Someone Help Me, My Life is Too Hard [#SxSWi Sucks Edition]

“The ad feminem [sic] tone of the SiliconANGLE post responding to Jolie O’Dell “SXSW sucks” one lets us all down.” – Kevin Marks

I’m sitting here resuming my normal editor duties and sifting through a mountain of video from the SxSW conference this morning, and I’m wondering why it is that my “Why SxSWi Doesn’t Suck” post is doing so well on the site today. Turns out that my response to Jolie O’Dell is listed as a sub-head on Techmeme today, and getting a new round of attention.

Incidentally, for the most part, the response to my post has been positive, but there have been some puzzling responses (a great example is the Kevin Marks tweet quoted at the top) from folks who no only disagree with me, but seem to think that I shouldn’t say anything if I’m going to disagree with Jolie on this (a truly puzzling sentiment).

Political correctness notwithstanding, listed above my post on Techmeme are a few other posts talking about how much SxSW sucked for the respective authors.  For those of you who want to be in the know, but don’t want to be subjected to whining the type of whining typical of a six year old who’s just been told he can’t play the XBox tonight, I’ll summarize all the posts I’ve read so far:

Jolie O’Dell: First to kick off the bandwagon, she’s upset because her netbook was stolen and Kevin Rose licked her.

Bates Hook: It’s the bloggers, social media consultants and PR guys who ruin SxSW.

Carla Thompson: Piggy-backing off Jolie’s stirred sentiment, she offers constructive criticism for the SxSW organisers next year. The meat of the post is great advice, though I vehemently disagree with her premise (sorry, Carla!).

Adam Martin: He fired off a blog post he later told me over email was fueled more than a little by irritability from lack of sleep (which I can certainly understand, and can be seen in my own responses on his blog). He agrees with Jolie, but added edits at the bottom talking about the positive aspects and why he’ll probably be back next year.

Zoli Erdos: He tries to use about 400 words to explain why he’s somehow cool and trendy for intentionally missing the biggest gathering of Web geeks in the country.

image Michelle Greer: … is sick of the crass commercialism. I can understand that, but we all gotta eat, too. Also, it doesn’t necessarily prove Jolie right (… sorry Michelle!).

B. Imei Hsu: With solid advice for panelists not just at SxSWi.  A balanced post. Go ahead and read it.

Jim Louderback: … says he’s been blackballed from attending, meaning they won’t let him in for free. Sometimes, you hafta pony up the cash. Don’t you guys make any money at Rev3? You just offered Conan a job, so I’d imagine you have at least $550 laying around.

Nick Douglas: On SFWeekly, Nick trashes Austin and SxSW. I think he’s angling for a date with Jolie, personally, because his whole sentiment can be summed up with “all the parties I attended sucked, and there wasn’t enough tech at the conference.” The obvious response: stop going to the parties, and do your job as a “journalist.”

Some Unnamed Guy on a blog called Eros: This guy blogs about parties, booth babes and sex (with tech mixed in? not sure), and has the same sentiment as Nick: “The big parties sucked, but the party I had at the Hilton lobby rocked, and there needs to be more tech at these things.”

Look, for the most part, I’ve got a unified response to these posts: Life is full of choices.  You hafta make them sometimes.  Sometimes you need to plan ahead. Occasionally discrimination is a good thing.

I was on Brain Dead last night with Sean and Steven, and described my days in Austin.

I got up between 6 AM and 8 AM almost every day and rolled into town early.  A lot of the East Coast people were hanging out early in breakfast places and lobbies, and I got to have low-key talks while we got our work done with people like Chris Brogan and Wayne Sutton.  That was awesome – it’s true relationship building.  I’ve known both of those guys for years online, and we have mutual respect and admiration for each other, but having a chance meeting with each other and talking with no agenda? That’s the sort of thing that cements the casual relationship you have with someone. I look forward repeating that sort of thing with both of them in the future (and the others I shared my quiet morning meetings with).

Whenever I got done there, usually around 9 AM, I went to the bloggers lounge. That’s where the cool kids hang out when they’re not busy, and you never know who you run into there.  This is where my chance encounters and interesting non-pitch related interviews came from (like the cyber-anthropology interview).

image I went to the press room after that, and generally had interviews with companies from 10-ish until about 1 PM. It’s important to find and vet your PR contacts beforehand. When in doubt, in Austin, talk to Josh Dilworth and his team. Failing that, it never hurts to know Michelle Greer. You generally can’t go wrong with Austin locals Jen and Hayes, either. Just trust me on that. Point is, find someone cool in Austin that’s a connector.  They’re everywhere.

Between 1 PM and 2 PM, I took a break. Because, sometimes, you need to eat.

At 2 PM, I headed to Texas Coworking and got ready for the broadcast (
which generally kept me in the studio until about 6 PM or so).
This was the thing that was paying my bills for the week, and it was also some of the most fun I had all week. Getting paid to talk to cool people for two to four hours? Beats working for a living.

After that, my evenings were unplanned, but generally involved going to parties. This is the part I’d want to change.  I really don’t like loud parties. Maybe I’m getting old, or maybe I was never cool (and I do have mild hearing loss, which keeps me from understanding folks in loud environments), but I don’t get off on big crowds.  I had more fun in the quiet nooks where there was just a few people meeting for dinner or what have you.  Next year, I’ll probably plan two nights maximum where I go to party, and plan dinner meetings the rest of the days.  I don’t need to party, but after going all day and night, it’s nice to unwind a little.

This is what works for me.  What works for you may be different.  I didn’t go to sessions, because I was there to work, and I knew others (like Louis Gray) would be covering the sessions I wanted to see (for the most part) much better than I would.  Your mileage may vary.

Essentially, though, this talk of “hey, SxSW sucks because there’s not enough tech” is utter crap to me.  I saw more tech than I could handle. If you didn’t, you were too busy partying or perhaps too busy working on something else.  That’s OK, but that’s not the conference’s fault.  Just plan it out a bit better next year.

This business of “hey, people are partying too much and not working” sounds a bit silly to me, too.  Who cares?  Are you there to work? Are you getting stuff done? If not, how can you fix your schedule and your work ethic? You’re not required to go to parties every night.  I could name drop three people right now who didn’t go to a single party, and landed multi-million dollar accounts for their business this year.

I won’t, but here’s a clue as to who it is: they’re not complaining about how the parties sucked.

There were even a few people who partied every night and wound up landing multi-million dollar accounts.  They partied with a purpose and still managed to have fun and engage in meaningful conversations. Again, no names, but here’s a clue: they haven’t written a blog post complaining about parties yet.

Why haven’t they complained? Are they supremely satisfied? Do the organizers have pictures of them in compromising positions with farm animals? Not that I know of. If I had to venture a guess, I’d imagine it’s because they’re the type of people who don’t just let life happen to them, they take responsibility for shaping their life to the way they’d like it to be.

That’s the biggest lesson of SxSW.  If you don’t like your experience, change it.

Or, you know, stop complaining and don’t come next year. There’s always that, too.

Photo credits (cc) Kenneth Yeung – www.thelettertwo.com and nicefishfilms.

6 Comments

  1. I'm with you here — This was only my second trip to SXSW but I think it rocked because of the random encounters I had (including a chance to chat with you). I can see why some people had reason to complain, but I attended panels, I spent time hanging out around the conference center (I do regret not hanging out in the blogger lounge) and I went to parties and never stayed at one very long. I met so many people and had a blast. Sure, I lost my phone and I'll never see it again. Sure, I lost my voice because I talked to so many people. Sure, I'll never catch up on the sleep lost… But it was totally worth it.

    Reply
  2. I don’t normally post to blogs but I enjoyed this post so keep up the good work. -cheers-

    Reply
  3. I absolutely love all of the grueling effort you have done keeping this blog going for everyone. I hope this is here for a very long time.

    Reply
  4. This post is impressive, I am going to put this in my bookmarks before I lose the link I don’t think I’ll ever find my way back again otherwise :)

    Reply
  5. Hello. I need just a little help if anyone can afford it.I'm a 46 year old male living in the Midwestern U.S. (and PROUD of it). I've been disabled for 9 years with a terminal disease. I just lost the one thing i own. I'm a single father of two GREAT teenage children living on $1000. a month. One child lives on the coast, the other headed to A coast. I wanted to travel to visit them, better our relationships, be a better father. I saved for years .. a lousy $3,500. dollars, but it was my dream. A 20 foot Conversion van/Mini-Motor-home. 25 years old at that. I found one, researched it, and bought it on eBay. I took greyhound bus 600+ miles to Texas to pay for, and pick it up, to drive back home. 600 Ok miles home. ran for three(3) months(@1000miles) then the engine burst into flames and i used two fire extinguishers and called the fire dept. to put it out before it exploded or something. its cooked. a total loss. I seem to have no recourse.
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    I apologize for this interruption to you but Thank-You for your understanding. I will be grateful for ANY donation to anyhelpplease@hotmail.com using PayPal or email anyhelpplease@hotmail.com to contact me.
    Thanks again and Bless You.
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    Reply

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