March 24, 2009 9:17 am


Skipping right over my lengthy absence from my website, I am here to tell you about my trip to Texas for South by Southwest! I was there for five days, and here is a list of the famous people I met:

Okay, okay, so my list is pretty short. I did, however, see both Jeffrey Zeldman (several times!) and Jason Santa Maria while I was there. Whee! Zeldman was shorter in person than I expected, and I totally would have introduced myself if he had not be engaged in a conversation EVERY TIME I SAW HIM. Argh. JSM was a moderator on one of the panels I attended, and then I saw him in a mexican restaurant where he was engaged in a conversation that I didn’t want to interrupt. Argh again!

I went to yoga in the morning on both Saturday and Sunday. Later, I realized that I had been doing yoga with two of the Web Typography panelists. Hee!

Texas appears to be enamored with brown countertops. Really marbley brown countertops, so you can’t actually see if you’ve set anything down on them because they are too camouflage-y.

One of the best panels I attended was “Are Women Taken More Seriously on the Web?.” These women were FASCINATING. I loved hearing their experiences being a woman in “tech” and how they have dealt with being taken seriously in a dude-centric environment. I didn’t really come away with any concrete notes from that session, but they brought up a couple of good points:

  • Do you come off as a woman online?

    One panelist talked about how her mother frequented a college football forum and noticed that the women’s opinions were never taken that seriously or were made fun of. She created a profile on the forum that was deliberately androgynous. She did not state her name, her picture was of something innocuous like a football, her username wasn’t indicative of her gender, and when asked about herself, all she would say was that she had “a son who plays college football.”

    She eventually became one of the most recognized and respected members of that forum. Should she really have had to disguise her gender in order to be respected?

  • Online “handles” have changed and the pseudonym is dying

    More and more people (not just women) are realizing that names have power. In relation to the first point, an unusual side effect is such that if you have a complicated or unusual name (like panelist Blagica (“blah-geet-zah,” like “pizza”) Bottigliero), you may accidentally end up coming off as a man online.

    Blagica said she sometimes consciously cultivates this misconception via email by using more “manly” terms or words. She related that she had a lengthy conversation with a confused client on the phone, during which she had to really work to convince the person that, yes, she was the developer on the project and not just the secretary that had taken over for the “real” developer. The person could just not believe that the “Blagica” developer he had been speaking with over email was the same, womanly “Blagica” developer on the phone.


I learned why analytics are crap: Let’s say you see a peak of activity on your site. Is that peak because the person loved your site so much they stayed there a long time? Or could it be because they were hopelessly lost, stuck, and confused, and were trying to work their way out of a hole? Conversely, if you see a drop in activity, is it for sure because your site sucks horribly? Or could it be because your user found exactly what they needed in a short amount of time? There’s really no way to know.

B = f(P,E) Behavior is a function of a person and his or her environment.

Think about your default avatars. If it looks “okay,” people will be less inclined to change it. I think Twitter does a lovely job of this – their default avatar is scary and people want to be rid of it.

A user’s ultimate goal is NOT to be on your website. They want to be done with it and LEAVE. (This, I feel, is different with personal sites/blogs. Users elect to be there. For sites that sell things or offer services, this is much more relevant.)

I did learn an awful lot while I was there. I’m in the process of going through my notes in order to have a good write-up for our creative team blog at work, but I wanted to share some of the tidbits I learned with you. (I am omitting the story about the Worst Airline Seat Partner Ever that I encountered on the way back to Portland, mostly because I am still seething about it. The dude talked, nonstop and loudly, for the entire four-and-a-half hour NIGHTTIME flight. Also he was creepy. And I still want to punch him in the mouth.)

Any questions? Anecdotes? Want to slap me for not actually talking to Zeldman or JSM when I had the chance?

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  • Kaylee says:

    I just have to say this is all SO INTERESTING! Particularly how women are perceived online… You’d think that gender roles/stereotypes would be a lot more broken down by now.

  • Vixx says:

    Fascinating! Thanks for sharing for us poor souls that are at the other side of the world and can’t afford it!

    V xx

  • Elea says:

    Mostly, I’m just insanely jealous because I have wanted to go for YEARS and thought this might finally be my time. But then there’s that whole ‘not having a full-time job’ thing. It’s awesome that you had a great time though, and next time you see someone you admire, you should totally just go up to them and say hi…just wait for a slight lull in the conversation or something and jump in. ;) SXSW is great for that kind of interaction and most people tend to appreciate it a lot!