Category Archives: Events

By yesterday I thought I’d had enough of sessions. That said, I started the day at a session on How Open Licensing is Transforming Design. I went because I have a vested interest in Creative Commons and copyright on the web, but also because I was too lazy to stand in line to see Mindy Kaling. I’m thrilled I went, as I learned about things like The Noun Project and how Autodesk is licensing all of its training content under a CC-Sharealike license. It’s good stuff.

Autodesk Embraces CC

Autodesk Embraces CC

From there, I again lost interest in sessions and ended spending a good part of my day observing and talking to people. On Saturday, I saw a session by Kristina Halvorson, who spoke about how marketing has gotten out of control and there is more emphasis on the tools than strategy. On Sunday, I sat at a table across from some young marketing folks from HBO’s Game of Thrones and watched everything Kristina said happen in front of my eyes. There is a lot of out of control marketing here at SxSW. Some of it is very effective. Some of it is ridiculous. For instance, I watched these folks count their retweets excitedly and take silly photos in hopes those would be get more retweets. There was no effort to engage the retweeter or acknowledge that, really, only 7% of Americans are actually on Twitter.

On the other hand, Chevy is here with a fleet of 40 Chevy Volts that are filling the taxi/Uber void in Austin this week. Most of the drivers are from an interactive agency in Boston that represents Chevy. The folks are friendly, funny and helpful, which is pretty great considering they are driving folks around in a strange city. My favorite was Tim, who was in a Twitter “war” with other drivers. They’re all having a great time and the influx of free rides have really made getting around Austin easier – especially in the rain on Saturday. The Chevys are quite effective as far as marketing – I’m hyper-aware of them, I know they can help me, and at this point, I can even tell you a little about the Chevy Volt.

Free Chevy "Taxis" at SXSW #chevysxsw

Free Chevy “Taxis” at SXSW #chevysxsw

The Exhibit Hall opened yesterday as well, and that was overwhelming in its sheer size. It combines film, interactive and music and no stone is left unturned. I only got through half of it yesterday and I need to go back and check out a few more things today. As privacy and data have been big themes here at SxSW this year, Ghostery really stood out to me as a great browser plug-in for knowing who is tracking you at any point in time.

A View of the Exhibit Hall

A View of the Exhibit Hall (click to enlarge)

Additionally, I’ve got a list of startups and apps to check out, including Pond5 (photos), Push to Start (lawyers for startups), Jelly speakers, Pollstar Pro, Moverio (Epson’s version of Glass) and many more. Fodder for future blog posts, I suppose.

Today it’s Edward Snowden, brought to us via a Google Hangout (yes, really) over 7 proxy servers. I need to see a few more things in the Expo and then I head home.

 

What is my impression of day 2 at SxSwi?

WET.

Sometime around lunch yesterday, the rain really started to come down. While it didn’t dampen spirits, it certainly sent everyone scurrying inside. There is nothing like 30,000 people all squeezing into the Austin Convention Center. To say it was claustrophobic was an understatement. I even tried my usual Paypal lounge hangout to find it overcrowded.  I can only imagine the frustration of the marketers, many of whom had tents or events outdoors. After all, who wants a soggy grilled cheese, even if it is free?

Endless Outlets in the PayPal Lounge at SxSWi

Endless Outlets in the PayPal Lounge at SxSWi

We spent most of our time in sessions yesterday, both good and bad. I’m a bit frustrated myself though. I have a short attention span and, honestly, a limited bandwidth for educational sessions. I feel like I should be exploring and experiencing. While I’m back in sessions today, the exhibit hall is also opening. I find that to be far more interesting than a bunch of folks talking at me. From a different perspective, I’m often a speaker at events in my own industry. When I speak at conferences, I rarely attend other sessions. Spending a few days attending sessions has made me want to change up my own presentations and make them more interactive. Basically, I’m bored with people talking AT me and I don’t want to do this to anyone else.

A MindMap of a Session from ImageThink

A MindMap of a Session from ImageThink

I also have a friend who has managed to win 2 free 3D action figures of himself. Other people walking around with Pebbles, GoPros, or Microsoft gadgets they have won. I think it’s time I see what’s out there. A Pebble, for instance, would be ideal.

Some non-session highlights from yesterday, though, include a milk bar (strawberry!) and Oreos at the Oreo tent, free strawberry waffles at the UrbanSpoon truck, and an iPad-controlled robot at one of the many Deloitte outposts.

Random Freebies and Oddities at SxSWi

Random Freebies and Oddities at SxSWi

So today my goal is to explore the expo hall, see what’s new out there for Apps and gadgets. I already heard Deloitte has a competitor to Google Glass, so who knows what else we might see …

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!

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!

Yesterday was our first day at SXSW 2014. As Brandon mentioned in his post, we spent a lot of time in sessions geared towards education, as our careers are in talent development. Surprise! It’s not just parties and music. There are actual sessions here on everything from marketing and UX to the future of humanity and AI.

I took a few moments yesterday and explored a little of the branding around town as well. I started in Mashable House, where the primary feature once again this year is Grumpy Cat. I know she’s just an internet meme, but she’s a cute one, and a 5 minute line to have my photo with Grumpy Cat seemed okay. It was a very in-the-moment thing, a very SXSW thing. Why not, right?

@RealGrumpyCat at Mashable House

@RealGrumpyCat at Mashable House

From there, I popped into the 3M tent. I don’t know what I expected – post-it notes perhaps? It was more of a museum that showcased products made by 3M materials. Also, I somehow missed the drink tickets. Free food is a recurring theme at SxSW, so I managed to enjoy cupcakes and a popcorn bar.  I also wandered into the #Mofilm Lounge for my free drink. Last year, this tented lounge was absolutely jam-packed all the time. This year, you could actually move.

Popcorn Bar at the 3M Tent

Popcorn Bar at the 3M Tent

That was a theme throughout, actually. No matter where I went, I rarely had to stand in line. Last year, I think I spent most of my time at SxSW standing in lines, so I appreciate that everything seems slightly more efficient this year. While there are still apparently 30,000+ people here, I’m not feeling as crushed.

This year, the sessions seem to be more track-focused. My preferred design thinking, workplace functions, and UX design tracks are located in the Marriott, Four Seasons and Convention Center. In fact, I went through my schedule this morning and removed sessions that are in the Hilton, Sheraton, Wanderlust and the Omni. SxSW may be more organized around people flow this year, but the sessions are spread out around the town. Sometimes it feels like SxSW has outgrown Austin. I’m not the only one feeling the distance of certain things either.

30,000+ People

30,000+ People

While brands are everywhere, I’m not feeling as overwhelmed by the marketing as I have in the past. It’s an improvement. Last year, so many apps – many tacky or ridiculous – had posters pasted everywhere. A lot of the silliness (although not all), has disappeared. The smaller apps and brands just aren’t as in-your-face this year. However, Oreo is printing 3D edible cookies, GoToMeeting has free Grilled Cheese and Beer, Samsung is handing out batteries for anyone with a Samsung phone, and Deloitte is making 3D action figures. The big brands are here in force with “free” things that rarely have anything to do with the brand.

People are saying SxSWi has jumped the shark. I think it might have jumped last year and this year, it’s starting to find itself again. I don’t think it’s there yet. The organizers seem to be wrestling with what has become the SxSW brand versus the actual educational sessions. So we’ll see – I’m not giving up on the conference yet, and I’ll be back next year too.

sxswWe’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!

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