It’s that time again! When thousands of techies will descend on Austin for SXSW, aka, Spring Break for Geeks and time for us to remind you that are some general rules of thumb for navigating South By – or any other huge conference that also happens to be an excuse for a drinkfest.
First, a few SXSW-specific points: For the uninitiated and we have no firm statistics to confirm this, Austin may well be the Stomach Pumping Capital of the World. Seriously. You’ll even notice ambulances posted at certain street corners at night, ready to service those who’ve over-imbibed, and that’s not SXSW: that’s just another night in Austin.
Since memos seem to be top of mind these days, why fight it? Of course, we refer to the one that former Google employee James Damore wrote a while back, that led to his being terminated from the company, and the impending lawsuit that threatens to out a lot of practices and perhaps unwritten policies that Google would prefer not be aired in public.
It seems that memos will do that, once they’re out in the wild, and certain memos are harbingers of a deeper and more far reaching issues.
Elon Musk has been warning us about the dangers of AI for quite some time now, saying that we need to regulate AI before it becomes a danger to humanity, “famously comparing work on AI to “summoning the demon,” and (warning) time and time again that the technology poses an existential risk to humanity, according to The Verge.
The tech community has a bad habit of shooting first and asking questions later, also known as ask forgiveness, not permission, which has led to data collection and invasion of privacy. And in case you missed it, If you’re using an Android phone, Google may be tracking every move you make.
In case you missed it, in his annual address/personal challenge of the year, Mark Zuckerberg committed to “focus(ing) on fixing… important issues. We won’t prevent all mistakes or abuse, but we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools. If we’re successful this year then we’ll end 2018 on a much better trajectory.”
His past personal challenges have included “visit(ing) every US state, run(ning) 365 miles… and learn(ing) Mandarin.”
From Silicon Valley to Silicon Alley and everything in between and near and far, including Silicon Prairie, Silicon Roundabout, Silicon Desert, Silicon Wadi, Silicon Slopes, Silicon Hills, et al, the world has seen some amazing tech – and some moments in tech that were somewhat less than shining. Or at least, equally memorable, but not in a good way.
It was a year that the tech industry proved that it does have its fair share of visionaries, as well as hipsters and outsters, heroes and zeroes, goodniks and bad players. While the industry is heavily peopled with brash young men and bad boys, it was a year that gave the latter a whole new meaning.
Last week, the FCC reversed the 2015 Net Neutrality Act and contrary to popular misconception, the internet did not disappeared. In fact, there has been a lot of disinformation or phacts as we now like to call them (in print, at least), as they bear little or no resemblance to the real thing, surrounding NN.
As for that so-called last mile, as Wired pointed out in 2014, prior to the first NN vote, in What Everyone Gets Wrong in the Debate Over Net Neutrality, “The net neutrality debate is based on a mental model of the internet that hasn’t been accurate for more than a decade. We tend to think of the internet as a massive public network that everyone connects to in exactly the same way. We envision data traveling from Google and Yahoo and Uber and every other online company into a massive internet backbone, before moving to a vast array of ISPs that then shuttle it into our homes. That could be a neutral network, but it’s not today’s internet… Ten years ago, internet traffic was “broadly distributed across thousands of companies,” said Craig Labovitz (CEO of DeepField Networks, an outfit whose sole mission is to track how companies build internet infrastructure) “..But by 2009, half of all internet traffic originated in less than 150 large content and content-distribution companies, and today, half of the internet’s traffic comes from just 30 outfits, including Google, Facebook, and Netflix… Because these companies are moving so much traffic on their own, they’ve been forced to make special arrangements with the country’s internet service providers that can facilitate the delivery of their sites and applications. Basically, they’re bypassing the internet backbone, plugging straight into the ISPs (and) essentially rewired the internet.”
It’s the holiday season, which means not necessarily the usual networking events: people are in a festive mood and companies, investors, meetups, et al are hosting holiday parties, yea, even in this post-Weinstein Age of Inappropriate Behavior. There are a few basic rules to keep in mind if you want to enjoy the season without fear of embarrassment, breach of etiquette or the need to retain counsel.
- Don’t overdo it on the open bar. You don’t want to do or say something stupid, and alcohol does have a tendency to lower one’s inhibitions. Tech is a small town. Chances are that these are people you will see again – or work with. Pace yourself or brace yourself.
- Don’t talk about work ad nauseam. It’s the holidays. Lighten up. If there’s someone there you’d been wanting to meet, introduce yourself – but don’t go into your elevator pitch. If you do manage to get as far as the exchange of contact information, drop him/her a note and offer to follow up after the holidays. Do not suggest coffee. In any correspondence. Ever.
- What happens in Vegas, doesn’t stay in Vegas anymore. It lives on social media forever.
- Be careful what you share on social media. No embarrassing shots. No dumb or inappropriate hashtags.
- Tip your bartenders. Always.
- Dress appropriately. You might want to dress up or dress down a bit, but don’t wear anything that will elicit unwanted or the wrong kind of attention. Ok, so there’s music and dancing, but you’re not in a club: it’s a work or networking environment in a more festive setting: the last thing you want to do is to have to face the music the next day.
- The Ugly Sweater Exception: ugly sweaters, for some reason, are celebrated this time of year. Note to self and as a general rule: there are certain sweaters that should be burned rather than burned into someone’s memory.
- Don’t skip the party. Holiday parties are different from the usual networking parties. You can network, but remember that this time of year, the emphasis is on social. Be social. But not too social.
- Don’t fall prey to FOMO. There are multiple parties on any given night – in New York, anyway – and they all start at roughly the same time. If you’re at a party that you’re enjoying, don’t worry about the next party and what you might be missing. You’ll meet whomever you’re meant to meet, wherever you happen to be. And there’s always next year. Or next week. Or tomorrow.
- To kiss or not to kiss. You do have to be careful these days, so – air kisses. Ok, so it may seem a bit disingenuous, but does remove the threat of potential lawsuits.
- Never do anything after the sun goes down that won’t stand up to the light of day.
- Thank the host. It takes time and effort to put an event together. Take a minute to say thank you. Especially if you’re someone’s plus one. Thank the host for including you.
Bonus! Study Fast Company’s video suggestions on What Not To Do At Your Company’s Holiday Party