Introducing: Data Explorer

We’re excited to release Data Explorer, a brand new and improved version of the Keen IO workbench for querying and visualizing your data.

Many of our customers use the workbench to run ad-hoc queries, create quick charts, and extract data. We’ve made that even easier and more enjoyable with the new Explorer.

To check out the new Explorer, go to your project page in Keen IO and then click on the Explorer tab! Let’s walk through building a query, and some of the new things you’ll see.

If you haven’t sent data to Keen yet, and want to play around with Data Explorer, please check out our getting started guide!

First, build your query:

  • View your event collections and schema without leaving the page, using the new preview button that gives you a quick glance at your schema and recent events

  • Easily select the right collection and parameters for your query, using our dropdown menus. Just start typing part of the word you’re looking for and it will autocomplete!
  • Build a filter for your query, using the event type as a base for your filter - choose from string, number, null, list, Boolean, or datetime
  • Try out the new geo-filter, which enables you to to filter events by latitude/longitude
  • Pick a date and time range for your query using our calendar selector

Next, beautifully visualize the results of your query:

  • Toggle between different visualizations of your data, choosing from chart types including area, line, or pie. You can also view your results in a metric or JSON format. (Javascript will also be coming soon)
  • Select the table output to view your data as a simple table

Alternatively, extract your data by email or preview an extraction in the browser:

  • View up to 100 events as a preview table in the browser
  • Send a full extraction to your email, with an optional limit on number of events to extract

Our first couple years at Keen, we focused primarily on building the API and backend tools. While that remains our top priority, we now have a team of engineers focused on building out our front-end and visualization offerings, and Explorer is our first product release. We’re excited about growing this team to better serve your needs.

We’ve also worked closely with a set of customers to test out the Explorer in beta, and we’d love to give a shout-out to them here for their patient feedback and suggestions. We would also like to get your feedback on how you like the new functionality. Email explorer@keen.io with any comments, feedback, or suggestions!

Happy exploring!

Nahid Samsami

Product at Keen. Cat Advocate. Also known as Hidi.

How to scale your company culture

Your company culture is what you collectively believe and — in practice — what you collectively do. It shapes how people work together, how you deal with problems that arise, how people feel when they meet someone from your company. Derived from a company culture is typically a set of values and beliefs, such as transparency, collaboration, or trust.

What do these values actually mean, though? If I’m a new employee coming into an organization, am I expected to know how to convey these values? No. Of course not. That’s why companies instill their cultural values in all kinds of different ways. For example, at Facebook the value “moving fast and breaking things” is introduced during onboarding. But instead of just telling people to “move fast and break things,” Facebook sends all new employees off for 6 weeks to literally code new things, break things, and learn from seasoned “fast movers and breakers”.

At Keen, we value introspection: the examining of one’s own mental and emotional processes. We believe this is important for sanity, harmony, and productivity in the workplace.

One way we support introspection is through a weekly activity called Anxious/Excited, where we all get together to share the things we’re anxious about (work-related or otherwise), along with the things we’re excited about. Anxious/Excited (A&E) is such an integral part of our culture that we frequently invite people to participate if they’re thinking about joining the company. It gives them a chance to see what we’re like in our most reflective moments and get a sense of what it would feel like to work here.

I often tell people outside of Keen about this activity and the reaction I typically get is, “That’s great, but how do you scale that?” The answer: you don’t.

The commonly referenced “do things that don’t scale” for startup growth can apply to the expression of cultural values, too. What’s key to cultural scalability and success is a shared understanding of the company’s values and a commitment to revising and evolving how they’re expressed as the organization grows.

Sounds straightforward, but oftentimes organizations that should be working toward the same goals and values end up fighting over tactics, resulting in a toxic and unproductive environment.

Values > Tactics

When Keen was small (as in 6 employees working out of the founders’ living room), A&E was an excellent tactic for introspection. Everyone was working together day in and day out. Some days were stressful, some days were happy. Everyone was close. Taking time to share and reflect at the end of the day was not only valuable, it was easy.

We are now at 40 people, and as you can imagine, A&E is not as effective as it once was. Debates have emerged on “how do we scale A&E?” How do we recreate the feeling of safe space and intimacy that allows people to open up and be introspective?

In times like this it’s helpful to think about why we did A&E in the first place. If we look back to our value of introspection we can see this “scaling problem” from a different, more open lens. There may be a totally different and better way to support introspection at 40 people than 6, and yet another way to do it at 100, 200, and 1000. The key is stay committed to our values, and to evolving the way they’re expressed.

We’ve already evolved A&E to make it work better for more people:

  • Two time slots for A&E
  • Remote A&E (for our remote employees) + In-Person A&E

We’re also starting to think about other ways to support an introspective culture, such as:

  • Team-based A&E vs. the entire company
  • Company reflection time for personal journaling, or shared wiki/internal blog
  • Bringing in an onsite psychologist and coach to help talk through problems
  • Having a writer’s workshop to explore the issues and processes on our minds

The bottom line is: Don’t be afraid to let go of your cultural tactics. In fact, you should be constantly evaluating them. Are they still working? Do they still represent the value you intended? Be committed to evolving. Remember why you decided to implement an activity in the first place, even if that leads you to an entirely new approach.

How have you scaled your company’s culture and values? We’re still figuring this stuff out, and would love to hear your ideas. Feel free to tweet at me or share your thoughts in the comments below.

Alexa Meyer

Brand and behavioral design. Learner + Activator. Cheese consumer.

SxSW Field Report, Day 3: Farewell Transmission

Hi. Hello. Hi. We have departed Austin, so this will likely be my last post, unless something particularly wacky and hilarious happens on the dynamic 3-hour drive between here and Dallas. Which, um, can we all pray it doesn’t?

SCHMIDT HANGOVER INDEX

Do you all know about the Schmidt Sting Pain Index? This entomologist named Justin Schmidt invented a pain scale to measure how bad various insect stings hurt, but the descriptions are all written in really weird, irreverent, evocative language. Like: “Caustic and burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.”

Anyway, there are some days when I try to describe my hangovers along those lines. Today is, hmm… like a poisonous fuzzy caterpillar worming its way along the folds of my brain? How’s that? Pretty good?

OK, SO THE R.V. WAS PROBABLY A MISSTEP

When Justin told me he was thinking about getting an R.V. for Sx way back when, it seemed like an absolutely amazing idea. We’d rock around the streets of Austin like royalty, doing weird little pop-up dance parties, mobile opium dens, etc., etc., etc. But, as it turns out, you need a sober driver for most of those things, and no wanted to deal with that trash, clearly, so mostly the RV just sat around this whole trip and provided reasonably comfortable sleeping quarters for any overflow Keenies who couldn’t fit in the AirBnb. (The RV was parked kind of tilty, though, so I found myself slowly rolling off the bed over the course of each evening.)

Favor has shifted even more against the R.V., however, as we are driving back now, and something is wrong with the waste tank or something, because everything smells like poop. There is a distinct poopy smell. It is… not great. I can’t really explain to you how not great it is, to be trapped with this smell, hungover and exhausted and emotionally drained. I do not super recommend it.

That said, it is a little funny, still, in that sort of masochistic gallows humor way I enjoy. The internet has not been super helpful with responses to my search for “poop rv smell,” so we mostly just have all the windows open and have stuffed toilet paper or ear plugs in our noses. This all seems kind of fitting to our collective mood, I guess is what I’m saying.

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Not the happiest bear in the woods, perhaps.

UPDATE: We stopped at a gas station, and I bought a handful of car air fresheners to strew about the place. They may not help with the smell, but they will certainly help us with Courage. 

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OUTLET MALL PURGATORY

Tim Falls needed coffee, so he won’t nod off and steer us into a traffic embankment, so we stopped for Starbucks and a grim food court lunch at an outlet mall 30 miles outside of Austin. 

I’m sure it’s more our collective mood than anything, but this place just seemed buh-leak. Like, I am sure it is a fine place if you’re in the mood to wander about and get bargain store prices on brand name goods™, but in the state we’re in, it just felt like sheer depression. We sat there, miserably eating our Subway sandwiches and kind of avoiding eye contact with each other, and I was like, “I imagine this is what Purgatory will be like.”

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Seriously, hooray for everything.

They also had a sad, lonely Easter Bunny on-hand you could have your kid’s portrait taken with. I really, really wanted to get a morose group shot of us – “Happy SxSW Aftermath!” – but I don’t think anyone else wanted to stay there any longer than they could help it. 

Purgatory is gonna be a looooooong wait, huh?

PROP-UP AFTERMATH DAY

This might actually be a pretty short post (haha no it won’t), as yesterday wasn’t nearly as eventful as Saturday. If Saturday was our superhero day, Sunday was more like our kryptonite. We were all kind of beaten and broken and burned out, and it took us a looooong time to rally. (Some of us never actually managed, I’m pretty sure.) Justin’s stomach was a 5th-grade Science Fair volcano, for example, and I spent a disproportionate amount of time doing dead stares into the middle distance all day. WOO LET’S PARTY, is my point.

It took me twice as long (and like 3 times as many substances) to get through yesterday’s field report – although it’s been getting pretty good feedback from people, so that’s nice! 

(Although, it needs to be said, John and Andrew, I am so sorry I apparently amalgamated you into “some guy” who quoted my field reports back at me. I am normally pretty good at names, because I write little mnemonic poems about everyone I meet – e.g., “Steve with the rolled-up sleeves” – but I clearly dropped the ball on this one! Ahh, sorry!) 

That’s the tricky balance about this sort of writing, though – to actually sit down and write all this shit out, you’re probably going to have to miss out on some things. I DO THIS FOR YOU, INTERNET. 

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Pictured: Me, Substances, Writing.

Anyway, I finally got out the door around 4 pm, just in time for our impromptu pop-up party at Weather Up, which was a brilliant move on Justin’s part because a) that is an amazing bar, with a lovely porch and friendly dogs and delicious drinks and hand-cut artisanal ice (which is apparently a thing humans can care about?) and b) because we still got to meet people without actually having to move or do things. 

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You could really see just how rough of a state we were in for the first hour or so, all kind of just quietly sitting in a circle and trying to choke back enough alcohol to prop ourselves up and start interacting with other humans again. Taylor came by with a bunch of her school friends, and they were all so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I’m sure they saw us lurching around and were like, “What kind of dead-eyed ancients work at this company, anyway?”

I hate to say it, but the time may have come for some younger Keenies.

After a couple hours and a couple shots of house-recipe Fireball, though (I imagine it’s just Hot Tamales soaked in whiskey?), we started to get a little more sociable. Actually, truth be told, I kind of overshot my mark a bit and ended up quite trashed there for a while, handing out sloppy tarot card readings that kept predicting, over and over, that our night would end in disaster. (Which…)

Lots of great people showed up, though – Andrew and Cobi from Taplytics, Ryan from Galvanize, Matt and Simon from Adnostic came all the way from England! Tony from Context.IO was there (Hope your call went well!), Kerry of Night Mode fame came along for the evening. (He’s actually with SolarCity, but I believe popping the lenses out of sunglasses at night will be his true claim to fame). Basically, we were super thrilled and flattered y’all made the hike out to East Austin to hang with us!

THE WALL

After sunset, a bunch of us grabbed dinner at that little food truck area on 6th for the third time in as many days (The people at the Philly cheesesteak truck remembered me from my drunken Nic Cage tirade. Hooray! I have notoriety!), and then we kind of aimlessly wandered for a bit. It’s nice having gotten to know people enough that you start to have random run-ins with them on the street – additional shout-outs to Jo and Crystal and Constantine and Daryna (Sorry I kept calling you Serena apparently? I have no recollection of this.)

We popped into Latitude 30 for a minute, because the line at something else looked horrible, and I stood enthralled with some folk duo called Paper Aeroplanes for like 40 straight minutes. It’s pretty great how you can just walk into any random bar in Austin, and like the best band you’ve ever heard just happens to be playing there, no big. 

After, we met up with Justin’s roommate, Sarah from Sprinklr, who took us all up to the top floor of the Bank of America building to see their offices… then just as quickly took us back out again when it became clear the people up there didn’t super want like 15 rowdy Keen monsters stomping about.

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*I* wanted to go to this place, but apparently I was in the minority there. (P.S. I like how their icon for food is a beer.)

But THEN we hit this basement party at a wine bar, and we all just kind of hit a wall. Well, not Tim and Justin and Dustin, bless their hearts, who gamely kept up the good fight and mingled the night away, but the rest of us were just kind of done

Days upon days of talking and drinking and partying and wandering finally caught up to us, and even the extroverts among us were pretty much ready to call it. We all found a quiet room off to the side of the main party and formed a foreboding-looking circle of desperate exhaustion and protracted silences. A few kind souls tried to come over and chat, and I’m pretty sure we just made dementor moans at them. 

Like I said before, we love talking to strangers at Keen, but we were just plumb out of extrovert gas, and if you can’t give it your all, you shouldn’t be out there doing it, so we decided it was time to bail. 

ON PARTIES

OK, parties are kind of a passion project of mine, so forgive me for going on the teensy tiniest little bit of a rant here for a second.

The one thing that sort of annoyed me about SxSW as a whole has been a lot of people’s attitude towards the parties here – this weird mix of FOMO and perpetual dissatisfaction and status flashing that kind of makes us come off as entitled and gross.

The entire time we’ve been here, it’s always seemed like, whatever we were doing, some people were always holding out for something better. No one ever liked where they were at, unless they were still in line for it. As soon as you got to a place, you’d start planning for the thing you’d go to next. And I understand that there is something really fun about the thrill of the chase – the seeking matters more than the finding and all that. Rumors flying around, sharing secret passwords and passes with friends, the common struggle of standing in a boring line together – that stuff is totally fun in its own right. But it made me a little sad how unappreciative and impatient some people were with the parties they were already at.

It sort of seemed like, underneath it all, everyone was always in search of this one mythical Perfect Party – the platonic ideal of a party – which I found pretty funny, because every event we showed up to usually ended up being pretty much the exact same as the last: A buncha people standing around, sipping drinks, and chatting. And not that that’s bad by any stretch of the imagination, but what exactly is everyone hunting around for, anyway?

(Admittedly, there might have been a bunch of crazypants parties that I just totally missed out on – raves and drug orgies and costume balls. Maybe I just don’t hear about the cool shit?)

And then, even with the events that did seem kind of big and fun and crazy, it seemed like lots of people enjoyed them more for the bragging rights than because they actually had a good time? Like, I was talking with this one guy, and he was like:

Guy: “Yeah, so I managed to get VIP passes to see Spoon at such and such a thing…”

Me: “Oh, awesome! Do you like Spoon?”

Guy: “Eh, they’re OK.”

Me: >_<

I guess what I’m gradually working my way around to saying is that maybe there is no Perfect Party out there – that instead (and this is totally cornball, I realize), maybe the Perfect Party is inside all of us. Rather than scouring around, waiting to be handed some sort of magical, perfect event that has been custom-tailored to give you everything you’ve ever wanted, why not appreciate all of the stuff we have been given and then try and turn it into something even more magical yourself?

I have helped host events before – I spent no small amount of time helping put KeenCon together, for instance – so I have at least some small idea of the absolutely insane amount of time and energy and resources that have gone into creating every single one of these parties, parties that most people seem to start writing off as soon as they get into them.

I think the least we can do is take a second to actually appreciate all that effort that’s been done for our benefit, and try to return the favor by being awesome, amazing party guests in turn. You want a crazy dance party? Grab a bunch of people and get them moving! You want to get into some hijinks? Start thinking some up! A party is a symbiotic beast – if we want them to be great, we have to give back as much as the party gives us.

OK, sorry for getting preachy. I hate to generalize like this – I met tons and tons of people who were having a great time wherever they were at – but I think there is a lesson here we could all maybe benefit from a bit.

DANCE MESS

OK, back to business. Heading out, we knew we didn’t have the right energy to really get into deep conversations any longer, but we did still have enough energy to bond through the connective power of dance!

So, we asked Taylor, our resident Austinite, to take us to all the hot spots where the youths go to dance. (Taylor is 22, by the way, and seems to derive a sick pleasure in reminding the rest of us how grotesquely old we all are. “Oh yeah, I listened to that band…. in MIDDLE SCHOOL.” AUGH, WHY, TAYLOR.) 

Unfortunately, even during Sx, a Sunday night is still a Sunday night, and the dancing prospects were pretty, pretty dire. We began a comically depressing march down 6th St., poking our heads in any place that looked remotely promising and then pretty much immediately fleeing in terror at the sad, deserted dance floors. We also began mainlining tequila, it should be said, to try and increase our odds of finding this whole endeavor acceptable.

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Yeah, that face pretty much sums it up.

Eventually, we’d surveyed pretty much the entire lineup of bars, with no luck. So, with grim resolve, we made our way back to a place we’d seen early on but had instantly dismissed out-of-hand because it was so, so not our scene. 

KRAVE. 

KRAVE. Whose name I mention only so I’ll remember to never go there again.

KRAVE. Which was definitely 100% an 18-and-over bar and therefore completely mortifying as a 30-year-old.

KRAVE. Whose DJs seemed more concerned with yelling catchphrases than playing actual music. (”Y’ALL READY TO DANCE? MAKE SOME NOISE! WHO’S READY, AUSTIN! HERE COMES THE BEAT! HERE IT COMES! HERE IT COMES! adhfuiahsuhq834&09r3augh just play the song you fuckers)

KRAVE. Which featured a crowd of immobile, incredibly angry-looking women in the center of the dance floor, who seemed to be there mostly to glare at us for existing.

KRAVE. Which ate my lovely blue cardigan, never to be seen again.

KRAVE. 5 stars. Find us on Yelp.

OK, actually, it was pretty fun, in a buswrecky shitshow sort of way. It’s certainly the most I laughed the entire trip, just at the pure molten horribleness of it. I don’t think there has ever been a place on earth that was less our scene.

We held on for about 45 minutes, and then, our dance task complete, we headed home and all piled in the hammock for a while, while Tim regaled us with the tale of the 2 kinds of Domino’s Pizza he had eaten that night. (Thin crust and regular!) 

And, yeah. That’s pretty much it. Mischief managed. I am now on a plane, heading back to SF, and already feeling the initial onslaught of the inevitable death illness that allows follows trips like this. South By SARSWest, I think someone called it. 

I GUESS THIS IS IT?

Hey. Thanks. 

I mean it.

Thanks for reading, for sharing, and for being part of these adventures. Thanks for talking to us and hanging out with us and hosting us and buying us booze and food and teaching us new things and becoming new friends and just being rad in general. Thank you, Austin, for being a wonderful host and a perfectly lovely city I am trying to con my parents into moving to. Thank you, Keen, for letting me come along on this trip and document it in whatever weird way I wanted to (although, admittedly, I didn’t really “ask” so much as “just started posting shit”).

I’m not sure these field reports were useful in any particular way, or even all that representative of the SxSW experience, but I do hope they were at least sort of entertaining. It’s weird. I feel like I did so much over the past several days, and yet there was so much that I missed, too. But this was just my random experience. I would totally love to hear about yours, if you ever wanna drop me a line.

If you liked these field reports, let us know, and I imagine we’ll keep doing them for future events. If you didn’t like them, let us know as well, and I will begin self-flagellating IMMEDIATELY. I guess I also have a blog and twitter and stuff, if you are just super enamored with my cool brain and thoughts or whatever, but otherwise, I hope you had as great and weird and exhausting of a South By as all of us at Keen did!

This was a blast; let’s never do it again. (’til next year.)

<3<3
Nate

Nate Walsh

Writer. Party Planner. A Third Thing.

SxSW Field Report, Day 2: Keensplosion!

A HAGGARD MAN, A WORTHY MAN

Miracle of miracles, I actually don’t feel too much like heated-up garbage this morning. I do think, though, that I am starting to look it. A week plus of hard living in both Austin and NOLA, subsisting mostly on grapefruit-flavored ethanol and fried everything, has definitely taken its toll, leaving me haggard and beaten and bloated. This is not to complain – these wounds were completely self-inflicted, and certainly fun along the way – but let this serve as a reminder that, when I get back to SF, I am doing nothing but long-distance runs and eating small piles of arugula.

HERDING CATS

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See, it’s funny ‘cause we are all wearing cat shirts.

We Keenies have a lot of varied and excellent qualities, but “timely exits” is not one of them. Admittedly, it doesn’t help that our AirBnb has only the one shower and there are, like, 10 of us jammed in here, but still. It took us from like 10-2:30 just to get out the door. We are a slow-rolling boulder. But oh man! Once we get momentum!

KEENIES FULL FORCE

I can’t speak for how today is going to shake out, but yesterday felt like our banner day at Sx, the day we all kind of subconsciously agreed to go out in full force and rock the hearts and minds of America. We all suited up in our cat tees and Keen capes and then marched on Austin en masse, and woe to any fools who got in our way.

(OK, in reality, we were more like a bunch of nerds going to hang out with a bunch of other nerds and scam free drinks, but, like, perception is mostly about attitude or something.)

A day like this is kind of difficult to describe interestingly, I feel like. It’d be a little repetitive in the telling. Mostly we just bounced around from party to meetup to bar to whatever, chatting with people as we went, splintering off from each other and then joyously regrouping over and over again. It’s weird and fluid and all kind of blends together in my head (although some of that is certainly due to the free wine), but here is my overall impression:

SXSW is like one long, weird drawn-out ambling block party. In some ways, it feels a bit like a music festival, with only a little less music, a good deal more geekiness, and pretty much the exact same level of branding and posturing and see-and-be-seenness. If you’re not careful, you can start to have the same sort of rote conversations over and over, which reminded me a bit of college (”So, what’s your major?” == “What’s your company do again?”), but you also meet some truly fun and weird and interesting people along the way.

On my own little journey, I went to some great stuff hosted by our buds from SendGrid and TechStars Austin, and Crystal Rose’s talk at Ignite was amazing (more on that in a bit), and I definitely smoked under a bridge like a troll, and I think Jo Beyersdorfer from LA Startup Week and I are now, like, best friends for life, and I rodeo-rode these amazing little wobble chairs, which we are GETTING for our new office, no arguments, sorry. And Tim Falls definitely got pulled aside for having such an amazing man bun, and Philippe and Hidi showed up out of nowhere, and I met our amazing new Austin-based evangelist, Taylor, and I learned what Night Mode is, courtesy of Kerry Snyder (it is popping one’s sunglasses lenses out, so they are like regular glasses??), and I talked with lots and lots of people about lord only knows what, and I heard a hilarious cover of Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me,” and I had some pretty solid shrimp tacos, and it was all great and fun and exhausting, and I can’t possibly imagine doing it all over again today, but I guess we’ll see.

LONE STAR

Oh – one thing I forgot to mention when aggrandizing Austin yesterday – the constant, comforting presence of Lone Star Beer, my absolute favorite beer in the world. Not only does it mostly taste like a glass of water (my ideal attribute in a beer, honestly, as I think real beer tastes like gross ham sandwiches), it also looks like a fake generic brand from a TV show, it’s called “The National Beer of Texas,” which just shows all kinds of awareness, and every bottle cap has a little rebus picture puzzle to solve. 

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Again, I am less fond of them this morning perhaps, but on the whole, consider yourself whole-heartedly endorsed, Lone Star.

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The first person to reply to me with the answer to the above rebus gets a Keen cat shirt (once we make more of them)!

THE LUCK OF THE IRISH

I am generally not that clumsy of a person, but like an hour into the day, of course I immediately spilled red wine all over my brand-new Keen cat shirt, and therefore looked like a complete sloppy lush for the rest of the day. And maybe I was a sloppy lush, but let’s let people find that out through conversation, damn it! Now people all be judgin’ a book by its damn cover and whatnot.

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Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame!

Of course, Justin and Alexa also got huge, gross stains on their Keen gear over the course of the day, too, so maybe the lesson here is, don’t order white t-shirts for this sort of thing.

CSI: CYBER

There are lots of promotional gimmicks swirling around you as you walk the streets of Sx – so much so that you start to get desensitized to them – but not the CSI: CYBER party van. No way, not that. 

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I keep thinking CSI: CYBER must be a long con gag from SNL or something. That name, the whole premise, the presence of James Van Der Beek, everything. Like, just read these character descriptions and tell me this doesn’t sound like the silliest thing ever:

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OK, listen. I get how this must have seemed like a good idea on paper – tech-based show, huge interactive conference – but, like, know your audience and stuff. The people here know so much about how all this stuff actually works, and then they are going to watch your show, which is going to be ridiculous and full of holes and errors, so best case scenario, you have now actively courted an audience of people to mock you. 

That said, I honestly kind of want to write CSI: CYBER erotic fan fiction, so keep an eye out for that.

TALK TO STRANGERS

As I said above, Crystal Rose gave an amazing talk at Ignite about the power of talking to strangers as an introduction to her badass new app, Sensay, where strangers help each other out by answering questions and sharing our collective knowledge. The talk really resonated with me and the other Keenies in attendance, I think, because talking to strangers is kind of our whole thing – our not-so-secret strategy for friendship and connection and growth and success. And it’s been wonderful to really see it here in action at Sx, and to also be involved with it myself, in some small way. 

Brands are weird, magical, amorphous, fragile little baby animals, and it can be absolutely bewildering figuring out how to grow and foster them the right way. Walking around Sx, you see so many companies trying so many different ways to get your attention for just a second, to get you to remember their name or what they do, or to slightly nudge your opinion of them in a positive direction. They spend all this money and time and energy to throw parties or put together little gimmicks or give you free schwag, and then all they can do is hope it works, because it’s not always an easy thing to measure.

What’s magical about talking to strangers is that, yeah, it tends to do huge, amazing things for your brand, but that’s almost besides the point. We talk to people because we like talking to people, because people are fun and weird and interesting and have done things and know things that we don’t, and it’s great to learn new shit. It’s cool to learn what people are working on, and what excites them, and what quirks and kinks make them who they are. 

And if talking to those people is something you actually enjoy, it doesn’t feel like work, and it doesn’t have that sense of desperation or trying too hard that you can sometimes sense when someone is leaning on you to hit some sort of quota or agenda. Authenticity isn’t just more honest and more fun, it’s also downright easier, and success is easy to measure, because all we’re looking for are new friends, new stories, and cool new things to know about. 

Basically, we’re just a bunch of people talking to a bunch of other people, and if you happen to think we’re fun or friendly, that’s awesome! And if that makes you think a little more highly of Keen, or slightly more disposed to want to hang out with us or work with us or remember us or tell a friend about us, that’s cool, too. But, like, whatever. I mostly just want to yell with you some more about Third Eye Blind, because they are a funny, silly band, and I have a lot of thoughts about them.

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This is Jay, and he and I Bonded.

SOCIAL ANXIETY MONSTER

That said, while I believe in the power of talking to strangers, I’m still not all that great at it. Such is the nature of social anxiety. More people still come up to me than I come up to them, and ask more questions than I ask them, and it’s not because I don’t care, because god, I love new people and stories and friends and adventures, but it’s hard, because I am legitimately full-on crazy

Approaching a stranger is still the most terrifying thing in the world to me, and worse still because they’re always kind of vague, nameless fears about bothering people. Like, is someone really going to start yelling at me or cussing me out just because I came up and said hello? NO, DUMMY. People are so, so nice, and they appreciate the effort, and virtually every time I’ve made myself go and talk to someone, it’s been amazing and not-scary and I’ve been so glad I did it. But it still feels like ripping off a Band-Aid, every single time.

Here at Sx, I’m sure a lot of that comes back to our old, stupid friend imposter syndrome. I’m smart and stuff, but I’m not smart at the same things a lot of the people here are smart about, and I don’t want to make myself or Keen look bad by coming off like a dummy, so I get nervous and clam up.

But again, like I said above, it’s mostly just about being a fun, friendly person. At Keen, every single one of us takes turns doing shifts answering support questions, and it. is. terrifying. Developers are writing in with these complex, important questions, and their whole lives are rooted in this stuff, and I am just some nitwit who generally spends most of his time photoshopping cat pictures, and I am supposed to help them?! Gahhh.

BUT, if I am sympathetic and empathetic and friendly and helpful and human, I am still helping nudge the needle in a positive direction. Behind the scenes, I might be flailing about like a decapitated chicken, trying to get them some actual answers, but every little bit helps. 

And the same thing is true with talking to people here. It still feels like I know all-too-little, but I can be kind and human and point you in the right direction. And that’s enough sometimes to make a difference sometimes.

(Sorry if I am a little more rambly and philosophical than in previous manic field reports. Consider this a sort of existential hangover.)

6 DRINKS IN, I AM THE FUNNIEST HUMAN ALIVE

OR: 6 drinks in, I believe I am the funniest human alive.

OR: 6 drinks in, everyone else is 6 drinks in, too, so they now believe I am the funniest human alive.

But I like to think it’s the first one.

SOME GUY STARTED QUOTING LINES FROM MY PREVIOUS FIELD REPORT, AND THAT WAS QUITE FLATTERING

End of story, just wanted to brag.

THE AUTHOR, IN REPOSE

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I write on the stairs, because the less comfortable I am, the faster I write. 

SHITFOOT

At 2 am, the bars empty out, and 6th Street is suddenly, instantly flooded with wild packs of insane, drunk humans. Like, flooded. I’ve never really seen anything like it. The streets are just full to brimming, and there is energy, but it’s not always good energy, and lots of people seem kind of pent-up and angry, and Eric and Alexa saw two separate pairs of women get into terrifying, hair-pulling fights, and I was personally groped at least 3 times, and it was weird and a little scary, and I am glad I saw it, but maybe do not necessarily need to see it again.

The police come out on horses, whole lines of them, to try and clear the streets out, and, as horses are wont to do, they sometimes takes huge, massive, endless dumps in the street. And, as drunk humans are also wont to do, sometimes they don’t notice said dumps and stomp all up on them. And then, if you’re very lucky, there will be a guy there who goes completely buck wild whenever somebody does step in the horse shit and starts doing crazy taunt dances while crying, “YOU JUST GOT SHITFOOT, MAN!”

Far be it from me to laugh at the misfortunes of others, but if there was a hidden camera reality show based around the above premise, I solemnly believe it would be the most popular program in America. Also, I think we found our latest dumb inside joke at Keen. #shitfoot

All right, that’s it and that’s all. No idea where the day is going to take us – ideally, to a nice pillow-filled room with hugs and naps – but I hope to see you out there. 

<3<3
Nate

Nate Walsh

Writer. Party Planner. A Third Thing.

SxSW Field Report, Day 1: Arrival / Destruction

I HAVE ALREADY FAILED YOU (SURPRISE)

There is simply no way on this earth I could’ve written this field report last night. Or, I mean, I could have done, but it probably would’ve been a 15,000 word treatise on the merits of Austin’s Deep Eddy grapefruit-infused vodka (which is pretty amazing, btw, but certainly feels a bit less so this morning), followed by the letter h 400 times. hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

My point is, I made a judgment call, and I believe it was in your favor. OK, let’s go.

OH MY GOD, BIRDS

I think I made a joke in my first field report about how I was going to write an essay at some point about why birds exist. Well, let me answer that for you right now: Torment and destruction. 

I am on the roof of our beautiful AirBnb right now, and I would just like to quietly and miserably plow through this field report, so that I can crawl back under the bathroom cabinets and hide there in peace, but there are these monstrous birds making just the absolute worst cacophony of peeps.

I mean, admittedly, I am not in the best state for any noises, so even normal, happy bird sounds feel like nails on a chalkboard right now (I keep protectively hunching down like the sounds might wound me), but I should also say that these are not normal, happy birds. These are GRACKLES

Grackles (which is one of those perfect, hilarious-sounding names for something horrible – much like brambles), if you’ve never heard them, sound like a regular old bird maybe ate an 8-bit Nintendo, a faulty one, and now they just go around making these insane beepy explosion monster sounds. 

Dustin Larimer and I spent the night in the RV, and we were absolutely cracking up at the massive ruckus these little monsters were creating, all rattling around in the bushes doing the music from the Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers NES game. (Here is that what sounds like, by the way, but you should under no circumstances go there if you are reading this as hungover as I am writing it.) Then we actually started watching a bunch of grackle YouTube videos (which are all terrible, by the way – maybe learn how to edit your damn grackle videos, people!)

Anyway, I just wrote an awful lot about grackles, so a) maybe I actually love them? and b) sorry I just did that? I maaaay be a little too stream-of-conscioius-y this morning. Let’s talk about something that’s not birds, shall we?

THE TOILET MANUAL 

Not last night, the one before, I slept in the RV as well, because the hotel was a little crowded, and I am uncomfortable with human closeness. 

It was pretty cold and stuff, which wasn’t great, but the shittier part happened when I woke up to go to the bathroom at 3 am and found I had no idea how to use the toilet.

Recreational vehicles have pretty much all the amenities of a home, but (naturally) there is a somewhat more involved process in using any of them. So, like, to use the toilet, you have to turn on some switches and pull and push a lever, and probably a few other things. It’s not complicated, exactly, but it’s also not the sort of thing you can intuit your way through all groggy and hungover at 4am while doing a pee-pee dance. 

So, I had to go find the manual for the toilet, which sounds like a silly concept until you need it, and then you are thanking your lucky stars for whatever blessed, miserable copywriter had to write that thing up 17 years ago.

OK, I swear I am getting to Sx. I can feel it. We’re getting close. 

THE McCAFÉ CARAMEL FRAPPÉ IS ATROCIOUS

I took 1 and a half sips and threw that garbage out

I am not precisely sure what sorghum is, but I am positive I could taste it. 

At least with a Shamrock Shake, you know you’re in for some trash. I was hoping for a nice little coffee beverage, not a caramel-flavored PlayDoh tube being squirted into my mouth. 1 star.

THE R.V. HAS A NAME

Yesterday I reported the dire need to give our glorious apartment on wheels a suitable moniker. I suggested Janet – to which Becky, like, immediately replied back, “ANYTHING BUT JANET.” So, say hello to our friend Not Janet. She is like a friendly whale, and I sleep in her belly.

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Note that, despite the obvious temptation, I am not saying “‘Murica” here, because that is a lazy non-joke, and we are better than that.

THE TRIP DOWN TO AUSTIN 

Was pretty uneventful, to which I give full credit to the stable hands of our two amazing helmsmen, Tim Falls and Justin Johnson. I mostly lied in the little pirate bunk above the cockpit and tried to get a final bit of sleep in before The Reckoning. I used my shoe as a pillow, and only nearly rolled off once. Drool level: medium. 4 stars.

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Phone people, phone people, phone people, phone people…

OUR MAGNANIMOUS HOST

Yesterday I joked about our drunk-dialing AirBnb host, but that guy is rad, and he set us up. Beautiful place. Full bar of amazing, quasi-obscure, top-shelf stuff. A fridge full of drinks and treats. He even managed to track me down an iron, because I am a weirdo and iron my shirt literally every. single. day. 

Listen, y’all, even if I’m puking next to a dumpster, I want to look fully-pressed and professional, OK? (I did not puke near a dumpster. That one was a joke.)

AUSTIN, YOU GET ME

Listen, I love SF, and over the past 2 years, I have definitely come to think of it as home. But I don’t have the vehement level of enthusiasm that some people do for San Francisco. 

Like, back when I used to use OK Cupid, I would say at least a full third of everyone’s profiles began with something about their intense love of SF or pride in their identity as a San Franciscan. Which, wonderful! Good on you for finding your place! But I’m not quite there yet with SF.

Austin, though. Hm.

I am not sure what it is, but we just click, Austin and I. It always feels hot and dark here even when it isn’t (that doesn’t make any sense, sorry), and it’s forward-thinking and inventive but still manages to hold on to some of the good, fun, gritty, twangy Texas parts. Also, the music scene is just astounding. My first time here as an adult, I was waiting for a friend to meet me, so I just poked into this random bar for a beer, and these amazing women called The Whiskey Sisters were doing a sound check and did this twanged-up version of “Like A Virgin” that was like the best thing I’ve ever heard in my life. 

So, yeah, Austin. 

It is on my bucket list to live here one day, so that then I can be the one complaining about all these tech money hacks taking over my city and stuff. (Sorry, by the way! We’ll be gone soon, and we’ll try not to make too many messes!)

SPEAKING OF WHICH…

Harmony isn’t one of my Top 5 StrengthsFinder strengths, but it’s pretty high up there. And I have definitely been sensing some animosity from the local Austinians (Austinites? Austrians? Argonauts?) about the tech invasion for Sx. So my question for the locals is this: What can we do to be less bothersome? As I said, I love it here, and I would like nothing more than to be a gracious guest. Anything we can do to endear ourselves to you? Besides, you know, FOAD?

I talked to this one bartender about this, and he said the main thing that annoys him is that, because our schedules aren’t exactly packed out here, he tends to see a lot of us standing around, doing poses and trying to look cool? Which, if that is the case, god, I’d hate us, too. 

No posing, you guys. I feel like that one is a gimme. I know we nerds are finally having our heyday and stuff, but let’s keep a level head about it and not, like, artfully blow e-cigarette smoke in a slow arc as we regard the sunset. None of that please.

OUR ILLUSTRIOUS COMMUNITY TEAM

TF and JJ both just woke up, and told us that, after a full night of partying and meeting people, the only business card either of them had – actually, they both had it – was for the local weed club. Solid community outreach, fellows.

NOT A SECRET FOR LONG: ISLA

Yeah, sorry I am the guy who’s always ruining things, but listen: I met a friend for a drink last night at this new tiki bar here called Isla, and that place is both incredibly solid and, at the moment, disproportionately unpopulated. I was there around 6, and the place was mostly dead, whereas anything along Congress was just swarming with humans. 

Anyway, the place is adorable, and the drinks are outstanding. It’s tiki stuff, but it’s not cloyingly sweet like island drinks can sometimes be. There is good balance there. Also, this is the most aesthetically perfect drink I’ve ever seen in my life:

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Sorry I don’t take many photos, by the way. I’m a writer, not a photographer. I create pictures with worddddsssssssss.

WATCHING SOMEONE CON THEIR WAY INTO PARTIES IS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING AND IMPOSSIBLE

It is an astounding skill. After Isla, my friend got us into two parties with live music and open bars and free food just by talking fast and acting confident and vaguely indicating she might know someone of importance at the company who was hosting them. It doesn’t sound that hard on paper, but, left to my own devices, I am pretty sure I would’ve just started nervous puking and weeping. Confidence, man. It is a super power.

SPEAKING OF SUPER POWERS

We have capes! Which, OK, admittedly, I am a little too embarrassed to wear in public, but good for anyone who can!

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(Side note to our designer, Micah Wolfe: Micah, do not look too closely at the colors used on the logo. They are all wrong, but it seems we went for glitter over brand cohesion, and I regret very little with regards to glitter.)

Apparently people kept asking us what our super powers are, which turns out is a pretty fun improv game. My answers, in order:

  • lead into gold
  • horses into gold
  • immortal life
  • giving ghosts restored bodies
  • frag trolls
  • trolls into gold
  • etc.

WE ALSO HAVE INSANE T-SHIRTS

Which, not to brag (and I shouldn’t, because the Photoshop work is fairly atrocious), but I made them!

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Backstory: I came stumbling into the Keen office a couple weeks ago, hazy and exhausted from the aftermath of our 2-day writeathon. Justin and Tim pulled me aside – “Hey, man, Josh had an idea for a t-shirt for Sx. Can you help us Photoshop it?” A blurry eyed-zombie, I grabbed a white board pen and said, “OK, talk me through it.”

“So, it’s a cat.” I draw a cat face.

“A cat professor.” I add a graduation cap, because I don’t really know what professors are.

“And he’s pointing at a bar chart made of bacon.” Yep. Got it.

“Next to a donut pie chart.” Done.

Now, at the time, I was running on like 2 hours of sleep, so I thought it might have been on me that this seemed like a totally fucking demented idea. A couple days later, though, when I consulted my notes and the photo I’d taken of my drawing, I was able to safely confirm that I was not the crazy one here. But, that certainly didn’t stop me from taking like 6 hours to make it. 

Feedback has been pretty positive on them, though, it sounds like – except for Micah again, I imagine, who is probably drinking poison so as to not have to look at them any longer. Sorry about my skills, Micah! Sorry this is all I can do!

Hopefully we can have some of these shirts made for all y’all, too, so you can look as cool as we do. >_<

I AM NO LONGER THE ONE WHO BUYS US SHOTS, ALL RIGHT?

After the two parties we conned our way into (which I will talk about in a future post, because I certainly have Thoughts, but I imagine I am already trying your patience, word-count-wise), I caught back up with my fellow Keenies, who were still in East Austin and hadn’t made it past the second bar, which I found kind of hilarious.

I’m only just getting to know our Eric, Keen’s most recent Canadian acquisition, but apparently so far I have made a horrible impression by having been the only one so far to keep suggesting taking group shots together. This is a horrible, inaccurate framework.

I don’t even like shots, man. My body can’t really do ‘em. Like, the whole point of shots, right, is to bypass the TSA in your mouth and get the alcohol straight to your belly. Except the way I do them, the shots hits the back of my throat, and my throat’s all like, “Um, NOPE. Exactly what in the hell are you trying to pull here, kid?” and then sends it back to my mouth for closer inspection. And upon inspection, yes, it does appear to be warm, low-grade tequila. Spit. Barf. Death.

Anyway, thankfully, Alexa has now taken the title from me, forcing tequila shots on us no less than 3 times in an hour. It is your fault I feel this way, Alexa. This is on you.

THE PHILLY CHEESESTEAK FOOD TRUCK HAD A TIP JAR THAT SAID SOMETHING TO THE EFFECT OF, “EVERY TIME YOU TIP US, NICOLAS CAGE WON’T MAKE ANOTHER MOVE,” SO I SAID, “OK, LOOK, I WOULD LIKE TO TIP YOU ALL, BECAUSE YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB, BUT I DO NOT AGREE WITH THE POLICY OF YOUR TIP JAR, BECAUSE NICOLAS CAGE IS, IF NOT A GOOD ACTOR, AT THE VERY LEAST AN INTERESTING ONE, AND HONESTLY THE MORE WORK HE PRODUCES, THE BETTER,” AND THEY WERE CONFUSED, I IMAGINE, BUT THEY WENT WITH IT

End of story.

THIS IS ALL TRICKY, BY THE WAY

Writing these, I mean. And not just finding the time and energy to do them, although that, too. I mean writing these quickly and not always clearheadedly, and (hopefully) making them fun and funny and authentic, but also making sure I don’t say something totally stupid or hurt people’s feelings because I didn’t think something all the way through. I mean walking that fine line been sassy and mean, and irreverent and inappropriate. Punching up at big chain restaurants for serving unhealthy food, and not punching down at the people who eat there. That sort of thing. And it is tricky.

This is not to make excuses. This is just to say that I know I am going to fail a little bit on each of these entries, and that is utterly terrifying. In all honesty, it’s a huge reason I’ve always been kind of reluctant to share my work with a wider audience – in the back of my head, I know that, pretty much no matter how careful I am about choosing my words or considering who’ll be reading my work, at some point, there are things I’m going to miss, and mistakes I’m going to make, and audiences I am going to marginalize or offend, and oh my god that is horrifying. That is the last thing I want to do. I mostly just want to make people laugh and enjoy themselves and maybe, MAYBE think about something new.

Because of this fear, though, I’ve mostly kept my work to myself, or to a group of close friends who know me, because it’s safe, and they are already familiar with my faults, and more or less forgive me them. But, doing that is also pretty cautious and limiting and yeah probably kind of cowardly. 

So, I’m glad I’m taking this chance to write to a wider audience. Yeah, doing it is scary, and my inevitable failures will be shameful and disappointing, but, like, how the hell else am I going to get better? You can only learn so much in a vacuum – to start filling in my blind spots and growing as a writer, I have to present my work to the larger community and hear back from you, good and bad.

So, as I mentioned in my first post, please please get in touch if anything I say here bugs you – even if it’s just a passing flutter of annoyance. I would so much rather know than not, and hopefully over time, these mistakes will get fewer and fewer. Thank you for your patience, and for the opportunity. 

OK, I am still on the roof, and I’ve had to keep moving to avoid the shifting gaze of the hateful, hateful sun, but I am pretty much out of room now, so let’s just call it. See you out there, I hope.

<3<3
Nate

Nate Walsh

Writer. Party Planner. A Third Thing.

SxSW Field Report, Day Ω: Texas Indoctrination

Sorry for the weird nomenclature, with the omega and all. It’s just that we’re not in Austin yet, so things haven’t really started, but we’re also going around being kind of drunk and ridiculous, so they have also totally kind of started. And I don’t know Greek or anything, so you can see my dilemma here. If you can think of a better symbol, let me know, and I will take it under advisement. 

EVERYONE ELSE WENT FOR ICE CREAM, AND I STAYED HERE WRITING

Because I love you and want to keep my promises to you. See? I am earning your trust as we speak.

I HAVE A NOTEBOOK; PLEASE ENJOY IT

A notebook that is awesome, and in which I will jot down my notes for each day’s field report so that I will have something to work with when I arrive home, all donked on melted Otter Pops and vodka. (I believe that is what the Chili’s was serving, anyway.)

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The marshmallow stickers smell like marshmallows, but the pizza ones smell like pizza, so it is basically a wash.

Anyway, this is not some ironic hipster affection, using something so analog at what is basically a convention of the digital – it’s more a practicality, because my phone sucks and even opening a text file basically makes electricity shoot out the back of it. 

Also, I can make origami cranes if I am so inclined:

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Available upon request. 

I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO MEETING OUR AIRBNB HOST IN AUSTIN

Apparently he drunk dialed Tim Falls last night and kept him on the line for like 15 minutes, telling Tim things he’d already told him about the apartment – as well as some sad country-song-type stuff about how everyone leaves you in the end, I can’t really recall.

My main point is more that I am super excited to have this character in our orbit now, and kind of hope he randomly pops in thoughout our visit, like Drunk Country Song Kramer, to yell about sad truths about life. That would be just so Texas, am I right?

WINDOWLESS BUILDINGS

Listen, tech industry whiners, let this trip serve as our annual reminder that our lives are basically amazing. On the whole, we all work in amazing, beautiful spaces, yet we have all complained at one point or another about the caliber of our catered lunches or how our chairs aren’t ergonomic enough or whatever. But now I am here in Dallas, TX, and approximately 3 out of 4 office buildings around here are windowless prison bunkers. 

Please take a moment to remember that there is a whole huge group of human beings who aren’t even allowed access to sunlight as a so-called “professional perk.” We are doing pretty great, OK?

UNHAPPY RV PEOPLE

Our main goal as a group today was to a) all get to Texas and b) pick up the HUGE, STUPID RV that will take us to Austin and back, and which will be some of our homes while we’re there. (Me, me, me!)

I have to say, though, the RV company could maybe use a little help with their promotional materials. It seems like every one of these dudes is being held at gunpoint and forced to have Outdoor Good Times:

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The only real adventure, children, is the journey to the grave.

THE RV STILL NEEDS A NAME

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TF lookin’ BA in the RV.

Right now, I’m thinking Janet, because it just feels like a Janet, and I’m a stupid INFP, so I am basically just a tiny boat awash on a stormy sea of random emotions and hunches, but I am still open to suggestions. Please send name ideas to me ASAP, and we will vote or something.

BE OUR GUEST

OK, I have rented RVs before, and I am always disproportionately excited over basically every feature of them (walls you can collapse inwards, a bed above driver’s seat, odd toilet pedals), but this one takes the cake:

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Big ups to Eric for his hostly manner.

AN OMEN, REVERSED

On the way to our hotel for the evening, I spotted a MEDIEVAL TIMES DINNER & TOURNAMENT, and I obviously started to freak the hell out. I will be honest with you: I have been to Medieval Times twice in the past year (1, 2). 

Trust me – put aside whatever dumb qualms you have about the place and just go. (Get the best seats possible.) It is so so fun to drink goblets of wine and scream and wave light-up swords around as bad character actors do fake axe fights for you.

Anyway, as soon as I saw the thing, I took it as a sign and couldn’t talk about anything else. We are going, damn it! And, shockingly, everyone agreed! However, I severely underestimated Northeastern Texas’ interest in Thursday night staged feudal warfare, because they were completely sold the hell out. Even the comically expensive tickets I usually make everyone buy anyway!

I guess I should be mad, but honestly, I’m mostly just impressed at Texas for having their priorities straight. 

HOW MANY “EVERYTHING’S BIGGER IN TEXAS JOKES” CAN I MAKE

A million. A billion. Even my capacity for making everything’s bigger in Texas jokes is bigger in Texas.

COMPETING THEME SONGS

While we were in NOLA, Justin and I apparently came up with 2 wildly different theme songs to play throughout our extended Louisiana-Texas sojourn – as entrance music, to get us pumped up for a night out, etc.

He chose T.Swift’s “Shake It Off,” which I cannot fault him for at ALL, because that is a solid-ass song, but I don’t think anyone can possibly deny the superior staying power of my choice, Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love.” (Or, if I’m feeling particularly depressed, the super emo cover of “Higher Love” by James Vincent McMorrow.)

A better man than me would add a poll here, so you all could choose your favorite, but it is 2 damn 30 a.m., and I am not figuring out someone’s godforsaken poll widget right now, so just let me have this one, OK?

TAROT READINGS

A bunch of us got tarot readings while we were in New Orleans, and because I am an easily susceptible sucker, I more or less decided that I wanted to start doing readings myself moving forward. (I used to try back in college, but that was mostly to try and convince women they should make out with me. “You will meet a mysterious pale stranger, with an unconventional skill…”)

I am still pretty slow and gawky at tarot readings, and they don’t always seem to give the best news, or even answer the actual question we were going for (”THE CARDS TELL YOU WHAT YOU WON’T ASK,” says the fake stereotypical fortune teller in my head), but it’s pretty fun and I need the practice, so if you spot me and want a reading, I will totally do one for you.

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This was supposed to be a simple reading about whether or not we’ll have fun at Sx, but instead it shaped out to be some pretty portentous shit about the Real Meaning of Leadership or something? Do not rely on cards for anything, in my point.

GON’ COUNTRY / DIABETES

Honestly, I don’t totally know what that means. I scrawl these heading notes as I go, and they aren’t always written with the clearest of heads. 

But I think what I meant was that we decided to do as the Texans do while we’re here and head to some terrible fucking chain bars and restaurants. Between Chili’s for dinner and Dave & Buster’s for corporate-mandated fun™, I would estimate we consumed roughly 800 pounds of complex sugars, generally in the form of fried hell starches and sugary nightmare drinks. I feel great, is what I’m saying.

You know that one margarita where they just stick a stupid upside-down Corona in the top? (Here is a picture of Snookie with one.) Well, Dave and Buster’s now does one where it’s a bottle of damn Prosecco upside-down in some poisonous, saccharine, Kool-Aid-y mess. Thing should come with a damn insulin chaser. 

3 stars.

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We also got like 4-foot-tall thing of beer served out of a fire hydrant. I am losing touch with America.

Anyway, let the record show that I beat Alexa at both Guitar Hero and DDR, because when she back in high school, making friends and learning socialization and stuff, I was learning how to fake play instruments and fake dance. Game-set-match, Meyer. 

SECRET SOUTH BY STRATEGY SESSION

(Sidenote: What is the correct way, if any, to abbreviate SXSW to “South By?” Is it “Sx?” Because I feel a little bad doing that and maybe making you read it as “Sex” each time. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.)

After we sugar-struggled our way home, Justin quickly briefed us on Keen IO’s super secret strategy for SXSW: Skip pretty much any official conference or expo event, find the good parties, and then go be awesome at them so people like us. 

I hope I didn’t wreck the company with these WikiLeaks. 

Anyway, this plan sounds pretty reasonable on paper, but I am pretty much only likable when I have had 3 drinks – no more, no less – and that is a pretty narrow window to live one’s life by. 

So, you know, fingers crossed I find a good partner-in-crime – someone willing and able to con their way into these things and drag me along with them – or these are forthcoming field reports will be pretty sparse and/or depressing. (”Another long night at the 24-hour Arby’s…”)

Hey, you know what I need? One of those hats with a little scrap of paper in the brim of my hat that says “PRESS” on it. That’d probably fix everything.

I AM WRITING THIS ON HOTEL STAIRS, BY THE WAY

No, really, look:

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I am just like Thompson, man. Gonzo journalism. 

Actually, what’s happening is that I am pretty sleepy, but I want to finish this, so I am making myself cold and uncomfortable, so I stay awake. My art, I suffer for it.

WHAT DAY OF THE WEEK IS IT, ANYWAY

Friday, huh. OK, rad.

Good night! I love you all! There will be more actual things to write about tomorrow, I am sure, but aren’t you impressed how much I dragged out from all of these non-things? No? Well, that’s cool, too.

<3<3
Nate

Nate Walsh

Writer. Party Planner. A Third Thing.

SxSW Field Report, Day 0: Intro

Hi, I’m Nate, and I work as a writer at Keen… although, up ‘til now, you would have almost no way of knowing that. 

Despite the fact that I’ve been working with Keen for nearly 2 years now, and have helped out behind-the-scenes on all sorts of things (our homepage copy, tons of blog posts, any of our tweets or emails that you personally found funny), I’ve always been super reluctant to actually put my name on anything like a blog post.

Why? OK, so. Remember in Coyote Ugly how “Jersey” (Piper Perabo) has this insane, not-particularly-realistic form of stage fright where she doesn’t mind doing sexy bar dances in front of hundreds of drunk monsters, but clams up whenever she has to perform her own songs on-stage? Yeah. Basically imagine the writing equivalent of that.

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Ah, yes. A Coyote Ugly reference. Timely. 

So, what’s changed? Well, basically, I really, really wanted to come with the team to SxSW, and I don’t really have any marketable skills besides writing, so I humbly offered up my services documenting the trip in my own special way.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN, “YOUR OWN SPECIAL WAY?”

Hm. How to put this delicately. I definitely at least sort of care about the things I am probably supposed to care about for this event. For example:

  • Technology is pretty good and stuff. e.g., I am typing this post on a portable computer, if you can believe it!
  • I am pretty good at networking, if networking includes having a LinkedIn profile and only ignoring it 70% of the time. (Also if networking includes wine.)
  • If you said a phrase to me like “growth hacking,” I would probably only throw up on your shoes a little. Like, the smallest amount of puke. 

I guess my point is, with these posts, expect kind of an outsider’s perspective on Sx? I am interested in tech and in brands and marketing and in meeting awesome new people, but, you know, sometimes at weird angles

In these posts, I’ll be sharing the stuff that is interesting to me, which might not be the same stuff that is interesting to everyone else. But hey! It might be fun to get a different perspective, right? Plus, I tend to kind of inherently generate weird encounters and make odd observations as a matter of course, so that could be fun?

In any case, there’s always, like, BuzzFeed and stuff, if you’d rather look at pictures of stuff from the 90′s. Nostalgia is pretty great, too.

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Oh, my gosh. It is an Old Thing. I’m having so many Feelings!

THE RULES

OK, so the plan for these Sx field reports is to do at least one post per day until we come back from Austin on the 17th. My personal goal (which I am sure I will almost immediately abandon) will be to write each day’s post before I go to bed that evening. Obviously, by that point in the day, I am sure to be burned out, exhausted, possibly intoxicated, and completely frantic to just pass the hell out, so I am expecting to generate some real Pulitzer-caliber material here. (e.g., “Why Do Birds Exist: A 3000-Word Essay, by Nathan Walsh”)

Rushing through content at a breakneck pace like that, there is a reasonable chance that at some point I am going to put my foot in my mouth or say something dumb. This is not to make excuses (”Augh, damn all this Privilege!”) – this is me asking you to call me out on that shit if I do. Please please please email me at nate@keen.io or tweet @whateverdude or tackle me on the street or call my horrific Google Voice number (57-DIARRHEA), and I will apologize (and probably cry some, in all seriousness) and do whatever I can to try and make things better.

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This is what I look like, if you want to tackle me. (Sorry for looking pretty generic, I know that makes things trickier.)

SOME INTERESTING SIDE NOTES

  • I have been in New Orleans for the past week with a good chunk of the Keen team, so obviously I feel very rested and relaxed and not at all a bloated, rum-soaked hell demon.
  • I am one of those cool, en vogue “outgoing introverts,” which means it should be pretty fun to watch my slow descent from enthusiastic Party Person to sobbing lunatic hiding under a hotel conference room table, praying for the destruction of all human life and technology.
  • I like to sing and dance, so if you want to do those things with me, we totally should.
  • I am running on like 40 minutes of sleep writing this. Scale of 1-10, how much can you tell?

OK, no, this is going to be great, I swear! Hope to hear from you, maybe meet you, and share in some fantastic adventures together. 

<3<3
Nate

Nate Walsh

Writer. Party Planner. A Third Thing.

10 writing hacks to overcome perfectionism and just start spitting it out

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Last week, I hosted a writers workshop for the whole company. It was something I’d been talking about with Kyle (one of the Keen founders) for a while, but it had been hard to get started. I felt performance anxiety to make it amazing and shower everyone with genius words of wisdom about how to be totally awesome as a writer. That kind of pressure is tough, but it’s so hard to get around it when you’re in charge of something and supposedly an expert.

But then Kyle said something that made it all feel okay: “Don’t worry about it. Just make it a prototype.”

A prototype, I thought. That’s genius. So it doesn’t even count! It’s just for practice. Suddenly I was excited instead of scared. And I realized I had just found inspiration for the theme of the workshop: Perfection Is Poison.

I latched onto this theme because I’d noticed I wasn’t the only one in the company who got tripped up by perfectionism, especially when it came time to write something. Impostor Syndrome, Writers Block, Generalized Creative Anxiety, they’re all close cousins on the neurotic freakout spectrum (NFS).

The question for the writers workshop was: how best to overcome them? Could inspirational ideals be helpful? I guess, maybe. But what about cheap tricks and gimmicks? Could they help, too? I was pretty sure the answer was yes.

So here they are: the top ten writing hacks to overcome perfectionism and just start spitting it out.

1) Call it a prototype. Whatever you’re writing, decide from the start that it’s just for practice. It doesn’t count. No one even has to see it. You have no plans for it. It has no title. It barely exists. So just dive in and type around and see what happens.

2) Pretend it’s an email. You know how it’s so much easier to write in your own voice when you’re just sending an email? Okay, open your email, pick a friend to put in the To: box, start Dear so-and-so, I’m writing up this thing and I just want to make it sound natural, so you’re my secret guinea pig/muse/recipient/conspirator. And you don’t even know it! Then keep going.

3) Have a conversation instead. Kind of like emails, conversations have that way of being so damn conversational. They just can’t help it. Jot down some notes about your idea and get someone to listen and ask you questions. Have them write down the phrases they like best. Or just record it.

4) Break it down. 1,000 words too much to ask? Try just answering a few questions, ideally in pen. (Hand-written always feels lower stakes, especially if your handwriting is horrible like mine.) Who are you talking to? What is the one thing you want them to know? What are three examples/variations/anecdotes about that thing? Get that down and now you have something to aim for. (You don’t have to call it an outline. That’s too formal and confining. Feels too much like middle school.)

5) Share it too soon! Yes, before it’s ready, when it’s still obviously rough, before you’ve had a chance to edit out the best phrase because you decide it’s stupid, and before you’ve worked on it long enough to have any reasonable expectation of “quality,” let alone “perfection.” Chances are your reader will find something great in there to organize around. Worst case, you’ll be able to say, “I only spent an hour on this. What do you expect?”

6) Get a buddy. I know, it’s not the gym and we’re not doing squats or jerks (or whatever athletes do at the gym. I’m a writer; I have no idea). Point is, it’s easier to share something too soon if you’ve got someone else doing the same thing. Mutual vulnerability and accountability.

7) Do a reality check. What’s the thing you’re most afraid of? Name it. Ask someone if it’s rational. For me with my writing, my biggest fear is that I’ll write something lame and everyone who previously admired my writing will suddenly say to themselves, “Oh my god, we were so wrong! You have no talent at all! We were giving you credit you don’t deserve! In fact, you are completely worthless! Not just as a writer. As a human being!” At our workshop, I asked my colleagues if that is how they would respond in the event that I wrote something that wasn’t my best work. They laughed and said, “Of course not!” (but half of them acknowledged they had the exact same fear).

Note: I’m not saying I won’t write something lame. In fact, this might be that very thing. But it’s not reasonable to think that your whole reputation as a writer and human being is on the line every time you write a new sentence.

8) Specify what feedback you want. You know what’s dangerous? Showing writing to someone and saying, “Well, what do you think?” In the absence of any guidance, that reviewer may have a field day on a worm can you didn’t even know was in the pantry. (Triple-mixed-metaphor: 10 points.) If you’re mostly curious how they react to the topic, ask for feedback on that. If you’re definitely sold on the topic but curious about the flow, ask how they think it flows. If you plan to publish this afternoon and want a set of eyes to look for typos or glaring errors, ask for that. Help the reviewer be helpful.

Not sure what feedback to ask for? Try these two questions: 1) What do you like about the piece? 2) What is unclear or unnecessary? (Feel uncomfortable asking those questions? Say you got them from a blog post.)

9) Ignore all this advice. If you’ve got a system that works, fine, do that instead. But then why did you click on a post with this title?

10) Don’t have 10 things in a list. It’s very tempting to go with ten, but it feels inauthentic and forced. Avoid it.

I hope some of this was helpful to you. Full disclosure, this is my fourth attempt to write something to share the most valuable takeaways from our workshop (second attempt written entirely inside a Yahoo mail window). I’m going to send it to the friend I put in the To: column now because it’s still too soon to share it. I’d have to be crazy to send it now.

If you have any sneaky tricks to share, please add them in the comments (assuming I go ahead and post this later). And if you feel like attacking me as a human being, go right ahead. I can take it.

Now please fire up your email and start working on a prototype. It doesn’t count and no one will even know.

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Kevin Wofsy

Teacher, traveler, storyteller

The Social Authoring Experiment


We are excited to be supporting Keen IO community members in AirPair’s social authoring experiment!

What exactly does this mean? Well, have you ever tracked changes in MS Word and thought “there has to be a better way?!” Us too! AirPair has released some pretty cool features that allow authors and readers to collaborate on posts on github, just like normal code via forks and pull requests. Over the next 12 weeks you can submit posts and collaborate with the community on the best tutorials, opinion pieces and tales of using Keen IO, Firebase, RethinkDB, Twilio, and others in production.

One of our community members, Mark Shust already submitted an awesome post about Making a Keen IO Dashboard Real-time by Integrating it with Firebase & D3.js. You can check it out, leave a review, and make edits!

Submit your posts here.

Have questions or just want to toss an idea by us? Feel free to reach out to us.

A note about rate limits

Our #1 job here at Keen IO is to maintain the reliability and stability of our API. As you might expect, we’ve put a number of limits and protections in place to safeguard the service and make sure existing customers are protected.

Today, we had a couple questions come up about the forms of limiting we’ve employed over the last couple weeks. In all the hubub we may’ve lacked a clear explanation of each, so I’ll give one now. We also updated our documentation related to each of these today. If anything below is unclear, shoot us a question!

Rate Limits

Keen’s had this for a long time. They limit the number of queries a customer can perform within a 60 second window. These limits are enforced at the project level. These limits are pretty high at about 1,000 a minute.

You can see these limits in our docs here.

Note: Rate limiting is soon going to be improved significantly. This may change our limits. We’ll talk about that more when the time comes.

Concurrency Limits

This is a new limit, and it’s enforced per-Organization and has two parts: Only ~24 queries are allowed to be executing simultaneously in each data center Only ~24 queries are allowed to be pending execution in each data center

These limits are documented here.

Concurrency limits are both new and pretty severe right now. We’d love to raise them in the future when we can handle it.

Fast Failure

This isn’t a rate limit per se. It’s a combined guarantee and protection feature. If we haven’t been able to begin executing your query within 10 seconds, we will send it back to you with a failure. This feature is going to get an improvement tomorrow to make it work more like what I just said above. Today it’s allowing some queries to hang around a bit longer.

Fast failure is documented here.

Why Do These Limits Exist Now?

For a number of reasons around performance and system health, these are the limits we’ve put in place to keep averages reasonable given our ability to execute queries. We’d like them to be higher, but they are what they are until we can improve performance within the stack.

Long story short: As new customers stretch the platform new ways, we want to make sure existing customers are protected. We’ve grown really fast and we’re having trouble keeping up. We’ve been working super hard over the last week to get things to a stable place. Now we can start aiming for making it faster. :)

If you have any questions about rate limits, please reach out to us!

Cory Watson

Bigger than a breadbox.