Posts Tagged ‘Baratunde Thurston’

My Impressions of SXSW 2010 – Think Chatroulette IRL

Baratunde Thurston dancing at SXSW, photo by Anthony De Rosa

Ok, first of all, can I just say, I think that was my all time favorite conference. Ever.

Yes, I know it was overwhelmingly huge, and people are saying this and that cranky thing about it (I’m ignoring) – but to me, it was thousands of super interesting, innovative people in every nook and cranny and there was absolutely no way to go wrong if you’re open to meeting new people.

I inadvertently wandered around on day 1 “alone” – which turned out to be a blessing I tried to repeat every day thereafter. Think Chatroulette in real life and you get the picture of what my days were like.

I’d spent the plane ride carefully orchestrating a “schedule” on my iPhone – but somehow, it all fell apart when I arrived at the check-in. I short-circuited in the face of all the options and resorted to paper printouts of emails, much to the embarrassment of my friends. A few hours in, I ran into Baratunde and he told me to put the schedule away and just wander around. That turned out to be the best advice.

Below are my agenda-less impressions:

  • Douglas Rushkoff is AWESOME despite the fact that he said that books are over because the publishing process takes so long. He gave a talk called The 10 Commandments for a Digital Age and there were so many profound moments I’m not even going to try to sum it up. Just be sure to watch the video.
  • Everyone’s a “Content Strategist” at SXSW 2010. It’s like being named “Michael.”
  • Jeff Pulver’s 140 party was amazing – and not only because I got to meet (and be live streamed) by my internet crush, Leo Laporte. The place was beautiful and the vibe was great.
  • I saw Danah Boyd speak and am happy to report that she fully recovered from the Web 2.0 fiasco. Thank God. I think it was the dress.
  • Gowalla seemed to gain major traction. I heard a lot of people saying they like it better than Foursquare. Honestly, I never fully bonded with the whole “check in” concept, but I have to say, it was useful to know where people were, especially at night when you were done with dinner and wanted to know what was going on. I still can’t imagine “checking in” during my daily life (unless there’s a worthwhile prize – and a “badge” saying I’m the mayor does not motivate me) — but I get it.
  • Leah Jones is amazing. She put together her second annual dinner. It was a private room full of people who didn’t know each other and it still brings a smile to my face when I think about it. Highlight of the evening was realizing that the Stacey who was sitting two people away from me was “Stacey Monk” of #TwitterKids fame.
  • I just have to say it one more time, I ♥ SXSW.
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An Embarrassment of Riches

In the month of December, the publishing Gods rained four amazing authors on me. I took it as a sign from the universe that I was in the right place.

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After months of questions and angst about the future of the publishing industry and whether it was part of my future, my answer came in the form of Baratunde Thurston. I’d heard him speak at the Web 2.0 conference and I wanted desperately to work with him. After tracking him down, he came to my office for a brainstorm, and it was during that meeting that I had an epiphany: There is nothing in the world I’d rather be doing.How cool is it that I get to go to conferences, hear really interesting speakers, then have them over to my office to figure out their book with them? And then I get to work on that book.

My fate became clear during that meeting with Baratunde Thurston. He’s writing a book for HarperStudio called How to be Black.

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The next author to sign with HarperStudio was Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg.com. I’m a huge fan — have been following his blog, twitter, videos, etc. for some time, and think he’s one of the smartest tech entrepreneurs out there with lots of wisdom and experience to share .  He’ll be writing a book about the secrets behind his success called One to One Million.

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Jill Kargman is a novelist. I saw her on Samantha Ettus’s show Obsessed TV six months ago and knew I wanted to work with her. We met a few times and completely clicked. The question was , what’s the “HarperStudio” book. In early December she came to my office to have another brainstorm and told me some terrible personal news. The thing was, she told the story with such humor and grace that instead tears and sadness, we were hysterically laughing…and it was in that moment that we realized that’s her gift: she sprinkles the funny everywhere, even on the tough times. Jill’s going to write two books for HarperStudio. The first is called Sometimes I Feel Like A Nut and will be essays about using humor as a tool to get through life –making the fun times funnier and the tough times bearable, in reference to Woody Allen’s magical math equation: COMEDY = TRAGEDY + TIME. The second will be a novel.

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The fourth author to sign with HarperStudio during that lucky month of December 2009, was Ryan Tate from Gawker.  I’d been thinking a lot about merits and challenges of being a small company within a large corporation, and Bob suggested that there’s a book in that. Nick Bilton from the New York Times lead me to Ryan Tate at Gawker, and he is now writing a book for us called Skunkworks, which I can’t wait to read.

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One more author who I want to mention who signed with HarperStudio, though it was slightly before that December epiphany, but still very much part of my process of realizing how much I love my job, is Melanie Notkin, the Savvy Auntie. She’s writing her Savvy Auntie’s Guide to Life.

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So there you have it: now a total of five authors who make me so excited about my work and this industry that I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

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