Technology: Not Just for Squints Anymore (or Why You Should Attend South by Southwest)

Have you ever seen the Fox show called “Bones?”  It’s about a preeminent forensic anthropologist, Dr. Temperance Brennan (played by Emily Deschanel) and her team, who partner with an FBI agent named Seeley Booth, played by David Boreanaz, to solve murders when there isn’t much left of the victim beyond the bones.  Brennan and her team have off-the-charts IQs and use science and deductive reasoning to find the answers; Booth is distrustful of science and scientists.  Booth’s contribution is his instinct and intuition, both of which are derided by the scientists as being subjective and therefore not dependable.  Of course in reality, both skills are necessary to solve the crimes.  Booth’s affectionate nickname for the intelligent scientists is “Squints,” a new take on “nerd,” “geek,” or “brainiac.”  (Note to the  cast, crew, executive and creative teams at “Bones:”  You are brilliant and I am a huge fan of the show.  It’s smart, funny, endearing, and thoroughly entertaining.)

Why am I telling you this?  Austin is gearing up to host the 7th SXSW (South by Southwest – www.sxsw.com) event since I’ve been living in Austin, and six times before, I have not attended.  Here in Austin, a disproportionate number of my friends and peers are “techies,” which to me means involved or interested in the high-tech industry, including computer hardware and software, and internet technologies (“computer geeks,” if you will, and I say that with love).  I have heard Austin referred to as “Silicon Hills.”  Plus we have UT Austin and other universities here which brings an influx of PhD’s, PhD candidates, and other academics, researchers, and a plethora of smart people.  In other words, Austin is overrun with Squints of one sort or another.

Compared to the population at large, I’d say my computer knowledge is probably greater than average.  I’m a productivity trainer and part of what I do is teach people how to make effective use of the technology available to them, and how to prevent technology from becoming just another distraction.  But compared to the population of my peers in Austin, my technology savvy is woefully lacking.  And pretty much everyone I know in town (true that population is heavily weighted with computer Squints, but even still) attends at least the Interactive session of SXSW.  I’ve always looked at it as a tech conference, and since I’m not a “techie” or computer Squint, there was no reason for me to attend.

I now realize I have been seriously misguided, and there are two pieces of evidence that have led me to this conclusion.  First, when I finally decided to look at the actual agenda for SXSW Interactive, I realize that there are plenty of sessions that you don’t necessarily need to be a Squint to care about.  A perusal of last year’s schedule reveals sessions with titles such as:

Dabble, Dabble, Toil and Kick Ass
Bankrupt Your Startup in 5 Easy Steps
Body Optimization:  Why Stop at Health and Fitness?
What Women Need to Succeed
Building a Worldwide Climate Movement
The 10 Commandments of Nice
10 Tips for Managing a Creative Environment

Pretty general, right?  Sounds like even devout non-Squints could probably benefit!

Now, don’t get me wrong, while there were many sessions that sounded like the ones above, there were far more that sounded like these:

ProJavaScript Design Patterns
Edit Me!  How Gamers Are Adopting the Wiki Way
AJAX and Flash Mistakes:  Lessons Learned Building SlideShare
Filching Design:  When the Shoe Fits
WireFraming in a Web 2.0 World
Blog on Company Time Without Getting Dooced
PMOG:  The Web as a Play Field

Huh?  Definitely the realm of computer Squints.  Is that even English?

But then there was a third class of sessions, which leads me to my second and more powerful conclusion:  technology is not just for Squints anymore.  Technology is no longer a separate industry.  It has become inherent in our existence, and it is permeating every area of our lives.  Take these for example:

Building Findable Websites
Managing the Media Blur
Worst Website Ever:  That’s So Crazy, It Just Might Work
Online Advertising for Newbies
Social Networking and Your Brand
Core Conversation:  Are You Smarter Than a Wired Teen?

I’m not a computer Squint but those sound like they would be useful to me!  I’m beginning to realize that in order to be successful in business, successful in life, I may just have to get a little more squint-y.  My definition of squint territory might be way too specific.  I’ve always been sort of a serial student, believing that when you stop learning, you start to become obsolete.  But what I didn’t realize until now is that I need to apply that theory to technology in many different ways, not just the obvious ones, and what I used to consider strictly the realm of Squints, probably isn’t.

So I’ve already bought my ticket for this year’s SXSW Interactive.  For now, I’m still using my flawed logic to conclude that since I’m not in the Film or Music industries, the rest of the SXSW Conference doesn’t apply to me.  Perhaps that will be NEXT year’s revelation.

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  1. […] (If you’d like to know what led me, a mostly non-techie, to attend, read this post first).  These people are definitely the hard-core technology fans and early adopters.  So it […]

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