I'm organizing a Co-working Meetup at SXSWi :)
You can join the Drive, uh, flock? covey? murder? Drive is a new Fox show made by Tim Minear, the same guy who made Firefly. It stars Nathan Fillion, the same lead actor. The show and the star had a tremendous following - no doubt they'll be turning out in hoards to test Drive (sorry). Apparently the director of the show is going to serve up commentary via Twitter during the premiere Sunday night. Clever - I'm signed up. Advertisers have to love this. Normally I'd DVR the show and watch it without commercials. Instead I'll be watching real-time to follow along with the tweets.
Dave Armano reports that several media outlets such as Fast Company and USA Today appear to have reserved accounts, while BusinessWeek and Newsweek may have been hijacked by squatters (nesters?) if the silly email address associated with the account are to be interpreted (both are associated with pleasantcreature @ gmail.com). Still, Flicker is a great platform for quick updates from media feeds. Nothing revolutionary here, but it falls into the useful category.
BART in San Francisco uses Twitter to announce up to the minute schedule changes.
What have you found out there that looks promising?
Khoi Vinh has an excellent discussion going on the quality of the programming and the growing pains being experienced by SXSW. He starts of with a sentiment I've heard from many attendees now (at least about the interactive portion of the conference):
I’ve never been to a business conference of any kind that’s as usefully friendly as the South by Southwest Interactive Festival.
That said, he points out that SXSW may be getting to big to maintain the quality. It's true that most of the programming rooms were fairly bursting at the seams. The extra rooms provided by a recent addition to the convention center (rooms 8/9/10, which I came to call the dungeon) were too difficult to get to. The choice was standing in line for one of two very slow elevators that held 12 people each (and mislabeled the floors!) or walking to the far corner of the building, taking an escalator, than coming all the way back to the original corner. Neither option made for a cheerful audience for the programming in these rooms.
Khoi Vinh, and several of the commenters, agreed that many of the panelists weren't prepared enough, and that the lectures overall tended to be better. My sense is that the panel is misused at times. In the 25-minute sessions, for example, the panel simply doesn't work. There's not enough time for several people to say anything meaningful. Moderators of these short sessions didn't adapt to the format, either - one started with 10 minutes of telling us what he was going to tell us. Again, that just doesn't work in the "power sessions".
But sometimes, even when the panelists were interesting and prepared, it seemed to be the wrong format. The panelists ended up either talking "at" the audience, or turning to
talk to another panelist, which sometimes had the effect of ignoring
the audience. For the more conversational topics, I'd like to see the table removed and the participants
placed in a half circle. Let them have a real conversation, and let us
listen in. I love listening to a bunch of smart people talk.
Jeff Croft complains about presentations that aren't much more than a list of bullet points. I heartily agree with that - give me some examples! Show me what you're talking about.
Like most conferences, the SXSW programming was hit or miss for me, but I know I came home smarter and more enthusiastic about what I do. And I like to think I learned something from every session I attended, even if it was how not to give a presentation :)
Green My Apple seems like a no-brainer for Apple, but I learned a few surprising pieces of information from Zeina. Apparenly she had recently attended a MacWorld conference and didn't get a very warm reception. She was even told by conference coordinators that they didn't think Apple & Greenpeace were a good fit. Huh?! According to the Green My Apple site, just 2 years ago, Steve Jobs called environmentalists concern about Apples "bullshit."
The Greenpeace campaign focuses on the toxic chemicals used in making Macs and iPods which eventually end up as toxic waste. They set up a whole pseudo-apple site on which they invite you to create your own tshirts and video campaigns, write to Steve Jobs, and generally spread the word.
I was happy to learn that Zeina found SXSW and Austin to be much more receptive to the campaign than MacWorld was. She also mentioned that she saw tons more Macs in use at SXSW than at Macworld - I love that! (Love the Rebel Inside shirt too...)
And as I promised Zeina, I hereby swear that she paid for her own drinks, and that one of the two drinks she's holding was mine :)
There's plenty of chatter going on about whether or not Twitter has any real value. Twitter is sometimes called a microblog. It's basically group SMS with a web interface and social networking features. Sign up, and you have a 140 character limit per post. You can post as often as you want - in theory you post throughout the day: heading to work, at Foo's for lunch, blogging, going to bed. Then you add friends to your network, and you can keep up with who's doing what when. You can see updates via the web, or receive them via SMS or IM. I signed up for a SXSW Twitter group (flock? conflagration? murder?) just for fun. When I sent a Twitter to the group number, it was broadcast on several plasma screens sprinkled throughout the convention center. I assumed I'd also see twitters on my phone from the rest of the group, but I only saw those of the developers and others in my twitter network, which was only Tori. Not too useful. Did I need to know that Jack was in line at Magnolia Cafe at 3am? No. No I did not.
After SXSW, Tori was none too happy. She emailed me:
I’m really aggravated at Twitter. Not at the technology, but at the sheer gall of the Twitter guys who evidently think I want to be on the end of a one-sided conversation. I’m completely convinced that’s what has happened. You sign up, and you get grouped with them, and no one else (unless you go to the effort of adding friends, like we did). Did you ever, once, see one of them respond to anything you had typed?
Because they aren’t listening. I’d even venture to guess they had some flag set so that they see only messages to one another. Meanwhile, I have to listen to their banter, and am bound to a group where there’s no chance of me have any sort of interaction with anyone new, or even participating. Gee thanks, that’s awesome technology, guys.
Put that in your blog and smoke it.
That said, now that I know how to use it, I can see how it could be useful.
Feel free to check out my Twitter page, and sign up to follow or as a friend. You can see that it's not getting a whole lot of use right now, but it's still kind of fun to play around with it.
4th and final day. Recap: the first panel of the day for me was Web Typography Sucks, which proved to be far more in depth than I expected - I learned a fair amount and got some good suggestions for working around the traditionally poor type treatment provided by most blog engines. I'll share them here once I've ha a chance to check them out. After that I went to Combinatorial Media as Self Expression, which was a fun, engaging panel. Text, audio, video, mashups, comics, roll-your-own community - where are all these varied forms of media headed? The panel discussed what is, ultimately, the 2007 version of "multimedia", and what it means for playful and/or artistic content as well as more serious/educational purposes. Again, I have lots to look into as a result, and I'm really looking forward to sharing what I did up with everyone.
The afternoon keynote was delivered by Will Wright, creator of theSims, SimCity, and all the other Sims games. He's a visionary, to be sure. He talked about the nature of storytelling, and how games offer an opportunity for a different kind of empathy - taking the viewer out of the role of a character and putting them into the role of director. This led into his demo of Spore, which pretty much had the audience drooling.
In most world-building games, you create an environment that entices settlers. The better you run your government (city/settlement/country), the more your community grows in size, wealth, and sophistication. Spore has several modules - you start with a single cell, navigating around the primordial ooze, until you consume enough matter that and evolve enough to move onto the land. You must learn to survive on the land, mate, and eventually be part of a tribe. The creature into which you evolve depends on the earlier play and on choices you make. The creature-creator (six legs? eight? one eye? four eyes? purple? red?) is incredibly flexible, allowing you to stretch and mold as much as you want, taking milliseconds to render beautiful, complex creatures. You then move on ... you must run a city, get civilized, and eventually achieve the ability to travel in space. Now the universe is your oyster, and you can visit planets created by other users. You have complete terraforming capabilities, so your world will be out there too. The worlds will be populated by creatures evolved within other players' games. You may well visit a planet populated by a species that wants nothing more than to eat you, or you may find a compatible species with whom to settle. Will says it's not a Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) so much as it's a Massively Single-Player Online Game.
All I know is I can't wait. During the demo, Tori turned to me and said "I've never wanted to buy a computer game in my life, until now." She also suggested that I probably shouldn't buy it, as I'd never leave my house again. Fat chance :)
The final program item was the traditional wrap-up talk by Bruce Sterling. He's always an engaging speaker, but I was kind of surprised at his speech. He seems to be part of the rumblings of the "backlash" I've been hearing about. My paraphrase of his sentiments... blogs suck, twitter sucks, mashups suck. He predicted that in 10 years we wouldn't know what a blog is, that the format would be dead. As much as I do consider Bruce Sterling brilliant, truly a visionary, he sounded a bit like a cranky old man at these closing statements.
Ok, so blogging during a conference is harder than it seems, I admit. So much to catch up on! Day 3 of SXSW was Monday. The Henry Jenkins interview was fantastic. His book, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide has been on my to-read shelf for a couple of weeks. After hearing him talk, it's moved up to "next" on my list. He discussed the impact all the new options for media consumption has on the relationship between producers and consumers. He credits early sf fan fiction with launching much of today's convergence culture, in fact refers to himself as a "fanboy." If his book is as interesting as he was in person, it'll be a great read.
Thanks to an unannounced (at least via SMS) room change and the ridiculous layout of a recent convention center addition that forces everyone to take a circuitous route to one set of rooms I've named "the dungeon", I missed the first half of the When Communities Attack panel. On the other hand, it didn't seem that I missed much. Granted, this was one of those panels I could have given, but judging by the grumbling in the halls afterward, I wasn't alone in my disappointment. It's really clear that some of the presenters simply didn't bother to prepare, or bother to look into presentation skills 101. There was too much assuming the audience knew all the acronyms, web sites, and personalities mentioned. Unfortunately, this was pretty common. The panel I attended after that was Virtual Teaming. Again, some basic presentation skills would've been helpful. This was one of many 30-minute "power sessions". 30 minutes simply isn't enough to really cover much meaningful information, IMO. In this case, the presenters wasted 10 minutes telling us what they were going to tell us, which just doesn't work in such a short session. Could've been good. Wasn't.
BoingBoing was one of the first blogs I started reading daily. It's still a favorite, but Lifehacker rivals it. Gina Trapani is one of three editors of the Lifehacker blog, which is dedicated to all things regarding productivity. 95% is tech-related, with heavy emphasis on cross-platform, Firefox, and general open-source solutions. It's literally changed how I work. And it's always fun to find rock-star girl geeks. There's a book now, too: Lifehacker: 88 Tech Tricks to Turbocharge Your Day, and it's fabulous. Gina is at SXSW, and I got to meet her yesterday at her book signing. She's delightful, as expected, and seems to be thoroughly enjoying the conference :)
Back at SXSW. I'm listening to Timothy Ferriss discuss his book, The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. I missed the first couple of minutes, unfortunately. When I walked in he was pointing out that probably all too smart and too easily bored to ever really retire. Given that, how do our priorities change. And if we get 10% more email every year from here on out, what does that mean? He found some interesting ways to work a whole lot less, and I'm going to miss all the good info if I keep blogging... I've pre-ordered the book.
Had to add a note... he says "life does not improve with Twitter and Dodgeball" and talks about a backlash to information overload. Wonder how many others were blogging and twittering as he said this...
It's been another good day of programming. Making Your Short Attention Span Pay Big Dividends was fun and rather validating for me. Short attention span: it's not a bug, it's a feature! The Designing for Global Audiences panel had it's moments. There were occasional juicy examples... when you say "I need it at 5 on Friday" to someone in India, that pretty much means Monday or Tuesday. Much of the presentation meandered, though... a couple times I caught myself wondering "man, is he ever going to say anything? Online Advertising: Is It worth it was interesting, but they never really addressed the actual topic or answered their own question. Fictional Bloggers was delightful. Odin Soli talked about his years writing a personal blog detailing the daily life of a bisexual woman, grew a huge audience, and was eventually outed. I met Liz Henry at the BlogHer event Friday - turns out we peripherally know each other through the world of Science Fiction fandom. She had so much to say - it's unfortunate that this was one of the short (1/2 hr) panels - it really deserved more time. I'm eager to read lots more of Liz.
Tonight it''s the SXSW Awards Cermony, at which the Dewey Winburne award is given out. Dewey was a visionary and a friend of mine. Last year the award went to Dale Thompson, with Austin Free-Net. I'm proud to say I'm a co-founder of Austin Free-Net.