How To Not Be A Douchebag at SXSW Wrap-Up

Filed Under Education, Personal, SXSW | 2010-03-18, 20:06

Image by Scott Beale

The first ever “How To Not Be A Douchebag at SXSW” session went incredibly well! Violet Blue, John Adams, and I led a Core Conversation this year at SXSW Interactive with the hopes that we would raise awareness and help with douchebaggery reduction. We had a full room with mostly newbies, but a few SXSW veterans and even some reformed douchebags showed up. The core conversation was the perfect format and really encouraged discussion and some debate.

You can listen to the talk or download it.

In preparation for this session, I realized that a lot of being a douchebag could be boiled down into three realms:


Douchebags generally act like they are entitled and that the world should stop for them because they are so important. Take a second every now and then to reflect on how you may be acting. Don’t be that self-entitled douchebag arguing with the doorman, “Don’t you know who I am?!” Douchebags also have an “undue sense of accomplishment” that they think entitles them to something even though they’re just riding coattails.


Common sense manners are huge! Please, thank you, don’t cut in line, etc. Oh, and the biggest thing when we’re guests in Austin? TIP! Tip your waitresses, the bar staff, and especially those working open bars. Not only is it nice, you never know when it might come back around and help you out, i.e. quickly getting drinks for that important business client. Treat the volunteers well and thank them for their hard work!


Check your motivation when interacting with people. Are you genuinely interested in them and what they have to say? Or are you just trying to gauge whether or not they are worth your time? According to Google we’ve come up with a new term: “badge surfer”. A badge surfer is someone who is constantly checking people’s badges, even before getting introduced to them to see who they are and what company they work for. It’s fair to check badges later when you may have missed a name or something, but don’t use them as a measurement of whether you should talk to someone.

I think if you keep these three things in mind (EMM), then you can avoid a lot of douchebag behavior at tech conferences like SXSW. But that wasn’t all we covered in the conversation. Some other great points were brought up:

  • Douchebags use terms like expert, guru, ninja to describe themselves and have “MAS
  • Douchebags hand out unsolicited business cards before engaging in the conversation with someone. Respect someone’s approach to business cards. Some people love them, some hate them. Also respect that not everyone wants to instantly hand out their contact info.
  • Douchebags are allergic to transparency
  • Douchebags use their sexuality to sell you a product. (“There’s a thin line between douchebag and booth babe”)
  • Don’t game and cheat on social media. In a douchebag move, Adobe had claimed several mayorships on Foursquare at SXSW.
  • Douchebags lack empathy. Many rules are meant to be broken, but in a way that doesn’t screw anyone over.
  • Know what you’re talking about when trying to pitch your product or service. Admit when you don’t know what someone is talking about.
  • A douchebag act doesn’t instantly make you a douchebag. Make an effort to politely call people on douchebag moves, but respect that some douchebags might be beyond saving.
  • If you’re going to take a picture or video, ask someone first!
  • When asking questions at a panel, don’t pitch your company/service. If you want to promote your own company, do your own panel to share your knowledge.
  • Don’t start off with “This may sound redundant” and don’t monopolize the microphone.
  • Try not to monopolize people’s time after panels. Make a personal connection and pass on your contact info. Email a panelist after the craziness of SXSW to reconnect.
  • It’s acceptable to ask Twitter and friends for invites to parties, but don’t overdo it and spam your followers.
  • Don’t anonymously be negative on the backchannel at sessions. If you see chatter on the backchannel that’s not being addressed, stand up and bring it to the panelist’s attention during questions.
  • Don’t tweet every other sentence at a session. Highlights are good, but constant chatter is useless.
  • Don’t do multiple check-ins at the same place. Don’t connect everything (Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter, Facebook, etc). Duplicate information cross-posted to multiple services is annoying.
  • Don’t tweet at the urinal. Don’t take calls in the stalls.
  • Let people know you might be tweeting at a higher rate than normal while at SXSW. In the past TwitterSnooze was handy but they’re down. It looks like Muuter might be a good solution. Other’s have expressed success using lists.
  • When trying to get a personal introduction or someone to make a blog post about your stuff, overwhelm them with your passion and recognize that you’re asking someone to use their social capital for you.
  • “It’s South By Southwest, not Girls Gone Wild”
  • Be careful when talking with someone you’re trying to make a more personal connection with. If you’re asking for contact info they may think it’s for business.
  • You can’t have a real date at SXSW. There’s too much going on, people have work and networking to do. Try to grab coffee or lunch.
  • When we got done discussing douchebaggery we handed out some buttons and stickers. (Big thanks to Snarky McF for making the buttons!) It was great to do this panel on the first day as we got to see all sorts of impact over the rest of the week via Twitter and blog posts:

    “Finally, I think I understand not only what a douchebag is, but why douche bags flock to the tech and media scene. I am writing from the blogger lounge at South by Southwest (Interactive) 2010, where people laugh at the pin I’m wearing: “Not a douchebag.” Thanks to a pivotal panel I attended the first day of the conference, I am a proud owner of this pin.” (Read Bernice Imei Hsu’s full post: I Am Not THAT Douche Bag (And Other Related Blurts))

    Chris Pirillo:

    @DavidReeves tweeted “You didn’t attend the “How not to be a douchebag” session at #sxsw. Participate in the conversation before you give me a card, a-hole.”

    @KatherineD tweeted “Wow, people at mic in @garyvee presentation can’t seem 2 avoid plugging.They didn’t go 2 the “how not to be a douchebag” panel I guess #sxsw”

    Barry Moltz shared some of the things covered in our session in his post How Not to Be a Douche Bag at a Trade Event

    And even Robert Scoble chose a “douchebag” pin when I gave him the choice:

    image by Rod Begbie

    All in all we had overwhelmingly positive feedback from people and it was brought up several times over the week. I’m considering doing this again next year and would love to hear people’s feedback (both positive and negative) on the session. I know next time I’ll remember to introduce us and what we do (*facepalm*) and will try to keep things more SXSW specific.


    An Absinthe Education

    Filed Under Education, SF Bay Area, Video | 2009-02-16, 04:12

    St George Absinthe Verte, thanks Grey!

    I’ve found myself drinking more and more absinthe over the past year or so. It’s a much more enjoyable drink than your typical beer or cocktail. We even had the pleasure of having the Absinthe Fairy Crusher visit the latest party at The Fishbowl.

    However absinthe is a much misunderstood beverage. If you’re not familiar with absinthe, it’s production, and it’s effects, you might want to take a few minutes to sit and watch this great series of videos from Lance Winters from St. George Spirits, a local Alameda based distillery, talks about how to make absinthe, what to look for in a good absinthe, how he feels about absinthe, and his plans for future batches. Not only is it educational and entertaining, it’s also great cocktail party knowledge, especially if you’re planning on stopping by for our next gathering!

    Absinthe Obsessives

    You’re Not Hallucinating: Forget all the myths and rumors about the green fairy


    How To Pronounce Labret and More Fun Facts

    Filed Under Body Modification, Education | 2008-12-29, 10:00

    A common misconception about the popular below-the-lip piercing is how it’s pronounced. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard people say “It’s French, the ‘t’ is silent!”. Consider this your Body Mod Public Service Announcement for the day. The ‘t’ is pronounced. It’s not French, it actually comes from Latin: labrum meaning “lip”, and -et meaning “something worn on”.

    If you’re interested in more information on the labret piercing, ModBlog (aka BMEZine, one of my favorite sites) has an article and even a wiki page. Did you know that the labret is part of cultures in Alaska, South America, Africa, and even ancient Babylonia?


    Introducing a Puddle of Frogs

    Filed Under Education, Funny | 2008-01-08, 03:23

    Bits and Pieces has a post with a collection of collective nouns. You know, those weird terms you use to describe a group of things without using the word “group”. Here’s some of the more obscure ones:
    # drove of pigs
    # cartload of monkeys
    # kindle of cats (kittens)
    # rhumba of rattlesnakes
    # convocation of eagles
    # prickle of hedgehogs
    # tons more here
    And we would like to take this moment to propose that a number of frogs shall now be referred to as a “puddle of frogs”. Yeah, we made that one up, but who’s to say the other ones on the list weren’t just someone having fun?

    Leave a Comment

    Math is fun!

    Filed Under Education | 2007-08-07, 12:43


    … are all prime. So are:



    1 Comment

    How to Tie Your Shoes in a Different Way

    Filed Under Education, Lifehacks, Websites | 2007-07-07, 16:13

    checkerboard shoe lacing
    Bored of the tried and true method of lacing and tying your shoes? Ian’s got the cure for that boredom at his shoelace site. He has tons of new and interesting ways to lace and tie your shoes.


    Sokushinbutsu, or How To Mummify Yourself in 4 Easy Steps

    Filed Under Body Modification, Education | 2007-07-05, 17:22

    mummified buddhist monk

    1. Change your diet
    For 1000 days (almost 3 years), only eat nuts and seeds that are naturally found. This, in combination with hard physical training will reduce your body fat to nearly nil, eliminating an easily decomposable part of your body.

    2. Switch to Bark
    Ok, now that you are sick of eating nuts and seeds for almost 3 years, it’s time to switch it up. For the next 1000 days, eat only the bark and roots from pine trees. This will reduce the amount of fluid you have in your body, leaving you even more dessicated.

    3. Start drinking poisonous tea
    Towards the end of your 1000 day stint eating delicious bark and roots, start drinking tea made from the sap of the urushi tree. Usually this sap is used to make laquer, but it will help you vomit, sweat, and urinate more often. This will help get rid of that terrible moisture in your body. Oh, and it will help to kill any maggots or other insects that might try to eat your mummified body later.

    4. Lock yourself in a tomb
    Finally, you’ll want to enclose yourself in a tiny tomb, just big enough to sit lotus style in. You’ll hang out in here for the next 1000 days, but chances are you’ll die long before you hit the 1000 day mark. How will you breath? A small tube will be run into the tomb. How will everyone know when you’re dead? A bell will be placed inside. Ring this bell every day until you die, then stop ringing it. When we don’t hear the bell anymore, we’ll pull out the air tube and seal up the tomb.

    When the last 1000 days are up, we’ll crack open the tomb to see if you were successful. If we find a mummy, hurray! You’ll be considered a Buddha and will join an elite group of only a couple dozen monks who have succeeded over the years! If you’re all rotted, we’ll commend you for your effort, and tell you better luck next time. Want some tips? Try drinking the water from the sacred spring on Yudono mountain in Yamagata. I hear it helps because it has arsenic in it to help kill off any bacteria or micro-organisms. Oh, and watch out for the government, this whole practice was outlawed by the government back in the late 19th century.

    tetsumonkai mummified monk

    Buddhist Mummies of Japan(image #1 source and a listing of visits to the different mummies along with a few pictures)
    Buddhist Mummies of Japan (image #2 source)
    Article in JSTOR that I wish I had access to Thanks to Bethany for hooking me up with a copy!
    The Very Special Dead – more pictures


    More Color Legends

    Filed Under Education | 2007-07-03, 12:27

    We posted about other color legends previously, but here are some more:
    Why is Envy a Green Monster?
    Why is Ferrari Red Iconic of Sports Cars?
    Why Are Mental Institutions Light Green?
    Why Are Highlighters Bright Yellow?
    Why Does a Guy Get Blue Balls?
    Why is Purple A Royal Color?
    Why is The Red Cross, Red?
    Why Does the Tour de France Leader Wear a Yellow Jersey?
    Why Do US Immigrants Apply for a Green Card?
    Why Does a Bride Need Something Blue on her Wedding Day?
    Why Do Masters Golf Tournament Winners Get a Green Jacket?
    Why Do We Wear a Yellow Ribbon to Support the Troops?
    Why Are Some Americans True Blue?

    Check out all the answers at COLOURlovers


    Explosives Camp

    Filed Under Education, Fire | 2007-07-03, 10:39

    They didn’t have this sort of thing when I was growing up, but I wish they did! NPR reports on a camp for kids where they’re encouraged to blow things up.
    Some video from one of the lessons on creating a wall of fire and exploding a chicken:

    via MAKE

    1 Comment

    Bay Area Maker Faire 2007: Divining Pod, NifNaks, and SRL

    Filed Under Education, Fire, News, SF Bay Area, Video | 2007-05-23, 21:30

    Wow, what an event. I only made it down for about half of one day and was astounded by the number of people as well as things that were there to see and do. Everyone and their brother who was within driving distance seems to have already reported on the event, but there were a few things I wanted to personally touch on that I found most interesting.

    monochrom’s Divining Pod

    The Monochrom crew was back in the states on their International Year of Polytheism tour this past weekend. Large balloons, a supply of helium, and small children contributed to an attempt at sending one lucky person to the heavens. To quote Johannes, it was a “semi-total success”. There are tons of videos and photos floating around, and monochrom has a good wrap-up here


    Our friend Nifer has been in hiding, working hard on starting her own business, NifNaks, for several months. While we had a chance awhile back to peek at what she’s been up to, it wasn’t until the Maker Faire that she fully unveiled everything. She had her very own booth for the business that’s sure to take off. Of interest to most geeks out there, one of her more popular items was the Flying Spaghetti Monster pin. Her site,, is up and live so those of you that didn’t make it to her booth can order your own felt creations.

    The SRL Show

    While there were a large number of things at the Maker Faire that were kind of dangerous (Tesla coils, fire sculptures, power tool drag races, and more) I don’t think many of them truly compared to the unannounced SRL show. They had several amazing machines to show off this weekend, including Hovercraft, Running Machine, Dual Mule and Mr. Satan Head. Destruction, noise, and fire were all the results of this show. Part of it included Mr Satan Head setting fire to a large ball that appeared to be made of cardboard, which burned ever so nicely. However, the wind started to kick up, fueling the fire and blowing smoke and ash directly into the audience. The bleachers evacuated, and people were forced to move away from the fence. This picture kind of gives you an idea of the level of smoke when they began to put it out.

    Of course sirens were heard in the distance and the fire department showed up shortly after. It turns out that the event organizers impounded Mr. Satan Head and billed SRL for $6600 in cleanup to the damaged parking lot. Ouch. In addition, one woman suffered minor burns, however SRL covered both her medical expenses and “pain and suffering”. Laughing Squid has some great photos in their post about the show. We’ve got a few more shots on Flickr and Rick Washburn posted the follow video of the event: