SXSWi2009: Digital Tsunami – Breaking News at Breakneck Speeds


Peter Imbres (Moderator) – Hill and Knowlton
Andy Carvin – NPR
Alex de Carvalho – StartPR
Christopher Barger, Director of Social Media, GM

hashtag is #diginami

Moderator (Imbres):

Started off talking about the recent Hudson River plane crash, and how the news of that and information about that broke first in online media like Twitter, Flickr, and Wikipedia WAY before it hit traditional media.

Alex de Carvalho:

Talking about Twitter and how news happens fast. Metioned the dude that was arrested in a different country and how he was able to get help quickly because he tweeted for help.

Not perfect – erroneous Amber alert was reported – some people don’t fact check

Vik Singh created a Rollyo search that mashed up rnews sources with twitter results for the topic

BreakingNewsOn – a twitter feed that’s grown to be a great breaking news source on twitter

instedd – a twitter feed for breaking news on disease outbreaks

Andy Carvin:

Giving background on his real-time news focus.

Andy was in Washington DC when the Pentagon was hit on 9/11

He created a 9/11 email discussion list – they were getting a TON of posts. Some of it was responses to things they were seeing and reporting stuff. Ex – he lives in the Foggy Bottom area of DC – he stood on his balcony and reported if he saw smoke or not then reported it

He started the Hurricane Information Center for news and help about hurricanes – they’re using wikis, blogs, online database data, etc and coordinating it all together

They used Ning for this.

Christopher Barger:

What happens if we get it wrong because we simply don’t know enough yet? You have to get your employees as much info as you can, as quickly as you can. Because it’s not just the marketing/PR types that share that info anymore – it can be anyone.

They decided to blog some info that wasn’t getting out into the news media – and the news picked it up and quoted from it.

Gave example of how a twitter user was angry with them and posted angry stuff. GM actually called her, they listened, and she ended up doing a very positive blog post saying “hey – they’re real people.” Great example of connecting with customers and listening.

You have to be able to do 1-on-1 communication now – even if you’re a big company.


GM says we need to do this 1-on-1 stuff – needs to be incorporated with everyone in the company. (question was why are you just changing now/does it need to be everyone in the company). Q says make the structure of the company more transparent. GM dude says we need to restructure the company (which they’re doing right now). They have to build that in to the restructure.

And I stopped typing the Q&A …

SXSWi2009: Quality – the Next Online Video Opportunity

Speaker – Eric Feng, Hulu

I arrived late at this one, but still took a boatload of notes. Online video is amazing, and Hulu is right there in the thick of it! Here’s what I heard:

Video 3.0:

continual growth of broadband:

  • median US broadband speed in 2008 was 2.3 Mb/s – still lots of room to grow. Some can get 10 Mb/s
  • In Japan, the median broadband speed is 63 Mb/s !!!

Video technology innovatin is continuing

  • better hardware – more powerful PC CPUs and GPUs
  • better video codecs – H264 as great open source example thats used in many places (ie., YouTube and DVD, for example)
  • Better video platforms – multi-bitrate streaming, intelligent buffering
  • iPhone has the processing speed of a PC around 1998-1999

Marketplace for premium content is there

  • video content has changed
  • now full TV shows are online
  • there are fully-produced, professional-quality web-only shows

Online video ads expected to grow 45% to $850 million in 2009

  • people/companies can monetize content
  • 150% growth in 2007 for online tv
  • 200% growth in 2008

Stuff about Hulu:

The Underwater pyramid – great example of a pyramid with the tip sticking out of the water – the tip is what you see, a small company. The stuff under the water is all the mega technology required to make that company run. It’s a huge technology base.

“Worthy or remark” – Hulu’s rallying cry. They want their stuff to be this, and want people to say this about Hulu when Hulu’s “not in the room”

Great content deserves great quality – 90% of videos available in high resolution 480p – that’s standard def TV/DVD quality video. Wow.

Closed captions to enhance video viewing:

  • thousands of videos have this on Hulu
  • it’s incredibly hard to do
  • they have to sync timecode
  • the V companies store the closed caption content in a variety of ways, including in SMIL and XML, and they have to figure out how to parse it into the videos

Obsess over every pixel

  • review process for every thumbnail on the site
  • they actually look at every one
  • 16X9 thumbnails, optimized for different sizes
  • working on the experience – they’re obsessed over the details
  • they actually used technology to automatically crop shows/thumbnails that were sized 4X3 to 16X9
  • They made it a game in their company, complete with prizes – they had 20,000 thumbnails to do

Innovations you use, but don’t notice

  • query-aware thumbnails
  • same video has different thumbnails depending on your search query

Aside – Eric played their newest Hulu TV ad today – it’s not out on TV yet…

Q – when will Hulu be on my TV/Set top box?

A – still focused on the PC and browser. He said in regards to the TV/Video content world, “they’re the tallest midget in the room”

Q – Canadians can’t get Hulu – when will you be in other countries? I guess Hulu is only available in the US right now.

A – it’s because of rights – they have to sometimes negotiate those rights show-by-show, region-by-region. Wow. They are committed to worldwide. And Eric said “Canada first. Promise.”

Q/A – about Ad revenue – Hulu actually makes more money on with ads online for, example, the show 3rd Rock than the traditional broadcast companies make with traditional commericals. That’s amazing! And they share their ad revenue with the owners of the content.

SXSWi2009: Dad is the New Mom


Bonin Bough, PepsiCo – the moderator
Chris Brogan, New Marketing Labs … and has a dad blog
Brad Powell, IFC/Dadlabs, Inc.
Jory Des Jardins, BlogHer, LLC
Ann-Marie Nichols, This Mama Cooks

Introductions …

Powell – they post reviews – if it’s good or bad. They’ve gotten flack about that. They’ve actually had to say they’re not doing an infomercial

Chris says he gets a lot of mom readers instead of dad readers

Question – is blogging changing you as a parent?

They have to self-censor, make sure to not share some stuff without making it too personal

Powell – says blogging did change him. He’s now more reflective. Because he’s getting sort of a crowd-sourced conversation going about parenting ideas ie., he’ll throw something out, someone else will add to it and make him think.

Hee – Des Jardins said “momosphere” – just sounds funny to me …

Chris thinks brands want human reviewers who are honest.

Q&A has started

Is it bad to make money blogging? Of course not. You have to work hard, though…

It’s what you make of it…

Where do you draw the line between personal and business? So far, they’re not answering the question. Instead, they are talking about getting sponsorships ??? Uhm. Not. The. Question. Dude.

Thank you – someone actually brought the discussion back to the actual question! Yay!

She uses pseudonyms … someone wanted a sponsorship with a big photo of them and their kids – she talked to her husband, and they went ahead and did it – they figured they were already sorta out there anyway, and it would be ok.

Chris mentioned content marketing – instead of writing about a product, write about the type of people who would use the product

Q: A GM dude with a question – he’s had some bloggers come to him asking for a car for a year – when he turns them down, they say “well, I can go to a competitor …” what to do?

A: the cream of the crop rises …

[my answer. Sheesh. Both the company shelling out cars AND the famous bloggers need to get over themselves. At that point, the original focus of the blog has been lost. Probably the focus of the company, too]

[aside – guy asking a question has a Flip on a clip … on his belt. Cool. And it rthymes, too]

SXSWi2009: Change your World in 50 Minutes: Making Breakthroughs Happen

Presenter: Kathy Sierra, Creating Passionate Users

started off by playing a music video … I should probably know these guys … I’m hearing the sound guy say “she just wanted to play this video for walk-in music.” cool.

There’s a huge wall between you and your goal. This is for times when incremental changes don’t work.

Incremental can = an arms race – quality race or features race.

What’s stopping us from kicking ass?
– are your users stuck in P mode (like an SLR camera)?

People don’t want to upgrade …

Anyone can compete.

How to know someone:
– ipod playlist
– flight vs invisibility – which one? We had to choose one and chat about it with the person beside us

Ask: what superpower do we give our users?
– hugely important question
– ie., auto-correct spelling man – not a superpower

Productivity man – it’s a superpower, but looks about as exciting as broccholi “because it’s good for you”

14 more ways to make breakthroughs:

– superset game. ask “what is the bigger thing are these things a part of” when you want to go after something. Can be a lot more interesting and helps you make the bigger jump

– or what cooler thing is my thing a part of. ie – blogging about your company – not cool.

– Outliers thing – 10,000 hours. That’s not acceptable for Kathy, because she’s older. How do you shrink this?

– there are patterns and shortcuts – so learn the patterns. Also shorten the duration.

– Example – how does she get 10,000 hours in with horse riding? She has a work desk with a horse-shaped saddle seat. It’s better for her back, and she’s getting in more hours when she’s not really riding. Nice. (looked sorta funny though)

Kicking ass – 1000 hours of practice.

After 1-2 years, experience is a poor predictor of success – some people do that 1st year for 10 years.

To get better, work on your strengths instead of their weaknesses.

Do deliberate practice of the right things.

5. Make the right things easy and the wrong things hard.

make it easier for users to have a breakthrough than to stay where they are

treadmill gathering cobwebs? It’s not in the corner because you don’t use it … you don’t use it because it’s in the corner. Remove all your chairs in front of the TV, and replace it with that excersize machine.

6. Get better gear (and offer it).

She’s showing a pricey saddle she bought. Her ability made a huge jump – the saddle probably helped.

You sometimes have to convince others of this though… ie., you think you need more monitors and they will make you a better hacker. Your boss thinks – it will make you be a better gamer.

So find, make, and offer higher-end gear that bumps users to a new level.

7. ignore standard limitations

– think clueless. Kathy and her husband were fired from their tech jobs, so they decided to write a book – and make it print-ready. People were saying “you can’t do this” with their headstart books – and they were successful … and stupid. Because they didn’t know what they were doing.

8. total immersion jams.

16 hours over two days vs 16 hours over two months. If you stretch it out, you might not improve.

ABC – Always Be Closing. Gave some examples of groups that get together with a challenge, like writing songs – the main goal? By the end of the time-limit, you HAVE to have a song done, no matter how it is.

(me – this is like the nanowrimo thing or the videoblogger’s weeks and months I’ve participated in – practice makes perfect (or at least improved))

Less Camp, More Jam. Don’t just talk – actually go do stuff.

9. change your perspective.

don’t make a better x, make a better user of x – ie., don’t make a better software developer book. Make a better programmer instead. Nice.

10. ? Missed it …

Who are your users, who’s your tech support (Aragorn or Jabba the Hut)

Your company is to your user as blank is to Frodo

What movie are your users in? (this was an exercise). What movie do they want to be in? … and don’t forget the soundtack.

11. don’t ask your users.

If you want to make breakthroughs, don’t ask your users.

Hugh Macleod’s new book – Ignore Everybody.

Listening to users – what they way vs what they really want

asking users gets you to consensus – you’ll get incremental change – not a breakthrough

Breakthrough – ask other people’s users.

12. Be Brave.

She stopped giving talks at microsoft because there was no bravery there.

13? Death by risk aversion – you got scared, and lost your big idea.

Ease-of-use police stop in, and we end up giving our users less than the big idea.

14. Rethink deadness. Henry Ford said – his users wanted faster horses … so he didn’t ask his users.

Re-examine stuff you sent to the deadpool. ie., $40 billion horse industry (even though the horse is obsolete)

So look at those things and see if they can have a new life.

14. (yes, 14 again). Change the EQ.

Move the slider.

With the headfirst books, they didn’t push around incremental sliders Instead, they added new sliders.

She’s inviting Gary Vaynerchuk on stage again … she did the same thing last year.

She’s asking – what did Gary do?

What did Gary add to the sliders? Gary says he talks about wine from the heart – no other people do that. Gary made wine fun. Gary was confident enough to talk about what HE thought wine tasted like, and shared that.

So – figure out what new labels and sliders you want… – silly website.

A blog about people who mis-use the word “literally”

The blog of “unessessary” quote marks

16. Be Amazed.

Played a funny clip of a Conan interview of a guy who was giving a different perspective on flying (ie., it’s amazing!). So switch that outlook!

SXSWi2009: Presenting Straight to the Brain

Jared Goralnick, Productivity Evangelist, AwayFind
Cliff Atkinson, BBP Media
Craig Ball, Pres, Craig D Ball PC
Kathy Sierra, CreatingPassionateUsers

#brain is the hashtag

Jared says:
– we’re distracted
– engage your audience
– introducing the panelists

Cliff says:
– no research that says what we’re doing with presentation software is the best way to learn and communicate
– talking about research that shows stuff in presentations like charts, bullet point words, etc don’t really work
– we have an “eye of the needle” task in presenting – we have a lot of info we want to share, and our audience’s limits of short-term memory
– sync the two channels – visual and aural
– guide attention – show and say what we want our audience to pay attention to
– we’re shifting from looking at presentations as a sheet of paper to more of a filmstrp approach with a beginning, middle and end

Kathy Sierra says:
– your brain and mind are in an epic battle
– the brain’s spam filter – we can’t tune it very well
– the brain cares about chemistry – stuff that sends a little chemical signal
– novel, strange, or a little weird get noticed. stuff that stands out (a purple duck in a sea of yellow ducks)
– thrilling, exciting, scary, innocent and might need help
– sense of joy
– faces – real, drawn, etc
– brains love to resolve things and fill things in

The brain does not care about:
– tablet PCs, code
– cheap trick vs useful tool (putting cool face with code) – makes people think about their girlfriend, and not the code
– talk to the brain, not to the mind (her main point)

Craig Ball says:
– he’s been a trial lawyer
– talking about juror retention. ear input only, not so hot. eye also was better. hearing & seeing – bingo!
– showing how he pulled the imprtant stuff out of boring documents
– uses Ken Burns effect sith backgrounds of slides
– he actually took parts and pieces of a photo out, then put them back in using the animation feature of powerpoint (that almost no one uses)
– showing how he uses those animation techniques to introduce complex ideas to people

What’s the biggest mistake people make?
– Cliff – using the screen as speaker notes. Instead, use the screen as visual cues
– Kathy – showing a slide of a brochure vs an instruction manual. Don’t teach about the tool. Instead, teach about what people want to DO with the tool.
– think more like a marketer
– Craig – when you talk AND put text on the screen at the same time, you’re forcing people to make a choice, and you wil lose

Lightning talk format or going through lots of slides quickly – is this helpful?
– Kathy – that’s not the important question – it’s a technique. The better question is what is it that happens between your ears when you present?

Visual persuasion tips?
Craig – go to my website, I’ve written lots aobut it

When is it appropriate to use bullet points?
– Cliff – that’s a loaded question.
– our culture is stuck in a bullet point mindset …
– when is it appropriate to put bulletpoints in a filmstrip? Never. Does anyone ever put up the script in a film? No.
– instead, think story with a beginning, middle and end.
– Kathy – she sometimes uses bulletpoints. Sometimes you just want to show a collection of stuff
– Craig – it depends. But don’t read the bulletpoints to people.
– if the bulletpoint has to wrap, it’s a bad sentence – change it.
– is there a better way to present it? Then use that instead of a bulletpoint

How can we present so that we don’t leave just with a good reaction, but with good stuff to take away?
– Kathy – orientation is everything – how you view the audience and your role to the audience is everything.
– in a panel on doing better presentations – that’s the wrong focus. Instead, we need to focus on what YOU do.
– Focus on how to make individuals int he audience do whatever they do better.
– Cliff – like a modern website – focus on the user!

Backchannel thing – how does that affect people’s ability to retain info?
– Craig – he knows he has failed his audience when his lawyers go into “blackberry prayer” mode.
– Cliff – it depends. If you use it as a note-taking device, that’s cool. Audiences don’t put up with bad presentations anymore. We can now hear when we’re off the mark.
– Kathy – not that important of a question. She trusts that we’ll do whatever we need to do. If the presenter has done their job, it’s ok.

end stuff:
– powerpoint is a lousy word processor
– never use a template!
– tap into popular culture

– use puppies.
– ask this for each slide: does it have a pulse? Is it begging to be there?

– … read his book.

Q: she works at NIH – there’s an expectation for slides to be … boring. What to do?
A: Cliff – powerpoint culture – it’s strong in research organizations. So start by educating people that what they’re doing is not based in research
A: Kathy: Include both, switch back and forth.

Q: Varying education levels, lots of computer-based training. Not sure if she’s engaging them… what to do?
A: Cliff – how people learn is the same in live and online training. So use the same types of concepts.

Q: he presents to executives – they interrupt a lot – what to do? and his presentations need to be portable – how to do it when there’s no voiceover?
A: Cliff – include text notes in with the slide in a handout, pdf format – works both live and later.
Cliff – on the first part of the question – open slides up to dialogue – prompt the conversation so they feel like they can talk without interrupting.
A: Craig – record your presentation while you’re doing it – then you have the audio too.