Considering the busy first week, I've actually done a good job of pacing myself so far. I've hung out with a bunch of married guys for the most part, so aside from the obligatory trip to the peelers which may or may not include a hillbilly knife fight, the wildest it has gotten is sitting around a bar drinking heavily and discussing ubiquitous platforms every second night and recuperating and discussing twitter backchannels on the in-betweens. Although there were a somewhat surprising number of very attractive women at SXSWi (i = interactive), nobody else in the group was single or in to networking in general, so most of the people that I met in the evening festivities were associates of the people I was with. That was fine though, as I met a bunch of great people.
(A side note on the attractive women... I figured out later it is likely due to the rise in social media and the need for communications people in the online space - probably going to be your hot chick over the socially awkward uber-nerd) So Tuesday is considered an "off-day" as it is the last day of the Interactive conference and the film panels (although films from the film festival portion of SXSW will continue to be shown until Sat). Scott and I started out slowly, and had pretty much taken it easy the night before - we checked out the Microsoft/Carsonified party but left around midnight still fairly sober. We went to a couple of great panels - one on dashboard design and the other on Canvas (the JS/HTML5 library that may replace Flash). Both panels were applicable to Game Plan Systems and provided some valuable insights. Interesting that a guy from the Canvas panel was heavily promoting flot, a Canvas graph-plotting library (graphs being integral to dashboard design). Then we went to check out our first film - The People vs. George Lucas. If you are a Star Wars fan or fascinated with either nerdery or sub-culture dynamics then it is a great film. I like all three, so I found it to be highly enjoyable. So when we got out of the movie and it was still raining fairly heavily and most of the people with Interactive had left it seemed like it would be an early night. Today (Wednesday) the music kicks off with the Levi's party at Fader Fort, which we found out is one of the parties to go to... there is always a surprise guest and this year the rumors to fill that slot include Metric, MGMT, Gorillaz, and Black Eyed Peas. I was anticipating a night of rest and preparation. The evening took a somewhat surprising turn. First I should explain that our hotel is a decent ways from the action, so we have a shuttle service that takes us to, and from, our hotel. It's a massive pain in the ass, but the shuttle drivers are usually great so it's often a pleasant ride. Last night, after a nice steak dinner at the hotel, we got ready to head back downtown to meet up with some departing friends for a drink or two. Enter Robert Johnson - the extremely overtly gay shuttle driver. We were waiting for the shuttle with James, our new friend from Great Britain, and when the shuttle came rushing in to the hotel with 4 excited honks of the horn James' face immediately dropped. "Oh fuck", he says. Turns out that Robert Johnson had taken a liking to our young skinny friend on a previous trip. Robert jumped out of the shuttle and immediately latches on to James - "Hey honey!". Scott and I immediately hopped in to the back seat so James would have to sit up front - which he did with dread. Then a group of about 6 women came in to the cab and the energy level picked up. The girls loved Robert and totally egged him on. With Give Me Your Love by Mariah Carey blaring in the background, Robert proclaimed "Keep your hands off the boys bitches they're mine!" - and we were on our way downtown. The 10 minute shuttle ride set the tone for the evening. Everything that came out of Robert's mouth was highly offensive and punctuated with "Bitches!", pretty hilarious stuff. We ended up going to a Media Temple party for the closing of the interactive conference. I use MT for the Calgary Film Festival web site so was happy to drink their free beverages. They also had a great lineup of bands, the headliner was We Are Scientists (one of the bands I am currently enjoying and on my list of bands to see here). A friend of mine from Calgary, Mikael, was about to take off but We Are Scientists was great so he decided to stick around. Their music was really good, but they had a really good stage presence and were highly entertaining. The bass player (who was talented at his craft) was also somewhat of a comedian, and the lead singer seemed to find him particularly hilarious. The banter between songs was probably the best part of the show, and I managed to catch the last exchange of the evening - not their best bit, but you get the idea. Video above. After the set, we left the bar. Mikael was extremely drunk but flying home in the early morning so went back to the hotel, and Scott had previously left so I ended up hanging out with this Australian girl I met while leaving the bar. She was a social media expert starting her travels the US for 3-4 months. She is going to San Francisco after SXSW and is basically starting what I just finished with NY/Spain, I am jealous. Anyways - we ended up bar hopping along the Austin strip... a lot different experience than hanging out with a bunch of married dudes. Was a fun night and a great kick-off to the music festival. I think it will be substantially different than the interactive portion of the festival. Now that my hangover has subsided I must get myself to the Fader Fort party and get my St. Patrick's Day on.
I've been here since the 10th, the conference started on the 12th and it is not 5pm on the 15th. I don't have much time to write this because I need to meet someone in 10 minutes, but I just finished deleting a full blog entry because I realized that I was listing things off completely out of order. There are so many web sites and panel discussions just focused on "your first" SXSW and I can see why. The entire event is a blur & I'm only half way through (although the music part should be a lot easier to navigate). The panels are pretty straightforward. The biggest thing is deciding which one to go to in each time slot. There are easily 20-30 seminars that you can go to each slot (every 1.5 hrs) and often you get stuck in something that seems great on paper but is a huge disappointment, and then you get out and hear that the seminar down the hall was fantastic. We stood in line to see Quentin Tarantino speak, and never got in, and there are similar missed opportunities to see a hero speak. But I also got to see some interactive 'gurus' speak... Evan Williams, Gary Vaynerchuk and John Gruber among them. The best speaker I've seen so far has been Clay Shirkey, who I might post about separately when I have some time. I also went to a great discussion about the psychology of design. I might post about that too. Ubiquitous, community management, location, and augmented reality are the buzzwords.I've met & hung out with founding members of some great companies (some are even local), and it is amazing how down to earth these people are. We've gone to 1 party and avoided the dozens of others due to hour-long lineups... but we've been drinking and eating and enjoying sunny patios and crazy nightlife basically non-stop. I haven't seen a single film yet, so have to get on that.
Waiting for some friends to show up in Austin. It's 10.30am but a beautiful day already, so I'm going to go sit by the pool. I'll be here for 11 more days and then back in Calgary for at least a couple of months.
As previously mentioned, I had a great meeting for Game Plan Systems on Tuesday. I was also able to stop in and chat with my client the Calgary International Film Festival. Aside from those 2 projects, I'm not too sure how much I want to get back involved with web marketing. It's not that I don't love the industry, but the hard part is that from a service provider standpoint it is a real grind. Sites like Clients from Hell illustrate the lack of respect for people in our industry. We don't sell anything tangible - we sell ideas, pretty pictures and lines of code - and I can understand where clients are coming from when dealing with us. I'm as guilty as anyone - when dealing with contractors I am bound by the limits of my budget and although I always try to be as fair as possible, often it is hard to justify paying as much as is asked for when there is such a variance in the outcome. So my number one goal is still to make Game Plan's hockey training and coaching software successful. Over the next couple of months there is a lot I can do in Calgary to continue towards that objective. Beyond that, I'm wondering about the best place for me to be. New York was light years ahead of Calgary in fostering web entrepreneurship and my understanding is that San Francisco is even better. However, this is not possible due to visa restrictions - I will need some other work until Game Plan is self-sufficient and I can't do that in the US without a visa. Toronto has a hotter hockey market and is on the East coast (which makes it closer to the important markets of NY, Boston and Montreal). Vancouver has a hotter interactive market than Calgary and is closer to Seattle and SF. Calgary has been home for a long time and it is a good hockey market and there is promise on the interactive front but I also have this Mashable article about the time-honored location, location, location in the back of my mind. So now I'm going to put that in my brain-hole, take my orange book and sit by the pool for 3 hours. Sunburns await.
I'm going to squeeze all the motherfucking juice out of this orange!
This book talks about an iconoclast being someone who does something that everyone else says can't be done. I've always seen myself that way, and those are the expectations that people have placed on me. I would say so far I have not lived up to those expectations - in fact it hasn't even been close. I think a lot of entrepreneurs probably feel like an iconoclast, beating their heads against a wall for years on end, and putting everything on the line when nobody else sees what you see. Certain things happen along the way that validate that you are on the right track, but more often than not there are stumbling blocks and challenges that will cause you to fail and possibly give up completely along the way. A very small percentage are able to make it to the other side... it's a stressful existence and can be especially stressful for those in their life. I've been working on Game Plan Systems for over 8 years now. Not full-time, straight through. During a few years it was nothing more than a support phone call and renewing some hosting services. However, other times it included 90 hour work weeks and the most stressful situations imaginable. Now we are up and running and there is more promise than ever for something that was nothing more than a lark a few years ago. Promise isn't success though, and there is a way to go before we are a legitimate success. The introduction of the book opens with an anecdote about Howard Armstrong. In short, the story describes an event that happens 14 years after Armstrong proved to his friend (the head of RCA) that his invention, FM radio, was superior to AM. The thing was that RCA was heavily invested in AM radio, so Armstrong not only lost his friendship but also ended up banging his head against the wall for 14 years trying unsuccessfully to make a business out of his invention. The event that happened 14 years later was Armstrong jumping out his apartment window, committing suicide after not being able to make a living out of one of the greatest and most essential inventions of the 20th century. His wife ended up selling the patent to RCA a year later for $1m, but lost a husband and probably sold for far too little. I value my life way too much to consider what Armstrong did as a viable option, but as an entrepreneur I can certainly relate to the struggle. I often wonder why I'm 'blowing my brains out' over something that carries only a potential payoff down the road. Ultimately, I wouldn't want it any other way though. I like taking the risk, even if it never works out... it's about the journey, not the destination right? Anyways, I take any kind of self-help book with extreme grains of salt. But I am hoping to take one or two useful bits of advice out of this book which will make me a more effective iconoclast.I'll let you know if it's worth the read. Stay tuned!
Due to more unforeseen circumstances, it looks like I will likely be back in Calgary in March!
One of the main reasons for an early return is that I need to pick up a project or two to cover off a couple of bills. There are a couple of potential projects I can grab in Calgary so I will head back unless something drops in my lap when I am in NY or Austin. While I suppose there is a small chance of that, I also need to follow up on some stuff for Game Plan. I thought I would do it remotely but this will be easier. Plus I am starting to miss a few people back home, so I am ready to head back. A trip up to Edmonton will definitely be part of the plans as well.
I was thinking of heading to Maui in April or May, and if I can land a contract or two, then that's still in the cards. We shall see.
New projects rolling this week for both Game Plan and 3.9 Marketing (Calgary Film Fest) and starting to put some thought in to what I need to get out of SXSW. It's nice to put some energy in to something productive & sustain it through a good 10-11 hours. I'm glad I got those naps out of the way yesterday and all that thinking in Granada has been paying off too.
It seems like a lot of this trip has been waiting for things to fall in to place and a couple finally did. Huzzah!