Heads up, this content is 16 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading.

0711twitter.jpgA new-to-Twitter friend just emailed me asking what she should do about the strangers who are suddenly following her tweets.  And I don’t think she’s the only one who’s experiencing an influx of spotlight attention because of SXSW.

Like any social networking website, people use twitter for different things, so no one suggestion is going to fit everyone. Here are my Personal Twitter Policies:

  • If someone follows me, I will click the link to their profile and see if I recognize them. If I don’t, I will see what I can learn about them in less than two minutes, silently thank them for caring about what I write, and leave it there.
  • If I do recognize them, then I check in on the following things:
    • Have I met them?
    • Am I ready to put energy into nurturing a relationship with them?
    • Do I want to read what they’re tweeting?
  • If they get a “yes” on all three of those, then I’ll follow them. If not, then I have to stop and think about it a little more.
  • If I’m not sure if I recognize them and I can’t figure it out in two minutes, then I usually won’t follow them.

This is all a function of how I use my incoming twitter stream: as a feed for ongoing conversation. There’s a murky grey area downside in my policy: there are real people who watch my twitters and care about what I have to say, and I’m not returning the favor. This makes me wince a lot, but still, for me it’s more important to protect my relationship feed than to look like everyone’s best friend. My policy is less open than some and more open than others. For the most part, it works for me.

But this does bring up another one of my Twitter Policies…

I use my most recent tweets to update my Facebook status, Skype status, and the “Last Splash” which appears at the top of this blog. Because of this, I try to avoid using the popular “@” reply convention unless I can articulate a thought that will stand alone. Otherwise, I’m just as annoying to the outside world as someone talking loudly on a cellphone; displaying only half of a conversation is a disservice to eavesdroppers.

There are lots of ways to use Twitter, and I know a bunch of people who take completely different (and totally legitimate) angles on the “follower thing.” For example:

“I’ll follow anyone who follows me and who is clearly not spamming people. If they take the time to read my content, the least I can do is show them I care about theirs.”

Or, “I’m not trying to pick up stalkers, so when people I didn’t know started following me, I switched my tweets to private.”

Do what works for you.

Heads up, this content is 16 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading.

Unless you’ve been following my twitter feed or partying in Austin, TX, you haven’t heard much from me in the last week. That’s because my laptop died a horrific logic board death in Oakland Airport, just before I boarded my flight to SXSW. Emails and blogging quickly became a thing of the past, and I resigned myself to in-person interactions and text message documentation. Now I’m back online with a cheap desktop PC while the Apple store continues to try to fix my baby, and I’ve got a week’s worth of epiphanies and adventures to blog about. So here’s the abridged version.

What’s SXSW?

SXSW (pronounced “South By Southwest”) is actually three different festivals that happen all at once in Austin every March. Most famous is the Music festival, where every band who’s any band comes to town and plays a show. Then there’s the Film festival, where all the top independent films of the year screen their glories. And there’s also the Interactive festival, which no one except us geeks actually knows about, because Music and Film are far more glamorous. It’s all one big 5-day party of brilliance with exceptional speakers and wild nightlife and the most fun many geeks get to have all year long.

What did I learn?

Here were some of my major “Aha!” moments from the panels and conversations.

From Kathy Sierra on wooing users…

  • A successful website is one that makes a user feel like they are awesome.
  • Adding randomness to a situation increases the chances for serendipity, which increases the chances that people will think an experience was perfect and was meant to be.
  • Since lots of people still think the Internet is a “totally lame waste of time,” a successful website will give its users an easy way to defend their use of that waste of time to friends and family.
  • The iPhone is awesome because its animations replicate the laws of real physics.
  • A successful website will enable people to do something really cool really quickly. Minimize the learning curve for experiencing gratification.
  • There are no dumb answers. Encourage people in your organization to answer questions, and keep encouraging them if they don’t give the right ones. A culture of answers is a culture of support.
  • Jargon is valuable — it’s a rich language that passionate members of a community use to talk with one another efficiently and effectively. Don’t insist on not using jargon in order to make newbies feel more comfortable. Instead, create a space for newbies that is separate from the jargon users.

More brilliance…

  • Parents need to realize that “TV time” and “Internet time” are as different as “TV time” and “reading a book.” Don’t lump it all into “screen time.” (Henry Jenkins)
  • The best thing you can do for your health this year is see a therapist. Instead of forcing yourself to go to the dentist (or eat better, or exercise more, or meditate regularly), get some help on unpacking your unconscious avoidance of it. (Kathryn Myronuk)
  • True anonymity on the web is not a realistic goal. Whatever you do under a pseudonym, you should accept right now that someday it may be attached to your real name. (Sex and Privacy Panel)
  • Marketing is the price you pay for creating mediocre products. (via Tara Hunt)
  • “Social gestures beget social objects which beget social markers.” (Hugh McLeod)
  • You’re only going to execute on 10% of your ideas, so give the other 90% away for free. It shows people that you have them. (Jeremiah Owyang)
  • If you have a startup with a small user base, now is the best time to put energy into answering every question personally and convey that they matter to you. Don’t just put up an FAQ. (Deb Schultz)
  • Don’t treat users like they’re stupid. Explain what your service is going to do for them, not how it works. (Leslie Chicoine)

And epiphanies overheard by others…

  • Drupal is like getting a dump truck full of legos.
  • You can’t control the information that’s out there on the internet about you. But you can curate it.

I’m also honored (no wait, that’s not the right word…) to have witnessed the Zuckerberg-Lacy keynote trainwreck and ensuing analysis. I’ll let the other tech pundits give you their analysis on that one. (Or you can just watch it here.)

The panels were brilliant as usual (especially if you picked them by speakers rather than by titles). But the real focus for me this year was the partying. I was out until 3am every night (except for that last night when I was out until, um, 7am) laughing and dancing and feeling alive and revived among “my people.” This is, arguably, what makes SXSW so special. If all you want to do is talk about technology, there are plenty of opportunities to do so that don’t involve getting on an airplane. But for a whole bunch of geeks to show up in one place equally inconvenient to New York, LA, Chicago, and Silicon Valley and create meaningful experiences with people who do what they do… that’s juice of what matters.

And frankly, I’m pretty sure that when geeks party, the Internet becomes a better place.

Heads up, this content is 16 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading.

Just in time for SXSW, I am really excited to announce that Cerado (the firm I consult with) has launched a handy “Unofficial Pocket Guide” for SXSW. It’s a mobile-friendly widget based on the beta of Cerado Ventana, and it gives you quick access to:

– People (who are here)
– Agenda (of panels and parties)
– Books (that authors will be signing in the book lounge)
– FAQ (‘cuz we all get confused sometimes)

It looks killer on the iPhone, and other devices are reporting sexy UI as well.

For the People tab, we’ve built a self-reporting directory (instead of scraping the registration database for everybody’s information). Adding yourself is like adding a blog comment: enter info, click submit, see it immediately. No email addresses; just your name, photo, and URL.

If you’re here at SXSW and fancy yourself an Early Adopter, go ahead and add yourself to the People listing. Just click to the People tab, and hit the “+” button — that’s it. I’m a big fan of posting your blog or twitter stream URL, but you could also post your Facebook or LinkedIn or company website (or whatever) — however you want your SXSW peeps to keep tabs on you.

This is a clean and classy way to get some exposure and remind people that you’re worth checking out.

The homepage is here: http://sxsw.cerado.com

And you can jump directly to the “Add Yourself” form as well.

Takes two minutes. Tops.

Check it out. Here’s what it looks like:

SXSW Unofficial Pocket Guide - PeopleSXSW Unofficial Pocket Guide - AgendaSXSW Unofficial Pocket Guide - Shop

However, when building this, we also realized that the whole world isn’t mobile. (Yet.) So, it’s also available as a widget that you can put on your blog. You can get that here.

I’m really excited about this project, and it’s already been a lifesaver for me in getting oriented to my week at SXSW. So check it out, see if it’s what you need this week, and grab the free publicity opportunity. People wanna know who you are.

Oh, and if you want to see any features added, just send me your wishlist. :)