Thoughts from SXSW Interactive 2010

On Tuesday night, I got back from the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) conference in Austin, Texas.   It’s an amazing yet exhausting conference.

Its 5 days of late nights spending quality time with about 13,000 of your closest geek friends.   When you have that many new early adopters together in one place, crazy things are bound to happen.

I had a few thoughts that I thought I’d share…

Business Cards Are So Last Year

This year, I failed to order business cards in time so that I’d have them for the conference.  I was confident that I’d be screwed and have to be writing down my e-mail address on pieces of paper.

Well this year, on the SXSW badges, they for the first time had a QR code that you could scan with a special app on your mobile phone.  When you scanned the QR code, it would follow the person so that you could have access to their contact info later, in the SXSW system.

While a lot of people found this system super buggy, it worked for me.  It showed that there’s a better and more effective way for people to exchange contact information.  I’m excited to see this evolve.

foursquare and Gowalla are incredibly useful.

When you’re in a place where you have lots of friends around you, the ability to know where those friends are is especially useful.  At SXSW, I was at a party and knew that some other friends were hanging out at the hotel bar.  The party was dying down so we went and met up with the other friends at the hotel bar.  This ROCKS.

foursquare and Gowalla are a pain in the butt.

One afternoon at SXSW, I went to a local coffee shop for a latte with a really good friend of mine.  It was a beautiful day outside so we decided to sit outside.  I was having a blast and then I had the thought, “crap, I haven’t checked in on foursquare.”  A few minutes later I realized that I was being ridiculous and just decided to have fun and forget about foursquare.

I really think that social media (Facebook, Twitter, or foursquare) are amazing but when you have to stop life to use them, at times,  they start to get in the way of actual living.

Booth babes…  Really??? *sigh*

As I walked around the Austin Convention Center, I was kind of shocked to see that companies had hired girls in short skirts and heels to tramps around handing out fliers for a product.   A few years ago, didn’t we decide that this was pretty bad.  I was in the trade show and a woman told me that her boss told her to wear high heels to the show.  Really?!?  The boss sounds like a moron.   Seriously, if you need to use sex to sell your product, it must not be very good.  An idea… make a good product, people will use it, and tell their friends about it.

We need a Community Manager support group… or something.

My brother in arms Saul Colt organized a “core conversation” this year about the importance of having Community Managers within an organization and asked me to join the conversation.  It was awesome.  We had a small room and we packed a whole lot of folks into it.  The 45 minutes felt like it went by in 5.  It was quickly apparent that there was a need for bringing people together who were in this field of being the face of a brand, as a “Community Manager”, together.   More on this later…

Get away from the action…

The parties at SXSW are amazing.  There are so many of them going on at any given time that it’s overwhelming but it’s hard to have actual conversations.  Either, you’re running into people you know every 5 seconds, the music is too loud to hear each other, or it’s just too crowded.   You gotta find those spots that you can grab someone who want chat with and get away from the action.  I definitely found a handful of good places and no I’m not going to tell you where they are.  If I did, they wouldn’t be my nice and quiet spots anymore.

See you next year.

Unlike some who’ve decried that they’re never coming back to SXSW, I’ll definitely be back.  Yes, it’s overwhelming and exhausting.  4 or 5 days of free food and beer definitely isn’t healthy but great people are continuing to gather there each year.   I get the opportunity to have so many great conversations across such a group of people in one period of time that it’s not like anything you can get anywhere else.

The Future of Community Management

I’m super excited and honored to be helping with my good friend Saul Colt‘s core conversation at SXSW on the Future of Community Management

Community Management is a key role in any startups but with any new role in a company they need to evolve over time to survive and prosper. Come listen some of the smartest people in this space [Saul Colt (, Sarah Prevette (, Justin Thorp (, Amber Naslund (Radian6), Seamus Condron (MediaBistro) and Andres Glusman (] discuss what the future of community management will look like because the future role is more than just drinking with customers!.

Saul has been an inspiration for the work that I do.  I’m excited to hear what he has to say.  He’s also assembled a really amazing group of people, folks who’ve been pioneers in the community management space whom I’m excited to learn from.  The panel is on Monday at 3:30pm.

Between now and the panel, definitely plan on writing up some more of my thoughts and posting them here.  So, stay tuned.

Merlin Mann and John Gruber on Being Awesome on the Internet

Well, I just found another panel at SXSW that I should have been at but some how missed.  Merlin Mann of 43 Folders and John Gruber of Daring Fireball led a panel entitled “149 Surprising Ways to Turbocharge Your Blog With Credibility!”  (Click on the link and listen to the audio.)

The panel is  about if you’re going to do something on the Web that you should do something that you love… do something that you’re obsessed with.  Don’t just do it because someone else did it and was successful at it.   They panel also talked about things like measuring success.  The content is SOLID.

I have a lot of respect for both of these guys.  They’ve both been successful at what they do and yet they don’t give you any bull… they don’t sugar coat what the world looks like.  They could give the 12 steps to being a blogger that makes money but that’s not them. They shoot from the hip about their experiences, despite the fact that what they’re saying may defy some of the conventional wisdom that you may read in a lot of the stock and trade blogs.

I think their session audio is a must listen for any one who’s trying to make stuff on the Web.

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Grab the I’m Attending SXSW Badge

At Clearspring, we’re getting pretty excited about SXSW coming up in March of next year.  So… we made a badge for those of you who’ve just registered.  Tell the world you’ll be there.

[clearspring_widget title=”Widget” wid=”48af372b36cd8d13″ pid=”48af392240e92535″ width=”180″ height=”270″ domain=””]

Shameless Plug – Please Vote for My SXSW Panels

It’s that time of year again where we all make shameless plugs for our South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) Festival panels that we proposed.  The fun this year is that I get to join in the fun.

At Clearspring, we’ve submitted a number of different proposals which I think are pretty cool and would LOVE your vote.

Also… my buddy Nick has submitted a panel that he’s asked me to sit on.  It’s entitled, “Building Entrepreneurial Communities Outside the Valley.

For those of you who can take a few minutes and throw us a vote, I sincerely appreciate it and I can’t wait for next year’s SXSW.

How to market your company at SXSW

I had the pleasure of getting to know some of the awesome guys from Freshbooks at Future of Web Apps (FOWA) Miami.   We chatted over drinks and they told me about how they planned on taking South By Southwest (SXSW) by storm and they sure did.

Saul Colt, one of the guys on their marketing team, wrote up a great post on what Freshbooks did to get their name out at SXSW.   It’s fantastic and will serve as a guide for me for next year.

Why Twitter Was So Successful at SXSW… Geography

So Twitter was a big success at SXSW for bringing people together.  As was laid out by Jeremiah Owyang, it was used to revolt against the Zuckerberg/Lacey interview, improve panels, and to find/start parties.

But what empowered Twitter to be so helpful? Most of it’s users were in the same geographic area.

I have Twitter friends from all over the country… all over the world.  There are times when I want to be able to see what everyone in my “global neighborhood” is doing.  That is fine.

There are other times when I want to go grab a beer and I’m curious what everyone else is up to.   What my friends in Boulder, Colorado are doing doesn’t help me find beer drinking company here in Washington DC.

It’d be cool if there was a mobile app that would append my geo-location or maybe just my zipcode on to the end of all my and my friends’ Twitter messages.

In addition to saying I always want to get SMS messages from certain twitter users, I could get SMS messages when tweets happen in my same geographic location.  Seems like this would be useful.

This make sense?

The DC Tech Community was at SXSW in force

It seems like this year the DC tech community was at South by Southwest (SXSW) in force.

As I mentioned before, when I got into town on Saturday after just walking the conference halls for 5 minutes, I ran into sooooo many DC people.

Other folks were noticing the massive Washington DC presence.   I’d meet people and mention that I was from DC.  They’d say “DANG, I’ve run into a ton of DC people here.”

The lyric from the Bob Dylan song “Ballad of a Thin Man” is so appropriate.

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Something is happening here in Washington DC.

SXSW…So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

Well I have to say that among the conferences i’ve been to this has by far been one of the best.  South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive is AWESOME!

Among the conferences that folks go to,  it seems like most go here.  The first hour I was here I walked the halls and ran into so many friends of mine.  It’s great!  The Web community is so much fun.

Man and the Web community knows how to party.  There were lots of parties, like 5 or 6 a night.  It was a great chance to meet people I didn’t know.  Probably some of the best parties were the adhoc ones.

Next year I definitely want to do more.  I think any company could get a lot of mileage out of having a presence at this event.  You can gain a lot of awareness pretty quickly.

Seems like every year there is a company or app that gains a lot of attention which everyone is excited, last year it was Twitter… I’d posit that this year it’s Gary Vaynerchuk and Wine Library TV.   I went to a panel and 3 out of the 5 members were wearing Wine Library TV wristbands.  He also threw an adhoc wine party that everyone was talking about and made some news.

Well… I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts to share later.

Did you go to SXSW?  What was the highlight for you?

I’m finally at SXSW!

I’m finally at SXSW! Praise the Lord!  It took so long to get here but it sounds like I’m not the only one who had travel horror stories.

I’ve only been here for a few hours and it’s so wild.  I’ve seen SOOOOOOOO many people I know.  Everyone is here.  It’s crazy.  Like everywhich way I see people I recognize.  It’s out of control.

Right now I’m sitting in a panel on hacking your body with Gary and AJ Vaynerchuk.  The panel is pretty cool.  It’s about trying new and interesting things to stay healthy.  Lots of tips I could use.

I wanna meet up with everyone.  Where is dinner tonight?  Who’s going to what party?