SXSW Day 1: Panel Impressions

Notes from the panels I attended Saturday. In general, I went to the non-technical panels that covered blogging issues.

Better Blogging Brainstorming

I don’t know very much about the blogosphere, so these names were all new to me:

  • Cameron Barrett — BlogCorp Inc
  • Helen Jane Hearn — IA Mgr, Trinchero Family Estates
  • Min Jung Kim — Mischief Maker
  • Tony Pierce — Community Man, Buzznet
  • Liza Sabater — Publisher, Culturekitchen Network

This was pretty briskly-moderated panel (Sabater doing the honors), covering issues related to creating a blog from four people who have been successful with it. Min Jung Kim had a cowbell that she rang every time someone said something sexually suggestive; she also had my favorite line of the entire panel: if you have nothing to write about, that’s a sign that you should be living life more aggressively. Awesome. Tony Pierce also had some great insights; he’s apparently written a book about blogging that I will have to check out.

We Got Naked, Now What?

The next panel I attended was the first BlogHer panel, which addressed the topic of bringing one’s personal life into their professional blogs. I have a real problem separating my personal life from my professional life, and such is the case also with my blog. The work I get tends to be word of mouth and evolving conversation, so in this case I think it’s an asset. This wasn’t necessarily the case with the following bloggers:

  • Laina Dawes — Writer, Writing is Fighting
  • Jory Des Jardins — Co-Founder, BlogHer
  • Elaine Liner — Writer, Phantom Prof
  • Evelyn Rodriguez — Principal, Dwelve
  • Elisa Camahort — Co-founder, BlogHer (moderator)

The other reason I attended this session is that I really really love the blogs of Evelyn Rodriguez and Jory Des Jardin. I don’ t read them every day for some reason (I don’t use RSS), but several months ago they gave me inspiration in ways I still don’t fully understand. Rodriguez’s blog explored the issues surrounding the “why” of life in a delicately introspective manner that is honest and authentic, like visiting a dear childhood friend who talks to you utterly without guile. Des Jardin’s blog, by comparison, reminds me of a friend who would get you in trouble during Very Important Moments by making you snort inappropriately in laughter. It was around the time that she was writing about quitting her job to pursue her own stuff. The kind of writing I tend to do here, in retrospect, borrows tonally from both, at least when I’m feeling introspective.

Laina Dawes and Elaine Liner both were let go from their jobs because of their blogs (I think I have that right), and their stories of how uncomfortable their employers were with their outside writing generated a small groundswell of outrage. A key theme that resurfaced was the issue of fairness and free speech. The moderator polled the audience on these issues several times. I actually was so moved to make an observation that there were different values in corporations as far as individuality was concerned; for a traditional company culture, the expression of individuality is highly discomfiting, creating “management moments” that most establishments rather not to deal with. I also questioned whether we really should have the expectation of fairness in exercising our free speech (I think the educational system sort of screws our heads up with the whole cupcake reward thing anyway, but I digress).

Anyway, this was a great session. I got to talk a bit with Des Jardins and Rodriguez afterwards when I bought a copy of the book More Spaces, and they signed it! Todd Sattersten also signed it…awesome! He had even heard of The Printable CEO, volunteering his hand. I was taken aback, as I really was not expecting to be recognized for it. This happened a couple more times during the day, too, with random people.

I also chatted a bit with the woman next to me, who was another BlogHer person running a Sunday panel. I was just checking out what I think was the blog she mentioned, arse poetica. There are so many cool people here, it’s mind blowing!

Jim Coudal / Jason Fried Keynote

I wasn’t that keen on the keynote at first; Jim Coudal I thought was some VC dude, but then he mentioned jewelboxing and I instantly snapped to attention. He was an excellent speaker, with a great presence and delivery. I enjoyed the way he delivered his story about how their companies bucked the work for hire model to start creating their own products. That’s been something very heavily on my mind for the past year, so I’m glad I didn’t bail on it to check out Screenburn (damn, I missed it altogether). Jason Fried I hadn’t heard that much about before, but I’d heard of 37signals. He had a fascinating premise regarding how “less” is better when it comes to delivering product. If you have less time, you waste less time! If you have lless money, you’ll spend it wiser! Both speakers, excellent. I have a new reference point for excellence in speaking.

How to Increase Creativity at Work

This was presented by a Charles MacInerney, who is a yoga teacher that at first reminded me of every awful elementary school teacher I had ever had. For the first 15 minutes, I thought I had made a terrible, terrible mistake. I inwardly groaned when he announced he was going to put up a powerpoint slideshow, and cringed when I saw a mindmap. By the end of the session, though, I had turned 180 degrees around. This guy really really in an intelligent and pragmatic person. His lecture at first seemed completely out-of-phase with the 20-something crowd, but the value of what he said was immediately obvious through the exercises we did. By the end of the session, I was completely impressed. The basic ideas:

  • To creative, one must be in a certain brainwave state. Achieving this brainwave state (alpha) is trainable through Yoga.

  • Furthermore, there’s a lot of natural biochemical activity occuring in the body that directly affects our mood. For example, stretching backwards makes you feel like a warrior, while stretching forward makes you more docile.

  • Breathing itself is even more important than the body tricks. Why? Because by controlling your breathing, you control your own sense of calm.

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p>Absolutely fascinating session…I’ll have to write more about it later.

Creating Passionate Users

Kathy Sierra rules. She gave a fast-moving, well-timed presentation on what a passionate user is, why passion is important, and what things you need to do to ensure you maintain it. A lot of what she talked about is stuff that comes from game design, and she really “gets” it. I actually went up to talk to her at the end of the session, but actually became tongue-tied. I was utterly in awe, which is something that very rarely happens. I gibbered like a bubble-headed monkey, and Sierra wisely moved on to more coherent conversational targets (Evelyn Rodriguez, actually, who was standing nearby).

WordPress Party / Barcamp Austin

Rather than head to the Frog Opening party, a number of us went to the WordPress party at Thistle (300 W. 6th Street). It was a laid-back time, much less crowded and probably more intimate. I got my picture taken; I wonder if it’ll be posted anywhere?

Exhausted

So wow, what a day. Three of my favorite blog authors / ass kickers met in one day: Rodriguez, Des Jardins, and Sierra! People who I never heard of before who also kick ass from all the panels! I also got to finally shake hands with more of the 9rules crew: Scrivs, Oliphant, Rundle, Nathan Smith, Steve Smith, Bryan Veloso, Dustin Diaz, and Patrick Haney. I’m sure I’m missing some people…I’m kind of wiped. I can’t believe I get to do 3 more days of this. I better get to sleep.