Final Thoughts on SXSWi2008

I had a great time attending my first SXSWi conference! As you can tell from the notes I’ve been posting the past few days, there was a lot to do at this conference. Here are my final thoughts about the conference, the sessions, and why I think everyone reading my blog should attend SXSWi 2009! If you’re interested, here is a video of one day at SXSWi from my videoblog.

First off, for the sessions. The sessions I attended (save two) were really good: on-topic, good speakers, and made me think. Two favorites:

  1. Quit Your Day Job and Vlog – I’m very interested in the topic, so it was cool to see some of the “highly watched” vloggers explain how they started and what they do. And the room was full of “Internet Famous” types, so it was slightly surreal, too. Cool session.
  2. Kathy Sierra’s session – I don’t think Kathy has spoken much this past year (could be wrong about that), so it was great to see and hear one of my personal favorite blog hero types speak – if you’ve ever read her blog posts, that was how she spoke. Very useful stuff, too.

Other sessions I attended covered a wide range of geek-related topics, including blogging, making money on the web, connecting with people, web design, usability and wireframing, community management and gaming.

The keynotes were interesting. Three that stood out for me:

  1. Mark Zuckerberg (the Facebook guy) was just fun to listen to – a 23 year old coder geek with a great idea. Also interesting was watching the audience revolt develop, and then reading about it on twitter the rest of the evening.
  2. Jane McGonigal – evangelist on gaming and how it relates to experience (she called it happiness). Amazing stuff.
  3. Frank Warren, the Post Secret guy – he received a standing ovation. He seemed very into helping people share their stories. He sees his sight as a form of art and as a type of public, yet anonymous, confessional. Amazing session.

Other takeaways before I bug you to attend next year’s conference.

SXSWi attracts a different crowd. Instead of librarians in khakis, SXSWi attracts creatives of all types. Noisy creatives that will let the speaker know if he/she is stinking to high heaven. During the session. Then they’ll already have blogged, twittered, flickr’d, and youtube’d it by the end of the session.

There were at least three major reasons people attended this conference:

  1. To learn stuff in the sessions (that’d be me)
  2. To network – when you met someone, you exchanged cards and told people what you do – in your “real job” and in your “day job.”
  3. To write and video other attendees! The place was literally crawling with video teams, looking for “Internet Famous” people to chat with.

Remember that if you DO attend, you will most likely be flickr’d or video’d somewhere along the way.

The evening parties are fun! It provides a chance to mingle with other attendees in a less hurried, “I have to get to the next session” way. Many of these events have free food (ok, and free booze, too).

Everyone seemed friendly, and everyone I talked to seemed to think it was cool that a library sent people to the conference.

And… pretty much everyone had an iPhone. Seriously.

Now – for us Librarians. You need to attend!

This year, there were somewhere between 10-40 librarians attending (not scientific by any means – just my best guestimate). I think more of you should attend! Why? Let me illustrate what I mean:

  • you can go to computers in libraries and hear a librarian talk about Facebook
  • or, you can attend SXSWi and hear the creator of Facebook talk about Facebook

Both are valuable. It’s great to hear what other libraries are doing with these new tools, and obviously we need to network with each other. But sometimes, it’s also good to hear what the non-library organization is doing… and it’s good to meet the people creating the tools we’re using!

Who should attend? You. If you read my blog, you’re a great candidate for going to this conference. I guarantee you’ll learn something new. Other emerging tech librarian speakers – you know who you are. All the “webish types.” All the “digital strategy/2.0” types. Give it some thought!

Even better – submit a panel idea!

OK – attending is one thing – speaking is another! Why should you submit a panel idea? We already know a lot of the stuff I heard. Here’s just one example: Jane McGonigal gave a great keynote presentation focused on gaming and how it’s changing real life. But I’ve already heard most of what she said… from librarians!

My point? We already have a good grasp on technology, online community, and content from an information professional point of view. I think SXSWi could really benefit from our knowledge of content, search, and knowledge management. The speakers I saw, for the most part, know a lot about web design and online community. They don’t have a clue about metadata, standards, working with non-digital types in a digital world, and in many cases, even using a service for an organization rather than a personal blog

And hey – we’re considered sexy and cool at the moment, so it’s maybe a good time…

SXSWi2008, Day 4: Closing Remarks

Title: Alternate Realities

Speaker: Jane McGonigal

Showed “The Lost Ring” – video preview of a game – you can find hundreds of screenshots of this video in flickr, looking for hidden clues

She focused on the game designer’s perspective on the future of happiness

Question – are you in the happiness business?

Our primary product soon will be happiness… (think experience)

Happiness is the new capital

four key principles of happiness:
1 satisfying work to do
2. experience of being good at something
3. time spent with people we like
4. chance to be a part of something bigger

Multiplayer games are the ultimate happiness engine

We can be good at something (in games) that we can’t do in real life

Games give you instant feedback (you never get a “great job at speaking – you gained one speaking experience point”)

better feedback all the time in games – we know how we’re doing

better community – we feel part of something

Quality of Life – for many gamers today, their gaming life is better than their real life.

Bad News:
multiplayer games – it’s like we invented the written word, and we decided to only create books – why are we chaining the game to a PC or console? Why not free it into the real world?

Real world game examples:
Chore Wars – you do household chores, you gain points
Zyked – video games are fun, excersising not so fun – they give points for excercise
Serios – give work mates points for doing stuff at work – helps you set priorities. And you can see where the virtual money is being spent… it shows connections

Citizen Logistics – what if life were like a team activity? Treating everyday reality like a game by doing stuff in the real world

all these are in beta/alpha

to imagine the future, always look backwards

Soap analogy:
1931 – soap kills germs… it took many thousands of years to figure this out! Games are kind of like soap – we should be installing them everywhere. Instead of killing germs, we are killing boredom

Games kill alienation – for people who are socially challenged

games can kill depression by giving you community and a sense of purpose

She’s making the point that it’s not alternative reality – it’s alternate reality – still real, just alternate – another way of experiencing existence

World Without Oil as example – live your real life like this statement was true. People actually converted their cars to non-gas power and made videos of it. It sounds like a social activist kind of thing – figure out how this works, and attempt to do it. It lasted for 32 weeks.

It was alternate reality in real life

10 skills/terms in gaming that help amplify happiness…?

1. mobbability – ability to collaborate on large scales. Think crowd conrtol

2. cooperation radar – who would make good collaborators

3. ping quotient – ability to reach out to others in a network, easy to resspond to them

4. influency – adapt your persuasive abilities to different environments

5. multi capitalism – somem people want money, some want social capital, etc – different types of currency and how can you trade amongst the groups

6. protovation – rapid, fearless innovation – not worried about failing because you’re still learning

7. open authorship – think blogging. comfort with giving content away and knowing it will be changed. Also a design skill – knowing it won’t be broken when people change it

8. signal noise management – they hear lots of signals, and can sort it out

9. longbroading – ability to think in much broader systems

10 emergensight – spot patterns as they pop up

[aside – interestingly, these are all business-related skills or team-building skills with a game-based name…]

how do we start?

start with twitter

nike ipod – it gives you feedback, challenges by friends

sniff collars for dogs – the collar measures speed, “dog friends” etc in real life

Prius – “my car is a video game”

trackstick – records your gps locatin every 5 seconds

new brain scanner thing that shows when you’re tired, angry, etc while in a game

the important stuff:
– most of us in this room will be in the happiness business
– game designers have a huge head start (think experience in gaming, in web, in real life)
– important because they signal the desire, need and opportunity for all of us to redesign reality for real quality of life


Q on how much is good. some people are breaking their broken reality with gaming. Also – some have perfectly happy, normal lives. We won’t replace face-to-face – no online story. It’s about real life stuff.

SXSWi 2008, Day 4: Life After the iPhone

I thought this session was supposed to be about this (from the SXSW summary of the panel):

“The iPhone may be the most disruptive technology of this decade. The countless ubiquitous computing tools available to User Experience professionals mean convenience and usability headaches. With boundaries blurring between web and mobile, how will the UX discipline change? This panel explores challenges for designing Rich Internet Applications for multiple devices.”

That sounded interesting. Unfortunately, the actual panel was nothing like the above description. This presentation had: no info and no real thinking about the future.

More than one panelist said they like other phones better (so what in the world are they doing on this panel – according to the description given, they were supposed to do a bit more thinking about the iPhone, how disruptive it is, and the future).

One panelist said the iPhone was hard to use, another complained about the SMS capabilities and how hard they are to use.

Hmm… I’ve seen like 5000 iPhones this week, all being used successfully.

But enough about that! Fortunately, I’ve only attended two really bad presentations.

SXSWi2008, Day 3: Pimp Your Non-Profit

Moderator said agencies don’t like to work with non-profits – because we’re passionate about what we do. How funny.

Work with management to make sure the important stuff is written into job descriptions, or it won’t get done – extremely important!

Reproducible – if you create a cool techie thing and then leave – can someone else do it?

Empowerment – make sure the tech empowers your staff – something that will excite them, empower them, so that the enthusiasm can spread

Beth Kanter (one of the panelists):

“getting good poke”

most important thing – make it personal
Will it scale – will passion scale?
she showed a “ladder of engagement” graphic

[aside – nothing against the other panelists, but I would have liked to hear Beth for the whole hour! She was pretty interesting]

Three Rs of networking… something else? Missed it:
relationship building
rewards – important (even a PBS coffee mug works)

she used her social networking contacts to raise money for something, and it worked – she ended up winning a “raise money” contest

SXSWi2008, Day 3: Frank Warren’s Keynote

Frank Warren does the PostSecret blog

Starting off with a video Frank made of some of the secrets from his site – nicely done

He put some postcards in the back of the room – here’s one secret that was filled out: “My large company sent me here to steal ideas from start-ups – I’m pretending to be a freelancer.” [aside – yes, there are some scumbags here]

When we feel like we’re keeping a secret, it can hold us back – he’s enabling a form of confessional

Frank’s a good speaker – he’s doing all the right speaker things

Wow – he started out by physically collecting secrets – he passed out postcards on the street, asking for secrets – then posted the postcards on the wall of an art exhibit

He stopped when the exhibition stopped… but postcards kept coming to him, so he created his blog

The band that cut “Dirty Little Secret” used his postcards in a music video – Frank didn’t take money – instead, he asked the band to donate to a suicide hotline. Nice.

showing some secrets that the lawyer didn’t allow to be in his book for copyright or privacy reasons

interestingly… by sharing these at this particular conference, he IS publishing them – they are being photographed and filmed and blogged… hmm

he used his community built up around the blog to raise $30,000 for another suicide hotline that was having financial troubles – they raised the money in a week, and saved the hotline.

He keeps the barcode stickers on because it shows the journey the card had getting from the person to him, and it provides a sense of authenticity

Picasso said “there’s an artist born in all of us”

Someone shared a “secret” – he proposed on stage… and she said yes! Neat.