SXSW Day 4: So Long, Fare Well!

And as quickly as it began, SXSWI2006 is over. I’m sitting in my hotel room sorting out the events of the day in my head, transcribing my impressions of the panels. I have filled over half of a composition notebook with notes, and have enough source material for maybe the next couple of months. Yes, it was that amazing an experience, though in retrospect I think there are a few things I could have done better:

  • More after-6PM hanging out. This is when people make connections through extended conversation. I didn’t do it so much this time, but next time I think it’s mandatory.

  • More informal approaching of strangers. I did strike up a few random conversations, but clearly I could have done more. Zach Inglis, for example, estimated he talked to 700-800 new people. He’s a machine!

  • More editing of blog posts. I was looking back at the past few days of entries, and noticed how bad the grammar is, er, was, um…whatever. My mind is pretty much gone at the end of every day, and I’m averaging 5-6 hours only a night.

But enough of that…today a lot of great things happened too!

Good Vibes

Today I had a good conversation with some of the Blue Flavor guys over lunch, regarding the nature of how to describe “information architecture” to our grandparents. Maybe I haven’t talked to enough user experience experts in my lifetime, but what particularly impressed me about them was the way they smiled when they met new people. And keep in mind these weren’t the usual slightly tepid smiles I associate with professional consultants…they were genuine smiles. Of course, one modifying factor is that I sort of knew them through their awesome work extending the concepts behind The Printable CEO&trade, but I’m thinking the best possible way to greet your clients is to really be able to genuinely express that positive energy. Positive energy sells, baby! The big surprise of the day was being accosted by a women between panels, who introduced herself by way of saying my name. She said she had read something on my website and had wanted to talk to me. Somewhat bemused, I glanced quickly at her badge and saw it was none other than Kathy Sierra! Yes, THE KATHY. I didn’t even recognize her because she was up close and I was kind of in a daze from 4 continuous days of mind surfing. But yeah…wow! The story went something like this: I had written something yesterday about me gibbering like a monkey in her presence, and apparently she had come across it. I was very moved, and momentarily worried that I had said or implied something awful in my blog about her. I also got to meet Bert Bates (I think that was him). We chatted for a few minutes, and I was very touched that she had gone OUT OF HER WAY to make sure a random connection was set right, just in case it had gone wrong. That’s really incredibly awesome…and inspiring! The other day I mentioned the odd sensation of introducing myself to Dave Shea, and feeling sort of like I was lining up to see Santa Claus. This was like it being the summertime, and I’m at Dairy Queen getting myself a dipped cone with sprinkles when I feel a tap on my shoulder. Turning around, Santa Claus is there, all tan and toned from a vacation cruise to the Cayman Islands. “Dude!” he’d say, “Sorry for not including the batteries with that toy I got you last Christmas, but hey I was thinking that I’d wish you a Merry Christmas on my way back to N.P., and check to see how you’re doing.” That’s one of the best gifts you can give anyone: the recognition and acknowledgment of someone as a person with implicit worth. Rock on! And thanks, Kathy…I’ll pay it forward. Oh, and here’s a very special photo from the Avalonstar Bowling Extravaganza, proving that maybe “we can all get along” after all :-)

Panels

  • Behind the Scenes: Developing OS X and Longhorn — I didn’t want to go to this panel, but decided to anyway because I was having such a strong negative reaction to the topic. It’s one I already know pretty well, and I hold an irrational grudge against CNet because I don’t like their consumer electronic reviews. Featuring GUI designers Cordell Ratzlaff (MacOS 6-10) and Mark Ligameri (Neptune, XP), the panel was moderated by CNet’s Tom Merrit. I came away with a respect for Merrit’s moderating abilities, and for Cordell Ratzlaff’s demeanor. I also came away with the impression that GUI designers without any technical skills are at something of a disadvantage when it comes to cutting-edge graphics work; I should leverage that this year. Otherwise, the panel itself wasn’t as informative as I had hoped, primarily because this is an area I’m much more widely experience in.

  • Video Blog Business Models — This was one of my favorite sessions of the day. The moderator, Chris Nolan, was a peppery woman who has years of journalism experience, which made for a lively panel. There were lots of passionate video content producers in the room. Amanda Cogdan was even there! More later…this was a pretty interesting panel discussion, and I need to be clearer headed to write it up.

  • Burnie Burns Keynote — One of the creators of the popular Red vs Blue machinima videos spoke at length not about the geeky aspect of what they’re doing, but of the business models and changes that were coming. I was really impressed by his sharp wit and grasp of the shape of the internet’s usage patterns with respect to cost.

  • The Orthley Children and Their Computer — Featuring a band fronted by “stand-up programmer” Why The Lucky Stiff, this was a complete mystery of a panel. It combined music and interactive. The problem was that this actually was an interactive programming session with the Ruby computer language. Unfortunately, the server couldn’t handle the load and everything crashed, so instead we just got a few extra songs and got left out early. The takeaway is this: Why The Lucky Stiff really takes putting the “fun” back into programming at unheard of evangelical levels…my hat’s off to him.

  • The State of the World with Bruce Sterling — Rather than summarize his points, I’ll just say this: I decided that I want to be a writer. It’s more than words…you’ve got to live your life before the words will fall with any measure of authenticity. It’s that part that I respond.

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p>Andrew Baron Producer, Rocketboom Casey Charvet Technical Dir, Blastro Inc Joshua Kinberg CEO Founder, FireAnt Chuck Olsen Founder, Minnesota Stories Kevin Sladek VideoEgg Inc Chris Nolan Editor & Founder, Spot-on.com