At first, this year’s South by Southwest seemed like a bust, it is one of the biggest design, new media, social media, technology, and film and media conferences in the world. Gray skies, relentless rain, a labyrinthine of taxis and registration lines and traffic jams put a damper on the start of the show. But a few days in, after the sun came out in a blaze of glory, people pulled off their rain suits and started to mingle. After that, the conference was in full swing — dozens of panels, hundreds of sessions, some awesome barbecue and many cameos and keynotes by some of interactive’ s famous, the whirlwind week ended just as quickly as it began. Here are some of my crucial takeaways from the week.
One of the most talked-about services of the conference (and the year) is Pinterest, which charmed the heartland before Silicon Valley knew it existed. Which also raises the question: Will a successor to SXSW emerge, a smaller, more subdued gathering that is not permeated by the masses and corporate sponsorships, where start-ups can quietly show off their services and attendees can once again rub elbows with a select few? Flyers and gimmicks/swag were everywhere.
The Future of Social Media
Apps like Kismet, Glancee, Ban.jo and Highlight, which help people meet others nearby, were the talk of the town. It is not yet clear whether they will be a real success. But ambient discovery — tapping into rich and invisible layers of data to turn the smartphone into a kind of dowsing rod that can discover interesting things nearby — is a theme that is not likely to go away. It will be a recurring feature in the apps and services released over the coming year.
Everyone’s on their phones/device, social digital in full swing.
Kevin Systrom, chief executive of Instagram, took to the stage on Sunday to talk about the popularity of the company’s mobile photo-sharing application. Despite being available only for iPhone owners (although a version for Android is on the way), the service has attracted 27 million users in a little over a year, proving that there is life for budding social networks after Facebook and that the full potential of the ubiquity of the mobile phone is only beginning to be tapped.
Big Brands and Bands
Last year, start-ups tried to one-up each other with the biggest blowout parties. Zynga transformed a city block into a clubhouse and invited Sleigh Bells and TV on the Radio to perform, and Foursquare brought Big Boi of Outkast to play in an abandoned powerhouse. This year, big companies and major retail brands shelled out big money to woo the tech set, likely in the hopes of raising their cachet — and generating some tweets and Instagram photos promoting themselves. Microsoft erected a pop-up, purple-hued tent city to promote Bing, its search engine, while Bravo teamed up with TaskRabbit for an evening party. Warby Parker built a circus for conferencegoers to revel in, and Google set up an entire village. American Express threw a Jay-Z concert in the W Hotel. Media Temple’s big bash with Miike Snow and Kasabian which Aaron Skilken and I had the pleasure of attending.
Whether their efforts actually raised their social capital among those in attendance is up in the air, but it shows that the collective muscle of social media and winning the favor of the Internet is an increasingly important priority for large brands and corporations.
All in all, I can’t wait for next year’s event. Great meetups and events, BBQ’s and reuniting with colleagues from around the globe, this event went over well in my books.
A few must haves for next year:
1. A closer hotel which has me walking to sessions, no more shuttle dependencies
2. Better Adobe employee awareness, I found that our employees didn’t have a way to reach out to one another via some sort of gathering.
A few more images below.
Microsoft’s Bing Tent
Nokias new Lumia, awesome UX experience and form factor.
If you get chance you must try it for its elegance, strength and visual GUI simplicity.
I heard from their spokespeople its coming to Canada in 2 months, check with Rogers.