SXSWi 2010: Day 2

I was up bright and early on the Saturday but none of the earliest sessions really took my fancy so I went exploring, wandering towards the upper floors of the Convention Centre and happening upon the Day Stage, which turned out to be a good move. 37signals’ Jason Fried came out came out and held forth on the subject of running a business.

He was reading chapters from REWORK, their latest book and one that I’ve since bought and (more surprisingly) read. It’s full of short, opinionated chapters, most containing some good common sense. The general aim of the book seems to be to try and dispel the myth that to be a successful business person you need to take on as much work as possible, please as many people as possible, work 23 hour days and grow as much as possible. Simple stuff and, as I said, pretty much common sense, but a useful counterpoint to much of the perceived wisdom out there.

It was a good morning actually, because next I went along to Design for Awareness: Mobile Technologies and Health which I went along to because I thought it would be interesting and a sidestep from my usual areas of interest. As it turned out it couldn’t have been more relevant to my current interests. I don’t think my notes quite reflect what was going through my head while I was sat there but I’ll try and get them written up separately later. In the meantime, here are Jason Hall’s notes.

Next up was Designing The First Fifteen Minutes. Another good session and another one I’ll write up notes for separately. My go-to person on this kind of stuff is Joshua Porter who was name-checked right at the end. It was good to get some different examples of effective sign-ups.

At this point I had a bit of a break before catching the second half of Ze Frank Conversation: The Creative Lifestyle. The main topic of conversation seemed to concern Ze’s attempts at cracking the traditional entertainment industry. I’m not entirely sure what the main story was there but he had the air of a man whose time had been wasted on an endeavour he was never utterly sold on. Actually, his story reminded me a bit of Stringer Bell’s (without the drugs, guns and so on)

The last session of the day was Gaming the System with 4chan. A generally amiable meander with Christopher Poole and a pretty decent end to the day. I didn’t take any notes because I wasn’t really there to learn anything, although a theory that Wikipedia is a game for fans of bureaucracy has stuck with me.

Back from SXSW

SXSWi.Austin. - Big Brother House

I got back from SXSWi yesterday. I’ve got notes to write up about the various sessions I went to (the good ones at least) but for now:

  • It was good. Not revelatory, but definitely worthwhile
  • Sitby.us was a great iPhone friendly tool, much better than the official app. Here’s my schedule for the week
  • I lost my voice for the first few days. Socialising when you can’t talk can be a depressing experience
  • Again, meeting folks from the UK was the best and most useful part of the trip
  • We stayed in a great house (above) but next year I’d rather be closer to the centre of town
  • If you think there’s a limit to the number of foods that can be served with cheese, you’ve not been to Texas
  • Texan cab drivers are great ambassadors for their city, although the one that kept going on about the Cherokee nation did scare me a little

(Pic by Toby Barnes)

SXSWi bits n bobs

It was a while ago now, but I’ve got a few notes left over from a couple of panels I went to and I may as well dump them here in a single post – you never know what someone else will find useful, so here they are:

Regional Whuffie – Attracting Innovation

Or ‘the co-working panel’. Truth be told, ‘awesome fatigue’ had taken hold around this point and so, although the panelists were all interesting people doing interesting things, the excessive chuminess and back-slapping was a little hard to stomach.

It’s a problem that marred many of the panels – a lack of incisive questioning which glossed over the troubles, mistakes and difficulties to allow much less useful evangelism/self-promotion.

To spin the self-promotion more positively, this panel saw some interesting case-studies including The Runway Project and ArtCamp.

On the question of how to fund a coworking space, the advice was to not think of it as a business but to do the minimum necessary at any time. Focus on improving community and the city as a whole. The space will follow.

The other piece of advice was to adopt successful international projects such as Pecha Kucha nights, Ignite or 20×2.

How LA Built a Successful Tech Community

The worst panel I attended but the fascinating awfulness of it all left me rooted to my chair. Apparently LA’s scene is a humble one, living in the shadow of LA’s entertainment industry and the San Francisco scene. I didn’t see a lot of humility though.

Half the room were LA residents and things never really lifted above being an insular love-in/bitching session.

The lessons, such as there were any, were to self-promote and to promote others around you. Actually, this is probably worth bearing in mind – there’s been plenty of good stuff happening in Birmingham but information about this rarely gets outside the bubble. The social media surgeries, for example, tend to generate a few blog posts where people say what a good thing they are and those posts are read by others who attended. What about writing a press release and sending it to a newspaper/some council officers/charity workers instead?