Picking Southby apart | August 24, 2007

I’ve been going to SXSW for the last couple of years, and have been lucky enough to speak at each one. I enjoy speaking at Southby because I have the freedom to choose my own topic and present to a room full of my peers. However I’m more nervous about Southby than any other conference, largely due to the calibre of the audience. With people like Veen and Zeldman in the audience, you need to up your game.

I tend to start planning my talk a couple of months in advance; working out the structure, designing the slides, and finally practising my delivery. So I’m always a little dismayed when I see smart, experienced speakers phone their presentations in. With a lot of people you can tell that the only reason they’re on a panel is to get a free ticket and add Southby to their list of speaking engagements. I’m also amazed at the childish bravado some speakers display, bragging about how little preparation they have done or the fact that they were up to 4am the night before their talk, finishing their slides. This isn’t high school folks.

So I’ve decided not to speak at this year’s event. Instead I’m going to enjoy being an attendee and not worry about staying up late because I’ve got a session tomorrow. Instead, I’m going to be spending a lot more time chatting to people in the hallways, and drinking in the bars and coffee shops of Austin. Bars mostly.

For the last couple of years I’ve been guilty of picking sessions based on the profile of the speaker rather than the content of the talk, and in most cases I’ve been disappointed. When I’ve been listening to an A-list bloggers in one room, I should have been listening to the wild card in the other. There is more risk involved in seeing somebody you don’t know, but the rewards can be much greater.

SXSW have just released their panel picker, and with 689 possible sessions, the choice is daunting. It would be easy to vote for your favourite speaker, but this is a bit of a copout. Instead, I urge you to pick the panels that sound the most interesting, and forgo the cult of personality.

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BarCamp Brighton | August 7, 2007

If you couldn’t get tickets for dConstruct, or if you’re planning to stick around Brighton, you may be interested in the BarCamp we’re running that weekend.

For the uninitiated, BarCamps are self organised unconferences where everybody gets a chance to present a session or chair a discussion. This may sound daunting, but everybody’s in the same boat and you’ll be presenting to a small group of people who are really interested in what you’ve got to say. So if you’re really passionate about a particular topic, or fancy yourself as a bit of a speaker, BarCamp could be the perfect opportunity for you.

BarCamp isn’t just a web design event, so you can talk about anything remotely relating to geek culture. At previous events people have spoken about everything from hardware hacking to improvisational comedy, from astronomy to owl noises. As long as it’s interesting and you don’t just pimp your own kool-aid, you should be good.

Registration for BarCamp opens on Wednesday 8th August at 11am and tickets are going to fly off the shelves. Because numbers are limited, please only register if you’re happy to do a talk and plan to stay for both days. Otherwise you’ll be preventing somebody else from attending, which isn’t cool. Oh, and remember that it’s the dConstruct party the night before, so if you’re planing on cultivating a serious hang-over, you may want to let somebody else have your place.

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