"You can tell who the pioneers are from the arrows sticking out of their backs"
This may be the one-liner that stood out for me most during my stay in Austin at SXSW. Hugh Mcleod told me this over breakfast, as we casually chatted about the state of affairs somewhere between art, business, marketing and this thing we're calling the social web. As most people will tell you, SXSW doesn't happen in the panels or keynotes, it happens in the hallways and the getaways (getting away from the crowds into more intimate settings where you can spend quality time with your peers). For me, this is how the event started and ended. On my last day there, a couple of us invited Hugh Mcleod (Gapingvoid) out for a last cocktail and as we sat in the sun with our drinks, Kathy Sierra also well known in her own right came out of nowhere and sat down with us.
Now, this was simply a magical moment for me—two of my influencers and people I'd consider to be pioneers in killer blogging were sitting at the same table. And what was better was that we all knew each other. Kathy gobbled up a few of my cards which had graphics on them, Hugh and I exchanged drawings and we sat around and talked about where things have been and where they are going.
As I sat and marveled at the company I was spending time with, I could't help but think about what Hugh had told me just 2 days prior. About pioneers and arrows. Kathy had stopped blogging because of an incident that left her feeling vulnerable and Hugh is spending more time on his art as well as his book on creativity which is coming out very soon (more on that later). These are the true trailblazers, they are constantly evolving and moving, they pave the way for the rest of us while we bring up the rear.
There's something about people like Hugh and Kathy that's different. While folks like Jeremiah Owyang and Chris Brogan do an outstanding job of helping the world understand and execute interactive strategies, it's the Sierra's and Mcleod's of the world that did things so differently that they are difficult to replicate. There is still not a blog remotely like Creating Passionate Users, and Hugh's cartoons are unique to him only. As Kathy and Hugh sat there, I couldn't help but think that I was looking at two pioneers (at least to me) and the arrows they've taken in their careers. Yet, as the photos prove, they've survived to tell the tales and I'm glad they did—so thank you Kathy, Hugh and the rest of you pioneers for all you do.