SxSWi09: Is Spec Work Evil?

For a 10am event at SxSW, this was a crowded and heated discussion. Imagine what it would have been like later in the day with more caffeine! I listened to this panel from the perspective of a person soliciting creative work for small businesses where big agency talent is not an option.



  • Micah and Rebecca outlined the debate brilliantly.
  • Spec work, while tactical, is here to stay.
  • Buyers: Spec work is inexpensive, but requires a lot of time to filter through submissions.
  • Buyers: Never outsource design strategy. Have solid strategy in place before soliciting work.
  • Designers: Get involved in business design strategy. Add value.
  • AIGA wants to know the depth of client/designer interaction during project. Submit pro/con comments on their site.

The gist of the long and drawn out discussion was designers should work in an agency environment and be involved in strategy and client relationship versus spec work environment where there is no existent or consistent relationship or work ethic. (Keep in mind…this is my translation of argument and not my words.)

The majority of Q&A time was dedicated to slamming David Carson (obviously not a fan of spec work or "bottom dwelling, would-be" designers using forums to submit work) rather than staying on target of discussion. So finally, when we get a valid question that strikes at the heart of the discussion, there is no time to answer: How do you find talent?

The designers on the panel were advocating seeking them out and they would work out a deal for small business that can't afford agency work versus soliciting creative on a site like crowdSPRING. OK…so how I do I find these talented designers to strike a too-good-to-be-true deal? Network? In a dark and smoky after-hours club away from agency environment? OK…where? Maybe the forums on crowdSPRING? ;)

Additional Topic Reading:

SxSWi09: Social Media Nonprofit ROI Poetry Slam

This was the most fun panel! The innovative format made the discussion and ROI nuggets sticky. Nonprofits are a force to watch and take in lessons learned from executing social media initiatives. The power unleashed from events such as Twestival is brilliant, but is it sustainable?

Presentation slides and narrative

Beth Kanter's Reflections from Poetry Slam

Beth Kanter at Stubbs event: What is the distinction between social media for charity and social good/systematic change?

SxSWi09: Is Privacy Dead or Just Very Confused?

Let me just get this off my chest before I explode…Can we please drop the word 'dead'? As Kathy Sierra so wonderfully suggested in her SxSWi09 session: Rethink deadness. Please!

The topic of privacy could not be any more relevant to me than right now because at my government job, the social media initiatives we have executed are affecting relevancy of current privacy policies (i.e. cookie use). Also, this conversation dovetails into the controversy of curating personal brand.



  • Privacy is not a static concept. Based upon experience (limited by individual), everyone has a different meaning of private and public.
  • Popular misconception (due to lack of privacy/tech education): People are willing to give up privacy for a better user experience.
  • The word privacy has negative connotations for such broad concerns.
  • Positive value to privacy relates to series of conversations encompassing: 1. Pragmatic (Hiring/Recruitment); 2. Social (Partaking in conversation); 3. Social Support (Profound).
  • Social visualization of all actions function as portraits. The more data accessible to companies allows for aggregation of data into profiles. Online history is equivalent to a body.
  • Donath: How do you establish control over so many public faces? "We need a mirror to see ourselves to moderate our behaviors."
  • Norms of conversation are gray. In a restaurant, you would not jump into conversation occurring in another booth, but we do not have same filter in online sphere.
  • The most important change has not been in technology, but political economy. The reward for target data has eroded privacy comfort level. Most people are unaware of information they leave behind as online breadcrumb trail. We are living in the abstract.
  • It is extremely difficult to have historical sense of normal because until recently (in historic terms), we lived in a public village and now we are an isolated society offline.
  • Transformations are accelerated online because history has never been recorded as it is currently.
  • Boyd: "Young people do not see home as their private space because of their lack of control (i.e. parents), but online they see as private (away from parental constraints).
  • Marwick: Is it individual or corporate burden to expose privacy? Online information default should be opt-in. We need to define contextual integrity.
  • Vaidhyanathan: Information is a form of currency. Individual must be aware of use and abuse. We must constantly look in the digital mirror.
  • Vaidhyanathan: We (those at SXSWi) are elite, but average individual is not aware of all the switches and dials of collected data. We need to create a policy of control for those people unaware and set norms to follow.
  • Donath: We should celebrate divergent ways forcing tolerance.
  • Vaidhyanathan: The communication space wants to invite surveillance versus create an allergy to surveillance. We should demand reciprocity. Reciprocity NOW.
  • Boyd: "We have an imbalance online. We feel like we know online rock stars. Micro-celebrity is in practice. We are dealing with strange power relationships where reciprocity is not freely given."
  • Vaidhyanathan: No zero sum between privacy and publicity.

What do you think as an individual and from company perspective?

SxSWi Sound Off

The long weekend and SxSWi are coming to an end. Unfortunately, the panels/sessions were not extremely compelling to me. The biggest value was found in the ad hoc core discussion groups formed throughout the conference. This conference would be more valuable to me if the sessions were divided into tracks with genuine thought leadership and discussion, rather than one large frat party competing against the few good panels.

Economic strains were evident at this conference. The money was not as free flowing or visible as years past. The crowd is extremely young. The frustration is at an all time high. The "scene" fueling the ego…

My tweets were limited and blog posts non-existent because reflection is needed before I ramble off on this channel. I have realized here at SxSWi, assumptions are not sexy or professional and resistance against conclusion jumping will be the divider for those of us who remain standing while others fall. This week I will post my findings and offer context and substance in my panel/session posts.

Don't get me wrong…the conference was not a bad experience. I met some fantastic people in person, networked with the Boston crowd and am coming home with several ideas and thoughts rattling around inside my head!

It is the dawn of a new day.

SXSWi Tentative Schedule

image As I posted last week, if you cannot be at SxSWi, let me be your guide! This is a tentative schedule of sessions (not all events I plan to attend). There is still time to let me know in the comments section, what sessions you would like to see me cover!

Lauren's Tentative Schedule:

Friday, 13 March

Saturday, 14 March

Sunday, 15 March

Monday, 16 March

Tuesday, 17 March

Follow me on Twitter!

To follow SXSWi happenings:

  • Follow SXSWi on Twitter.
  • Follow individual session/panel discussions. Each event has been assigned a unique tag (i.e. #SX09-1234 – with the 1234 changing for each event). I will use these tags for tweets, posts, flickr and video uploads. Event tags are listed on each event's individual page. Do use Tweetgrid or Tweetchat to monitor or join in multiple discussions!

Can’t be at SXSWi 2009? Let me be your guide!

image SMC pal, Todd (aka @Ronin691) and I were discussing the upcoming SXSWi conference at the Mobile Monday event in Dallas, 2 March. Can you believe SXSWi is next week?!

Unlike last year, I am not begging for a sponsor or one-day pass. Trust me, I made the most of my one day at SXSWi last year…we left Dallas to drive to Austin before dawn, officially entered the exhibit hall, snuck into conference and lounge area, then to the Austin SMC party…drove back to Dallas at three in the morning and reported to work four hours later!This year, I will be able to take in the entire SXSWi experience beginning on my arrival, 12 March and departure 17 March!

So, how shall I keep myself occupied in Austin? Do I go OCD and plan every minute of each day or do I go with the flow? It is Austin, after all… As much as I would like to "go with the flow," I doubt my psyche could take the freedom, so I am turning the reins over to you, my readers and friends who will not be able to join the gathering of social media "experts" and "gurus."

I have gone through the schedule and determined those panels/discussions/keynotes I would enjoy attending. (If you are attending SXSWi, the Communicatrix has a great checklist of what to do before the event.) I am shocked at the lack of "big name" panels, but Todd told me he thought this was purposeful to encourage fresh voices and thinking so that social media would not jump the shark. I dig fresh voices, but I am counting on quality content. What will get me jazzed up and inspired? What will spur your creative juices?

So peruse the SXSWi schedule. What sessions do you want me to cover and relay back to you? Let me know by Twitter or in the comments section of this post your suggestions.

To follow SXSWi happenings:

  • Follow SXSWi on Twitter.
  • Follow individual session/panel discussions. Each event has been assigned a unique tag (i.e. #SX09-1234 – with the 1234 changing for each event). I will use these tags for tweets, posts, flickr and video uploads. Event tags are listed on each event's individual page. Do use Tweetgrid or Tweetchat to monitor or join in multiple discussions!

Do you have tips to share with fellow attendees or for those wanting to follow the scene from afar?