How to interview and SXSWi highlights

Back from my first SXSWi. General impression: A lot of wonderful people there, but way too many people. It was hard to find even the people I already knew, let alone meet new ones, though I did manage both.

I led a core conversation about interviewing, meant to pool our collective wisdom about how to be a good interviewer. It got nice write ups here and here.

I made up an interviewing cheat sheet, which you are welcome to use, reuse, recirculate or ignore as you see fit. Download it as a PDF.

My two favorite panels were Ze Frank’s and Devo’s. I have long admired Ze Frank’s amazing experiments in audience participation, including When Office Supplies Attack and Angrigami, and I expected him to be hilarious, which he was. I was not expecting him to be so insightful and moving. He spoke about how much emotion is out there on the internet, and how much it blows him away when he sees how people take the fun little tools he’s created at his site, like this flower maker, and use them to display and share profound feelings with one another. He also talked about making The Show as an experiment in living at the edge of continuous anxiety about not having anything to present and the ongoing process of learning to have faith and patience in his own creativity.

Devo presented a panel called “Devo, The Internet, and You” which was simultaneously a discussion of how they are seeking audience participation in their next album and a wicked wicked send up of corporate speak approaches to treating online audiences as marketing data.

Here is a link to their (unembeddable?) powerpoint which is more than worth the 1:43 it takes to watch it. Judging from the comments on the YouTube site, its status as parody wasn’t apparent to all, but it was crystal clear if you were there.  The highlight might have been the questions, when the audience slipped right into the same mode and asked lingo-laden queries that were as funny as the presentation (“I am really impressed at how you’ve managed to leverage synergies and I’m just wondering if there are any synergies you haven’t been able to leverage?” “Location seems to be increasingly important in this new millennium and I’m wondering if you are planning to offer location based services”). Mike Monello, of Campfire NYC, who’s a leader in transmedia storytelling (in addition to having been a maker of Blair Witch Project, he also does the transmedia for True Blood among other cutting edge projects) declared the panel “the definition of transmedia storytelling.” It was perfect.

I also enjoyed seeing Peter Sunde from Pirate Bay (and Flattr) skyped in from Sweden (“If I set foot in the United States I’d get sued so hard I’d never be able to leave”) who didn’t really say anything but was exceedingly funny and charming at it.

My biggest disappointments? Daniel Ek of Spotify offered no hope of a US launch anytime soon, and, yeah, that Twitter CEO keynote interview. Suffice to say the interviewer should have been at my session.

My biggest frustration? The panel on music curation. Anya Grundmann who’s in charge of was wonderful, but I was ultimately infuriated by music writer Chris Weingarten who at one point had the insight to say that “it’s not about finding a music blogger who has taste like you, it’s about finding a group of people who have similar taste” but ended up just whining that only the real (i.e. published in Rolling Stone like he is) music critics were capable of real critique and the rest were just wannabe fanboys driving the experts out of business. No sympathy here. And a total misunderstanding of the levels of in-depth critique fans practice every day.

p.s. best perks? Macallan’s ongoing free tastings of their 12 and 15 year scotches and free chair massage. I want that at all events I attend.

Kurt Cobain Converses: Cool or Creepy?

From the Internet Nirvana Fan Club comes exclusive news that Converse will launch a Courtney-sanctioned Kurt Cobain sneaker. This is not part of its forthcoming Dead Alternative Guys Converse Century Icons line:

While the Converse Century campaign is also using images of several other artists, such as Ian Curtis, M.I.A. and Hunter S. Thompson, who they are calling Converse Century Icons, the Cobain is not one of these “icons.”

If there is one thing I have learned about fandom that I didn’t know before starting this blog it’s how rich and serious the world of sneaker fandom is. My posts about the effort to get Nike to make the sneakers from Back to the Future II seem to have the most longevity of them all.

So I get the appeal, and yes, Cobain was totally identified with his Converse shoes.

But am I the only one who so vividly remembers the photograph of the suicide site where all of him that you could see was the bottom of his legs and his Converse sneakers? Part of the reason he’s so identified with those shoes is that he killed himself in them and in that iconic picture those shoes were all that was left.

It just seems a little sick to exploit it with targeted niche marketing for the “punk rock means freedom” demographic. But maybe that demographic doesn’t remember what a punch in the gut it was to first see that photograph.

Update: Quick scan o’ the web shows a lot of moral indignation and outrage from Nirvana fans and other observers. Not sure what the sneaker fan perspectives are.

A Social Network just for Redskins Fans, and iPod Touch Kvetching

So it took a while, but it looks like the big leagues might be catching up to where David Bowie has been for years — giving fans a way to brand themselves as fans with their email addresses.

Perhaps trying to make themselves more relevant, AOL and the Washington Redskins have announced Redskins Connect, located at and powered by AOL. Through this site, Redskins fans can get email @;;;; or, social network profiles, video upload (how is this going to mesh with the NFL’s new restriction on video uploads one wonders?), a photo gallery, video search, chat and a toolbar. All free (one edge over Bowie).

This is a super thing for die-hards, though as with all of these ultra specialized fan social networks, it’s not clear how sustainable all the energy going into creating profiles really is. Still, for the person who strongly identifies with the Redskins, this has got to have serious appeal.

On a totally different topic, I am so disappointed by the iPod Touch. I bought a used 60G iPod a few months ago figuring it would tide me over until the famed full screen model came out and then I would indulge. I woke up yesterday morning ready to whip out that credit card as soon as the announcement was over. Until Jobs got to the part about 16G.


It’s like a bad joke — especially paired with Jobs’s claim that the beauty of the new 160G iPod “classic” (makes me think of failed Coca Cola launches) is that we shouldn’t have to choose which things to put on there and which to omit. Sure the wifi is major cool, but come on, make it fatter and stick a hard drive in there! Guess I’m sticking with what I got. Meanwhile, they’re getting some major bitter backlash from all those Apple fans who bought the iPhone for $599 now that it costs $399 two months later…

Update: According to the BBC, Steve Jobs has issued an apology to early adopters of the iPhone and said they’ll get a $100 rebate. My husband says this is brilliant because so few will take him up on it. I say it’s good organizational crisis management, but isn’t it better not to have a crisis in the first place? Update Update: CNN says it’s a credit toward another Apple purchase. Shame on them.
And in another Update, sports blogger Scott Van Pelt thinks the Redskins social network is “a horrible idea” :

Many of the fans are not that die hard to invest in most of the benefits that this network offers. Buying a jersey, coming to the games, decorating a house or car, sure. Chatting with an email address ending in and downloading photos? I don’t think its that serious.

Sports fans? Your opinion, please?

McFLY 2015 has an official site

I’m a little late in reporting this. Ok, way late, but those of you yearning for the futuristic sneakers worn by Marty McFly in Back To The Future 2 will be pleased to hear that there’s an official website to help you get your wish.

mcfly site

As you may recall, this project previously included an official petition (which has been shut down) and an ad for the petition on YouTube. Now you can ‘preorder’ the size you want in anticipation of its release. A more concrete way to get word to Nike that these are potential real consumers they’re talking about.

Update: I’ve been pointed to the brand new official McFly 2015 Video.

When I first covered this story I naïvely thought I was touching on an obscure little corner of fandom, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from looking at what search terms and referring sites lead people to this one since I wrote about this project, it’s that sneaker fandom is HUGE.

Check out the ISS Forums to see what I mean:

Our users have posted a total of 1639342 articles
We have 73129 registered users

And in related news… Joy Division sneakers: Myth or Reality?

joy div sneakers

Really now, WHITE? What are they thinking?

Community = Brand Success on Second Life?

Greg Verdino has posted an intriguing analysis of FutureLab data on “dwell time” on brand property in Second Life in which he looks at the success of Pontiac and IBM compared to their in-world ‘competitors':

Both put community first, and both have seemingly reaped the benefits in terms of depth of in-world engagement.Rather than simply build out a virtual auto dealership, Pontiac chose to partner with the SL resident community and offer up free land to anyone interested in building out “car culture” in the virtual world. Their efforts have earned them nearly three times the dwell of their nearest competitor, Mercedes-Benz, who has essentially built a vehicle showroom.

IBM has used SL primarily to enable interaction among their own corporate community members (employees, customers, business partners) regardless of geographic and organizational boundaries. They’ve also been testing their ability to engage in-world builders and scripters through their more recently launched IBM Codestation, which serves as a forum where users can access shared resident-created chunks of code. Their dwell measure eclipses that of technology competitors Dell, Sun, Cisco and Intel (I actually couldn’t find Intel in-world) — all of whom seem more focused on using SL as a platform to promote products and services.

The take-away seems pretty clear. If you’re serious about success in the virtual world, you should be thinking about how you can build relationships with — and earn the loyalty of — the community you hope to engage. Focus on the value you can provide in order to entice residents to voluntarily spend time with your brand.

Here is the accompanying FutureLab bar chart:


Of course, the idea that the way to achieve success is to build relationships and foster community gets no debate from me.

Do any readers with more Second Life experience than I have any takes on this?