There are degrees of fame.

If I walk down the street anywhere in the world and say “George Bush did _____,” I don’t have to add, “He’s the president of the United States of America, and that’s a country on the North American continent.” Also, as a general rule, I don’t need to explain the names “Oprah Winfrey” or “Bill Gates,” either. We get them by now. They’ve been around. They have ubiquitous fame.

Then there’s educated community member fame. If I tell you “Jonathan Swift once said, ______,” do you need to be reminded that he wrote Gulliver’s Travels, and maybe given a little synopsis of what that book was about? You might. And unless you’re actively immersed in some kind of historical literature community, I probably won’t look at you like you’re a total idiot.

This brings me to my community, The Web Tech Revolutionaries, and the nature of our members’ fame. We have four methods for getting famous:

  1. By contributing something really useful to the community.
  2. By being devastatingly honest and public about our personal lives.
  3. By having really strong opinions and declaring them loudly and often.
  4. By being becoming appallingly rich and successful as a direct result of the Internet.

Check me on my work here. Go look at the SXSWi Speaker List and tell me if anyone on there got famous without doing one of the above things.

Once famous, the fame is fragile. Our medium changes every day and reaches the entire world. To maintain fame on a platform like that, our members have to be more useful/naked/loud/rich than all the other people trying to do the same thing, and they have to do it sustainably. And even then, they’ll run into people in their own community who have no idea who they are. ‘Cuz lets face it, we can’t keep up with who all the current useful/naked/loud/rich people are unless we’re spending all our time at conferences, where namedropping is at its peak. And boy, do we love to namedrop when we’re at those conferences. It makes us look knowledgeable and important and, dare i say it, possibly famous?

So here’s my mission… I’m going to (attempt to) write down all of the names I hear dropped at SXSWi, and give a quick two-line summary of why they’re famous. It will be the Glossary of Famous People for the Web Tech Revolutionaries, and it will be totally obsolete the minute after I publish it.

Rules: If the name is dropped with an immediate description of why I should know who that person is, it doesn’t count. I’m only recording names that are expected to stand up on their own. Also, if you come up to me and drop your own name in an attempt to get famous, I will laugh at you and call you an idiot.

I will publish it at the end of the conference.  This could get interesting…

Hey Austin! I’m comin’ to visit you this week! And so is every other web2.0/music/film geek in the United States of Creativity! So warn your locals to stay inside, ‘cuz we’re about to overthrow your street government, filling your cafes and taverns to the rafters with jargon and insider allusions. South by Southwest is happening!

We’re also bringing about 38 million dollars in tourist revenue, so I hope you’re not planning to complain about our invasion. We promise, also, that we won’t stay more than a week.

Now… what exactly do I want to see/learn/experience/teach/do while I’m there?… the panel schedule and speaker list are overwhelming!