SXSWi 2011: Chatting about social media commerce in a warehouse

This is where subtly funny t-shirts, weird flicks, and serious e-commerce meet

While stopped by a popup shop near the Austin Convention center, Scott meets Joel Bush from Amplifier.com, Glenn Jones from GlennzTees, and Glenn Severance of FoundFootageFestival fame in the warehouse area behind GlennzTees' retail space. They talked about business, impressions from SXSWi 2011, and one of Joel's inspirations —Howdy, Neighbor.

Scott Laningham (scottla@us.ibm.com), Podcast Editor, IBM developerWorks

Scott LaninghamScott Laningham, host of developerWorks podcasts, was previously editor of developerWorks newsletters. Prior to IBM, he was an award-winning reporter and director for news programming featured on Public Radio International, a freelance writer for the American Communications Foundation and CBS Radio, and a songwriter/musician.



16 March 2011

developerWorks: Scott Laningham at South by Southwest Interactive 2011. So many fascinating people to talk with at this incredible conference. And I'm just walking down the street and I ran into an old friend, Joel Bush, who you heard from last year with amplifier.com. And we stepped into this place called Glennz Tees. But first we'll just have everybody say hi. Joel, this is you, right? So they know your voice.

Just sitting, coffee, and chat

Listen to this podcast.

Bush: Yes. Hi. It's Joel Bush with Amplifier.

developerWorks: And then we've got two other Glenns here. You're the tees Glenn, right, Glenn?

Jones: I'm Glenn Jones from New Zealand from Glennz Tees.

developerWorks: Welcome. And you're another Glenn. Tell them who you are, because you happen to be sitting here, but you've got a ... but I think you'd be a cool guest here, too.

Severance: I'm ... sure. I'm Glenn Severance. I'm an e-commerce producer. And I will be talking with the American accent so ... [LAUGHTER] ... you'll be able to tell the difference between the two Glenns.

developerWorks: Okay. And you guys can just pass this mic around and avoid the large spill on the floor here if possible.

Joel, let me ask you first, you and I talked last year and we talked about Amplifier and some of what you've been about, but between now and this year, new exciting things happening here at South By that you're excited about?

Bush: Sure, and to perhaps reset what Amplifier does, we're a private-label merchandising company. So if you have a large Internet-based audience, we can help you manage merchandise directly with that fan base. So we provide traditional screen printing, a lot of on-demand production, and all the order fulfillment and customer service as well. And our goal is to remain completely invisible. The end customer need never know anything about us.

developerWorks: Yes, thank you for doing that. I'm sorry that I thought just because we talked about it a year ago that anybody's going to remember that. That's good. And we still need to come out to your place with a video camera sometime because it's an impressive operation.

Bush: We'd love it. And we're going to double in size in the next few months. We've signed lease commitments to ratchet up our space since last year. We continue to, working with our clients, and of course we see what moves through the building. And so we, working with our clients, we keep adding to our capability set.

Most prominently in October we started making printing mugs. We see just so many mugs come through the building. We now can handle that in house in bigger runs, but also make quantity of one so they can be personalized.

And we do direct-to-garment shirt printing, which means in addition to all the traditional screen print that we do, we can enable customized or personalized shirts. And so clients are jumping on that already to great success. It's a lot of fun.

developerWorks: Which brings us to a shirt discussion here since we're sitting in a t-shirt shop, right? Glenn, non-American accent Glenn, tell us about what you're doing here.

Jones: Okay. So we started Glennz Tees about three years ago. I started designing tees on threadless.com as just a bit as a hobby. And then as Threadless grew and I had some success on there, I got a lot of exposure to people, especially in the states where Threadless was obviously based as well, which put me in touch with Amplifier.

And from this we obviously had a relationship where I'm able to design the tees from New Zealand, and then Amplifier look after all of the fulfillment and distribution and warehousing and the screen printing, which they do an amazing job with, from Austin.

So from there as well we had the opportunity as well to open a popup shop for South by Southwest, which is just absolutely amazing.

developerWorks: And a popup shop is a temporary space that was empty, right, that you rent just for the time that the conference is going on?

Jones: Exactly. And we just had a great location here, and it's just been fantastic.

Bush: What kind of response have you been getting?

Jones: Just been incredible. Like we couldn't have dreamed. We're just having trouble just keeping in stock at the moment. Yes, it's awesome.

developerWorks: This is very cool. And just a brilliant example of the kinds of things that can happen with the Internet, business ideas that can just unfold rapidly.

Jones: Definitely.

developerWorks: So much more rapidly.

Jones: We sort of knew that this sector, given sort of the t-shirt designs that we have is our kind of target, but we couldn't have dreamed of the sort of response that we've got by actually being physically here as well.

developerWorks: Very cool. American Glenn, let's get you in on this and talk about what you do.

Severance: Oh, sure. Well, I'm an e-commerce merchandiser, site developer.

developerWorks: There you go.

Severance: Started when I was 15 unpacking boxes and stocking shelves at the local CVS. [LAUGHTER]

developerWorks: Cool.

Severance: But to fastforward, had handled the merchandising, brand merchandising the e-commerce for The Onion, theonion.com, a popular satirical website ...

developerWorks: Which you guys do, Joel? You do some support for them?

Bush: Exactly.

developerWorks: Or is that like secret?

Bush: That's how we met.

developerWorks: Okay, cool.

Severance: That's exactly it, merchandising their brand and built their first and only ... well, their first e-commerce website sort of took it into the 2.0 world. Anyways, hooked up with Amplifier to handle our merchandising and fulfillment, and have been friends ever since.

developerWorks: And you're doing now? Tell me about what you're doing now.

Severance: And now so I produce ...

developerWorks: Cool project.

Severance: Well, yes, there's actually a few things. One of the things I coproduce, something called the Found Footage Festival, which is a traveling comedy tour with ... that features literally found footage, physical found footage on VHS format, you know, doesn't exist on YouTube or may exist on YouTube, but we actually have found the original copies.

developerWorks: And it's just weird stuff? I mean ...

Severance: It's just really weird, esoteric stuff. It's often produced for some sort of commercial purpose but is just terrible at what it does. [LAUGHTER]

And then we just ... we herald it. We take it on a 70-show tour and ...

developerWorks: And there's so much of that bad stuff out there.

Severance: Well, yes, there's no shortage of it. And now people are just really, like finally the final push of all their old VHS and stuff like that. So it's actually a heyday and we found more stuff in the last year than we've found in the like the five, six years prior since we've been doing it.

And so I handle the merchandising. That's sort of the focus of what I do. And I also produce e-commerce sites for a handful of clients, Brooklyn Brewery in Brooklyn, New York.

developerWorks: Do they sell or license some of the footage? I mean, is this where a place Alamo gets some of this ... Alamo Drafthouse, again, is an Austin-based cinema chain that ...

Severance: Sure, yes, yes.

developerWorks: ... is very cool and plays all kinds of bizarre stuff ...

Severance: And we'll be there on March 30th. [LAUGHTER]

developerWorks: Really.

Severance: So come on down.

developerWorks: Cool.

Severance: Yes. You know, we ... we keep it close to the chest. We have it on our website, we feature it on our website, and on our tour, foundfootagefest.com. But, you know, we generally ... we don't license it out. It's ... you know, it's ...

developerWorks: Go find your own stuff?

Severance: Exactly. I mean, not in a bad way sort of thing, but, you know, I mean, oftentimes it's other people's hard work and what we do is ... you know, we celebrate it and put it into the context of comedy and parody and sort of ... and it's among other tapes and things like it.

So it's different when it's just out there on its own, somebody wants to license it. You know, it doesn't have context. So, anyway, you know, we ...

developerWorks: Do you have a favorite one that you can give a little synopsis quickly of?

Severance: Well, there's this fantastic furniture salesman, Bargain Bernie, from somewhere down near Texas, I think maybe Corpus Christi. That's in Texas, right?

Bush: It is.

Severance: I believe it is. He's just this great, fantastic ... he looks like a Muppet. I don't know how to describe him. He's got this incredibly coifed hair and this big beard and these incredible glasses. And he's fantastic. He's just lovable.

developerWorks: And so it's footage of him selling?

Severance: Yes, it's footage of him selling, and, you know, he'll sell you two waterbeds for $10 down, you know? Who needs two water beds? [LAUGHTER]

developerWorks: Cool stuff you guys are all doing, and I know how busy you are, so I don't want to keep you too long, but I'd love to go around at least once and get everybody's take on what's exciting about the way the industry is right now today versus a year ago at South By and just kind of what are you feeling, what are you thinking about.

Severance: Well, I think it's a really great time to be in the e-commerce world. I mean, I think every one of you guys will attest, everybody wants to get something online and for sale. And it could be anyone. I mean, not to say you're just anyone, but, I mean, the fact is it doesn't have to be some big corporate plan behind going online.

And often what you find is like the big corporations aren't doing it any better. So I'm just really excited there's so much e-commerce out there, and I think it's a great time to be in it. And yes. Especially to be early into it.

developerWorks: Yes, it's thrilling. And there's so much evidence of it here, and it gets bigger every year. And you just ...

Severance: Yes, it gets bigger every year.

developerWorks: It's seeping out of the walls, isn't it?

Bush: It's great. I hope it never goes away.

developerWorks: Glenn or Joel, who wants to go next on that?

Bush: Also I would say with interactive in particular, it continues to grow each year and its growth as a conference or festival, or whatever it is exactly, its growth ... it's growing faster each year.

I believe it was about five years ago that the first tweet ever was posted on Twitter. Just five years ago. And now there's each year at South by Southwest all kinds of new applications and services are launching. So it's really a lot of fun to be here right now and to have the clients that we have and see what's happening. But it's quite astounding just to try to imagine what it will be like to sit with Glenn and Glenn five years from now.

developerWorks: Right.

Bush: Who knows, and to sit with you ...

developerWorks: What's going to be happening.

Bush: ... where will everything be by that time? It's amazing.

developerWorks: Glenn?

Jones: You know what? I think for us, you know, we're ... we just turned three years old, and every year we seem to just leap forward. So I couldn't really tell you where we'll be in a year from now. But by the way it's going and just by the experience that we're having here at South by Southwest every year, hopefully it's just on the up.

And I guess the thing with the t-shirt is it's ... at the end of the day, people always kind of want t-shirts and cost-wise they're not a huge commodity as well, so I think the online market for us will just continue to grow. I'm hoping, anyway.

developerWorks: And where do people find you on the web?

Jones: We're at glennz.com, G-L-E-N-N-Z.com.

developerWorks: And you, other Glenn? Where do you find you? At Found Footage whatever ...

Severance: You can find us at foundfootagefests.com.

developerWorks: Cool. And Joel we know at Amplifier.

Bush: Amplifier.com.

developerWorks: And you're all on Twitter, I'm sure, right? In some form. And, Joel, I did want to mention as we were leaving, I mean, you are, inspiration is the first word that comes to mind, an innovator ...

Bush: Too kind.

developerWorks: ... and such a thinker about so many things in social media and just innovation on the web, has a really cool group that meets on Friday mornings here in Austin, which is one of the kind of things about Austin I love so much, that you can have these kind of conversations and get together with people. And you did something very cool on Sunday afternoon. I'd want to give you a chance to mention that, if you'd like to.

Bush: Oh, sure. I'm happy to. And thanks for mentioning that and thanks for coming on Friday. I mean, it's open to anybody that wants to come any time, we meet Friday mornings at Mozart's Coffee, and you can follow the little group, such as it is, at regulars.tumblr.com.

And in a sense, out of those conversations recently, we were discussing that, for example, this is perhaps the greatest, this is the largest, biggest Internet gathering of its kind. It's almost without peer in the world. And so it is very common here to hear terms like revolution bandied about: we're going to revolutionize commerce, we're going to revolutionize film, we're going to revolutionize sneaker sales.

This year in particular, actual revolution, real tough, hard revolution is occurring in the Middle East, and of course, the web and social media is tangled up in it. So we thought, what if we just as a small group, such as we could, got together.

So I threw a tumblr site together very, very quickly at howdyneighbor.tumblr.com, and to say hi to people on Twitter in places like Libya and Yemen and Egypt who are using these tools to get the word out about what's happening and what they think and having their voice heard, and of course sometimes at times these states are throttling the Internet so that they cannot be heard.

And I find it compelling that because, again, the first tweet was sent five years ago from right now, and it broke. It really exploded at South by Southwest I think four years ago, took them a year to really hit their escape velocity, and that happened here in Austin, and now we can all connect directly to Egyptians and such.

So what we did is we got a group of people together and just did a group photo. It was inspired partly by the documentary A Great Day in Harlem about a famous jazz photograph in 1958 for Esquire Magazine that you can go find it online. There's a great Wikipedia page about it ...

developerWorks: Great photo.

Bush: ... that has Dizzy Gillespie sitting on a front step with all these little neighborhood kids. Thelonious Monk is in the picture and a bunch of people up on steps into this brownstone.

So I think with Howdyneighbor what we'll try to do as the regulars, the Mozart's crew, is to have a structure where we can be saying hi to these people, because with Twitter we can @reply the people over there and just let them know person to person, not in a political statement really at all ...

But just saying hi, we're aware that you're risking your life to get the word out or you're helping us understand your world better, and we just wanted to say hello and thanks for doing what you're doing. We're paying attention. It was cool. And you're in the photo, and I really appreciate your showing up. It was great.

developerWorks: It was great. I loved it. And maybe next time we'll do it on the steps of the convention center and get the whole crowd there, right? This is just e-commerce happening right here, right now. And it's live. It's powerful. It's at South by Southwest. [LAUGHTER and MUFFLED VOICES]

developerWorks: Joel, Glenn, and Glenn, thank you guys so much. For the moment, Scott Laningham at South by Southwest Interactive 2011. Talk to you soon.

Search terms for these topics: Joel Bush | amplifier.com | Glenn Jones | Glennz Tees glennz.com | Glenn Severance | Found Footage Festival foundfootagefest.com | regulars.tumblr.com | howdyneighbor.tumblr.com | A Great Day in Harlem | Dizzy Gillespie | Thelonious Monk | The Onion | Mozart's Coffee Austin | South by Southwest 2011 | SXSWi 2011

Resources

Comments

developerWorks: Sign in

Required fields are indicated with an asterisk (*).


Need an IBM ID?
Forgot your IBM ID?


Forgot your password?
Change your password

By clicking Submit, you agree to the developerWorks terms of use.

 


The first time you sign into developerWorks, a profile is created for you. Information in your profile (your name, country/region, and company name) is displayed to the public and will accompany any content you post, unless you opt to hide your company name. You may update your IBM account at any time.

All information submitted is secure.

Choose your display name



The first time you sign in to developerWorks, a profile is created for you, so you need to choose a display name. Your display name accompanies the content you post on developerWorks.

Please choose a display name between 3-31 characters. Your display name must be unique in the developerWorks community and should not be your email address for privacy reasons.

Required fields are indicated with an asterisk (*).

(Must be between 3 – 31 characters.)

By clicking Submit, you agree to the developerWorks terms of use.

 


All information submitted is secure.

Dig deeper into developerWorks


static.content.url=http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/js/artrating/
SITE_ID=1
Zone=
ArticleID=659714
ArticleTitle=SXSWi 2011: Chatting about social media commerce in a warehouse
publish-date=03162011