Sunday, March 19, 2006

Rounding out my SXSW experience

My last day in Austin I went to two SXSW panels that turned out to be more "traditional" and therefore, less engaging.

Now, every panel had to deal with the fact that they were up on a raised platform behind a table, and that there was no real accommodation for audience mic that could be walked around the room for example. So even in sessions like BlogHer's, where we tried to engage the audience within the first 10 minutes, it was tough because most questions had to be repeated, and long questions became frustrating for those audience members on the other side of the room who couldn't hear. Still, we did our best, and so did the other panels saw on Sunday, Bloggers in Love and Blogging While Black.

Monday panel #1 was "Cluetrain Revisited: 7 years later. Part of the reason I went to see this panel was to find out if I had really missed something big when I had a less than rhapsodic response to finally reading The Cluetrain Manifesto last year. (Here's my review.) The panel was moderated by Henry Copeland and featured Doc Searls, Brian Clark and Heather Armstrong.

This was a panel of people who attach a lot of importance to words and their meanings, and it's like they share a coded language that we are all supposed to buy unreservedly if we want to be considered "clueful." The trouble is I often don't.

Two examples:
Doc: A "consumer" is a "degraded customer."
Brian: Hates the word "amateur" and prefers "enthusiast."

Well, I think this is a chicken/egg situation. Sometimes it feels to me that the clueful community is trying to pin bad subtexts on long-standing words like "amateur" and "consumer" simply so they can swoop in and pretend it's a big deal to use their alternate words. (I'm a pretty massive consumer, and I'm sorry, but I simply don't feel degraded by the word.)

The panel is then asked to name clueful companies, and it strikes me that a company need only use clueful tools to attain clueful status. What do Microsoft and Sun have in common? Well, sure, they have tons of blogs. To be clueful, though, shouldn't they have done something within the company with the conversation generated in those blogs? No one seems to talk about that. They just talk about clued in they are to "let" all those employees blog. I've heard some anecdotes out of Microsoft and how their blogging and Scoble's position as Chief Humanizing Officer (unofficial title, of course) has had impact, but seriously I don't think I've ever heard anyone discuss clueful outcomes from all of Sun's blogs...what am I missing?

So we get some praise for companies who are blogging, Edelman, Microsoft, Sun, and we get some morepraise for Scoble and praise for Winer.

And Doc makes a statement that the priorities of companies should be:
1. Employees
2. Customers
3. Shareholders

So, I want to suggest to him that perhaps he go into politics and change the laws, so public companies actually could have such a priority list.

I learn from Henry that PETA blogs, so that was a truly useful bit of info for me. (Although I couldn't find an actual link to their blog from their home page, so one step back.) What I did find on their home page was the cute little cat vomit warning sign pictured at left, so double-thanks to Henry. You can now consider yourself to officially have too much information about my home life.

Doc brought up another topic that piqued my interest, given my former life in the cable industry. He stated that the cable and telco companies still have big bandwidth downstream and smaller bandwidth upstream, that they haven't changed their philosophy on this, and that it's going to be a big problem. Well, coming from Terayon, the company that provided the technology for DOCSIS 2.0 that was supposed to bring symmetric bandwidth to the cable household,this was our argument for years. The funny thing was that how DOCSIS 2.0 did not take off. The spec was approved, many many companies passed and were certified/qualified as DOCSIS 2.0-compliant. Product was sold. But to my knowledge most of those operators don't use the 2.0 upstream capacity. So market demand isn't quite making it a problem for cable ops yet.

Anyway, then Halley asked a question about what things would look like in another 7 years and women's role in that.

-Brian: didn't really answer the question about women's role.
-Doc: moving form the Industrial Age to the Social Age, with an explosion of independent production of media and communications and art. "Women are better at it."
-Heather: Women home with the kids have the loneliest job. Blogging helps by providing a publishing platform. Women are creating communities and influencing purchasing decisions.

I spent much of the session playing with my new laptop, listeniing with half an ear, which is frankly more than the next session I attended got out of me.

My final SXSW session was Does your blog have a business?

This was a panel with very little audience interaction, maybe in the lst 10 minutes, and it was rife with what I call "magical thinking." These panelists were not stupid people, so if given the opportunity to expand on a response that seemed magical in nature they often had smart, concrete things to say.

When audience members finally got to ask questions one asked about building an audience. How did their blogs get found?

The initial response from at least 2, and I think 3, of the panelists was to claim the old "I built it, and they came" thing. They talked about the audience "finding them."

I rolled my eyes.

Later they each got a chance to expand, and then they mentioned all the real nitty-gritty stuff that goes on behind putting something up that readers will "just find." Things like what kind of posts tend to generate more links or traffic, things like using key words extensively, things like posting often. Actual usable advice for the guy asking the question.

It only took 55 minutes to get there.

"Sometimes it feels to me that the clueful community is trying to pin bad subtexts on long-standing words like "amateur" and "consumer" simply so they can swoop in and pretend it's a big deal to use their alternate words. (I'm a pretty massive consumer, and I'm sorry, but I simply don't feel degraded by the word.)"

Right on Elisa! Thank you for this defense of the word "consumer." I like it so much that I put it in the name of my business. :-) I often read marketing bloggers whith whom I find myself agreeing very much until they start ranting against consumers. I appreciate your sensible acceptance of the word and especially appreciate that it comes from a marketer and blogger I admire so much.

From now on it's just a little bit easier out here for a consumer-lovin' marketer.
I have a lot of respect for women who stay home and look after the house and children. This is probably the most important job of the world. There is, although doesn't sound like it, a lot of stress to it. Now, I'm not a woman, but I can see that it is, at times, rigorous. However, I've also seen women who take a real liking to this "job", too. I guess it must have its rewards.
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