A little over fourteen years ago, I ran into someone at a friend's backyard party, talked to her for a while, and eventually wanted to know more. I did everything I could to run into her in between classes the following week and at the end of that week she invited me over to watch a movie, then sent this email in the late morning changing plans to see the opening night screening of a new movie called Fargo. Then because hey, it was at night, let's go out for some food after, and so on and so forth and sometime after midnight we finally kissed.
Oh, and that Ben Stiller movie that came out around the same time was Flirting With Disaster. I'm glad we picked Fargo, and while it's not the best first date movie, seeing someone's reaction to such a film is a pretty good barometer for whether that first date will turn into ten years of marriage down the line.
Now that I’ve slept it off and a couple days have passed, I feel like I can start processing the past week in Austin Texas for the South By Southwest Interactive Conference. Some quick bits follow.
I’d heard this would be the biggest SXSWi ever and I certainly remember not having as much fun the last time I was there in 2007. Back in 2007, I couldn’t find my friends among the crowds and I didn’t know some good friends even attended until after I returned home. This year it was definitely bigger, but I’d have to say Twitter and Foursquare saved the day and made it manageable because they served as a friend filter and handy search device for figuring out where the 50-100 people I know and care about seeing were among the 10,000 anonymous conference attendees.
The first couple days I kind of hated the crowds and how hard it was to find friends in the halls (SXSWi from the previous ten years included years where I’d see more people I knew than didn’t know if I walked down a hallway between panels) but soon I realized everyone I knew was tweeting their location and I could use my friends list in Foursquare to figure out where to go. Heck, even though I complained about 23 things happening at the same time as the panel I was on, the simple web app SitBy.Us worked great for finding friends and panels to enjoy as well.
The crowds reminded me of how people used to say there were too many blogs, and that after a few years people just invented better search and discovery methods to help you find the few blogs that should matter to you. So I didn’t have to talk to 10,000 people and I eventually found ways to find the 100 people that mattered to me.
That all said, one rule I lived by was Never Stand In Line For A Party. When 10,000+ people hear there is a Twitter party, there will be a long ass line to get into a bar that can only hold a few hundred. That means I missed some of the big parties but after spending 45min in lines during 2007 SXSWi to get to a party I stood around in for an hour, I realized party lines are pointless. Instead, I attended nightly events that lacked lines like The Fray Cafe, The Break Bread for Brad get together, The SXSW Web Awards, the 20×2 show, nice dinners with friends, house parties, and Nerdcore Hip Hop Concerts.
Rent a House!
After having a child a few years ago, my family tends to rent houses when vacationing instead of staying in hotels and it’s been great. This year for SXSW I rented a three bedroom modern house in a nice neighborhood just a couple miles from the convention center. It was about the same price as a single hotel room downtown and Team MetaFilter (four people) got to stay in it. It was also great to make my own simple breakfast and get several quiet hours each night to upload photos, write, code, etc. I did have to rent a car and I barely drank because I was driving everyone around but it was really nice to get restful sleep in a calm roomy place. It was a nice change from the drunken stumble home to a tiny $400/night downtown room with people having sex on the floor above at 3am while I’m trying to sleep.
Panels, panels, everywhere
There were certainly a zillion things to go see presented and I have to say unlike my last SXSW visit, I came away with good ideas from the panels and discussions. I wrote a couple pages of notes of things I need to add to my web applications and ideas for new features on sites I run. It was great to come away feeling invigorated and informed instead of merely hearing the same people saying the same things I’d read online already.
I’ve been obsessed lately with what makes a good performer and given the immense rooms most SXSW talks took place in, the only memorable ones were when a speaker could really perform, especially in the cavernous spaces.
I took part in a panel that sort of went so-so because I think we were all three introverts on stage and I was mumbling my thoughts instead of really engaging the audience and speaking from the heart. I felt like we might have over prepared and the easy banter the panel enjoyed when talking beforehand didn’t come across on stage.
Gary Vaynerchuk had a similar message to the one my panel was trying to convey (work on side projects, make them awesome, make a living from them, follow your passions) but he gave his talk in the most amazing way possible — super high energy, super entertaining, and almost more like a celebration or a sermon in places. I used to ignore the Gary Vee love around the internet because I used to think it was mostly marketing types that loved him so he had to be a fake, but after I saw his Web 2.0 Keynote from 2008 online, I became a fan and seeing him give a talk like that in person is almost revolutionary. Gary is the real deal and worth following.
Always Be Content Creating
I didn’t intend to be doing much while I was in Austin, but I did end up talking MetaFilter inside baseball on the Slappy Pinchbottom radio show with Josh & Jessamyn, as well as my new friend MC Frontalot (his new album is great!). I’ll link to a download of the show whenever I track one down. I also just happened to drop by This Week in Google show and my part starts about 30min into this show where I talk about Fuelly, privacy, and my tumor. I took a bunch of photos while I was out and about, including the super fun Bike Hugger Mobile Social which turned into just about the most efficient group ride I’ve ever done with 700 people at once. Below is some video from the radio show, featuring Josh and Jessamyn singing the “Asshat” song about moderating MetaFilter.
From the moment this year’s SXSW started, I wasn’t sure it was going to be a good time given the size and scope of it after ten years, but I definitely came away inspired, entertained, and exhausted like the best of the previous years.
Whenever I hear the default iPhone alarm chime “Marimba” I’m instantly reminded of the soundtrack from the climactic scenes in American Beauty. My mind sees flashes of a nude teen covered in roses for a split second before my homophobic neighbor puts a bullet in my skull.
Anil likes to say that when you're a web developer and you're considering adding features to not merely think about the technical aspects, but to think more about the cultural aspects of your decisions. I have high hopes this is potentially a huge cultural change for Americans used to driving 1-3 miles to run small errands around town. Knowing that you could ride a bike safely over a short distance in about the same time it takes to drive and park could get a lot of people exercising more, burning less foreign oil in their gas tanks, and do good for the environment. I can't wait to see this feature spread to more cities.
I've never watched Judge Joe Brown before, but this clip is great for the unexpected deep photography knowledge he drops on the defendant ("Where was your Canon 1D? You expect to get decent handheld shots with a 18-55 kit lens?! Where was your 28-70mm?). via hchamp
One drag was that it passed back in May of 2009, but it wasn't set to be enacted for 9 months (on FRONTLINE Chris Dodd claimed he was powerless against lobbyists to make it law sooner), but that happened to be just last week.
The credit card industry, ever the jerks, did everything in their power over the last 9 months to prepare for these new rules. You should probably take a look closely at your recent credit card statements, because chances are your cards slipped up to higher rates with no explanation because it was the last chance companies had to do it before the deadline.
My wife and I have excellent credit and we've both vowed to never carry balances for the past few years (after spending most of college and five years after drowning in credit card debt) so I'm used to seeing low rates that we don't even use because we pay them off, but I was surprised to find my cards now have interest rates of 10%, 17%, and 20% respectively. My wife's has a credit card that is hovering around 20% as well.
In the future, you will be notified but it's probably worth taking a look to see if they tried to get you just before the deadline passed for rate increases requiring 45 days advanced warning.