TED and then some

21 Feb

The makers of the 'Livestrong Austin Marathon and Half-Marathon' App. Photo by Jay Janner, Austin American-Statesman

This post is about a week overdue, but that’s probably a good thing because there’s a lot more to add. Last week, a “There’s a Creator for That” feature ran in the Statesman about the Livestrong Austin Marathon and Half-Marathon app (the marathon itself happened yesterday; I’m running a bit late).

I also had two more pieces in the paper that day, one about Google’s campaign to make its Places and Hotpot services take off in Austin for Tech Monday and the other a reverse-publish of a blog post I wrote about digitizing our old VHS tapes.

Last week, I hosted a live chat with organizers of South by Southwest Interactive and then wrote about Saturday’s TEDxAustin conference. I didn’t go last year, but this year we made the effort to attend and the Statesman was able to pay for my ticket. We did a pretty extensive preview of the event and today I posted a very lengthy wrap-up. Tried to explain not just TEDxAustin, but the whole TED phenomenon and why it’s taken off so quickly.

We weren’t allowed to bring laptops, digital cameras, video cameras or anything larger than a cell phone and even texting and Tweeting were discouraged during the speaking portions of the day. That made for an interesting reporting challenge since I’m so used to covering conferences live, but it also freed me up to really pay attention, take careful longhand notes and really think about what I thought of the event before I posted something two days later.

Right now things are in a weird balance between me being very much a homebody — I’m loving being here with the girls, taking them to the park, going to the local Children’s Museum, catching up on TV with my wife when they go to bed and playing video games or watching my own shows after everyone else is in bed.

But for TEDx, I had to spend an entire Saturday away from home; it was also the day after we went to Austin for a concert. As I left Saturday morning, Lilly followed me to the door and told me not to go. Carolina is old enough now to recognize when I’m here or when I’m gone and she’s been especially affectionate lately. The older they get the more I miss them when I’m not here and more valuable the time seems when I’m not off working. It’s made it a lot easier to turn down extraneous projects, unpaid speaking gigs and anything else that takes me out of the house when I’m needed.

But then tonight, I attended a Town Hall for SXSW Interactive and got home late. Carolina was asleep and Lilly was already curled in bed, waiting for me.

In just a few weeks I’m going to be gone 24/7 for practically an entire week. I wish I could say I’m completely pleased that the fest is growing and drawing more and more attention every year. It’s my home turf and I get very competitive covering the fest; I love that I’m usually in the top tier of reporters covering the event and rarely get scooped in mid-March. But I’m also a little resentful that Interactive is expanding in both directions, with pre- and post events that are stretching it from 5 days to at least 7 and as many as 11 depending on how we choose to cover it all. Four nights away from home are hard. Six I’ve never even tried before. I’m a little worried.

I’ll take time off after the fest and probably a day or two beforehand to make up for the long hours, but as my wife is fond of saying, I’m not 25 anymore.

I can’t deny, though, that at events like TEDx and SXSW, I love being around people. I love seeing friends who are in from out of town and people I only ever see online through Twitter or Facebook. I love staying out late and seeing people speak and having a few drinks and getting to process it all and put it back out there in writing.

Maybe it’s good that I have a job where I can compress nearly a year of that fun into about a week. It’s exhausting, but it’s also a lot of fun and maybe necessary given what the rest of the year is like.

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