SXSW Interactive's Special Sauce: Community

With the opening of the SXSW Panel Picker to new presentation proposals, preparations are actively underway for the 2014 edition of SXSW Interactive.

SXSW is the little conference that grew and grew to be a giant festival of all that is geeky good. Why has it grown far beyond other conferences of its sort?

DSC00018One explanation may be found in the sense of community that has propelled SXSW Interactive from its earliest days. In my view, SXSWi is a conference of, by, and for the attendees.

Hugh Forrest, the Director of SXSW Interactive, can be seen as the embodiment of this ethos. In fact, he actively eschews his actual title of Director, saying that he prefers to think of himself as SXSWi’s Community Manager.  In a recent interview for the Inside PR podcast, Forrest told Martin Waxman, “Community Manager is what most of my work is, managing this community, or trying to understand this community, trying to communicate with this community, trying to absorb all they great ideas they have. That community manager concept applies to so much I do.”

And Forrest gives full credit for the success of SXSWi to the community of participants. “I have been completely amazed at how much Interactive has grown in the past ten years and, particularly, in the past five years. When we first started this thing, it was a struggle to get people in the door. It was a struggle to figure out what we were doing and what our market was and I could never imagine that it would grow as much as it has grown. … I would love to say that it  was my vision that propelled that growth. But, it’s really this community that’s pulled us forward as opposed to us trying to push them in one direction. The better we’ve become at listening to this community, engaging with this community, understanding what this community wants, polling the best ideas of the community, the more the event has grown. The more we have been able to let them pull us forward,  the better this event has become.”

Forrest has a well thought-through approach to the SXSWi community, to which he attaches the PEACE acronym:

P: “Patience over profits.” Things take a  while. Be prepared for it.

E: “Early buzz is good buzz.” The panel picker and community voting on presentations in July and August build anticipation of the event nine months ahead of the actual March festival dates.

A: “Acknowledge your mistakes and failures.” If you are doing something innovative, you will make mistakes. When you acknowledge mistakes, the community can be very forgiving.

C: “Customer service leads to customer advocates.” Word of mouth endorsements are still the best kind of publicity there is. The line between love and hate is a thin one. Acknowledge, respond to and help the critics. They may change their minds and become supporters.

E: “Encourage massive creativity.”  Forrester does not see SXSWi as a technology event. “We are an event about creativity.” And he tries to be open to the ideas of the community that push the programming forward.

Listen to Hugh Forrest explain his perspective on the success of SXSWi using the player below. And stick around for the second half of the podcast to hear Martin Waxman, Gini Dietrich’s and my take on Forrest’s approach and building community.

Laurier LaPierre, legendary Canadian broadcaster, has left us

Laurier LaPierreSad news today: Laurier LaPierre, Canadian broadcast icon and former Canadian Senator, has passed away.

I met Laurier when we worked together on Sheila Copps‘ unsuccessful campaign for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. Laurier may have been fighting for a lost cause, but he did it with enthusiasm, generosity and the highest principles.

It was an honour to have known him. And a true delight to have spent time with him.


For a perspective on Laurier LaPierre’s contribution to journalism, read Cecil Rossner’s Grilling the Guest – Laurier LaPierre and the Host Seat Interview on the Canadian Journalism Project blog.

Third Tuesday participants rave about Jeff Jarvis' Public Parts

Jeff Jarvis launched his new book, Public Parts, in Canada last week at Third Tuesday Toronto #3TYYZ and Third Tuesday Ottawa #3TYOW. Judging from the participant reviews on the third Tuesday websites, Jeff presentation was one of the most popular and well-received presentations in six seasons of third Tuesday.

What people said

Stephen Da Cambra: really enjoyed Jeff’s presentation. It appealed to me directly because of my own struggles with giving up my privacy on the web. Even high-profile guests can ramble on a bit – but Jeff was on point throughout, with enough short divergence to keep it interesting.

Rick Weiss: Jeff Jarvis was great. He’s an engaging speaker and presented a lot of food for thought around privacy in the digital age.

Aggie Fortier: The speaker was very engaging with interesting examples to support his position. More importantly, Jarvis opened the door to discussion on the implications of public versus private. He has raised the bar for future speakers who follow.

Martin Waxman: Jeff Jarvis speaks the way he writes and is entertaining, provocative and insightful. Really enjoyed the talk; looking forward to reading the book.

Dave Fleet: Fascinating subject and a phenomenal speaker. One of the best presentations I’ve been to in a while.

Jim Courtney: Really excellent introduction to and perspective on privacy issues. Loved the stories and historical perspective.

Nigel Newton: Jeff Jarvis is an evangelist for societal change enabled by the net. His generosity of spirit and his belief that we, the users of the net, are capable of respecting the ethics of privacy and public sharing is persuasive. If fear of technology is the primary emotion holding back the natural evolution of the net and its influence on society, then Jeff’s well-crafted perspectives will be a source of courage for the faint-hearted.

Eden Spodek: Jeff Jarvis is a fantastic speaker and I would attend a Third Tuesday anytime he’s invited here – even if he’s not launching a new book. He brings the online privacy discussion to a whole new level and I enjoyed his insights on cultural differences and privacy. I can’t wait to devour Public Parts.

Zach Klein: Great session. Super smart dude.

Mark Blevis: Jeff is an engaging and animated speaker. I really enjoyed this event. It was of high caliber. I could have happily listened for another two hours.

Alfred Coates: I really enjoyed how Mr. Jarvis’s message of openness and sharing felt like a mix of opportunity and challenge to those in attendance. Mr. Jarvis speaks with passion and conviction and a healthy dose of humor. I will be reading public parts this weekend and working my way through Buzzmachine in the foreseeable future.

Karen Runtz: While many speakers may be entertaining at the time, what they say won’t stick with you. That’s not the case with Jeff Jarvis. I have his book for reinforcement! No, seriously, I did find his presentation memorable. It brought me in mind of the excitement I felt at a conference some 15 to 20 years ago hearing and Ithaca U prof talk about the changing nature of communications. She was encouraging us to think of our “products” as workable clay, instead of finished polished pieces sent on their way. That resonated with me, just as Jeff’s words about the Internet did last night.

Read all the reviews

That’s just a selection of the rave reviews for Jeff Jarvis’s Public Parts presentation at third Tuesday. If you want to read the full set of reviews, you can find them at the Third Tuesday Ottawa and Third Tuesday Toronto event sites.

We are hoping that Jeff will be able to come back to Canada for third Tuesday Calgary and third Tuesday Vancouver in either January or February. And if you’re in another city and are looking for a great speaker with thought-provoking content, Jeff Jarvis won’t disappoint.

What others thought

Melanie Coulson, the online editor at the Ottawa Citizen blogged her impressions of Jeff’s presentation.

Don Butler of the Ottawa Citizen also interviewed Jeff for an article which appeared in Saturday’s edition of the newspaper.

Were you there?

If you were at the event and wrote about it, please leave a comment and post the link to your coverage.







Content Rules with C.C. Chapman at Third Tuesday

Here’s some news that I hope you’ll like: C.C. Chapman, co-author with Ann Handley, of Content Rules, is making a cross country tour of Third Tuesdays in January. C.C. will be at Third Tuesday Montreal on January 17, Third Tuesday Toronto on January 18, Third Tuesday Calgary on January 19 and Third Tuesday Vancouver on January 20.

What’s Content Rules all about? In C.C.’s words:

Content Rules: How to Create the Right Kind of Stuff That Engages (Not Bores) Your Customers

Your brand is a publisher now. That’s a frightening notion, perhaps, but it’s also a tremendous opportunity. Blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other online platforms are giving organizations like yours an unprecedented opportunity to engage directly with your customers. So instead of creating awareness about your company or your brand solely the old-school way (through annoying people with advertising, or bugging them with direct mail, or interrupting them with whatever), you now have a rich and awesome alternative.

Now, thanks to the advent of the Internet and the rise of Web-based tools and technologies, you can create the kind

of web content, blog posts, videos, webinars, and web sites that will attract customers to you, rather than you chasing after them. What’s more, you can entice your customers to share those stories with each other, all across the web.

Produce good stuff, and your customers will come to you. Produce great stuff, and your customers will share your story for you: Content is king! Content rules!

Read the book. Meet the author

And here’s some more good news. When I told the folks at Kobo that we’d be having C.C. as our first speaker of the New Year, they made a point of ensuring that we can buy Content Rules as an ebook from Kobo. I love Kobo because, unlike Amazon, the books are available in the open ePub format and I can read them in the reader of my choice. So, if you’re planning to attend, hop over to Kobo and buy Content Rules as an eBook. Or, if you still love the feel of bound paper, you can order a physical of Content Rules from Chapters. Either way, reading the book before you meet C.C. will add to your experience.

Thank you to our Sponsors

Finally, as always, I want to thank the Third Tuesday sponsors – CNW Group, Rogers Communications, Radian6 and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. Their sponsorship for Third Tuesday makes it possible for us to bring great speakers like C.C. not only to Toronto, but to Third Tuesdays across the country. Thank you CNW, Rogers, Radian6 and Fairmont for helping us to build a vibrant community of social media practitioners.

The Moustache growing is over, but the giving goes on

My moustache is about to disappear for another eleven months. After 30 days, this is what I produced on my face this year. As soon as I get back to Ottawa tonight, the moustache will come off and my family will rejoice.

But you know that the moustache isn’t really the objective. In fact, it’s simply a way to point to two very worthy causes: Movember and Mustaches for Kids. Even though my moustache growing is done for another year, you still can give to these two worthy causes.

Want to make a contribution?

Click over either to my Movember page to contribute to fight prostate cancer or Mustaches for Kids to make a sick child’s wish come true. Either way, you’ll help make the world a little bit better.

Meet Terry Fallis on the eve of the Canada Reads Short List

Next week, we’re holding an event in Ottawa to celebrate the journey of Terry Fallis from “guy like me” to celebrated author.

It’s a remarkable story. An aspiring author writes a comic novel, The Best Laid Plans, and then seeks a publisher. The response: rejection after rejection. But he doesn’t give up. He decides to self-publish his novel. So far, this is a familiar story. But this one has a twist.

This novelist is Terry Fallis. The time is 2007, the early days of social media. And Terry’s an early adopter of social media, with a podcast, a blog and 20 years experience in communications. And he decides to bring his two passions – communications and writing – to promote his book.

He decides to create a podcast in which he will read a chapter of the novel each week. He creates a blog to host the podcast and he makes sure it’s available on iTunes.

The Best Laid Plans

Then the power of social media kicks in. Terry’s novel finds an audience. They talk to him and he talks back. They celebrate what he’s doing with his podcasting his novel. And it helps that his novel, the best laid plans, is a great read.

Others notice what’s going on. They read his novel and they think it’s good. And one morning Terry wakes up and discovers he’s been nominated for the Leacock Medal recognizing the best Canadian humorous novel of the year. A couple months later it gets even better: Terry wins the Leacock medal.The Best Laid plans is recognized as Canada’s top humorous novel of 2008.

Success builds on success. Having opened the door through social media, the critical acclaim and recognition of the Leacock medal leads to traditional success. He is taken on by one of Canada’s most highly regarded literary agents, Beverly Slopen, and she lands a traditional publishing deal for Terry with McClelland & Stewart.

Terry is having the time of his life doing what he loves to do. He has written a second novel, The High Road. And it may be better than his first.

But The Best Laid Plans isn’t finished with Terry yet….

Every year, CBC stages Canada Reads, an annual literature competition between books chosen by Canadian celebrities. This year, they’re doing something special. They’re asking Canadians to help select the Essential Novels of the decade. And guess what? The Best Laid Plans was nominated by Canadians to be on the list of the Top 40 essential novels of the decade. Then, through an online vote, it was selected as one of the TOP TEN essential novels. Now, we’re waiting for November 24, the day that the TOP FIVE essential novels of the decade are announced.

An invitation to attend

On November 23, the evening before that short list is announced, Terry will be coming to Ottawa to celebrate Canadian publishing and to talk about how an unknown author can make an impact in the era of social media.

You can meet Terry and you can be part of this event. if you’d like to attend and meet Terry, register online at the Third Tuesday Ottawa website. Come join us to celebrate Canadian publishing, creativity, and the power of social media.

Thanks to our sponsors

Okay, I’ll be honest. Thornley Fallis is throwing this party for our co-founder and friend, Terry Fallis. But we also wanted to reach out to the Third Tuesday social media community, a group that Terry co-founded in 2006. Third Tuesday is important to Terry and we want to share this celebration with you. And we wouldn’t have been able to sustain this community without the support of our sponsors: CNW Group, Radian6, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, and Rogers Communications. Thank you for helping us build and sustain our social media community, not just in Ottawa, but in cities like Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver as well.

What I want from Search: Content that's meaningful to me

GoogleAn assertion by Ravit Lichtenburg in a post on ReadWriteWeb caught my eye. “The issue Google solved so magically — content find-ability — will become all but moot in the coming years. Instead, content relevance and quality will become the key focus.”

Web Search has transformed my life. Thanks to Google, I can find content about virtually anything. I search for topics, addresses, words, people, companies. Online search is my first reference for everything.

Still, Search continues to be a blunt instrument. All too often I find myself clicking through search results to find content that is meaningful to me. What’s relevant to the vast majority of people may not be what I’m looking for.

TwitterAnd that’s where social media comes in. Through social media – blogs, Twitter, Facebook – I find and follow people whose interests intersect with mine and whose perspective I find interesting.

I’m a communicator who cares about community, communication, business, PR and marketing. And I’m Canadian. So, over time I’ve assembled lists of RSS feeds, Twitter IDs and Facebook friends that speak to these interests and place. And very often, I find myself clicking on links and reading content recommended to me by the people I follow.

Does this mean that I live in a bubble of me-too thinkers? Not at all. I don’t subscribe to people because they agree with me. I subscribe to people because they say something that provokes me to think further about a topic or opens a new perspective on it. This leads me to new things as well as new perspectives on familiar issues.

What am I looking for? Search results that are relevant to me and reflect a higher quality of thought.

What I want is a tool that brings  all three together for me. And that will do the same for you. And for everyone. To do this, it will need to recognize each of us as an individual and take into account not just what we search for but also what we’ve linked to, what we’ve commented on and what we’ve said.

Is someone out there working on this now? When, I wonder, will I see a tool that will do this?

Make a child's wish come true through Mustaches for Kids

Joseph-Thornley-M4K-091120Once again this year, I’m annoying my wife and providing amusement to many others by growing a mustache. And as I hear people chuckling as I pass by, I take comfort in knowing that it’s all for a good cause – helping make the wish of a sick child come true.

Yes, I’m participating again this year in Mustaches for Kids. During the month of November, I join other men in cities and communities across North America in a desperate plea for your attention. And once we have it, we ask you to make a contribution to a most worthwhile cause – the Make a Wish Foundation.

For years, Make a Wish has been bringing a smile to the face of seriously ill children. And I want to help them do this. And you can help too.

How can you help?

Simply go to the Mustaches for Kids site that I’m registered on and make a contribution.

Make your contribution count double

Here’s a bonus. If you indicate on the M4K Website that you’re making your contribution in support of me, I’ll match your contribution. I’m hoping that people will make a total of $1,000 in contributions associated with my ‘stache. I’ll match all the contributions up to that amount.

So, please open your heart and your wallets. Help make a sick child’s wish come true.

Crisis Management in the era of social media

Leona Hobbs kicked off the afternoon of day one of the Managing Social Media conference with a presentation on how to manage a crisis when it can spread virtually instantly via social media.

I’m be capturing the highlights of the session from the Twitter stream using the #CdnInst hashtag and posting them here using CoverItLive.

Click on the CoverItLive window below to see the Twitter discussion of this session.

Leona Hobbs on crisis management in the era of social media

Would you like a chance to meet Whuffie Factor author Tara Hunt?

taraTara Hunt is a creative social media marketer, a widely read blogger and on Twitter, and author of The Whuffie Factor, one of the books I’d recommend be on your social media reading list. And she will be in Ottawa next week for the Ottawa Girl Geek Dinner.

I think that Tara is a role model for women in technology. And the Girl Geek Dinners are a good way to bring tech-oriented women together to talk about technology and to support one another in entering this once-male-dominated sector.

So, Thornley Fallis is sponsoring some students to attend the Girl Geek Dinner with Tara.

We initially sponsored five students. Those tickets were quickly grabbed up. Clearly, Tara is a hot draw and she will draw a capacity crowd.

GirlGeekDinner 090910Happily, Kelly Rusk, who organizes the Girl Geek Dinner in Ottawa, was able to add some seats to the dinner. So, we’re now able to open the dinner up to five more student attendees.

If you’re a student and you’re interested in attending next week’s Girl Geek Dinner, please click over to the Ottawa Girl Geek Dinner blog and leave a comment telling Kelly what you’re studying at school and why you’d like to attend the Girl Geek Dinner with Tara Hunt.

This promises to be a great event and I hope that every one of the student tickets is used.