Merritt Colaizzi, SmartBrief’s publisher is down in Austin for South by Southwest— and she’s giving us a daily rundown on what she’s seeing, hearing and learning down at this year’s mega-event.
We’ll be updating a few times a day. Here’s a taste from Monday:
Still reeling from last night’s Alltop shindig and ensuing antics, I ran into Guy Kawasaki in the lobby of the Driskill this morning. Love this conference. Attendance at SXSWi (interactive) is double last year’s, but even so it still feels intimate. The visionaries are in large part accessible and self-deprecating, and no one is overtly pitching so it nears the feeling of a genuine community. I can’t tell you how many presenters have said things like “We don’t know what we’re doing with social media, we’re just doing it.” and “I wanted to Twitter at work, so I started Twittering ABOUT work, and it went from there.” That candor is refreshing and should be reassuring to marketers who find themselves in the same boat.
One more word about the vibe so far: Kate, my SX partner in crime, left her iPhone on a chair in one of the sessions this morning, and when panic struck her an hour later, there it was. Good stuff.
One of the coolest things about this festival is its interdisciplinary nature. Recording artists show up for technology branding sessions and geeks go see the latest documentaries. The cross pollination is extraordinary. Even within SXSWi, audiences and interests are wide-ranging — social media being only one of many components. The panels I attended today reflect this diversity. Here are my takeaways:
1. Beyond Aggregation — Finding the Web’s Best Content
This panel was techier than I expected; it was directed at geeks looking for trusted news sources. Noteworthy nevertheless: At the end of the session, the moderator asked each panelist to reveal one secret. It was a great tactic and people stayed glued to their seats until the very end. His secret was how ReadWriteWeb identifies early adopters by tracking the first 20 folks who click a certain set of links on their site. They then follow those people. Great idea.
2. How to Protect Your Brand Without Being a Jerk
I wanted this panel to be about issues that companies like Skittles have with surrendering their brand messaging to their audiences, but it ended up being advice for creatives about copywriting their personal brands.
3. Today’s Keynote: NYT columnist interview with James Powderly, one of the founders of Graffiti Research Lab.
These are the guys who use laser tag technology to write graffiti with light on buildings. The “LED Throwies” technology they invented is open source and easy to create, so it’s being embraced by other technologists, artists and activists worlwide. It’s supercool.
4. IndieWire conversation with Col Needham, founder/CE0 of the Internet Movie Database: With 3 billion page views/month, and having sold IMDB to Amazon, Needham’s vision now is to put a play button on every single one of their 1.3 million title pages so people can legally stream any film, TV show or Web series instantly. It will be interesting to see if IMDB can do better than the music business on digital rights management. One of their key strategies, to develop the relationships with the individual filmmakers, is off to a good start.
1:57 AM (Tuesday morning?)
When I first started coming to SXSW as a music fan five years ago, I learned quickly that it’s just too much (cue the violins). There are too many concurrent panels to attend, too many interesting people to talk to, too many parties to get to, and now, too many tweets and blog posts waiting to happen. Translation: too little sleep.
Take tonight. After a marathon day of SXSWi sessions, we sidled up at the bar at Buffalo Billiards for the Austin on Rails happy hour. In theory, the event was organized for developers and enthusiasts of an open source application called Ruby on Rails. In practice, the bar was packed with fans of free food and beer (Tip: check out Fireman’s Ale from Blanco, TX)
Next up, a fete at the Bellmont hosted by Lane Becker from Get Satisfaction, with whom we shared a table a couple days ago at a pizza shop across from Stubb’s BBQ. A couple of interesting Webby guys – one a marketer and the other a designer — came along from the happy hour, and another guy we met, an actor who lives in Austin and is involved with the film festival, texted us from The Onion party at the Mohawk and came over and joined us. Next thing you know, there was dancing, a photo booth and a burlesque show complete with corsets and pasties and peacock feathers.
Welcome to South by Southwest after hours.
Photo credit, bionicteaching