SXSW round up notes & tweets

While reac­tors were melt­ing down in Japan and pro­tes­tors were being shot in the street in Libya, I was com­plain­ing about sore feet as I walked around in the crys­tal bub­ble which is SXSW (More ful­ly South by South­west, but pro­nounced “South-by” when­ev­er said aloud). This is what SXSW Inter­ac­tive founder and res­i­dent Grumpy Old Man, Sci­Fi writer Bruce Ster­ling, scolds us for every year: for four days, Austin becomes the cap­i­tal of the inter­net, and we wan­der the yel­low brick roads between pan­els about The Next Big Thing, gasp­ing at the seduc­tive gad­get-and-app bestrewn world we glimpse through a gate whose mar­gin fades forever and forever when we move.

But the best of SXSW for me is when the boil­ing chaos of rev­o­lu­tion, cli­mate change, nat­u­ral and unnat­u­ral dis­as­ters, eco­nom­ic hard­ships, and all the things we’d like to change about the world get the atten­tion of the­se hyper-smart and hyper-entre­pre­neuri­al peo­ple. This is where ideas like Kiva are born, where the con­cept of doing well by doing good is alive and well and good. When I talk to the Google folks and hear about their gen­uine com­mit­ment to do some­thing about rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing ener­gy sup­ply (Face­book, meh, not so much. Yet) and hear a pan­el by some of the bright­est lights in the tech world who donat­ed three days to help­ing a char­i­ty fig­ure out how to improve their online per­for­mance: that gives me hope.

I found myself this year tak­ing notes almost exclu­sive­ly with Twit­ter. My pal @KarinaB of Oxfam is also an obses­sion­al quote-catcher, and I feel like I saw twice more than the con­fer­ence I attend­ed when she and I were in dif­fer­ent pan­els, fol­low­ing one anoth­er live tran­scrip­tions.

Two apps were stand­out new­com­ers that I real­ly used this con­fer­ence: Bel­u­ga, (recent­ly bought by Face­book) which allowed a group of us to form a “pod” and keep tabs on where the good pan­els were, where to meet up for drinks, how to find each oth­er. Absolute­ly great for coor­di­nat­ing a small group. The oth­er was Hash­able, which allows you to exchange busi­ness cards and make intro­duc­tions via Twit­ter.

So. I met an Oscar win­ner.

Just scored sweet t-shirt from @bri­an­fit of @green­peace
Stephen Dyp­i­ang­co

I helped a rock­et sci­en­tist from NASA out with his pre­sen­ta­tion.

@bri­an­fit Thanks for help­ing out with the Mac-VGA cable today. You #saved me! Enjoy the mini shut­tle 🙂 #sxswi #open­gov #gov­20
Nicholas Skyt­land

I had din­ner with the author of “The Pledge to Stop Com­plain­ing” who has a bril­liant plan to build a “Kind­ness Map”:

Excel­lent to meet @bri­an­fit — using social net­works to save the plan­et. Fun also to con­sid­er a new use for our Kind­ness Maps!
Cian­na P. Stew­art

A guy I shared a shut­tle with struck up a con­ver­sa­tion, and turned out to be son of a Green­peac­er who went on canoe trips with Green­peace co-founder Bob Hunter back in the day.

@jeffthe­sen­sei great meet­ing you! #just­met — Canoed with Bob Hunter in his youth. Ran­dom meet on the shut­tle.
Bri­an Fitzger­ald

I insult­ed a con­ser­v­a­tive for pre­sum­ing he sup­port­ed the Tea Par­ty (and apol­o­gised in per­son).

Inter­est­ing: self-con­fessed mid­west con­ser­v­a­tive says he bought a prius 2 reduce depen­dence on for­eign oil. Eco both­ers him. #good­byeoil
Bri­an Fitzger­ald
@bri­an­fit Eco doesn’t “both­er” me, per se. I do my best to min­i­mize my impact. It’s just not my pri­ma­ry moti­va­tor. #good­byeoil
Bill Play­ford
@wplay­ford Yep, my short­hand didn’t do jus­tice your state­ment, that eco argu­ments are a turn-off for many folks like you. #good­byeoil
Bri­an Fitzger­ald
So how do we muster the Tea Par­ty folks to orga­nize for Elec­tric Cars and reach out to folks like @wplay­ford? #good­byeoil
Bri­an Fitzger­ald
@bri­an­fit …and I don’t sup­port the Tea Par­ty move­ment (or stereo­typ­ing). #good­byeoil
Bill Play­ford
@bri­an­fit I appre­ci­at­ed the hand­shake. Let’s work togeth­er to solve shared prob­lems 🙂
Bill Play­ford

I talked to the guys from Hash­Tag Art about get­ting one of their super-nice­ly exe­cut­ed Mosaics going for us, and explored a script­ed adven­ture idea with Social Sam­ba.

So, a quick gath­er­ing of big take-home impres­sions: “Gam­i­fi­ca­tion” was the buzz­word of this SXSW, with pre­sen­ta­tions about how to fix real­i­ty — from edu­ca­tion to cli­mate change — with the pow­er of play, how to make games bet­ter, how to make games more coop­er­a­tive, how to build games for social good. There was much homage to Gowal­la, Foursquare and Far­mville, and there were two keynote games that total­ly rocked: Seth Priebatsch’s 2 min­ute crowd-sourced sort of 3,000 cards and Jane McGonigal’s Mas­sive­ly Mul­ti-play­er thumb-wrestling, both of which knocked my socks off.

RT @red­shoes: The oppo­site of play isn’t work — it’s depres­sion. #sxsw #real­i­ty­is­bro­ken
I so want to play Find the Future — coop­er­a­tive game Jane is design­ing for NY Pub­lic Library. #real­i­ty­is­bro­ken. I’m tear­ing up!
Bri­an Fitzger­ald
57,000 gamers list­ed as co-authors of paper in Nature: out­per­formed com­put­ers and sci­en­tists in fold­ing new mol­e­cules. #real­i­ty­is­Bro­ken
Bri­an Fitzger­ald
Evoke game by the world bank result­ed in 51 star­tups being fund­ed around the world all focused on pro­vid­ing social good #real­i­ty­is­bro­ken
kari­na bris­by

The role of social media in foment­ing rev­o­lu­tion was way up there as well, with the most salient note hit by Craig Shirky when said that just as Rock and Roll was once the nar­ra­tive of rev­o­lu­tion and the lan­guage of sub­ver­sion for the boomer gen­er­a­tion, so have Face­book, Twit­ter, and the lan­guage of the meme come to car­ry the nar­ra­tive of rev­o­lu­tion in repres­sive regimes.

Pon­der­ing @cshirky’s #talk­ingcure: Social media don’t cause social change, but offer plat­forms to spread ideas, syn­chro­nize actions. #IUSXSW
Hans Ibold

Access to con­ver­sa­tion is more impor­tant than access to infor­ma­tion for polit­i­cal realm — Clay Shirky at #sxsw.
Jen­nifer 8. Lee

The iPad’s pow­er to save the mag­a­zine was much trum­pet­ed by the Zom­bie Mum­mies… er, I mean tra­di­tion­al jour­nal­ists of course… who every year attend pan­els enti­tled “The death of Jour­nal­ism” and while Face­book, Twit­ter, and Blogs ran around with wood­en stakes, no actu­al undead were harmed in the mak­ing of this con­fer­ence. Though there was a whiff of gar­lic in the air for the “Death of Long­form Jour­nal­ism in a short-atten­tion-span world.” And while I only attend­ed remote­ly via Twit­ter stream, you can check my sources, below:

RT @mattd­pearce: Good news is, as long as peo­ple want to read #long­form, it’ll still exist. The bad news? Like all oth­er indus­tries, few …
Sabi­ha Khan
RT @Porter_An­der­son: RT @weegee: ‘Traf­fic’ is dif­fer­ent than ‘audi­ence.’ Traf­fic is big and shal­low. Audi­ence pays and sticks around. #l
Patri­cia Aran­cib­ia
#lfsa: Do you think the biggest threat to #long­form work is not that read­ers stop read­ing it but that pub­lish­ers can’t afford to pub­lish it?
Matt Pearce

Most use­ful was advice from one of the authors of “The Drag­on­fly Effet” along with lumi­nar­ies from Microsoft Bing, Web­trends, Google, et al who teamed up for three days to cre­ate a “Hackathon” to help non-prof­it organ­i­sa­tion DonorsChoose to increase traf­fic, con­ver­sion, and engage­ment via their dig­i­tal chan­nels. They record­ed, wrote up, and pub­lished the process and result into a sur­pris­ing­ly dense and use­ful free PDF book: The Good­ness Engine.

Most amus­ing: Shane Kempton’s “Steve Jobs and the rise of the Tech­no-Priests.” This was part his­to­ry lesson, part phi­los­o­phy, part epis­te­mol­o­gy: it was a sur­vey of today’s tech­ni­cal land­scape through the eyes of a reli­gious his­to­ri­an. It start­ed with the ques­tion, “What are Priest­hoods?” Priest­hoods gath­er the secret knowl­edge of the world and bring it to the peo­ple, and they decide the nature of good and evil and what shall and shall not be seen. Flash? It is an abom­i­na­tion unto the eyes of Steve Jobs, and shall there­fore be ban­ished from the Apple ecosys­tem. Bill Gates? He had a rev­e­la­tion, left the path of Take, Steal, Grab, and now wan­ders the Earth like a monk giv­ing alms to the poor. The most amaz­ing thing about this pre­sen­ta­tion was the graph­ic pro­jec­tion: it was a paint­ing, done by the Shane, but which looked like a 15th cen­tu­ry tapes­try. It was like a Prezi, done by monks.

Do no evil? You must first define evil. #techno­priest #sxsw
Bri­an Fitzger­ald

A pan­el fea­tur­ing our own Chris Eaton focussed on dig­i­tal activism, hash­tag takeovers, our Nestle Kit-kat social media cam­paign, and our cur­rent efforts to get Face­book to Unfriend Coal. Fas­ci­nat­ing debate broke out as PETA described their hash­tag takeover of the TWTRCON feed. In protest of a NASA speak­er (NASA was doing exper­i­ments irra­di­at­ing chimps), they tweet­ed an appeal to their sup­port­ers to retweet a mes­sage which con­tained the con­fer­ence hash­tag — so every­one who was at the con­fer­ence and fol­low­ing that tag would see it. One of the founders of TWTRCON was there and raised the issue that the action was dis­rup­tive to the tweet stream of the entire con­fer­ence — a kind of col­lat­er­al dam­age. I per­son­al­ly think that we as activists need to acknowl­edge this is an issue, and con­sid­er­a­tion given to that aspect next time. There’s times the end jus­ti­fies the means, of course, but just as we don’t win friends by block­ing whole roads in protest of CO2 emis­sions from trucks, tak­ing over a twit­ter stream for a cam­paign has to be weighed again­st the aggro it may cause to folks who are not, in the end, the tar­get of the action and may, in fact, be poten­tial sup­port­ers that we’re alien­at­ing.

Mar­la Erwin of Whole Foods did a deep dive into Social Media Fails from Amazon’s delist­ing of books with gay con­tent from their rank­ings, Unit­ed Air­li­nes break­ing gui­tars, Motrin Moms, and heaps of oth­ers. Mar­la has assem­bled an impres­sive­ly com­pre­hen­sive list of Social Media dis­as­ters for study of how not to han­dle a brand attack in Social Media. I liked Edelman’s anayl­sis of the stan­dard sto­ry arc for a social media fail:




4. Par­o­dy

5. Every­one con­sid­ers it fun­ny

6. Indif­fer­ence

7. Repeat

The advice she pro­vid­ed to those who find them­selves on the pointy end of a Social Media attack:

  • Fight social media fire with social media water. If you’re attacked on Face­book, respond on Face­book, and calm the waters, don’t feed the flames.
  • Con­text mat­ters. When a Social Media Fail starts, peo­ple pay atten­tion. You need to address the whole issue, not the frag­men­tary com­ments.
  • Apolo­gies mat­ter. If you are going to apol­o­gize to your cus­tomers, you’d bet­ter mean it.
  • Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Respect your audi­ence, your cus­tomers, your sup­port­ers: always.
  • Don’t del­e­gate a dis­as­ter. Empow­ered staff tweet­ing out is great, but when the tweets hit the fan you need offi­cial respons­es from offi­cial voic­es.
  • Avoid “The Streisand Effect.” The “Streisand effect” was coined when Bar­bara Streisand tried to get pic­tures of her house removed from a num­ber of web­sites, and set of a storm of defi­ant post­ings. As when Nestle tried to ban the Green­peace Kit Kat par­o­dy by order­ing YouTube to take it down, the inter­net hates cen­sor­ship, and the best way to pro­voke atten­tion to some­thing is to tell peo­ple to remove it.

While Mar­la didn’t specif­i­cal­ly use Kit Kat as a case study, there was a ques­tion from the floor about it: was this a rare case where the object of the attack came out of it bet­ter? Marla’s take was that it was a zero-sum for Nestle, that they didn’t lose or gain. I raised the point that this is unfor­tu­nate, in that when a com­pa­ny does the right thing, as Nestle did, we do our best at Green­peace to ensure they get cred­it equal to their grief: but just as the tra­di­tion­al media love to focus on con­flict, the pub­lic atten­tion that the #Fail got can well out­strip the atten­tion to the denoue­ment.

Amazon’s social media melt­down hap­pened over East­er — offi­cials on hol­i­day, no respon­se., but social media runs 24/7 #smfail #sxsw
Bri­an Fitzger­ald
A haz­ard of social media is that peo­ple will read what you write. #smfail #sxsw
Bri­an Fitzger­ald
Edel­man Word of Mouth Mar­ket­ing ethics: Hon­esty of rela­tion­ship, opin­ion and iden­ti­ty . #SXSWi #smfail
Bri­an Fitzger­ald

I’ve writ­ten up the “Has Face­book Jumped the Shark” ses­sion pre­vi­ous­ly — it was one of the best pan­els of the con­fer­ence.

Final­ly, check out Lori Robert’s excel­lent sum­ma­ry of “Why my phone should turn off my stove” and “Good­bye oil: accel­er­at­ing the Elec­tric Car Mov­ment.” Both the­se ses­sions were about dri­ving con­sumer behav­iour toward ener­gy effi­cient choic­es, and how we can lever­age games, social media, and online activism to make that hap­pen.

GREAT MISSION: Make the tran­si­tion to elec­tric cars an inspir­ing col­lec­tive action rather than a scary indi­vid­u­al deci­sion. #good­byeoil
Bri­an Fitzger­ald

And final­ly, the pre­sen­ta­tion on “Open Gov­ern­ment” yield­ed a tru­ly unex­pect­ed prize when Nicholas Skyt­land pre­sent­ed on “The next rock­et sci­en­tist: you” which focussed on par­tic­i­pa­to­ry space explo­ration projects under­way at NASA and among space-geeks the world over. I espe­cial­ly loved the Hub­ble Project’s crowd-sourcing of Galaxy clas­si­fi­ca­tion at the Galaxy Zoo. But the whole pre­se­n­a­tion was great: too good not to see in its entire­ty over at slid­e­rock­et.

OK, that’s it. I may add to this as I con­tin­ue to troll through my notes: there were dozens of oth­er great pan­els that bathed my brain and fed my soul, and as ever, it’s hard to cap­ture the expe­ri­ence and repro­duce it.

5 thoughts on “SXSW round up notes & tweets”

  1. Superb sum­ma­ry Bri­an! I love this quote: “The oppo­site of play isn’t work – it’s depres­sion.”

  2. Fixed! Thanks for the heads up, and on behalf of the lit­tle but­ton that enables OAu­th 2.0 secu­ri­ty for Face­book and mys­te­ri­ous­ly and mis­chie­vous­ly set itself to “No” — our apolo­gies.

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