Dispatches from SxSW, Part 7: Are You a Good Guest or a Vexing Visitor?

A Special Guest Post from Hilary Robinson

Hilary Robinson has style, grace and panache, which makes me wonder why she hangs out with a questionable character such as Yours Truly. I’ve known that she’s a world-travelling event planner extraordinaire for a long time, but only recently discovered that she also has her own business, MAJ Communications, a company that specializes in teaching business etiquette. If you’re a young entrepreneur looking to cut a deal with “suits” but don’t know the protocol, how to speak to them or are always wondering which fork to use at a business lunch, Hilary can help you! Take a look at her site, or if you prefer, drop me a line and I’ll introduce you to her.

As I write this, I’m staying at a condo that I’m renting via AirBnB. I suggested to Hilary that she should write an article about AirBnB guest etiquette, since it’s a relatively new frontier for good manners. She was only too happy to oblige, and the end result is below. If you’re booking a place to stay through AirBnB, make sure you read this!

Are You a Good Guest or a Vexing Visitor?

For this year’s SxSW Joey, with his usual flair for keeping things fresh and interesting, is skipping the typical hotel room and trying out  – a space finding service that connects hosts who have spaces to rent with guests who are looking for a unique travel experience.  The service places guests in private homes (with or without the owners there) so it encourages host and guest to build a connection through social media, and relies on feedback and recommendations – all this got Joey and I talking about the merits of being a good guest.

So, whether you’re staying with friends, family or a in rental property, these few dos and don’ts will get you asked back or get good feedback…

Do…tell your host what time you will arrive – give them your itinerary if your trip involves planes, trains, etc.

Don’t…be late.  If you are, find a way to let everyone know.

Do…bring a little something for your host – it shows you appreciate the invitation.  Kitsch or useful; extravagant or simple; edible, drinkable or decorative…it doesn’t matter as long as it’s thoughtful.

Don’t…drink the house dry (ok, depending on the friends and circumstances this might fall under a “try not to…”).

Do…bring a bottle or two…not the cheap stuff.

Do…offer to help – cook if you’re good at it, do the dishes if you’re not.

Do…make your bed (and make your mother proud).

Do…take the dog for a quick walk or amuse the kids for half an hour to give your host a break.

Don’t…forget that your host has gone to some effort to feed, water and entertain you….so don’t treat their home as a hotel.

Do…treat your host to a night off – cook, order in or take them out.

Don’t…leave a trail of destruction behind you.

Do…tidy the bathroom after your morning makeup or shave.

Do…leave your room/space neat and tidy when you finally leave.

Don’t…outstay your welcome.

Do…if you have the room, reciprocate the invitation.

Don’t…Don’t…Don’t…forget to say thank you!

DO…DO…DO…send a thank you note (handwritten!) at the very least – even better: send a bouquet of flowers or small gift basket filled with favourite nibbles and tipples.

Do…apply the above to rentals and rental hosts as well.

Remember to…up the ante if you’re staying for longer than a couple of nights.

It’s not an exhaustive list but it’s a start – and if you combine these suggestions with your own flair then not only will you be a great guest, a virtuous visitor, and considerate company but you’ll have a good time and be asked back!


Dispatches from SxSW, Part 6: Getting to Austin

In order to arrive in Austin by the early afternoon, required an early morning flight: a 6 a.m. flight from Pearson to Dulles followed by an 8:43 a.m. flight from Dulles to Austin. Here’s the scene that greeted me when I arrived at Pearson at 4:30 a.m.:

pearson line 1

The terminal was already quite full and the self-serve check-in machines were all out of commission. It was time to exercise every unfair advantage I had at my arsenal: a little schmoozing with the gatekeeper of the ticket line-up, Aeroplan Elite/Star Alliance Gold status from jetting about too much and a NEXUS pass, which cut down the US Customs Experience from a half-hour wait in a long line to 10 seconds at a kiosk.

I wish I could shower at 43,000 feet! I need to work on an excuse for Shopify to send me to Dubai:

pearson line 2

I put the time I saved skipping check-in and customs lines to good use: some cereal, fruit, coffee and peace and quiet at the Air Canada lounge before descending into the madness of the “puddle jumper” waiting room.

air canada lounge pearson

Puddle-jumper ahoy! Gold status let me board the plane before the hoi polloi:

jet at pearson

I spent most of the hour-and-a-half flight asleep. I woke up in time to shoot this picture on the approach to Dulles:

arriving at dulles

At Dulles, I transferred to an A319. I ended up in the second-last row, deep in United’s “Economy Minus” section. I’m only 5’11”, and note that my knees touch the seat ahead of me — and that’s when the person in front of me isn’t reclining!

united economy minus

I try to avoid United — they’re practically leading the crusade to destroy air travel, from stealing legroom to merging with Continental to create the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of crappy airlines to their recent web debacle — but there were no other reasonable flights available.

Alexis Ohanian, founder of Hipmunk, the hotel and flight-booking site that lets you sort flights by “agony”, was on my Dulles-to-Austin flight, in my row. “Were you going for maximum agony?” I quipped, to which he replied with a weak, very sleepy chuckle. We spent most of the flight unconscious.

A turbulent two and a half hours later, we arrived in Austin:

austin airport

Saul Colt, spokesmodel for Freshbooks, greeted SxSW attendees at baggage claim.

saul colt

Freshbooks organized bus rides to take attendees from the airport to the Austin Convention Center and nearby hotels. These bus rides didn’t cost us any money; all we had to do was listen to a 30-second pitch for Freshbooks before the bus pulled away from the airport:


I hopped off the bus at the Convention Center, got my speaker’s badge and lunch and then headed to the condo that I’d rented via AirBnB. It’s really nice:

airbnb 1

Our host even left some nice “Welcome to Austin and my home” stuff for us. Good thing I brought some good ol’ Canadian maple syrup as a hostess gift:

airbnb 2

Here’s a view of the kitchen where we’re staying. I have got to get me a set-up like this:

airbnb 3

And here’s the bedroom. Because I get more travel perks than most of my coworkers, when I share accommodations with them, I tend to give them the good place to sleep, to balance the scales a little. Besides, I can use all the karma I can get!

airbnb 4

If you’d like to know more about the place I’m renting (and perhaps would like to rent it when you’re down in Austin), here’s its AirBnB listing.

Next: AirBnB etiquette, from a special guest blogger!


Dispatches from SxSW, Part 4: Hello, Austin!

hello austin

Today’s the big day! On my itinerary:


Dispatches from SxSW, Part 3: Shopify’s Saturday Afternoon Warm-Up Party at SxSW!

shopify party

Shopify is going to be at South by Southwest, and we’re throwing a little warm-up party on Saturday afternoon for our customers and friends! Join us at Stephen F’s Bar and Terrace at the Intercontinental Hotel (a.k.a. the Stephen F. Austin Hotel – 701 Congress Avenue, at 7th Street) this Saturday, March 10th between 3 and 6 p.m. for drinks and finger food on us!

The Shopifolks who’ll be in Austin are:

  • Cody Fauser (@codyfauser), Chief Technical Officer
  • Daniel Weinand (@danielweinand), Chief Design Officer
  • Edward Ocampo-Gooding (@edwardog), Developer Advocate
  • Harley Finkelstein (@hfizzle), Chief Platform Officer
  • Mark Hayes (@allsop8184), Marketing and PR Guy
  • Tobias Lutke (@tobi), Chief Executive Officer
  • …and Yours Truly, Joey deVilla (@accordionguy), Platform Evangelist

We purposely picked that time and place so it wasn’t too far from the Convention Centre and wouldn’t happen at the same time as all the big parties. Think of it as a way of warming up for the crazy Saturday night bashes. We’d love to see you there!

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.


Dispatches from SxSW, Part 2: A Whole Mess o’ Guides

Robert Scoble and Joey deVilla whoop it up at SxSW

If you’re not wasted, the night is! That’s Robert Scoble and me, partying it up in 2008.

There are a whole lot of guides, how-to and whats-going-on articles on the South by Southwest conference. As a public service, I’ve collected a few that I found helpful and have posted them here. Enjoy!

Survival Guides

Edelman Digital's "10 things to do at SxSW" infographic

Check out slide 13 of this slide presentation. You’ll see someone familiar!

Sessions and Happenings

Anthony Bourdain, leaning back at a table at Brasserie Les Halles with a coffee

Anthony Bourdain will be speaking on Tuesday. Expect the hall to be packed to the gills.


Austin food carts

Austin is famous for its food carts – make sure you stop by a couple and try their stuff!
Creative Commons photo by Noah Jeppson. Click to see the original.

And Finally…

Remember to make some memories while you’re there!

One more thing: Kevin Cheng’s guide is so short, it fits in a tweet:


Dispatches from SxSW, Part 1: Intro and Doing Austin Like a Local

Intro: My 3rd Trip to SxSW

Joey deVilla plays accordion at the "How to Rawk SxSW" panel as Rannie Turingan looks on

Hello, Austin! I made a splash at my first SxSW (2008) by playing accordion at the “How to Rawk SxSW” session.

Accordion Guy's Dispatches from SxSW InteractiveOnce again, I’m going to Austin, Texas to attend the South by Southwest conference, the annual get-together of techies and creatives in the music, film and interactive industries. I’ve gone twice before:

  • In 2008, as a newly-minted employee (project manager) of b5media. In fact, it may have been my best first day on the job ever, flying to Austin and meeting up with my new coworkers at the ranch that b5 had rented.
  • In 2011, as a ready-to-leave employee of Microsoft and a ready-to-start future employee of Shopify. I went to help out with the launch of Internet Explorer 9 and talk about Windows Phone. I also met up with the folks from Shopify, signed an employment contract with them and filed my resignation from the country music-themed bar at the Austin airport. I consider it to be my best “Sign me up / I quit” day ever.

This year, I return as Shopify’s Platform Evangelist and also as a speaker! I’ll be part of the BarCamp Tour Panel in the session 5 Brands Travel the US Inspiring Entrepreneurship. Along with my friends from Batchbook, Grashopper, MailChimp and Wufoo, I’ll be talking about our very active participation in and sponsorship of BarCamp events across the United States. My session will be on Sunday, March 11th at the hangover-friendly time slot of 3:30 – 4:30p.m. in the Omni Downtown Hotel’s Lone Star room.

I’ll be filing dispatches about SxSW from all over the place: on my way there, while in Austin, and even when I high-tail it out of there and head to Tampa to spend some time with the New Special Friend. Keep an eye on these blog entries – I’m sure they’ll be pretty interesting!

Doing SxSW Like a Local

Do It Like a Local is a new video of SxSW survival tips and recommendations created by locals – the founders of the creative agency Flow and Bobby Johns, the general manager of Hotel San Jose — who’ve done the conference and know the ins and outs of Austin. The suggestions within are worth the seven minutes and seven seconds to watch this video!


I’m Going to Austin for SxSW!

sxsw 2012 logo

I was under the impression that I wasn’t going to the South by Southwest Interactive festival this year, but it turns out that I’m going after all. Better still, I’m speaking as part of a panel talking about our experiences as part of the BarCamp Tour in a session titled Five Brands Journey Across the Country to Inspire Entrepreneurship. I’ll also be there as a representative of Shopify.

I’ve had some wonderful times on my two previous visits to SxSW, and I’m very much looking forward to my third. I thought I’d share my blog entries from those earlier visits…

Entries from the 2011 Trip

Entries from the 2008 Trip