SXSW Interactive: Sessions & Panels

This is Part 2 of my SXSW reports.

It’s true, many people value the hallway and party conversations more than the sessions and panels. For me, as someone outside the industry and not knowing anyone, heading into the sessions and panels was very valuable. Here’s a short rundown.

Chris Messina took us down his vision for dealing with the stream. ActivityStrea.ms: Is It Getting Streamy In Here? ActivityStreams. Take basic construct of RSS (1999) and ATOM  (2005) and we weave in some additional data. Verb. Object. Target. Make it richer. ActivityStreams can be a universal format for social objects. What you end up with is code for title+link+summary+author+id+date+verb+object+target. This will better allow us to syndicate this information and mix and mash. It’s simple.

From this talk, I want to read The Second Coming: A Manifesto by David Gelernter, Designing Social Interfaces by Crumlish & Malone, and definitely have to check out the Fetron Annual Reports.

A late added session called iPad: New Opportunities for Content Creators was packed. Of course! The panel included voices from books, gaming, web, and newspaper industries. For the Village Voice, the focus is on design. Focus on reading. Leaned back reading in particular. Will we be able to read in the tub using an iPad? The gaming representative, Shervin Pishevar, got everyone excited when he said “the laptop will be the rotary phone of our generation.” He was very impressed with the iPad at the announcement event. The book industry expects $1 billion in revenue from this publishing model even though the reading experience still needs to be improved. Ultimately, this panel was very hopeful and excited about the upcoming shift in media delivery.

Closely related to the above panel was the lively Media Armageddon: What Happens When the New York Times Dies. The lively part was mostly coming from David Carr, NY Times columnest and Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos. Moderator began by asking how many would be disappointed if NYT disappeared? Most in the room said yes. However, not nearly as many raised their hands when asked if they’d pay for online content. My take away thoughts from this session are:

  • Do we need a responsible gatekeeper to tell us what is news and what’s not news? Twitter seems to demonstrate that we do.
  • We live in a decentralized news environment and we need to question  everything. Need to be savvy consumers.

The last session on this subject of media and technology was After Magazine: WIRED’s Digital Rebirth. They are putting significant energy into providing media content on the tablet. They gave us a full demo on what this will look like. Design allows for reading over longer periods of time and typography has been lost on the web. This new format, with Adobe Air as the tool, will coming more of print and web design. The fidelity of print design and the flexibility of the web. The goal is to have “walk-up” usability so it is so familiar and intuitive that anyone can use it. For example, reading from top to bottom and left to right. The new product will provide continued access to older content and integrated social media content. The big questions that remain are accessibility, pricing, and the wired.com content. Watch the demo.

In Convergence 2010: Ten Cool Things Taht Could Happen This Year, we heard from Dan Shust.

  1. Social becoming the thread (Facebook)
  2. Location matters
  3. Entertain me now
  4. Birth of the Frontchannel
  5. Commerce atomizes
  6. Life is a game
  7. Interactive products
  8. Your reality will be augmented
  9. Digital is the new paper (iPad & similar devices)
  10. Rise of the Connected Things (bathroom scale that Tweets)

On the panel of social media geeks, we get a list of indispensable Twitter tools:

Sunday morning at 9:30am, the audience got amped by Jeremy Gutsche in Exploiting Chaos — How to Spark Innovation During Times of Change (based on the book of the same name). Popular is not Cool. It is unique, cutting edge. Microtrends and viral innovations surround us. And a quote I heard twice during SXSW…culture eats strategy for breakfast. There is no point innovating if you think you already know the answer. Therefore, be open to the complete possibility of what could be and look in other areas and adjacent markets for ideas. Organizations can be revolutionary by being aware of perspective (crisis creates opportunity), cultivating disruptive innovation, maintaining a customer obsession (Don’t Mess With Texas), and built in forced failure (Gambling Fund – try things you wouldn’t always do). Check out Trendhunter for more information and ideas. This session was a great way to begin the day!

Found myself intrigued, but somewhat confused, by the 10-minute Transmedia Experience. To learn more, I’ll need to visit ARGNet a bit. It’s a form of storytelling. Wired article. So outside my element.

Finally, a somewhat non-technical topic but right up my alley. Open Leadership: The Upside of Giving Up Control with Charlene Li. She found that since social media has mainstreamed, a culture of sharing has really changed things. This new relationship is chaining business and we need to be aware that work flow is much more messy than hierarchical silos. Social is hard because we don’t want to give up control but real relationships require this to happen. Are you in control in your personal relationships? Open leadership is having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control.
What do you do?
1. Align openness with strategic goals
2. Understanding the upside
3. Support open leadership
4. Manage risk with Sandbox Covenants
5. Embrace failure

That’s probably enough for this post. For the record, I attend a few other sessions that were also interesting:

Bottom Line: Two trends for 2010…tablets and location based services.