Saturday brought forth another great day of learning, networking and fun at South by Southwest (SXSW). It started with a social media breakfast that, because of the crowded restaurant and waiting list for seats, forced me to grab three random people I didn’t know to join me at my table. The result was three new contacts in the web world and some great stories.
The best, a combination of Alex Harris from AlexDesigns.com and Marc Nathan, Houston’s social media community dude and IT development director at Houston Technology Center, talking us through a unique Twitter meet-up. Alex was stuck in Houston with no connector flight, he Tweeted that he needed a ride to Austin (which is approximately a 2 Â½ to 3 hour drive). Marc, not knowing Alex from anyone, picked him up and gave him a ride.
Marc and I had breakfast with Louisville native and podcast author celeb J.C. Hutchins and Jeff Sass, both of whom work for Myxer.com. I did a future episode of SME-TV with them and will let them tell the story of their site and platform soon.
Then it was to the convention center and the sessions for some learning.
The “Communities That Work” session presented by Small World Labs was very informative. There were a lot of questions and scenarios I’m sure the crowd wanted to ask or have answered, but it’s a vast topic that is better suited for a day-long working session. Jake McKee, the community mastermind behind Lego’s enthusiasts effort, had a couple of enlightening offerings. The best one was related to employees feeling free to offer honest feedback to the company on blogs or within internal forums. Jake said:
“The question is whether or not the culture allows for that openness.”
He went on to offer up another nugget of brilliance, saying the CEO should spend more time in the comments section of company-related blogs and less time worrying about his or her own. Outstanding.
The presentation also featured Oscar Martinez of NeighborsGo.com, which is the community arm of the Dallas Morning News. I asked if he had examples of Web 2.0 tools that the community is challenged to use with a greater connection to the overall mission of the newspaper or website, following up on my Courier-Journal/Gannett criticism of a few days back. He offered an explanation of a community public information officer in Mesquite, Texas, reporting via the community tools (a blog I assume) that the town’s cleanliness mascot (a lady bug) was stolen. The story made it to the top of the community home pages, then to the front of DallasMorningNews.com and ultimately received coverage from local televisions stations. Turning the users into an extension of the journalism is exactly what I had in mind.
Jen Bouchard of Save the Children also gave some insight into her effort to build an internal online community of the thousands of employees and volunteers for that organization. Her talk led to Jake’s statements about employee openness. I was interested in how much she has to fight those outside the tech bubble who don’t understand technology or get web tools. She admitted she has to spend a lot of time, one-on-one, holding hands and teaching a lot.
Dan Benner of Gindie.com, a community of independent filmmakers, and Patricia Dugan of Beliefnet.com were also on the panel and had good insights as well. I’d recommend anyone hit Patricia up for advice and thinking on forum management and moderation. Benner’s group is smaller and he had some good thoughts on knowing that content is truly king. He said a mistake he made early on was assuming that the user generated content would be enough to drive return visits. He reassessed the approach and found original content mechanisms to interest and engage users.
And a special thank you to Small World Labs, who reached out to me several times in advance of the presentation to ask me to attend, encouraged me to interview their CEO and what-not. I didn’t take them up on the interview but may profile them in the future. The panel was well-done.
The afternoon was spent at Bloghaus, working, networking and talking to friends, old and new. Not much to report there. Except that I got to witness Robert Scoble and Loren Feldman‘s face-to-face meeting in which neither broke out a can of whoop-ass on the other. Apparently their flame wars on Twitter are just in good fun. Oh, and Scoble had a couple seconds for me, Scott Monty and Shashi Bellamkonda.
The evening will feature a lot of parties and a lot more friending and networking. More tomorrow …
Photo by Scott Monty
[tags]SXSW, social media, Jason Falls, Robert Scoble, community building[/tags]