SXSW INTERACTIVE FESTIVAL Conference Notes Lori Marino March 26, 2009

SXSW Interactive 2009 Report

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Lori Marino

March 26, 2009

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South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSWi) is part of a larger festival that also includes Music and Film. The interactive festival is an event that celebrates the best minds and the brightest personalities of emerging technology.

• Features five days of exciting panel content that consist of approximately 490 sessions.

• SXSW Interactive Festival has a reputation as a breeding ground for new ideas and creative technologies.

• Attendees range from hard-core geeks to web designers, content creators, and new media entrepreneurs.

The notes in these slides are limited in scope and based on the sessions I attended. They are not intended to provide a comprehensive overview of the conference.

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• Memescape (noun) – the collection of all things currently existing or becoming massive cultural phenomena on the web, and the underlying pattern that connects them (LOL Cats)

• The Cloud (noun) – a world existing in part or in total on the Interwebs and/or via electronic/telephonic/cellular communication, such as texting

• Grok (verb) – to understand something so intuitively and with such empathy that you internalize it

• Whuffie (noun) – “social capital” or the currency of the future

• Crowd-sourcing (transitive verb) - for a blogger, crowd-sourcing is just outsourcing your research. For example, pose a question on Twitter and wait for the responses. The CEO of Forrester does this.

• Microformats (noun) - a set of simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards for developing better structured web microcontent publishing

Source: The Austin Chronicle - http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/story?oid=oid%3A751396

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MAKE YOURSELF MORE INTERESTINGLane Becker, Get Satisfaction and Founder, Adaptive Path

Kristina Halvorson, President, Brain Traffic

DL Byron, Publisher, Bike Hugger

Amit Gupta (Founder, Photojojo)

Brian Oberkirch, Small Good Thing

•Experiment – avoid measuring and analyzing

•Apprentice yourself to great work

•Give side projects front and center time

•Focus on “delicious details

•Find stuff you think is cool and share it around – this is how you develop reach and influence

•Sustainable awesomeness – Plan – Create – Publish – Govern(the care and feeding of your epic stuff)

•Talk to people like they are human beings

•Marketing is now a 2-way conversation

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BRANDING IN FOUR DIMENSIONSJamie Monberg, Interactive Director, Hornall Anderson

• Interactive is not just about digital.

• Successful brands empower their users through interactive design.

• It’s our responsibility to help brands become more interactive, whether it’s through a digital form or otherwise.

• It’s more important than ever to connect with consumers in a meaningful, relevant way and to interact in a way that creates or supports a relationship.

• When it comes to design, consider the cognitive load. In other words, make sure the tools aren’t too complex.

Podcast download

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BRANDING IN FOUR DIMENSIONSJamie Monberg, Interactive Director, Hornall Anderson

“Transparency is the cost of entry. It’s not a choice.”

Brands that embrace transparency not only can develop a more authentic dialogue with consumers, they can also stand to profit more as a result.




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THE SEARCH FOR A MORE SOCIAL WEBDave Morin, Platform Manager, Facebook

Computers have largely been antisocial - it was only with the advent of the computer that we’ve been playing games with ourselves. Only in the last few years have computers really started to become social.

Facebook Connect allows users to make their identities portable. It allows us to see what our friends are up to – he jokes “If your friend

does something on the internet and nobody knows about it, did it actually happen?”.

TechCrunch comments have become more authentic than ever before because users can log in with real names, which are linked to their Facebook accounts (using Facebook Connect).

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UX TEAM OF ONELeah Buley, Adaptive Path

This session focused on tips for working as a user experience team of one. Leah recommended a process to come up with several ideas before deciding on one. As ideas are refined, the best ones begin to emerge.

1.Brainstorm (without using the computer) – instead, using paper and pen and various brainstorming tools:

– 6-up template: use to sketch ideas. You’ll hit a wall after two. Keep going and fill out all 6 sketches

– Conceptual frameworks: spectrum, 2x2’s, grids, word associations, inspiration library

2.Assemble an ad-hoc team (project managers, developers, etc.)

– Organize a workshop with populated sketchboards using butcher paper on a wall

– Host open design sessions

– Give them a problem and ask them to help solve it

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UX TEAM OF ONELeah Buley, Adaptive Path

3.Pick the best ideas:– Come up with 5-7 pithy statements about what you want the

experience to be

– Define the “Quiddity” of the experience (e.g. Google Calendar)– “Fast, visually appealing and joyous to use”– “Your whole life in one place”

4.Wireframes are obsolete– Move from sketches to interactive prototype

– Add sketches to PPT and include hyperlinks to simulate interactivity

5.Helpful tools & Resources– Adaptive path workshop: “From sketching to prototyping in two


– Slides for this presentation at www.slideshare.net/ugleah

– www.adaptivepath.com/ideas

– “Concept Share” – tool for sharing creative concepts remotely

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JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF DESIGNJared Spool, User Interface Engineering

Discussed concepts of “self-design” (37 Signals) vs. “user-centered design” (Don Norman)

• There is no evidence that user-centered design has ever worked

• Apple doesn’t do much usability testing anymore. Microsoft does thousands of user tests every year. What does that tell you?

• Don’t always do things the same way. Methodologies can be too limiting.

• It’s about good teamwork. If everyone works together toward the same end, you’ll be much better off than people working alone and complaining.

• Beware of “voodoo” techniques like eye tracking and analytics.

• It’s about time we replaced the user-centered design dogma with informed design.

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JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF DESIGNJared Spool, User Interface Engineering

Three core user experience attributes:

1. Vision

2. Feedback Loop

3. Culture

Three questions for implementing informed design:

1.Can everyone on the team describe the experience of using your design five years from now? (Vision)

2.In the last six weeks, have you spent more than two hours watching someone use your design (or a competitor’s)?

3.In the past six weeks, have you rewarded a team member for a major design failure? (Intuit has a culture that accepts mistakes and learns from them.)

Resources: www.uie.com/brainsparks, www.uiconf.com, UIE tips newsletter

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Hosted by Chris Boller, Digital and Social Technology Lead, Razorfish with panelists from H&R Block, J.C. Penney and Carnival Cruise Lines

1.H&R Block: Customer connections build a lifelong relationship– They use Facebook, MySpace, widgets for Blogs with latest tax news

– YouTube as a showcase for TV commercials

– Client Community – populated year-round with content related to events, health benefit enrollment time, school enrollment, etc.

– On Twitter since 2007 (@HRBlock)

– Superbowl campaign – Cyclops

– Yahoo answers – tax questions answered, powered by 100,000 H&R Block tax professionals

2.J.C. Penney– Created the “Doghouse” viral video to create awareness around jewelry

stores in J.C. Penney

– Video created by Sachi & Sachi and DeBeers. New Media Strategies did the seeding, banner ads, etc.

– 4.1 million views, 60% completion rate

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Hosted by Chris Boller, Digital and Social Technology Lead, Razorfish with panelists from H&R Block, J.C. Penney and Carnival Cruise Lines

3.Carnival Cruise Lines

•Cruising is inherently social

•Social media team consists of: strategist, community manager and two specialists

•Created a community in 2005 around a group planning tool that included forums. The planning tool didn’t take off, but the forums did.

•On Twitter since 2007 (@carnivalcruise)

•One of their cruise directors, John Heald, has a very successful blog

Like branding, social media is difficult to measure. If you don’t use it, you run the risk of alienating the younger generation.

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WIREFRAMES FOR THE WICKEDMichael Angeles, Nick Finck, Donna Spencer

Reviewed six types of wireframes:

•Reference zones, high fidelity, story boards, standalone, specification, sketch style

Each project may require a different process, depending on needs. Sketches? Wireframes? Interactive prototypes?

Helpful resources and tools:

•Balsamiq.com – mockups

•Viseo stencils available on Nick’s personal site. Viseo has a sketch style?

•Omnigraffle sketch stencils

•Protoshare – prototyping software for creating interactive prototypes

•Slides of this presentation with details of each type of wireframe available on slideshare.

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WIREFRAMES FOR THE WICKEDMoving from Sketching to Wireframing

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WEB STANDARDS PROJECT Derek Featherstone, Accessibility Consultant and WaSP Team Lead; Glenda Sims, Stefanie Sullivan, Adobe Task Force; Aaron Gustafson, developer, A List Apart

This session was the annual meeting of the Web Standards Project (WaSP). The Web Standards Project is a volunteer, grassroots coalition fighting for standards which ensure simple, affordable access to web technologies for all.

Microsoft and IE8•WaSP has a joint task force with Microsoft to work collaboratively on IE8

•The entire rendering engine for IE8 was re-written, and is the first browser to be fully compliant with CSS 2.1 specs.

•IE8 has a compatibility list. It will list your site if it is not standards compliant. Molly Holzschlag refers to it as a “black list”

•We need to make sure that thomsonreuters.com is compliant

WaSP has started an educational organization to aid in the adoption of standards: http://interact.webstandards.org

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WEB STANDARDS PROJECT Aaron Gustafson, developer, A List Apart

This is where the term “Progressive Enhancement” originated, which is sometimes referred to as the “three layer cake”.

“Build it so it doesn’t break from the ground up.”

Learn more on this topic from Aaron’s article on A List Apart

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UNIVERSAL BY DESIGNJames Craig, Apple, WaSp, WC3

Universal Design -

“Design that is so thoughtful, it works for everyone.”

Things that now being worked on to accommodate the disabled will be cool for everyone (eg: hatpics).

Examples of universal design:

•Cuts in the curb to accommodate wheelchairs

•Closed captioning

•Text messaging, which has replaced TTY machines

The future:

•Haptics – receiving feedback based on the sense of touch

•The Navy’s tactile situational awareness system

•Haptic radar headband

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• Using GPS and location to enhance social networking

• Interoperability of various social networking apps. For example, many are beginning to gravitate to “O Auth” for authentication. Move toward openness and sharing.

• Games on the iPhone, especially Facebook games using their new API (Facebook Connect). Playfish launched Facebook games on the iPhone during SXSW.

• Web Fonts - The technology is available to display custom fonts in the browser using an embedding method (@font-face). There are issues with type foundries with regard to licensing, but since Thomson Reuters owns its corporate font, this should not be an issue for us. For more information, see:

– http://sxswtypography.com: describes how to use @font-face to display custom fonts

– http://webfonts.info: much info on @font-face embedding

– http://webtypography.net