Posts Tagged ‘sxsw’

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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Take-Aways From Tools of Change 2010

I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter that there wasn’t much new to learn at this year’s Tools of Change conference. In fact I heard the same things said about Digital Book World. I don’t know…..that’s not at all what I take away from these things. I attend a lot of conferences, even ones that have nothing to do with publishing. In fact, one of my all time favorites was Brad Inman’s Real Estate conference.

But here’s the thing, I don’t go expecting to take away some big revelation, and what I’ve learned over the years is that the lessons often take time to marinate and reveal themselves, and I don’t even know what I learned until weeks or months later. Also, for me, it’s every bit as much about the networking and connecting in the real world as it is about the lectures and panels. I firmly believe that magic can happen when you bring interesting people together face to face; the potency of that real world connection can’t be replicated virtually.

The other lesson (which I learned before, but was confirmed for me here) is that the least likely talks that I stumble into by accident are often the most interesting. This year, I fell into Brian O’Leary and Ashley Gordon’s talk about Print On Demand and it got me thinking in directions I had never considered……and the only reason I found myself there was because the Twitter room was too crowded. It was the most thought provoking hour of the week for me and I’m sure will lead me in directions I never imagined.

A lot of people are headed to SXSW this year and are asking me which panels to attend — and I’m going to give a big plug here for serendipity. I’ll be trying to steer myself clear of the obvious and will be looking to discover the magic in the least likely places. I’ll be the one looking to swim in a different pond. My favorite panel from last year had nothing to do with publishing, per se. It was called something to the effect of “How the Brain Works” by a lawyer named Craig Ball, and subsequently changed the way I give presentations (and as an aside, not to dis anyone specifically…..but I think others in our industry could benefit from what Craig Ball has to say). Another panel by YouTube star Felicia Day was hugely informative for me too — and I stumbled into it by accident.

Here are a few quick & dirty observations from TOC:

  • There were many more laptops than I saw at DWB
  • In France, all books are priced exactly the same, wherever they are sold. It’s the law. (Wow. That blew me away. Can you imagine? That changes everything for everyone). Check out Julia’s post from last Fall.
  • Peter Meyers is a visionary. I don’t know if all of his ideas will “work” — but he has really done some deep thinking about what a “book” can be.
  • Everyone needs to hear Kirk Biglione’s presentation about the history of DRM. I’m not sure I agree 100% with everything he says about how it should be in the future, but it is very informative to hear a detailed history of what happened to the music industry.
  • Tim O’Reilly says get back to work. Stop trying to be so “visionary” and work on the meat and potatoes of great book publishing.
  • Brad Inman said that trying to make stuff happen with big publishers is like trying to swim through a jar of peanut butter. I love that. I’ve been saying the same thing for years — but I call it the “sludge.” You have a great idea, and then you’ve got to swim through the sludge to try to make it happen. Not a lot of fun. I’ve learned to dodge and weave and bob my way around it. From now on, every time I think to myself “how do I make this happen” — it’s going to be symbolized by a big jar of Skippy.

All in all, I loved TOC 2010. I signed up for next year before I left the conference center.

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Thank You Richard Nash :)

SXSW 2010I was going to write a blog about why you should weigh in on the publishing panel, but Richard Nash beat me to the punch and said it better than I could.

In cased you missed it, here it is (please vote: http://bit.ly/2d9Pqr)

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thisiswhyyourefat.com … rap?!

At the SXSW conference held last week in Austin, Texas, our recently signed authors and creators of thisiswhyyourefat.com put their own spin on Mims’s hip-hop hit, “This Is Why I’m Hot.” It’s just as catchy, but whether it will stave off your cravings for a good ol’ fashioned meat cake is another question.

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#SXSW: The Morning After

sxswIt’s all about the hash tag. Twitter‘s great, but Twitter on hash tags is even better. I’d say that’s the biggest takeaway for me after five days in Austin. Seriously, I felt Twitter move the earth again. During each presentation (and, frustratingly, there were about 15 at a time every hour and half) — you could follow what was going on in each room by the specially coded hash tags. It’s not only #sxsw anymore — now you can slice and dice your way into each panel. Take for example #sxswbp. I was in the ballroom next door watching Gary V being cheered like a rock star while my publishing colleagues were being eviscerated in the next room. I was able to cringe along as I followed every tweet.

Here’s my list of Top Five Take Aways:

1) SXSW seemed to be more about networking than breaking new ground. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I did find myself listening to to the keynotes thinking I’d heard it all before though, and wishing I’d hear what’s next. Tony Hsieh and Chris Anderson are great speakers — and if you haven’t heard Tony’s message about customer service and company culture before, or Chris Anderson’s “Free” schpeel — you should definitely watch the videos and read their blogs. If you follow them, as I do, there wasn’t much new to learn.

2) Panels about “building community” (and there were many variations of this) were a waste of time. It all seemed to be common sense — a one minute message drawn out for an hour (or longer).

3) Interesting panels lurked in less obvious places. “Making Ideas Happen” was one of my favorites. Creativity x Organization = Impact, chemistry is more important than experience when hiring, and have “standing” (as in not sitting) meetings where everyone leaves with action items — are a few of the lessons I walked away with. “Presenting Straight to the Brain” was great too. Who knew PowerPoint could be so much fun. Trial lawyer Craig Ball was a hoot — and really informative. I will definitely be consulting his blog the next time I have to give a presentation.

4) No women keynote speakers? What’s going on with that.

5) Seeing Gary Vaynerchuk is practically a religious experience. His energy is contagious, the message is great (i.e. YOU CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN!!!) and the audience can’t get enough.

Overall, inspiring five days, a lot of fun, met great people.

I’ll be spreading the word that more publishing people should attend next year. Enough with the whole industry at the Book Expo. We need to start swimming in a different pond to stay inspired, keep it fresh, meet new people, hear new ideas.

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