There Is No Cat

As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly

Sunday, March 12, 2006

An ass kicking

SXSW kicks ass. Specifically, it's kicking my ass. I had read before I got here that it could be an overwhelming experience, and boy, ain't that the truth. It's Saturday and I'm exhausted, more mentally than physically. If I ever had any doubt that I'm an introvert, the opening party squashed that. Loud, hot, crowded, all the things that make for a pretty lousy time. In that particular situation, I'm just not that good at walking up to random strangers and introducing myself. I can do it on the bus, I can do it in sessions during the conference, and I can do it in smaller groups (it wasn't quite so hard at Breaking Bread with Brad last night, for example), but in this particular atmosphere, it just doesn't work for me. Loud and crowded and me just don't get along. Here's hoping that Sunday and Monday let up on the loudness and the crowdness.

I did meet a few interesting people there, though. I ran into Elaine, and she was talking with a local guy named Paco Link, who works at a local agency, Terra Incognita. (Elaine, I hope I didn't take over the conversation; I'm sorry if I did.) Paco was an interesting guy. His agency works with SXSW pro bono, and in return, they get gratis Gold passes that give him access to the Interactive, Film, and Music threads of SXSW. He also serves as a screener for documentaries in the Film festival; documentaries have long been a passion of mine, so we had a very interesting conversation about that. I also had a brief conversation with Jeremy Keith, author of DOM Scripting, a book I found really turned my head around about Javascript. When I mentioned my name and site, he remembered having an e-mail exchange with me a few years ago, and seeing this site and the Einstein quote in particular. I didn't even remember that e-mail. Go figure. I didn't get a chance to tell him and his wife Jessica that I appreciated their blogging the hurricane that hit St. Augustine when they were visiting last year. I remember paying close attention to both of their sites at the time, since my parents live in St. Augustine now. On the bus on the way back to downtown, I met an interesting guy named Trey Piepmeier, a solo practitioner in Tennessee who operates under the excellent name Synthetic Rabbit. He's called Trey because he's a "third", just like Bill Gates (whose family calls him Trey), thereby neatly sidestepping the annoying problem of always having to ask anyone who telephones and asks for so-and-so which so-and-so they want (not to mention the problem of not being able to forward mail when one of the so-and-sos moves. Yeah, I know a little something about that from personal experience...)

After that, though, I was ready to call it a night. I passed on the later nighttime activity, something about digital art and electronic music. Could have been fun, but after that party, I was just too frazzled to think about it. I walked down 6th Street and bought Laura a little present to bring home. (No, honey, I'm not going to tell you what it is; you'll have to wait until I get home.)

The sessions during the day were pretty good on the whole. I took notes, but they're not really coherent at this point, so I'm going to hold off on posting them until I can massage them into text I feel good about writing. Andy Budd and Andy Clarke had an interesting session about Web Designers as Superheroes that used a very clever conceit to make some interesting points. I spoke with Andy Budd for a while after the session. One of the points he made during the questions afterward was about how his greatest victory was that now people listen to him when he talks about the importance of web standards and what the best solution for their particular situation would be and such, and that it had been a long, hard slog to get to that point. My experience in that particular endeavor has been rough. I've found that over time, I can get my clients to trust me and accept my suggestions in a way that they don't when I first start working with them. Unfortunately for me, the people I've managed to pull this trick off with have then been laid off, leaving me to start more or less from scratch (and giving the lesson that if you want to keep your job, it's probably best to not pay me any attention). And some people aren't as succeptible to my charms as others. So I asked Andy about what it had taken to get to the point where his clientele is to some extent self-selecting; they choose him and clear:left, the consultancy partnership he has with Jeremy Keith and Richard Rutter, because of their commitment to standards. I don't think we came up with a clear path there; Andy admitted that luck was a significant component. And there's the fact that he's a consultant while I'm an internal captive developer (familiarity breeding contempt and all). But I think it's also that he's just wicked clever and comes up with neat hacks and lets the world know about them. I think a lack of self-confidence has kept me from writing about some of the things I've done. I think I may try to rectify that. When I get back from SXSW, I think I'm going to write up how I added a little something to the standard AJAX stuff for the NASWA site to give users the ability to turn it off (and keep it off) if they find the information not accessible.

Anyway, the whole thing is overwhelming. I'm doing my best to keep up. But at a certain point tonight, I just felt like I needed to pull the plug. I think tomorrow night, I'm probably going to go to the Fray Cafe, a live instantiation of the storytelling site I wrote about a few weeks ago. I suspect that given that the stories are the draw, it'll be a quieter and more enjoyable experience.

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Posted at 1:14 AM

Comments

Note: I’m tired of clearing the spam from my comments, so comments are no longer accepted.

re: Paco -- just a little. ;) but as noted, I was at the edge of my own social energy too.

Posted by Elaine at 10:13 AM, March 12, 2006 [Link]

If the 3rd is "Trey" then consider your new name to be "Quadra" -- or maybe it's too late for that.

Posted by Mom at 1:51 PM, March 12, 2006 [Link]

But not "Testa Quadra"... that's Italian for "blockhead"!

Posted by KA2NWS at 9:21 PM, March 12, 2006 [Link]

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What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

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