March 17, 2014


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SXSW Interactive 2014 Recap

south by south west doodle

SXSW Interactive can be overwhelming. The hype, the parties, the crowds. It is sometimes difficult to separate the noise from the real insights and connections you are there to make. (Well, some of you are there to make. A lot of you are just there to party and get noticed. That’s OK too.) Every year is different. What you get out of it is different.

This was my third SXSW Interactive. And my most diverse in terms of content. It was well worth the time. I’ve summarized four sessions that I attended that I think are worth sharing, though there were plenty more I could talk about.

Lets get to it:

Show Your Work! : Keynote by Austin Kleon

austin kleon - show your work

Show Your Work! is Austin’s latest book, and his presentation centered around the book’s theme — content creation in our socially connected digital world. Following up on Steal Like an Artist, Show Your Work is about developing your craft in the open, sharing what you learn as you go along your journey and learning about the right way to make connections.

If you’ve followed my blog or my work at all, you can tell I’ve read Austin. I’ve also read Gaping Void, Steven Pressfield, Chris Guillebeau and more. They are all creative individuals who have developed person brands and created work that helps others follow their own path to creative fulfillment, with a bent towards the practical. (The photo above is of Austin and…the guy who was in front of me in line.)

How the DIY Movement Is Reinventing America

hackerspaces logo
The most entertaining panel of the week for me was this one. Moderated by Dylan Tweney of VentureBeat, the panel included Alice Brooks, Co-Founder of Roominate, Eric Gradman, Co-Founder of Two Bit Circus and Mitch Altman,CEO of Cornfield Electronics.

Each panelist had a different story about how they contribute to the “DIY Movement”. Alice Brooks came out of school with an engineering degree and created a toy for girls that blends creativity and engineering. Eric Gradman talked about Two Bit Circus and how what started as a side project of crazy ideas turned into a business of engineering entertainment. Mitch Altman talked about Hackerspaces and how he helps form them in cities across the world.

Mostly, they talked about the emergence of small batch manufacturing and the grass roots approach to engineering and creativity that is fueling this movement. I found this panel very interesting because I see this movement as very similar to the rise of individual content creators, online micro businesses and what I call the continuing education movement. “Continuing” is probably not exactly the right word, but I am a believer that lifelong education will be a necessity in the future because the the ever changing technology landscape.

Design for Drivers: The Optimal Connected Car

design for drivers graphic recording by Imagethink

Peter Skillman of Here, gave a very insightful presentation about the connected car experience. He stated that we are currently not taking full advantage of the opportunity in front of us to create enhanced driving experiences. We are moving towards replicating the phone experience in the display of the car and that is a failed approach. People LOVE their cars. They also love their phones. Finding a way to merge that passion is the key. He outlined 4 key traits that make up a great connected car experience:

1. Personal – Make the experience unique to the driver
2. Pure – Keep things as simple as possible
3. Essential – Create beauty in the everyday action
4. Emotion – More is better than less

My favorite of his insights: “The best interface is no interface at all.”

Actionable Gamification – Beyond Points & Badges

cropping of octalysis of Facebook
The most fascinating session of the conference for me was Actionable Gamification by Yu-kai Chou. He presented his Complete Gamification Framework that outlines the basic motivations behind user behavior. I found his framework so interesting because it feels very much akin to basic user interface design or even print design. Designers try to communicate something to a viewer and elicit a reaction. We are always looking for that core motivation to address and/or create around. Frankly, this session is really difficult to summarize. I recommend checking out the framework for yourself. He describes it better than I ever could.

I will, however, leave you with an excellent example of gamification from his presentation: Speed Camera Lottery.

Well, that is it for this year’s SXSW. See you all at next year’s Nerd Valhalla!

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