19 MINUTE READ | March 14, 2015
Humans of SXSW 2015
Jonathan Hunt has been with PMG since 2013 and is a senior leader on the SEO team, guiding automation and technology strategy for organic search. His 17 years of experience in SEO has included leading programs for ecommerce, technology, entertainment, and b2b brands. Jonathan was recently named a finalist for AAF Austin’s 2023 Big Wigs Awards for Best Data Analyst.
Both are down from Colorado. Ashley is from Denver, the mile high city, while Jake is from Boulder, the “everything is super expensive here” city. They also went to rival schools of Colorado vs Colorado State, although somehow, they both ended up working for Match Marketing Group in Boulder. They both also like to do anything outdoors, including hiking, biking and skiing.
While Ashley is only working afterparty events at SXSW, Jake has been attending sessions on branding and using brand advocacy. He has had some mixed reviews of sessions, sometimes feeling as if some of the techniques are a bitquestionable at best. However, he is looking forward to Saturday’ssessions where he can learn more about Marketing.
Jake and Ashley, aka the “Guardians of Nothing” were two volunteers whom had the unique opportunity to guard off an empty storage closet during the Team Detroit Afterparty.
Meet my new friend, Max Lyttle. I met Max walking down 2nd street when I couldn’t help but take notice of his big smile. Max bought a one-way Amtrak ticket to Austin last week.
ThMy New Friend Maxis is his first time here, being from Chicago, and I’m pretty sure the sunshine and positive vibes will suit him well given that Max exuded happiness and friendliness immediately. It wasn’t until after we’d been chatting a few minutes that I noticed his Save the Children t-shirt.
We talked about the organization and all the good it does, but Max didn’t sell. He didn’t promote. He was just real. His warmth and affection toward the cause shone through. And then he asked me to be his friend and we hugged. We parted ways with laughter.
Oh, and those are called poi balls and they most definitely light on fire.
“I just didn’t want to be the President of a company anymore.”
After spending more than 20 years as an Executive and Company President in his adopted home of Michigan, Kevin Kott felt a yearning to get back to the state where he was raised. He moved to Austin, TX to enjoy his retirement. Then something funny happened…
All of his old Executive friends and acquaintances kept coming to him for advice: how to be a better executive, how to be a better leader or speaker, how to better manage a work/life balance. Kevin realized he still loved working with Executives, he just didn’t want to be one anymore.
And thus began Kevin’s second career as an Executive and Business Coach, which also happens to be exactly how he wound up at my table in the early morning of SXSW 2015’s kickoff day of panels, workshops, and events. He’s here, like so many of us, to grow a business and do some good.
Earlier this year I visited the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington D.C. and stared at a giant squid preserved in a plexiglass box measuring upwards of 15 feet long. Every intricate wrinkle and detail of this squid’s was perfectly preserved.
Months later, and I’m chatting it up with Tony in the 3M tent during SXSW learning about this cooling agent; this preservative, non-toxic, good for the planet liquid that looks like water. It’s the same liquid used to preserve that exact squid! And it’s called novec.
Me and Tony discuss magic science liquids and the giant squid in D.C. as I rack my brain to think of anything else 3M is known for besides post-its. The globe in the picture next to Tony is made solely of paper. And it’s completely in tact and preserved submerged in this fluid! How cool is that?! Imagine if we used this stuff as a coolant for data farms for cloud computing? Hmmm *scratches head* I’m obviously the genius who thought of this. Thanks for teaching me about science stuff, Tony!
This is Jose. Jose is wearing a classic video game artifact that that dates back to 1989–the Power Glove. This guy is passionate about gaming and his energy was contagious.
JJoseose is the event coordinator for Classic Game Fest, the largest retro video game convention in Texas. Originally small events that took place in a parking lot, the event had to move to a larger space like the Palmer in order to accommodate its 4500+ attendees (a number that’s growing every year).
Jose said its fascinating to watch younger kids play these classic games that so many of us grew up with. “They don’t what buttons to press.” Kids are used to using touch screens and joystick controllers to navigate a 3D space. He said that one kid couldn’t figure out how to play Donkey Kong because he couldn’t grasp the concept of only being able to move the character left, right, and up.
Since we were on the topic of classic video game consoles, nicely displayed at the booth he was manning, I asked Jose which gaming system was his favorite. Asking Jose what his favorite console was was like asking a mother of 5 to name her favorite kid. He said he couldn’t pick because each held a special place in his heart. So, I told him my favorite console (the Sega Genesis) and asked him what Sega Game was his favorite. He couldn’t pick just one. Sonic, Mortal Combat, Columns, Golden Axe, and Streets of Rage. According to Jose, Sega excelled a creating adventure games and RPGs. So if you into Jose at SXSW or a gaming convention, give him a shout ‘cuz this dude knows his stuff!
“It’s about helping people. It’s about building something that matters.”
Jasmine Brackett, having traded the UK for sunny California, serves as Community Manager for Hackaday.com, where tinkers and inventors toil away in an effort to make all our lives a little better.
While Hackaday tends to focus on the electronic and tech-gadget arena, Jasmine’s interest expands into all things “maker.” In 2012, she received her diploma in Theatrical Costume Making. Her experience with Hackaday allows her to visit “maker” and “hacker” communities all over the world. Here at SX Create, she’s dedicated to spreading the message of “Building Something that Matters” to the people of Austin and all of SXSW.
This is Amber and thanks to her, I’m stocked up on Kind bars for the whole week. The delicious caramel and sea salt kind!
Amber not only works for Kind handing out free, tasty, and healthy treats (plus band-aids) during SXSW, but she’s also a running coach to an Austin area kids group called Gilbert’s Gazelles.
Plus (my turn to brag about her), she’s featured in the April issue of Runner’s World. She’s pretty much the sweetest girl, and the selfie she asked me to take with her was utterly #adorable.
Meet Chase. He’s an actor. I couldn’t take a picture of Chase because he was wearing branded material but he gave me his business card so that’s fair game, right?
Chase was at SXSW doing promotional work for a new TV show by a large broadcasting company that must go unnamed due to editorial restrictions. Since this is my first time at SXSW, I decided to ask Chase about his previous experiences at SXSW.
Chase has attended SXSW 4 times (which practically makes him an expert). He works promotional events so he is always getting the inside scoop. Chase’s favorite thing about SXSW are the free shows. Although the large events that require a badge are cool, some of the free shows were actually some of his favorites.
When tackling SXSW, Chase’s preferred plan of action is to just play everything by ear. As much as you try to plan, there are always things that pop up that you just can’t plan around such as an event that is full, the line is too long, or not having the right type of badge.
What Chase enjoys the most about SXSW is just walking down 6th street checking out all the fun things to do. Chase’s most memorable SXSW experience was about three years ago when he worked the Nike Fuel Lounge. They had skateboarding, basketball, soccer, and all kinds of fun and engaging events going on. Thanks for SXSW tips, Chase!
“We’ll have to make this fast… He’s meeting Cookie Monster at 2.”
By far the briefest of my “Humans of SXSW” encounters, this family shared their brief story with my so quickly that names were not even exchanged.
In short, he’s a speaker later on at the conference, she’s supporting a friend who’s holding a book reading here, but neither is the true purpose of today’s family outing. That honor goes to the furry blue monster, obsessed with chocolate chip cookies.
“I’ve been mostly a theater actress, so this is my grand venture into film.”
Ryan Bess Winnick is an actress, based on out of Brooklyn, NY and it’s her first time in Austin for SXSW.
In the midst of promoting a film in which she does not act — she served as a Producer’s Assistant on the indie film Honey Trap, she admits to the overwhelming nature of attending SXSW for the first time.
Despite not being in front of the camera on this project, her passion for Honey Trap in undeniable, especially in its quest to shine a light on the socio-economic struggles of a small town, Brixton, on the South side of London.
Meet Nelson. Nelson has probably one of the coolest and most unique fulltime jobs. Nelson is a pedicabber. If you’re not familiar with pedicabs, they are 3 wheel bikes affixed with a carriage in the back and are used as an alternative to cabs. Nelson started pedicabbing in June 2014. He travels around attending different events. He was most recently at the Houston rodeo and is now giving people’s feet a break at SXSW.
Some cabis own their own pedicabs but Nelson rents his from a local owner. To rent a pedicab for the duration of SXSW, it costs Nelson $575. So like any business, pedicabbers have their own costs. Speaking of costs, what Nelson doesn’t pay for gasoline he makes up in food costs. Biking people around all down expends tons of calorie. Just like a cab has to fill up its tank, Nelson has to refuel his body so he keeps plenty of nutrition bars, nuts, and lunch meat on hand.
Unlike a traditional cab, there is not a fixed rate. Nelson tries to get at least $10 per person and shoots for $20 for longer rides. On slow days, Nelson might average $200 but on busy days he can make up to $800. So far, his best day to date is $1300. But keep in mind that these are 12-16 hours days. Nelson got into pedicabbing because he doesn’t own a car—he bikes everywhere; and since he likes being outside, travelling, and meeting new people, this job is the perfect fit.
Nelson has had many, many jobs throughout his life. He’s been a personal trainer, a substitute teacher, he’s waited tables and has done bartending. Out of all the jobs he’s had, this one is by far his favorite and also the most profitable. So if you see Nelson around Austin during SXSW, give him a holler!
Meet Boston. I met Boston while aimlessly wandering around downtown Austin. He was patiently waiting outside Starbucks for his owner to bring him back a puppaccino. While he was waiting for his morning fix, I decided to ask him a few questions.
Me: So Boston, which SXSW event are you looking forward to the most?
Boston: I’m super excited for Animal Planets’ Next Cat Star Search. Feline talent has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. You’re not putting this on Facebook are you? My friends would totally disown me.
Me: Oh, cool! Did you get to check out the after party?
Boston: Oh furrrr sure! I had a great time and there were lots of networking opportunities. Not to mention the open treat bar!
Me: What is your favorite thing about SXSW?
Boston: I love all the different smells in the air from all the different people around the world that flock to Austin. It’s a nice change from Austin’s beard oil, taco-scented air. I also don’t mind all the free sun glasses I get—a dog’s eyes are really sensitive.
Me: Lastly, what industry do you work in?
Boston: I work in home security. I send my user base bark notifications if I detect activity outside their home. No app required. But treats are welcome.
“Death was probable.”
Turning into the SX Create at the Long Center (SXSW’s exhibit station for all things maker, hacker, and inventor), I found myself face to face with a man who looked like he belonged in 1915 far more than 2015. His name is Daniel Benes, and he comes from Georgetown, Texas — just a few miles north of Austin. He spends his days teaching the wonders of science, and in particular, the innovations of one Thomas Edison.
On this beautiful Austin Saturday, Daniel shared with me the nature of telegraph relays, and why being a telegraph operator wasnearly synonymous with a “death sentence.”
Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, telegraph signals were only powerful enough to travel 100-200 miles without additional amplification. So every few miles along the line, there would be a relay station. Relay stations would receive incoming telegraph signals and run use fresh batteries to amplify that signal and get it to the next relay station.
So, why was this so dangerous? It’s all about the batteries. At that time, batteries were essentially gallon-size glass jars, containing two small electrical cells, and filled to the top with sulphuric acid. All the batteries would be kept in a small room inthe back of the relay station. The telegraph operator would man the machines up front, while the “battery operator” would responsible for taking care of anything in that back room.
Any fast change in temperature could lead to the glass jars to crack and/or shatter, releasing super toxic fumes into the small room. Reports were common of battery operators opening doors to battery rooms and dropping dead from fumes within 30 seconds. To top that, operators succombing to toxic fumes would often fall onto the collection of other batteries, shattering even more jars and releasing gallons of sulphuric acid, which they would then fall into.
Wanted ads for these positions would often include the phrase: “Death is probable.”
Nice work, if you can get it. Right?
“I kind of just go wherever they tell me to paint.”
Meet Rex, he’s a painter in Austin who freelances around town.
We talked about the electronic music he had playing on the street as he painted this mural outside of Austin City Hall during what seemed like a lull in the usual SXSW foot traffic.
His laid back attitude was quintessential Austin cool, and it was super easy talking to him. Obviously drive by the art, Rex also mentioned to me that he “likes the painting part of it, not so much the networking part.”
“What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you in private bartending?”
“Well I worked a baptism once…”
Meet Lauren Ayres, pronounced like heirs to the throne. Which is super fitting considering Lauren is a boss. She’s the owner of Top Shelf Events, Austin’s premier event staffing company, and she’s the reason we had so much fun at our Rocket Fuel dinner last night!
“I traveled about 10,000 miles to be here.”
Some people are there for a lifetime, and others come and go in the flash of an eye. The Austrian was certainly one of the latter.During a Texas barbecue filled lunch break at the Convention Center, I found myself seated next to a striking gentlemen. I say “striking” because his expression is one I can only really equate with child-like wonder — the kind of raw joy that you’d find in a kid seeing Disneyland for the first time. He asked me where I was from and I did the same with him.
“I traveled a bit further than you,” he said in his central-European accent. “I’m from Austria, so, I traveled about 10,000 miles to be here.” He helps run a small data visualization company in Austria with his business partner (who was in line getting them both their own plates of barbecue). However, he stressed that his company was not the real reason he was here.
“The energy, the vibe. Everything that’s happening. It’s like it all comes here for a week and it’s unlike anything anywhere else in the world. I’m here to be a part of it.”
“Beep-beep… wooooooop. Beep.”
Strolling through the SX Create Pavilion, I encountered the friendliest (also fiestiest!) droid I’d ever met. He may not have been the one I was looking for — I was looking for a demo of the new Motorola Droid Turbo — but when you’re at SXSW, you let the momentum of the conference take you and you just roll with it.
So, it turns out this little guy is a refugee, having been part of some civil war back home. He says the fighting started a long time ago and his home was far, far away.
That’s what’s so great about Austin, and SXSW — the open arms of this city and this festival can help even the most artificial of lifeforms get a fresh start and maybe find a new hope.
Meet these three awesome women: Elizabeth Plank, Senior Editor at Mic; Franchesca Ramsey, YouTube extraordinaire and content curator at Upworthy; and Sophia Rossi, Co-Founder of Hello Giggles.
I had the privilege to listen to this great panel talk about how feminism is winning the web. The internet, particularly social media, had given woman a platform to share their experiences and support each other in the fight against gender equality.
Although progress is being made, many woman face harsh criticism on the web for taking a pro-feminist stance or for trying to occupy a space that is reserved for males (gamergate anyone?). The panel also voiced their opinions about how they feel social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube should handle online threats against women and other hate speech.
Since the conversation mostly focused on the relationship between social media and feminism, I decided to propose this question to the panelist: What is the responsibility of advertisers when trying to communicate to a female audience and proactively taking a supportive stance for women’s issues?
According to the panel, advertisers should be scared sh!tless when it comes to putting out ads that are by any means sexist, racist, homophobic, etc, because it takes a few hours for word to get out and there to be a huge backlash against the company. Companies and their advertising partners should never underestimate the power of consumers in the internet era because people are no longer afraid to voice their opinions out in the open.
They also discussed how advertisers need to diversify their teams to move away from sexist or racist ads that generalize a group of people. For example, it may not be the best move for an all male team to work on a campaign to increase the sale of tampons. Also, because feminist is gaining popularity, many advertisers are trying to jump on the bandwagon to pander to the female audience. But many are doing it all wrong.
Advertisers need to be careful of taking a seemingly pro-feminist stance but then completely contradicting themselves. Like saying, “Look we made it pink, now women can use it!”, or “Hey ladies, you should love yourself but go ahead and buy this body cream ‘cuz frankly your skin be looking nasty!”. Its ok for advertisers to support feminism (or any other activism), but they need to be authentic because people can tell if you are being genuine or if you are just trying to increase revenue.
It isn’t enough to show a pro-equality stance in your advertisements. Companies need to show that they hold those beliefs internally. Rallying for equal opportunity in the workplace? Well, how many women work for your company? How many people of color have you hired? How many people with disabilities work for your company? What kind of policies does your company have in place to deal with harassment and other important issues? It only takes one person to see through your BS, call you out on it, and expose your hypocrisy on social media.
“The parties are brilliant.”
Meet Gabriel, a data analyst from London, here at SXSW for the second time. While Gabriel’s work primarily focuses on software development, he was most interested in a talk he attended by Boxouse on DIY off grid urbanism.
He told me about how the presenter had transformed shipping crates into livable homes lined with bamboo floors and solar powered electricity. Gabriel’s also pretty excited about the Southby parties, who wouldn’t be?
“Roxy’s Queen Bee, and everybody knows her.”
Stacy and Keith adopted Roxy, this adorable and affectionate bulldog, from Austin Bully Bull Rescue when their kids moved out. They live in The Domain, where Roxy struts around winning over the hearts of anyone she meets. It’s obvious how loved she is, so it’s no surprise that NBC show Talk Stoop wanted her on set for their SXSW shoot.
Stacy and Keith had friend and dog trainer, Steve, with them to make sure everything moved smoothly for Roxy and the show’s production team.
Steve started Austin Bully Bull Rescue about a year and a half ago and has since adopted 16 bulldogs to loving families, and currently has 8 in foster homes.
While Roxy may be the belle of the ball, it was the partnership with her owner, Stacy, that made this pair so adorable.
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Stacy affectionately joked how she “got tired of everyone thinking she was a boy” so she went full on pink with Roxy’s collar and leash. I mean, look at this face, I think she looks GOOD.
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