As expected: what a weekend! Balancing Hello Etsy with having friends over was quite the challenge. Listening to inspiring people, meeting “virtual friends” in the real world and then finding the time to prepare dinner parties and go out for drinks can be exhausting. So sue me, but I have decided today is Sunday. So, since it’s Sunday, I had the time to sit on my couch and share with you some of my highlights from the Hello Etsy conference held at the beautiful ewerk in Berlin, this weekend. Although, like James from überlin, I sort of felt like the odd one out, tending to work with the keyboard more than my hands (you know what I mean), I was truly astonished by the quantity and quality of interesting keynotes and workshops going on during the weekend. If you weren’t there, you can still check out what happened from the comfort of your couch on livestream.com/etsy although, needless to say, the people and the location made the whole thing that much better. Personally, this weekend gave me some new idols to look up to. Looking back at my tweets and notes about it, looks like I attended a summit on inspirational life experiences rather than sustainable business. And I’ve been to a fair share of psychology conferences so trust me on this one people, Hello Etsy was truly awesome. Almost forgot: coolest badges ever, and everything was super well organised – great job Etsy!
RIDICULOUSLY TRANSPARENT LIFE STORIES
I had very honestly never heard of Tom Hodgkinson, editor of The Idler, before opening my cute little Hello Etsy handbook and, quite frankly, I’m glad my German language skills aren’t good enough to allow me to go to the Control Room where FAQs for start-ups was taking place (in Deutsche). I would have probably disregarded the guy, thinking I have idling nailed down pretty well by now. Couldn’t have been more wrong. Listening to this man speak about the three phases of his life so far – hedonistic idler turned epicurean wannabe smallholder and recently become struggling bourgeois shopkeeper – was that extra push I needed to get on my toes and make my own destiny. If you want to know why idling and efficiency are closely related, check out the video below.
Tom’s reading suggestion: The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan W. Watts. If you’re in London, you might find it second-hand at The Idler Academy, where you can also have some cake and learn something useful.
Etsy CEO since July 2011, Chad Dickerson was Etsy CTO for three years. This guy studied Shakespeare, got into tech (pointing out that You should go to university for an education, not for a degree.) and is now CEO of this global network of fascinating people and small businesses. Quite clearly, courage plays a major role in his journey, and I’d say that showing a picture of his oblivious wife to the main conference hall during his keynote was a sweet way of hinting at the audience that, on the road to fulfillment, paired up with courage, often comes a healthy portion of disarming transparency. Although Chad’s keynote was full of wise advice, fruit of his personal growth, the quote that sums up the whole thing the best for me is: Courage is about listening to your heart.
THE EYE-OPENING GANG
Charty Durrant is a fashion editor turned ecological activist, with the most beautiful voice. Her keynote meant that I now have no excuse to not worry about the environment when I go shopping. Charty pointed out that consumerism has reached a saturation point and that the crisis is systemic and global, although one of, if not the, main player in the environmental disaster that we’re all witnessing is the fashion industry. Hopefully she’s right and mass illusion is turning into mass awakening. As a perfect reply to the environmental crisis, another keynote from an equally inspiring lady was Natalie Chanin’s on her couture line of organic and sustainable clothing, Alabama Chanin. Check it out here.
I often see Marco Clausen when I go to the Prinzessinnengarten to grab a beer or two and sit in the green. Thanks to Gidsy’s interview last month, I found out that he’s co-initiator of this amazing urban gardening project. It blows my mind to think that that place, just a couple of years ago, was a dump. Mix two guys with a great idea, but little or no gardening experience, and a community of people who care about the place they live in, and that wasteland in Moritzplatz becomes home to over 400 species of plants and vegetables. It’s a place where you can garden, read a book, have your kids play around in the dirt, eat wonderful pizza made with the ingredients they grow there and, if you’re lucky, even watch a live jazz gig or catch the occasional flohmarkt. One of my favourite places in Berlin, no questions asked. I very much hope that the city won’t sell this land and that the community can keep on thriving in its vibrant and green corner.
THE STAND-UP CREW
Charles Festa, former Community Manager at Threadless, was at the company since its early days and right until a couple of months ago. That’s like 8 years of some pretty awesome community management. Most of the time, if you walked into Charles’s keynote (or even the roundtable held with Etsy, Bit.ly, Holstee, TOMS and Threadless), you’d probably be fooled into thinking this was some sort of stand-up comedy bit. Well, well, although there were some great laughs there, the man really does know his shit. I’m guessing Charles doesn’t feel like he’s going to work when he gets out of bed in the morning and, in my book, that’s living it. Here’s his solo bit, keep an eye out for the roundtable here – great honest talk about social media coming from some really cool people.
Matt LeMay, Platform Manager at bit.ly, used to be one of those guys that hates social media because of the distraction they represent from real writing. He then realised that social media was changing the way we write and became a true believer. I quite honestly didn’t know Matt before the roundtable with the gang mentioned above, but, be warned: I will now start stalking him online. If some big corporations out there listened to what he’s preaching, social media and community management wouldn’t represent the budget threats they often do to marketing managers that are stuck in thinking that: a) only advertising brings the real ROI and; b) a company’s Facebook page can be the sole responsibility of rotating interns (my words, not his). Some basic notions he reminded the audience of: Act like humans. The worse thing you can do on Twitter is broadcasting without listening back. Social media is writing. Oh, and I loved his “coffee-grinding as meditation” concept (check out the social media gang’s video as soon as Etsy posts the workshops here).
Back to the basics is always something I’m appreciative of. Finding the perfect equilibrium between an interesting speech and a useful one, for a mixed audience of both experts and newbies, is an art that few can master. I particularly enjoyed listening to:
- Rachel Bremer, European Communications Manager for Twitter, who gave some simple and extremely specific PR advice whilst still managing to grab the attention of the industry specific audience with tips about useful tools.
- Hessam Lavi, initiator of berlinstartupjobs.com and ex-Google employee, who laid out the basics of Search Engine Optimization and managed to give it a human meaning, SEO means owning your search results.;
- Caitlin Coble, Social Media Manager at TOMS, who suggested the most honest social media strategy ever: Tell people what you’d be telling your Mum or close friends.
- Dave Brown, Social Media Specialist at Etsy, who reminded people social media goes two ways: We want to engage with our community, not at them.
You managed to reach the end of this! Wow.