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SXSW Interactive 2012


This is just a short note to say howdy to those fine folks I’ve met over the past few days at SXSW.  This site isn’t dead, it’s just hibernating until I get some WordPress issues figured out.

SXSW Interactive is crazy big compared the last time I was here, but I quickly found that there’s still a small, intimate conference hiding within the larger one.  Many of the best panels and side conversations I had were with small groups, and with a few exceptions I was able to ignore the insanity around the convention center.  While the content wasn’t always as fresh as I would have liked, discussions around archiving and curating the Web, using the Web for civic good, and creating the future of journalism were important and worth having.  While I completely understand why many of those I met in years past in Austin feel the conference is too big and no longer worth it, I’m pretty sure I’ll do what I can to be back next year.  SXSW is now wearing a suit, but it still has a subversive, anarchistic streak to it, and I love it for it.

Posted in SXSW,Travelog at 4:04 am

Journal for 16 Mar 2008: Back to Normal


Well, I’m finally getting back to normal after SXSW.  There’s still a stack of people to contact, photos to upload, and a report out to do at work, but other than that, the concerns are the familiar:   Baby, schoolwork and workwork.

In other news, I missed my baby’s first two teeth.  They arrived while I was in Austin.

In other baby news, he apparently loves techno.  Or, at least, he loved techno at Urban Outfitters today.

Yes, we still shop at Urban Outfitters.  No, we’re not 12.

Not much else to report.   I’m still coughing.

Posted in BabyLog,Journal,SXSW at 9:18 pm

SXSW: Back Home, Ready for Sleep


So, I’m back home, tired, overwhelmed, coughing, buried in work, full of ideas and… already looking forward to going back to Austin next year, but I really need to get a goodnight sleep with my pregnancy pillow amazon for at least 10 hours.

Quick thought before turning in for the night:  Sarah Lacy should do a panel next year on when crowds attack…  And there should be a live Twitter/Meebo feed up on the walls during the panel.

Posted in Journal,SXSW,Travelog at 9:40 pm

The Last Panel at SXSWi 2008


Well, I didn’t think it would be a proper SXSW without Bruce Sterling, but the Futurists’ Sandbox “panel” may have made up for it.  What a huge WTF.  I can’t really describe what I just sat through.

Noted: Datapoints.

Posted in SXSW,SXSW Panels at 4:56 pm

SXSW Panel: Taking Back Municipal WiFi


Bonewald (MuniWireless) / Ante / MacKinnon / Vos

(This turned out to be a difficult presentation to track. Maybe I’m tired.)

Ante: U.S. is largest market for broadband access, but we’re lagging behind in many ways.

Vos: Cost of municipal wifi underestimated in most cases.

MacKinnon: Created a model in Austin where every node had to find a way to cover its own cost. (Resistant to disaster or political crisis.) As a result if one goes bankrupt, the rest will be OK.

Bonewald: It’s not a technology problem, it’s a business model problem.

Q: Can you describe a model in another country, and can what can we steal from them?

Vos: Proposal in EU government to open up broadband to other companies… Structural separation. Different companies providing service and infrastructure.

MacKinnon: Montreal, Berlin (mesh networking), Barcelona. Spain has a nationalized phone system that hasn’t trenched the rural areas. Responded by basically building a giant wireless LAN.

Bonewald: Getting people addicted to using wifi is a key component to getting a network going.

Q from Audience: What about partnering with YellowPages business?

MacKinnon: Great idea. Good to go after local weekly, ad-supported ads as well. Compelling value proposition to say “we’ll also run your ad on hotspots all over the city.”

Q: Structural separation sounds like the way to go. Is there any serious supporters for that in the United States.

Vos: The moment a politician breathes the word “structural separation,” they stop getting money from the telcoms.

Q: What didn’t work in Philly? In Mountain View, Google provides wifi, so can you speak to that.

Vos: Earthlink decided to get out of muni wifi. Philly also had a lot cost overruns.

MacKinnon: If any wifi network has the chance to use ads to support itself, one run by Google is it. Austin’s ad rate is $200 per month (that’s $1 per hot spot)… And Austin has the largest network like it in the nation.

Posted in SXSW,SXSW Panels at 3:22 pm

SXSW Panel: Life After The iPhone


Maestracci (Groove Mobile) / Jenson (Mobile UI Manager, Google) / Kaushansky (Tellme, Microsoft) / Ryan / Outlaw (Avenue A | Razorfish)

Kaushansky: Saying “mobile” doesn’t cut it anymore. Is the person walking? Driving? Is it noisy?

Outlaw: Sees iPhone as the beginning of an age of disruptive mobility. Traditional user experience deliverables are rapidly becoming extinct. Lack of standards in mobile will require hands-on experimentation.

Q: What do you love and not love about iPhone?

Maestracci: Multitouch was a breakthough in usability. But simple tasks like making calls, SMS, are somewhat challenging.

Jenson: Audacity of design… No menus or scroll-bars. But you can’t do the web in your pocket… But Apple keeps pushing that. You don’t want to read the NYT on these things.

Kaushansky: Impressed by visual voicemail. But coming from the voice world, why does it take five clicks to make a phone call? Why can’t I just say “call mom?”

Outlaw: A historic benchmark in mobile user experience. Myth was cell phones needed to be complicated to use. Apple broke that. Wonder if having hardware and software inseparable is going to be along term problem… Looking back, Windows won the desktop because you could extend it.

Jenson: Enabling much of the desktop. But what’s best on mobile? iPhone may reinvent itself as a new Blackberry. But because its so popular you may be able to fund stupid stuff…

Q: Who else is taking design seriously in mobile?

Maestracci: Sony Erricson is trying to push the envelope in a traditional way. Things you have to look at… Minimum clicks. SE is paying attention to that, opposite of the iPhone.

Kaushansky: In the past voice didn’t take advantage of screens, and screens didn’t take advantage of voice. But we’re starting to see that.

Q: How would you define a good user experience on screen?

Outlaw: What iPhone did well is strip phone down to core, essential features. Many phones have way more features than actually needed. Users will willing to pay more money and have fewer features to have those features work well. Interesting contenders include the Sidekick, which may be too big, but has a great keyboard and a great messaging machine. PSP slim with Skype could be interesting, as well as Skype phone in dev in UK.

Jenson: iPhone has gone too far in some ways. Worst SMS app ever, especially if you come from somewhere like Europe where its used all the time. Those feature limits have impacts. Makes him wonder if we need to have pain points to achieve minimalism.

Kaushansky: iPhone is great for entertainment, but its not a great device for communication. Sidekick is better for that. You have to ask, what’s the main goal of the device? Who’s going to be using it? It’s not one device for all, its what kind of person is going to be using it… And then build and design accordingly.

Q: Open access.

Maestracci: Android and iPhone SDK will open things up. Very positive development. Main problem is that today carriers control distribution channel.

Kaushansky: UI developers have to think about context when testing — How do you test voice sync when driving your Ford down the road.

Jenson: Right now the phone is a consumer of information… But it will become more of a producer of information.

Q: What would be your killer app?

Outlaw: Help me find my luggage — luggage search when in airport.

Kaushansky: Move my data wherever I am so I can access it. In my phone, steering wheel, etc.

Jenson: Infinite battery, infinite bandwidth. (Laughter from audience.)

Maestracci: Likes Kaushansky’s idea.

Q from Audience: People love their iPhones… And no one wants to criticize them. Will that make us take a step back?

(Not much of a response to this.)

Kaushansky: It’s moving up design as a discussion at the executive level. That’s probably a good thing.

Q from Audience: What kind of negative impact will iPhone have on SMS? Will it reduce usage of SMS overall.

Jenson: Hard to say. Apple’s trying hard to fix it. Uncomfortable saying it’ll impact the entire industry.

Q from Audience: Curious what you think about stylus inputs? iPhone is pretty good, but some time a stylus would be nice. What about things like drawing and sketching?

Jenson: As an option, sure. It gives you a much richer, granular experience, but it makes you feel extra geeky. And what happens when you lose the damn thing? That said, not a fan of the iPhone keyboard.

Outlaw: iPhone killers will have an opportunity to look at how people interact with devices, and what’s best. Keyboards, etc.

Q from Audience:  Are we going to start seeing sites optimized for iPhones at the expense of other mobile sites.  (Which could make the iPhone more ubiquitous.)

Jenson:  iPhone is raising standard, but it would be an interesting logic to lock other users out.

Posted in SXSW,SXSW Panels at 9:59 am

SXSW Panel: 10 Tips for Managing a Creative Environment


Bryan Mason & Sarah B. Nelson (both of Adaptive Path)

(Based tips upon conversations with organizations ranging from Neo Futurists to restaurant kitchen work to Avenue Q.)

  1. Cross-Train the Entire Team. People can specialize in different areas, but give them experience in all. Like Neo Futurists get people who can write, direct, act, do tech, manual labor, etc. People can slip easily from one role to another. “If someone gets hit by a bus they can still do a show Friday night.” Also makes group more cohesive, as people gain empathy for one another.
  2. Rotate Creative Leadership.
  3. Actively Turn the Corner. Point between divergence–creative and open thinking–to convergence–work towards production. It’s a problem when you have people in one phase who think they’re in another. “What if” is as bad in convergence as is “we can’t do that” during divergent part.
  4. Know Your Roles. Important in convergence phase. Everyone should know exactly what they’re doing once a poject has turned the corner. Everyone in a kitchen may love to talk about food, but when in service everyone has one exact thing that they’re doing–and depending on everyone else doing the same.
  5. Practice, Practice, Practice. Not just about improving individual skills but performance as an entire unit. It’s important to bring in new people at the right time — don’t bring new people into the kitchen on a Saturday night. Internal projects and R&D can be good opportunities to do that.
  6. Make Your Mission Explicit to the Whole Team. If all team members don’t understand what you’re trying to do, chance of success are very low. There is a problem with people not understanding each other… You must make things explicity, but you also need to make them actionable.
  7. Killing Your Darlings. Remove anything that doesn’t advance you towards the goal, including anything that you love. A systemic, reliable and respectful way of doing this is necessary. Ave. Q says “we’ll put that song in our TV show”, even though there wasn’t one, or a chef can say to an underling “when you open your restaurant you can put that on your menu.”
  8. Leadership is a Service. It’s a support positon for the creatives.
  9. Generate Projects Around the Group’s Creative Interests. Make sure you find things you’re engaged in, because if you’re not its going to cost you one way or another.
  10. Remember Your Audience.
  11. Celebrate Failure. It’s a necessary bi-product of the creative process. Make sure everyone knows that failure is OK… And when a project is over, make sure everyone can talk about it (like in a post-mortem) even if the overall project went really well. You learn more from the failures than the successes. Allow people to be constructive… Not “you screwed this up” but “this could have been done better.” Encourages people to take risks and be inventive. Without failure, you’re doomed to repeat the same things.

~ ~ ~

Audience comment: People to be cross-trained, but its important to only have one role when the project is rolling. People should know their roles, and not have to do everything.

Q: How can people who are not in management roles bring some of these ideas to their organization. A: Start like minds where you work and start converting. Also, if you’re in a creative environment that doesn’t let you throw up ideas, a good idea would be to quit.

Q: We don’t provide time to do throw-away work without thinking. A: May be better to build that play time into the regular work and development. Allow repeated throws at a real problem, rather than on working on something that will only be thrown away.

Posted in SXSW,SXSW Panels at 4:34 pm

SXSW Panel: The Web That Wasn’t


Wright (New York Times)

Why should anyone care? It’s interesting, not just historically, but its relevant to what’s going on on the Web today. The best technology doesn’t always win.

Charles Cutter — Notably librarian in 19th century. Had first reference to something that sounded like the Internet… In 1883.

HG Wells talked about methods of making all of human knowledge available to everyone…

Teilhard de Chardin — [Look up.]

Paul Otlet — Core insight was that librarians were fixated in books. Needed to get beyond physical artifact of the book, and get to the info inside. Remix and sort information in books if you can somehow get the ideas out and into an open framework. Wanted a classification system with index cards that have information extracted from books. Got funding from Belgium to actually try to build such a system. Took tens of thousands of books, had an army of people go through books and extract information onto index cards. Nazis took over and destroyed it. Olet died penniless and forgotten.

[See if we can find video excerpt of Olet’s ideas of 1934.]

Olet used Universal Decimal Classification for top-down categorization. Tried to include social links in books and between documents. Contructing the social space of a document. Links don’t just link, they say “this document disagrees with this other document,” or “this document agrees with this document.”

Web is pretty much bottom-up right now, but Olet’s Web would’ve had top-down classification as well. Look up FacTag–Modern, web-enabled attempt to do this.

Vannevar Bush — Science advisor to FDR, president of Carnegie Institution. Author of “As We May Think,” which he is mainly remembered for. Idea was that you could pull up multiple documents in microfilm, and make links and make comments about those links. Make links between two documents, and have them added to permanent record. Over time those links would become browsable. However, didn’t try to build it because he didn’t think the technology was there. More of a concept car approach.

Bush’s web would’ve had links that in both directions, and users’ experience could become part of a larger record. Trackbacks are kind of a weak attempt at capturing this principle (seeing value in inbound links). is kind of an example as well.

Eugene Garfield — Inspired by Bush’s essay, though about how to rearrange scientific information and journals. Felt most indexes for that kind of info was very limited. Also thought about who’s cited, and who’s citing articles. First look at web of influence, citation ranking (some citations have more value than others) and kind of a forefather of PageRank.

What would Garfield’s web look like? Google! In pagerank paper, Garfield was among the first people Page and Brin mentioned.

Doug Engelbart — Inventor of the mouse, but spent most of his time working on what he called the oNLine System (NLS), a system for organizing networked information. Wrote paper “Augmenting Human Intellect.” Check out presentation… (On YouTube as well.)

Current Web is built for individual user. Engelbart’s would’ve been more of a two-way street. Lots of attempts at workarounds today, but not the extent Engelbart would’ve liked to have seen. Current browsers don’t support identity management, etc. Check out HyperScope.

Ted Nelson — Cited by Tim Berners Lee as the person who’s ideas Berners-Lee worked off of. Nelson did a lot of research on the edges of respectability. Coined term “hypertext” in 1965. Promoted a very humanist vision of computing… Let people connect without institutional filters. Wrote book “Literary Machines.” Basically his idea of what would become the Web. Though of idea of putting live documents in other documents. If one was updated, from a practical standpoint both would be updated.

Nelson’s web would’ve had two way links, transclusion (documents updating each other), and intellectual property controls. (Currently some folks at Google working on browser that includes transclusion.) Nelson currently thinks the current web is pretty weak overall.

Andries Van Dam — Early collaborator of Nelson. Came up with Hypertext Editing System (HES).

Short on time… Running through IRIS, PARC, etc.

What might a next generation look like? Facebook has some examples… Links work in two ways, identity control, and acts as a framework for apps and other solutions. Just one example, others heading in this direction.

Wright has a book that has a chapter on some of this: Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages.

Posted in SXSW,SXSW Panels at 11:30 am

SXSW Panel: Blame Canada


Quano (Elastic Entertainment) / Thiele (ExPAN) / Atallah / Bocska / Krug

(The panelist/attendee ratio at this one is… Let me see… 1:5. Kind of like the good old days.)

Krug (during intro): Flickr started in Canada… With government funding.

Ok, the South Park into wasn’t necessary.

Bockska: They pay a lot of taxes in Canada… But you can fill out a form and get a lot of it back. That money actually goes somewhere and does something. It requires citizens to endure some bureaucracy, but you can get funding for projects that VCs wouldn’t be willing to put money towards Greater liklihood private business will drive innovation in Canada, rather than academia like in the U.S.

Thiele: Funding from all levels of government. Historically from education, but now also seeing more from smaller enterprise. SR&ED financing reimburses portions of money used for R&D in private companies.

Atallah: Programs like that help mitigate risk.

~ ~ ~

Thiele: Service exports are actually going up even though US and Canada dollars are pretty much equal.

Bockska: Tired of hearing about exchange rate. If you’re relying on the exchange rate or government funding you don’t actually have a business.

Krug: Isn’t that an anti-Canadian sentiment?

Bockska: “I fully admit that.” Better goal of funding is to help out friends in need, those companies on the cusp, and hope they make it.

Atallah: But quality of resulting products can benefit, especially where price differentials can make a big difference.

~ ~ ~

Quanao: Canada has traditionally been a natural resources supplier… And kind of the same in new media. In the order to get things to the next level, they need to go south.

Atallah: You don’t have to physically go south, but your business has to. They do smaller scale projects in NY, Japan, etc.

Bockska: For some reason has always felt more comfortable working with people in the Valley rather than someone in, say, Calgary. Canada may benefit from trying to look more

Thiele: There has been a tradition of migrating innovation south, but its slowing down, and you’re starting to see people go north as well.

Krug: In Vancouver, but most clients are American. Do you think your business would be more successful outside Canada?

Thiele: In Calgary, but 65% of business is in the U.S. Being located in U.S. hasn’t been necessary.

Krug: Are Canadian companies truly more innovative?

Quano: Maybe not, but they have the opportunity to try things and see if they can grow. Canadians swept recent Interactive Emmys.

Bocska: As Canadians, we have to be more innovative. Canada is not at the top, its a challenger that has to shake things up. “Canada is the Adidas to the United States Nike.”

Atallah: There is definitely a lack of the proper training and infrastructure for interactive media in Canada, but that’s true in U.S. as well. Finding the right people is the main constraint on growth right now. [emphasis mine]

Thiele: Look across North America for talent, but I find a lot in Vancouver.

Q from Audience: How many home runs do we have? How many RIMs do we have? One. The innovation is an act. There’s no market in Canada.

Bocska: It’s hard to feel like you’ve accomplished much in Canada. Only 30 million people in Canada… But they seem to have 1/10th of the industry… That’s pretty good.

Comment from Audience: Good at building, not selling.

Quano: The Catch 22 of these funding models is that since there’s not real expectation of revenue, things stay as experiments… That said, 1.7b generated in Vancouver for this kind of stuff… Not including EA.

Show of hands: About half of audience is Canadian.

Q from Audience: For each success story, there are 10 that fail. There’s a lot of crap and waste coming out of free money. Maybe an American model where you have to convince someone in advance would be better.

Atallah: I agree and don’t agree. But look at Dot Com in the U.S… Private financing funded a lot of crap. There is crap everywhere.

Response from Audience: But there’s a difference between funding crap with private money, and funding crap with my money.

Q from Audience: As a creative who is tired of NYC and isn’t interested in the Valley, how viable is it for Americans to move north to work in this kind of stuff?

Krug: Very easy… Bring your friends.

Comment from Audience: You know, this kind of funding does exist in U.S… SBIR grants, for example. Our company was partially started with it.

Comment from Audience: R&D research reimbursement helps encourage setup in Canada… Like Microsoft has done. American companies can nearshore and have part of their salaries paid for by Canadian government.

~ ~ ~

Didn’t go the way I expected, but very interesting panel nonetheless.

Posted in SXSW,SXSW Panels at 10:02 am



Nakagawa / Huh

Great panel, but clearly is going to be a panel better represented by the podcast than any attempt at a transcript.

Holy crap: Icanhascheezeburger gets 1.5 million page views per day.

Huh: “If you can create a train wreck every day, that’s entertainment.”

I missed this:

Huh: They get 8000 pictures a day… They post six.

Posted in SXSW,SXSW Panels at 5:00 pm
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