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Breaking Bread with Brad

January 6, 2010 8:34 PM | Comments (0)

It is with some sadness that I learnt, via Jeffrey Zeldman’s tweet, that Brad Graham has passed away. While I didn’t know Brad well, his death prompted me to dig up old photos I had of him, and look back at what he did in the context of SXSW, which I am most familiar with.

(Others may choose to write about Brad’s contributions in different areas, for he was a man of many interests and talents. What’s important is that our blog posts and tweets will serve to remind us of him in a more permanent manner.)

My first SXSW pilgrimage was made in 2006. As a greenhorn I had lots to learn about the culture and traditions at this annual geekfest in Austin, Texas. Fortunately, I had veteran Lucian to show me the ropes.

One of the first things we did, before the real programme started, was to attend Break Bread with Brad. Break Bread with Brad 2006 took place at the Gingerman Pub. From my Flickr collection:

Gingerman Pub

Who was Brad?

He came across as very confident and extroverted; a people-oriented guy, always joking around with random folks. This was his stage, and everybody knew who he was. Beyond these first impressions, though, I also thought it was a pretty good idea of his to organize this event as it served as an ice-breaker, especially for SXSW newbies like me.

Prizes 5

As the host, Brad gave out quirky little prizes to guests and provided general entertainment for everyone.

Prizes 3

I met Brad, and recall he sat near me, telling some of us his reason for organizing Break Bread every year - to meet more people. At the same time, he was giving something back to SXSW by creating this tradition. After you meet people at Break Bread, talking with them again is easier when you next bump into them at the Convention Centre.

A few people I met at Break Bread, I did keep in touch with over the next few years. Such as Ralph, Elaine and Pat at Break Bread 2006. At Break Bread 2007 I met my ‘fellow Tan’, Sarah who then became my room mate at SXSW 2008. So, thank you Brad, for giving us all a platform to make new acquaintances.

Break Bread 2007 was at Buffalo Billiards. I recall meeting Wilson and walking there with the Dell team in the evening. This time, I was no longer the newbie but was showing the SXSW newcomers around. I took another photo of Brad, here:

I introduced Lionel from Dell, to Brad

According to my Flickr photo title, I had introduced Dell’s Lionel Menchaca, to Brad. I vaguely recall Brad saying something outrageous or naughty about Dell but can’t be too sure about that ;-)

Despite meeting lots of people, Brad wasn’t the kind of guy that would just shake your hand and forget who you were, 10 minutes later. I recall in the later hours of Break Bread 2006, there was a prize to be given out for the person who travelled the longest distance to SXSW. Brad remembered Lucian and me, and called out that there were Singaporeans in the audience. He looked pointedly, and mischievously, in our direction.

Unfortunately, we lost out to a big Aussie, who did deserve the prize as it is a longer distance from Down Under to downtown Austin.

But hey, thanks for remembering us, Brad.

We will remember you.

Gmail junking valid emails!

July 26, 2008 1:17 AM | Comments (4)

Oh dear oh dear. ..

I noticed that Gmail was applying the ‘Junk’ filter to a lot of valid emails. Many of them seemed to be just newsletters, but I was also disturbed that it had also filtered emails from my own family, my Media Socialist mailing list buddies and other good friends whose email addresses were in my Address book.

Tonight I went through my Junk folder in detail. Imagine my horror when I saw an email from Adam Greenfield, author of Everyware, asking me (and any other Singapore readers) to hang out with him at Changi when he was in Singapore.

He emailed me in Sep 2007, which was LAST YEAR!!!

This is so embarassing. I just sent Adam a note. I really loved his SXSW presentation on ubiquitous computing. I gave it a full 5 stars. Despite attending lots of panels at SXSW for 3 years in a row I’d still say his was the most mind-blowing presentation because it represented a tangible and exciting new future and I learned the most from it.

My job in Health Promotion would also have been related to some of the examples he gave in his presentation and it would have been marvelous to have met with him.

The question now is, how did Gmail apply a Junk filter which I never asked for?

I suspected it was my syncing Entourage for Mac with Gmail’s IMAP … however I did a timeline check and Gmail only launched its IMAP service in Oct 2007, a month later. By right, all emails sent via my Contact form on my website, should appear in the Inbox. However it and many others were marked as unread and in Junk. From that period onwards I noticed a few other emails sent via my Contact form had somehow landed in Junk too. I still can’t figure it out.

One thing worse than having email overload, is not even receiving important emails in the first place!

To my Chinese readers: Look at this photo and tell me what this is.

Isn't this Chinese paper money for the dead?

This was the decoration on each SXSW Web Awards table. I didn’t notice it at first because there were many things going on, but then my eyes rested on the candles and then the paper they were on…

Isn’t this the paper we fold up into ingots and burn as money for the dead?

I didn’t make an issue of it, but took a photo to remember it by. Back in Singapore I was reminded of it as I saw my grandmother fold a bundle of such sheets. Not that I believe that it will actually translate into spiritual funds, as I’m Christian, but I accept it as part of my heritage.

The SXSW organisers probably didn’t mean to offend anyone. I was just surprised that these materials used for the Chinese dead, had turned into decorative tabletop pieces at a geek fest!

That’s right. I was just asked to fill up a SXSW feedback form and was amused with some of the questions and answer options. (Note that this survey was more on the operational aspects of SXSW rather than the actual content of each panel…)

Firstly, we were asked to rate items on a scale of 1-5, but I felt the “NA” field was necessary as well. There was a sentence on the first page to skip items if they were non-applicable, but if we accidentally clicked on an option we can’t undo it.

For the music panels, I was asked how many music performances I attended. The options began with “None”, “5-10” and “11-20”. I attended between “1-4” but there was no such option. So I gave the closest answer which was “5-10” though I was really not that happening :P

SXSW Feedback form

When asked which social network platforms we used, I was surprised that Facebook was not even on the list. So I put ‘Other’. This was surprising given that Mark Zuckerberg was a keynote speaker this year, in a rather controversial interview that was reported in broadsheets and in the Blogosphere.

As you can see, we were also asked which telecommunications provider we used. While I’m not a US participant I know that Cingular is now “AT&T”, thanks to the iPhone ads. It was probably a feedback form from previous years that wasn’t updated.

Fortunately there were many open text fields for me to post further comments, so I have given all this feedback to the SXSW organisers. Hopefully they’ll be able to modify the survey while it’s still ongoing.

Too much schwag!

To end off, here’s a photo of me re-enacting the scene of me collecting three heavy SXSW schwag bags! As I was a Platinum badge holder I received a bag each for Interactive, Film and Music. It is not funny if your hotel’s far away, because that means you have to lug it around for the whole day or pay expensive cab fare to drop it back at your hotel and return to the festival. I suggested that materials shouldn’t be duplicated. Save the trees, and save the backs!

SXSW music panel. Katrina Carden McMullan, Bill Hochberg (moderator), Jessica Darraby.

Official description: This panel will explore legal and business issues arising from nontraditional uses of music-related intellectual property (music and graphic art copyrights, trademarks, band names and rights of publicity), such as for restaurants, advertising campaigns, gift book publishing, technology sub-branding, and licensing of music and music-related art for toys, games, sports products and even personal hygiene products like toothbrushes.

[Note: as this panel began at 3pm and my previous panel ended at 3.20pm, I missed the first part of this discussion.]

It’s kind of sweet, in a way, that the very last SXSW panel I’m attending (at least for 2008) is on an issue that’s always been close to my heart - intellectual property. I studied Law because I was interested in copyright, especially as I did creative writing and songwriting and experienced the pain of having my own work stolen before (by someone I once considered my best friend - but that’s another story).

Often, artistes don’t realise that a lot of their collaterals can breach intellectual property laws. Or they think their rights have been infringed, want to sue then realise they didn’t register their intellectual property, making it difficult to win. The lawyers’ advice: Ensure that all your trademarks are registered before you proceed with a lawsuit.

Hochberg notes that big artistes do recognise the issues better. He quotes Gene Simmons who said, “I’m not in a rock band. I’m in a rock brand.” Darraby notes that people don’t just buy with their ears - they also buy with their eyes.

Carden McMullan is from Mattel’s in-house legal department, and describes how her company has agreements with movie studios to produce toys. The lawyer’s approach is to limit exposure and therefore liability. Conversely, Darraby, who represents artistes, says talent managers are trying to help their clients get more exposure. They’d want to splinter the IP rights so that their clients own the rights for various mediums.

Darraby feels that lawyers need to listen more to what their clients need to do, instead of having a standard, ‘one size fits all’ approach. She’s seen lawyers not wanting to take on international distribution rights.

While this was a small panel, it was good to have panelists from both sides of the playing field offering opposing perspectives.

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