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SxSW stream of conciousness

§ SxSW · Flickr · Conferences

I’ll expand on this post over the next few days – there’s so much going on here, all the time, that there’s barely a chance to breathe let alone put a coherent post together so this will just be bits and pieces when I get a chance.

A point of reference: At this point in the post, I’m sitting cross-legged in a grey corridor with Jeremy, Ian Lloyd, Cindy and Elsa, waiting for the next session to start. Everyone (by which I mean 99%) has a Mac and heaps of people are buzzing around or seated, plugged in to the wall and rendezvous-ing over wi-fi. Some, such as Joe Clark, whom I finally got to meet, are even live blogging through the panels. Also, every other iBook has Flickr up and running – check out the Flickr SxSW photo stream and my SxSW photos if you prefer. Other typical w-fi fun is ridiculous iChat conversations with two people who are sitting next to you in a panel, and another three rows in front, and perhaps a fourth in the panel next door.

It’s now Tuesday morning and this feels more like a stream of unconsciousness. Each night is a party crawl, lasting until 2am, and all night for a number of hardy folks (you know who you are, Hilton people). Last night was the Blogger party, followed by a celebration for Nick Finck’s birthday, followed by a Gawker Media bash. Every night has increased in vigour.

One of the reasons many people come to SxSW is to meet people whose blogs they read, whose work they admire and whose faces they wish to attach to domain names. In that regard alone I can consider this week to be a complete success. At one point last night, Cameron, Keith, Doug, Dave, Dan, Andrei (and others – my memory’s a little thin) were all sitting drinking at one table; all folks I hoped to meet and there they were in one little corner of a bar. But note the first name terms – this was the third night so I’d already met, chatted to and drunk with folks I was hoping to meet. I’ve been surprised at just how much SxSW is a social event, more than a learning event; panels definitely come second to people, good as most of the panels were.

And speaking of panels, what did I learn. A few great phrases for a start. In How to Build Your Brand with Blogs, Jason ‘fucking’ Fried advised us that occasionally dropping an f-bomb into a blog is the key to success (so Oxton, your potty mouth is finally vindicated.) Actually Fried’s panel on How to Make Big Things Happen With Small Teams was one of the best. He dismissed formal functional specifications and said the design and functionality will come together from just building. It’s close to an approach I take myself, where non-functional (as in no back-end) HTML prototypes replace formal functional specifications (more on that another time perhaps). This reminded me of a point I took away from Zeldman’s opening remarks, in which he advised that if you tell someone (a client) something they know already they will think you’re good and hire you (maybe).

In Jeffrey Veen et al’s How to inform design, Veen described the old Blogger registration system as requiring triage to stop the bleeding, the metaphor being applied to potential bloggers leaving halfway through the process. He also warned us to use user research as inspiration rather than definition; to inform design in first place, rather than merely highlight where problems are after the fact.

Spam, Trolls, Stalkers: The Pandora’s Box of Community was another fine panel in which blogs and other online communities were likened to gardens and ‘deviants’ to weeds – they’ll keep popping up and multiplying if you don’t tend.

And finally to the best panel of the whole week, Design Eye for the Idea Guy presented by Andrei, Cameron, Keith, Ryan Sims and Paul Nixon. All five were supremely confident behind the mic and gelled really well, especially considering they had never presented together.

Finally I’d like to indulge myself by shouting out to a few folks I haven’t mentioned yet, but really should because they contributed to my time in Austin in such a big way. In no particular order: Shaun ‘the Wolf’ Inman and his lovely financeé Leslie, Aaron Gustafson, Kyle Bradshaw, Derek, Kevin Smith, Ethan, Sergio, JAASM, Dan, Molly, Craig Cook, Tantek (great Mexican food finder), the entire Brit pack: Malarkey, Lloydi, Jon, Dunstan and of course Andy and Jeremy for putting up with my snoring. I haven’t smiled (or drunk) so much in a long, long time.

As a post script I’d like to the regale the tale of the well-known designer and his unusual names. Our hero had a perfectly sensible middle name of Andrew. Then along came confirmation at which point good Catholics are required to take a Saint’s name as an additional middle name. Our hero really didn’t want a second middle name so he chose St. Andrew in the firm belief that it would be cancelled out by his existing middle name. It wasn’t. He is now called Andrew twice. Andrew Andrew. I’ll leave you to guess who I’m talking about (there’s a little clue in this post).