Community?

I normally write articles that carry a bit of authority. I usually write what I know about and have a high degree of confidence writing. I don’t write often because I want what I do write to carry authority and be hard-hitting.

This is not really one of those articles.

I haven’t done what people like Alex Hillman has done in creating collaborative working environments for independent entrepreneurs at Independent’s Hall in Philadelphia.

I haven’t been an organizer and champion of city-wide entrepreneurship like Josh Baer has in Austin.

I haven’t fostered a product community like they have over at StudioPress with the Genesis Framework.

What I have done is work within the context of a thriving WordPress community of developers, users, consultants and advocates.

I have lived in a city that has made it’s name on entrepreneurship and arts in Austin.

I have helped and supported entrepreneurs in their quest to build products in DC and find ways of succeeding both with and without investment money.

Moving Back to Baltimore

For some weeks now, I’ve made it clear that I’ve decided to move back from Austin to Baltimore. In 2008, I left Baltimore because I saw awesome things developing in technology in DC. At the time, there were guys like Peter Corbett who was just beginning to do technology advocacy work in the Nation’s Capital. By 2009, iStrategyLabs would launch the first Apps for Democracy contest that challenged contestants to create web and mobile applications with civic intent. That would morph into similar contest like Apps for America, etc.

You would also see some organizations that would flare out dramatically because of business model, ideas, weak leadership, lack of community involvement, etc.

I would then move to Austin where I would see a city immersed in technology. Lots of money flowing. Lots of incubator action, such as the products and entrepreneurs who would be graduated from the Capital Factory incubator. I would see ATX Startup Crawl occur several times a year as guests would have the opportunity to move around town and visit some of the great startups like TabbedOut, InfoChimps, uShip and more. Thousands of people would come through these offices and see the great technologies and ideas being built, all while enjoying local Texas beers and eats.

I would see awesome projects like We Are Austin Tech highlight influencers in that community (including myself) come up.

And I watched Baltimore grow as a technology community to the point where DC entrepreneurs started paying attention to their up and coming little brother 45 mins up I-95. I watched from afar as Dave Troy would put his heart and soul into building Baltimore as a center of entrepreneurship and tech. I’d watch as Greg Cangialosi would build his Blue Sky Factory marketing firm out and have a successful acquisition, all while continuing to personally invest more in the Baltimore scene.

I even watched great tragedies like the systematic destruction of Advertising.com by Aol.

I watched this all over the last 4 years and realized Baltimore was coming into it’s own. It had successes. It had failures. It had investors. It had bootstrap. It’s still not entirely cohesive, but from my seat, it looks promising.

So I’ve decided to move back to my home and put my money where my mouth is and see if I can take what I’ve gleaned from DC and Austin and apply it here in Baltimore. I may be one of those failures. Or I may not be, but I’ve got to try.

What Makes a Successful Community?

In the last few weeks, I’ve had several conversations with Baltimore business owners and entrepreneurs, and I’m finding a common question and point of discussion: What makes a successful community? The answers and opinions are intriguing. Again, I can’t say my opinion carries any authority. What I can say, however, is I’ve been in a bunch of communities and witnessed elements of success.

Some folks think a successful business community requires investors who are willing to commit their time and money. Anyone who has gone through the fundraising process knows that hands on investors are the best kind. If a VC or Angel investor can help a portfolio company supplement resources (human capital or otherwise) through their network, they bring quite a bit of upside to a startup. Investors who wire money and never pay attention to their portfolio companies, expecting the founders to execute according to plan, are in my opinion bad investors.

So in this light, some entrepreneurs here in Baltimore find the lack of investment money or engaged investors as detrimental to the community.

On the flip side of the coin, some entrepreneurs seem to be thinking that the mark of a good startup community is going to be in the number of entrepreneurs who are able to successfully bootstrap. There is some validity to this claim as well. The more you can do on your own, the less of your company you’re giving away (as I noted in the “Valleyboys” segment of this article a few weeks ago).

However, there is also value in bootstrapping and taking money, if the situation is right.

Other folks I’ve talked to feels the value is in the number of people attend professional meetups compounded by the sheer number of meetups. In Austin, we have a vibrant meetup community. From the Austin WordPress meetup to Austin on Rails to Austin Lean Startup to Refresh Austin and the list goes on.

My opinion is that a city startup community is built on all these things. It’s not money, really. Money will follow success. Perhaps Baltimore needs to have an IPO or high profile acquisition that allows the company to continue to operate and hire in Baltimore to put them on the map and in the conversation. I don’t really think it’s that, per se, but that certainly helps.

It would help if the State of Maryland was more business-friendly to small businesses, as Texas is. People come to Texas, and more specifically Austin, from California and New York because the environment is notably friendly to small business. More business would be created in Maryland with better business policy. It might even attract out of state growth.

Beyond that though, meetups are important but meetups don’t create value if the conversations end at the meetup. The idea of building something – a prototype – as you might get out of a Startup Weekend is good… if it continues afterwards from prototype to business product.

But I think the biggest thing that makes community grow is collaboration and the willing to share ideas without being defensive, sharing resources without being possessive, sharing physical space without being prohibitive. It takes more that an entrepreneurs flying solo behind his Macbook Pro in a coffee shop, but it takes less than structured office space with prohibitive managerial org charts.

It doesn’t take sacrificing lifestyle on the altar of work, but it does take entrepreneurs willing to gut out ideas by working with other entrepreneurs and customers and transparently sharing war stories of success and failure while helping to mentor others new to the space.

It does takes the karmaic “pay it forward” approach without fiefdoms and regional rivalries to ensure that a rising tide raises all ships. What you put in to other companies you have no direct stake in, but can help with informal advice (when solicited) makes for a circle of life that encourages a community to exceed expectations and move from one level to the next. Mentorship is not an ROI term, but it is critical to the ecosystem.

Am I off-base in my thinking here?

SXSW Recap

I’m back on Maryland soil now after changing my flight to come back home Wednesday instead of Thursday. It’s been a heck of a trip and I’m so exhausted. Nonetheless, it was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. I’ll have to catch up on the sessions I wanted to attend but did not. (Last year, they were all released as podcasts after the event so I’m assuming the same will be done this year).

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Amazing people everywhere. That’s the summary, as simplistic as that sounds. The overlapping of all my various circles and networks of people: DC folks interacting with Canadian friends interacting with the PodCamp circle of friends interacting with b5media folks. Not to mention the vast presence of my Twitter friends everywhere I looked. As I said, it was truly amazing.

The past few days, if you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you know that I’ve interviewed six fantastic folks: Brian Solis, “Pistachio” Laura Fitton, Frank Gruber, “Copyblogger” Brian Clark, Christina Warren and Rainer Cvillink. Obviously a very productive day. Those were just the quick video sit downs that I did. We also did our regular weekly District of Corruption live from Austin, appeared on a variety of videos and podcasts by Chris Brogan, Scott Stead, and Kris Smith to name a few.

Though I met many, many new folks this week, I was very pleased to get the opportunity to meet (for the first time), Shel Israel, Erin Kotecki Vest, Micah Baldwin, Grant Robertson, Christina Warren, and Mark Cuban. Yes… I did just say I met Mark Cuban. It was only for a brief handshake as he breezed through the Washington VC sponsored Rock Band party Tuesday night.

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Old friends reconnected include the inimitable Loren Feldman, Brian Clark, Darren “Problogger” Rowse, Scott Brooks, Alex Hillman and, as usual, many more.

On a light note, I’m a little miffed that the bulk of the coverage of the “Beacon Sucks” heckler moment during Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote wasn’t properly attributed. Christina did, but CNET, Valleywag and the rest of the coverage did not. It was me, of course, which makes me either the voice of the thoughts of all of us or just rude. Not sure which. You be the judge.

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I want to thank the b5media crew that made the event a lot of fun for me. Thanks to Steph Agresta (aka, Internet Geek Girl) for being the face and voice of the Bloghaus. I know you’re wiped out from it, but it was great and I hope for you it was worth it. Lijit and Outbrain for sponsoring the “b5 ranch” – yes it was a real ranch. Grant and Christina for dinner, drinks and so much more with myself and the b5’ers. It’s a pretty cool dynamic to work for a competing blog network and still be some of the coolest people around.

Austin, I’m out. You were wonderful. Until SXSW ’09, stay weird Austin (that’s a tee shirt I saw today).

Ebb and Flow; Blogging During a Conference; Bits and Pieces

During conferences, I think it makes the most sense to blog in a format that Jason Calacanis made “special”. Stream of consciousness blogging. In other words, during conferences, I don’t have the time to fully develop thoughts like I would normally do to post usual content here. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot going through my head. In fact, it’s at times like this that my mind is on overdrive thinking about everything and fully baking none of it. Introducing stream of consciousness blogging where one entry might have three or four varying topics. I probably only do this once a day if that much. Here goes.

Writing Well

It’s been alarming to me recently how many blogs I’ve been visiting, in the DC area and elsewhere, which seem to be completely disjointed in terms of thought process. They are written with poor grammar, horrendous typos, etc. Though I’m known for bad typos when “ad hoccing” my writing – and known for equally bad grammar at some times – I really do like to see well thought out writing. If it only took you two minutes to write a post, it’s probably noticeable. Copy and paste? Clean up your formatting. Close your HTML tags. Do what you have to to dress the article up. It’s your professional image on the line. For more copywriting tips, visit my colleague and friend, Brian Clark for more information overload on writing good copy than you could ever dream of.

Austin, SXSW

This is my second year. Word to the virgins (erm, SXSW virgins), bring a second pair of comfortable shoes and a few extra changes of clothes. Last year we had monsoon like conditions and it soaked my only pair of shoes. Be prepared. There’s lots of walking. In a similar vein, don’t frustrate yourself by thinking you can even attempt to go to every cool party. Go to what you can. RSVP for everything (/me ducks from the party organizers) and then only go to what you can. Don’t kill yourself, you’ll regret it at the end of the week and feel like a failure. Just have fun. As JCal says, the best networking happens somewhere after 11pm over the most expensive Scotch around – or something.

If Simon uses an Adjective Beginning with G, you should Listen

Someone mentioned jokingly that there should be a drinking game where you take a shot every time American Idol judge Simon Cowell uses an adjective beginning with G – Ghastly, Grotesque, etc. Yes, yes, I’m making an Idol reference. Sue me. When someone criticizes your company, your business model, your methods – take what you can and leave the rest. Take the criticism and learn from it. If they are just looking to deep six your company, they are probably finding another way to do it. No need to be the super hero and pretend you’ve got it all figured out. Nobody does. Take the criticism and improve with it.

I’m out. Plane’s about to board.

The Official Unofficial SXSW Playlist

I know there’s probably only one of you that remembers back when I was doing custom playlists on request.

Those were the days. I should revive that game.

At any rate, a lot of geeks like myself are heading down to Austin next month for SXSW Interactive, possibly the Mecca of all web conferences. In the spirit of the event being in Austin (you never have to go far for great Texas blues with absolutely no cover charge) and in true social networking fashion, I asked people on Twitter today to name a single song that would be their theme song for SXSW. They could only choose one song. I’ve compiled this into a playlist for you.

  1. Simple Man – Lynryd Skynrd
  2. I Turn My Camera On – Spoon
  3. Parent’s Just Don’t Understand – Fresh Prince
  4. Party Up – DMX
  5. Guitars and Video Games – Sunny Day Real Estate
  6. I Feel it All – Feist
  7. You Won’t See Me – The Beatles

As a bonus, here are some tracks I would add:

  1. Video Killed the Radio Star – Amber Pacific/Punk Goes 80s
  2. Fake Tales of San Francisco – Arctic Monkeys
  3. Lights and Sounds – Yellowcard
  4. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John
  5. In God’s Country – U2
  6. Every Night’s Another Story – The Early November

What are your theme songs for SXSW? :-)