Recap of SXSW Interactive 2009

As I sit here in a daze induced by 4 crazy days of interacting with geeks the world over, sleeping little and attending party after party after party, I find myself nostalgically looking back at SXSW 2009.

It wasn’t as good as previous years, in my opinion. Maybe it was the huge number of noobs. There are always newbies, but this year it seemed to be more than ever. And that’s not a bad thing. I am happy when new groups and segments of the internet community are introduced to the wiles of SXSW, however this year seemed to be extravagantly more than normal. And it did affect the way the festival went off.

Chris Brogan
Chris Brogan

Interestingly, over 7000 people registered for the Interactive festival, up some 25% from last year if I recall. However, the actual attendance seemed to be down. In the context of conversations, I think I realized what was really at play. Despite no one mentioning it out right, it was clear that the economy had people in funky moods. Last year at this time, we were discussing venture capital, web startups and Facebook’s expansion, as an example. This year, however, the tone and look on peoples faces was a little more stark. It was a very interesting dynamic.

Of course, that didn’t mean people were in sour moods. They weren’t. The parties flowed. The long lunches happened. People laughed and talked. In some cases, we sang.

Alex Hillman at Cogaoke
Alex Hillman, IndyHall

Sorry, if you missed me perform Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” at Cogaoke. I did not win the karaoke competition but at least I had fun trying.

SXSW always is a must attend for me because it represents, much like Facebook does for my real life, a confluence of all of the circles of my geek life.

For instance, my Boulder peeps were there:
Jeremy Tanner
Jeremy Tanner

My Silicon Valley peeps were there:
Rick Klau
Rick Klau, Google/Blogger

And, of course, a very large (largest in SXSW history, maybe?) DC representation:
DC Peeps at SXSW

I am hardly impressed by celebrity and most of the “celebrities” that were there are not people that are anything more than friends for me. For instance, Chris Pirillo and Loic Lemeur were there. Friends doing great things, like Gnomedex and Seesmic

Chris Pirillo and Loic Lemeur

My only really true geek boy moment was meeting Drew Curtis of Fark, a guy who built his company the old fashioned way (without VC money) and is not prone to jump on technology bandwagons just because everyone says they are cool.

Finally, as a bonus, I give you Julia Allison, the woman that so many love to hate but geek guys fawn over anyway, Brittany Bohnet and Randi Zuckerberg, the Facebook Director of Market Development, and the sister to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Julia Allison, Brittany Bohnet and Randi Zuckerberg

Jeremiah Owyang Inserts Foot In Mouth (Again) Over IZEA Sponsored Posts

Rarely do I go after individual people on this blog. There have been a few occasions, but I prefer to talk about issues and not people. However, when the errors of a person are so egregiously over the top, I have a need to say something. This was the case over the weekend with Forrester research analyst, Jeremiah Owyang, who decided that he would depart from the typical role of an analyst, where neutrality and objectivity are key in providing unbiased advice, and instead insert himself into a conversation as a subject matter expert on a topic he really knows nothing about.

The topic is paid posting. As you are aware, I am going to be participating in a sponsored post campaign for Sears with Izea shortly. Izea recently did a similar campaign with K-Mart and a number of bloggers, including Chris Brogan participated in that effort. For longevity, here is Chris’ post, posted on his “Daddyblogger” blog.

Jeremiah picked up on this development and decided it needed to be a big issue, asking questions (in his typical braindead question asking style) about the campaign, and insinuating that Chris is not authentic in his post. This is not his role as a research analyst.

picture-1

This caused a massive stir on Twitter. My instinctive response, and judging by the response I’d say most people agree, is that Chris is one of the most transparent people on the web today. He exudes leadership qualities, and is highly respected among fans and peers alike. He has a tremendous reputation.

Jeremiah apparently has since had phone conversations with Izea CEO Ted Murphy and Chris Brogan, who serves on the Board of Advisors to “get the facts” about Izea and the campaign and this evening, he has written his own response to the response (lost yet?).

With all the background in place, let me offer my own opinion – less about Izea, and more about Jeremiah. Jeremiah is, as a representative of Forrester Research and in his function as a research analyst, expected to be a thought follower, not a thought leader. That is, his role is not to editorialize, or offer public opinion in such a way that exerts his influence outside of his Forrester client base. His role, in fact, is to analyze data, trends and the consensus of thought leaders in industry (online and offline, but largely online) and distill the data to a bottom line that is relevant to his clients.

Therefore, as someone who is not a part of the paid placements campaigns that Izea is running, his research should be more globally around paid placement/sponsored posts in general and not specifically about Izea. If he found flaws in the business, his advice to his clients might be to not consider using such vehicles. It should never have been about Chris Brogan.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh with Jeremiah. I am sure he’ll tell me if I am, and that’s fine. However, I have no patience for the riot incitement when it comes to one of the most ethical and upstanding men on the internet, and a friend. In this case, Jeremiah had no place asserting himself in a conversation that he had no information on. If you’re not part of the problem, and you’re not part of the solution, then you stay out.

If it’s a question of market research, as it should be for a Forrester Research Analyst, then the proper approach would have been private conversations with both Ted Murphy and Chris Brogan before stirring things up publicly.

If it’s a question of Izea reputation, then as a market analyst, the conversations and advice to Forrester clients should have been held within the confidentiality that I presume is expected between a client and a service provider with the above suggested advisement from those involved (Ted and Chris).

What should never have happened was the allowance of character assassination of Chris based on misunderstood premises and recycled arguments from two years ago.

I also don’t appreciate the condescension toward me when I challenged him on the matter.

@technosailor im listening, but you should call @chrisbrogan and @tedmurphy just as i did on the phone to get full story. Check your facts

For the record, I have spoken to both of them in great detail about this and other topics over the past year. Thanks, Jeremiah.

Web 2.0 Representation in the Obama Administration

We are not 4 full days into the Obama transition period and already three web executives have made theoir way into the mix in some kind of advisory role. Yesterday, we covered the naming of Julius Genachowski of Launchbox Digital and Sonal Shah of Google.org to the transition team. Today, the New York Times points out that Google CEO Eric Schmidt has been named to his economic advisory board.

This got me thinking about what a Web 2.0 Administration would look like. In considering roles within the new administration, I’m suggesting possibilities based on their personal reputation within the web space with a favoring for people that own or run their own companies.

Chris Brogan is the ultimate diplomat and community guy, so he should be considered for Secretary of State. Louis Gray is my candidate for Ambassador to the United Nations. Oh and Tom from MySpace needs to be an Ambassador or something because he’s everyones friend.

Jason Calacanis is a master businessman, having been the CEO or an executive in companies such as Weblogs Inc., AOL and now Mahalo. As such, I am naming him as Secretary of Commerce.

Mike Arrington is not a practicing attorney, but it is his background. He is a no-bullshit kind of guy not hesitating to name companies to the dead pool if he thinks they have no chance and propping up companies who he believes does have a chance. Because of the nature of the FBI, and the Department of Justice, Mike seems like a good fit as the Attorney General.

Gary Vaynerchuk, as the ultimate communicator, is qualified and should be President Obama’s Press Secretary.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs seems to be the only CEO of a publicly traded company (AAPL) who seems to be doing okay in the economic downturn. Sure, he might want to redistribute iPods, and ensure the Star Spangled Banner is the top pick in the iTunes Music Store for 4 years, but he should be the Secretary of the Treasury.

Lightning rod video and puppet blogger, Loren Feldman, has no issue going after “enemies of America” (or anyone else) and as such, he gets my designation for Secretary of Defense.

Knowledge blogger, Dave Taylor, has built up a wealth of intelligence regarding a variety of topics. I nominate him as the Director of Central Intelligence.

Graham Hill of Treehugger is the notable nominee for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk as Administrator of NASA.

Julia Allison should definitely be a White House intern.

What do you think? Who else should be in the cabinet?

Added: Melanie Notkin has been nominated, and I concur, in comments below as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Her site is using Web 2.0 to enlighten and inform aunts, families and the general population.

Play to Strengths

Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Jeremy Schoemaker is a rockstar in SEO. Darren Rowse is a rockstar in making money online. Erin is a rockstar among women bloggers. Thomas Hawk is a rockstar photographer. Brad Feld (a Lijit investor) is a rockstar VC. Chris Brogan is a rockstar people person. Alex Hillman is a rockstar community man. Jody is a rockstar musician.

I’m telling you, everyone is a rockstar in their own right and no one can take away their strength. As Micah puts it, no one can do your job better than you can.

The problem comes when you are not confident in what you do and you let a different kind of rockstar dictate your behavior.

We’ve all seen it. Someone of stature arrives on the scene and the person who knows the space and environment best gets star struck or intimidated by the presence of the rockstar and suddenly doesn’t know how to behave, act or represent themselves.

Confidence is so important. Confidence is sexy. Confidence displays your rockstarness and communicates that you own the place and people should stick by you. Confidence draws people in and causes them to get lost in YOU.

We all need someone else and no one can do it alone.

For myself, I know I have certain qualities and abilities that command the respect of others. I also know that I need people (such as all the people above, to name a few) to teach me something about their environments. Alex, in fact, was the one who gave me inspiration and motivation, not to mention pointers, on beginning the small co-working community we have here in Maryland.

Thomas taught me (via Scoble) a thing or two about lenses for my camera.

And so on.

Who are you learning from? Who inspires you? What are you teaching others?

(See, Chris Brogan taught me how to end posts with questions ;-) )

Getting Back To Human

Last week, I attended the Vocus users conference here in DC. It was an interesting time for me based on my history with PR both as a blogger who can’t stand PR and a blogger who wants to see PR do well in social media.

There was one session, in particular, where an audience member asked a speaker talking about software that is currently monitoring only main stream media outlets, “What do we do about monitoring and responding to bloggers?”

The response blew me away. “We don’t do anything about bloggers because we haven’t figured them out yet. Until we do, we won’t be doing anything about them.”

The context here being, of course, the software product.

Software developers understand that software is built on complex sets of logic. If this happens, then we do that. If a user clicks here, then this thing is going to happen. The speaker was saying that until bloggers could be broken down into a logical algorithm, the software won’t incorporate blogs.

My snarky response, expressed only in my own mind, is, “We’re human. If you can’t figure out how to approach us as humans instead of machines, maybe you should get out of the public relations business.”

On Friday, Chris Brogan wrote the same thing from the opposite side:

I have an anti-robot stance on Twitter. By that, I mean to say that I don’t want to follow things that aren’t people (with all due respect to Bruce Sterling’s spimes). I just don’t need to add something automated into a place that’s inherently human.

He goes on to say that his anti-robot stance is being challenged because someone who is using an automated posting system is actually offering something of use and now he has a crisis of conscience.

Folks, we’re unnecessarily complicating our lives. Sometimes a bit of common sense is needed to overrule our warped sense of logical rules. PR folks should look at blogger coverage, not in some automated way that has to fit into specific guidelines in order for them to know how to respond. And Chris needs to stop worrying about artificial rules he has created for himself. You made the rule, you can break it.

I have rules on Twitter too. I don’t follow sex-bots. I don’t follow spammy people. I don’t follow people that have disparate ratios of followers-followees. Except for the sexbot rule, I’ve broken every one if I needed to.

I’ve done the same thing with LinkedIn and Facebook.

Rules are made to be broken by sound human rationalization.

Podcamp DC

Podcamp DC is this weekend and Technosailor is a sponsor. I’m a fan of the Podcamp movement, but I’m particularly a fan of them being locally based. Local sponsors, local organizers, local attendees, local issues, etc.

Last year, I drove up 95 to PodCamp Philly (I consider Philly to be relatively local since it is an easy drive away). It was one of the most well organized, community-driven events I had ever attended. I decided to make the jaunt to Boston a month later for PodCamp Boston 2, which in my opinion ended up really sucking.

While I love Chris Brogan and Chris Penn, I think they would agree that 1300+ registrants (only half showed up) was a little much for a “grassroots unconference”. The Boston Convention Center was too big, the meeting rooms were too spacious, etc.

Plus I just had a horrid weekend between travel difficulties and my Macbook dying. Not a good time.

Podcamp DC is here now and I’m excited. I’m excited by having an event here to energize the community. There are already fault lines developing in the business community and I get the sense that people are trying to figure out what the hell is the value of what this community is, especially if real business value has yet to be seen on large scale.

Podcamp is not specific to podcasting and video. It is the collecting point of internet media in a local scene. In fact, I’m venturing to guess that most of the attendees would not fall into the category of podcaster or videocaster, though we’ll certainly have those too.

So, I hope to see you down in DC tonight and tomorrow supporting the local media community!