Monday, August 18th

Mad Betty’s SXSW 2015 Panel Picks

SXSW 2015 El Arroyo Sign, Austin, Texas

SXSW 2015 is months away, yet it’s time to start thinking about it. South by Southwest hopefuls have submitted their ideas for next year’s conference and now the community gets to vote for their favorites.Votes account for about 30% of the decision and it’s a highly competitive arena. I submitted a proposal among the 3,000 others in the interactive category and am crossing my fingers that we make the cut. And you can help by checking out the panel picker and giving thumbs up to my entry and any others you’d like to support. Even better, leave a comment and contribute to the conversation in the SXSW Panel Picker.

My panel New Journalism: Black & White & Reddit All Over (which can also be accessed by clicking on the web tile just to the right) will be a conversation about the (often contentious) relationship between bloggers and traditional journalists. We’ll seek to address issues about credibility and bias among writers, and about how people get their information today. The part that excites me the most is the prospect of exploring these issues with two people I respect very much: Corrin Foster and Mike Sutter. So please, give us a thumbs up and share in the comments what interests you about this panel.

Craft Taste

Another panel I’m also pulling for You Can’t Sit With Us: Craft Beer Subculture, is about the exclusionary attitude that can take place in craft beer culture. Mr. Betty put together this one with other knowledgeable people in the craft beer community. As someone who sits on the fringe of craft beer culture, I’m intrigued by this topic.

Weird Al Yankovic

You’ll notice that the panel What Every Marketer Should Learn from Weird Al has generated a lot of buzz and for good reason. This crossover of innovation, business, and art is what SX is all about and Jason Wesbecher is just the person to speak about it. This one’s going to be popular, you guys.

Crowdfunding for Causes (Without Losing Friends) is a great topic and very relevant to me. I happen to know a lot of brilliant, ambitious people who are often looking for funding. Amanda Quraishi has one of Austin’s biggest hearts and actively advocates for the causes she believes in.

In a discussion about a topic that affects all of us, Addie Broyles will interview the Supermarket Guru about the future of grocery stores. Addie’s a pro interviewer and always gets right to the heart of what people want to know.

A related topic, Building a Better Breakfast, will focus on sustainability and making healthy eating affordable. This will likely draw a big crowd who want to see Andrew Zimmern speak.

And, here are a few more fun ones that I’d like to see happen:

No More Kittens! Content Marketing for Social ROI

NASA’s Next Giant Leap: The Path to Mars

KU! What Makes Asia Such a Pop Culture Powerhouse?

Is Pop Culture Binging a Good Thing?

When Did Spoilers Start to Matter?

Social Media Celebrity: Audience vs True Influence

Hamburger Helper is My Bae: Weird Brand Twitter

Those are my picks! I, and my fellow SXSW submitters, would be so grateful for your votes. It doesn’t take much to set up an account and vote, just an email and password. (And SXSW doesn’t bombard you with emails; I think I get two a year…if I submit.) Voting closes September 6, 2014.

Did you submit a panel? Please leave a link in the comments so we can vote for you.

Friday, August 8th

What I Learned About Blogging

Grumpy Cat birthday

Happy Birthday, blog! It was three years ago today that my first post went up. Today’s post is my 500th and it feels like a good time for reflection.

I started blogging because I needed an outlet for writing when I was working a job that bored the crap out of me, the only job I’ve ever had that didn’t require me to write. I needed something challenging and fun, an expression of creativity that was all my own. And it’s served me well although there was a big learning curve. A few things I’ve learned along the way:

Just because you’re putting something on the internet doesn’t mean people are reading it. All the time I hear from people who want to start their own blogs. And the reservations are always the same: fear of making mistakes. But you know what? When you first start writing, no one knows about it. There’s no audience. There’s time to get comfortable before you decide to alert anyone to your presence online. And then, forever, you have to point people in the direction of your blog to get them to read it. (And then, forever, you’ll still make mistakes. And you fix them. No biggie.)

Blogging is WORK. Yes, it’s creative. And it’s fun. But it’s demanding, time-consuming and is like having constant homework. One can choose to do the work or not. Personally, I believe that if you’ve developed a readership then you owe it to them (and yourself) to stay active. I don’t believe in “writer’s block.” But I think that lack of motivation is very real and can be a tough hurdle. And like any hurdle cleared, we are better for overcoming difficulties and getting the job done anyway when we just don’t want to.

It’s not easy to make money off your blog. Think it’s going to be an extra source of income? For some it is, but for many of us it costs so much money and time that it never evens out. There’s also an integrity issue. Could my blog be making more money? Yes. If I took even 10% of the opportunities I was offered this place would be so crapped up I wouldn’t want to put my name on it. And if one is simply looking to make money, then that’s okay. It’s all in the intent. I figured out pretty quickly that this gig was better suited to me as a hobby. My financial goals are pretty low and easy to reach, paying for my hosting and some other blogging incidentals.

People are nice. When you put something out there you open yourself up to criticism. It’s bound to happen. But for the most part, people are pretty cool and will be supportive of any endeavors that we put our hearts into. I’ve had some hurtful comments on my blog that left me reeling. But when I compare those negative comments to the favorable ones, I realize what a small fraction the bad is.

The best part of blogging is the community. Bloggers, no matter what they write about, have something in common: The desire to put something out there and the determination to do so. That is something so fundamentally appealing to me, the idea that people will pour themselves into a passion project and really work at it. I’m drawn to people with a strong work ethic and an inclination for creative expression. People who are a little brave, a little driven, and maybe a little crazy. So many of my friends are bloggers and it’s enriched my life in a way that I never imagined.

Willy Wonka Meme

So how has Mad Betty done in three years? Pretty well, I guess. It’s opened a lot of doors for me professionally and personally. It’s not the world’s biggest blog or even Austin’s biggest blog. And it never will be. But I have a group of loyal readers that I’m grateful for and it’s made me a more disciplined in the way I approach both work and my hobbies.

Some Facts

My top ten most regularly visited posts, excepting TV recaps, which do pretty well:

1. Cheap Eats in Austin

2. Uchiko Social Hour

3. Why You Should Go to Uchi for Social Hour

4. First Look: Radio Coffee & Beer

5. Dang Banh Mi

6. Shishito Peppers

7. The Highs & Lows of Popovers

8. Standard Process Cleanse

9. Ramen Tatsu-ya

10. Kin & Comfort

My post with the most pins is Szechuan House. My most controversial post is Why I Forgive Lance Armstrong. Random old post that I love: Cool Yule, Fool, because I love the photos of my Christmas ornaments.

Some goals for the future

-Put more thought and effort into my social media. I have an embarrassingly low number of Facebook fans because I’m too proud to ask anyone to “like me.” I can’t make myself care about Facebook too much, but this page has caused me to lose out on a few cool opportunities.

-Redesign. Sometime next year I’d like to correct a few things I was too uneducated to ask for in my initial design. Better social sharing icons, more editing capabilities, and most importantly, a responsive theme.

-This is the hardest one for me, but I’d like to use this platform to show more vulnerability and maybe grow a thicker skin. My favorite blogs to read are deeply personal and authentic. It’d be nice to go there…just once in a while.

Anyway, it’s been a great three years. Thank you for reading, from the bottom of my heart.

Friday, July 4th

Happy Independence Day!

Hope you are all doing a little flag dance today.

Tuesday, July 1st

That Time I Started a Business

Maybe you’ve noticed that my blog posts are a little less frequent these days. For the time being, I won’t be as prolific on Mad Betty as I used to be, and that’s because my focus is on my work.

Giant Squid Media

Introducing…Giant Squid Media. I’ve taken all my advertising, branding, strategy, social media, and of course, writing experience over the last decade (plus) and am putting it to use for a tough boss. Myself. Those of you who work for yourself know how scary, and time-consuming, and intense, and wonderful it is.

I have the best clients, truly. And I am looking for more. So if you know someone who needs help with a website, social media, branding, marketing, or just wants damn good content, please send them my way. I’m not doing it alone. I have great access to the deep, deep pool of talent we have in Austin, including the fabulously creative Mary Makes Pretty, who designed everything for Giant Squid Media.

To that end, Mad Betty is very important to me and I’m putting some plans in place that will allow me to keep up with regular postings. I am looking for an intern, someone who wants to learn more about blogging and get some practice creating online content and social media follow-through. This person will get to learn how to use WordPress and cover some fun Austin events with media credentials. If interested, please send me an email telling me a little about yourself: madbettyblog (at) gmail (dot) com.

Wednesday, April 2nd

Food, Apps, and My Journal

I’ve been really busy lately with work stuff, blog stuff, and social stuff. It seems like my schedule starts to get crazy around SX and doesn’t let up for a few months. Here’s an update on what I’ve been doing.

I went to a media event at the much-anticipated La V, and as promised, it was chic and delicious. The light fixtures alone are reason enough to visit. AFBA had their monthly happy hour at the new brick and mortar G’raj Mahal and the bloggers enjoyed bites and sips in the cute outdoor space out back.

I also went to the soft opening of new American Chinese restaurant in South Austin, A-OK Chinese. The staff was nice and I wish them the best of luck, but I’ll continue driving to North Austin for my Chinese needs. Just wasn’t for me.

A-OK Chinese Dumplings

 A-OK Chinese

Keeping with the American Chinese food theme, the people from P. F. Chang’s sent me a gift card to try out their new menu items. But when we ordered, only one item from that menu was available at the location we visited. It was the Shanghai Waldorf Salad and the dressing was incredibly spicy. It was a nice twist on Waldorf Salad, which is one of my favorites. We also had egg rolls, dumplings, Kung Pao Shrimp and Scallops, and Beef a la Sichuan.

P. F. Chang's Shangai Waldorf Salad and Egg Rolls

P. F. Chang's Dumplings

P. F. Chang's Kung Pao Shrimp and Scallops

P. F. Chang's Beef a la Sichuan

In an effort to organize how I…well, organize, I’m trying out the Bullet Journal method. I normally have three to five notebooks lying around with notes and lists pertaining to different projects. It’s been great for me to do something new and have a little guidance into capturing it all in the same spot. I like the idea of using this journaling technique to keep a record of what I’ve accomplished on certain dates and get an accurate picture of how much I can really accomplish on any given day.

Bullet Journal

I’ve also been using a couple great apps on my iPhone lately. Headspace is a guided meditation app that I just started. I’m also using Duolingo to learn French. Maybe I’ll be able to communicate better the next time I go to Paris. So far I’m finding the French easier than the meditation. I’m also digging the Animal Face app because tiger heads on human bodies are hilarious. I’m really breaking the rules by putting animal heads on other animal heads.

Animal Face

Another thing I’m trying to learn is accounting and it is way outside my comfort zone. I took an accounting class in college and hated it. Now that I’m trying to do it for real, with real money, MY money…I still hate it. Anyone have any accounting books to recommend?

My latest kitchen adventures are taking the form of veggie bowls. Quinoa topped with a number of good and healthy things like beans, cheese, pepitas and hemp seeds, raw and cooked veggies, sweet potatoes. Pretty much whatever I have on hand.

Veggie Bowl

Ulysses Press sent me a review copy of the 1990′s Coloring Book and I love it. It would make a great gift for those 25 to 35 year olds in your life. You can win one of your own by following Ulysses Press on Facebook or Twitter. Just leave me a comment to let me know you did it and then I’ll draw the winners name on April 15th.

1990s Coloring Book

What’s the cool stuff you’ve been into lately?

Wednesday, March 19th

Exhaustion and Mixed Emotions at SXSW

No matter how much I try to prepare in the weeks leading up to SXSW, it’s always a scramble. Part of it is the nature of the conference and surrounding events; there’s little notice as to what’s really going on. I earnestly RSVP to everything I can in the hopes that I’ll make it into the must-do events, all the while knowing that I’ll never keep up with my overly ambitious schedule. The invites come later and later, so being flexible, yet prepared, is crucial. The day I had planned to really wander around and check out the free events surrounding Interactive, it was cold, rainy, and miserable. Craft Taste and I went to a fun party hosted by Pinterest at La Barbecue. Food and drinks were free and we checked out the Pinnebago and listened to a female punk band. We missed Grumpy Cat, the Game of Thrones exhibit, and countless other things. We walked around, saw some stuff, and went home soaking wet. The day I brought my DSLR to take the really good pictures? A total wash.

Pinnebago

We made it into the first Kimmel taping and saw Seth Rogen and Snoop Dogg. Although we were seated way up high in the balcony, it was a fun experience and I was glad we went. I especially enjoyed Jimmy’s house band Cleto and the Cletones. Even more than the musical guest White Denim.

Jimmy Kimmel in Austin

Later, I won tickets for the opening night of the iTunes Festival. Winning didn’t mean we got to skip the very long line, but once inside the Moody Theater we were afforded a spot close to the stage amongst a crowd equally excited to be there. But no one was as excited to be there as Imagine Dragons, whose energy and and enthusiasm were through the roof.

Imagine Dragons in the Moody Theater for iTunes Festival at SXSW

Imagine Dragons in the Moody Theater for iTunes Festival at SXSW

Imagine Dragons in the Moody Theater for iTunes Festival at SXSW

Coldplay was grown up and polished, putting on a flawless performance under a dazzling light show. No bullshit on stage or in the crowd. It was ideal.

Coldplay in the Moody Theater for iTunes Festival at SXSW

Coldplay in the Moody Theater for iTunes Festival at SXSW

Coldplay in the Moody Theater for iTunes Festival at SXSW

I took advantage of my official SXSW Guest Pass and checked out the marketplace one day. It was clearly the tail end for the vendors, but it’s one of my favorite conference expos and I lingered at the booths with live music and good swag. I’m always amazed at how grand some of the booths are. I especially love checking out the other countries’ offerings.

SXSW Marketplace

Perhaps the coolest event we went to was the Heartbreakers Ball. (It didn’t hurt that we were chauffeured in a stretch limo and given VIP badges.) It was our first time visiting Willie Nelson’s ranch at Luck Texas. The ranch is more of a set for an Old Western with a chapel, a jail, a saloon, and other buildings. I loved that much of the property is used to foster horses. We watched people line up for free tattoos and drinks made with Midnight Moonshine in between the rocking sets. Willie and friends took the stage at the end of the night and despite the late hour and the cold, Willie was fantastic. I don’t know if all that pot-smoking has served as a preservative, but his voice was strong and smooth, unaffected by his many years. It was quite a show.

Willie Nelson's Luck, Texas

Willie Nelson and Friends at SXSW Heartbreakers Banquet

The aftermath of the tragic drunk driving accident that killed three people left a dark cloud over Austin. The city reeled from the news and shed tears for the lives lost and the news gained international attention. There’s no denying that SX is forever changed. We will remember and reflect on this every year. Criticisms arose and people questioned whether the excess of free flowing booze is hurting the intention of the festival. It seemed that the louder criticisms were directed towards the overblown commercialism of the conference and surrounding events. It seems that the sponsors are running the show now and no one is happy about it. In the days following SX, Austin is usually enjoying a tired but happy afterglow. This year we are collectively wincing at all the bad press and trying to figure out how the hell this happened. I predict big changes for next year.

I’m proud to live in Austin. I love that for two weeks every year we become the center of the universe and celebrate artistry and intelligence. South by Southwest celebrates the future and creates history. I hope we are able to strike a better balance in the years to come, retaining the indie spirit on which the festival was built, while letting sponsors be a part of the action in a more authentic way.

What are your thoughts on SXSW 2014?

Thursday, February 13th

Five Places in Austin to Get Stuff Done

This guest post is written by Laura Arnold, blogger at Austinite Tips. Go check out her site for her take on Austin’s best, worst, and weirdest things to see and do! 

Everyone needs to sit down at a computer and get things done occasionally. Yes, you could stay in your house, but you run the risk of being distracted by children, pets, or half-finished home improvement projects. (Building shelves is way harder than it looks on Pinterest, people.)

I’m here to help! These are five of my favorite Austin spots to be productive.

Cenote 

Full disclosure: I don’t drink coffee because I react to caffeine the way most people react to cocaine. Two sips and I’m bouncing around the room yelling ideas for television shows. Not good. (Mad Betty note: I’m devastated for her. Coffee is my life.)

But Cenote is awesome, even without taking the coffee into account. Nice atmosphere, plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, reliable WiFi, and delicious food– including cheese plates from Antonelli’s. They also have happy hour from 3-7 on weekdays, so you can reward yourself for your hard work with a local beer. Yes, please!

Cenote, East Austin, Texas

Allen Park

Have you ever sat down to work, then realized an hour later that you’ve spent the whole time looking at Corgi puppies on BuzzFeed? I feel your pain. Sometimes you have to work somewhere without Internet access.

Luckily, Austin’s got a wealth of parks to choose from. If the weather’s nice, I love working outside in Allen Park. It’s got 12 picnic tables to choose from and no admission fee, so you can bring a picnic and stay all afternoon. You might get menaced by grackles, but that’s pretty much the only distraction.

Allen Park, Austin, Texas

Epoch Coffee – Circa 13

Circa 13 opened in mid-December, and there was a glorious period when it was empty because no one knew about it. Unfortunately, jerks like me keep talking about it, so it gets more crowded every week. My bad, y’all.

It’s technically Epoch Coffee‘s sister store, and shares the name, but they’re completely different. Circa 13 is like Epoch’s put-together older sibling. It’s less cluttered, has less graffiti, has gender-segregated bathrooms, has less aggressive music, and isn’t open 24 hours. While it lacks the grubby charm of the original, it’s a great place to sit for hours without anyone bothering you.

Circa 13, Austin, Texas

Faulk Central Library

Need complete silence to work? Would the constant chatter of a coffee shop drive you slowly insane? You should check out the Austin Public Library nearest you– they’re a great option for people who need quiet.

Faulk is the main branch of our library system, and as such it’s the biggest and is open every day of the week. After you’re done working you can treat yourself by checking out something from their surprisingly decent movie collection. (If you haven’t sensed a theme here, I need rewards to get myself to do basic adult tasks. Like paying bills.)

Faulk Central Library, Austin, Texas

Strange Brew

As Austin gets increasingly richer, flashier, and more homogenized, it’s nice to have places that keep the old vibe alive. Strange Brew does exactly that. It’s unpretentious, relaxed, and a favorite of aging hippies. Proof: Strange Brew is one of the few places in Austin that serves hemp milk. I didn’t even know hemp milk was a thing.

But even if you’re not a white dude with dreadlocks and a Legalize It tee-shirt, you should give Strange Brew a try. The baristas are friendly and I’ve really liked everything I’ve ever eaten there. If you’re there in the morning, spend $3.50 on one of their giant breakfast tacos. You won’t regret it.

Strange Brew, Austin, Texas

Laura Arnold lives in Central Austin and works for a local tech company. She spends her free time eating an unhealthy amount of queso, buying Groupons and instantly regretting them, and reviewing Austin activities for her blog Austinite Tips.

Mad Betty note: Go check out these places in Austin to get stuff done. Go get some stuff done, you lazy bums! But first, make sure to visit her blog for other tips and to read more of her insightful and fun writing. Thanks to Laura for the fantastic guest post. Isn’t she so cute, you guys?

Laura Arnorld, Austinite Tips

Monday, January 13th

Ramblings

typewriter

This post on this day would normally be reserved for a Downton Abbey recap, but since I’ve decided to drop the show from my recaps, I’m free to talk about whatever I want. I didn’t even watch Downton yet, because I devoted my TV time to the Golden Globes. Did you guys watch the Golden Globes? Tina Fey and Amy Poehler knocked it out of the park again.

What else is new? Today’s my birthday. I’m spending it by waking up and going to work, just like every other day. Resenting Monday. (I love the years where my birthday falls on Friday the 13th.) Tonight we’ll grab dinner somewhere and eat chocolate cake.

Lately I’ve been working out a lot and going out/blogging less. I found myself having to pay a year’s worth of gym membership at once and it was a good motivator to start using it again regularly. I’ve also been attending barre classes with my friend and…that shit is hell. Really, really hard. A fantastic bastard of a workout. I’m enjoying/hating it and will continue to buy more when they run special prices on classes.

I’m not sure how my blogging frequency is going to shake out. I recently starting working a new job and it requires more writing than I’ve ever done before. The demands of writing pieces for several clients a day can be intense. I really have to focus and I’m still getting comfortable with a new tone and writing for a different media. When I get home, I’m finding it hard to motivate to write more. My personal writing feels like more of a burden, although I believe this is an issue of timing and balance. After work may not be the time for me to write anymore, so maybe I need to get up early on Sundays to get it done. I’m not sure yet, but I’ll figure it out in time. After all, a writer writes and I don’t want fear of volume to be a limitation. Just like at the gym, I need to increase my stamina.

But look for my blog to change as my life and priorities do. Hopefully you’ll all stick with me and maybe less frequent but more personal posts resonate with you.

What have you been up to lately? Anything new going on in your lives, readers?

Thursday, November 28th

Happy Thanksgiving!

Kramer as a turkey on Seinfeld

Hey, buddy. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 9th

#ATXPhotoCamp

A big, big thank you to everyone who planned, attended, taught, and supported Photography Camp. It was a pretty fantastic day.

Chameleon Cold Brew

Pamela Jane's New England Lobster Rolls

Dinner Lab

Dinner Lab

Dinner Lab

Photography Camp

If you didn’t make it, we’ll see you next year!