This is what Shawn Morton would look like if he had been made of LEGO sMoRTy71.com -- the personal website of Shawn Morton
Thursday, March 26, 2009
My one year layoff anniversary
I was laid off from my job at CNET one year ago today. I had survived more than a half dozen rounds of layoffs during the first dotcom bubble and, honestly, didn't see it coming. I had just returned from an awesome week at SXSWi 2008 and thought I was going to a meeting to discuss our product roadmap (pretty sneaky, huh?). It wasn't until I saw one of our HR staff members from our San Francisco office on the way to that faux meeting that I figured out what was coming.

At the time of the layoff, I considered it a positive thing. After my trip to SXSWi, I realized that I no longer was challenged by my job and that I didn't have the same passion for it as others at SXSWi did about their jobs. Plus, I had been working on a startup in my spare time for the past two years, so I was eager to have more time to dedicate to it.

Fast forward a year and I still consider the layoff a positive event. In fact, I am more grateful for the layoff now than I was a year ago. I was able to take 4 months off to spend time with Amy and the kids. I was able to dedicate time to our startup idea (even though it didn't ultimately pan out). And I was able to move on to a new position leading social media at Nationwide Insurance.

I have had a blast in my new role these first 8 months (read my 6 month recap) and I find myself excited to go to work everyday. I work with a talented team in our interactive marketing department and have been able to work on some great social media projects.

I've also had the opportunity to experience a lot of new things like my first Ohio State game (vs. Michigan, no less), a tour of Ohio Stadium, my first NHL games, my first NASCAR race, my first Rolls Royce ride, my first dinner sitting next to Al Pacino, my first hurricane and Mahlon's first concert.

My only regret is having to leave our friends and my mom in Louisville. I'm hoping to convince all of them to move east. I've already got one of them to meet us halfway.
My Experts in the Industry interview with Aaron Strout
I was fortunate to connect with Aaron Strout in person at SXSWi this year. I knew of Aaron from his work at both Mzinga and Powered, but we had never met in person. Turns out that the Innovator's Road Trip crew know Aaron, so we ended up at a lot of the same events throughout the week.

While Aaron was giving Jim Storer and me a ride back to the airport, he suggested that I participate in his Experts in the Industry series of interviews. Never one to shy away from a little self-promotion, I agreed.

Before I share the link, I need to explain the picture that Aaron included of me on the interview. Jim and Aaron started a photo meme at SXSWi where they would grab a group of people and ask them to shoot three photos: sad, angry and happy. The photo Aaron included of me is from one of the "happy" photos we took during the Mashable party.

Here is the link to the interview.

Thanks to Aaron for including me with such an impressive group of social media thought leaders and for his hospitality in Austin.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
SXSWi 2009 Day 5 recap
The last day of SXSWi is always bittersweet. On the one hand, you're excited to get home. On the other, you hate to say goodbye to all of the friends and colleagues that you've spent the past 5 days connecting/reconnecting with.

I eased into the day slowly and headed to the Convention Center around 9:30am. I popped into the Blogger Lounge and hung out with Peter Corbett for a bit before getting a demo of an awesome new web service for parents called Lil' Grams. Greg Narain, who built it, had been sporting a Mr. T style mohawk throughout SXSWi, so how could I not check out his app.

Following the demo, Rick Calvert of Blog World Expo, whisked me over to do a live interview about what we're doing with social media at Nationwide.

Day 5: Building Strong Online Communities panel

After the interview, Tim Walker of Hoovers and I went to check out the Building Strong Online Communities featuring Drew Curtis of Fark.com, Erin Kotecki Vest of Blog Her, Ken Fisher of Ars Technica and Alexis Ohanian of reddit.com. Lots of great nuggets of information from the panel; however, Drew Curtis stole the show with his seemingly endless stream of one-liners. The one that got the most respond, including applause, was about anonymous comments. Curtis called them "complete horsesh!t."

Following the session, I headed back to the Blogger Lounge to say my goodbyes. I then went to lunch with Jim Storer, Liz Strauss, Heather Strout, Becky McCray and Keri Pearlson at Maria Maria. Not only was the conversation at lunch great, but Maria Maria's food (the guacamole alone was worth the visit) and decor were really great.

Awesome decor at Maria Maria.

I made one last stop back at the Convention Center to grab some SXSWi swag from the merch table. From there, I connected with Aaron Strout who offered to take Jim Storer and me to the airport.

As with last year's SXSWi, the festival doesn't end until you leave AUS. I ran into Marty Wetherall from FanChatter in the security line. We had met during the Frog Design party on Saturday night. I then ran into Dave Durand, Bill Johnston and Chad Crowell while waiting to board my flight.

On the flight from Austin to Chicago, I sat next to the editor of Parenting.com and was able to share my experience with Lil Grams. Hopefully, she can give that some exposure.

Also captured this video of Austin from about 20K feet.

Ended up getting home from the airport just before midnight. I'm wiped out and exhausted, but can't wait until next year.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
SXSWi 2009 Day 4 recap
Day 4 at SXSWi 2009 started with the Beyond Aggregation panel with Marshall Kirkpatrick, Gabe Rivera, Louis Gray, Melanie Baker and Micah Baldwin. Was able to get there early and get a seat in the front row with Tamar Weinberg. Session ended up completely packed by the time things kicked off. Each panelist had a slightly different motivation for being better information gatherers, so they ended up presenting a broad set of tips. Marshall's method of finding new bloggers to follow was really interesting.

Day 4: Beyond Aggregation session

Spent the rest of the morning in the Blogger Lounge uploading photos and videos and reconnecting with the usual cast of characters.

Ended up having lunch on the back patio at Moonshine with Jason Falls, Jim Storer, Bill Johnston, John Johanson, Kevin Frey, Dave Delaney, Rebecca Corliss and Todd Earwood. Had the awesome Chicken Fried Steak. Highly recommended.

Day 4: Lunch at Moonshine.

One of the highlights of the day was getting Julia Allison to shoot a quick video for a co-worker. He is a huge fan and had asked me to try and get a photo. I ended up getting an awesome 30 second video. Julia was super nice and nailed the video in one take without any preparation.



I attended the Engagement 1.0 session which included MIT's Henry Jenkins. It looked at fandom throughout history and demonstrated how people connect with the media that they love. Really put things like Facebook fan pages in a larger, more interesting context. Sat with Josh Guttmann from Sphere for this session.

Day 4: Example of how fans change content franchises shown during the Engagement  1.0 session
When Sam Met Frodo was one example of fan fiction that drastically changes the original premise.

Day ended with dinner with Todd Earwood and Kevin Frey, then hanging out at the Mashable party at Six Lounge before finishing up the night at the Austin Ventures party at Unlisted.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
SXSWi 2009 Day 3 recap
Started off day 3 at SXSWi with a cup of coffee from Starbucks. On the way through the hotel lobby, I spotted Jason Falls, Matt Stewart and Micah Baldwin and decided to crash their breakfast.

Eventually Falls and I made it over to the Blogger Lounge where we ran into Bill Johnston, Dave Peck and Rick Calvert. Rick and I decided to liven things up with a little early morning Rock Band. He played guitar and I sat in on drums. Ended up cranking through 3 or 4 songs and giving the room a taste of what would come later.

At 11:30, Todd Earwood and I went over to the Hilton for a session with Bazaarvoice CMO Sam Decker. On the way over, we walked right past Julia Allison who I am supposed to get a photo of for a co-worker. Didn't have my camera ready, though.

After the session, we headed back to the Blogger Lounge to coordinate a lunch posse. On the way, we ran into Jake McKee who blames me for his netbook envy.

We ended up taking a group of 12, including Bill Johnston, Nick Huhn, Chris Claxton, Chad Crowell, Todd Earwood, Rob May and Dave Durand, over to P.F. Chang's for lunch. I was finally able to meet Sean of Ping.fm. Love their service (except when I make mistakes).

After a tasty lunch, I headed back over to the Blogger Lounge. I snagged a seat next to Jeff Pulver who recruited me for some more Rock Band. Never one to disappoint a crowd, I agreed. After warming up with a couple of songs (with my on drums and Jeff on guitar), we enlisted Jason Falls to take on vocals. We ended up leading a raucous sing-a-long version of "Livin' on a Prayer" with the packed crowd in the Lounge. Really fun(ny) stuff.



Next, I headed to the Community Management session hosted by Heather Champ from Flickr. Ended up sitting with Bill Johnston, Sean O'Driscoll and Dustin Johnson.

Afterward, I joined Jason Falls and a group for a dinner at Stubb's. That ended up being a huge mistake as the food was mediocre and the service was absolutely terrible. Waitress vanished for half an hour and then I overheard manager complaining about our table because we gave her feedback on the service. Will definitely not go there again.

Following dinner, I went back to the hotel to recharge my phone (and myself) before heading out to the Social Media Club event at Buffalo Billiards.

The SMC party was a great event. Lots of room to spread out and network. Seems like everyone in social media was there including Chris Heuer, Kristie Wells, Jeremiah Owyang, Robert Scoble, Scott Monty, Jason Falls, Marcel Lebrun, Richard Mcinnis, Jim Storer, Aaron Strout and Micah Baldwin.

Todd, half of our billiards dynasty
Dynasty!

Ended up pairing up with Todd Earwood to play some pool. We quickly became a self-proclaimed dynasty after repeatedly pummeling Jim Storer and Aaron Strout. We were so good that we didn't even need to make any shots ourselves. We just allowed the other teams to make all of their shots and then scratch on the 8 ball. Genius!

After we closed down the SMC party, we headed to the Tumblr event where Gary Vaynerchuk was supposed to be going to have an impromptu wine party. As soon as we walked in, I bumped into Andrew Mager who I worked with at CNET, but had never met in person (he is in SF, I was in Louisville).

Gary Vaynerchuk and Shawn Morton

The wine party ended up getting moved across the street to Rain where complete chaos ensued. Wine and wristbands were being passed through the packed crowd. Some of the people we ran into were Pete Cashmore, Baratunde Thurston, Robert Scoble, Daniel Ha and Jim Louderback. I took a ton of photos from that event.

We ended the night by leaving with Gary Vaynerchuk and a group of about 10 people. Tried to get into the Pure Volume event, but were turned away. Since it was ridiculously late at that point, I ended up heading back to the hotel and calling it a night.
SXSWi 2009 Day 2 recap
Day two began at the TechSet/Windows Mobile Blogger Lounge on the 3rd floor of the Austin Convention Center. As with last year's AMD Blogger Lounge, there are tons of great people who come through throughout the day, so the key is to get there early and snag a seat at one of the handful of large tables.

I met Jason Falls there as they opened the doors at 9:30am. Geoff Livingston and Rick Calvert, CEO of Blog World Expo, were there as well.

Over the course of the next couple of hours, it was a who's who of the social media space with the team from Radian6 (Marcel Lebrun, David Alston, Richard Mcinnis and Amber Naslund), Jeff Pulver, Brian Solis, Jim Storer, Jeremiah Owyang, Bill Johnston, Brian Link, Eric Marcoullier, Chris Heuer, Kristie Wells, Ewan Spence, Joanna Geary, Liz Strauss, etc.

After having breakfast and several cups of coffee there, I headed to Dave Morin's Facebook session. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the room, there was a line of about 35 people gather outside the door who couldn't get in.

Day 2: Jeff Pulver, Amber Naslund and Brian Link

So I headed back to the Blogger Lounge to continue the conversations that got started earlier in the morning. One highlight was getting a Maple Bacon Lollipop from foodzie. Another was hearing Jeff Pulver, who is an investor in Twitter, share some of his ideas for the service with Brian Link, former head technologist at Digg.com, and Amber Naslund.

Later, we organized a lunch with Amber and most of the Louisville attendees at Rio Grande. Ended up with me, Jason, Amber, Chris Claxton, Rob May, Todd Earwood, Kevin Frey, Matt Winn, Jesse Harris, Nick Huhn, Dave Durand and Brendan Jackson. I opted for the mahi mahi tacos. Not quite as good as the beef brisket tacos from the day before, but it was still really good.


Lunch at Rio Grande

Headed back to the Convention Center for Zappos' CEO Tony Hseih's keynote on company culture and customer satisfaction. He had some really good insights on how Zappos approached both of those topics.

Following the Zappos keynote, we heard Charlene Li, former Forrester researcher and author of "Groundswell," talk about the future of social networks. Her theme was that "social networks will be like air" and that every website will be able to leverage data about your identity, your contacts and your activities in a much more meaningful way than they do today.

After Charlene's session, I returned to the Blogger Lounge and connected with Louis Gray and Mark Krynsky in person for the first time. I had talked with them quite a bit over the past couple of years as we were working on Profilactic. Louis and Mark have both covered the lifestreaming space extensively, so it was nice to connect with them. Also, talked to Tamar Weinberg briefly and gave her more grief about labeling me "Shawn Hogan" in one of her photos from SXSWi 2008.

Other tech "celebrities" spotted outside the Blogger Lounge area were Kevin Rose, Guy Kawasaki, Tony Tseih.

Eventually, I reconnected with Todd Earwood, Matt Winn and Rob May in the lobby of the Convention Center and we headed across the street to Fogo de Chao for dinner. There, we had an absolutely amazing meal and I made the ultimate social media typo of the week.

Following dinner, I headed out to the Frog Design party at the Mexican American Cultural Center with Rob May, Nick Huhn, Chris Claxton and Dave Durand. Wasn't quite as lively as last year's event. Also didn't see as many people that we knew as we did last year. Did see Ewan Spence and Joanna Geary before connecting with Bill Johnston, Adam Cohen, Dave Peck, Jim Storer and Aaron Strout.

After about an hour, we hopped a couple of bike taxis back to the Convention Center. From there, we headed to the Belmont Lounge for the Toobla party that Brian Link had invited us to. Not quite as nuts as the TechSet party there the previous night, so it was easier to have conversations.

That ended up being my last stop for the night. I need at least 5 hours of beauty sleep, so I headed back to the hotel around 1:30am. Overall, another good at SXSWi.

More of my photos and video from SXSWi 2009 on Flickr
Proofreading is fundamental
When I was growing up (way back) in the 1970s, there were a series of public service announcments for RIF, Reading is Fundamental. Now, with so many mobile social media apps that can push content to multiple places at once, like Ping.fm, I am going to do this impromptu public service announcement for proofreading.

Last night while at the amazing Brazilian restaurant Fogo de Chao, I typed, "Meat orgy at Fogo de Chao. Unbelievable!" Anyone who has gone to Fogo knows what I am talking about.

Unfortunately, my Blackberry autocorrected my post to say, "Men orgy at Fogo de Chao. Unbelievable!" Completely different meaning, obviously. That post went out to almost 1,200 people on Twitter, 300+ people on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and a couple of other networks that I have connected to Ping.fm. The best part was that I didn't notice it for almost 45 minutes.

Best Twitter typo ever!

All of the guys at dinner with me (Rob May, Todd Earwood, Kevin Frey and Dave Durand) had a huge laugh about it. They were also nice enough to share it with our waiter who mentioned it later. It also came up at several other parties as we connected with friends who had seen it.

So next time you're at a meat orgy, doublecheck your spelling.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
SXSWi 2009 Day 1 recap
Friday was my travel day as well as the first day of the festival. I left my house at 5AM EST with plans to arrive in a Austin around 10AM. Delays in Dallas cost us 2 hours; however, I was able to meet up with Louisville friends Todd Earwood, Kevin Frey and Dave Durand who were connecting to Austin through the same flight.

Day 1: On same flight with @earwood, @daved and @kevinfrey
Kevin Frey, Todd Earwood and Dave Durand at Gate A24 in Dallas

We arrived in Austin at noon to find it cold (40 degrees) and pouring rain. Our plans to catch up with Brendan Jackson, Nick Huhn and Jason Falls for lunch fell through, so we grabbed a cab for the Convention Center.

Because the line to claim our SXSWi badges was too long, we decided to split up for a bit to get checked into our hotels.

I ended up meeting back with Dave Durand just as he was about to go up to get his badge. He had been waiting in line for 45 minutes, but was kind enough to let me in line with him. In the process of getting our badge, we ran into Baratunde Thurston and Peter Corbett.

We decided to grab lunch next, so we reconnect with Kevin Frey and Todd Earwood at the Rio Grande. I was disappointed in the three for not knowing it was the same place they used for the house on The Real World Austin, however, I was not disappointed in the beef brisket tacos I had. Really tasty.

Day 1: Brisket tacos from the Rio Grande
Beef brisket tacos from the Rio Grande

After lunch, we returned to the Convention Center so that Todd and Kevin could get their badges. In the mean time, Dave and I got in line to get our tote bag o' swag. We ran into Nick Huhn who decided to join our group. Also bumped into Joanna Geary who I met last year.

Around 3:30pm, Todd, Kevin, Dave, Nick and I headed across the street for the SXSW Tweetup at Champions. Ran into a ton of people we knew including Micah Baldwin from Lijit, Dave Alston, Rich Mcinnis and Marcel Lebrun from Radian6, Jason Falls, Dave Delaney, Jeremy Wright, Krista Neher, Brendan Jackson, Jesse Harris, Chris Claxton and Rob May.

Also met some new people including Drew Olanoff, Dean Hudson from Sub Pop Records and Richard from Dell.

At about 6:30pm, a larger group of us headed for Mix at Six. Last year, the long was so long that we ended up skipping it to make our own party. This year, there were only about 15 people ahead of us, so we waited it out in the cold drizzle.

Once inside, we immediately bumped into old friend Bill Johnston and Dave Peck.

After a couple of drinks, we all decided to migrate to the TechSet/Windows Mobile party at the Belmont Lounge at 8pm. We ended up getting there a few minutes early and ended up the first in line. By the time they opened the doors 10 minutes later, there was a huge line of people queued up behind us.

TechSet was the big event for the night. Hundreds of people packed the rooftop patio including Adam Cohen from Rosetta, the Radian6 guys, Jason Falls, Jeremiah Owyang, Chris Heuer, Brian Solis, Julia Roy, Matt Winn, Chris Pearson, Liz Strauss, Charlie O'Donnell, Jackie Huba, Tim Walker and virtually everyone we had met or hung out with previously that day.

Day 1: TechSet party



A small group of us left TechSet and headed down to 6th Street. The plan was to catch the rest of the Pasties & Pastries event at Emo's, but the line was still down the block at 10:30pm. Instead, we grabbed a bratwurst from a street vendor, had one more drink at a random dive on 6th and called it a night.

Photos and video from Day 1 are on Flickr.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Quick & dirty Skittles.com HTML demo
As I mentioned in my previous post about Skittles.com, I was able to make a working demo in about 10 minutes using all Web 1.0 techniques: iframes, z-index and absolute positioning.

I used some of our Nationwide social media links to replicate the content Skittles includes on their site. I decided to link to our Nationwide Twitter page rather than a Twitter search result, though.

Click here to see a low-fi, graphic-free demo
My take on Skittles.com
If you've been on Twitter over the past week, you've seen the uproar that Skittles caused with its new website. They've replaced almost all of their website's content with iframed links to social media sites like Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.



Linking directly to a Twitter search result aside, I think what Skittles did makes a lot of sense. Why does Skittles need to design, build and maintain a website when they can put the content on (or pull the content from) the place where lots of people already go for that type of content. For example, will more people see their videos on Skittles.com or on YouTube? If the answer is YouTube, then why duplicate the effort on .com (please don't use SEO as the reason they should, BTW)?

And for those who claim it isn't social media because they aren't engaging, I didn't see Skittles claim that this was a social media project or campaign (of course, I didn't look, so I may be completely wrong here). It's their website. They just happen to be leveraging social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Wikipedia to maintain and host it.

There are a lot of other brands that could benefit from this approach. Social media analysts like Jeremiah Owyang have been saying for years that the corporate website is irrelevant and that Google is your homepage. Surprised to see some many people call this crazy.

I love the approach, especially when you realize how simple it was to build. The day after the site launched, I whipped up a working Nationwide version in less than 15 minutes (minus the snazzy design of the faux widget).
American Innovator's Road Trip stopping in Columbus
Starting next week, Colin Browning and Jim Storer are kicking off their American Innovator's Road Trip to SXSWi 2009. They will travel from Dearborn, MI to Austin, TX starting on Monday, March 9th.

My Twitter pal (and agency partner at Rosetta) Adam Cohen hooked me up with Colin and Jim, so I will be meeting with them on Tuesday afternoon to discuss some of the things we're doing with social media at Nationwide.

Looks like they'll also be connecting with Jason Falls and Todd Earwood in Louisville. Should be able to give them lots of good material to cover with those guys.

You can learn more about the roadtrip on their website or check their route here.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Gearing up for SXSWi 2009
SXSWi 2009 is just over a week away, so I've tried to plot out a tentative schedule of events using sched.org. They've included all of the official sessions as well as all of the parties and events surrounding the festival. Makes it really easy to plan your day.

I'm looking forward to seeing the gang from Louisville again. They've got a group of about 15 people coming including Todd Earwood, Jason Falls, Rob May, Nick Huhn, Brendan Jackson and Matt Winn. Also looking forward to catching up with former colleague Bill Johnston.

There are also a lot of people that I met last year that I hope to connect with again including Eric Marcoullier from Gnip, Micah Baldwin from Lijit, Peter Corbett from iStrategyLabs, Richard Mcinnis from Radian6, Dave Delaney from Griffin, Stef Lewandowski, Pete Ashton and Joanna Geary. Finally, I will be connecting with some of our agency and vendor partners from Bazaarvoice, Rosetta and TM.

As I have said a thousand times since last March, SXSWi is the best web conference I've ever attended. I met so many great people, attended so many awesome events and had lots of amazing BBQ. I expect more of the same this year.

You can read my recap posts from SXSWi 2008 here, here, here, here and here.

About Shawn Morton

Married father of 6; VP of Social Media at JPMorgan Chase; gluten-free; gadget enthusiast; hair metal aficionado; #Movember man View more on LinkedIn.