There was lot of talk this year that SxSWi didn’t offer any earth shattering news or products. There were certainly some great keynotes – Danah Boyd, Jaron Lanier, Clay Shirky – along with one huge bomb –Umair Haque’s pathetic interview of Ev Williams – but based on many of the smart people I talked to, SxSWi was once again informative and inspirational.
I asked a number of people whom I admire the following question: What is the most actionable takeaway you got from SxSW. Was there a session, a lesson, a soundbite, an example that made you go aha, or that you believe will inspire and or change any of your behavior, tactics, strategies next year either for you or your clients?
I got back lots of great answers that one post can’t possible capture them all. So here’s the first of three; these responses united by something to do with new new or emerging trends, products or ways of thinking. More to come in the next few days.
Content strategy will force re-invention
“I was thrilled–but not surprised–by the buzz generated by the content strategy sessions this year. Last year, there was one session on writing for online audiences. This year, there were multiple sessions focused on content planning, creation, curation, and governance.
“My takeaway? Clients are ready to coordinate their currently siloed interactive marketing initiatives–social media, SEO, web and email communications, and so on—by creating a content strategy that defines and drives their content and its lifecycle processes. The larger implication is that organizations will need to reinvent themselves as publishers, creating new infrastructures to support the ongoing creation and care of relevant, quality content.”
Simple social and the frictionless experience
“If I had to pick one thing that felt most actionable coming out of SXSWi, it’d be a theme I picked up that could be called “simple social”: creating user experiences that are as frictionless as possible.
“Some of my favourite examples were Spotify’s Daniel Ek talk about wanting to provide music like water and Ohai’s Susan Wu who listed her rules for MMO games (1. Get to fun in 30 seconds. 2. Keep it simple, reveal complexity gradually. 3. Create real world context and relationships.)
“Continuing the theme – and putting any disappointment around Umair Haque’s interview with Evan Williams to one side – that interview opened with the announcement of Twitters new @anywhere platform, which will integrate Twitter content into partner sites (Amazon, Ebay, Digg, YouTube etc); simplifying and speeding connection to Twitter without having to leave the content site. Think Facebook Connect for Twitter.
“Ev also talked about Twitter operating quite simply as an information service (vs a social network) that works well across markets with less developed tech infrastructure – as he put it, countries with the “weakest signal”.
“This approach has implications for a couple of other big themes that I took from the conference (as Bruce Sterling said with some force, we have a way to go before we can tell future generations we used technology for social good.”
Note: See Mel’s great SxSW recap on BBH-Labs blog. Good pictures, too.
3-D TV will define the future of entertainment
“Away from the panels, buried in the back of a trade show floor, was one startling novelty: 3-D TV. Panasonic presented a booth that showed what the future might hold for home entertainment. I got in line with several others and heard many snide remarks. (“Who needs this? How much better can my eyes possibly see?”) Yet as soon as the screen came on, everyone gasped. The images are holographic and stunning.
‘We can debate the reasons for this new gadgetry push — U.S. consumers now own four TVs per household; panel manufacturers need something really sexy if they’re going to cram a fifth set in our homes; Internet video streaming threatens to end the sale of $400 video boxes unless Sony and Panasonic cram so much 3-D data into a film the current Internet pipes can’t download the file, which is exactly what 3-D does; etc. etc. It all led to an epiphany — we will never have enough. Technology will keep advancing with new ways to stimulate our minds because, like heroin addicts who never recreate the old high, we need more juice to jack up our our neurons. The failure of SXSW this year was there wasn’t enough *new* there. But in coming years newer things will emerge because all of us — video watchers or marketing strategists — crave novelty like the drug it is. The future won’t be better, but it will have tweaks that pump our minds just the right way. And when it comes you’ll be presenting it to an AMA panel, using PowerPoint in 3-D.”
Higher standards should be everyone’s objective
“When will we stop thinking that less bad is good? What if we weren’t allowed to reproduce or recreate something that already existed? For me, those two questions are not only actionable, but personal calls-to-action. As creators and problem solvers, we have the unique privilege of making awesome things for a living. We must challenge ourselves to think not only outside the box, but to throw away the box all together – to solve problems meaningfully and sustainably, not just temporarily.”
We all need new sources of inspiration
“My biggest take-away was actually this: by following my inner GPS system, I was able to witness and experience events that deeply inspired me. One of my favorite talks was Jaron Lanier’s. At the beginning of his speech, he encouraged us to put down our laptops and phones and, for a brief moment in time, be present. He said to let the experience resonate so it would sink in without a fractured memory of texts, blogs, tweets–a challenge to be sure and not an entirely new revelation. But we have to. As creatives, technologists and strategists, it’s impossible to move things forward without embracing random events; events that inspire and create the idea that anything is possible. Here is one of those random events for me that inspired – thousands of bats streaming from the Congress Avenue Bridge.”
The importance of new and different perspectives
“Well the one “aha” that actually led to something tangible was Ze Frank’s wide-ranging keynote on creativity. His personality and online accomplishments were both impressive and infectious, but it was a specific project (A Childhood Walk) that inspired me to write this column for the site’s Memory Forever theme week (we’ve had a half dozen such “theme weeks” over the past year or so). If anything, Ze’s SXSW keynote did what I was hoping it would: Allow me to see everyday things online differently. Google Maps is everywhere now. People take it for granted as a navigation/networking tool, but after that keynote, I saw it had use as a metaphorical time/memory machine too.”
Thank you Kristina, Mel, Ben, Conrad, Kat and Jack for sharing. In the next couple of days thoughts on community, connections and privacy from the like of Ben Malbon, Faris Yakob, Len Kendall and many others. Want to share yours? What did you take away that you can put into action.