Tuesday, March 17, 2009

SXSW Day 4- Austin Social

Day 4 started like every other day has so far--late. Time and I have not been very good friends this trip.

Since I think the point of an interactive conference is to...well...interact, I
spent the morning having coffee and chatting with my housemate Bruce. He does some work setting up eBay stores for small businesses and we had a really good strategy/brainstorm session on how he could help a particular mom & pop kayak shop use social media to develop an online community that might help grow their business.

Good stuff, and it was nice to connect. We've chatted a few times since I've been here, and I feel like I've made a new friend. We found each other via Craigslist--I'm renting a room in his house for $400 for the week, instead of the $200 per night that the hotels are charging.

Yippee for social networking. By the way--check out Jeremiah Owyang's blog on how connection is evolving. It's a look at how we're liable to connect on adventures like this in the near future.

Hive Mentality

I didn't mind missing some of the morning sessions--it's a bit of grind being inundated with so much information and buzz. One term being bandied about in social media circles these days is the 'hive' mentality, and that's really evident here.

Following the Twitter-stream of SXSW live and in the 'backchannels' of a conference is like tapping into one HUGE thought-stream.

(the backchannel is the unspoken conversation by the audience while the panel is going on. Often snarky, sometimes off-topic, it provides both a source of notes for the topic and a feeling of what people really think about the session, like passing notes in a classroom)

It's both fascinating and overwhelming--like a sci fi story where you can hear everyone's thoughts. Trends, patterns and organization forms out of all the chaos, but there is a lot of noise to filter too, and that process can be very mentally taxing.

One of the useful things about the hive mentality is that it can help crystallize and validate your own thoughts. It's nice to know that you're not the only one feeling something. My own feelings of being slightly overwhelmed and TOO immersed at SXSW were echoed by a check of the twitter-stream.

Well the sun came out today, and after a really good panel session on dealing with difficult clients (one of the best panels I've participated in this week), I decided to get away from the noise and explore Austin a bit.

@MarkWilliams Day Off

I started with a Mexican Martini at the Cedar Door and almost ended the day right there. A Mexican Martini is a margarita-flavored martini that arrives in a 16 oz glass. Since the place was slammed with customers, food service was very slow and I had time to nearly finish my drink before eating anything, sparing me the waste of food absorbing the alcohol entering my bloodstream.

An instant stress-reducer.

Texas Art and Culture

From there, I had intended to stumble to the Birth of Cool exhibit at the Blanton Art Museum, but my motor skills having mysteriously diminished at lunch, I wound up taking the cute 'Dillo (short for armadillo) trolley for just 50 cents crosstown.

Unfortunately, I didn't catch that the art museum was closed on Monday's, but it happened to be across the street from The Bob Bullock State Texas History Museum, which WAS open. Apparently, the good people of Texas only need art 6 days a week, but they'll talk about themselves any ol' time.

The BBSTHM was pretty cool. It's named after a former Texas state Lieutenant Governor, by the way. I've always wondered just what exactly a Lieutenant Governor does, and now I know. They build museums and name them after themselves.

I learned a lot of local history, like how Texans took the land from the native Indians, then Spain and later Mexico. Did you know that Texas used to be an independent Republic?

Texans are proud of their state and history, and I was pleasantly surprised that they were willing to display some not-so-proud momentos of their history, like this:

I spent a few hours in the museum--it's rather extensive and I was not able to see it all in that time. If you go, (and I recommend you do), plan on leaving at least 4 hours for the visit.

Local Austin

I was lucky that Bruce was willing to play tour guide and show me a little bit of the local scene away from the downtown area, and took me on a short hike to Mount Bonnell, the highest point in Austin. From there, we went to Zilker Park Disc Golf course (I didn't have any discs with me, but might try and play tomorrow morning) and Barton Springs.

Finished the evening up at the fabulous 'locals only' Magnolia Cafe with VERY tasty dinner of Jamacian jerk pork chops with collared greens and garlic mashed potatoes, topped off with local brew of Fireman's #4.

By this time it was 9 pm and I was gassed. Went home and finished off my pint of Blue Bell Chocolate and Cherry ice cream, which just might be the best ice cream in America. Really, it's that good.

One more day of SXW. Let's hope I can make it to the finish line!

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