SXSW: too many parties!!!

OK, I was just checking out for SXSW events (SXSW is a very popular conference among San Francisco geek types). Held in Austin, TX, every year it’s probably popular because of the music and film history of the conference. But it is one of those that are a “must attend” for geeks. Damn, there are so many parties and events I am having a really tough time choosing.

One advantage I have is I have several hundred people reporting to me what their favorite events are. So, I can see which events are really popular (or which ones the friends I want to hang out with are attending). Closer to the event I’ll make a list.

I’m adding to the noise, too
. A bunch of people are asking me to take them out to good BBQ (we’ll go to the Salt Lick, or maybe some other really awesome BBQ place — last year we went and it was really great). So, I am trying to figure out what day/time is best. We’ll do it on Tuesday evening, then head over to the Digg party.

Anyway, last year Twitter showed its usefulness at SXSW. I think this year is really demonstrating why it’s the best tech event calendar system.

I added all the SXSW events to my own calendar.

UPDATE: talking about SXSW, Viddler and others are putting up videos about and from SXSW and there’s a 3.5 gigabyte file up on Bittorrent that includes all the music from SXSW.

Podcasting with BlogTalkRadio

I record Shannon Clark for a podcast

I love the new BlogTalkRadio. Why? I just call a phone number, +1-646-200-0000, (you can call it too). I record a conversation with my cell phone, and then it builds an RSS feed that points to MP3’s of my conversation. What’s the URL? It is my cell phone’s phone number. No need to sign up. No need to give personal details, or even agree to anything.

This way I can make a podcast whenever I want. Utterz does something similar, but you gotta setup Utterz before you make your phone call. I like frictionless publishing and no signup before you start makes a lot of sense to me.

This came out of an idea that Dave Winer and I had, great way to build an RSS feed.

Here’s some things I recorded the other night.

Shannon Clark

Shannon Clark is an entrepreneur and a geek and all that and he wrote an interesting blog post explaining what kinds of things he’d like to see added to the OpenSocial API.

In our five-minute audio conversation, we talk about that blog post and what else we’d like to see in OpenSocial and Facebook and what kind of standards we’d like to see surrounding our privacy, too.

Sanford Dickert

Sanford Dickert is a blogger and entrepreneur who lives in New York. In our 1:42 minute conversation he tells me about, a service that adds a layer on top of other social networks, he says that this service is awesome.

Thanks to BlogTalkRadio for making this happen.

Photo credit: Sanford Dickert took the photos of me and Shannon Clark.

Is Facebook doomed?

Ahh, the patina is shedding off of Facebook.

Looks like the trend I noticed when I was in London talking with Maryam’s niece in December has hit home for Facebook. Is usage down?

My own usage is certainly down. Here’s why:

First, Facebook depresses me. I can’t add new friends, so the “game, er, fun” of Facebook has gone away for me (yes, building my social network was fun for me). Now, I know most of you don’t have that problem, but it does create a retardant effect on the fun of Facebook. It can NOT be a “utility” like a rolodex until it gets rid of all limitations.

But this morning I got a call from someone in France. He was kicked out of Facebook for sending too many messages to his friends. He said he was just chatting with his friends, not doing anything spammy (he only had a handful of friends, he told me). This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this kind of story, I get dozens of such emails every month from people who’ve gotten kicked off the service for not doing too much other than participating in Facebook the way they want.

Anyway, Facebook kicked him off (turned off his account, like they did to me) and now there is no way for him to get added back on. He’s emailed an explanation of what he’s been doing to Facebook. They haven’t answered back. There is no recourse. It’s made more difficult because this guy doesn’t speak English well.

As much as I like Mark Zuckerberg, I can not recommend Facebook to anyone until they fix this problem. There’s ABSOLUTELY NO WAY someone’s account should be deleted without recourse, if Facebook wants to be seen as a utility.

Facebook needs to fix these two problems before I’ll recommend it again to anyone.

One other thing? I’m getting spamish messages on Facebook now because I added hundreds of groups. I’m going to unsubscribe from most of them to keep that from happening. I already have too many attention thieves in my life.

But, to the question of “is Facebook doomed?”

No, it’s not. It still is the best designed, and best performing, social network out there. It fits my idea of what a rolodex, er, address book, should look like. I love the iPhone app. The way it all works. I love seeing photos and videos from my friends.

I just wish Facebook would fix these two problems so I can go back to hyping it up.

What do you think about Facebook? Has the patina worn off for you?

Silicon Valley headed for political trouble?

Andrew Feinberg, Editor, Capitol Valley Media

Talking with Andrew Feinberg, editor of Capitol Valley Media, I was challenged several times about why I, other tech bloggers, and why Silicon Valley itself doesn’t get involved more in what’s happening in Washington D.C.

Politics and geeks rarely mix. Geeks want to build stuff. Politicians want to serve their constituencies and, often, that means regulating what the geeks are trying to do.

A child gets harmed due to meeting someone unsavory on MySpace or Facebook? Andrew sees regulation ahead and he says it doesn’t have to be that way, if Silicon Valley gets involved in politics.

Feinberg tells a nightmarish story where we lose access to an open Internet thanks to the corrupting influence of money from big companies like Comcast. Already companies like Comcast and Verizon are starting to put limits on how you can use the Internet from their services.

Why did that happen? Because we don’t care.

Andrew started down this path by watching what tech bloggers were reporting on. He very rarely saw us talk about politics. Most bloggers he meets, he tells me, don’t know who the FCC Chairman is. Or, have ever had a conversation with him or his staffs.

And bloggers here are just a reflection of the tech world itself. When we get together at BarCamps or FOOCamps we would rather talk about robotics, brain research, genetics, algorithms, or other geeky topics.

Politics? Ugh.

I’m planning a trip to Washington with Andrew to fill in my own gaps on these topics. Anyone want to come along? Probably will happen in June or July. Anyone want to help get us access to key decision makers?

There’s another guy who is changing my thinking on these topics and focusing my attention: Larry Lessig. It’s pretty clear that he’s going to run for Congress. His blog is a must-read, it’s an interesting look at politics from one of Silicon Valley’s leading thinkers.

But back to Andrew. He thinks there’s a ton of trouble coming, especially for social networking companies like Facebook because they simply aren’t focusing on defusing political pressure from concerns around privacy and security of our kids.

He also told me that he doesn’t see a single lobbying organization that speaks for the tech industry as a whole. Who is looking out for, say, Twitter or Facebook’s interests in Washington? Or, our interests? He doesn’t see anyone and he sees that we’re going to get screwed over the next few years as big companies are going to come after our ability to have access to a free and largely unregulated Internet.


Attention thieves; keeping you from living a "FOOCamp life?"

Last week when I was talking with Linda Stone I told her that I tried to live a “FooCamp Life.”

What’s FOOCamp? That’s Tim O’Reilly’s annual campout where he invites about 300 “Friends Of O’Reilly” to O’Reilly’s headquarters in Sebastapol, CA, for a campout. I was invited for the first two years, then haven’t been invited ever since.

Not getting invited back was the greatest gift that Tim O’Reilly could have given to me. Why? Because he had shown me a way to live, then by pulling it away he forced me to do it on my own. Interesting too, that the same effect caused the creation of BarCamp.

How did FOOCamp create that need? I remember one night at the first FOOCamp when I arrived with my son, Patrick, and we were hungry. There were a few people setting up tents and stuff and they pointed us to the kitchen. When we got there it was empty, but found a box of apples (the eating kind, not the computing kind) and started munching away. Soon an executive from AT&T walked in. Then Yossi Vardi did (his kids started ICQ). Then Linda Stone walked in (she gave me some heck for working for Microsoft which struck me as odd at the time since she was a former executive at both Apple and Microsoft). Then the two guys who started Google walked in. Then Tim O’Reilly himself walked in. That was the beginning of my FOOCamp experience and it only got better from there.

So, when Tim stopped inviting me I told myself I’d have the ultimate revenge: I’d live a FOOCamp Life and have an interesting conversation every day, just like the one I had at FOOCamp that Friday evening at about midnight with my son and a bunch of interesting technologists.

When I told Linda this story she was taken aback. She’s been tracking how people manage attention and she said that my “do an interview every day” was attention management done right. It does keep my life on track and keeps me from being distracted by Twitter, Google Reader, Facebook, and all the other stuff. It’s my #2 priority after hanging out with Milan, Patrick, and Maryam. All else, including important emails, gets dropped on the ground.

Anyway, the FOOCamp Life was in high gear yesterday with an interview by NHK’s brightest in the morning, a meeting with Brad Mays, who does PR for AT&T, then onto an interesting conversation with Andrew Feinberg and Alex Tcherkassky of, a blog that tracks the intersection of politics and technology. More on that conversation in the next post.

Then onto a party where there were tons of interesting people from across the tech industry.

Today I’m going to a film screening at Stanford. More on that when I get permission to talk about the movie.

So, who else is living a FOOCamp Life? How are you managing attention?

Anyway, that gets to the point of this post: attention thieves.

What gets your attention off of your life goals? Or, in my case, keeping me from living a FOOCamp Life? For me, this post was conceived because I started up MSN Messenger and instantly got distracted by several conversations with my friends.

So, what is distracting you from your goals?

Twitter? Facebook? Email? An RSS Reader? World of Warcraft? Flickr? Phone calls? TV?

How do you manage attention? Er, how do you manage your attention thieves?