Real“ism” at 2011 South By Southwest Interactive #SXSWi #SXSW

17 03 2011

Did you need to go to SXSW to find out what’s been happening in the last 12 months? Did you need to attend Clay Shirky’s keynote or hear about the gamification aka. Game layer of social media? –  Just think for a minute about how you feel about Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Quora…etc these days. Overloaded?

No you didn’t need to attend. Nor did I. But I still had a great time there because SXSW is casual and people are still very approachable. I went to hear, discuss and exchange thoughts and words about what matters. And those I did find. No, the latest gimmick wasn’t there and launching anything in such noise would probably be a mistake. Social Media Tech is only a servant for those who want to make meaningful change happen. The revolutions happening in the Middle East are what’s important; much more important than any another location or photo app. I have ultimately come to the conclusion that I didn’t go to SXSW to see more technology, and if Leo Laporte or Jeremiah Owyang didn’t find enough (see tweet). I think it was predictable since buzz usually builds up before but none had risen before.  To quote Valeria Maltoni, “people will always outlast tools.”  Yep, we’re living it.

Let’s keep doing real work which impacts real lives. The superstar ego-system is fading away and the time of “the next killer app” has passed. If an app is really good, it will come to us no matter what. Startups don’t need SXSW to make or break it. We’re all too networked to miss the really good stuff. Yes, we’re still in a recession and it is keeping people realistic. In that same vein, Google was rumored by RWW (before retraction) to announce a new social network (Circles). Let’s not create hype when ‘we’, the industry geeks, shrinks and new media people, want real apps that add real value and do not waste the user’s time. So what did I see at SXSW?

1. An -Ism or separation between being entertained and meaningful changes. That’s right, the point of this blog. We are experiencing a real separation between the hordes of people who want to use technology, the web and applications to turn people into uber consumers or seeking fame and the OTHER hordes that believe that those technologies should serve societal change for the better.  2011 is certainly showing strong signs of an increase in both populations.

2. Gamification, aka the ‘game-layer’: The Seth Priebatsch keynote was quite interesting, as it made the case for re-creating experiences (like education) through gamification. Boredom and disengagement have been long standing problems in education, and elsewhere in our lives. Nevertheless, we are human beings with cyclical needs, not computers. Creating genuine experiences and learning is not something that should be only solved through more gaming. Being a parent myself, we ought to let people learn outside of pre-deterministic tracks like those computers and the game layer will impose.

3. Location is trying to grow up: LocalMind was quoted in many blogs as being a great step forward when it comes to location based shopping discovery. But location applications are going to have to become much smarter than they are today. Foursquare fatigue, ‘nuf said. I have, like many, subscribed to Groupon and other deal sites to experiment, and I am slowly… unsubscribing. They’re only filling up my inbox.

4. Healthcare is only getting bigger:
I spent a substantial amount of time at the OVERcrowded health track as Extanz is increasingly working in the healthcare space alongside its sister company, Sterena.com. We simply couldn’t fit any more people in each session. The health track was an unconference at 2010 SXSW and is overflowing already. This year, it was overflowing as well as a main track. Last year, I had heard way too much marketing/PR discussion during the sessions. This year, sessions were focused on the flourishing possibilities between healthcare, new media communication and community improvement.  Asthmapolis was mentioned as a breakthrough example of such possibilities. The apple app store accounts for 8000 health or healthcare related apps. Here are few take aways:

- Users’ first apps should be to connect with their doctors.
- Change has 3 main levels by Dr — epiphany (the rare case); change of context (more feasible)’ and baby steps (needs a feedback loop)
- Recurring use and measured behavior change are key for any app to have a hope of surviving. Too many apps are asking too much from users without giving data back quickly, or even better, first.
- Information VS. Prescription: The government will probably step in very soon to define the line between a simple app and a ‘device’ (where regulation will be imposed (FDA)) Information apps, however, will face less regulation as they are ‘prescriptive’ (via Jane Sarasohn-Kahn)
- Data people vs health people – “I ran two miles but I can’t visualize that” (Jon Richman) along with Roni Zeiger, argue that “all the healthcare data in the world is useless if it is not meaningful to the patient.”

5. #140conf – looking for inspiration? This is it.
This was my first opportunity to attend Jeff Pulvers’ year round conferences. Time flew by me, with short presentations from people using social medial or technologies to make big differences. The stories of Erik Proulx (@eproulx) with the lemonademovies.com project as well as Melissa Leon @melissaleon and Aj Leon @ajleon telling us about the extendedvillage.com project are all about such change.

6. Curation is the ever coming wave even for online shopping:
The more we curate, the more we produce, the more difficult it is distinguish between noise. Flipboard, My6Sense, and Paper.li all promise more signals and less noise. I was surprised to see this trend growing in social shopping. The web has diminished one thing, the ability for brands to share emotions as they do through print or TV had built. We learned from @willotoons that many new sites are trying to recreate both emotion, but more importantly, the curation of the shopping experience, like blippy.com, followstyle.com,  everlane.com, pinterest.com, pixazza.com, polyvore.com …etc.

So…My wish for next year: Sustainable / Cleantech will finally get a track in proportion to the magnitude of the problems they address. I think we can fill up rooms but it’ll take some bridge builders. I

sincerely thought that after last year’s unconference tracks on the subject, it would have been much bigger. Clearly ‘people’ lack data to know realtime what their consumption behaviors are. Just like healthcare, step 1 is the feedback loop. We all think our houses run like a Prius, while really they are more like Hummers. Cleantech will become big at SXSW when the early data collection players (Tendril Networks and other Power Tagging folks) come and meet people who can build cool apps. Or renewable energy folks like these best sellers should get invited. I want my phone to give me real time power consumption analyses of everything around me. The “internet of things” revolution will be much bigger than “social things.”

Anyway I hope to see you next year! I’ll go for longer, be picky, do more panels, continue to attend parties, ride a bike to get around and bring my power strip to be charging at all times.

@YannR



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