Spiceworks CEO Scott Abel sat next to me at dinner last Saturday night during SXSW. We were at Porter Finn, a restaurant in the Hilton, right in the center of the action for the annual event in Austin.

Our conversation turned to Steve Jobs. Abel worked at NeXT Software under Jobs and during his time there, Jobs shared his belief that "Good is the enemy of great." Jobs meant that true greatness is hard to achieve because good enough is usually what people are satisfied in producing. Achieving greatness takes far more time to accomplish. But are those who are "great" the only people who influence others?

SXSW is an event for influencers. Startups compete for everyone's attention. People are in a constant state of movement, trying applications, monitoring the conversation and adding their own insights as they listen to their colleagues in the panels and at the parties.

All this reminds me of the "Good is the enemy of great" story that Scott told me at dinner. The ones who achieve greatness by creating great technology become the most important influencers. Their record is clear. Ray Ozzie, Steve Wozniak and thousands of others like them can lay claim to this rarified group.

It also has me thinking about the Cloudy Awards and those who won. Congratulations to all the winners. But I do critique the awards as they did not really take into account who the influencers really are.

Who are the Influencers?

Krishnan Subramanian writes for CloudAve. He won the award for most influential blogger. Krishnan wrote a post that has me thinking what it means to be an influencer.

Krishnan says a lot of people were left out that should have been included in the Cloudy Awards nominations. I was not included but I am not surprised. I'm a professional journalist who loves this new medium for telling stories. I cover this space because of the innovation and disruption that comes with brilliant technology. And I'm talking about great technology, not the good stuff. The good stuff you can find every day. Discovering greatness is another matter.

For me, the influencers are the ones doing the work, creating great technologies. The ones who do this kind of work and also blog are really high on my list. They are expressing their own insights about developing world-class technology. I need that insight to keep writing on the infinite set of topics that this new information architecture brings.

Unfortunately, many of those people did not get nominated for the Cloudy Awards. And that's too bad for they are important influencers. I don't want to get into naming people for I will sure to leave people out who should be included.

Greatness is in the Collective Intelligence of the Community

But there's another side to this, too. Collective intelligence is often discovered in dynamic communities. That's what makes SXSW different. The influence comes from the points of insights that naturally surface when the collective intelligence is so charged. It shows in the people there who share a similar passion about technology, design and innovation.

That's what makes SXSW an institution and what sets it apart as a great event.

Steve Jobs seeks out greatness because he has a passion about technology. His influence comes from that passion.

The Cloudy Awards highlights winners but you need to look deeper for the influencers. They're out there. You just have to know how to find them in the stream of the collective intelligence that makes the cloud such an interesting space to cover.

Disclosure: Spiceworks paid the airfare, hotel and expenses for the author's trip to SXSW.