Bizjam Seattle

I’m going to be speaking at Bizjam Seattle this Wednesday afternoon about my high road approach to blogging (eschewing SEO snake oil and not being an annoying person on every social network). Judging by the titles, I suspect half the talks will be preaching the opposite of what I’m planning to say, so it’ll either be a breath of fresh air in a sea of insanity for attendees, or it’ll go over like a lead balloon. Either way, it should be fun.

Here are my slides:

update: I gave the talk and it went over well. I added my notes for every slide to Slideshare. Click the “view” link above, then click on the “Comments on Slide 1” tab below the slides to see my notes. It should look like this when you click on it. Then, use the arrows to go from slide to slide and you can read my notes for what I talked about on each slide (since the slides themselves have very little info on them).

SXSW 2007 recap

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The big room, originally uploaded by mathowie.

– SXSW was huge this year. Word on the street was 5,500 interactive attendees filled the halls. Due to this, a lot of the big public parties were full and required lines.

– The subject matter felt like a perfect mix of various subjects. Sometimes a SXSW feels like every panel is about blogging, or money, or mobile apps, or CSS, but this year felt like it had something for everyone. Kudos to Hugh and the planners for getting that just right.

– There was almost no hallway time! I think it was the crowds, because when panels would get out, it was like a flood of humans taking up every inch of the halls and you’d be swept up if you were sitting on the ground with a laptop. So all my schmoozing was at parties instead of the convention center.

– Having half the talks on one side of the convention center, and half a ten minute walk away on the other side seemed like poor planning. I felt like I was back at college, running across campus during a short break.

– This was my seventh SXSW but the first one that I truly enjoyed stress-free. In the past, I’d wake up early and hit the first panel and motor through the entire day, but I’d eventually reach exhaustion early in the evening and have to retire early. This year I stayed on west coast time and only saw one panel before noon the entire time. It was a great vacation, and it’s all about staying out until 2 and sleeping until 10.

– The panel I spoke on went alright, but I think what held it back was that I never met two of the participants before. My favorite panels always include people I’ve known and can joke with. I’m afraid the unfamiliarity came through to the audience and we would have been a lot more fun to listen to and watch if we were looser around each other. Lane Becker’s panel reminded me of this, and I always love Lane’s panels because he can keep things jovial and everyone seems to be old friends (without being chummy)

– There never seemed to be enough time for questions. Talks either ran too long or questioners rambled. If I were to redo this year, I would have brought a wind-up egg timer and convinced our moderator that after every 5 minutes of the panel talking to each other we’d stop and take a question (and those asking questions would have 1 minute to get it out).

– There were a lot of parties, but they weren’t outrageous. There was no imported sashmi platters or fire dancers like in 2000, this was simply a bunch of rented bars with free drinks (a party at SXSW this year seemed to run about $5k which isn’t an insane number, especially compared to whatever people did during the bubble of 2000).

– I heard a lot of advice on how to run a business online, both good and bad. I decided on the flight home that I’ll be starting a new blog talking about the lessons I’ve learned building and running a business. More on this soon.

– Wil Wright’s panel blew my mind. He talked a mile a minute, but not so fast you couldn’t understand or keep up. It was like a full 40 minutes of total laserbeam concentration for me. His slides were great too — revealing his points in several layers as he shotgunned us with his thesis — you barely noticed that he probably made them in Microsoft Paint using cilp art from the 1980s. They almost had a handmade quality to them.

He played Spore for about ten minutes and it was an incredible simulation game. It was a perfect mix of SimCity, The Sims, and the basic principles of science. It looked quite fun (a bit cartoony and Wii-like) and I could see it being immersive without consuming my entire life like I bet World of Warcraft would. I can’t wait until that game gets released.

Webvisions this July

badge_wv_v3.gif I’ve been meaning to write about this for weeks now, but this July I’ll be speaking at the Webvisions conference in Portland on how to make a living blogging.

I haven’t talked about it very much here, but ever since I started dabbling in making a little revenue from my blogs, things have went well and revenue grew to the point that last fall I got to quit my job to tend to my web things full time. It’s been both stressful to make the leap and tremendously rewarding.

I wrote about my first experiences with Adsense almost three years ago here and I don’t think it’s boastful to say that it sparked a revolution in blogging. Since then I’ve tried quite a number of other things out that are worth talking about and have gotten tons of experience worth sharing. In the past few years I’ve noticed a dozen or so “blog networks” pop up and a similar number of people that have sites dedicated to “pro blogging” but my personal beef with most advice you find online is that it often centers on search engine and adsense gaming. I think that’s the wrong approach and want to present a more sensible one.

When Nick Finck asked me if I wanted to speak at Webvisions this year, my first thought was yeah I’d love to do an hour on how to build a business online without resorting to cheap tricks. It’s been a long, hard road for the past 7 years doing this but it’s really turned into something great for me. I feel like there is a wealth of information that isn’t getting out there that could really help folks live their dreams and make a living from fooling around online. It is my first solo talk at a conference so that will be a new adventure, but it’s good to get out of your comfort zone every once in a while and I’ve already spent a month researching my talk and am planning the next month honing it into something concise and useful.

So if you’re in the Pacific Northwest this summer and you love posting to your blog more than the drudgery of your day job, take a few days off and come see me talk about how I do it. I’m also talking about solo web development vs. open source and business blogging that same day so it should be a fun (and busy) couple days for me.