From an operations standpoint, went brilliantly. No trouble with flights, our vacation rental was nice and very affordable compared to hotel rooms for 4 people. We took a gamble and just bought gear from Best Buy and depended on their very gracious return policy instead of paying insane rental fees for gear from the local A/V companies - and Best Buy totally took everything back. To balance our Karma I just went out and bought some new gear for the boys here in PDX from a Best Buy, so they did get some loyalty and business out of the deal, but .. THANKS Best Buy.. ;) Stickers were cool, video reel was a bit long but got cut down to the right size quickly..
First day was a bit bumpy for the first hour, we realized we weren't doing a great job of sucking people in who were just passing by. I ran out to Kinkos and added a sign and we figured out that standing next to the booth and asking "Do you like stickers?" and handing one out to every passer by was a great way to break the ice and get people interested.
Once we hit our stride, we saw at least 2k people come through the booth and every single one of them was impressed. Being able to mention our Clear gig was killer when we were talking to some of the bigger players including directors of interactive technology at some of the biggest PR, marketing and media companies in the states. Having the two demo boxes and Andy, Ryan, and Tony willing to walk people through was killer when we got a Joomla or Drupal developer who begrudgingly gave us a few minutes to show off. More often than not, these folks left the booth vocally asking themselves why they had wasted so many years learning something so painful to work with. There were more than a few people who seemed almost frustraded with us.. "Where have you guys been hiding!?? In what I've been using it took me 3 weeks to get done what you just showed me in 5 minutes!"
In fact, I can't find one person who actually stopped to look that could come up with a single negative comment. I'm not saying this with my ego out, which certainly has been my job in the past, but there's been plenty of times where we knew we had something compelling in the big picture but a lot of details to wrap up.. (ie: sitemap, file manager, etc etc..).. But in the last 18 months it seems like we've really got the big issues resolved... Sure there's some areas where UI could be more elegant or consistent, but in terms of big problems left un-addressed, we think we're done and it seems like the audience agrees.
The only big thing left on my radar is really addressing the international audience in a more compelling way. This and the MSM are likely to be the challenges we ponder after one too many beers for the rest of this year. ;)
One interesting thought I have as SXSW is fresh in my head.. We're not that cool there. The keynote speakers are all from companies like Twitter, Facebook and FourSquare. Between the Movies and Music, the show is really very consumer focused. The only other CMS's there were: SnapPages.com, webVanta.com, simpleCMS.com and ektron.... 3 out of 4 being closed source hosted solutions, and ektron is kinda old school dot net at this point, with a 8k price point.. Frequently I'd be explaining "oh we're a CMS".. "oh yeah, what's it cost?" "Zero." WUUAH?!?"... regardless - no Drupal, no Joomla, no Wordpress even. As I discussed with Ryan on the flight home, it felt like we pretty much could have shown people flying cake and we still wouldn't have been considered for an award or be asked to speak at a session next year. I dunno, I could be wrong, but it did feel like social media was the bell of the ball and things like CMS and Hosting (there were a lot of hosting companies there) were kinda necessary evils.
Strangely I find that somewhat comforting. My dad worked at AT&T with computers in the 60's and started his own manufacturing software company in the 70's - and in those days the idea of a tradeshow on "software" might have made sense. As the 80's and 90's saw computers become part of everyone's life that idea started sounding foolish. You don't say "oh that person works with 'computers'" as I used to explain to my fellow grade schoolers when they asked what my dad did.. Now you would have to qualify what they actually do with them, and that's what the tradeshows focus on.. There's topical tradeshows for all sorts of software genres today. It feels like "the internet" is at that same point. I remember in the 90's when I was interactive director at Pint - Portland's leading interactive media event, EVERYONE at all involved in "dotCom" came to our events. You'd have designers and developers, business owners who were soliciting millions in VC, and one man consultants that were building 486's and designing websites with Frontpage.. everyone had to band together to gain some type of credibility in the eyes of the establishment that was still having their secretaries print their emails each morning.
Well it feels like for better or worse those times have past. The internet is just part of our lives and its not going anywhere. I loved going to SXSW and I deeply appreciate all your help in going there. I think it's going to be really valuable to us as the word of those very well connected people trickles out on the interwebs. I can't say I'm really jumping out of my pants to goto Gilbane or any of the CMS focused conferences I know about. Maybe I should be, I dunno. I am thinking about ways to empower you guys to do more local user groups effectively... We're all feeling very energized, confident, and happy with where concrete5 is and how far we've come in the last year and a half.
I'm glad everything went smoothly and you were able to get concrete5 in front of so many connected people! From reading about SXSW and checking out the pictures, it looks like the interactive group knows how to party just as much as the music and film groups!
I'd have to agree with your last note on using local user groups more effectively. Personally I'd like to have our local group actively seeking out new developers and spreading the joy of concrete5 with viral or guerrilla marketing.
Again, I'm glad to see you boys made it home in one piece. You've got an excellent product here that is on the forefront of the CMS battle. Its good to know that almost everyone who tries it leaves stunned and amazed.
Keep innovating. Stay real.
From just some of the small business I have demo'd C5 too they are also amazed. They sometimes think that that is just too good to be true.
As a developer discusses things with small business (and I mean SMALL), their costs can be way less than a lot of Joomla and/or Drupal developers quote them. But its the name (it isn't in peoples faces yet).
I for one agree with Lucas's statement about some guerilla marketing needing to be done even if it is for just a short while. As one of the few people on the forums from the east coast, I will certainly help. IBM is just down the road from me and a large Lucent outfit is less than 45 minutes from here. Qualcom office is near by (15 minutes) and others.
I believe if we can get more user's groups established this will help a lot. Look at what the LUG's have done at local levels. We have a lot of BIO-Tech going on in NC and other emerging technologies. I believe Concrete5 can be the public (and not so public) solutions for a lot of folks if we can just get some sort of FACE TIME.
The general public is still enormously internet ignorant as it applies to what can be done on a web site. I can quote some folks comments from previous Facebook comments and they don't have a clue what I am referring too. So education is going to be a great need to increase the usage.
We geeks find this platform enormously user friendly and I think that is why the community (once more peeps here about Concrete5) will continue to grow in leaps and bounds.
Folks like those in the IRC channels and those that post a lot of things on the forums are helping tremendously on the spreading of the uses of Concrete5.
NOW WE NEED FACE TIME!!!
Your right when you state those with VC money are moving ahead, with an inferior product in my mind, and that's what Concrete5 now needs is some MARKETING.
I know I am stating the obvious but you have created a beautiful product and allowed us to have it for free. Yes I applaud the use and avenue that the Marketplace is going. It make a lot of sense and you and the community can't survice on FREE all the time (I know, this can be a tricky topic). So how does the apply to this thread? Marketing. Face time. Stickers. Flyers.
How can we as a community increase the FACE TIME of Concrete5.
As we jokingly have said in the IRC channels "We ain't got no money!!!". This is true. We are moving ahead in our lives but don't have any to spare. This is where your company comes in. What can you provide (marketing wise) to the Concrete5 players to allow us to help YOU get Concrete5 out there to the communities at large in our industry?
I for one would pound the pavement for you. My dime, my gas. You provide the marketing material. Hopefully, there will be others in the community that can do that as well. Will be slow, but I know we can do it.
What do you think?
Franz, Andrew, Tony and Ryan...A great big thanks for your product (and to all those great developers providing add-ons).
Thanks Bill, see ya in irc next week.
Not this year, the whole conference thing is expensive in both time and money and we're really eager to enjoy life a little bit this summer, perhaps make a little money - we're calling it the summer of "leveling up".
When will concrete5 aquired by google like picnik ;)