Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

SXSW Interactive 2012: The Turbo Debrief

with 27 comments

A picture from the SXSW show floor coverage from TechCrunch at SXSW Interactive 2012. Be sure to keep an eye here on Turbotodd.com for more interviews conducted by Turbo and Scott Laningham through the course of this year's event.

Well, SXSW 2012 is finally over… And over 25,000 computer geeks from around the world were probably about ready for it be over, fun as it was.

There was lots to be said about this year’s SXSW, both good and bad, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it was the best SXSW interactive ever, and I’ve been to quite a few.

I was there for the Mark Zuckerberg and Sarah Lacy interview debacle several years back… I was there for the yawner Twitter interview with Evan Williams a couple of years back… I was even there when Christopher Locke introduced The Cluetrain Manifesto in 2000, just before the bubble burst, and burst hard.

And despite the insane and torrential rains that we had in Austin, which we had been waiting on for well over a year, in the midst of our atrocious drought, it didn’t surprise me at all that the rain clouds followed the digerati to Austin before the heavens would completely open up.  Geeks bring rain!

There really wasn’t any huge new new thing at this year’s SXSW… It was really a lot of the same old thing with a few new ingredients mixed in. But lingering in the air, there was an optimism and sense of opportunity that transcended the often selfish inclinations of SXSW past, one that was more worldly and altruistic in nature.

A spirit that attempted to bring people closer together in small networks to be able to meet and to get to know one another and to get things done. I ran into Robert Scoble, the renowned tech blogger whom I’ve never before met, and he explained to me on the expo floor that the big deal of the event was “Highlights,” an iOS-based application that helps do just that, bring people together in the most serendipitous of ways based on their location and data from their Facebook graph.

Assuming one can get past the privacy implications of such a tool, it’s actually very cool. And I certainly wish I had had it once upon a time in my virtual dating life.

There was also a lot of almost Beckett-like absurdity, including the registration badge pickup line that seemed to linger all the way into South Austin this year. I spent over an hour waiting in that line for my badge, when it seems to me, it would have been just as easy for SXSW to have mailed it to me well in advance. Ever heard of RFID tags??

I did use that waiting time productively, and met someone from a startup whom I spoke with about the mobile boom for most of our time in line. But I’m sure somebody from IBM’s smarter cities initiative would be more than happy to sit down and discuss with SXSW the opportunity that a smarter queuing solution might present.

There were more companies at SXSW this year than ever before, and by companies I mean enterprise companies, not just startups. I saw attendees from the likes of Oracle and Microsoft and IBM in more numbers than ever, just to mention a few, and so the former digital divide between startups and developers and the enterprise seems to have started to close at this year’s SXSW, which I think is a good thing: We need them, and they need us.

The keynotes from the likes of Ray Kurzweil and Stephen Wolfram seemed to suggest we’re on the brink of breaking through in AI and speech recognition — the former invented core speech recognition technologies being used today in product’s like “Dragon Dictation” (which I used to assist me in writing this blog post), and both mentioned Watson as demonstrating this new direction. I’ll be looking forward to the day soon when I can run most of my computing devices, smartphone and otherwise, through voice and facial recognition.

But we also saw some nods to the past, including on the SXSW expo floor. There was a machine that presses vinyl records (I’m sure most of the attendees had never seen a long-play record!), along with a killer jet black keyboard from “Daskeyboard” that mimics the clickety-clack spring action of the old IBM Model M keyboard.

What’s old is new, even in technology.

Be sure to come back and visit turbotodd.com in the days and weeks ahead, as I’ll continue to post the fascinating interviews that Scott Laningham and I recorded with a garden variety of digital thought leaders in the IBM “Future of Social” lounge.

In the meantime, I’ll be preparing for SXSW Interactive 2013.

Wouldn’t miss it for all the Austin rain in the world!

27 Responses

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  1. “Geeks bring rain” — love it! It should probably be raining non-stop in my home, then…

    I had a friend who attended this year; he had fun, but didn’t think parts of it measured up to the caliber of past years. Here’s hoping 2013 is better for him, I guess!

    Mikalee Byerman

    March 16, 2012 at 5:42 pm

  2. Boston NXNE….perfect! I’m so sorry I missed SXSW so we simply must “do something”…it’s in the papers already but I may have coined Boston NXNE here for the first time…it was just hangin’ there like a plum and I’m so hungry for the company of good people and I have met very few musicians, poets, writers or any kind of creative person I didn’t like even if they were “irracsible”…let’s just call it the “artistic temperment” ….leave it at that and move forward. All artists that are not irracsible should buy one that is a drink….Lucy Kaplansky can be in charge of the categorizations…I know which one I’d be in and that’s ok cause if it works I’ll get atleast one drink or maybe even get to drink myself into unconsciousness among friends…a drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one…but we need sober people too….don’t worry!


    March 16, 2012 at 6:33 pm

  3. Nice piece. I’ll have to put you on my list of reads.

    J Roycroft

    March 16, 2012 at 8:18 pm

  4. yay. needed that info.


    March 17, 2012 at 2:27 am

  5. Enjoyed Reading it buddy. Thanks for sharing.

  6. This was my first time at SXSW and I couldn’t agree with you more! Can’t wait to read your future posts =)

    The Critique

    March 17, 2012 at 8:38 pm

  7. I had fun, lots and lots to see and do. I thought the SYSK guys, Rainn Wilson & Jane McGonigal were entertaining.


    March 17, 2012 at 8:43 pm

  8. I won’t be back. They oversold it. Too crowded and didn’t learn much in the panels. Waste of money and time.

  9. CES and SXSW are two shows that I’ve never made it to that I really want to attend. I’m with you concerning the privacy implications of the Highlights app. Sounds cool but I don’t think I’d trust it.

    Jerry Bryant

    March 17, 2012 at 10:47 pm

  10. Always a toss up with apps like that. On one hand I want the convenience and to take advantage of the intuitive nature built in to it. On the other hand, I get a chill up my spine when I’m agreeing to allow it constant access to everything I’ve made private. We’ve never really had to deal with this issue before. I’m interested to see what direction online privacy takes in 10 years’ time when we’re all a little more used to sacrificing personal data.


    March 18, 2012 at 4:26 am

  11. Reblogged this on Jeremy's Test Blog and commented:
    SXSW is the eminent tech/music festival held in Austin, TX each year. For the most part there were not really any super stand out apps this year as there were in past years, but we’ll see if any apps evolve after further examination.


    March 18, 2012 at 1:08 pm

  12. Reblogged this on Rendezvous Magazine.


    March 18, 2012 at 9:54 pm

  13. I’ve been hearing about SXSW a lot but I’m not quite sure what it is? I know the answer is probably just read the blog. But can someone email me what it is……?


    Blogger Outcast

    March 19, 2012 at 1:31 am

  14. shil

    March 19, 2012 at 3:32 am

  15. Reblogged this on Thousand Thought Trails and commented:
    reblogged it


    March 19, 2012 at 3:33 am

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    Sidra Andrea

    March 19, 2012 at 9:39 am

  17. Wicked read. Really enjoyed your blog. thanks 🙂

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    March 19, 2012 at 12:14 pm

  18. Nice post, I have reblogged it.


    March 19, 2012 at 1:04 pm

  19. enjoyed it so much!

    Personal Concerns

    March 19, 2012 at 2:25 pm

  20. Reblogged this on Ms. Suazo.

    Alex Suazo

    March 19, 2012 at 7:21 pm

  21. I heard there was some music there.


    March 20, 2012 at 2:44 am

  22. The Ray Kurzweil keynote was inspiring – a very optimistic discussion around the potential for technology to change the world… if we give them time.

    A very good breakdown of SxSW!

    Oatmeal A Day

    March 20, 2012 at 3:41 am

  23. Great read – appreciate your perspective, not sure I would want to wait in all of those lines, but would love to see the technology! Thanks for sharing!


    March 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm

  24. Really good post, love SXSW and was really interested in what you have to say. Thanks for posting! Annie – http://www.livinginlondonmagazine.com

    Annie Darling

    March 29, 2012 at 11:15 pm

  25. […] in SXSW pre-event Several Blog posts on the official Social Business Blog  Turbo Todd WatsonBlog post: SXSW 2012 debrief   Luis Benitez Recap of day 1 Recap of day 2 Recap of day 3 Recap of day 4 Recap […]

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    January 10, 2013 at 3:08 pm

  27. There is a way you can take pictures faster instead of going through your apps. Double-tap on the Home button, and the camera icon will be available for you to tap. This even works if have your iPhone locked. Once you do this, use the volume up button to take the picture.


    January 10, 2013 at 3:10 pm

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