Saturday, March 14, 2009

SXSW Day 2

Day 2 of SXSW Interactive started off bad. In rapid succession--

I overslept because my iPhone, which doubles as my alarm clock, ran out of battery power during the night. (lesson: if it's plugged into the Mac and the Mac goes to sleep, the phone stops charging) So I started the day 2 hours later than intended.

Then, I plugged the phone in to charge, got ready to go, left the house and forgot the phone. And locked myself out. Walked up to the bus stop to catch a bus just in time for the session I wanted to go to and...

...I forgot that I had spent my bus change the night before and all I had was a $10 bill. Missed the bus. Hiked another mile to a 7-11. Caught the next bus just in time to miss the NEXT session I wanted to go to. A mighty fine start to the day.

The Good

1. People. I seem to make 1-2 really good connections per day. I talk with more than that, of course, but seem to really only *engage* 1-2. Today it was @carbody--she's a twenty-something social media specialist who woud best be described in anthropological terms as a 'digital native'.

It was a total pleasure sitting next to her in a session and watching her effortlessly listen to the speaker, twitter good notes recapping the discussion, quickly researching the profiles of people speaking, add 5-10 new followers on Twitter (and checking them out before doing so), listening and contributing to the conversation on the backchannel AND checking her email.

And she is FULLY engaged. We had a great conversation after the session, sharing stories, frustrations, common problems and brainstorming around working with clients. She is so fluent and intuitive in how she uses social media--it is a part of her being and her native language. Chatting with her was both delightful and informative for me.

2. Found Waterloo Records, which is something of an Austin landmark for being a cool, independent record store. Glad to contribute to the local economy and pick up some music by local artists.

3. Helped Bryan (our LiveWorld evangelist) score an interview on NPR tomorrow. Bryan is really very good at talking with people and interviewing others, but too nice a guy to toot his own horn. We were at the NPR/PBS party tonight talking with their social media director who was telling us about their upcoming interviews with social media experts and evangelists, so naturally I piped up and said "well, you should interview this guy right here!"

Bryan is the founder of Social Media Breakfasts that have now sprung up in something like 20+ cities across the US and has some street cred. They started chatting and arranging interviews with each other for tomorrow.

I make a good wingman. :-)

4) Nice opening address by Tony Hsieh of Zappos. Focus was on *happiness*. That everything we do, our ultimate goal is happiness, so why don't we just incorporate happiness into everything we do?

5) I helped steer a session that I was in back on to its original topic: "Why Gen Y Won't Friend Your Brand." (search #geny on (I have answers to that question that I think are better than what was presented in the session btw. If your brand sucks to Gen Y, they won't friend it. If it's relevant and engaging to them, they will. And not every brand is relevant, no matter how much you might want to sell to them. Which, by the way, is no different than trying to engage any other generation. But...I digress)

The Bad

1. The day started badly and I was grumpy for much of the day.

2. I'm a little overwhelmed by all of the activity at SXSW and underwhelmed by the actual content. It's AMAZING to see the level of connectivity going on by so many people. And...I get it. But on MY personal level, I don't really want that amount of connectivity and I'm not as fluent in as many realms as most of the people around me.

It's like traveling to another country where you know some of the language but aren't fluent. It's very tiring and draining to always try to translate and understand what is being said. My frustration here at SXSW is that I get what everyone says at the macro level--I understand on a deep, personal level how people connect and why.

In fact, I'm underwhelmed by the content--I haven't heard anyone say anything yet that I don't already know about social media, how it connects people, how to use it, etc. The only really useful gem I've picked up about how to engage Gen Y is to enable sharing personal information among peers, or "what can you tell me about my friends that I didn't already know?"

So I know what this stuff is all about, but I'm personally not podcasting, live streaming, twittering thru the sessions, chatting on the backchannel, emailing, texting friends and sharing every single little detail of SXSW as I go along. I'm not that fluent and I'm not sure I want to be--I wonder if I'm sharing too much or not enough or the right kind of info for the folks who aren't here.

I still think about the *quality* of content, and the shift really does seem to be towards quantity and letting the masses sort the wheat from the chaffe.

I'll have to let that last statement marinate a bit.

3) I'm at the epicenter of coolness at SXSW, and I'm not cool. Not compared to the other kids (and adults) here. And I don't know if I want to work that hard to be cool. Or whether I even COULD be.

I feel like I could have something to contribute, but don't have a mechanism. I came hear to learn, but the panels aren't teaching me anything yet. I learned more from sitting next to @carbody today than from anything anyone has said in 2.5 days.

I'm surprisingly out of my comfort zone here. This kind of reminds me of high school. :-)

And tell many of you really enjoyed high school? Or were you one of the cool kids?

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