SXSW 2008: On The Art of Speed: Conversations with Monster Makers


Tim Ferriss and I at SXSWiWhen I heard that Tim Ferriss was moderating this session, I was really looking forward to this because I was a big fan, having read his book “The Four Hour Workweek” twice just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. This panel was about building big in as little time as possible. I’ll have to admit, save for Tim, I really didn’t know any of these people. And I call myself a tech geek – oh the shame. All of the speakers were accomplished in their own right.

  • Tim Ferriss – author of the Four Hour Workweek
  • Evan Williams – founder of Blogger and Twitter
  • Cali Lewis – host of GeekBrief TV, a video podcast site for tech geeks like me
  • Mike Cassidy – CEO & co-founder of Xfire, DirectHit, and Stylus Innovation

I think Mike belongs in a whole different category of his own. Mike is a speed freak. He sold Stylus Innovation for $13 million, quickly followed up by selling his 500 day old company DirectHit for $532 million. If that wasn’t enough, he then went on to sell his 2 year old Xfire to Viacom for $110 million. He’s a speed demon. I like. I thought man, I wanna hear what this guy has to say, he’s not messing around.

I’ve organized my notes by person. It helps me understand them individually better.


  • Build a community
  • Have passion
  • Don’t promote too early


  • Use social networks to build a critical mass
  • Follow the market that’s responding – not necessarily the market that your website was meant for
  • Grow faster by taking away power user features


  • Embrace the thought leaders not the traffic leaders
  • Ready, fire, aim approach. Launch first, then figure out who its for
  • Don’t skip on time spent networking
  • Don’t ask people to review you
  • Offer to share knowledge and explain
  • Eliminate as much as possible
  • Get relationships in place before you need them
  • Make it easy for mentors to help you
  • Focus on a really small audience
  • Recommended reading: “Buffet: Making of an American Capitalist


  • Compress all phases of the company
  • Release products/updates quickly (2 weeks)
  • Start with a simple clean feature set
  • Recruiting: set expectations with a running start beginning on day 1
  • Form relationships even when there is no immediate benefit
  • Recommended reading “Six Days of War

If I were to distill everything down to just a key point from each person it would be:

  • Be genuine, be real, and it will show.
  • Go with the flow. You don’t know how users will use your product until it happens.
  • Go for quality over quantity whether it’s relationships, product, users.
  • Do it fast.

Tim Ferris has a writeup of the event including a recording of the panel. You should definitely check it out.

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SXSW 2008: Takeaway from AJAX & Flash Mistakes at Slideshare

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I was at South By SouthWest (SXSW) last month in Austin. It was originally just a music festival, but later added film and interactive media. One of the sessions I attended was AJAX & Flash Mistakes at Slideshare.

I really like For those of you not in the know, Slideshare is a community driven site that lets you upload presentations. The slides themselves get converted to Flash, but all the text is indexed so that you can search for other people’s presentation. There are tons of presentations that have been shared, many which are really good. So when I saw they were presenting, I wanted to hear what they had to say. Here are my key takeaways.

  • Don’t keep users waiting. Give them something else to do while they wait.
  • Don’t compromise User Experience (UX) for performance
  • Don’t surprise people – with unexpected popus or inserted DIVs.
  • Have a direct path to assets. Too many AJAX websites don’t let users get to certain things directl

One thing they did which was not optimal was that they fetched comments dynamically which was costing the bandwidth an extra hit. However they noticed that most of the slides didn’t have comments, so it was a wasted hit.

Most interaction designers are so concerned with making it easy for the user to accomplish a task that they forget about what happens after. What happens next?

Keep users in the zone

The user just uploaded their first slide and now they’ve got nothing to do. You have to keep the user on the side. You have to keep them engaged after they’ve given you what you want. Slideshare kept users engaged by showing them tips and providing them ways to share the slide with their friends.

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