Glastonbury for Geeks

25 March 2009

digmis South by South West (SXSW) is quite unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Here are ten things that made it unusual and amazing:

  1. The Parties
    Facebook, Google, Mashable, the list continues. Each trying to outdo the next with bands, breakdancers and DJs. With the exception of Pure Volume, perhaps…where the VIPs were separated from the regulars with chicken wire!
  2. Elevator Pitches
    Three times I left my hotel room and had already pitched Snagsta by the time I reached the lobby – now that’s an elevator pitch!
  3. Feedback
    People were only too happy to talk through your business and make constructive recommendations. Nothing quite like getting great ideas from people smarter than you that have done it all before.
  4. Content
    There was an astounding array of fascinating and relevant topics being presented and discussed on panels. At times there were up to 18 sessions on simultaneously! I only wish I could understand my notes…
  5. Serendipity
    If I learnt one thing it was say hello to EVERYBODY. One of the chaps in our party, Henry Mackintosh, helped out a panelist at the beginning of the conference he randomly met in the queue.  Bumping into her later on in the week, Henry mentioned the new service he’d just launched: twitterjobsearch. Minutes later she’d tweeted in to her 4000 followers. And then one of her followers re-tweeted it to his 30,000 followers.
  6. People
    SXSW is the place to finally meet all the people you’ve only ever ‘followed’, emailed or talked to on the phone. From Joe Shmo through to the Internet superheroes. I got to talk to Robert Scoble and a couple of the others and loved how genuine and approachable they all were. 
  7. Panels
    The debates were current and candid. With panelist challenging each other regularly and plenty of probing questions from the audience. And then there was the UnPanel (#kebab). A bunch of Brits high-jacked a room and set up an impromptu session called ‘Not Another Social Media Panel’. Less probing but more candid. Look at what happened here (though you kind of had to be there…)!
  8. iPhones
    I have never seen so many iPhones. 95% of the attendees had iPhones. Clear evidence that cutting edge mobile is currently only happening in one place.
  9. Twitter
    Despite occasionally having to endure inane micro commentary, I am now convinced of the value of this tool (if used with self-discipline!). It was used to track session topics, to contribute to panel discussions, to find people, to set up meetings, to broadcast party itineraries.
  10. BBQ
    You can’t come to Texas and not talk about BBQ. That and the rooftop bars are part of the quintessential Austin experience.

Oh…did I mention the parties already??

A big thank you to the companies that sponsored us and the people from the Digital Mission that helped organise the event.


Home alone

13 March 2009

home-alone1Phil and Alex have left me alone while they head off to see the world (insert sad face emoticon if you are that way inclined). Well actually they have left me to go show off Snagsta to the world, but it amounts to the same thing. Alex G is alone at the controls…

On the odd occasion that I am left at home alone, I like to do the things that I usually don’t have permission to do – move things around, throw stuff out or secretly store things in the spare room, etc. These rare moments of complete dictatorship invariably lead to punishment at a later stage, but that doesn’t stop me.

What then can I do at Snagsta, while the “cats” are away?

We’ve been talking about colour a fair bit recently, with the existing purple getting mixed reviews since its inception all those months ago. Some people like it, some don’t, some call it pink, some call it mauve. Some guys like it, some girls don’t. There hasn’t been a formal poll, but I think it might be fun to see if I can’t switch it out while nobody is looking.

Any suggestions on what to change it to?

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Austin & Brussels here we come!

5 March 2009


Hide under the table!

Hide under the table!

In addition to giving up several terrible vices too horrible to mention here, one of our key resolutions for 2009 was write regular blog posts again. We haven’t quite managed either yet but, in true Snagsta style, we will persevere.

Since our last post, two rather nice things have happened to Snagsta. First, we were selected by the wonderful people at Digital Mission to accompany them to North America’s biggest Internet trade show: South by South West Interactive or SXSWi for short.

If you’re not familiar with Digital Mission it’s run by Chinwag on behalf of UK Trade & Investment. Its 5 year mission is to explore strange new digital worlds, seek out new life and new civilisations and to boldly go where no man has gone before (or something like that). SXSWi will be the perfect platform for us to shout about Snagsta and hopefully make a few more friends across the pond. A big thank you to the insightful and unbiased selection committee.

Phil leaves to conquer America next Thursday. Please Tweet him @hofmeyr if you’d like to meet him when he’s there. 

Second, we were selected to present Snagsta’s wares at Plugg which also takes place next week. Plugg is a one day conference that takes place in Brussels next Thursday (12th March). Snagsta will be one of twenty companies taking part in the event’s Startup Rally. If you’re planning on being there please send a Tweet to me via @alexandermoore so that we can arrange to meet up.

As has become our tradition, we will end this post with a list. We’ve chosen one that might be of use to someone if they have been unlucky enough to be suffering from the effects of the recession. It was donated to us by the irrepressible Robert Scoble. It offers some great advice to anyone who’s just been laid off and might be looking for a job. Hope it helps spark a few ideas for those in need of some pointers.

What to do if you’re laid off in a recession

By Robert Scoble

1. Volunteer.

Let’s say you are going to be out of work for six months. What could you do with six months of your time? Make sure you come away with it with a great project under your belt. Why not volunteer your time with a charity that could use your skills? Not only will you feel good about yourself, you’ll come away with job experience so you won’t have a hole in your resume (building an IT system for the Red Cross looks damn impressive – saying you were “on the beach” for six months does not). Plus you’ll make great friends with people who are trying to improve the world (they are typically the kinds of friends you should have anyway).

2. Do the basics.

I got my NEC job by sending a resume into a job that I found on Craig’s List. Yes, my blog helped me AFTER I got the interview, but I got the interview just by having a great cover letter and an interesting resume.

3. See if you can keep coming into the office.

This isn’t open to everyone, but at Userland I kept coming into work everyday after the paychecks stopped. That made me feel better, plus it gave me the ability to use phones, stay away from negative situations (do you really want to be around family all day, everyday, who might remind you that you need to find a job?) as well as give you a place to work hard on finding your new job.

4. Start a blog on the field you want to work in.

Want to be a PHP programmer? Start a PHP blog and make sure you put world class stuff there. Link to EVERYONE who has a PHP blog. But that’s only the beginning.

5. Do a video everyday on YouTube that demonstrates something you know.

Loic does a video everyday. If you’re laid off you have absolutely no excuses. Get a cheap Web cam and get over to YouTube or Seesmic.

6. Don’t get lazy.

It might seem dire, but if you work it you WILL find a job. Some of my friends went on vacation, started drinking, or generally just hung out with their families. Those people took a LOT longer to find a job than the friends of mine who approached their time off with these tips.

7. Take a little bit of time to work on family and health.

You probably haven’t been paying enough attention to these two things. This is the time to start some healthy habits. Give up smoking, if you’re doing that. Drink less (the temptation will be to drink more, don’t give in). Get more exercise. Yes, I should take my own advice (I went for a long walk this morning in Davos and had fish last night).

8. Make sure you spend at least 30% of every day trying to find a job.

That means working on your resume. Getting your cover letter finished. Sending out resumes. Searching the web for work. Networking. Etc. At first your time spent on these tasks should be a lot higher, but after weeks of watching the job sites for jobs and having your resume checked over by 10 of your friends you will naturally have more time to spend on other things.

9. Go where the money is.

If you are laid off and you haven’t sent your resume to Matt Mullenweg this morning, why not? People with new funding are the ones who are hiring. You want to work for them, so do what you can to at minimum get an informational interview. Why don’t you interview Matt for your blog? You never know, he just might give you an interview and that might lead to a discussion about how you could fit into his company. Even if it doesn’t, at least you get an interesting interview with someone in the industry who is seeing success. Other employers want to be like Matt, so if you have some insights to his success you might be surprised by how that gets you job interviews.

10. Go to any job networking session you learn about.

All of them were valuable to me, even though they didn’t necessarily bring me a job. Part of it is just feeling like you’re doing everything you can to get back on your feet. It’s an attitude thing. If you have an attitude that you’re going to work at this that will come across and will bring opportunities to you.

11. Don’t feel bad about taking government assistance.

You’ll need it to pay your bills. I took it and it helped me get over that tough period.

12. Always have your suit ready.

Some interviews happen fast “can you be here this afternoon?” The one who is ready will get the interview.

13. Show your friends your resume and cover letter.

Don’t have any friends? Now is the time to make some. Call up some interesting people and ask for an informational interview. This is particularly key if you work at a big company and are getting laid off. I watched people at Microsoft get laid off and the ones who had tons of internal informational interviews got new jobs fast. The key is to meet people everyday and get in front of them. Not to beg for a job, but to do research on the industry you want to work in. You’d be amazed how showing some interest in your industry will get noticed itself.

14. Do things that will get you to be recognized as a world leader in the field you want to be in.

15. Are you a programmer?

Build something and put it up! Share your knowledge on your blog (give tips you’ve learned). Are you a program manager? Those jobs will be tougher to find, but you should demonstrate that you are a great manager of people as well as that you’re expert on the kinds of things you want to do. Demo! Demo! Demo!

16. Go to every business event you can attend.

Can’t afford to get in? Me neither and I have a job! Hang out in the hallways. You never know who you might meet. At minimum you’ll get interesting interviews for your blog. Have your resumes ready.

17. Learn from Loic Le Meur.

How did he get thousands of videos uploaded on Seesmic everyday? He networked. He visited tons of journalists, bloggers, executives. He is a consumate networker (you should watch him work the halls here at the World Economic Forum).

18. Make sure you take advantage of any help your former employer is offering.

Sometimes they have retraining or other programs that might help you land an even better job.

This list is available on Snagsta here.