I can finally summon some energy and time to blog, not just tweet, about South by Southwest. First of all, I didn't even go to SXSW, only to public events. That alone was enough to keep me very busy.
My SXSW experience started out with Austin Tech Happy Hour on Thursday. One of the startups featured at ATHH was Other Inbox. (I didn't find out what the other 2 were -- either there weren't any, or they were well hidden.) A woman at the Other Inbox table approached me with a pitch: "Do you need a cure for email overload?" I decided to play a devil's advocate for a while. I said I didn't really have email overload. That's not quite true -- I would feel very overloaded if I had to read the posts from all the email lists I am on, but I didn't go into detail. She replied that I am a lucky person. I said it's not a matter of luck: the only real cure for email overload is real-life management, not email management. In my opinion, the email you get is merely a reflection of responsibilities you take on. Don't take too many responsibilities, commit to only what you can accomplish, say "no" more often, unsubscribe from mailing lists that don't add much value to your life, and you won't be overwhelmed with email
I asked how can Other Inbox technology do all that to a person. They admitted it can't, but it can recognize which emails in your inbox come from real people versus mailing lists and such. Hmm. I was quite surprised one needs an application to do that -- I never had trouble telling real people's messages from mailing list messages. But you never know what kind of interesting difficulties some folks might have! :-)
I still think that no matter how you organize your inbox, if you have an average of x emails to read every day, it will take you the same amount of time. That's not to say that certain approaches to email don't help. Some people read it all first thing in the morning, others last thing at night, and so on -- to avoid being constantly interrupted by new emails. That's all good. But ultimately I think a cure for email overload is simply not to get too much of it.
Then I inadvertently crashed Austin Interactive Marketing Association meetup. I was told about it by one guy from Austin Linux Group, who said it was a "welcome out-of-towners to SXSW" happy hour. AIMA people at the registration desk have not heard of such a thing, though sure enough they took me for an out-of-towner. With my accent it was almost guaranteed. :-) (They asked me if I was from Sweden.) Anyway, I met with two people from Austin Linux Group, and we chatted for a bit. In their experience, Linux user groups are dying, at least in Austin. Or if not dying, they are going virtual. Some of them, including ALG, have strong email lists, but they don't feel much need to meet in person. Some people think it's a matter of there being so much good info about Linux on the internet, you can google anything, so you don't have to meet in person to ask for advice or help with hands-on installations, etc. But that's not what these two ALG people thought. The high likelihood that a typical newbie will run into serious problems with WiFi and thus lose interest in Linux, is one reason that Linux desktop is not gaining popularity. But there's also a more interesting reason. For many young people Linux is not in the running if they're considering an alternative to Windows. And not because they are Mac afficionados. A smartphone is a more likely competitor. Many people these days no longer want to carry around laptops when a smartphone is enough for their daily computing tasks. Thus, a phone becomes their primary computer.
Pictures from this Austin Tech Happy Hour and other SXSW events can be found in my photo gallery.
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