Archive for the ‘SXSW 2010’ Category

All that’s missing Is the network deal

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

One of the fun things about the internet is how pictures can surface months after the event. That could be as it takes forever to be uploaded, or the meta-data isn’t added so you can’t search for it or have it show up in a news feed, or the moment when it was mentioned was missed.

So for whatever reasons it took Amanda to wait this long, here’s a pic from the very shot short lived SXSW Social Media Clubhouse Chat Show, with Brian Solis on the sofa as our guest.

Social Media Clubhouse

Going Live at SXSW with Techzulu

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

So, one of the many adventures I got up to in Austin was co-hosting the recap show from Chris Heuer’s Social Media Clubhouse with Amanda Coolong and Techzulu. SXSW is a packed event, and trying to get the event into a single hour of live TV (yes I know, streaming online video, blah, blah, blah) is a challenge in itself – herding cats is easier than herding guests to a green room (or bus).

But no matter, live is always fun, especially live with a co-host who’s likely to throw you the ball at any moment, a rapidly changing set of guests and researching the interviews on a bus straight out of The Brady Bunch.

So here’s the list of who was on camera with me thanks to all of them, a brave bunch indeed.

And here’s one of the recording. I don’t think Craig Ferguson has anything to worry about. Jay Leno on the other hand…

Now are there any vacancies for a UK chat show host at the moment?

Riding the Social Breakfast at SXSW

Monday, March 29th, 2010

I’ve already mentioned it in the SXSW recap, but thank you again to everyone who turned up and made the start of SXSW on the Saturday morning so brilliant and intimate and friendly for another year – even though technically the fun started on Thursday night for many of us.

Magnolia Cafe, SXSW 2010 Social Breakfast Adele managed to grab this wonderful shot (on Flickr), and I’m going to call it “Surfing Social” which pretty much sums up my mindset during SXSW – bounce around, meet everyone, ride the waves you find and have fun!

TPN Rock: SXSW 2010 Retrospective #1

Friday, March 26th, 2010

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MP3 FileShow NotesRSS FeediTunes Link

So the biggest live music festival on the planet (err, depending on how you count it!) is over. Irrespective of the nit-picking, South by Southwest brings thousands of bands and tens of thousands of music fans to the city of Austin for five days of music, mayhem and millions of CD’s and samplers being thrown at the press.

To be honest, I had no room to bring them all home, so ripping the CD’s to the PC and then passing them on to a good home (Chris and Cherie) it’s time to sift through them in a little SXSW retrospective.

SXSW 2010 Retrospective #1
Religious, by Gloria Cycles (
Nothing Like You, by Frightened Rabbit (
Too Many Women, by Rachael Sage (
Take A Hike, by Thunder Power (
Show Emotion, by Angry vs the Bear (

Don’t forget to subscribe to the show’s RSS Feed, or find us in iTunes. If you want to get in touch to submit your music, email me:


Fray Cafe: The Greatest Horror Story Ever Written

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

To answer the most popular question on the night, “yes, it is real.” Here’s the Amazon link for The Secret Room

It’s not often that I put up video of my stage performances online (I rarely mention them, truth be told), but Fray Cafe at SXSW every year is something that I look forward to. It’s a chance to tell a real story, and I spend time thinking about what I can do. This year was a bit more light-hearted, as I decided to talk about one of the stories that my daughters read at school.

It’s the greatest horror story ever written.

So by way of H.P. Lovecraft, Niki Lauda, Stephen King and Alias Smith and Jones (a rather meandering route, it’s one of those stories), here’s my reading of “The Secret Room” from this year’s Fray Cafe.

As you can tell, we never did a run through to sort the lighting levels and cues, but like Fray it’s rough, ready, and true to life. Enjoy!

PS: It’s only after editing the video that I saw the running time, and I went waaaaay over the traditional ten minute running time of a Fray story. Sorry.

Some of my memories of SXSW 2010

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

South by Southwest (SXSW) is one of the high points of my year. With so much going on it still continues to surprise me with what emotions and experiences it throws up. I’ll speak about the myth that Interactive has somehow ‘jumped the shark’ in a later post, for now I want to talk about some of the things that made the week special for me.

Let’s Have A Party Right Here.

For all the organisation and big parties, most of the conversations that stick in my head are not from the big parties, but from the hotel lobbies and bars where a group of people just sat down and started talking, inviting a few people by direct message, until the collective brain (of Twitter, Gowalla and Foursquare) started to pass the rumour that "Brian Solis has bought more champagne.” Only one night went by without me heading to an impromptu party, and that was Sunday night… Fray night.

Meeting Cthulhu

Following on from the Emu Unboxes an X6 video over Christmas, I’ve been on the lookout for a suitable puppet that I could make my own and not be haunted by the ghost of Rod Hull. Step forward Cthulhu (note, he’s just a teenager, and not fully grown yet). Vikki finished sewing him the night before I left, and he popped up a few times during SXSW, including this meeting with Shel. What was delightful is the number of people who recognised him, even from a distance, and the character that slowly came out of the puppet as the week progressed. I think you’ll be seeing more of him in the future.

Loren, Ewan, Shel and Cthulhu

Motorhead playing at Stubbs.

Because it was Motorhead… playing at Stubbs… rawck!

Brad Graham performs at Fray Cafe

Brad passed away suddenly at the end of January, yet his presence still lingers in Austin. As well as the Break Bread for Brad meet and greet on the first night, the most powerful moment was the opening of Fray Cafe. Fray is a SXSW institution, running for more than ten years on the Sunday night. It’s a simple event; an open mic and people tell true stories about their life. And Kevin Smokler opened this year’s event with a simple "Welcome to Fray, our first story tonight is from Brad Graham."

So to a dimmed stage and an empty mic, we all sat and listened to Brad’s story of "his second time" from last year, which I had recorded. Powerful stuff, especially as the 2010 crowd reacted just like the 2009 crowd, and just as Brad played to the crowd then, he seemed to feed off this year’s crowd.

Miss you.

She and Him in an Ally

M Ward and Zooey Deschanel’s band might have been playing three times through SXSW, but I didn’t want to see them at the big outdoor stages or mega-venues. I wanted to see them in the little stage at Cedar Street Courtyard, a public space slightly bigger than an alley squeezed between two bars. It’s a great venue, rich in character and charm. This was the perfect setting for the bubblegum 60′s influenced sound of the duo that I’ve been hooked on since discovering their first album last year.

She and Him

Magnolia Cafe and the Social Media Breakfast

I love Magnolia’s in Austin – it’s the perfect cafe where everyone knows your name, or at least remembers the mad Scotsman (err, me) who turns up every year and takes over the patio for a meet and greet event on the Saturday morning of SXSW Interactive. It takes some dedication to get up for an 8am Breakfast event, especially one that’s a little bit out the way, but those that come along to it know it’s worth it for the food and the friends. It was good to see the regulars along this year – it was the only chance that I got to see some of them through the whole of SXSW – but also many new faces who had picked it up on the grapevine, or had finally remembered that this was an event they had always wanted to go to.

The Frantic in the Trophy Room

There’s a certain amount of delight in just walking down Sixth Street until you hear something you like, going into the bar, and listening. That’s how I found The Frantic, from Chicago, a band that I’d cheekily describe as "19 year old pretty boys with guitars, but who can make each tune sound different." Definitely a band I want to find out more about, and likely to be on a Rock Show podcast in the near future.

Bill Hick’s Funeral

"You passed the test," I was told after interviewing the producer and director of American, the Bill Hicks Story. Turns out that after countless interviews, they’ve been playing a game of does the journalist really get Bill, or just doing his work? For those that pass (which included myself), they had a little present. One of the last cards that was made for Bill’s funeral. A box of them was found in the family archives, and his Mum asked them to pass them on to people who would appreciate them.

Thank you.

Bill Hicks

Scottish Television at South by Southwest

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Carrying on the links to the media I worked on at SXSW this year is the series of interviews and profiles I did for STV at the Austin festival. It seemed that everyone joked that they had found the secret to getting STV to pay attention (fly to Texas), but they were all doing the right thing by attending SXSW, which is raising your profile, getting noticed, and gathering contacts.

The SXSW Baby Podcasts

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

During SXSW I’ve been in my usual routine of grabbing interviews for profile pieces, magazine features on the things I’m getting up to, and of course running some podcasting interviews for the SXSW Baby blog. As the conference closes, here’s the master list of interviews, with direct links to the MP3 files if you don’t want to play around with the RSS feed.


Ed Hunsinger ( – MP3
Dennis Crowley (Foursquare) – MP3
Ian Schaffer ( – MP3
Marshall Kirkpatrick ( – MP3


American, the Bill Hicks Story ( – MP3
Audrey the Trainwreck (SXSW Film listing) – MP3
Beijing Taxi ( – MP3
Richard Garriott, Man on a Misson (Facebook page) – MP3


Angry vs the Bear ( – MP3
Gloria Cycles ( – MP3
Thunder Power ( – MP3


How to get in touch with me at SXSW

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

I’m all hooked up with a US mobile now (you’ll find out exactly how in an upcoming All About Symbian Video Diary), but the good side of this is that I am now far easier to reach while i am in the US, and around the conference halls and clubs of South by Southwest from Thursday evening.

My UK mobile will be on at all times, and I’d naturally prefer texts to that. The number is +44 7966 152772. I’m also carrying a US mobile now, and the number is 415-370-6542. If you need to call me from the US, that’s the number to use. I’m not picking up voice mails.

I would prefer you text me in the first instance, unless it is urgent, or to confirm or alter an interview time.

I will be checking in on Twitter at regular intervals (roughly every 20 minutes during the day) so you can DM or reply to @ewan. Email is a last resort, don’t expect an immediate response, but if you must, ewanspence@gmailcom.

I will be in my kilt for SXSW, and I look a bit like this…

Ewan Spence

Walking Over a Digital Grave

Monday, March 8th, 2010

As part of SXSW, I contribute to the SXSW Baby website with a daily podcast from the conference floor. Because of that, and like many at SXSW, I came under the wonderful embrace of Brad Graham. Brad suddenly died in January, which has put a tinge of sadness over SXSW for many, including myself.

The tradition of “Break Bread with Brad” on the first night of SXSW ran for almost ten years, and while he won’t be with us this year, Break Bread For Brad will be on the first night of SXSW as usual. More details are on the SXSW Baby blog.

Because of his unplanned departure, SXSW Baby, which Brad took over from a long line of people, including Evan Williams, was still mostly a Brad running and co-ordinating all the writers effort. And there was only one super-admin to the blog, the forums and all the bits and pieces behind the site (it was rather tightly tied to the rest of Brad’s rather expansive hosting of sites).

So I had one last thing to do before leaving for the US today, which was to get back into control of the blog, and make sure two or three people had full access to the site to keep it running over this SXSW, then we can decide who it will be passed on to.

It’s rather like the Dread Pirate Roberts, and now I’ve thought that, I can clearly see brad in the Westley outfit. Or in Westley.

Essentially doing some white-hat hacking into someone else’s life is very strange and unsettling. It’s done now, and I hope that Brad doesn’t mind.

Download your SXSW Music Highlights

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

While you could sit on the SXSW Music website and listen to all the bands there (or be pushed towards their MySpace pages), that’s a lot of music to listen to. With SXSW rapidly approaching you might not have the time to get through all the bands. But never fear, the web is here.

Simon D, on his Outroversion website, has went through the bands and culled out 85 tracks that he believes are the highlights of SXSW. Not only that, but he’s wrapped them all up in one archive file for you to download onto your MP3 player of choice:

Two things you should remember if you have the very gall to complain- 1. This took me ages 2. It’s just my opinion 3. If you don’t like it do it yourself… Ok 3 things!

If you like the musical stylings that I’ve offered over the past 1 year and 18 days then chances are you’ll like my selections. I’ve left off a few of the better known artists like Eisley, Boxer Rebellion, She Keeps Bees, etc.

More information on Simon’s selection here, or you can head straight for the archive file on Multiupload.

(Cross posted from the SXSW Baby blog).

Geeks on a Plane

Friday, March 5th, 2010

When you have so many people converging on one location, such as SXSW Interactive, there’s always some synchronising of travel plans, and it looks like the Brits have decided that flying in to Dallas, and then taking the American Airlines hop to Austin is the way to travel.

It’s the Dallas to Austin to flight at 1615 on Thursday 11th March (AA 1701), and strangely enough, even though I’m travelling from San Francisco and not Heathrow, I’ll be joining this flight with at least six other Brits. There may well be others that I don’t know about, as well as people from the Bay Area, given I leave California at 9.30am (American 48) and Virgin America hasn’t laid on a special San Francisco to Austin flight (missed marketing opportunity there!) I wonder if we can have a mini-geek off during the Trans-con before the main event in the skies over Texas?


Are you on the Geeks on a Plane flight?

The little things needed for an American trip

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

With the US trip for SXSW  and GDC approaching, I’[m working down my list of packing, and as usual it’s getting the little things right that make all the difference for the trip. Little things like these:

In-flight entertainment

It’s been a long time since I was at the mercy of whatever gets put on the monitors or seat back video machines on an aircraft, thanks to the Sony PSP. In the run up to a trip I’ll be thinking about what would be good to watch on both the big eleven hour trip from London to the West Coast but also on the domestic flights at either end end and in the middle of the trip.

Once you put on a few new films, some old favourites, and a season of Spooks and Hustle (I joined these shows late, so I keep the older seasons to watch while travelling), and my view habits are sorted.

I’ll also have a number of PSP games to review for The PSP Show (including the delights of Eye of Judgement, Half Minute Hero and my continuing enjoyment of the Densha De Go train simulators from Japan), as well as the latest qualifiers for the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest to research and enjoy.

Failing that, I’ll just read Ascent by Jed Mercurio.


Part of the fun on a long trip like this is bringing all the electronics up to 100% battery charge just as I leave the house, and then managing the power levels all the way to a smooth landing at the other end. A bit of familiarity and the occasional spare battery have seen me through, but this trip should be a little different.

If all goes well I’ll be doing a head to head review of Proporta’s USB Turbocharger and the Power Traveller’s PowerMonkey, two rechargeable battery packs with multiple connectors to recharge battery powered devices on long trips. I know I can get to my destination half way around the world with very little topping up, these two should allow me to let my hair down a bit more in using things like the PSP, the pocket computers and mobile phone/MP3 players.

Travel essentials

I still remember popping into a 7-11 in San Diego and watching the look of horror cross the pharmacists face when I asked for some paracetamol for my headache. Since then I’ve always thrown in some boxes for self-medication… and they tend to get used by other people with hangovers who realise I have stock. If people would just keep their fluid levels up without alcohol at conferences, it would be some much easier for everyone

Dairy Milk

Because I’m going to be in America and Hershey bars don’t touch my mood swings.

4-bar power strip

Not just in the Conference Centre, because SXSW isn’t the conference to be toting around a huge laptop in your bag (heads up, say hi to people, is the order of the day), but I do carry a fair amount of electronic kit while on a trip, and it’s far easier to carry one US to UK plug adaptor on the end of the four plug power strip. Much easier to use, and it also has an extra fuse in the strip, just in case.

A pack of cards

Because a good pack of Bicycles is incredibly versatile – on top of that a Fluxx deck will be in my bag, net to some Akoha cards

British Airways Strikes, GDC and SXSW

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Here’s how to avoid industrial action impacting on your plans to get from the UK to either GDC in San Francisco on March 8th, or SXSW in Austin starting on March 11th.

Don’t fly British Airways.

Now that might be a bit unfair, but unless you were paying attention when you booked your tickets to fly out and avoided Willie Walsh’s struggling airline there’s a good chance you’ll be flying with British Airways this March to attend the big US conferences. If that’s the case, you’re going to be in for a nervous week.

With the strike vote announced yesterday, there’s another meeting on Thursday which is likely to announce the date and length of any strike action,. Thanks to government legislation from the 80s, the union, Unite/Bassa, have to provide seven days notice to BA of a strike, and start the strike within 21 days of the vote.

So the earliest day for strike action is Thursday 4th March, and it’s likely to be over a week long, maybe even ten days, ie through to the 14th. That’s going to hit a lot of travel plans for the digerati in the UK.

What can you do?

Well, nothing, until that letter is sent to British Airways. You could book alternative travel, but it’s not guaranteed you’ll get a refund. Nor are British Airways going to do any rebooking or shuffling flights and dates around without you incurring the standard admin and change fees until the strike dates are announce d- and even then you might still be forced to wait until the morning of the flight before you get a cancellation confirmation.

is it any wonder that interest in BA flights has dropped 42% this month? Unfortunately there’s not much you can do now except remember the golden rule of avoiding the UK Flag Carrier at Christmas and Easter.

BA Bus

As for me, well I’m booked, as always, on American Airlines for my transatlantic travel. Which doesn’t give me complete coverage because they have a code share with BA to fly me from Edinburgh to Heathrow. Luckily AA are pretty switched on, and have confirmed to me that if there is a strike, they’re happy for me to make my own way to London and pick up my itinerary from there.

Looks like a bus to America is the answer

The TED Conference, Elitism and South by Southwest

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Sara Lacy laid into the rise of even more elitism on display at the TED conference last week, but this quote, from her rant about the TED conference caught my eye:

Now when the day’s sessions are done there’s a hierarchy of parties throughout the LA-area with strict lists and security. Cliques within cliques, if you will. One friend I spoke with yesterday told me it was so bad last year he couldn’t even hang out with his friends much of the time. Because that’s what you want when you’ve paid $6,000 to attend an event—to be told your friends are still better than you.

And it caught my eye because SXSW Interactive is coming up. While it’s not a $6000 a head event (although once you add on hotel costs it can be close if you’re not careful), the interactive portion of SXSW has a problem. And it’s Austin.

Austin is a great city for the music part of SXSW (which, if you talk to Austinites, is actually SXSW – mention the interactive bit and you get a bit of a blank look). Lots of small venues that can hold 50-200 people with a band and you get a great vibe; bar hopping to hear a new different band is a great experience.

But Interactive, and specifically the parties in the evening, is a killer. because people are looking to single venues and one company name – the Mashable party, the Digg party, the Opening Mixer at Six, all nicely scheduled to not clash… and there’s no venue in Austin that can cope with over ten thousand people looking to get into one party.

Sara Lacy and mark Zuckerberg

So you will get haemorrhaging in Austin, you will get people wondering just what to do in the evening because Party X has a 90 minute queue to get in… you will get people new to SXSW Interactive feeling completely lost and out of place… and you will get the A-Listers all on the guest lists, all waved through on a nod and a wink, and one of the key benefits of SXSW – the mix of people – appears lost.

If you’re heading to interactive, please don’t loose heart. By all means sort out a ticket on Eventbrite for your favourite event, but be aware that doesn’t mean you won’t queue, or that the event  won’t be overbooked. Because they will be. Here’s my advice. Just find a group of people, doesn’t matter who they are, tell them “we’re going to have a good night” and go find a bar, a diner, a restaurant and talk to these brand new people. Make a point, right now, to have at least one meal where you know nobody you sit down with – and I’ll bet you that night will be one of the most memorable nights of the conference.

Parties don’t make conferences… people make conferences. Connections make conferences. Work on some new ones no matter which conference you go to.