Musings after two days of SXSWi: a Top 29 List

Scott Francis
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I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts from two days at SXSW-interactive…
  1. Austinites don’t really know escalator protocol.  We stand on both sides of the escalator, annoying the folks from both coasts who know that you stand to the right to let the impatient blow by you on the left.  The Austin Convention Center has some very long escalators, and the traffic jams have been beauteous.
  2. People will not take the time to go to another floor to find shorter food and beverage lines.  Try the 4th floor first thing in the morning – its a morgue because everyone stops at the first “Starbucks served here” sign they see – which happens to be on the first floor.
  3. Unlike my experiences at every other conference I’ve ever been to, SXSW (at the Austin Convention Center at least) had power supplies everywhere.  I swear I saw one above the urinal in the Men’s bathroom.  No, not really.  But they were almost everywhere else.
  4. Do not screw up a bay-area coffee snob’s coffee order.  They will not be amused.  (I love coffee, but I don’t qualify as a snob because I actually like Starbucks just fine.  If you think people who like Starbucks coffee are coffee snobs, trust me, this is a finely layered cake and Starbucks is now where near the top of the coffee snob cake).
  5. People who blog about comic strips can expect to see 1000 comments in a couple of days.  There aren’t 1000 comments in the whole BP3 blog yet.  Apparently BPM is only mainstream in the eyes of Gartner and Forrester – it is not mainstream in the eyes of comic-strip readers, or anyone else you could call “mainstream”.
  6. Nearly every blogging-related panelist seemed to have started blogging when computers were built with vacuum tubes.  I jest, it was only 1997 or 1998… which amounts to the same thing as far as blogging goes.  Would have been good to hear from a successful blogger who started more recently…
  7. A classic quote (missed the name for attribution): “In 2002, I thought [cynically], ‘hasn’t everyone who wanted to start a blog already started one? I mean, there are literally thousands of them.” Needless to say, as he pointed out, he vastly under-estimated the number of people who wanted to start their own blogs.
  8. Fun quotes: “If you think Twitter is a good substitute for a blog you weren’t a good blogger to begin with”… “Huffpo could just be tweets”… “New generation of blogging sees it as furthering your existing self.  Whereas before, it was unearthing the self you were afraid to expose” (paraphrased)…
  9. Do design and platform matter? The panel says, largely: no.  “Design is 5% important. Craigslist is popular and its the worst designed site on the web.”
  10. There need to be about 10 more food trailers outside to satisfy the hunger of 15,000 attendees.  Seriously.  It turns out that Austin is not just ground-zero for Migas and Breakfast Tacos, but also for the food-in-an-airstream-trailer – even good food.
  11. Going to Moonshine for a 1:30pm lunch was a good call. But it was a 45-minute wait.  Food trailer was also nearly a 45 minute wait. Guess which one was better?
  12. There was a running joke about how to get a million page views on a blog post, but I won’t repeat it here.
  13. Top ten lists were also cited as a key driver of traffic.  Why? No one knows for sure, but it works.  Check Digg, Reddit… etc… it always seems to work.   (I wonder if a top-29 list will work?? hmmmmmmmm let’s find out).
  14. Apparently it is hard to make $50k/year blogging.  I’m not sure what “hard” means in the context of blogging, but everyone nodded their head (we know hard isn’t hard like mining coal, but does “hard” mean you need to be lucky or does “hard” mean it takes many many hours of investment without much assurance of return on that investment? or something else?)
  15. A Google product manager talked about link quality like it was a moral good and not just something you worry about because you want your page rank to be good and you want Google search to drive traffic.  Kind of losing sight of the fact that getting paid for linking isn’t really amoral, it just inconveniences Google’s search quality – and then Google will punish you for having paid links that aren’t marked as such with no-follow (they literally used the term payola).  The example given was that you should turn down that $1000/month someone is offering you to link to their site.  The guy next to me said (sarcastically) “yeah, that’s a problem I have.”  Right.
  16. Saw a panel about “unsexy” but profitable businesses.  Great representation from local firm, uShip, among others.  If Business Process Management (BPM) consulting doesn’t qualify for unsexy, someone explain to me the looks of desperate un-interest I can generate by telling people at SXSWi what I do for a living (BPM Consulting).  Hopefully this means we’re destined for profits as well.
  17. There are too many stock photo sites in the world. But that’s good, because next time I need one they won’t be too expensive (I saw 4, at least, on the exhibit floor).  There are a LOT of tools for building websites (I saw 4, at least, on the exhibit floor). Couldn’t help but wonder if they were all partnered up with stock photo sites…
  18. There are too many sessions! I can’t possibly see everything I’m interested in.  But I’m glad there are so many sessions because the small sessions are the real gems.
  19. The Chevy Volt actually looked kinda cool.   Kinda.
  20. There’s an under-served interest in well-designed physical products at the exhibit.  DAS keyboards and blue lounge where the two that I saw, and they looked great and had good attendance the two times I looked.  Everything else was a bit too virtual.
  21. The AT&T U-verse store was, unsurprisingly, unable to tell me if they serve our neighborhood yet. On the other hand, AT&T the wireless carrier seemed to hold up pretty well the first two days of SXSW.
  22. @paulcarr with British accent:  “The internet is a major distraction.  I recommend you all stop using it.” In the context of this audience, that was high humor.
  23. It turns out, hashtags have to be shorter than 140 characters to be useful on Twitter.  Please take note of this, SXSW organizers…
  24. Apparently: “if you’re goal isn’t to make money, you’re not actually in business”.  I like the way that panelist thinks.  If I remember right, that was also @paulcarr, of Techcrunch.
  25. Sushi goes quite well with Tres Leches, thankyouverymuchialwaysthoughtso.  And this is why I love Austin.
  26. Pedi-cabs in Austin cost more during SXSW than any other time of the year.  Why does Austin have so many pedi-cabs?  I don’t remember them being here when I first moved to Austin, but they’re everywhere downtown now.
  27. Bijoy is everywhere.
  28. SXSWi men’s fashion can be summed up as converse sneakers with tshirt and jeans and a sport coat.  Fedora optional.
  29. No matter how many people are here, you can still bump into your friends, and make new friends. Good seeing everyone yesterday.  If you see me looking lost today, say hi and distract me from finding the next panel room.
I’m looking forward to the rest of the conference, its quite an experience.  Really impressed with the Austin representation.
  • Scott,

    Just tell them that BPM stands for Beats Per Minute – and that you've developed an AI algorithm that determines the optimum BPM for soundtracks in first person multi player games – You'll be fine.

  • sfrancis

    I'll try that ;) as it is, my twitter search for “#BPM” turns up an awful lot of noise related to beats per minute and music :)

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