SxSW: One giant party

It has been a complete whirlwind two weeks and I’m finally starting to settle down (read: back on my couch). I went from SxSW Interactive in Austin, TX, straight to IA Summit in Memphis, TN, and somehow I got through it.

It was my first time at SxSW and I had an absolute blast. The rumor was that 10,000 people were in attendance, and it definitely felt like that many. We had the entire four floors of the Austin Convention Center and pretty much took over all of downtown Austin — the hotels, restaurants, bars and streets.

Each of the five days had packed schedules. 15-20 panels to choose from at each time slot and about 5-6 time slots a day. There were usually several things I wanted to catch simultaneously, and I tried to go to the first half of one thing and the second half of another, but the ACC is so huge that it could take 20 minutes going from one room to another — and inevitably I’d bump into 10 people I knew along the way.

I saw a bunch of my NYC peeps in the hallways, hanging around the TechSet Blogger Lounge , and in many of the sessions, but it was also an amazing opportunity to meet people from all over the world whose work I’m aware of or have been following on Twitter for some time. By the end it felt like I had become a business card collector, but many of the connections I made I hope to extend beyond the loose tie see-you-once-a-year sort of thing. I’m sure a few will become prospective clients (and hopefully a a contract or two!), and more than a few will become friends.

The parties every night were out of control, and though I grew up in NYC going to nightclubs at the wee age of 16, I have never seen crowds like this in my life. There were parties hosted by Facebook, Mashable, Media Temple, Happy Cog, frog design, Rackspace, Austin Ventures, and the list goes on. Three or four major bashes were held each night in tremendous venues around downtown Austin, with open bars, live bands and free food.

While I always enjoy a spectacle, I preferred connecting with people one-on-one over lunch and dinner, where we could actually hear each other. I had some amazing meals with old and new friends at Moonshine, Ironworks, We Fuse, and Iron Cactus.

Here are notes from some of the panels I attended that I really enjoyed.

“Try Making Yourself More Interesting”

  • I’m at the “Try Making Yourself More Interesting” panel featuring @superamit @brianoberkirch @halvorson and others. Hope I learn how!
  • @brianoberkirch says “Do epic shit”
  • @monstro filled in on this panel at the last minute. I <3 @GetSatisfaction
  • @brianoberkirch says “Apprentice yourself to great work.” Surround yourself with the people who excite you, take it all in
  • @brianoberkirch: “Give side projects some front & center time” Basecamp was a side project
  • @brianoberkirch just gave props to @bokardo and @jmspool. UX in the house!
  • Byron of @bikehugger talking about staying true to who you are & sharing yourself openly. Go to their Mobile Social bike ride tmw @ 2
  • @monstro “If we can teach companies how to connect with their customers in a more communal way…we’ll figure out how to make money”
  • @superamit talking about his urban camping in TimesSq 5yrs ago. That’s when I 1st heard about him. “Just experiment &see what happens”
  • @photojojo was an experiment in sharing cool photo stuff via email newsletter. Now it’s a full-fledged business without advertising.
  • @superamit gets asked a lot if @photojojo is a business and that’s his favorite thing about it. It doesn’t feel commercial
  • @brianoberkirch just said “douchebagy marketers” — I’ll have to use that

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Kathy Sierra’s “Changing Your World: Making Breakthroughs Happen”

  • I’m live-Twittering from @kathysierra‘s talk at #sxswi
  • There’s you on one side, your goal on the other side, and a big fucking wall in between the two — @kathysierra
  • Incremental improvements aren’t going to get you through that wall. You need a *breakthrough* for you, and for your users
  • WOM= word of mouth. WOO= word of obvious. When people are just better, they don’t have to market it. WOO > WOM @kathysierra
  • “Someone being better carries a lot more weight that someone saying they’re better.” — @kathysierra
  • @kathysierra showing the Kick Ass Curve:
  • You get one superpower: flight or invisibility. Which would you choose?
  • I chose invisibility :)
  • Help your users make a breakthrough: what superpower would you give them?
  • Imagine your user’s superhero costume. What would you put on the suit? “Give them a big jump in capability” — @kathysierra
  • “I’m going to say it publicly. I was wrong about Twitter. It doesn’t look like a super power, but it is.” — @kathysierra
  • “A venture capitalist would say — when they existed….” — @kathysierra. Audience gasped!
  • Superset game: there’s you, and there’s your competitor (usually bigger than you). What is the COOLER thing that surrounds you both?
  • “If you blog about your company, probably not the coolest thing you could be talking about. People don’t want to read about you”
  • Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: 10,000 hours for success. 2 ways to shrink the 10,000 hours: learn the patterns, shorten the duration
  • “This is my horse…I’ve been waiting so long to work him into a talk” — @kathysierra How to get the 10000 hours even when on horse
  • @kathysierra put a saddle-like chair at her desk so that she felt like she was on the horse.
  • “People who are experienced aren’t necessarily very good” — @kathysierra After 1-2 yrs, ino longer about experience, about results
  • Do you work on your weaknesses or your strengths? Tiger Woods works on his strengths. (So do I, I gave up on my weaknesses last yr)
  • “Make the right things easy and the wrong things hard. This is done by user experience designers all the time” — @kathysierra
  • The exercise machine isn’t in the corner because you don’t use it, you don’t use it because it’s in the corner — @kathysierra
  • Get better gear (it actually helps) & give it to your users — @kathysierra More monitors actually makes you more productive. Really?
  • “You will see more pixels (big productivity gain)” — @kathysierra
  • “You want to keep your users moving forward, no matter what, even if it takes someone else’s products to do that” — @kathysierra
  • “Think about what it would be like if I didn’t know how things were supposed to be.” — @kathysierra Holy shit that’s genius!
  • ABC = Always Be Closing (from “Wall Street” movie — I think)
  • Stop talking about things for a weekend and start doing something (slight dig on BarCamp) — @kathyhsierra Reminds me of UX Challenge
  • “Don’t make a better [x], make a better [user of x]” — @kathysierra
  • In the hero’s journey, what role do you play in your users’ lives? — @kathysierra “Your company is to your user as ____ is to Frodo”
  • What movie are your users in? (The way they view it) What movie do they WANT to be in?
  • “And don’t forget the soundtrack” — @kathysierra. Having trouble figuring out what movie @boxee users would be.
  • “If you want to make users, don’t ask your users…I know a lot of people disagree with me on this one.” — @kathysierra Interesting!
  • When you ask your users, you could end up passing over the “feature peak” because you’re trying to please everyone @kathysierra
  • “Be brave” Concept car problem. Way cooler than the actual car. “Death by risk aversion” Fantastic idea gets lost @kathysierra
  • “Ease of use police step in…and we end up not giving people what they wanted” Not everything has to be easy to use — @kathysierra
  • “That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be trying to make the *experience* as good as possible” — @kathysierra
  • Look at the success of Etsy — we don’t need the stuff on there, but we love that it is. — @kathysierra
  • Price. Number of Features. Quality. Service. Performance. All EQ sliders (high-low). Typical programming is in middle @kathysierra
  • “If you want to make imcremental changes, move the sliders. If you want to make breakthroughs, create new sliders.” — @kathysierra
  • When looking for a dentist, look for one that does cosmetic dentistry. You don’t have to go there, they make you want to @kathysierra
  • @kathysierra just brought @garyvee up on the stage
  • “I’m convinced you don’t know exactly why you’re successful” — @kathysierra to @garyvee
  • @kathysierra asked people to shout out the “new sliders” that @garyvee created to be successful. Plain English. Action figures
  • @kathysierra Googled “lolcats translation” and got 54,000 hits. Translator puts English into lolcats. Translating the Bible
  • @kathysierra showing passive aggressive notes. Too hilarious. Hope to post later
  • @kathysierra showing the blog of unnecessary quotes and lots of great pics
  • “Be amazed” Everything is amazing right now, and no one is noticing. @kathysierra showing Conan clip
  • Someone tweet me this link and I’ll retweet. I don’t know the comedian @kathysierra
  • Last thing @kathysierra said: “Who’s awesome? You’re awesome!”
  • The funny video: Conan with Louis CK @kathysierra
  • Huge thanks to @kathysierra for a really inspirational talk about being better to our users that paves the way for people like me :)

From Blog to Book Deal

  • I’m live-Twittering “From Blog to Book Deal” with @gapingvoid @guykawasaki @stephanieklein @katelaurielee @pamslim
  • Beyond shocked at how empty this room is given the star power of the panel. Perhaps it’s the time slot: 5pm on the last day of
  • @katelaurielee specializes in finding the books in blogs
  • @gapingvoid is releasing a book called “Ignore Everybody: And 39 Other Keys to Creativity” on June 11
  • Lots of books inspired by blogs: I Can Has Cheezeburger, A Lifetime of Secrets (Post Secret), etc
  • @katelaurielee: “Most people don’t get rich writing books….But it can be a legitimizing experience.”
  • “Books are still a dominant way of reaching a widestream audience” — @katelaurielee Books can lead to TV & film, great way to start
  • @stephanieklein started a blog in 2004 not as a way to get a book deal. Just because she broke up with a guy. Became a two-book deal
  • “I was so overwhelmed that someone wanted to publish something from me, I said, ‘I’ll do it for free!'” — @stephanieklein
  • “A book can catapult you to do other things” motivational speaking, etc. What you have to do to be successful writer @stephanieklein
  • @guykawasaki hired a teenager to grab all of his blog entries, print them out, organize by topic, resort, etc. Not that easy though!
  • @guykawasaki wanted to write a Chicago Manual of Style for entrepreneurship. Wants to be a desk reference
  • “Two weeks after you write a blog post, no matter how much someone likes you, it’s gone.” A book is always there — @guykawasaki
  • @gapingvoid: “Before I was a blogger I was a cartoonist, and I still think I’ll be a cartoonist a lot longer than I’ll be a blogger”
  • @gapingvoid started putting his cartoons online. Then started writing about how to be creative. Posts -> PDF. Downloaded 1mm times
  • @gapingvoid naturally felt it should be a book. Cartoons on paper, he likes paper. And it already had a following
  • So-and-so publishing company offered a book deal to @gapingvoid and @sethgodin told him to go with Penguin instead, helped negotiate
  • Blog helped build up relationships. @sethgodin, other connections wouldn’t have known him otherwise. That paved the way @gapingvoid
  • @patslim coaches people on how to quit their jobs and start their own business. Her book helps reach people who don’t read blogs
  • @pamslim coaches people on how to quit their jobs and start their own business. Her book helps reach people who don’t read blogs
  • @stephanieklein‘s blog is called Greek Tragedy because she’s Greek, her life is a tragedy, and all sororities rejected her in college
  • “After I kicked my husband out for cheating on me, I wrote a book about him.” — @stephanieklein Straight Up and Dirty
  • “So that marriage worked out for you!” @guykawasaki to @stephanieklein
  • @stephanieklein is genius. Went to lots of parties, took photos, handed out cards w/ her blog URL, emailed all Evite invitees w/ URL
  • @pamslim asks audience: for those bloggers who want to write a book, who’s considering finding an agent? Almost no one raised a hand
  • “I’m really just a literary agent and blogs are just another form of media.” — @katelaurielee
  • Obviously knowing someone will help you get in the door, but I’ll consider any inquiry. — @katelaurielee
  • “I worked harder on my book proposal than I did on writing the actual book.” — @stephanieklein
  • It seems like @guykawasaki thinks he had to do as much work to get a book deal as @stephanieklein did. Wow he is delusional.
  • @guykawasaki now taking over the panel, telling @katelaurielee to “let him finish!” He’s insisting that you shouldnt submit proposals
  • “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” @guykawasaki That’s what will get you a book deal, not just blind submitting to an agent
  • Wow @guykawasaki is being a total dick. Is he always like this?
  • “It’s all about getting karmic and juice points.” — @guykawasaki. Yeah, man? How’s your karma?
  • @guykawasaki saw my tweet & called me out on it. I appreciate him bringing it up so that I had the opp to say my thoughts to audience
  • @gapingvoid says it’s becoming a go-to guy for a particular topic or industry. The book becomes a useful device for that
  • The panel is talking about self-publishing versus agent route
  • “The book shouldn’t be a means to an end. The book is an end itself. Because you have something to say.” — @guykawasaki
  • Audience member mentioned that he got a book deal both through someone he knew and also from writing an e-book
  • “Fight like hell.” — @gapingvoid
  • @stephanieklein telling a story about how she used to be a fat kid, then had to gain 50 lbs when she was pregnant with twins…
  • @stephanieklein then wrote a book about it all, Moose, and found really creative ways to sell the book (in plus size clothing stores)
  • “When you’re finishing your book, you should get as many followers on Twitter as possible. I know that’s Twitter heresy” @guykawasaki
  • Develop a following cuz the day your book is available hit them w tweets. You’re gonna think I’m a manipulative guy now. @guykawasaki
  • Audience member talking about how he’s promoting book he self-published. He doesn’t want to be a joe shmo. How? “Write a great blog”
  • Audience member is asking how to use crowdsourced content on a blog and using it in a book.
  • “Getting ppl to read your shit, whether it’s on paper or a blog, is really hard. Once you accept that it’s a lot easier”- @gapingvoid
  • That was a great panel. Makes me think about ways I could turn my blog into a book. Would love to hear my blog readers’ thoughts
  • Phenomenal comments from folks who came up to me after the panel to say, “Thank you for calling him out!” Mostly women, interestingly

Overall, I’m really thrilled I decided to attend SxSW. It was a huge learning experience and great networking opportunity. Stay tuned for my post on the panel I participated in, “From Freelance to Agency: Start Small, Stay Small“, with Jeffrey Zeldman, Roger Black and Kristina Halvorson.

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  1. says

    Wow, sounds like a monster cross sectional event! Seems like the only downside was the same scheduling of one or more activities. I guess that's to be expected though.

  2. says

    i agree with bobby with regarding sounds like a monster cross sectional event! the people comments of the party given in the blog is quite interesting in the blog.


  1. […] was my second year attending (last year being my first), and while I’m thrilled that I got to share the experience with my boyfriend Orian Marx this […]

  2. […] said that SXSW is never as good as the first time — and I sure as hell had a wild experience my first time. But this year I’m going to do things a bit differently: I’m not planning to go to any […]

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