22sxsw

On dining.

Oh, magical lunch truck. You miracle on wheels. Such wonders you hold inside thee. A full kitchen with 18 people working in the back who each speak different languages, a driver / cashier, who speaks no discernable human language at all, just some kind sing-song tongue of riddles and rhymes, and what sounds like a 12-piece mariachi band. The laws of space and physics are strewn aside by the lunch truck. It has no time for the rules of mortal men. It must mass produce dish after dish of inexplicable mystery food that looks vaguely Spanish and taste like cherub punched you in your mouth hole. The lunch truck needs no gas. It runs on used piñata parts and dried torero roses. Sometimes I’ll ask the driver where they will take their remarkable caravan of tortilla delights next. He points to the distant horizon and says, “To the further.” I think that’s where heaven is.

—@javiermolinos

SXAW: My Experience

We’ve been back a little over 36 hours now, and after having dispensed of the 350+ emails awaiting me in my inbox yesterday, this morning I’ve actually had some time to really reflect on what this experience has done for me.

Yesterday was, of course, all about relating the story to coworkers, friends, family- the description “amazing, but aggressive” was shared more than once- however, it truly was SUCH AN OVERWHELMING wash of information, networking, and getting from one place to the next, today was really the first chance I’ve had to sit and just THINK!

Now that I have, I’ve recognized that there are 5 major themes that really stuck out for me from this year’s SX. These are probably not the same 5 themes that any one of my coworkers or any other person attending the conference would relate- but that’s what’s great about SXSW- it’s YOUR experience.

1. Think Big- The Sky is NOT the Limit

2. Digital Backlash: Craving Humanity

3. Crowdsourcing and the Sharing Economy

4. Disruption of Regulated Industries

5. Passion Drives Success

In order to keep this post relatively short and digestible, I’m going to touch on each of these themes in a separate, dedicated post. For today, let’s focus on the first one.

1. Think Big- The Sky is NOT the Limit

In years past, everyone has been on the lookout for what the “IT” social media fad/app/digital microtrend of the moment is debuting at SXSW. This year, there was more of an emphasis on the BIG- the FUTURE. During the first day’s Keynote presentation, Bre Pettis, the CEO and co-founder of Makerbot, introduced the Digitizer- a new element to the “3-D Ecosystem” that could, as some are speculating- ultimately render the traditional factory worker obsolete. Although Bre himself didn’t much touch on this- there has been much talk about whether, one day, this technology could be used to build replacement organs. Organs!! (Watch Bre’s Keynote here)

In what ended up being, to me, the most inspiring and fascinating of the Keynote speeches, Elon Musk took us through his thought process on developing SpaceX, a company that ultimately intends to commercialize space travel. In his words- he just kept waiting for NASA to go back to Mars, for man to walk on the surface- and when it never happened, he decided to make it happen himself. Who the hell just DECIDES to make a company that creates spaceships in the hopes of COMMERCIALIZING SPACE TRAVEL? He spoke a lot about the waste involved in traditional rocket design, about how 90% of the investment in a rocket is destroyed within its voyage- all because we haven’t found a way to allow it to safely return to earth and land where we want it to. THEN he debuted a video to us of a rocket that SpaceX has designed- successfully taking off, and then landing in the same spot. Amazing! (Sorry guys, apparently this Keynote was NOT recorded)

Lastly, I attended a session with Jason Silva, a “Filmmaker, Futurist, and Performance Philosopher”, in which he explored the evolution of man not as a biological phenomenon, but rather as a cultural and intellectual one- raising such questions as, if we ARE nature, how can anything that we create be considered unnatural? As we develop, for instance, wearable technology, cyborg technology, etc.- can those things not be seen as an evolutionary exoskeleton? Fascinating stuff. One short video he showed, entitled “Radical Openness”, I found especially inspiring- and speaks to the benefits and possibilities of the open exchange of ideas and information. We should all be doing this more often- sharing ideas constantly, everywhere- in the hopes that our ideas will spark bigger, better ideas- this is how great things become reality.  (Watch Jason’s session here- I especially found the Q&A fascinating)

In short- I didn’t leave Austin with a new social network, a new app I will never use- I came home with the desire and excitement for bigger things. When I think about the fact that Elon Musk basically recognized three major areas in which radical and disruptive change were NECESSARY- the internet, the evolution of clean energy, and the exploration of space- and chose not just one of the three to revolutionize, but tackled ALL THREE, basically simultaneously- it makes me feel very humbled, and drives my desire to DO THINGS. So, if you’re reading this, and you ALSO want to do things- come talk to me. Let’s make it happen.

Nightcap Recap

No, we’re not doing a podcast, it’s an online radio show. There is a difference, but just barely.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening during SXSWi, team 22squared and Charlie Uniform Tango will be hosting a live roundtable discussion highlighting the day’s themes and events. Join us for the half-hour broadcast between 5:00-5:30 starring 22squared folks, along with friends of the agency, and our favorite industry notables.

SXAW: My Experience
We’ve been back a little over 36 hours now, and after having dispensed of the 350+ emails awaiting me in my inbox yesterday, this morning I’ve actually had some time to really reflect on what this experience has done for me.

Yesterday was, of course, all about relating the story to coworkers, friends, family- the description “amazing, but aggressive” was shared more than once- however, it truly was SUCH AN OVERWHELMING wash of information, networking, and getting from one place to the next, today was really the first chance I’ve had to sit and just THINK!

Now that I have, I’ve recognized that there are 5 major themes that really stuck out for me from this year’s SX. These are probably not the same 5 themes that any one of my coworkers or any other person attending the conference would relate- but that’s what’s great about SXSW- it’s YOUR experience.

1. Think Big- The Sky is NOT the Limit

2. Digital Backlash: Craving Humanity

3. Crowdsourcing and the Sharing Economy

4. Disruption of Regulated Industries

5. Passion Drives Success

In order to keep this post relatively short and digestible, I’m going to touch on each of these themes in a separate, dedicated post. For today, let’s focus on the first one.

1. Think Big- The Sky is NOT the Limit

In years past, everyone has been on the lookout for what the “IT” social media fad/app/digital microtrend of the moment is debuting at SXSW. This year, there was more of an emphasis on the BIG- the FUTURE. During the first day’s Keynote presentation, Bre Pettis, the CEO and co-founder of Makerbot, introduced the Digitizer- a new element to the “3-D Ecosystem” that could, as some are speculating- ultimately render the traditional factory worker obsolete. Although Bre himself didn’t much touch on this- there has been much talk about whether, one day, this technology could be used to build replacement organs. Organs!! (Watch Bre’s Keynote here)

In what ended up being, to me, the most inspiring and fascinating of the Keynote speeches, Elon Musk took us through his thought process on developing SpaceX, a company that ultimately intends to commercialize space travel. In his words- he just kept waiting for NASA to go back to Mars, for man to walk on the surface- and when it never happened, he decided to make it happen himself. Who the hell just DECIDES to make a company that creates spaceships in the hopes of COMMERCIALIZING SPACE TRAVEL? He spoke a lot about the waste involved in traditional rocket design, about how 90% of the investment in a rocket is destroyed within its voyage- all because we haven’t found a way to allow it to safely return to earth and land where we want it to. THEN he debuted a video to us of a rocket that SpaceX has designed- successfully taking off, and then landing in the same spot. Amazing! (Sorry guys, apparently this Keynote was NOT recorded)

Lastly, I attended a session with Jason Silva, a “Filmmaker, Futurist, and Performance Philosopher”, in which he explored the evolution of man not as a biological phenomenon, but rather as a cultural and intellectual one- raising such questions as, if we ARE nature, how can anything that we create be considered unnatural? As we develop, for instance, wearable technology, cyborg technology, etc.- can those things not be seen as an evolutionary exoskeleton? Fascinating stuff. One short video he showed, entitled “Radical Openness”, I found especially inspiring- and speaks to the benefits and possibilities of the open exchange of ideas and information. We should all be doing this more often- sharing ideas constantly, everywhere- in the hopes that our ideas will spark bigger, better ideas- this is how great things become reality.  (Watch Jason’s session here- I especially found the Q&A fascinating)

In short- I didn’t leave Austin with a new social network, a new app I will never use- I came home with the desire and excitement for bigger things. When I think about the fact that Elon Musk basically recognized three major areas in which radical and disruptive change were NECESSARY- the internet, the evolution of clean energy, and the exploration of space- and chose not just one of the three to revolutionize, but tackled ALL THREE, basically simultaneously- it makes me feel very humbled, and drives my desire to DO THINGS. So, if you’re reading this, and you ALSO want to do things- come talk to me. Let’s make it happen.

Words With Yeend: "Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating"

Yesterday I saw a humorous panel that stuck with me. A woman named Amy Webb told her story of finding love online, like many people do. But she found that dating sites’ algorithms – decent as they may be – were filled with bad input data. Everyone who signed up responded to profile questions in a superficial, aspirational way. That meant everyone looked better on paper, and no one really revealed meaningful traits of a mate. So she set out to improve her odds.

As I listened to her rigorous, data-driven, quantified approach to finding the love of her life, I couldn’t help thinking about our clients. After all, aren’t we doing the same thing? Trying to find real connections with customers who will love us?

She started by acknowledging her odds; the real size of her target (1 person in a city of 16million). Then she defined what was important to her in great detail.

Then, she created a point system – a way to quantify each attribute. For example, if she found a guy who was a non-smoker, that was worth 50 points. If he was very opposed to cruise vacations, that earned 100 points. If he was “culturally Jewish,” he got another hundred. Her 20 or so attributes let her rank each target, and qualify them. So if a cute boy scored low on things that mattered, he wouldn’t get her correspondence.

She analyzed the competition. She made a male profile, and scouted other women’s profiles, words they used, how they described themselves, their careers, interests, expectations. She learned exactly what was getting clicks.

Then she analyzed her “product” (her words). She modified her own profile, essentially applying SEO/SEM to her love life. She adapted how she represented herself to maximize appeal, based on actual target (male) behavior. She took new pictures, showing bare arms, and no glasses.

And it worked. Suddenly she had more responses than she could handle. (Still, none of them met her high scoring criteria, so she expanded the geographic radius of her search.)

She applied Moneyball-style analysis to her online dating life.

Seems to me that brands try to do the same thing, but often they don’t go as far as Amy did. Brands that want to find true love with their customers could take a similar approach. 1) Acknowledge the true size of the actual target, and define them in great detail (hint: the target is not “men and women ages zero and up.”) The best campaigns are built specifically for a very narrow target, they have razor sharp focus, and in-so-doing, they incidentally appeal to many, many others. Get microscopic about who you’re after, and the upper funnel will naturally widen. 2) Define what’s important to your brand, and try to quantify it for analysis. 3) Size up the competition in granular terms. The words they use, and how often. The photos they post. Where/when they get response. 4) Adapt your offering to what works, based on empirical proof. 5) Re-size your universe for results you’re after.

Watching Amy speak, the whole room fell in love with her a little bit. And while we’d never date her, the love she found through focus and rigor was contagious, and inspiring. It has hundreds of people talking. Why can’t a brand do the same?

For more about Amy, click away:

http://schedule.sxsw.com/2013/events/event_IAP1389

http://www.webbmediagroup.com/amy-webb

She probably SEO’d her LinkedIn Profile as well. http://www.linkedin.com/in/amywebb

Words With Yeend: Punks Make the Best CEOs

Yesterday I heard an inspiring presentation from Nathan Martin, founder of DeepLocal. He’s a former punk rocker / former disruptive artist. (Look him up, and marvel at his lack of criminal record.) Based in Pittsburgh, DeepLocal got on the marketing/tech map with the Nike/Livestrong Tweetbot at the Tour de France. Here’s what he says - 10 WAYS a punk rock approach can make you a kick-ass leader.

BE FIRST. Doing something original and quickly can get a punk band noticed. Same goes for a company or brand. Being first can make all the difference. 

BE REMARKABLE. Live a life worth telling stories about, whether you’re screaming onstage, or planning a brand effort. Aim for the newsworthy, the attention-getting, the surprising, the borderline illegal. It makes people think. And it makes people talk.

BE PROLIFIC. Punk bands know this; they’re constantly cranking out new songs. Look at a Ramones record with twenty 2-minute tracks on it. Heck, that’s even how the Beatles cut their teeth before they were famous. Producing many, many things is key to a hit rate. Don’t be too precious about one project. Do a hundred. It trains you to always be producing, a good habit that works out the kinks in your process. 

BE NICE. While punks make angry music, in person they’re some of the most compassionate, authentic people you can meet. Why? They know that like-minded people become friends, friends become collaborators, and it’s critical to create your ecosystem of allies; people who have your back, and vice versa. You may meet these people again years from now. In the meantime, the people you work with are talking about you.

BE PASSIONATE. So many people spend their days doing things they don’t want to be doing. This drastically lowers your chances of success. Listen to your heart, follow your passion, and your success rate goes up - because you’ll love spending tons of time on it. 

REINVENT THE WHEEL. Don’t be afraid to blow up your model. In other words, you should feel zero allegiance to the projects you’ve done before. Replicating success is never guaranteed, but replicating disruptive results with totally new projects is always possible.

GAIN NEW PERSPECTIVES. Expose yourself to unrelated fields; learn about the larger world around you. Because a routine life leads to routine outputs. Put yourself in situations you’ve never been in before. You’ll naturally make unexpected connections - of other people and other ideas - and you’ll set yourself and your approach apart from others. 

BE AUTHENTIC. You can’t fake inspiration. A singer can’t fake that they believe what they sing. We can tell. And a CEO can’t fake that they believe in their approach. People can always spot a fake.

WORK HARD. Sure, some people get lucky and succeed without much effort. But 99.9% of us won’t. So working extremely hard is the only way to gain traction. Imagine how much harder a punk band has to work, rather than say, a cover band. This means you may work harder than you ever thought you would - certainly harder than anyone else is, and more than anyone expects. Drive all night to your next gig, load in your own gear, and do that every night - that kind of work. 

DON’T GET COMFORTABLE. Success (i.e., money) can lull anyone into complacency. Fight it. Stay hungry. Angry-hungry. #hangry - If you’re not waking up each day on a mission, then you might be getting a bit comfortable.

In other words, dear leaders of the tech and marketing worlds, be more punk rock. It will only serve you well. (@davidyeend)

(PS - the 200-person room was crammed with 250 people, all in various stages of “reformed rocker” life tats-and-all. Q&A lasted 45 minutes past the session’s end. DeepLocal is a 25 person company, and this approach is validating some of the more original minds now in the business. Proof.)

Spann SXSW Session Takeaways

The Mechanics of Magic: 7 Game Design Insights

Presenter: @cwodtke

Publications: http://www.amazon.com/Information-Architecture-Blueprints-Christina-Wodtke/dp/0735712506

Presentation: http://www.slideshare.net/cwodtke/the-mechanics-of-magic

This session was not necessarily about the gamification of websites, but the sort of things we have learned after implementing various forms of gamification.  Being able to choose the right amount of gamification for your site/app and implement it in a way that encourages engagement for all users is a challenge that every project must face.

The key takeaway for me was that the best way to keep users engaged in a website/app is a loop.  For many shopping sites, an example loop would be Shop > Buy > Review > Shop (repeat).  Adding slight gamification to this process has helped many sites, such as Amazon’s Top 500 Reviewers page (a leaderboard).

 

LGBTech: Equality in Tech & Where We’re Going

Presenters: @andrewwatterson @keithkurson

This was an open discussion about the status of LGBT equality in the technology industry, an industry which sometimes fosters discrimination of various forms.  For the most part, the participants felt that things were in a pretty good state, though most seemed to either own their own companies or work in supportive environments.

One point of contention was the subject of volunteer work, such as Hackathons.  How do you invite fresh-out-of-college, tech industry volunteers to a competitive, team-oriented environment and ensure that your organization’s non-discrimination and no harassment policies are honored?

While these points weren’t necessarily discussed in the talk, after thinking about it afterward I came up with a few steps an organization can take to foster a safe, inclusive environment when they host a Hackathon:

  • In the registration form, be clear that discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated at the event and will be grounds for immediate disqualification

  • At the kickoff meeting of the event, reiterate that unprofessional behavior will not be tolerated, and be sure all participants know they can contact one of the event organizers if they witness or experience any form of harassment

  • Have a plan in place to enforce the policies: have organizers casually check in with groups and individuals during the event, and have a plan to deal with problematic participants (disqualification, redistributing team members, etc)

     

WYSIWYS: What You See Is What You Spec’d

Presenters: @danjgardner @davatron5000 @ajbreuer

Presentation: http://www.slideshare.net/ajbreuer/sxsw-wysiwys-complete

This was a session focusing on Responsive Design, which had several takeaways for me:

  • Websites are now your brand’s style guide… rather than designing a business card, the side of a truck, etc, you are designing a collection of assets that can be used on any device and any medium when you design a responsive website

  • Collaboration between UX Designers, Visual Designers, and Developers needs to happen early in the creative process, and potential problems need to be identified as early as possible so that solutions can be found.  Early prototypes of every piece of functionality can help encourage discussion and identify problems

  • The design and development processes need to become more adaptive themselves.  Instead of the more linear process for standard website (Wireframe to PSD to Development), every step of the responsive process needs to be open to change, even the finished product.


The New API: Apps, Partners & Income

Presenter: @adamd

This session presented APIs (Application Programming Interface) with a more modern definition including Apps, Partners, and Income.  This was probably the session with the most ‘aha’ moments for me at the conference, and the speaker had many good points.

The big takeaway was instead of feeling obligated to create an API because every other app has one, proactively integrate the API as a business strategy:

  • Segment the functionality of your app between the app-specific interface and an API that could be useful internally on other platforms and business partners.

  • Establish business partners with other apps and websites that would like to use your data, and potentially provide custom functionality for the API.

  • Generate income by licensing the API to other companies that can utilize your data.

100 Year Starship isn’t about travel. It’s about capabilities that will benefit humanity long before we launch a mission.

I’m in science heaven right now. Dr. Mae Jemison, Dr. Jill Tarter, LeVar Burton all in one place discussing imagination, education, space exploration, sustainability and yes… the holodeck.

#22sxsw #sxsw #22sq

Words With Yeend: Elon Musk

You think you’re busy? Meet Elon Musk.

For the uninitiated, he was a co-founder of PayPal to make his first billion. Now, he is the co-founder and CEO of three – THREE – companies that are tackling enormous breakthroughs. Tesla, which is manufacturing the sexiest electric cars on the planet (IMHO). SolarCity, which is one of the largest manufacturers of solar panels in the country. And SpaceX, which is building private rockets to service NASA space stations, with the goal of eventually colonizing Mars. Sound crazy? Only a little.

In Elon’s keynote, he spent most of his time talking about SpaceX; obviously the project he’s most passionate about. He has an engineers mind, combined with a restrained, measured, deliberate, yet disarmingly frank manner of storytelling. And a knack for phrasing things in layman’s terms. Even I could follow his reasoning. He’s obviously very in touch with the day to day details of his businesses, especially SpaceX.

He also has an almost comically lofty goal. Instead of the 30,000 foot view, he has a 30-million foot view. He’s concerned that 500 million years from now, humans won’t be able to live on earth any more. He thinks we need to become an inter-planetary species. This is non-fiction for him, and many many others. Not a joke. At all.

At SXSW, Elon Musk is a rock star. The 1,000 person capacity room was jammed, and his talk was simulcast in two other rooms, also seating 1,000-plus.

Here are three takeaways from Mr. Musk that might apply to our own terrestrial lives, jobs, and brands.

Think big. No bigger. An audacious goal like colonizing Mars inspires people to dream. When you think “what’s the vision” for your company, think as big as you possibly can. It inspires your own people, and legions of fans.

In the Q&A section, someone tweeted in a question that stumped him. “What has been your biggest mistake?” Elon Musk, and thousands of viewers, sat in awkward silence as he considered his answer. Would he talk about his first three rocket launches that each crashed into the rocky shores of the Pacific? Or something more personal (like his three ex-wives)? No. His answer had to do with hiring people. He said his biggest mistake was over-valuing brilliance of the mind, hiring for brains and not accounting for the heart enough. In other words, in the past he had underestimated how much it matters to hire good-hearted, passionate people. He has learned how critical that is to success.

Oh, and have kids. They’re ok having a busy, multitasking parent. And they inspire awe, even in Elon Musk.