Archive for the ‘South by Southwest 2010’ Category

I used to be quite proud of my ability to compartmentalize the public and private parts of my life. I attributed it to my nature as a Gemini. But as the whole gets split more and more (what I share with friends vs. family vs. co-workers vs. clients), even I am starting to feel a little overwhelmed.

In danah boyd’s keynote about Privacy and Publicity, she spoke about the conundrum of no longer being able to separate your private and public selves. Among her examples was that of the teacher on Facebook: things that might be acceptable when with your friends (drinking, cursing), might not be so acceptable in the presence of your students or their parents. We now all must WORK at keeping our lives compartmentalized. So be careful before you hit “Accept” on that Friend request.

But it’s not just the decisions you make today. It’s how they’re used 3 weeks, 3 months or 3 years from now. Jaron Lanier spoke about the difficulty of being a young person who has not developed a social existence outside of the Web. Can you ever escape your awkward teenage self if it’s memorialized online?

In a panel discussion about Hunch.com and the increasing integration of personal data across web sites, an audience member in her 30s wondered a similar thing from a different standpoint: My tastes are different at 35 than they were at 16. Will the Web show an accurate reflection of me? Even if it has been tracking me all along, am I not more than a sum of my searches?

Right now, you’re not. As a result of client-related searches that I’ve made at work  and the fact that our servers are located in Pittsburgh, I get served onlie ad content based on the preferences of a 45-year-old Pittsburgh resident who worries about whitening her teeth  and is in the process of trying to find a college for her child, instead of the 37-year-old, DC-area, non-tooth-whitening DINK that I am.

But, presumably, the algorithms get better and the information gets connected across more sites and — as long as I keep going online — the Web will eventually have an almost perfect picture of me. And not just demographics and purchase behavior, but hopes, fears and real-time geolocation.

Of course, that information can be used for good (providing me with life-changing recommendations that I never would have come across otherwise) or evil (when my insurance company denies me coverage because of that unfortunate crack-pipe tweet). Or is that any more evil than what insurance companies have always done?  The statistics are just a lot more personal now.

Perhaps Warhol was only slightly off. Instead of 15 minutes of fame, we all get to be 15% famous — not enough to be chased by paparazzi, but enough to be ensured that we’ll never apply for a job without them bringing up that 5th grade trip to the principal’s office. Digitally, my permanent record seems a lot more permanent — and a lot more accessible.

So perhaps I’ll put that ability to compartmentalize to good use. I’ll embrace my Northern quasi-twin. How difficult can it be? Maybe I’ll even start a Facebook page for her.

We lost an hour to DLST as we started the sxswi Sunday converstaion (a conversation whose participants have increased by 40% from last year). I moved through the day - Gaming the Crowd - a panel on the future of engaging learning tools. A session with artist Michel Gondry and his remarkable blend of technology, inspired handmade sensibility and his love of family and his willingness to explore how that defined him as an artist and a person in his work. An online advertising discussion with Jim Coudal and John Gruber. A presentation from the founder of Ustream on live streaming video and ‘The Power of Live’ to enhance traditional or social media platforms. I listened to the BRUNNER piece of the conversation through tweets, sharing sessions, hallway connections and our dinner discussion of the day’s events. And I realized that the inspiration, energy and knowledge had given us that hour back and many more. The day, the entire sxswi experience, propel us forward in time to imagine what’s next and how to get there as individuals and as an agency.


One of the great things about South By Southwest Interactive is that many of the topics that are covered at the conference aren’t selected by the conference organizers, but by the digital community. The topics of the sessions at SXSWi are just as telling as the details of what is said in the sessions themselves. What’s important now, and what will be important, tend to dominate the discussions here. It’s a great barometer for helping focus our efforts and our attention over the coming year.

So what are some of the dominant themes this year? The mobile web and branded mobile apps. Content strategy. Tapping into the wisdom, content and influence of crowds. And a deeper dive into the psychology and sociology of the social web. Your brand may or may not be thinking about these things right now, but judging from the insights being shared in Austin right now by some of the leading minds in the interactive world, you will be. Soon.

And what isn’t being discussed? The question of whether you should be on social networks or not. That has been answered and we’ve moved on to an exploration of how to do it more effectively.

Also the discussion of tradition versus digital agencies, who leads the creative process, which one comes up with better thinking and idea, etc. is completely absent. It has a topic in past years, but now it’s gone. Why? I believe it is because, to this forward thinking crowd, that question doesn’t really matter anymore. If you’re worried about what kind of agency should be thinking about what kind of ideas, you’re missing the point. Let the pages of Advertising Age and Adweek rehash that discussion - this crowd has moved on.

Don’t get me wrong: the prevalent topics here don’t matter because they are being discussed at SXSW. They are being discussed at SXSW because they matter. Much of the discussion is centered around how to more effectively connect with people. How to keep them interested in what you have to offer, how to earn and retain their trust and how to stay with them no matter where they are and what they are doing. This is extremely important for brands who want to stay connected to consumers in the face of the massive changes that are taking place in our use of technology, our consumption of media and our patterns of communication.

And to help the brands that we serve make and keep those connections in this new and changing landscape, well, that’s why we’re here.


Saturday at sxswi 2010

Each day here, as always, is a remarkable experience. How could it not be when engaged in an open, passionate conversation with several thousand motivated participants. Certainly Mobile and to a somewhat lesser degree Social Media were hot topics. And ‘Viral’ may have won the ‘The buzz word that must be eliminated from the lexicon’ award this year.

Yet the heart and soul of the conversation, whether defined as audience, fan base or consumer, was how do we truly connect with our fellow man. From Danah Boyd’s Keynote address on Privacy and Publicity - Using the privacy debacle of Google Buzz as an example of Who We Are being so much more powerful than any technology that doesn’t understand us. To the Online Art of Ze Frank and his ability to create amazing emotional connections that demonstrated to me the power of those same technologies to enhance our live’s in fundamental ways. Inspired and energized by yesterday’s conversation I can’t wait to see what today brings.jay cloud

Blame it on the fact that SXSW is the first multi-day, totally immersive conference I’ve attended since I went to HOW in 1998, but being here has gotten me thinking alot about professional development. It’s an issue that our association clients in particular have been challenged with in the past two years as budgets have disappeared and the technology for other alternatives has improved. That’s because they are often the content providers for PD opportunities. But I would suggest that it’s an issue for everyone, because professional development is one of the greatest total compensation benefits a company can offer its employees.

I started my post-collegiate life at an association, working events like these and trying, as part of the communications department, to get people to “attend and send.” Many of the benefits of these events haven’t changed since then. But I think our (read: the pursestring holders’) perception of their value may have changed. There’s a sense now, with vast communities of thought available to us at the end of a URL, that there’s no reason to wait — not to mention pay — for that once-a-year experience.

So, in defense of professional development given by and for our clients, and as a thank you to the folks who put my name in for what is turning out to be an amazing conference experience, I want to list a few reasons why conferences should remain a part of every company’s PD efforts.

• A group of people you’d never meet otherwise. Even with social media, your circle is limited. Asking friends and co-workers, or checking my trusted online sources wouldnt’t have led me to the handful of new people I’m now following on Twitter because I have things to learn from them.

• Re-igniting your passion for what you do. This hit home with me in yesterday’s session “The Revenge of Editorials” and this morning’s “Why Keep Blogging.” Seeing people who do what I do, who are doing it well — it gets me jazzed. Having employees who get out of bed in the morning eager to do a kick-ass job has got to be worth its weight in gold.

• Stepping back from “do” to “do better.” There’s a theme emerging already at this event of focusing on craft. The pace of pretty much every industry has gotten to the point where it’s easy to go through the motions. It takes more than a lunch hour on a teleconference to break out of your rut. And you walk away from events like this not just with the desire to do better, but also with some pretty good ideas on how to do it.

• Cash equals care. Yes, conferences are costly: airfares, hotels, registration fees, etc. But when you, as an employer, make the commitment to spend that money on ME? That means something.

• It doesn’t end here. Everyone who attends or sends someone to an event like this should be thinking of ways to maximize and extend the experience of it. This blog is an example of that. Sharing information with other colleagues upon your return is another. And, of course, returning to those notes and key takeaways weeks or months after you jotted them down — better yet, making them part of your standard process when you return.

We spend the first 20 years of our lives being immersed in the value of education. And then we get good jobs and promptly stop learning. That’s an exaggeration, of course. There is on-the-job learning, learning by doing, and the continuing education that we give ourselves by reading and talking to others. But every once in a while it’s good to go back to that old fashioned sort of learning: sitting down with a group of your peers, listening to those who know something you don’t, taking notes, asking questions and growing in the process.

Consider that $899 flatscreen on your living room wall. In a few years will it still be a television, or will it merely be a screen hooked up exclusively to the internet where you can access your stored media (housed locally or somewhere in the cloud)?

For some of the attendees at SXSW, it’s a perplexing question, one of thousands being debated here at the interactive festival. But for Mark Cuban (he of Broadcast.net, Dallas Maverics, Magnolia Pictures and HDNET) and Boxee’s CEO Avner Ronen, those are fighting words. The two media heavyweights went nearly toe-to-toe at one of Friday closing the day’s sessions to the delight of 500 fans and the cyberazzi clicking away from the first few rows.

The staged tête-à-tête was actually a re-match, if you will, a resumption of hostilities between Cuban and Ronen late last year on a chat room debating cable TV’s dominance despite its shrinking penetration.

The jabfest Friday was part AV Geek Debate, part professional wrestling weigh-in and part “you’re mama’s so ugly …” smackdown. Except in place of “your mama,” insert “your business model is so screwed, I’ve lost more money in a day than you could hope to make in a whole quarter.”

The argument comes down to a few salient points, one of which was made repeatedly my Mr. Cuban: “In an a ‘la carte world, the cost to create, produce, distribute and market content via internet is unsustainable under any business model.” Coming from a person who made his first billion selling off Broadcast.net to Yahoo, that doesn’t make Cuban a hypocrite as it does make Yahoo a patzee.

Ronen of Boxee on the other hand blames greedy content providers and their billionaire enablers like Cuban and Comcast that perpetuate the strangelhold on household penetration and true net neutrality that will allow all of us more freedom and lower costs in selecting video entertainment content through the web. His company Boxee, which is commonly lumped together with HULU in articles, develops cross-platform freeware with a 10 foot user interface and built-in goodies like social networking tools that have to this point around 1 million subscribers.

Watch the video. It’s not pay-per-view, but it could’ve been. Cuban is always a delight to everyone not wearing a referee’s uniform

My highlight was going up to him during an unexpected building evacuation break. Mark’s a jeans and t-shirt guy who actually went to the high school where I live (Mt. Lebanon). We reminisced about the town and he was aware of the recent high school renovation, as well as the proposed pricetag.

“What, is it something like $113 million?”

“No, Mark. It’s exactly #113 million.”

“Wow, that’s a lot.”

“You know you could do a lot for my taxes and get a the Mark Cuban gymnasium and media center named after you. What do you say?

“No, I don’t do that.”

“Save me taxes?”

“No, put my name on anything.”

He missed the point, or at least avoided it. The same bobbing and weaving he continued the next 60 minutes with his worthy, but overmatched adversary.Mark Cuban and Avner Ronen

Twitter 2, Google 0

I’m curious, Austin… Where can I get faster and better quality local food recommendations: From google or through twitter? Or by some new mind reading technology yet to be revealed at a SXSW Keynote?

This morning I spent several minutes googling ‘local food in austin’, ‘eating local in austin’ and a few others so I could start making a good list. I got a few articles, some decent directory websites and several sites that pointed me to other directory websites which in the end felt like a wild goose chase. I gave up quickly because I wasn’t finding what I was looking for. I also wasn’t in the mood to sift through Yelp reviews or anything like that, I just wanted someone to tell me what wanted to know. And right now with very little effort.

While I was sitting here thinking of other clever ways to reword ‘where to eat local food in austin’ the little annoying black twitter box caught my eye and I thought: aha! That’s what I rely on for good Pittsburgh info: The Tweet Deck. While I don’t care so much what twitter-ers are doing every 5 minutes (sorry) I have found some of the best Pittsburgh restaurant reco’s, events, and resources through twitter and actually find the app less of a fad and more of a legitimate way to connect people to the information they want, faster. I can ask people (who’s opinion I might trust based on the links they provide through twitter) to give me recommendations instantaneously. If I tag the right words I might snag some random person who can just answer my question. Or I might stumble upon someone with a great blog whose google entry would be on page 27 had I done a google search for ‘local austin food’.

For me, as a user, blogger and digital art director, this question is bigger than ‘where it the best locally sourced vegetarian burrito’ but more about understanding how to get people legitimate, quality information in a non-time wasting fashion. And trust me, I HATE wasting time so that one counts a lot. And just as a blogger (and I suppose as user as well) its incredibly frustrating to see the layers of dead blogs, mis-informed directories, and just crummy content float to the top on a typical google search, especially if you think you might have something better to offer but can’t reach the searchers.

So now I’m just curious. Which is it? Can google read my mind or will Twitter present me with a better information path to the best locally sourced vegetarian burrito. Inquiring minds, man. Inquiring minds want to know.

Here’s my tally so far. I’m keeping one during my stay.

Twitter 2, Google 0

DM me at @meganmally  if you have any fantastic suggestions and you found this through twitter.

Email me: mmally@brunnerworks.com if you found this through a site search.