More Thoughts on SXSW March 21, 2011

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.