Day 2 was a little different for me, because I had Day 1 to judge it by. I got to meet a few people more people today, like (drum roll) Dave Shea. That was a very interesting experience from a personal perspective, but more on that later. First I need to download some observations.
The Mystery of Pacing
The pace of SXSW is very fast, due to the number of panels and the relatively little amount of time between them. There are two morning panels, an early afternoon keynote, followed by two afternoon panels. I can totally see why a lot of the action happens after the panels; there’s just no time to really talk and socialize before 6PM. It reminds me a little of High School, running from class-to-class, except there’s no common “hang out” to return to and there are no free periods. It’s pretty crazy and cool.
The Mystery of Grouping
While I enjoyed some solo exploration time today, I did tend to get swept into groups of people I had started to recognize. The main meet-up time is lunch, except groups form so spontaneously it’s difficult to coordinate a meeting time. It really is a time of networking, and when you strike up random conversations with people you invariably miss some window of opportunity to group for lunch. Sort of reminds me of a nerd MMORPG, except we’re LARPing with real people in a real geek environment. Today I decided not to worry too much about it, and just went with the flow of things, grouping and ungrouping with somewhat less guilt. Toward the end of the day, though, I grouped with a party that had a late dinner, and I entirely missed the Web Awards. I’m a little disappointed, because I wanted to see how it was ran (particularly the multimedia aspect, and how the producer was set up to “call the show”…I love these kinds of behind-the-scenes theatrics. And of course, I wanted to see if Bryan Veloso and 9rules picked up an award or two. I can’t find any news on it, so will just have to wait until tomorow.
I can totally see how being downtown helps with the party scene; I’ve missed a lot of them. I’m not a particularly party sort of person, plus eating out is way expensive, so I’m not that broken up about it. If there was a quieter venue to just talk to people, that would be more my speed.
The Mystery of Emerging Themes
I’ve been mostly attending panels that are related to content creation from the non-technical side. Briefly here’s what I visited today:
- Sink or Swim: Important Startup Decisions — 5 founders of companies talk about their experiences: Joel Spolsky (Fog Creek Software), Evan Williams (Odeo), Josua Schachter (Del.icio.us), Michael Lopp (Apple, moderator), and Cabel Sasser (cofounder of Panic). They’re actual living and breathing people, and sitting waaay up front (thanks, Matt, for the shove) made them appear all the more human. I really enjoyed the interplay between Lopp, Spolsky, and Sasser (who is a hoot). Williams and Schachter had a different kind of energy. It struck me that they would be very different kinds of WWII squad leaders.
Women’s Visibility on the Web — This was a wildcard choice, since I’m not a woman. However, because empowerment is a general theme I’m interested in, I was curious to see where the discussion would go. The BlogHer organization is very mystifying to me too…it has a very different energy. Plus, the full title was “who’s butt should we be kicking?” and I am a firm believer in all forms of kicking ass. This turned out to be my favorite session of the day. The panelists: Ayse Erginer (moderator), Liz Henry (feminist / poet translator), Jan Kabili (photoshop book author), Tara Hunt (online marketing mgr), and Virginia DeBolt (web teacher). All of them blog, and they discussed how being “visible” was relevant to them as an individual and as a woman. Kabili described herself in the manner of an aggressive self-marketer, proactively putting herself out there to make the connections and to get in front of the people who are decisionmakers and career enablers. By contrast, Virginia DeBolt is a senior citizen who had been a long time SXSW attendee. However, she described what it was like to be an old woman and therefore invisible. Her blogging and content gathering, however, paid off in the form of review work and book writing, so the web totally made her more visible, and thus she has had a very empowering experience. I was very moved…wow. One of the most inspiring and uplifting stories I’ve heard here. It occured to me that it wasn’t so much visibility as it was the desire for meaningful recognition that was at the heart of the issue. And of course this applies to everyone, not just women. Learning to make yourself visible is just the mechanical part of it; being truly appreciated and acknowledged for who you are and what you do is pretty universal. I think once that happens, the resulting transformation creates remarkable new opportunities.
Demystifying the Mobile Web — This ran opposite of the Heather Armstrong / Jason Kottke keynote, but Armstrong will be at another session tomorrow. This was my opportunity to see Dave Shea in action. I had mixed feelings about this, to be honest, because it is very odd to be defined (in some circles) by who you are not. It’s pretty fortunate that a few people in the GTD crowd have recognized me for The Printable CEO, because in this case I’m recognized for something I’m quite happy with. I’m pleased by the Dave Shea connection for a different reason: I faced an inner demon and made something positive out of it, bringing a smile to people’s faces unexpectedly in the bargain and, I have to admit, increasing my visibility. Part of me wonders if I’m perceived as a clown (a comedic “Mini-Dave”), rather than for my actual abilities, but you know what? I’m not going to let that bother me. I should be bigger than that. And Dave is a really nice guy. He shook my hand with a warm smile, asked me a bit about what I did, and shared a doppleganger story of his own. We’re bowling on Monday night, and he thinks that there will be a few people who will want pictures. The experience of walking up to the stage after the panel, waiting in line, and then getting to shake Dave’s hand was eerily like visiting Santa Claus, if that makes any sense. I should have asked for a pony. The panel itself was informative, featuring: Dave Shea, Cameron Moll, Kelly Goto, and Brian Fling (moderator), discussing the state of mobile web. This is an area that I’ve been interested in for a while, more from the Flash side of things, but I picked up some essential information about what it takes to develop mobile web apps and how things can go wrong. This will save me hours of research; I have a very clear snapshot of the State of the Art. It was quite a well-balanced panel, I thought.
Everyware — This panel was about “ubiquitous computing”, presented solely as a lecture by Adam Greenfield. He’s written a book, Everyware, that covers a broad range of fascinating topics regarding the behavioral and society-changing repercussions of being monitored 24-hours a day by hundreds of small computers and sensors. There is the potential for both great good and great harm. Greenfield spoke with a kind of reflective authority and sense of optimism, alloyed with what must be a serious academic background. At first, I thought that the lecture would end up being a bullshit academic talk, but I found it lucidly-presented and thought provoking. I may have to pick up his book; his insights on the requirement for human dignity in an ubiquitous computing environment were particularly welcome.
Roll Your Own Web Conference — Moderated by Zeldman, with Eric Meyer, Maxine Sherrin, Jason Fried, Bruce Livingstone, and Molly Ditmore. This panel, which was quite informal, touched upon the challenges and some of the specifics of organizing a conference. I have to type this up formally at some point, but for me the best part was Zeldman’s final question: How many of you out there are seriously thinking of starting your own conference? The entire room of 200+ people raised their hands as one. It was an amazing moment that shocked and delighted the panelists, as it did myself.
p>At the end of Day 2, the themes that I’m picking up on are empowerment, visibility, the pursuit of quality, and community dialog. Everyone I’ve talked to has that “look” in their eye; these are people who are seriously passionate about something. Deadly seriously passionate. I must find out more tomorrow.