Almost Made the Top Ten

The ratings from this year’s SxSW panels are out and the panel I moderated, Career Transitions: From DIY to Working for The Man was the 14th-ranked panel of the whole conference (out of 105)! We got a 4.55 out of 5 overall. It was a lot of fun and, of course, the panelists should get most of the credit: Jason Garber, Leslie Jensen-Inman, Cindy Li, and Thomas Vander Wal.\
Now, I need to figure out what I’m doing next year….

SxSW Interactive 2008

Kevin has blue hair!

I’m in Austin for SxSW Interactive 2008. I’ve been really busy with preparing for panels, worrying about panels, worrying about the web awards, dying my hair blue, etc. Here are some of the highlights of the week:

  • Career Transitions: From DIY to Working for the Man: I moderated a panel about the pros and cons of working for large corporations, startups, the government, freelancing and academia. The panelists were awesome: Jason Garber, Leslie Jensen-Inman, Cindy Li and Thomas Vander Wal. I think the panel went pretty well, and hopefully helped some people out.
  • Ficlets won a SxSW Web Award!!!! – I couldn’t be prouder. I posted about it over on the ficlets blog (it has my acceptance speech too). Jason deserves most of the credit, but I’m keeping the trophy. Mr. Scalzi just blogged about it too.
  • I dyed my hair blue for The International Day of Awesomeness. I’ve always wanted to, but never had the guts. Since the holiday is all about performing and celebrating feats of awesomness, I knew I had to do it. So, I spent Monday morning dying my hair and ruining hotel towels.
  • I got interviewed by New Riders (my publisher). It’s in the Voices That Matter podcast on iTunes, and they said it should be on YouTube some time today. And, here it is!
  • I got interviewed by the AOL Developer Network about ficlets and SxSW. No idea when that’ll go up.
  • I got to hang out with my friends at great events like Fray Cafe and 20×2.\
    I’m headed to California bright and early tomorrow morning and could really use a nap.

Something in the Water

This is my fifth year at SxSW. Something wonderful happens to me when I’m here with all my crazy creative friends. Some switch gets flip and the tenuous control I have over what comes out of my mouth completely switches off and I become a round mound of manic energy. The pictures have already started showing up on flickr (thanks to MD for documenting it):\
At Break Bread With Brad last night, I won a lovely custom made purse by Cinnamon Cooper. Now, I’m not normally a purse guy, but I made an exception last night and carried it as we wandered around Austin. Jen, you’re getting a really cute little handbag when I get home…

Kevin smiling and holding a tiny handbag

And then there was Dave. I mentioned that Dave had lost a lot of weight since last year, and asked him, of course, if it was a tapeworm. Unfortunately, it was really a medical condition. Thankfully, Dave’s a funny guy, and now “Hey, that tapeworm is stealing my food!” became the first running gag at SxSW for us this year. I don’t know that the picture really captures it, but that’s what we were going for.

Dave Thomas is stealing my marshmallow!

Today, it’s off to some panels, and tomorrow, the Web Awards and Fray. I love SxSW.

I Made A Ficlets Shirt

I wasn’t on the ball this year and didn’t get around to ordering more ficlets stickers for SxSW this year. But, since ficlets is up for two SxSW Web Awards this year, I decided I need to do something special. So, I made a shirt!

Here’s how I did it:

  1. Printed out the “f” from the ficlets logo.
  2. Cut it out
  3. Traced it on the shirt with an orange sharpie.
  4. Using a very fine brush, I painted the logo with bleach.\
    That’s it! I think it turned out OK. I plan on wearing it to the awards ceremony Sunday night. Hopefully, it’ll be bring good luck!

SxSW Sneaks Up On Me Again

SxSW Interactive is upon us again, and there’s a lot going on (as usual). I’m trying to keep the “gotstas” to a minimum this year, but there are a few things I know I’m doing:

  • Career Transitions: From DIY to Working For the Man – I’m moderating a panel that Cindy and Jason came up with over Dim Sum last year. We’re on the panel with Thomas Vander Wal and Leslie Jensen-Inman. We’ll be talking about the pros and cons of working at different-sized companies, the academic field and government contracting. We’ll be throwing out a lot of coping mechanisms and horror stories. I’m, of course, representing “The Man”. It’s Sunday at 5, so come on by.
  • SxSW Web AwardsFiclets is up in two categories. I’m showing up in the off chance we beat Al Gore. I even have my speech ready.
  • The International Day of Awesomeness – I was traveling way too much (and then sick) to organize anything big for IDoA, but I am performing my own feat of awesomeness on Monday. I’ll be sure to take pictures.
  • 20×2 – Gotsta. Love it. Remember, Max and I made a movie for last year’s event, and I can’t wait to see what people come up with this year.
  • Break Bread With Brad – The only way to start off SxSW.
  • Fray – Love it. Great storytelling, and a great event to get the creative juices flowing. Plus, we usually go to Magnolia Cafe afterwards for milkshakes.\
    I’m sure I’m leaving something out. Well, this year, I’m trying not to stress out or overthink it (no more repeats of this photo from last year). I’m going to go with the flow, try to be as friendly as possible, and adopt as many newbies as I can. If you’re going, and it’s your first time, find yourself a vet and get some tips or just hang out. SxSW can be an intimidating thing, but pretty much everyone’s friendly and more than willing to help, even if they don’t know what they’re talking about.

The Fics Keep on Coming

(remind me to use that title again somewhere… probably on ficlets)\
Speaking of ficlets, I just posted the news over on the ficlets blog that the site is a finalist in not one but two categories in this year’s SxSW Web Awards!\
I’m geeked. I entered ficlets on a whim when I registered for SxSW Interactive last year, and didn’t really think anything would come of it. But, here we are and, well, if it wins, I’ll accept and cry my fool head off just like Sally Field.\
I think I’ll probably write the acceptance speech as a ficlet and let people finish it for me. Yeah, that’d be appropriate.

SxSW Panel Pickin’ Time!

The SXSW Panel Picker is finally up, and y’all can go vote for our panel proposal! It’s called Career Transitions: From DIY to Working for the Man and will be a discussion about moving between different jobs, and coping mechanisms for making those transitions – from big company to small, to startup, to government and anywhere in between. If it gets accepted, you’ll get to see Jason Garber, Cindy Li, Thomas Vander Wal and me live and in person… which will be a treat.\
Go vote now or Jesus will be sad!

The National Day of Awesomeness

These things always start as a joke. Fortunately, I am someone who always takes the joke too far. So, here we are, with The National Day of Awesomeness. You’ll have to go to the site to read up on the holiday, what it is, when, and why you should join the probably three or four other people who will celebrate this special day (for which I’m sure someone will produce greeting cards in the very near future) early next year.\
This is no longer a joke. This is serious. Well, as serious as a day dedicated to being awesome can be, that happens to occur on Chuck Norris’ birthday, and organized by a complete idiot… Yeah, it’s that serious.

SxSW Interactive Recap

There’s so much to say about SxSW this year. It was a huge year for me personally, and I think for AOL as a company. First of all, AOL sponsored the conference, which makes me extremely happy. This was my fifth year coming to Austin for a week of geeking out with my “tribe”, and this year, I brought my work tribe with me. In years past, other folks from AOL have come, but this year was different, because we had an “official” presence at the conference. Also, this is the first year I’ve launched something at the conference and come with swag. And oh boy, did we launch it. We launched last Wednesday, and I left for Austin Thursday. We had some hiccups getting out the door and I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to say anything because the site didn’t actually work. Well… it works, and people really seem to be digging it. The response I’ve gotten talking to people about the site has been truly inspiring, and almost all the blog posts about the site have been great as well. If you want to follow along, check out the results on Technorati.\
On top of launching ficlets, and talking about it nonstop, I was on two panels, and did 20×2 for the first time this year. The first panel was Mr. McNally’s Ghost in the Machine: Spirituality Online, and I was honored to be a part of it. The folks on the panel with me were far more qualified to talk about the subject at hand that I was, but I had a great time at lunch with them, on the panel and dinner afterwards. I can’t thank James, Rachel, Gordan and Hussein enough. I was so inspired by their spirits, stories and openness. It was a truly great experience… and the panel went swimmingly. The only real “moment” I had was after the panel, a couple very neatly dressed guys came up to the table and introduced themselves, handing me their cards… “LDS Church”. I blanched for a sec, “Oh snap, they sent spies!”, but no, they’re very cool designers who work with Cameron Moll on the Church’s website. They were very nice, and I’m sad I didn’t get to ask them more about what they thought of the panel.\
Our panel the next day was How to Convince Your Company to Embrace Mashup Culture. I wish I could say I thought it went well. I was disappointed in how I did and how I handled the distractions around the panel (and during, but I don’t want to talk about it here). I’ve heard good feedback from folks who said they enjoyed it, but I thought I could have done better. Alla, Arun, Greg and Steve were real troopers for agreeing to do it at the last minute.\
20×2 was Monday night, and as always, Jeff, Kevin and Mike Stephens were fantastic, and I was psyched to be part of the show. Better yet, folks laughed in the right places during the movie Max and I made! It was so cool seeing Max up on the screen, and hearing the applause afterwards.\
After that, I was free. I spent a lot of time in the AOL booth all week, and had a great time meeting folks, talking about ficlets, OpenID, AIM, WIM and all the other stuff that came up during the week. I didn’t attend as many panels this year as I have in the past (the four previous years, I skipped a grand total of one panel – this year, I made it to about 6 total between AOL booth time, preparing for panels or working on ficlets stuff).\
There are embarrassing photos and videos imminent of just how “free” I was. I have a horrible tendency at SxSW to lose all verbal inhibitions, and I just say stuff… sometimes really really horrible stuff. It gets worse when I have a “partner in crime” with me, or a giggling audience. Unfortunately, Monday and Tuesday nights, I had both. Monday night, after 20×2 (so, not only was I free, but I was still buzzed from the reaction to the movie), I inappropriately touched my food. I couldn’t help it, that chocolate shake was asking for it.\
Tuesday morning, I attended the panel Arun moderated: Browser Wars. He moderated a discussion between Brendan Eich from Mozilla, Chris Wilson from the IE team, and Charles McCathieNeville from Opera. It was a fantastic discussion, and he did an amazing job keeping all those egos in check, and asked some really good questions, that I think led to better questions from the audience. I think I’ll make him moderate next year if we do a panel again.\
Tuesday night was oh so much worse. Kevin Smokler had his annual Castle Hill Cafe dinner, and I was at a table with Brad Graham (partner in vulgarity) and the giggling accomplices: the Browns, Mike Tremoulet, Kathryn Wu and Dan Budiac, Nikolai Nolan and Anne. Except for Nikolai, we all had a hard time finishing our dinners and desserts because we couldn’t stop laughing. We were all crying, holding our sides, and had laughter headaches by the end of dinner. Folks were hesitant to take bites of their food, for fear that another round of guffaws would break out. I apologize profusely in advance. I think Nikolai got video, and it’s going to be really really bad. Hysterically funny, but wrong in so many ways. There will be a price to pay for it, and well, I said all that stuff, so I guess I’m stuck with it (damn, but it was funny). There were muppets in compromising positions, twisted takes on Mark Twain stories, Jewish gay porn, and a truly disgusting act with a plate of goat cheese (that one wasn’t me, I swear). I’ll post the pictures after my ribs had recovered.\
All said, it was a great time all week. I started a little slow, had one bad night, but the glee and successes more than made up for one bad day.\
I’ll tell you about the adventure on the trip home later… right now, I need some sleep!\
And here are all the pictures!