Tuesday, March 17, 2009

SXSW Interactive Day 5: The Nerds Go Home

Interesting day today--it's the last day of the Interactive festival, the first day of the Music festival and St. Patrick's Day. Busy.

And somehow, I forgot that last tidbit and didn't pack anything green for the trip. I claimed that the green neckband on my festival pass counted. Lame, I know.

Lots of folks left yesterday, and even more today. Still plenty of people around, but the energy was considerable less frenetic. People are tired and more focused on the content today.

The Mediocre

1) Like many others I talked with, I'm a little disappointed that the content is uneven. Some panels are really good, in-depth and useful. Those are like an ice-cold glass of iced tea on a hot summer day.

2) Many panels have good speakers but just don't go deep enough into the material to be useful for the type of people at this conference. This is not a beginners conference. If you're here, it's because you're serious about interactive, gaming or social media.

The material should reflect the talent level of the people here. A lot of what I saw was pretty basic. I'll recap the 'winners' tomorrow. I've left feedback on the SXSW site for the other panels, so I don't feel a need to call anybody out in public. I'm sure there are a lot of backstories to some panels that I don't know about.

3) The worst is the bait-and-switch with panel titles, which is more common than it should be. I was in three sessions where the title was very provocative, but the moderators either never lived up to the title, or worse, asked a very specific question in the title and didn't answer it. Or led to the conclusion that the question is unanswerable right now.

Random conversations with folks indicated this was a more widespread problem than you would think. So, here's a note to anyone ever presenting at a conference:

If you've got the moxie to create a really provocative title for your panel,

But let's not be a hater. There were a LOT of really good things today.

The Good

1) Connections! I hung out with @BryanPerson quite a bit today and met a lot of people. Seems like Bryan knows everyone. We had breakfast with the @SouthwestAir emerging media team (including this red-headed leprachaun). They are doing some very cool things with social media and have a great culture there. I got a few good ideas from them. :-)

Bryan had a list of like, a gazillion people to meet during the 5 days of the conference, and at the end of today, he proudly showed me that he had met all but one. (note to self for next year: have a plan)

Bryan doesn't look like a schmoozer, but I tell you, he's got those Boy Scout good looks and is a charming guy. No wonder he won an award as one of the top 25 Social Media professionals in Texas this year. (not to mention he picked up the tab for breakfast, which makes him VERY socialble, in my book)

2) I also met @CarriBugbee who totally RAWKED THE HOUSE in her panel about being one of the 'voices' behind the Mad Men Twitter characters. (and I even got her autograph!) Didn't get to sing karaoke with her, though. Maybe next time.

3) Got my second free meal of the day meeting (I still take a starving-artist's delight at getting free meals, what can I say?) with @withoutayard who not only is a former Austin local with a LOT of knowledge of the music scene, but is also a great promoter for Toronto as a travel destination. It's now high on my list of places to visit.

4) Met too many other people in casual conversations to list. Random strangers seemed more accessible to chat with today. Lots of ruminating on the conference today, which I will summarize tomorrow. Bryan and I will be getting together to recap and brainstorm more on some cool takeaway ideas we had today.

We both found some inspiration during the conference, and suffice it to say that I learned a lot, had a good time and would definitely recommend others to come here.

5) And of course, I have to give a shout out to my house mate Bruce, his awesome dog Rosie, and Coco Ono, who became my cat away from home. It's been pretty cool living like a local away from the downtown party scene and not out of a hotel.

I'll be back, Austin. Thanks for a good time! :-)

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Carri said...

Mark, thanks so much for coming to our panel about Mad Men and Twitter! I knew it would be fun but it exceeded my expectations.

I sympathize with the problems of making the content high level for power users and basic enough for newbies. I went to the conference thinking (like you) that all the content would/should be fairly advanced. But after spending several days talking to people at the conference, I realized many of the attendees were newish to Twitter – especially those doing film/interactive. I was kind of shocked to learn how few of the film attendees I spoke to were even on Twitter. I then agonized over how to make the panel interesting to both newbies and advanced Twitter users.

I tried to split the difference, but I’m with you. I think the conference should include more advanced content or divide the content up into tracks depending upon knowledge and skill level.

@CarriBugbee aka @PeggyOlson

No “e” in my first name. :-)

Actor, director, adventurer, community manager and social media geek. said...

oh....it figures that the film people wouldn't know about Twitter, Carri.

Those poor starving artist types never stay abreast of the latest technology! ;-)

I thought your panel did a really good job of being very inclusive of all tech types. Definitely one of the more fun panels I attended all week.

Hope to catch you in Portland some time, and of course, let me know when you're in the Bay Area next!

bahop said...

hey mark,

bruce here- austin tejas.

just tracking down this blog of your visit to send to an actress from L.A. (where else?) who's gonna stay in your room w/ your cat for a week during the Austin Film Fest later this month -if that's OK w/ you. (if not, tough shit cuz papa's got bills to pay:).

I told her I had RAVE reviews in the past & she called me on it:) -so I had to 'trackback' as they say in the biz (or is it backtrack?:) to find them...

anyway been meaning to post & say that I think you have an amazing gift - for communicating to others what you experience in this world. anyone who can write so eloquently about the dissonance they felt in 'GIVING MORE THAN A RAT'S ASS' is NO Shakespearean fool in my book -- (but then again I noticed you didn't write about getting the wrong house upon your arrival in the rain so maybe your partly right?:)

things are OK here. we survived the 'summer from hell' (68 days over 100 & 1 day short of the all time record dammit!) & we still aren't TWEETING :)

hope you survived the FIRES from hell out your way.


bruce, roxylee (the gypsy wonder dog) & koko ono

mark said...


Of course, you can use me as a reference. You can even give her my direct email address of mwilliams@liveworld.com. You, roxylee and koko ono are a big reason why I can say I enjoyed SXSW last year. :-)

Been crazy busy and not very good at following up with correspondence, but do want to stay in touch.

I expect I'll be back for SXSW this year too.

And you still don't need to be twittering yet. But what about that kayak shop? ;-)