Monthly Archives: March 2011

More Thoughts on SXSW

Written by: Larry Weintraub
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Scott Biggers

When I was at SXSW, I got to share the experience with some great people. My friend Scott Biggers sent me his recap and I asked him if I could share it here. To which he said, “of course!” So here goes…

My impressions of 2011 SXSW.

  • Overwhelming. The conference feels too big. Too many locations, SRO sessions, and escalator jams. Too many people, hipster hats and iPads, as well. Aside: When I sat next to some iPad toting developer in a session, he glanced at me with my primitive notebook and phone and said, with a mix of reassurance and condescension, “That’s OK. I’ve got an iPhone, too.”
  • The impressive writeups of the sessions rarely matched the sessions themselves.
  • Presentations are more informative than panel discussions. Panel discussions are more entertaining than presentations.
  • Love the serendipitous meetings and networking opportunities. (Especially when you’re hanging with someone like Larry.)
  • Overuse of the mysterious “social graph” term.

Top three quotes

  1. “Geospatial reasoning” – Even though the context was the geo-location game session, my geek buzzword siren went off.
  2. “Ceding control to the peeps” – Bob Garfield, half-jokingly getting hip
  3. “Thinking in real time” – Classic.

My ten favorite observations from the sessions:

  1. Check in is a brick and mortar “like” button
  2. TV used to be the definition of being at home. Only way it could grow was to escape from the home.
  3. Social TV simply mirrors the allure of watching TV together. (Remember the laugh track?)
  4. Number of followers and likes in social media is not a good measurement of engagement.
  5. Nor is giving a thumbs up or making a comment; that’s not engagement
  6. Agencies are afraid of non-fiction for the brands they represent. They’re used to putting Vaseline on the lens.
  7. 40 year old mom is the hardcore gamer for Zynga
  8. Augmented Reality leads us to the Outernet, where the phone becomes your mouse and everything is clickable. (The Internet of Things)
  9. Customers are more interested in talking to your employees than to your brand.
  10. Innovation is driven by desires. It used to be driven by companies – but now is driven by consumers. Mobile TV has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with people

To elaborate on that final point:
Amid the promises, explorations, and celebrations of the latest technology at SXSW, there was a constant reminder of humanity. As in technology and innovation only work when they provide a utility and serve the needs of people. Also, that people love stories – and they love to be part of stories.

Social Giving for Japan

Written by: Larry Weintraub
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A few weeks back I shared a note about LivingSocial’s Amazon deal.  My intention was less about sharing a great deal, and more about demonstrating the volume of redemption taking place in this new social commerce space.  Yesterday LivingSocial went global.  In a great way.  Their offer (which has been extended for a two day period vs the normal 24 hours) is a 100% match of your $5 donation to the Red Cross on behalf of the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.  As of the time I’m writing this, LivingSocial members have given nearly $900,000 and with the matching contribution, they are on their way to $2 Million.  One of the best deals yet!

Ronald Reagan Invented Foursquare…

Written by: Larry Weintraub
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…and other things I learned at SXSW.

How is that for a headline? It is a quote from mega new media/tech publisher and conference guru, Tim O’Reilly during a one-on-one interview he did with Jason Calacanis on Friday at this year’s SXSW conference.  O’Reilly told the story of how the government/military GPS program was made public during Reagan’s presidency paving the way for today’s location-based maps and corresponding applications.

I’m a longtime veteran of SXSW Music, but only a sophomore at SXSW Interactive.  This year’s SXSWi was incredible with attendance surging between 15,000 – 20,000 attendees.  A collection of techies, brands, nerds, hipsters, and foodies came together to learn, meet, eat, and drink.

This year’s standout technology was group messaging with GroupMe and Beluga leading the charge. The idea here is that you invite a small group of friends to follow and interact with you, thus avoiding all the clutter and keeping tabs on just the specific people you are most interested in hearing from.  That said, plenty of people were using last year’s darlings Foursquare and year before favorite Twitter to communicate where they were and what they were doing.

Celebrities were abound with sightings of Ashton Kutcher, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Pee Wee Herman stopping by parties, panels, and the IFC Crossroads House for interviews.

Also standing out were some significant brand activations.  Chevy was cutting into the local cab business by providing attendees with free rides in their Volts and other new cars, AT&T supplied much-needed phone recharge centers, and Pepsi had the largest party zone featuring Foursquare-sponsored four square tournaments and plenty of free PepsiMax.

Panels were spread out amongst numerous venues and standouts were AT&T’s head of social media Chris Baccus explaining the complexities of handling customer complaints via Facebook and Twitter, R/GA’s top brass advising on how to avoid your brand becoming obsolete and Wieden+Kennedy presenting the Old Spice case study to a packed room that left hundreds turned away at the door.

While the dense crowds at the Driskill and Four Season hotels made business meetings a challenge, there was still a lot of networking getting done.  Despite the occasional feeling of claustrophobia and exhaustion, SXSW continues to be the most informative and fun conference of the year.