Posts Tagged ‘sxsw’
Scott Laningham and I first met around six years ago at SXSW Interactive. Scott was already well known for his developerWorks podcast series and blog, and he was walking around the conference talking to people, so we decided to sit down and do a podcast discussing all the cool things we’d seen and learned about during the conference.
It was the beginning of a wonderful and still ongoing collaboration, and since that time, Scott and I have shared the stage at numerous IBM conferences, interviewing industry luminaries, IBM executives and business partners, and other thought leaders.
But we always come back to SXSW Interactive. And so it was with 2013.
Scott and I sat down on Friday via Skype and chatted for nearly 30 minutes about all the interesting things we heard and learned about at this year’s event, the first time it reached over 30,000 attendees.
Some would say SouthBy has jumped the shark. I’m not so sure. I joked early on in the event last week that perhaps it had jumped a few dolphins.
Has it gotten a lot more crowded? Absolutely.
Has it stretched the outer limits of Austin’s hotel and transportation capacity? Without question.
Do you have to wait in long lines stretching halfway around the Austin Convention Center just to see a keynote? Yes yes yes.
And to my mind, it’s still worth every minute.
P.S. Scott has also established a new blog, which you can find right here on WordPress.
Anybody watch that Samsung Galaxy S4 launch last night on the Webcast from Radio City Music Hall in New York City?
Well, the latest episode of Smash it certainly was not. I think the entire show could probably have used a dramaturg, but hey, what do I know? The last show I saw at Radio City Music Hall was Iron Maiden sometime around 1985.
But, if Samsung doesn’t exactly have a handle on the number of the thespian beast, they certainly do seem to have learned how to make smartphones.
Once I got past all the drama last night, I was ready to shell out a few hundred bucks to move back into the smartphone camp (I’m currently carrying an LG feature phone from Verizon, because unlike most people, I actually still use my cell phone to TALK to OTHER HUMAN BEINGS.) I currently depend on an iPod Touch 5th gen for most of my tablet computing (news consumption, email, calendaring, shooter games, travel, etc.)
But at some point, I’m going to create my own harmonic computing convergence and try to come back to one device.
Of course, the price point for an unlocked Galaxy S4 will likely require a second mortage, and that’s if you can even find one.
So I’m also keeping an eye on the downmarket players like BLU Products, a little known player from whom I recently ordered an unlocked feature phone for $35 that I now use as my bat phone.
BLU is introducing a whole slate of new smartphones in April, entitled “Live View,” “Life One,” and “Life Play,” all of which will allegedly be sold unlocked on Amazon and range between $229 and $299.
The Life View model will include a 5.7-inch display (bigger than the Galaxy 5 at 5 inches), a 12-megapixel rear/5-megapixel front camera, 1GB RAM, 16GB of expandable storage, and also a 2,600Ah battery for those lonnngg plane rides to Bangalore.
I imagine that phone will be “good enough,” and you can learn more here on Engadget.
What’s apparently not good enough for Google is having an RSS reader. It was just announced that Google Reader was going to be taken out back to the Google woodshed and shot, as of July 1 of this year, a resultant casualty of Google’s annual “Spring Cleaning.”
To whit I ask, couldn’t they have found something less useful to “clean?”
Not to pile on, but this is a really dumb move for Google, if not for the bad PR value alone (and there’s been plenty of that). Google Reader was a beloved product, if only by the niche social digerati — you know, all those massive influencers with a big social media megaphone.
For my money, it’s a jaded move — Google’s not making any money off Reader, and RSS feeds are notoriously difficult to measure, so why not bury it in the Mountain View backyard? On the other hand, it would be nice for them to keep a useful tool that helps we bloggers keep our blogging sanity, and Reader does/did? just that.
C’est la Google vie…I’ve turned to Feedly online and on the iPod, and Reeder on the Mac, to assuage my soon-to-be Google Readerless existence. So far, I’m digging the newspaper-ish like layout. I just hope I can learn how to add and subtract feeds as easily as I was able to on the Google Reader cloud.
As for my post-SXSW-partum depression, the sun’s shining in Austin and I plan to get out and play some golf this weekend. But I’ll just say this: For me, Best SouthBy ever. I saw a lot of great speakers and sessions, talked to a lot of cool and interesting people, consumed some of my native city’s great food and drink, and enjoyed myself all the way around.
And for those of you who made it to the IBM party at Haven Saturday night, well how about that? Definitely NOT your father’s IBM.
The bar she has been raised.
It’s day two of SXSW Interactive 2013, and I’m a little more optimistic after a good night’s sleep and several actual informative sessions.
I also survived the Spredfast party last evening — I don’t know where the Austin fire marshals were, but as I navigated my way around the lovely but jam packed rooftop, all I could think about were fire exits — and jumping from a three story roof didn’t seem like a great option.
There are definitely some key themes emerging at SXSW Interactive 2013, other than that logistics matter (see yesterday’s snarky post for more on that topic) — the dolphins have receded back into Town Lake for the moment.
One theme has to do with the re-emergence of the physical world. Yesterday, Bre Pettis’ keynote on 3D printing was, for me, an eye-opener. His “Makerbot” company, which emerged at SXSW 2009, has emerged as a real and viable player in 3D printing, and for my money, the 3D printing notion is just the marker of a much larger paradigm shift: The opportunity to meld the digital and the physical and reshape design iteration, for all kinds of objects and products.
His 3D printing capability demonstrated that for not a lot of money, even the average Joe can jump into the design and manufacturing game, and organizations small and large can benefit from this downsizing of design iteration.
The other theme that has emerged is “Mobile” with a capital “M.” I’ve already attended several sessions tending to the opportunities and issues of the mobile realm, and I have a feeling we’ve only just begun.
The Google Android session this morning was an excellent example, where I learned some of the founding principles behind Android’s design from some of the people worked on it.
The rules of the road seemed logical enough: “Give me tricks that work everywhere” and “It’s not my fault” and “Make important things fast.”
But once the Googlers walked the audience through some specific examples, it made much more sense (and hard to describe here, since it required some show n tell).
Suffice it to say, the principles were very human and user experience-oriented, considering the fact that they were talking about an Android, and it’s the kind of thinking I’d like to see more mobile apps have taken into account.
And as I debate the pros and cons of eventually going back to a smartphone, the Android column certainly just garnered a few more points.
Logistics-wise, sessions I wished to attend continue to be oversubscribed, so get there early and/or be flexible continue to be core design principles for SXSW 2013.
They call it jumping the shark when a TV show reaches the end of its prime.
I’m not sure what they call a conference that does the same, but assuming I can co-opt the saying for events, methinks SXSW Interactive may be closer to the shark’s teeth than ever.
I first attended SXSW Interactive in 2000, while I was living in NYC. I had a speaking engagement on one of the panel discussions, and it was literally weeks before signs emerged that the dot com bubble was going to start to burst.
Headhunters were everywhere, jobs were abundant (particularly for developers), the parties were crazy. This, of course, was only weeks before the infamous Barron’s article appeared that announced all the dot com startups were running out of money.
It was a heady time, but little did we know the headwinds we were about to face.
Of course, this was at the dawn of what we were soon going to call “social media.” The authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto were in attendance, and explained to us all how the network was a conversation and that the world was about to change, but mostly nobody listened.
This was well before Friendster, or Myspace, or LinkedIn, or Facebook, or Twitter. We were still using Listservs and email distribution. Social was what we did on happy hour Friday night…and at all the SXSW parties.
Flash forward to 2013. Social media is an industry. And 27,000+ people invade Austin every March looking for….a job? Insights? A drunkfest?
I’m not looking for a job. I’m definitely looking for insights. The drunkfest we’ll have to wait and see…but logistics matter.
I’ve talked to two people this morning already, one a close colleague, another a complete stranger from Philly, who complained they had travelled to an offsite location from the Austin Convention Center to attend a session, but the sessions were already filled, and the line to get back via the shuttle was 30-40 people long and it was raining.
UPS explains it all when they talk about “logistics.” All this virtual convening in a physical space is fantastic, but only if the physical space can facilitate the virtual conversation.
Despite having distributed and automated the registration and badge pickup process this year — that alone is a huge step forward — the fact that the venues can’t accommodate the interested attendees suggests that SXSW Interactive 2013 could be the beginning of its end.
I’ll reserve my complete judgment until we get a little further into the conference.
But if SXSW Interactive hasn’t completely jumped the shark, I think I definitely saw at least a few dolphins swimming around down there in Town Lake…and they looked hungry.
BLOGGER’S NOTE: Did you miss SXSW Interactive in Austin? Or did you go and just couldn’t get enough?You can find here several of the on-the-ground podcasts from developerWorks’ Scott Laningham and myself, and, soon, we’ll have a video interview we conducted with Dave Ferucci, the lead researcher for the recent IBM Watson initiative. And no, sorry, I didn’t play Watson (although Watson v. Watson does have a nice ring to it, and I did joke with Ferucci that I had the name before the Jeopardy-playing computer.)
Okay, it’s official.
I’m South By Southwested out. It was great seeing all you digerati in the great state of Texas and the great city of Austin, but it’s time for you to gather up your iPhones, iPads (V. 1s and 2s), and MacBook Pros and go back to wherever the heck it was you came from.
I had a lot of fun, but the sleep neglect, lack of exercise, and constant digital brain food is more than one mere mortal should have to take. Especially when you consider I’m now considered one of the “old guys” (as people who were over 40 seemed to be constantly referred to throughout the event).
Don’t get me wrong, it was fun. But this year’s event was a little overwhelming in some ways, and a little underwhelming in others. Overwhelming in that there were way too many of us for that one little spot in and around downtown Austin. I don’t think I’ve ever had to fight so much to get into some of the sessions, never mind the fire drill that occurred during the PM major keynotes.
It was also overwhelming the amount of content and variety at this year’s event, and that’s a good thing. I know a lot of my out-of-town digerati friends weren’t so impressed, but I found that if you stuck out the sessions, or were willing to do a little on the fly migration, you could generally find some good stuff.
By the same token, there was some underwhelmingess as well. I find more and more that the panel sessions are a disappointment, primarily due to lack of prep and coordination among the moderators and the panelists.
No, in this crowdsourced, collabration-driven world of social media we live in, it was the individual presenters or two people Q&A who stood out, partially because they’re typically media-trained speakers, but also because they actually went out and did some homework and prep! C’mon, people, it’s not third grade show and tell…put some muscle into them.
I presented at SXSW last year on a Future 15 panel, and only had about 15 minutes to prepare. But I spent hours on the presentation: building, rehearsing, and making sure I could make my 15 minutes. I’m happy to say my session was standing room only on the last day of the event, when people are usually fleeing in droves. But I’d also like to think people stuck around ’cause I had something to say they wanted to hear and I worked hard at saying it well.
Putting all that aside, what did I learn this year, what are the big themes and memes coming out of the event?
Going Tikki “MoSoLo”
Well, there’s the obvious, including the confluence of mobile, social and local (I’m hereby coining a new acronym or catchphrase for this space, “MoSoLo”). This convergence is going to increasingly dominate the digital landscape, with everything from augmented reality to location-based services to on-the-fly ratings and reviews.
But that’s just about finding you, tracking you, and giving you something valuable (A new experience? A 20% off coupon? etc.) in the context of when and where you are. What happens when these devices and systems can start to make predictions based on implicit and explicit data.
Why shouldn’t my calendar talk to FourSquare and Gowalla and make sure I don’t miss that Silicon Valley Networking Meetup the next time I happen to be on a business trip?
Why can’t my own virtual agent go out and Tweet when I arrive in New York and find all my friends hanging near the Lower East Side for a quick catch-up cocktail?
And so on.
The Human Connection
This year’s conference also saw a move away from focusing primarily on the tools and technologies to centering more on the human interaction, experience, and connection. I mentioned this in one of our podcast recaps halfway through the event, and that theme continued throughout.
For so much of the past 10-15 years, we’ve been so enamored with the technology itself. But more recently, we’ve begun to take much more notice of what the technology can do to empower humanity and human relationships, in often profound and game-changing ways: The Green revolution in Iran, the Haiti earthquake, the Chilean mine, the recent quake/tsunami in Japan…I could go on.
Directly tied to this is the need for organizational transformation. Many organizations just aren’t simply organized in a way to take full advantage of networked communications. Most are organized in a command-and-control hierarchy, the effectiveness of which is dissipating day-by-day like a thousand Chinese cuts, and as we saw in north Africa earlier this year, that command-and-control hierarchy is often quickly outfoxed by the networked henhouse.
Yet as none other than NYU ITP professor and social transformation author Clay Shirky reminded us at SXSW in his keynote, it’s still not just the technology, stupid. Meaning, the network is more than just the infrastructure: It’s the people, the relationships, many of which predated the unrest in Tahir Square by years. The unrest in the square was simply the nodal culmination of YEARS of relationships and influence amongst frustrated Egyptian who shared a common goal: Ridding the country of Mubharak.
So, putting aside the once again disappearing oxygen in what appears to be another bubble, we can rest comfortable in the notion that change continues to be a constant, that relationships online and off continue to matter most, that the technology will continue to disrupt all aspects of business, government, society and our lives in general.
And I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.