South By Southwest (SXSW) – Final Thoughts

Some visuals for the crowd…


View of Austin

A sea of schwag bags

Check out the Flickr stream provided by Chad Hutchens for more pics from the conference and Austin.

South by Southwest Interactive was well worth the time and money. TERRA: the nature of our world didn’t win the finals, but I was pretty happy just to be competing in this race. In terms of new ideas for digital library apps, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so full of ideas after a conference. Some possibilities: microformats integrated into results pages, digital document delivery based on XML, api to leverage distribution of digital library videos… It was great to get outside of the library community and Austin was lots o’ fun as well. As conferences go, the price wasn’t steep – under $250 with food and drink options every night. If you get the chance, step outside your library comfort zone. It’ll work wonders.

UPDATE: The podcasts of the SXSWi panels continue to grow. Check out the SXSWi podcast page or subscribe to the SXSWi podcast feed to see the latest additions.


South By Southwest (SXSW) – Day 4

My final day at the conference. Still found lots to do and write about. More of a brain dump…

Get Unstuck: Moving From 1.0 to 2.0
Moderator: Liz Danzico Director, experience strategy, Daylife
Liz Danzico Director, experience strategy, Daylife
Kristian Bengtsson Creative Dir, FutureLab
Chris Messina Co-founder, Citizen Agency
Luke Wroblewski Principal Designer, Yahoo!
Jeffrey Zeldman Founder, Happy Cog

This was a great panel. A conversation about organizational cultures and how to change them. Relevant to just about anyone who works in the service industry.

Stuck is about perspective
act or process of:
doing good work
being productive
feeling fulfilled on a team

How are you stuck? too many meetings; micromanage

document design process with wiki, blog, flickr, open up to world
management through conversation – talk before design, listen, create trust and comfort
keep researching – getting data and trends, write things down to think things through
accept constant change – be fearless and have fun
set the terms for the conversation – name it
don’t pitch your process – just add value
articulate simple goals

“hire your clients” – find the opportunity, bring the solution
understanding context – become friendly

The Future of the Online Magazine

Moderator: Rufus Griscom CEO, Nerve Media
Rufus Griscom CEO, Nerve Media
Sean Mills The Onion
Ricky Van Veen Editor,
Laurel Touby CEO & Founder,
Joan Walsh Editor in Chief,

Another hilarious panel with leaders of some of the world’s most compelling online magazines discuss their visions of where this medium is headed. Pretty interesting to see old school editing model versus user-generated editing model. American Idol was used as an example of a user-generated media. Blogs continually came up as a way to increase readership and even recruit talent. The physical side of the business was also considered. Some of the “online” business are still dipping their toes in the physical world. Examples: the Onion – books and t-shirts; CollegeHumor – t-shirts.

How has business changed?
web2.0 has helped – blogosphere disseminates, lightly moderated content from readers
RSS helps, but only geeks are active users – newsletters are more effective (email)
increasing importance of natural web traffic and blog links

Is edited content obsolete?
full-time staff remains
collective editing can work, but we still need editors.

Can premium paid content work?
Advertising revenue can stem the tide
Subscription might be able to work – membership programs these are valuable, loyal users
“Our publications are a community” LT
Merchandise can be another source of revenue

How to maintain consistent voice?
Not really a concern, the web has multiple voices

The Growth and Evolution of Microformats

Moderator: Tantek Çelik Chief Technologist, Technorati
Frances Berriman Volume
Michael Kaply IBM
Glenn Jones Creative Dir, Madgex
Tantek Çelik Chief Technologist, Technorati

Microformats is an extension of structured xhtml and metadata… From the microformats site:

Designed for humans first and machines second, microformats are a set of simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards. Instead of throwing away what works today, microformats intend to solve simpler problems first by adapting to current behaviors and usage patterns (e.g. XHTML, blogging).

This was a packed house which is cool for at least two reasons.

1. It was competing with Dan Rather’s keynote.
2. It’s really encouraging to see geeks take the idea of metadata and bring it to the masses.

We’ll see if it takes off. At its core, it gives us a way to markup up blogs or web pages with some semantic data. It gives a richer meaning (for machines and people) to sections of a page. Imagine search results with extra standardized markup behind the scenes that let you push pieces of a page to mobile devices, feedreaders or even other web pages.

Favorite Question:

Could microformats be a data transfer layer? Yes, could be a low level API – expose a simple set of data. Could read simple structured data from a web page

Open Content, Remix Culture and the Sharing Economy: Rights, Ownership and Getting Paid
Moderator: Eric Steuer Creative Dir, Creative Commons
Eric Steuer Creative Dir, Creative Commons
Glenn Otis Brown Products Counsel, YouTube
John Buckman Founder and CEO, Magnatune
Laurie Racine Eyespot and DotSub
Max Schorr Publisher & Founding Ed, GOOD

Kind of hit or miss… Some feuding on the panel between Magnatune guy and YouTube guy. Some highlights about copyright and DMCA:

DMCA – it is up to content owners, tacitly they want people to use their content
Let copyright holders make the choice about content use. Direction is toward “openness”

Is it the responsibility of companies to be open?
good for business, good for customers
agreements/licenses could have simple and complicated versions

It was interesting to hear an audience member ask, “why should university license open content?” This could play into how we sell institutional repositories. Make the contributors know that they still own the rights to the content. Note to self: emphasize library role as one of access intermediary.

South By Southwest (SXSW) – Day 3

Keeping the ball rolling… Some thoughts from the day. It was another great day. The best part of this conference is hearing about new ideas and working to translate the idea into the library web environment.

Why We Should Ignore Users

Moderator: Robert Hoekman Jr Interaction Designer | Consultant,
Robert Hoekman Jr Interaction Designer | Consultant,
Sarah Bloomer Principal, Sarah Bloomer & Co
Mark Schraad Sr User Interaction Designer, AOL
Christina Wodtke CEO, Cucina Media

I love the title; I just couldn’t resist. What are the merits of user research? Great question and it was a room full of interaction designers, information architects. There’s a whole world out there whose job it is to research and create from the user perspective. Robert Hoekman Jr was the dissenter on the panel. The other panelists were really interested in canonizing user feedback as the only way to create. Hoekman pointed to the inconsistencies in user feedback and spoke about designing around tasks and activities. Build the tool and see what works for users. Might try and bring some of that sentiment back to academe…

Non-Developers to Open Source Acolytes: Tell Me Why I Care
Moderator: Elisa Camahort Pres of Events & Mktg, BlogHer
Elisa Camahort Pres of Events & Mktg, BlogHer
Dawn Foster Dir of Community & Partner Programs, Compiere
Annalee Newitz Freelance Writer
Erica Rios Internet Project Mgr, Anita Borg Institute For Women and Technology

Interesting panel trying to bridge the gap between open source zealots and the designers they develop for. A solid, balanced conversation about what makes open source compelling for both parties. Nice give and take with the audience. Best quote “Open Source is not free as in beer; it’s free as in freedom to build what you need.” There’s a hidden cost to this stuff, but you need to balance it with the advantages of the open programming development model.

How to Convince Your Company to Embrace Mashup Culture

Moderator: Kevin Lawver , AOL
Kevin Lawver AOL
Steven Chipman Pr Software Engineer, AOL
Gregory Cypes Sr Software Engineer, AOL Instant Messanger
Alla Gringaus Time Inc Interactive
Arun Ranganathan AOL

I was expecting a little more from this group. More of a dog and pony show about some pretty cool AOL projects. OpenID, a new way of confiriming identity on the internet based on a user’s personal url, received some airtime. Promising, but seems like it’s a bit out of reach for those people that don’t live and breath the web. There was also some encouragement to work on interesting projects outside of your work duties., an online storytelling service, was used as an example.

South By Southwest (SXSW) – Day 2

Lots of panels to visit. It’s a chance to see web heroes up close and personal. Most of the panels will be available as podcasts. Here’s the feed: Wireless access was pretty good, but I’m avoiding liveblogging the panels (obviously). I just wanted to collect some of my thoughts on my own time… Anyway, here’s a cursory summary and commentary of some of the panels visited.

A Decade of Style
Molly Holzschlag Pres, Inc
Eric Meyer Principal, Complex Spiral Consulting
Chris Wilson IE Platform Architect, Microsoft
Douglas Bowman Visual Design Lead, Google

More of a reflection on Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and where CSS development is going from some pioneers of design. Question and answer session mostly… It was interesting to note how much knowledge was the panel assumed the audience would have. Talked through very advanced CSS techniques and nobody in crowd batted an eyelash. It made me feel like I was in the right place. The highlight was hearing Doug Bowman talk about the possibility of layout markup for CSS and the use of variables and constants in stylesheets. Brilliant, let’s see it in the CSS 4 spec.

How to Bluff Your Way in Web 2.0
Andy Budd Creative Dir, Clearleft Ltd
Jeremy Keith Web Developer, Clearleft Ltd

These guys were entertaining and hilarious. Much of the presentation was tongue in cheek, but poignant. We’ve been doing a lot of this web 2.0 stuff since Tim Berners Lee invented hypertext. Look at Amazon and Ebay – commenting, rating… If you have a chance, listen to the podcast available on the South by Southwest site. This was the first session where I heard of a call to kill “web2.0” as a term. Let’s start looking at the technologies on their own terms and not get lost in the broader semantic debate. There’s valuable stuff under the web 2.0 umbrella, but let’s get rid of the term. Good stuff.

Web App Autopsy

Moderator: Ryan Campbell Co-founder, Infinity Box Inc
Ryan Campbell Co-founder, Infinity Box Inc
William Flagg Pres, RegOnline
John Zeratsky Designer, FeedBurner
Josh Williams CEO, Firewheel Design

A nice chance to hear from the folks that built FeedBurner. That’s a solid web application. The panel evaluated the code behind top web apps, more of a focus on eCommerce apps which was pretty relevant to libraries. A couple of takeaways from the QandA: “The reality is that the marketplace doesn’t look like us (techgeeks); it’s about selling ease of use for your application.” AND “Here’s a new design principle: put as few barriers as possible in front of user (keep forms simple)”

Web 2.0 and Semantic Web: The Impact on Scientific Publishing
“new webtech and science publishing: (re)constructing the scientific article”

Second mention about an allergy to the web 2.0 moniker… This was a great session looking at how web 2.0 technologies – social bookmarking, tagging, RSS – are informing the design of online scientific journals and the way research can be conducted. There was an interesting discussion about traditional metrics for impact factors and journal power rankings. Blogs, tagging, active participation in soical networks are a different kinfd of impact factor within your field. The problem is how to reward and encourage this new kind of impact. What can you measure? PageRank, Trackbacks, Web Traffic, number of bookmarks, number of comments.. These new opportunities for measurements move much faster than traditional citation ranking metrics. I’m leaving quite a bit out… A quick takeaway from the QandA: How does the Semantic Web relate to tagging? Tagging is first step – translate the actions and definitions we are seeing into semantic web relationships.

South by Southwest (SXSW) – Day 1

Stood in line today for my badge. It only took about 45minutes. (Pictures will be coming.) Chad Hutchens, a colleague and my travel guide, had the insight to get us to the convention center early.

This thing is big. Much bigger than any library conference I’ve been to. It’s also full of a younger crowd. 4o something feels like an old fart. I’ll post more later tonight when I collect my thoughts. Can’t wait for the start tomorrow.