SXSWi 2009 – Part 2

Wisdom of Crowds – Derek Powazek gave this presentation on a very interesting phenomenon. The idea is that even though people may not get something right individually, collectively they get much closer to the truth. Like the guessing game with the jar of jelly beans at the fair. No one guesses exactly right, but the average of all the guesses gets pretty close. This is something I think people are going to be paying a lot of attention to in the coming years. It’s pretty valuable info if you know how to gather it. Well done, Derek.

Start Small, Stay Small – This panel was about starting your own business or going full time free-lance and how to address the new challenges you’ll face. Jeffrey Zeldman moderated the panel and gave great insights along with rest of the group as to how you make this difficult move work. Remember to charge what your worth. Ask for a budget. Don’t overbook yourself.

Turning Wine into Gold – Vay.ner.chuk. Gary is always a ball of energy and this was no exception. It is pretty difficult to not be inspired by his totally in-your-face, tell-it-like-it-is style. He drove home his key points once again: Don’t try to be me, be you. Play the game. Make good stuff. Win. Go find the video on WLTV, it is a must see. Quote: “If you live for weekends and vacation, your sh** is broken.” (Translation: If you hate your job so much that weekends are the best part, that needs to be fixed.)

Presenting Straight to the Brain – I took 2 pages of notes in this session, and I am not much of a note person. First of all, best presentation I have EVER seen. Four panelists, all experts on presenting offered tons of practical suggestions for making great presentations. Don’t make people read and listen to you, it doesn’t work. Forget the bullet points, go for the interesting visual to drive the points home diagrams and images. Focus on how to better the audience with your information, rather than how to make a good presentation. These guys rocked:
Jared Goralnick, Cliff Atkinson, Craig Ball, Kathy Sierra.

Quitter – How to quit your day job and work for yourself. I already do this, but I got a lot of good info out of this session on how to make the most out of working for yourself. One thing that really stuck out to me was when one of the panelists said that letting your email rule your productivity was like letting other people put stuff on your to-do list without asking you. That is so messed up, yet true! Quote:”We’re gonna start taking questions from the audience, but don’t say your name if you’re asking how to quit your day job.”

SXSW = a good break from the norm, lots of great information, tons of smart people. Love it.

SXSWi 2009 – Part 1

Well, we survived another SXSW! I love going to conventions or retreats because they give you an opportunity to sit back and try to learn something that is going to help you in everyday life. It’s kind of like going to school, but without the homework and with a much more practical application.

The other thing that struck me while I was there is that I really love hanging out with, talking to and listening to really freaking smart people. I went to a few sessions that I figured probably wouldn’t apply to me, but I went because I appreciated the presenters. Not a disappointment in the bunch.

So here are some of the highlights:

Tips for Making Ideas Happen – Some great info here from the Behance team who have been researching productivity. Make sure to separate reference items from action items in some way. Hold “standing” (on-your-feet) meetings to get through things quickly. Quote: “Ideas don’t happen because they are great.”

Tips and Tricks for Adobe CS4 – This guy was awesome and highlighted some cool new features in CS4. My 2 faves were the mask panel and adjustments panel in Photoshop. Quote: “My title is ‘Product Evangelist for the Adobe Creative Suite’. Did you hear me say ‘Tech Support’?”

Is Spec Work Evil? – This was pretty much a designer brawl. I was waiting for the t-squares and Xacto’s to come out. Basically, the panel (which included the ever-so-famous David Carson) took opposing sides as to whether designers should work for spec (work for free and hope someone pays you) and are sites like cheapening the value of graphic design? Being a designer, this one hit pretty close to home and while I understand that spec work has a function in the marketplace, I don’t do it. Merc and I have also had many discussions about what separates and amateur designer from a pro and as the industry goes, not much. You don’t have to go to school, you don’t have to pass a test, you just need a copy of Photoshop Elements. Yuk. Quote: “I disagree with this notion that endlessly tinkering around and sketching out funny little logos, makes you a better designer.”

To be con’t…

Places to eat in and around downtown Austin.

This is quite late coming, I know, but while we were in Austin for SXSW we got a ton of food recommendations from a friendly bartender at the Melting Pot. Below are his picks, asterisks indicate where we’ve actually eaten.

*Stubb’s BBQ – on Red River, Famous and all, but not the best I’ve ever had.

Red River

Iron Works BBQ

*Moonshine Cafe – on Red River, A little pricey but oh-so good. Recommend the roasted garlic appetizer and molasses smoked pork chop.

Green Mesquite BBQ – on S. Lamar

Hills Cafe – on S. Congress

Threadgills – on Riverside and First Street

The Mean Eyed Cat – Johnny Cash music all the time on 5th street

Don’s Depot – on 5th

Best Wurst – Sausage Cart on 6th

*Torchy’s Tacos – on 6th, but there is more than one location. Recommend the “Democrat”, awesome little place.

Guero’s Taco Bar – on S. Congress

*Homeslice Pizza – on S. Congress. Recommend the white pizza…very good rolls too!

Matt’s El Rancho – on S. Lamar

P.Terry’s – on S. Lamar. Recommend Burger

Casino El Camino – on 6th Recommend Burger

*Champion’s – on 4th in the Marriot, Best burger I have ever had.

*Cork and Co. – on Congress. Wine bar, great selection.

*Amy’s Ice Cream – on S. Congress, very good!

*The Salt Lick – Great BBQ Brisket