Austin Twestival – Guest Post by Matthew Parente

Posted on February 13, 2009. Filed under: Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , |

austintwestival_mainlogoI am very pleased to have Matthew Parente (@matthew_parente ) guest post for me today – here is his report from the Austin Twestival.

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What can you do on Twitter? For starters, you can save the world On the Twitter interface, there’s the ever-present question: What are you doing? This is perhaps the most misleading question ever. Twitter Myth #1: Twitter is nothing more than a glorified Facebook status update. Twitter isn’t about what you are doing “right now.” It’s about connecting, interacting, and having conversations (big or little). Reread the portions above. Twitter facilitated the connection of many different events, starting with the event itself, down to minute details, such as my acquiring a ticket. As an individual, I had a significant opportunity to meet people in Austin that I have not met before, and also catch up with people I knew, but don’t interact with regularly. If that doesn’t convince you that the “what are you doing” question is irrelevant, fine. If you were at Twestival yesterday, whether in Austin or any of the other 185 locations around the world, you could answer that question by stating: Saving the world. That’s pretty significant.

This is my story — a case study, if you will — on what Twitter can really do.

I wasn’t going to go to the Austin Twestival. There was too much to do to take time out for the event. Plus, I had only found out about the event a few days ago, and I’m a planner. I’m not very spontaneous, and this just wasn’t enough notice. But I kept seeing people tweeting about it, I checked out the Austin Twestival web site and — for a fleeting moment, thought that I should go. But I couldn’t do it. About four hours before the event officially starts, I see a tweet from @bizchristopher:

RT @incslinger Austin peeps. I’ve a ticket for tonights Twestival I cant use plz @ if you want it can email it go in my place…

This is weird. I’m following @incslinger too. Why didn’t I see his original tweet? Well, sometimes the Twitter stream just moves too fast. Retweets are just really helpful that way. I thought about it. Then I saw another retweet from @JackLeblond. Momentum starting to turn… So I tweet @incslinger about the ticket, and he tells me it’s still available. He just wants someone to take it and buy a lot of raffle tickets. But then he has another idea … do a guest post on his blog about the event. I love it. I have a mission and I get to help the community at the same time. I’m in.

A little side note about myself: If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do my best to do it right. So I decide that I’m going to play the part of the beat reporter, covering the Austin Twestival. I grab my Digital Rebel 300D and … I’m going to need a notebook, a little pocket one so I can whip it out at appropriate times, so I can look journalistic. But I don’t have one. On my way to Twestival, I stop by the HEB to get my $0.91 notebook. This is gonna be good. I’m one of the first ones there, Aces Lounge (the location of the event) is fairly empty, but I’m still disoriented.

I’m directed upstairs by the people who check me in and I quickly happen upon @jenniferwhitley, a friend and former colleague of mine at Quadralay (a sponsor of the event). Where do I find the name tags? They’re back downstairs. Back down I go, only to bump into @adammorehead. It is roughly around this time that I start to notice a real trend with Twitter names. They tend to be people’s real names, not strange made up handles. And, as I’m having this conversation with @adammorhead and his friend from NetImpact, @kapoorg, another issue dawns on me. What are Twitter names called? Do we call them tags, handles, names, code names? I just don’t know. I head upstairs to do something with my raffle ticket, but there seems to be some confusion about what, exactly, we are supposed to do with the tickets. They only gave us one side of the ticket … so what are we to do with the one piece we have? @adammorhead’s friend, @sarah703 suggests we write our names on it. She’s a genius. It’s time time to mingle and I bump into @sherrylowery. She mentioned that she heard a radio spot on KUT the other day for the Austin American-Stateman.In it, they ask the listeners to find them on Twitter. That seems pretty radical; advertising on radio to mention your Twitter account? Good for them, I hope it works.

As I walk through Aces Lounge, I find @ChrisBatDell (who is the dad of my 3 year-old’s best friend at day care) and his friend @blissboy. This is my first, hey-your-on-twitter-I-didn’t-know experience. @MegaJustice sees me as I walk past — he’s got a cool new event coming up this May. I can’t wait to find out more; he does some great stuff. And then I’m over by the sumo wrestling, which is just fun. I pull out my notebook and start jotting down some notes (I’ve been writting down the Twitter handle of everyone I meet with a promise to mention them in this post).

Suddenly, @SaraD taps me on the shoulder and tells me I look very journalistic. I’m grinning from ear-to-ear. @SaraD is helping with the event, currently pimping the t-shirts along with @hjstrout. Whoa! I’m actually following @hjstrout, but I don’t know her in real life. This is my first I-follow-you-but-don’t-know-you experience. I follow her because I follow her brother, @AaronStrout. I don’t know him either. But I found him because he’s a Red Sox fan, and so am I. @hjstrout hooks me up with some other Boston-to-Austin transfers, all Red Sox fans, who are now dubbed the Boston 4. Us journalistic types like to label people like that. I’m soon introduced to @Wesley83, one of the sumo wrestlers. He introduced me to @ggroovin, the one who’s behind Dell’s $1 million on Twitter. @ggroovin in turn introduces me to @michellegreer (okay, so I don’t know anyone).

According to @ggroovin, the Austin Twestival has been in motion for about a month now, and has only been promoted through Twitter and word of mouth. As I’m writing this, I’ve learned that they had over 330 people paid registrants. Which reminds me … we’re here to support a cause. We’re here not because of Twitter or some social media experiment. We’re here because of water. The Twestival is organized 100% by volunteers in cities around the world and 100% of the money raised from these events will go directly to support charity: water projects. Right now 1.1 billion people on the planet don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water. That’s one in six of us. Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of all sickness and disease, and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Many communities in developing nations often have a plentiful supply of clean drinking water just below the ground, but no way to get to it. This is where charity: water and their partner organizations come in.

Drilling a well can cost from $4,000 – $12,000 USD and many living on less than $1 a day cannot afford one in their community, even if the money is combined. Our partner organization in austin, TX is A Glimmer of Hope, and I got the pleasure to meet up with @bcoz, aka Brian Cooper, CEO of A Glimmer of Hope and Philip Berber, Chairman. Philip doesn’t have a Twitter handle, tag, whatever. But you can follow him and the whole organization: @aglimmerofhope. This brings me to my final scene. If you are from Austin and are involved in the tech scene at all, you probably know Matt Genovese. He was at Twestival last night. Of course he knew about this event; he is networking central. I ask him for his Twitter handle, tag, whatever, so I can mention it in this blog post. He doesn’t have one. How can this be possible? He says it’s because he doesn’t have a good phone to text with. Twitter Myth #14: I need a good texting phone to use Twitter. I don’t have one either. I Twitter exclusively on my computer and I have a half-way decent Twitter grade to boot. Twittering on your phone is a bit like rinsing cottage cheese, in my opinion.

So there you have it. A case study in the power of Twitter to bring over 300 people together to raise awareness and funds for a global charity. For those who think Twitter is a superficial, teeny-boppy trend, you may want to think again. Last night, Twitter, and the entire Twitter community, was all about saving the world. One glass of water at a time.

Photos from the event can be seen here

Image of matthew_parente from Twitter

Matthew Parente

Matthew is an Email marketing consultant, strategist, service provider, and vegetarian. You find out more about him at his website.

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7 Responses to “Austin Twestival – Guest Post by Matthew Parente”

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Thanks for posting! I couldn’t make the twestival last night; hoping there is another one. Great cause, and love all the connections made.

Hey Matthew, I could swear you wrote down my Twitter name in your little notebook. But, anyway, I’m one of the Boston 4 and it was great to meet another Northeastern transplant last night.

Nice summary of the Twestival.

John
@jljohansen

Simon, thanks for sending me to the twestival and giving me an opportunity to write for your blog! It was a great time, sorry you had to miss it.

Kick ass article! A great time for a great cause.

Matthew
Thank you for going in my stead and for contributing a great write up of the event as well.
Simon

@jljohansen – i did, and I apologize for not including it … i had it written down wrong (or I couldn’t read my writting) and @hjstrout hadn’t replied to me by the time I submitted the article to my publisher. 😦

let’s get coffee some time and talk some Red Sox. I’ll see if I can’t write a post just about you!

Cheers, Mathew! Actually, not sure it was clear that @michellegreer was the primary organizer of Austin Twestival. Big kudos to her & all the other volunteers that made yesterday possible.

Also appreciate yet another case in point about the value of Twitter. A friend who was there & is rather an introverted, private person couldn’t imagine getting onto Twitter. Certainly, one needs to be careful sharing too much private info, but personally I’ve met such awesome people, made new friends, & deepened my friendship with others that I Twitter has become my community. Our community coming together to do something for those in greatest need on our planet. What a wonderful thing!


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