SMX Sydney: Small Beers, Bruce, SXSE and #notfriends

Apr 07

Last night, or at some point in the recent past when it was dark, I wrote this:

“Without wanting to whine too much, let’s quickly cover just what I have to look forward to in the next eighteen hours. I am sitting at Singapore airport, a part of the world I first visited in 1998, waiting for a flight to Heathrow. Nothing has changed in the past eleven years. It’s still slightly too hot, I am still exhausted and the muzak is exactly the same. I have thirteen hours of aeroplane ahead of me, followed by a commute home through London’s rush hour. I also get to find out whether five sort-of-carefully-packed bottles of wine, checked as fragile baggage, make it back in tact.”

I then realised that I had to locate sugar and coffee very fast, or else I’d fall asleep in Singapore airport, ending up stranded half way between my two homes. I made it onto the plane and was asleep before it took off.

Since many of you may remember me from such blogs as SEOmoz, you will recall that I don’t *do* conference session recaps. At least, I don’t do them all that well. I leave that to people Kalena Jordan, who actually manage it with some flair. I provide the multiple Facebook photo albums and “Hey remember when” stories. As I’m blatantly too incoherent to do any work this morning, three hours after setting foot back on English soil, I think a different sort of recap of the show I want to call South by South East is in order.

Let’s call it Funny Shit That Happened When We Went to Sydney.

1. I know quite a few people who work for the Boeing Corporation in Everett, Washington. I don’t think that any of them would approve of Singapore Airlines’ fix for a water-pouring-from-the-ceiling-of-a-747 problem.

2. We went to the self-proclaimed oldest pub in Sydney. It looked like it had been opened in 1964 (it was actually 1828). I laughed along, until I realised I was from a country that, as it exists now, is twelve years younger than the pub. When we went back there on Sunday, the place was filled with a hen do / bachelorette party. We gave them horribly bad advice regarding the quiz they had to complete, and most of my companions’ conversations seemed to end with ‘You can trust us. We’re English.’

3. When you walk over the Sydney Harbour Bridge at 4am, it sounds like someone is following you. No, really! It does.

4. Michael Motherwell is freaking awesome. Do check out all of those links; I have never met anyone who can… um… do that.

5. The name ‘Stephen’ is impossible for 100% of Australians to spell. 0:54 of the following video might have something to do with it. Go on then; just watch the whole thing.

6. Perhaps taking notes from a suggestion I made in a blog post on SEOmoz last year, the speakers on the final panel at SMX Sydney were given beer. This turned out much as you’d have expected. Again, much of the best content begins around half way down .

7. One of the more disturbing things that happened to me while I was in Sydney was watching someone in the audience directly in front of me spend a good wee while reading my Twitter page. I was tempted to tweet at him, but it was just getting way too weird.

8. We actually now have a textable code-word for ‘get me out of this painful conversation. I’ve already made the excuse of going to the loo / going to the bar and I’m trapped’. No, I won’t say what it is.

9. In Australia, everything is bigger, apart from beer. Why, Australia? Why not big-person-sized glasses? See below for graphic example. Beer in Australia also too cold. Gimme a warm pint of London Pride, please ;)

10. Whilst in Australia, we renamed everyone, including ourselves, Bruce. According to us, everyone in Australia is called either Bruce or Steve (although they can’t spell the latter, as you will have seen above). We thought our point had been proven when Barry Smyth told us that Bruce was in the bar. It turns out that Bruce was American. Yeah, it’s not really funny anymore, is it? Never mind.

11. At the Opera Bar, which by day is the walkway towards the Sydney Opera House, passers-by on the sidewalk above look in at drinkers as though they are in some sort of zoo. It’s weird, and yet I couldn’t have cared less. What an awesome place. Memorable quote of that night goes to Greg Boser, who said , after having been given one of Ciaran Norris‘ favourite drinks.

Excuse the poor photography. The iPhone struggles in all circumstances besides broad daylight and steady hands, neither of which I had at the time.

All the while, you get to look at this:

12. Admitting you’re a loser is quite satisfying. #invisiblefriends are those people you met on the Internet and then awkwardly introduced yourself to at conferences. If you’re lucky, they turn into drinking buddies with whom you’re escorted out of the Argyle. Right, ? My invisible #notfriends apparently got into a bit of trouble after I was lured away by the temptation of a pool table.

13. As impractical as this is when you think about it, all international speakers were given bottles of wine as gifts. Mine made it back. In tact. YES THEY FUCKING DID! Unlike last year, when a bottle of shiraz shattered in my backpack, luckily whilst wrapped in a red raincoat. See, not as dumb as I look. I have five bottles instead of three, because Rand knows I like a drink and re-gifted me his. One didn’t make the trip, as I literally ran out of room. And believe me, I tried. Evidence of success: five wine bottles in my kitchen in London:

For picture recaps of the conference itself, Andrew Ballard took some wonderful photos. He also did a great job documenting the harbour ferry cruise we went on after the conference was over. On Facebook, David Temple’s added a good number of excellent pictures as well. I’m now going to find out what sleeping’s like when you’re not sitting in an A380, somewhere over Eastern Europe.

Sydney Opera House picture by me. I know it’s shit and the weather was, at the time, crap, but it’s mine.

11 Responses to “SMX Sydney: Small Beers, Bruce, SXSE and #notfriends”

  1. Kalena says:

    Do you mean to tell me that *Stephan* is actually *Stephen*? And here I was trusting the Conference Handbook for accuracy. Oh and love the @motherwell is awesome Googlebomb. May contribute to that :-)

  2. Jane says:

    Honestly, conferences like to make up names for their speakers more often than not :P (although this serves StephEn right for deliberately calling me Jane Copeland for eighteen months).

  3. says:

    Talking of made up names, I’m often accused by a colleague of having a “spammer name” – which I take as a compliment, even if it wasn’t meant as one. I hope the warm, friendly world of London is enveloping you in its glowy goodness. If not I’d make a start on that wine.

    Until next time,


    P.S. Talking from years of experience Mr Motherwell has always been ‘like that’. From his early days trading used woollen hats he found in a bin bag in Newtown (or something) to um, whatever it is he does now.

  4. Burgo says:

    Fortune of War *is* the oldest pub in Sydney, don’t question that. You might ruin my memories of being drunk and falling down into their cellar (the cellar door is concealed behind the bar… dont ask) the last time I was there. Every time that story starts off, I tell my friends, “So, I was in the oldest pub in Sydney, right, just minding my own business, right…”

    Nice recap Jane :)

  5. Cathie says:

    I have no idea what you are referring to Jane. You’ll be hearing from my lawyers in due course ;)

    So excellent to meet all of my invisible/not friends IRL – catch you in the tubes, as they say in sunny Bondi….

  6. Jane says:

    @Aidan A “spammer” name? What’s a spammer name? And you’ll be pleased to hear that London *is* nice and sunny today! Can’t say it’s “warm” yet, but it ain’t bad, that’s for sure. I have also started on the wine :P

    @Burgo You’ll have to tell me that story sometime. My main memory for that pub is getting bleary-eyed in the afternoon and that the loo was the smallest room I’d ever been in.

    @Cathie With that story, you became one of my heroes ;) I have tried hard to cause many a scene at many a pub and have never succeeded quite like that!

  7. Bruce says:

    Nice one, Bruce!

  8. Jane says:


  9. SMX Sydney Day 2 Recap | Ask Kalena says:

    [...] more coverage, check out my Facebook albums, the write up by Jane and the recap by Matt. [I'll be adding photos to this post [...]

  10. Colin Phipps says:

    Hey Jane

    Meet you in Amsterdam, just checking to see if you were number 1!!
    Well done,
    Great to meet you and the gang,


  11. henrylow says:

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