Monday, March 30, 2009

Big, huge even, but with a healthy side of practical

Austin makes great ribs. Huge ribs. Generally speaking the ones that come on paper plates like Sam's BBQ or styrofoam like Ironworks are the best, and the simple addition of a slab of white bread to lap up the sauce is pretty much all the trimmings you need. In uncertain times, while discussing uncertain things, that is a comforting thought. And it just may be the last vestige of great and huge.

SXSW was great. SXSW was huge. But you had to be there.

The technorati and their entourages partied late into the wee hours every night, never failing to make their morning sessions or open the trade show floor. While there was not a lot of unbridled optimism on the future of ad-driven models for UGC, there was a lot of practical thinking around "free-mium" models and a healthy dose of "we'll have to see what happens" that indicated to me that the practical and pragmatic will survive. Inflated valuation, especially the kind that grows between the ears, is losing its soapbox in a world of free technology and land of too many options. Sure the big brands were there, but with the exception of the obvious few stalwarts of desktop domination, the showboating and glam has given way to a more practical approach of "lets do business" and "together we are stronger".

Highlights for me were:
  • tweetup with Guy Kawasaki, about ten of us hanging out on the tradeshow floor
  • Microsoft BizSpark - some brilliant ideas (we were the honorable mention in video)
  • Chris Anderson being grilled on why his book wasn't free
  • blogger lounge (sparks flying as the grinding wheel sharpened the wit and pens)
  • a session on crowd-sourced recommendation engines with the bookmarking labcoats
  • meeting about 200 Twitter friends in in person
So many great chefs in the kitchen, well refined recipes for success, and the knowledge that being successful going forward is going to be all about great products, great experiences and value creation. Sure there are still a few "YouTube killers" floating around in the minds of serial entrepreneurs, there always will be, but the technologies that seem poised for profitability and persistence are the ones lead by practical thinkers that are focused on well-cooked, good old-fashioned "how this helps you-ness" and rubbed down with the unmistakable flavor of reality.

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