As we settle in to the chaos of around 30,000 people gathering into Austin’s tiny downtown area… just as we get comfy, and snug as a bug in the bed, so comes the rain! Now we have a jumble of umbrellas stabbing at us as we jump puddles and sprint from building to building. Seriously, Austin… you’ve got a road problem with all these puddles! The downpour hasn’t dampened spirits nor stalled the food trucks, though, so all is good.
We’re SXSX stars, bitches!
On Day 2, we attended sessions, hid out in the PayPal lounge to charge our gadgets and recharge our minds, and hit up with friends to share tips on how to actually get into the “hot” sessions and trending parties. A lot of chatter erupted around Julian Assange’s Skype-cast from his mancave in the Ecuadorian embassy. It seems like the hipsterati wasn’t too impressed with what he had to say.
We decided to catch Julian on a web stream instead of waiting in line to get in, and instead, hit some of the design sessions. Most of those focused on “next gen responsive” design strategies for supporting the myriad of screens we’re faced with everyday. The consensus was that basically if you’re a content designer nowadays, you’re pretty much screwed! From big screens/billboard to wearable devices you gotta make your content work everywhere. Whew! Good luck. And you’ll need to take a few classes to up-level your skills. Although Google is screaming about the “post-mobile world”, most of what we were hearing was people still struggling with 1990s style websites. So maybe it’s not as bad as everyone thinks.
One of the best speakers of the day was by Kristina Halvorson, a content strategist. She begged and pleaded with today’s marketing folks to stop firehosing us with meaningless jargon and to really, really, please start focusing on what people really DO with brands. It was a refreshing rant to hear amidst a sea of “content marketing strategists”. She got a little Tweet-hate for it, but I’m glad she was so bold as to speak out against the status quo.
And yes, shortly after, we hit the Oreo “Trending Vending” machine to print us a fresh Oreo cookie! Viva Texas! Now, go away rain, the last thing you want in Austin is damp, smelly hipsters clogging the hotel lobbies!
We’re here at SXSW Interactive with a day 1 recap (find more info here). Friday’s weather held for us here in Austin with semi-sunny skies, but we’re expecting rainfall off and on all day Saturday. There are masses of people, but the number seems flat from last year — the surge of the crowds is quite evident when you try to get into a club or a lunch hotspot, or some of the Festival sessions at the smaller venue — however it’s not as packed as 2013.
Thursday was all about the state education for us and the role of technology as its transformational agent. The best session of the day was facilitated by John Hagel from the Center for the Edge. His group conducts research on workplace efficiency. His main thesis was how today’s companies are in a war for talent — acquiring the best people so they can stay ahead of the competition — but Hagel presents a “paradox of talent” explaining that once companies acquire talent they fail to effectively develop talent. He went on to explain that most executives speak about acquiring and retaining the best talent, but they speak little about developing said talent once they’re on board. He goes on to say that companies need to apply the principles of design thinking and design methodologies to the workplace environment to help employees connect with each other and innovate faster.
Later in the day, we attended an informative session about MOOCs (massive open online courses) led by Dave Hinger and Jeff Meadows from the University of Lethbridge in Canada. They focused on what the key challenges of MOOCs are and what are some potential solutions. They relied on audience participation to get the conversation going. Most of the room were from Higher Education and there were almost as many opinions as participants. Some consensus included:
— MOOCs are plagues by low completion rates
— How do you effectively assess MOOC students?
— Most MOOCs are boring and have low production value
— MOOCs are not financially viable for institutions
Some in the audience discussed how Georgia Tech is offering a MOOC-based degree in Computer Science for only $6000, which they found to be very disruptive to the traditional university model.
Day 1 ended with us relaxing in the PayPal lounge where there are endless outlets for device charging and free schwag. Today, we’re gonna hit the Oreo Cookies 3D printer where… yes, you can print and EAT your own Oreo cookie!
We are up at the crack of dawn today, heading to SXSWi in Austin. Although we’re only going to report on SXSW Interactive this year, you can still get ready for all the SXSW festivities by listening to NPR’s SXSW Music playlist. Also check out the Austin Chronicle’s coverage of everything going on, including a live videoconference with Edward Snowden.
We’re about to board our crazy-early flight to Austin from SFO, where it’s already swarming with a ton of Valley Hipsters loaded up on caffeine with their Timbuk2 messenger bags in tow… Look for more reporting right here from SXSW in Austin through Monday!
Been to Starbucks lately? Maybe you dropped in for a quick work session — what with the free Wi-Fi and warm $4 lattes? You snagged a tiny, wooden chair, propped open your Mac, waited a few minutes for the spinning rainbow to get you online, only to realize how maddeningly slow it is. But, what the heck, you thought. You’re just gonna blast off a few emails, and maybe take a call or two before you hit the road. But first, you gotta bend and stretch to find that ever-elusive outlet… only to see the rotund nerd on the faux-leather couch next to you has already sucked up all the power, with about 4 devices double-jacked in the plugs. OK, you think… well, this Mac’s battery is good for about 45 min.
And there’s the call, your smartphone almost vibrating itself off the little, round table. You quickly reach over your laptop lid to snag the phone, almost toppling the hot latte. Whew, you think. That woulda been a nitemare, spilling coffee all over your expensive, blingy gadgets. You swipe to take the call right as the barista starts grinding the 4 pounds of beans he needs for the long line of people standing elbow to elbow, extending out the door, letting the cold air and traffic noise in. And that heavyset guy next to you? His power-sapping devices start jangling with meeting alerts. He grabs his phone and dials in as well. Conference call. And he’s not the quiet type. He’s bloviating into that phone about the upcoming sales conference as you try and hear your caller — the low-talker VP on the other end — your boss’s boss — as he near-whispers to you something about something you need to do, right as the barista ramps up the grinding blades.
Yeah, we’ve all been there. Working in coffee shops. But guess what? You hate this? You travel a lot? Cause THIS is your life on the plane now that the FAA is relaxing rules around devices at 40,000 feet. There is NO MORE black hole away from being “always connected”. If the airlines allow your fellow passengers to take calls, conduct meetings, and run their businesses on the plane, you’ll have no respite from the loud-talker salesperson, the weepy mistress crying about her lousy life as the “other woman”, the whining geek too afraid of not being the only one with the good idea, and the seatmate hogging not only the armrest, but the very peaceful air you used to be able to relax into. All we can do is pray the airlines will have the sanity to make some rules about the new etiquette that will be so sorely needed as we torpedo into the future with our gadgets turned on, gate to gate!
Facebook has acquired WhatsApp for a total value of $19 BILLION. Wow. That’s more than the GDP of Argentina, folks. The $19 billion is split up into three parts:
– $4 billion in cash
– $12 billion in Facebook shares
– $3 billion in restricted stock units for WhatsApp employees, to be distributed over four years
Um, divide that last one by 50. Yeah, WhatsApp has 50 employees. So there are a lot of millionaires today!
WhatsApp currently has 450 million users, with around 1 million new users per day. 70% are active on a daily basis. WhatsApp’s message volume is supposedly close to the entire global volume of SMS messages. Facebook is essentially paying about $42 per user.
I’ve been using WhatsApp for almost a year now (as I get close to my $1 bill being due), but it’s really NOT about US users. It’s more valuable to Facebook because of its global users. Most US smartphone consumers are now used to unlimited texting on their plans… this isn’t the norm outside the US, however, which explains the widespread global adoption of WhatsApp. In fact, WhatsApp is the norm for SMS users outside the US. And the app sure beats the plain-jane functionality of most default SMS apps provided by the phone manufacturers and network carriers.
Facebook is playing defense here. They perceive WhatsApp as a cannibal. We all know it’s better to hunt than be hunted. After failing to snap up SnapChat for a paltry $3 billion, they must’ve felt like an aggressive act was needed. There’s more detail about the reaosns behind Facebook’s strategy here.