Monthly Archives: March 2010

It’s The End of SXSW As We Know It…And I Feel Fine

Last week I attended the SXSW interactive (#sxswi) festival in beautiful Austin, TEXAS.  I’ve been trying to write this blog post for some time, but couldn’t find the right train of thought to express my viewpoint.  Then last night over Twitter I saw a conversation between David Armano and Virginia Suliman and she suggested he include the following in a deck: “U should just have social media is dead on there to keep em guessing”

Social Media is not dead. But social media as a “movement” is.  I’ll explain.

Since the dawn of the “blog age” the talk about user-generated content, the uprising of the consumer, the voice of crowds has created a revival to the marketing, PR and web industries.  SXSW has long been the festival that celebrates this movement and propels it forward among professionals and enthusiasts. Many would even say it’s the birthplace of Twitter – Happy Birthday Twitter, btw.

But SXSW in 2010 was a different animal.  Maybe it was the $400 a night hotel rooms, or the empty, long walks to sessions in the bowels of the Austin Convention Center. In any case, at the conference, there was lots of talk about engagement, trust, transparency influence, yet the buzz was around GoWalla and Foursquare: a disconnect.

The sessions were boring at best; even Twitter founder Evan Williams was hard pressed to keep a crowd. The fact that better presentations and discussions were happening at the Social Media Clubhouse, the Salt Lick and other private parties held offsite is not a good sign for SXSW. I remember a conference that was overpriced, over-hyped, indulgence at its finest and attendees spread throughout a city: it was called Comdex. It’s dead now.

The days of the Zuckerberg-Lacy controversies are gone, because people aren’t as passionate and that’s a good thing.  Passion happens when you believe in something more than anyone else.  Passion is what keeps people up at night, keeps people united for a general cause and helps people find new ways to solve old problems.

The problem at SXSW was not passion. It was discipline.  In only one presentation did I hear about metrics, real-life examples of business case studies or frustration. At the clubhouse, the Salt Lick and other random places I found myself, it’s all I heard: a disconnect.

There was a notable hunger for business examples, case studies, anything.  In fact, the sarcasm was loud by Sunday because of the lack of real-world examples and the thick pie-in-the-sky, the social media world is full of bunnies, rainbows and lollipops.

I understand that SXSW is a collegial experience of broadening the mind. Ze Frank’s presentation was a great example of this.  However, this was an investment of time and money (company money, which isn’t easy to find these days) and I left thinking I wanted more.

I met some great people, learned some amazing things and some great times, but not at the show.  For me, it is the end of sxsw as I know it, and I do feel fine.

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I Walked in Memphis

The following post is an open letter I sent to my FedEx colleagues this afternoon. MC

It’s hard to believe that after four years at FedEx, the next couple of hours will be my last.  Even though I’m leaving FedEx, I’m finding that FedEx will never leave me.  It’s been an honor to serve with you all.

When I look back on my career at FedEx I’ll think of cold tarmacs, the screaming engines of an MD-11 and the smell of Jet-A at 2 am during Peak.  I’ll think of sort facilities, writing and rewriting web content, selling the blogosphere and mornings at Starbucks and lunches at Blue Coast Burrito.  I’ll think of conducting media interviews and getting so excited about what is being discussed I paid more attention to the FedEx executive rather than properly staffing the call—as long as everything being discussed was legally approved. J

The time spent with each of you is something that I will remember and value throughout my professional career.   I’ve had the luxury of not only working with great colleagues, but with friends.  I hope I don’t lose those friendships as I move on, but with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, my blog and email (mattceni@gmail.com) I’m sure I won’t.  Thank you for making mine and my family’s time here in Memphis and with FedEx enjoyable and so productive.

In the Bible, water is a symbol of healing, renewal and strength.  For a Texan moving out of the Lone Star State to Memphis, this was a daunting adventure.  But the muddy waters of the Mississippi and the community we found on the other side of the river provided my family with healing, renewal and strength—and for those reasons I thank you and will miss you.

Best,
MC

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