Checking in from SXSW

It’s day three at SXSW and before heading out for a breakfast taco (yeah, I know)and the first panel of the day, a quick update!

After two days of panels I can say again the same thing I always say: If you want a panel that rocks you need to be concrete: give real examples, tell stories, show us stuff. Interestingly I read a book on the plane on the way over that explains this really well, it’s called Made To Stick, and if you need to be communicating your ideas to others it’s definitely worth a read.

There have been some panels that rocked and others no so much. Here’s my top five favourite so far (in chronological order):

  • After the brief – a field guide to design inspiration Jason Santa Maria and Rob Weychart led an energetic and inspirational session sharing with us what they do in their lives to foster creativity and inspiration, including design vigilantism, crossword puzzles, and regular exercises with extreme design constraints. They talked a LOT about getting away from the computer and actually making stuff. I’m inspired :)
  • Tag, You’re It – it’s from this panel that my favourite quote to use out of context comes. “There’s no such thing as Information Architecture anymore,” says George Oates. By happy accident I ended up at this panel when I had something else pencilled into my program and it was great. I’m happy that we’re not spending time arguing taxonomy v folksonomy so much these days, but looking at how people are using tagging and what we can learn from this mass of data and human behaviour. This panel also introduced me to my new buzzword for IA ‘pivot’, which Thomas Vander Wal used a lot to describe what you’re doing when you click on a tag and which has a close relationship with facets. I’ve heard it used a few times since but it was new on me. I can’t decide if I like it or not.
  • Stop Designing Products – Peter Merholz argues that the experience is the product and there is much more to good experience than cool technology or a bunch of features. Good experiences are born from a clearly articulated strategy that is applied across all channels, and a big part of that strategy is retaining the magic in the user experience, where magic to the users is data and logic to the rest of us! 
  • Every Breath You Take – an incredibly intelligent, engaging and interesting panel on identity, attention and reputation which are topics that I’m finding incredibly interesting at the moment. There are all kinds of problems and opportunities around identity at the moment and this panel, including Christian Crumlish, Ted Nadean, Mary Hodder, Kaliya Hamlin and George Kelly took a run at some of them. I’m still thing about the idea of Identity Friction and how we need to increase identity friction in virtual spaces to better replicate how it works in the ‘real world’.
  • Making Your Short Attention Span Pay Big Dividends – a lighthearted, story filled and inspirational presentation from Jim Coudal (Coudal Partners) and Brendan Dawes (magneticNorth) the crux of which is – have lots of ideas and give them a go, see what happens. Less with the talking, more with the doing. That way fun lies.

The biggest highlight of SXSW is the people. It’s been amazing to meet all the amazing people I’ve met so far, to catch up with a few people I know who are here, to put faces and real life personalities to the voices behind the blogs and books I read, to be amongst hundreds of people who are also completely into it.

I got to have a quick play with one of the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) machines the other night and whine to an engineer who actually works on Google Reader that it’s way to slow (he knows, they’re working on it). This is all ridiculously good.

So, for now, I’m going to step away from the laptop and get back amongst it. More soon!

3 thoughts on “Checking in from SXSW

  1. OK, it’s hard to find female representations at geek conventions like these, so I’d like to introduce you to Vanessa Tan from Singapore. She’s at SXSW, runs a blog at and she’s on twitter as vantan as well. Maybe you gals can meetup in real life.

  2. “Maybe next year”

    I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve said this but it never seems to happen :)
    AU feels like the arse end of the world sometimes.

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