What I learned at SXSW Interactive 2015

Madness. SXSW Interactive is utter madness. 75,000 people, 400 scheduled conference sessions a day, just one poor brain and one weak body to drag back and forth, into which only so many ideas and contacts and information and free food and liquor can be poured before you break down and beg for mercy.

makers making - coders coding @ SXSW Interactive
makers making – coders coding @ SXSW Interactive

“Please, just get me back to my hotel room!”

But now that I have been home for a few days the fog is lifting and I can start to parse some of the cornucopia of creativity and connections that I managed to ingest during my 6 days in Austin, Texas.

And so, as a kind of second tasting, here is at least some of what I learned at SXSW Interactive:

3 great quotes

“The shift to mobile already happened. If you’re not thinking mobile first you’re living in the past.”
– Jonah Peretti, Buzzfeed founder and CEO

“Vision without execution is hallucination”
– Author Walter Isaacson

“A screen, no matter how small, is a window into a virtual world.”
Glen Keane – Disney animator speaking about choreographing UX

3 useful insights

– Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the USA is a very cool and smart lady, who has introduced the the US Digital Service in order to attract technology workers to contribute weeks, months or years to helping the US government solve social problems with technology. She uses the term TQ (as opposed to IQ or EQ) to refer to the private sector technological savvy that is the norm in startup culture (and GoogleX which she used to lead) but is absent from the public sector. She said that the disaster that was the the launch of healthcare.gov taught Obama that there was a whole section of expertise in web technologies that was missing from his administration, and so her Digital Service program is one way to try to address that gap.

– The irrelevance of authenticity and ownership online due to the seemingly infinite inherent reproduceability of digital data may be challenged soon by new technologies that allow for the publishing of limited digital editions according to Erik Schmidt, CEO of Google. Not quite sure how this differs from DRM, but it would be quite a game changer if it were somehow true. Here, anyway, is a site working with limited digital editions already: http://www.seditionart.com

– Social content impressions can matter as much as click-throughs depending on objectives and approach to content. Rather than focusing on driving content back to a website the entire web can be seen as a brand’s ‘home’.

3 important stats

– by 2017 90% of all internet traffic will be video
– over the past 30 years the % of computer science degrees awarded to women has dropped from 34% of recipients to 17% (in the USA)
– 100,000+ downloads of Meerkat, the live video streaming mobile phone app that instantly lets anyone with a phone become a broadcaster to the world, in its first 2 weeks

There was a lot more but I don’t want this post to get too long. But I do have to say that the single most inspiring session that I saw was given by Alan Gershenfeld of e-Line Media and Gloira O’Neill of the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, who described the extraordinary partnership undertaken between a game designer and an indigenous community to create a profoundly beautiful and culturally educational game called Never Alone. Their approach is a model for all cross-cultural media projects, not least because the IP for the game rests with the oldest living member of the Cook Inlet community, which is where traditional knowledge always lives, with the elders.

Overall it was a great experience. Thanks SXSW! Thanks Austin!

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