SXSW – Day 1: Lovepod & Liver Damage

What’s up Austin?

Flew in from NY last night and checked into our SXSW digs: the Lovepod. Our amazing SXSW organizer @laurenbugeja, through the magic of Craigslist has sorted us an incredible privately listed apartment less than 20 minutes walk from downtown.  Originally we had booked a hotel outside of downtown but Lauren (being a bit of a SXSW veteran) strongly recommended we stay closer to the convention centre.  Now we’re here I can totally see the logic behind it. Being able to walk between home, the bars and convention center has been excellent.

We make in at about 8:30pm and the house we’ve scored rocks. 2 bedroom/3 bathroom apartment, awesome open space living/dining area, big TV, media centre, and all the wifi we can eat. Unfortunately, 8 kids sharing two bedrooms makes life a bit interesting, so we decided we’d rock sleeping arrangement democratically and pull names out of the hat to decide who got which bed. Unfotunately, I draw last, so I’m now spending the next 10 night sleeping in – swear to God – a closet.

At least I have an ensuite

You need to walk through the bathroom to access my little slice of heaven, but then again, I have a “room” to my self so life could be worse.

Lovepod vs #winning

A couple of the lovepad crew. Min two apple product entry requirement.

We’ve got a great crew here for SXSW2011. Two houses: Lovepod & #winning. In Lovepad we’ve got @William_Simmons @StephenColman @dickschneider @andrewlitvak @sebm87 @laurenbugeja & @pkattera

#winning, our rival house, holds @inspiredworlds @jymmysim @c0uP @ahmedbaghdadi @jessnichols @dkeeghan & blow in @hansv_com

Upon arrival we sorted out some early house relationship building over a couple of the most ridiculous shots I’ve ever experienced. This continued on for a few hours right up until Austin’s unfortunate 2am cutoff.

Frustrated at the early end to the night we started asking a few locals where a tourist could get a drink this time of the evening. It was suggested “the gay bars here stay open past 2am”, which then resulted in us asking every third person “where are the gay bars”. In retrospect, we may have been pranked by that dude.

The next morning was a bit dusty, but with @sebm87 waking me up at 11am with promises of vegemite toast I was good to go. We wandered down to the convention center to grab our badges and check out our first of many SXSWi sessions.

Sessions

Having not planned what sessions to check out, I quickly grabbed one of the touchscreen schedule planners scatted around the convention centre and decided upon “Your Meetings Sucks & it’s all your Fault”.

As I spend most of my waking hours in meetings, I thought I might get a bit of value out of something like this. Kevin Hoffman is a user experience director at happy cog, who, instead of rejecting meetings outright, has created process management around how to successfully run meetings to actually achieve outcomes, and avoid spending hours discussing when to set up the next meeting.

A few of my key takeouts from his sessions included:

  • Meetings can’t just happen, they need to be designed. This involves more than just sending out an agenda.
  • Every meeting should have attendees fulfilling three roles:
    • Facilitator: Controls the meeting but does not contribute. Coordinators/managers. Often the person with the greatest understanding of the topic fills this position by default, but their knowledge and ability is better placed in another function within the group. Facilitators guide participatory decision making. <-JC, re-read this again
    • Recorder: Someone to capture the group memory. They are silent and they need to be recording the content publicly so everyone is aware of what have been agreed on.
    • Contributors: Everyone else. Contribute content, be positive not defensive. Be informed of what is being discussed prior to the session.
  • “If you’re not adding something to a meeting you should leave”. This is something I will definitely be applying in my day-to-day role from now on.
  • Create a tool kit, Kevin has sticky notes, sharpies, zip lock bags (for the sticky notes) highlighters, A1 paper, and screen templates on hand for every session. If there’s an opportunity to start wire-framing something on the go you need to minimise the barriers to making it happen.
  • Create a process map for your meetings. Keven provided a great example of what he’s built for happy cog:

…and the rest

The remainder of the day was spent checking out Sessions including “Mobile and Location Based Services” from Marissa Mayer: Google VP of Products, which ended up being a bit of product flog, but nonetheless highlighted some of the more interesting thing they’re doing in the mobile and location based search space at Google at the moment, and Clay Shirky talking about how Social Media is assisting the recent revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Finally, we queue to attend the word premier of Jake Gyllenhaal’s new flick Source Code. I won’t give too much away, but thing Matrix mixed with Groundhog day. I had low expectations, but came away with a half decent pop-corn flick. No celebrity spotting though!

On the way  home we also checked out the Apple iPad 2 pop-up store. I’ll let the photo do the talking here:

Austin has been an absolute breath of fresh air post chilly (both in temperature of the city and temperament of the locals) NYC.

Looking forward to keeping you updated on the rest of our adventures.

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Long Straws is the personal blog of Stephen Colman.

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