My Friend Cindy Li

Cindy Li smiling on top of Twin Peaks in San Francisco

I’ve worked with hundreds, if not thousands, of people over the years.  I’ve liked most of them, been friends with a lot of them, and loved many of them.  Cindy was definitely in the last category.

Cindy Li and I became fast friends and co-conspirators while we both worked at AOL.  We were on the CSS Working Group together.  We went to SxSW Interactive many many times (we had different but overlapping “gangs” at SxSW but we always intersected somehow during the conference – sometimes in the green room, where we’d try to distract each other’s panelists).  We went to countless dinners, lunches and dim sum brunches.  We caused trouble.  With our pal Jason, we built ficlets and came up with a t-shirt that became a bit of a sensation.

Matt Harris, Patrick Haney and Jason Garber sporting the Geeks Love * shirt at dim sum.

Cindy died on Monday, 10/15/2018. Cindy was amazing. She was equal parts creative, silly, kind, funny and smart.  She was a perfect co-conspirator.  She could take bad ideas and make them brilliant.  She effortlessly seemed to rally people to join the Cindy Li Vortex of Fun Adventures.

Cindy and Kevin making stupid faces for the camera.
Cindy tormenting Jason, one of her faaaavorite pasttimes.
Cindy, about to chow down on a steak at Austin’s Hoffbrau

Cindy brought people together.  She was the ultimate connector, and even though she’s gone, the connections she made with all of the people she impacted all over the world will remain.  After she was diagnosed, Cindy organized a small group of friends from all over the world into her support system.  We were all around, talking to each other about how best to help her and her family, and the whole while she was sick, she was there being the life of the party, right up until the end.  Even with her illness, she was connecting people and spreading love, kindness and empathy.

She was a vortex of love, and fun, and whimsy, and adventure, and you weren’t just along for the ride, you were an integral part of it. I don’t think anyone who knew Cindy thought they were anything less than 100% included and in on the joke, and that’s a rare and beautiful thing.  She was that way until the day she left, I imagine riding a Hello Kitty cloud on her way to organize an adventure with St. Peter and redecorate the gates of Heaven.

Her friends organized a site for sharing memories of Cindy as a way to share with her how much she means to all of us, and as a way for her sons to understand what she meant to us when they’re older.  You can share your own memory of Cindy by following the instructions there, read her obituary, and help her kids out if you’re able.

My Annual SxSW Prep: Listening to Tons of Music!

This is odd because I’ve never stayed for the Music portion of SxSW, but every year for the past five or six, I’ve downloaded the massive torrent of free songs from the artists playing SxSW and tried to listen and rate all of them. To give you some idea of the scale, the 2011 torrent had over 1000 songs in it, released in two parts. That’s a lot of music to listen to, and I usually forget to post my top-rated stuff here, but I think I’ve actually listened to everything for at least the last three years (even when I haven’t gone to SxSW).

I’ve figured out a workflow for getting through and rating everything using iTunes’ Smart Playlists that I figure might help you if you want to do the same thing:

  1. Download the torrent and then put all the songs in a single regular playlist.
  2. Create a new Smart Playlist for the songs you haven’t listened to and haven’t skipped. It took a little while to get this set up correctly, but it should be something like this (and then sorted by artist):
    • Playlist – is – Your SxSW Torrent playlist (mine’s called SxSW 2012)
    • Plays – is less than – 1
    • Skips – is less than – 1
    • Rating – is not – 1 star
    • Rating – is not – 2 stars
  3. Create another Smart Playlist for things you’ve listened to but haven’t rated:
    • Playlist – is – SxSW 2012
    • Rating – is – no stars
    • Plays – is greater than – 0 (this removes any that you skipped, which you can assume you want to leave 0 stars)
  4. I also created one like the unrated, but where the Rating is greater than 3 to find my favorites.

What’s great about the unlistened Smart Playlist is that if I give something a rating of 1 or 2 stars, it automatically skips it and goes on to the next song.

Hopefully this helps you better manage your SxSW torrent listening experience! I’ll try to remember to come back and share my favorites. I’m halfway through the B’s as I write this. Only 686 songs to go (and this is just the “Part 1” torrent)!

Oh, and if you don’t want to bother with any of that, I made an Rdio playlist with the songs Rdio has out of the list (about 380 out of the 771 songs in Part 1).

Brad Graham, The Third and the Seventh

The Third & The Seventh from Alex Roman on Vimeo.

You really should go watch it in full screen just to bask in the detail in everything. I watched very closely and couldn’t find any of the normal cheats you find in CG that break the illusion. Yes, there are things towards the end that aren’t actually possible, but they’re totally convincing. Unbelievably gorgeous and melancholy.\
Melancholy fits my mood this week. I found out on Monday that one of my favorite people and one of the first people I met at SxSW, Brad Graham, died over the weekend. Brad is (I still refuse to say “was”) one of those people totally filled with light. He makes everyone feel welcome, included and loved. He’s an infamous flirt, raconteur and wit and I loved cracking vulgar with him, usually in our now-infamous Kevin Smokler hosted dinners at SxSW.

Brad Graham

For someone I only see once a year, and talk to only a couple of times a year, Brad’s death at 41 is hitting me hard. He’s such a life – the life of the party, conversation, etc. He’s such a fixture on both the web and at SxSW that I thought he was an immovable object – and for my own selfish reasons, I hoped he’d always be there. I love hanging out with him. He’s one of those rare comic minds that can make anything both vulgar and hilarious at the same time, being so offensive and outrageous that no one gets offended. For years at those dinners, we had people afraid they would pee their pants with laughter and afraid to take a bite at dinner. Every time I ran into Brad was an experience never to be forgotten…\
And I keep playing them over and over again in my head because those chance meetings outside the convention center, lunches and dinners with friends won’t happen again… because Brad’s gone.\
I miss him.

Categorized as sxsw

SxSW and the Pledge Drive

A couple links for you to click if you’re into that kind of thing:

  • My SxSW Panel submission – Called From Doer to Manager, I hope to talk about making the transition from individual contributor to manager and the steps in between. I don’t know who’s going to be on the panel yet, but the first step is to get votes! So, if you think it would make a good SxSW panel, I’d appreciate a click.
  • The Ficly Server Support Project – We’re 13 days from the deadline and still \$76 dollars short. You can pledge as little as a dollar and it all goes towards paying Ficly’s hosting bills for the next year.\
    There you go…
Categorized as ficly, sxsw

How to Stay Inspired After SxSW Podcast Is Up!

Now, you can all hear the madness of our panel, even if you can’t see it. It’s too bad you can’t, because you’re missing me beaning unsuspecting audience members with saltwater taffy, the confetti cannon and the awful sight of me getting my swerve on (I hope I used that correctly).\
I know I haven’t written much about SxSW since I got back, but as I predicted in the panel, the daily routine has eaten my soul – plus the stresses of moving. Thankfully, I followed my own advice and took a lot of notes during panels, and then made a list of what I want to do with what I learned. More will be divulged later, but now I need to get the kids ready for school.

Categorized as sxsw

Find Me At SxSW!

Adapting to Web Standards SXSW Autograph Tour Giveaway

Christopher came up with a great idea. Since four of us who wrote Adapting to Web Standards will be at SxSW, he’s doing a little giveaway. Get all four of our autographs and you could win a copy of our excellent book (really, it’s good).\
In other news, we launched our first public web app at work recently, and I’d like to ask a favor. If you know any independent bands, could you please please please ask them to check out uPlaya Artists? I’d love to hear what they (or you) think of the site! A lot of hard work went in to it (even though, as you can see, there are still several “coming soon” banners on features).\
And if you need to know what I look like… here I am.\
And lastly… happy International Day of Awesomeness!!!

Categorized as sxsw

SxSW 2009 Music: Best of the A’s

Every year, SxSW posts a ton of free mp3’s from the artists that showcase at the music festival. And every year since 2004, I’ve downloaded all of them. This year, though, instead of just letting them take up space in iTunes, I’m going to try something. Between now and whenever I get through them, I’m going to try to listen to a letter a day (the playlist is alphabetical by artist) and do my best to rate every song. Then, I’m going to post my top ten songs from each letter here. Here are the A’s:

  1. Gardenias and Cigarettes by Ana Silvera – 5 stars – I love this song. It’s a classic gin-drenched torch song.
  2. The River by Anathallo – 5 stars – Another great ballad. If Bloc Party were acoustic piano rock, they’d sound like this.
  3. The Thief & The Heartbreaker by Alberta Cross – 4 stars
  4. Si Pero No by Alex Cuba – 4 stars
  5. Amanha eu nao vou trabalhar by Alexandre Grooves – 4 stars
  6. Government Meat by Ali Eskandarian – 4 stars
  7. To All Tiny Creatures by All Tiny Creatures – 4 stars
  8. Leeds United by Amanda Palmer – 4 stars
  9. One More Day by Amy Wadge – 4 stars
  10. Set The Bears Free by Anchorsong – 4 stars
  11. Oh, The Boss Is Coming by Arkells – 4 stars – I have to say, these guys sound a lot like The Constantines, which may be why I dug this song so much.
  12. These Flowers of Ours by The Asteroid #4 – 4 stars – Reminds me a lot of The Dandy Warhols.\
    This is totally unscientific, and I probably missed rating some songs (I do need to work during the day), but here are the A’s. I’m listening to the B’s today. And yes, I know there are more than ten, but they’re alphabetical within the number of stars, so I decided to list all the 4 and 5 star songs.
Categorized as music, sxsw

Writing Conference Bios

Kevin Lawver doing his best Glamour Shots pose

I’m speaking at a conference this week in London, and am speaking at SxSW again this year, which means I’ve had to write two conference bios in short succession. I hate writing conference bios, mostly because I feel like a complete ass writing about myself in the third person. But, I’m rather proud of these two. Oh, that picture up there? That’s the headshot I’m using for SxSW.\
For the conference in London, where I’m supposed to talk about new technology and software in the social media world, but I’m really going to talk about how to be human and not be a complete tool on twitter:\
bq. Kevin Lawver lives on the internet. He’s been blogging since 2000, been uploading to flickr since before it was in beta, tweets all day long about whatever moves him, and can be found on most of the major social networks and many of the minor ones. He worked for AOL for thirteen years building massive web products that millions of people used every day. When not tilting at windmills, Kevin: helped write a book about web development, won some awards, helped create some web standards, got his name on a patent, been interviewed on Canadian radio, invented a holiday celebrated by literally tens of people, and spoke at conferences just like this one all over the world. Kevin currently lives in Savannah, Georgia, and works for Music Intelligence Solutions building awesome web products that will hopefully revolutionize the music industry. You can find out more about Kevin at and about his work at\
For SxSW, where I’m honored to be on the Amazing Mr. Smokler’s how to stay inspired after SxSW panel:\
bq. Kevin Lawver is a man among people of every gender. Kevin used to work for a larger internet company, but now works for a small music technology company telling people what to do and building killer web sites for independent artists. He loves working on the web, taking pictures, writing code that works, and making a fool of himself. He’s very very good at the last one. He invented a holiday to celebrate “awesomeness”, helped write a book about standards based development, won awards for building cool web stuff, and looks forward to having his face put on a commemorative plate. Kevin blogs with his wife over at and launches web stuff over at\
Yeah, they’re not that different… I still hate writing them.

Categorized as photos, sxsw