Monday, March 29, 2010

SXSWi(nteractive) ... My takeaway from SXSW 2010 ...

It's insane to think that one can summarize an event as large as South by Southwest (SXSW).  Only looking at the interactive portion, organizers estimated that about 12,000-13,000 people, a 40% increase from 2009, descended into Austin.  Google indicated that there are about 37,400 search results matching "sxsw interactive recap".  That's a lot to read.  And that's only the published text portion.

Since I have documented quite extensively my food journey in Austin while attending SXSW, I figure I should add a token journal about the actual festival.  It's totally my own observations from attending a relatively very small number of organized sessions, from talking to various people there, and from observing activities that went on during the festival.

Margaret's top 5 observations (in no particular order) ...

  • It's about people!: Even though it's a tech-focused conference, most of the sessions are more about the people element than the technology element.  Either it is about how people are changing because of newly available technology, or about how people are working behind the scenes to deliver new technology.
  • It's a good cause!: Business case is not holding the same weight in the minds of the new tech entrepreneurs as old business minds.  At least on the surface, a lot of talks about about the transformational factors and social value of new technology, and very little about the monetization.
  • It's about pooling resources!: Crowdsourcing is becoming more of a trend, and communications & collaboration becomes easier with the Internet.  I recall being in Silicon Valley back in year 2000, where buzzword B2C2C was everywhere in startup lingo.  After 10 years, this is finally becoming a viable reality.
  • It's NOT about devices!: The number of devices on the market & their proprietary operating platforms (yes, that's you Apple!) are fracturing the development world once again.  Consumer technology development went from PC vs Mac applications into the web-based applications back in the 1990's, where we started having hopes of one day developing one application that can run on any computer.  That dream is now crushed with all the proprietary mobile devices.  Growth & adoption of any new consumer applications will highly depend on cross-platform compatibility.  Think of all the ways one can tweet! 
  • It's NOT about North America!: A few eye-opening sessions for me are about technology use in other parts of the world.  We think North America is so innovative with Facebook & Zynga games?  That has already built numerous successful Internet business in China since a few years back.  (Do you know that the 3rd largest Internet business in the world, after Google & Amazon, is Tencent in China?)  We think privacy is a big concern in North America?  It's literally a matter of life & death in Latin America.

    Margaret's presentation picks ...

    Social Networking:
    Socialnomics – Erik Qualman

    How to Create Viral Video (#howtocreateviral) – Panel consisting of Damian Kulash (OK Go), Margaret Gould Stewart (YouTube), Jason Wishnow (TED) moderated by Jonathan Wells (Flux)

    Social Media & China: Different Than You Think – Panel consisting of Jacqui Zhou (Dell), Benjamin Joffee (Plus Eight Star), Sam Flemming (CIC)

    Changing Environment:
    Making Sense of Privacy and Publicitydanah boyd
    [Full transcript is posted here.]

    Thought Starter Technology Usage:

    Augmented Reality: Gimmicky Trend or Market-Ready Technology (#sxswar)  – Matthew Szymczyk (Zugara)

    Interactive Infographics (#interinfo) – Panel consisting of Casey Caplowe (Good), Eric Rodenbeck (Stamen Design), Shan Carter (The New York Times) moderated by Ben Fry

    For those who love technology ...

    Check out the finalists of the Accelerator (like a start-up Dragon's Den) here.  These are fine examples of the up & coming technologies coming to us.

    For those who love videos ...

    Interactive films - Water Life (SXSW Web Awards / Activism), Prison Valley

    Presentation snipits: SXSW YouTube channel

    My final words about the festival ... Check out the Gary Vaynerchuk talk.  Having worked with many corporate clients on customer-centric business strategies since the 1990's, I am shocked to hear that marketers nowadays are thinking that corporations deliberately not serve their customers well.  I know first hand that many marketers deal more with the sales and dollars side of the business, and not the delivery side of the organization.  The truth is many delivery teams are treated as second-class citizen when it comes to corporate resources.  Even in corporations that proclaim to be customer-driven, many of them have the spotlight on cost when it comes to delivery & post-sales service.  Many marketers & sales people, as well as senior executives, don't put the time into understanding the complexity to implement what they perceive as a simple vision.  Hopefully people will see this talk more as a wake-up call that marketing (and sales) need to be more collaborative with delivery & post-sales service to form a total customer experience, and not another slam on the delivery teams for how they have failed to live up to marketing's expectations.

    More to come on some thoughts on the not-so-official part of the SXSW festival next ...

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