Thursday, October 28, 1999

The Cyber Scene in Austin ~ by Will Kreth

Digerati of Web Go Glitter
It was a loungy time a week ago Thursday (10.28) at the Bitter End, where in the b-Side room, the webAUSTIN 99 wrap party was going on. The first of a series of "road show" dates for the Miller-Freeman sponsored conference, Austin – always the gracious host – felt a bit like San Francisco for an evening (one of my old home towns), with a few dozen Bay Area denizens on hand for the occasion. And there is nothing like an evening with a bunch of friendly, over-educated extroverts to make me smile.
The b-Side room, aside from reportedly being haunted by a spirit that tends to go on a crying jag over the magazine rack, is a funky place. When you walk in, you're on a landing that is in-between a split-level venue – with stage, bar, booths and chairs downstairs – and couches and chairs upstairs on the mezzanine. Not standing on the balcony but still towering above everyone, was someone I look up to (literally) - my old HotWired buddy and workshop instructor Jeff Veen. At about 6'7" – Jeff is a gentle giant of a man who has fortunately recovered from a relatively recent back surgery. His daylong web design workshop got rave reviews from some folks I happened to talk to. With Jeff, was his lovely wife Leslie, down to Austin for a visit.
The original maus himself, Bob Sloat was on hand. I've known Bob since 1991, when he sent in a very funny Macromedia Director movie as a resume to the Apple Multimedia Lab. Now Bob's the head of the San Francisco office of IAB (InterActive Bureau –Roger Black's design firm). Noting that another firm recently acquired IAB; Bob had a sly and funny quip about the fallout from all the corporate gobbling that is going on right now. "Have you ever known anyone who's gone through a merger or buyout and said: 'Wow, that was just the best experience I've ever had at a company!'????"  It was a sardonic statement that had everyone nodding and smiling knowingly.
Bob introduced me to conference organizer Crystal Waters. I congratulated Crystal on the way M/F runs their events and her hand in not just bringing in hired gun designers to teach workshops, but also reaching out to local Web designers, programmers, and artists to both teach and speak on panels. However, it wasn't more than a minute or two into our conversation, when the jovial brand called Peter Merholz (of, Epinions, and host of the conference's Webpardy! contest) arrived with two cans of aerosol spray glitter to dispense on the crowd, and spray into the fan that blew bubbles from a bubble machine above the scene.
How these glitter things get started is always a mystery to me. However, that's not to say it was unpleasant (I would later compare notes with Samir Shah of SXSW, who also seemed mystified). The unsinkable Molly Steenson, now of Scient – said it best after getting sprayed with glitter, with the succinctly put, "I feel so GLITTERY!" About that that somehow always undefinable moment during the evening, the mood went from loungy to hoppin' – as Austin's cheesy-and-loving-it Recliners transitioned from subdued cover-versions of '80s New Wave hits, to up-tempo dance-floor filling cover-versions from pop music's Velveeta song book. 
Amidst the atomized flying glitter and bubbles, I also had the pleasure of meeting the irrepressible amazon Jennifer Accettola, online producer of the webAUSTIN and all of Miller Freeman's WEB2000 road show websites. It may awhile until we see all these people in one place again, but that may be as soon as the SXSW 2000 Interactive Festival ( in March of next year. Looking forward to it. Until next time, that all from Austin - where both the people and the weather are always warm, sometimes hot, but never cold!