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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 …

logo-bw-verticalFacebook 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.

Bring Your Own DeviceIt’s estimated that by 2016, connected mobile devices will account for 61% of all Internet traffic. Of that traffic, a significant amount is generated from the mobile workforce, using their own personal devices. Now, companies have an “Internet of Employees” and the days of IT groups sanctioning the devices allowed on the network is quickly fading. Instead, CIOs are facing a broad, diverse array of personal devices — 95% of global organizations now allow employee-owned smartphones and tablets in the workplace. However, that doesn’t diminish the need for CIOs and IT groups to focus on what some are calling the “coming mobile mayhem” in regards to device management, data security and network availability.

Companies now must start developing plans to support the “Internet of Employees” and create policies spanning security and network availability as more employees blend their personal activities with their work activities on their devices (many employees will use their smartphone for email, while streaming Spotify at the same time).

Companies may want to consider offering employees provisioned devices of their choice (similar to Yahoo! offering employees free Windows, iOS or Android devices). With centralized mobile management, it’s easier to build the appropriate infrastructure to support the Internet of Employees.

Over 60% of lost or stolen smartphones are believed to contain sensitive and/or confidential company information. It’s incumbent for organizations to devise some type of security policy as it applies to personal devices in the workplace.

Some studies seem to indicate that employees are more productive when allowed to use their own personal devices in the workplace. Companies have to balance the “mobile mayhem” of thousands of employee-owned devices on their networks vs. the inherent need for security as it applies to company IP and the integrity of their network operations.

This won’t be the typical “year in review” post highlighting the best books, the best films, or the best songs of the year. There’s plenty of places you can get that kind of info, including here, here, and here. Instead, I want to focus on some of the more meaningful occurrences, some that may have flown under the radar a bit, but that will more than likely have a lasting impact:

andre

We lost Andre Cassagnes. Who, you ask? Well, if you grew up in the last few decades, you’ve been touched by his main creation: the Etch-A-Sketch. At the age of 86, he passed in January. I remember spending untold hours with my Etch-A-Sketch, and how when I finally painted my masterpiece, I would beg my sister to not shake it away (which she always seemed to find a sneaky way to do behind my back). It’s my generation’s Snapchat, and it gave so much to that “alone time” throughout my youth. Although it’s practically impossible to draw a circle, the Etch-A-Sketch was a toy for the ages.

(Tribute sketch of André Cassagnes by Tom Shillue)

Dealey_Plaza_2003When it comes to the events of November 22, 1963: we evolved (a bit). Yeah, 2013 marked the 50th year since our 35th president was gunned down on the streets of Dallas. First, Dallas itself owned up to its own role in that fateful day. The city’s leaders decided to honor Kennedy by producing a respectful commemoration, and for the first time since ’63, apologized for being the “city of hate” that took our President from us. The past is never in the past, but we can learn, heal and move forward. Dallas decided to do that in 2013, and it deserves praise for honoring that horrible day with a recognition it never knew how to do before. Of course, the “independent” Texas spirit is still alive and well as shown by this guy who felt the need to strap on an AR-15 at Dealey Plaza…

12.09.11-Skeuo-4We officially re-entered an era of “design rationalism”. Not wanting to be left behind, Apple fired Scott Forstall, the lone holdout in charge of Apple software design that still held onto the Jobsian design ethos of using fake leather and brushed aluminum backgrounds in software user interfaces. Microsoft and Google had already moved on, ditching ornamentation, and re-birthing the design philosophy set forth in the 1920s by the Bauhaus movement. Now, for at least awhile, pixels are pixels and old leather desk calendars are no longer allowed in your Calendar app.

 

cancerAnd, finally, 14 year old Jake Andraka showed us what Steve Jobs really meant when he pleaded for us to “always think like a beginner.” After his family friend died of pancreatic cancer, Jack was frustrated that there wasn’t an easier, earlier detection method for this common, but deadly cancer. Although he was only in 9th grade, he took the initiative to investigate a low-cost test idea he had come up with. His test was finally accepted at Johns Hopkins after he had received hundreds of rejection letters from other research institutions. Now, his low-cost early detection test is helping to transform the survival rates for pancreatic cancer. Goes to show you: persistence is critical, next up: just think of a problem you want to solve!

Photo of Jake: TED2013. Long Beach, CA. February 25 – March 1, 2013. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Fran+Lebowitz+Wolf+Wall+Street+Afterparty+dEGeOh, and there’s no way I can forget to add this honorable mention as the weirdest/funniest/most interesting cameo in a movie this year: Fran Leibowitz as a Judge in Wolves of Wall Street! Go, Fran, GO!

Photo of Fran: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images North America

 

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