Dickwolves, Free Speech & Inclusiveness

The dirty little secret that they never realized is that free speech and making people feel welcome are both perfectly noble ideals that are in conflict with one another and if you choose to side with the former in every possible circumstance, even if it means antagonizing rape victims, even if it means alienating women, even if it means going against your own stated goals, then you’re not a martyr for free speech. You’re just an asshole.

“faceless007on the NeoGAF message boards

And that cuts to the heart of the “Dickwolf” situation. I’ve read Penny Arcade for a couple of years now, and have enjoyed it for the most part. I’ve praised the creators of that strip for PAX, the conference that they’ve built, specifically because it was so inclusive and so different from the norms of video game and tech industry behavior. Sadly now, I can support neither in good conscience. There is no room in my world for a view that rape jokes are acceptable. Sure, you have the right to say it, and if you have a platform, you can use it to make those jokes. But I’m sure as hell not going to applaud you for it.

Frankly, the horror that rape jokes play upon is magnified when they come from a source that women thought was not only safe, but a beacon of light in a community that is all too often dark and harsh. Mike Krahulik should have been better than this. We all should be better than this.

Thanks to my friend David for pointing out the post quoted above.

Twitter's Hidden Benefit

Twitter makes it easy for me to keep up with my dear friends here in town and those flung about the globe. I can stay on top of ever-moving trends, learning about them in minutes if not seconds. Twitter connects me when I’m ready to be connected and allows me to reach out when I feel the need. Those capabilities alone makes it an invaluable part of my day, but there’s an unsung benefit to embracing Twitter: memory improvement. Specifically improving my ability to remember people I’ve met.

In my day-to-day life, I’m involved in projects and groups of different sizes and to different degrees. I do my damnedest to remember names, faces and details about the people I meet, but that’s not an easy task by any stretch. Refresh Austin alone has over 400 members and I’ve met a sizable portion of ’em. Add the other amazing colleagues and friends I’ve met through events like SXSW Interactive and the Geek Austin parties and it quickly becomes overwhelming to remember, and more importantly quickly recall a name when I bump into someone that I’ve met once or twice.

Twitter changed that with a constant stream of updates.

Each tweet contains a face, a name and something that was of at least slight interest to that person. Those components reinforce the neural pathways associated with each person in my cranium, making it easier to remember them later. I may have to take one more mental hop to unite the real world face and name for those people who adopt an avatar and/or a nickname within Twitter, but that’s still a lot more than I had five years ago.

Twitter reinforces my real-world connections with those relationships that are the most tenuous as a byproduct of my having fun using it.

Now that is cool.

Looking for me on Twitter? I’m @BaldMan.

Creative Bridges, Coworking & Communities

This started as a quick comment on Alex Hillman’s post Creative Agency, which quickly grew so long that I realized that I had begun writing a post of my own, so I’ve shifted it to my site so I don’t hijack Alex’s discussion (plus I don’t post often enough).

Please read Alex’s post prior to reading this one.

So, Alex’s ideas set my mind-gears a’spinnin’. He covers several aspects of building a community that is beneficial to its members but also to its clients, uniting several concepts that drive me personally, and I believe drive communities around the globe.

A couple of coworking initiatives (LaunchPad, Conjunctured) are growing here in Central Texas, which I think will mesh well with our various Web and creative groups like Refresh Austin, which in turn play a large part in sharing knowledge and connecting members of the professional creative and Web communities. That said, we’re a disparate community, which can be both good (an abundance of creativity and different perceptions and solutions of challenges) and bad (harder to spread the word and unify), and often times the individuals, whether they work for themselves or sit amongst hundreds in large enterprises aren’t able to rely on each other to augment their strengths.

Some love design, others front-end development, or back-end coding. Some dig deep into the perfect turn of phrase, while others concentrate on the most effective way to monetize a product or service. Some of us like to translate between the various cultures. We’re different, which is very good. But we could do more to help each other.

Alex highlights some of the most glaring gaps amongst our profession:

  • Creatives who don’t take responsibility for “leading the client just as much as we are leading the project and the result that the end user experiences”
  • Independent creatives who may not have the business background, the time or the personality to look out for themselves on the business front

These are large gaps, but they are addressable by the right communities, some of which exist, others of which we need to being forming.


So, we need to connect these communities:

  • Independents and corporate designers/developers – it’s amazing how different these experiences can be, and both groups will benefit from the sharing of knowledge
  • Experienced and new professionals – connect the energy, vigor and will-not-stop drive with experience and knowledge (business, and yes some political). We have to tap into the excited professionals – no cynicism
  • Business professionals and creative professionals – business folks would love to tap into the fountain of ideas that make up a creative world and the designers and developers will gain valuable skills from their counterparts making it much easier to navigate the world of contracts, time lines and expectations
  • Open source developers/communities and businesses – As Alex notes, “being an open source software developer does not, and should not, condemn ones self to a life of poverty”, which follows up on Whurley’s Opensville post.

Chief among my questions to the community is to learn what are the first steps we should take to move forward building this new creative agency platform and the other pieces required to move our communities forward? CitizenAgency and Indy Hall have an edge as established, physical spaces with strong communities, but I think Austin is an ideal setting for this as well and could quickly contribute.

So where to?

Party of One or a Movement?

Movements, from my experience, wouldn’t happen without a whole lot of people moving them forward. If there is only one person responsible, it’s not a movement, it’s a party for one.

Tara Hunt

Tara Hunt hits the nail on the ahead yet again, with her excellent post Heroes Don’t Work Alone. If you aren’t familiar with Tara, you should be as her writing, speaking and day-to-day efforts have a very large impact on the underpinnings of our online social networks, often bridging these networks with offline communities and brands. Her work helping to set up co-working as a viable alternative to large offices, is benefiting countless entrepreneurs and her efforts to boost the presence and influence of women in technology circles is laying the important groundwork needed to ensure we continue our exponential growth in technology and science.

Heroes Don’t Work Alone provides a concise, readable and important view into the shape of our community and the direction we need to move. We all have roles to play, but they aren’t necessarily the same, and in fact they should be different so we can compliment each other’s strengths and move forward together.

The lines aren’t distinctly cut, and in fact they may well vary per project or passion, but recognizing that we need Creators, Catalysts and Champions is the first step towards greatness, whether you are working in a large organization, or forming a group like Refresh Austin.

Turn Out the Lights…

While South by Southwest 2008 continues to rock Austin, the mass influx of geeks have made their way back to their domiciles in cities near and far. The Interactive conference is over, but we made our mark on the city, doubt you not: Tex-Mex and Barbecue were eaten in vast quantities, liquor, beer and wine were ingested in copious quantities and many a breakfast was consumed at the crack of noon.

Yet again, I met some outstanding people and count myself lucky to have participated in amazing conversations.

Our community is vibrant and strong because we have held onto the expectations that we have a world to improve, and that the changes we need to make require the concentrated effort of a diverse and passionate team.

While so many technologies exist to make it easy for us to work together from disparate locations and time zones, South by Southwest 2008 demonstrated yet again that physical presence conjoined with social interaction forms mighty bonds, reenergizes the community and breeds new ideas. I can’t wait to see the projects that launch in the coming months, nor can I wait to interact with and learn from the friends I made at the conference this year as I have with those I met in years past.

Thanks to everyone who came to Austin this year and thanks most especially to those who took the time to strike up a conversation with friends-to-be.

Oh, and yes, my voice is coming back, though I rather like the deeper, Tom Waits-like guttural undertones it picked up in the last few days. It makes me sound ten times cooler than I really am.

Time for South-By

My badge photo for SXSW 2008 South by Southwest officially starts tomorrow, though some of us are kicking things off a bit early, so I wanted to post a quick note for anyone who may be attending. South-By is the king of Web conferences, but the best part for me is meeting so many great people and the amazing conversations the occur between panels and during the parties.

I’ve posted my badge photo so you’ll know what I look like – if you see me at the conference, say hi. For that matter, make sure you start conversations with total strangers, especially if they’re one of your heroes on the Net. Everyone is approachable, and unbelievably friendly.

If you’re in town tonight (Thursday), c’mon by the Gingerman, where a few of us will be raising pints in anticipation.

Ignorance & Confidence

Kruger and Dunning noted a number of previous studies which tend to suggest that in skills as diverse as reading comprehension, operating a motor vehicle, and playing chess or tennis, “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge” (as Charles Darwin put it). They hypothesized that with a typical skill which humans may possess in greater or lesser degree,

  1. Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill.
  2. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others.
  3. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.
  4. If they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill.

Dunning-Kruger effect – Wikipedia

This explains a lot.

Hat tip to Tim Walker for mentioning the effect.

The Urban Cup Holder

Urban Cup Holder, image taken from swissmiss.typepad.comThe Urban Cup Holder by Up to You is an amazing idea that transforms your environment on the go. In a large metropolis, it could shift the usual travel patterns, hopefully slowing life down by encouraging people to use the space around them and communicate. Or, as one commenter noted, it could be a nice way to extend the footprint of a cafe, something that could prove important to smokers as more and more cities enact non-smoking ordinances.

I think it will get the most usage (at least here in Austin), as a beer holder. Whether you need a spot for your brew when you’re on a party barge, or on the patio at one of your favorite night spots, the Urban Cup Holder would be pretty damned useful. The built-in hook would be handy for jackets or grocery bags, though I’m not sure how much weight it could hold.

I can’t find a product page, nor any photos beyond the one I snagged from swissmiss, so I have no idea if this is anything more than a concept. I’m going to contact Up to You in order to learn more, as I’d love to see these in use.

Via swissmiss (where I snagged the photo), via Ben Hammersley

Se the comments for an update.

Please Vote for My Panel Submission at SXSWi 2008

There are just under 700 panels submitted for the 2008 schedule of South by Southwest Interactive. One of them happens to be mine. If you know me, or follow this site on a regular basis, then you are aware how involved I am with Refresh Austin, and the passion with which I participate in its happenings. My latest series of articles (Parts One & Two) speak to the topic I submitted – how to harness the power of online social networks to create, expand and maintain groups in the physical world, and how to use the physical world to improve upon your social networks.

I think this is an important topic, and I would really love the opportunity to spread what I’ve learned and share ideas with others in a panel as well as at the social events that make up SXSWi. If you have a couple of minutes, please rate my panel. You will likely need to sign up for the Panel Picker, even if you’ve attended in years past, but it’s a very quick process.

My Panel: Meat-space: A Plugin for Social Software


Semi-Professionals Vs. Professionals

PPK has written Getting rid of the semi-professionals, another thoughtful post about our industry that is a must-read for any Web Development professional. If, after reading the piece you are a bit angry, take a minute to think about why – are you pissed because you feel he is being unfair to standards-activists or because his frustrations match yours?

Serious professionals, as well as those web developers aspiring to become true professionals, will start to pay less and less attention to blog comments, mailing list and forums, because these public spaces of the web standards movement are infested by semi-professionals. Professionals do pay attention to serious blog postings or articles, but writing those is outside the semi-professionals’ mental horizon.

For the record, I’m in 100% agreement with him, having grown tired of the repeated arguments with extreme standardistas.

Say Hi at South-By!

As South by Southwest Interactive is right around the corner, I want to let people know that I’m attending and would love to meet and hang out with any and all of you who are going too. It’s a great event with a ton of interesting panels and keynotes, but the most important part (for me at least) is the people you meet and talk to throughout the days and nights. Last year I met some really cool people and I look forward to doing so again.

If you’re coming and you’d like to hang out at the conference or any of the after-parties, lemme know by replying to this entry, or tapping my shoulder during the events. There is no reason to wander SXSWi alone! Start conversations with strangers, and if that isn’t your style, look for me and say hi (you’re reading this post, so we’ve now me, right? right). There’s a picture of me at the bottom of this entry so you’ll recognize me.

I’m local to Austin and am gathering some other local Web folk as well, so I hope to have a nice size group together. For those who aren’t technical, don’t worry, some of the best conversations tend to focus on broader topics, and I know many of us welcome a chance to learn about areas beyond dev and design. Cross-pollination is good.

Photo of Alex

Wow, that’s a large photo… Anyway, I may or may not be wearing the glasses, but my head should remain shiny.

So come say hi. It doesn’t matter if I’m talking to other people, join in!

Where I’ll be

Events I plan to attend, but subject to last minute distractions and possible double-booking (tell me if I’m missing something good!).

Upcoming.org Events

More places to find me at SXSWi »

I’ll try to publish the schedule of panels I plan to attend when I have a chance.

SXSW Photo

Alex JonesFor those folks headed to SXSW Interactive who would like to meet up, here’s a pic of me so you’ll know what I look like. Feel free to come up and introduce yourself. There’s no reason to wander around the conference by yourself!

Quick Note: It appears that I just barely missed the deadline to put this on my badge, so the photos won’t match.