Tuesday, March 17, 2009

SXSW 2009 | Take-away’s from this year

Ah, another SXSW Interactive. It was larger than ever this year, with an estimated 10,000 attendees, but it was still the SXSWi that I know and love. There’s a real community at the conference, once that is stronger than ever, even as the audience diversifies. I highly recommend it for anyone in the technology field, or thinking about getting into technology, because it truly represents the feel of the industry: ultra geeky, super smart and collaborative to the core.

Here are my take-away’s from this year’s conference:

1. Get ready for voice

Between the voice-focused start-ups and panels at SXSW as well as recent voice-related announcements from both Apple and Google, voice integration seems to finally be making headway. For years we have been struggling to figure out voice recognition but the software has just not been up to par. This year though, the year after the iPhone went mainstream, voice is on everyone’s mind. It’s a further merging of the computer and the phone as well as technology and biology.

2. Tackle crowd think

Now that we are all up to speed on social media (that felt like it took forever), we can finally tackle some of the bigger issues of the social web. I heard quite a bit about “crowd think” this year—the concept that when people get into large groups, they start thinking in the same ways, and it can be difficult for alternate voices to be heard. It could be that the size of communities have grown in the past few years, or it could be that the types of folks in communities are more average folks (read: not your average opinionated technorati types who formerly made up the majority of online communities). In any case. It’s something to think about as we develop communities. Derek Powacek talked about how to design around crowd think, and the folks at flickr, CurrentTV, Etsy, Metafilter and YouTube talked about how to moderate as your community grows larger and changes.

3. Welcome Best Buy’s new open API
One of the more exciting announcements at SXSW this year was the open API from Best Buy called Remix. Finally, someone in the “traditional” business world was brave enough to make the first Web 3.0 move. Best Buy’s open API enables developers to take product information from their catalog, and well, do what they will with it. I can’t wait to see what happens.

For all of those geeks out there who I met this year, I hope you stay in touch and let me know what you’re up to. Maybe we’ll run into each other in 2010. Until, then, I’ll catch you on twitter.

We're the RedOrbit blog of the day!




RedOrbit.com, an online community focusing on science, space, health and technology, chose Digital Dialogs as their blog of the day!

Thanks RedOrbit!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

SXSW 2009 | Impromptu Twitter conversation

The twitter panel was at capacity and will not be podcast, so we started a conversation in the hall. Folks here from Oracle, Ford, SW Airlines, Salesforce.com. Here are some of the questions:

1. Do you use a company voice or an employee voice?
Most people want a personal voice. But what happens when you leave a company? Have to start rebuilding trust and followers. One solution si to use a / then initials to show who is writing the post.

2. Do you do an account for every product or for the entire brand?
Depends on type of company.

3. How do you know who to follow?
A lot of people use tweetdeck.

4. Does anyone use yammer?
Yes and can use it with a #tweet to go to a main "editor" who can then publich. to twitter.

5. Talk about tools
hootsweet, tweetlater, techrigy

SXSW 2009 | From Flickr and Beyond: Lessons in Community Management

3:30pm
Sunday, March 15th

Description: Companies across industries are developing and fostering online communities, recognizing the benefits of connecting with customers on the Web. Unfortunately, not all communities thrive to become a successful vehicle for businesses. Leaders of top online communities from Flickr to Facebook will discuss top best practices for managing online communities.

Speakers: Heather Champ (Dir of Community, Flickr), Mario Anima (Dir Online Community, Current TV), Matthew Stinchcomb, VP Community, Etsy Inc) Jessamyn West (Dir of Operations, MetaFilter), Micah Schaffer (YouTube)

Jessamyn: At Metafilter we only recently in last few years we have instituted flagging, I do a lot of that. We now have an extra flagging option that is offensive. As community got bigger we didn't all agree on things and we needed this flag.

Matthew: At Etsy, challenges we faced were how to grow big but stay small. As community gets bigger people get less forgiving. Also new company to remain transparent. New people internally don't always know that. The communities come first.

There's a common misunderstanding that online communities censor. How do we handle this?

All have been called facist and the like.

Micah: YT is a platform for speech. Our role is to try to accommodate as much as that content as possible. There are things as a UGC site some services may not be able to host: 1) legal constraints 2) user experience, finding negative content when you're not looking for it, content that is hostile to an environment, if you want to preserve a diverse ecosystem you have to find ways to account for counter-discovery, max amount of content but finding it when you want to 3) being socially responsible and preserving your ability to function as a site, want users to be a part of

Mario: People think it's amusing when we censor thing because CurrentTV is about democracy. When people cross the line they get pushy. We treat it like anything else. If you are posting something that hinders someone else's ability to enjoy the site we take it down but people want to read into it. Best to carry out the conversations in the space they are happening and to be transparent. Sometimes need to get on email or on the phone and explain it, try to be open ... here's how your post could have been ok.

Part of this is that there can be a perspective from the outside world that community management is easy. How do you stay sane?

Matthew: I generally believe that people working at Etsy believe in it.

Mario: Do town hall chats every week to get feedback. Getting people in rooms and having a conversation really helps. For most part the conversation is important an the sane person with respect you for that. The insane person won't show up to those chats.

Heather: Hard to learn when not to respond. People will paint their own reputation. The there are times that when you step in you can end or detour the conversation.

What one piece of advice would you give to a community person, starting ot maintaining a community?

Mario: Understanding there's a lot more to the role than just removing comments or making things clean or pretty. You have to be committed to it. Every email should be responded to. People feel heard. We have also opened things up ... people can reach me on twitter, etc. But by doing that you are making a promise that you are going to commit to responding. Most people don't understand what comes with that.

Matthew: Focus on internal communication, that teams are speaking to each other. Communicate as many ways as possible with user and listen and don't be afraid to be honest and open.

Micah: Understand what your community is about but also be flexible and empower them and try to cultivate something good. Be willing to grow and adapt. People may use it in ways you didn't anticipate.

Jessamyn: We have goals we would like to happen and then there are things we do not think are useful to the community. Some things we do talk about and consider. Our basic rule is "don't be a jerk." Need to explain why that rule is a good idea. helps other people get it and they become part of the solution. Have a place where feedback can happen in public. Everything is publics which is scary but people also trust you.

SXSW 2009 | Keynote: Nate Silver Interview

2pm
Sunday, March 15th

Description: Fivethirtyeight.com was one of the biggest winners in the 2008 November election, successfully predicting the Obama landslide. Veteran BusinessWeek columnist Stephen Baker talks with Nate Silver, the man who's statistical analysis powered the site.

(Note these are all paraphrased responses. Questions from Baker are posted at http://thenumerati.net/)

Baker: What were you doing during Iowa last year?

Silver: Not a big fan of polls, there's just room for improvement. Narrative was simplistic, for example, Obama can't win among working whites. It wasn't looking at the big picture. From a data geeks perspective it was a big experience.

Baker: What did you learn about race in America?

Silver: It's complicated. Can't put any one racial group together. People are quick to assume something is about race when it isn't.

Baker: A lot of research I do, people say demographics is dead. There's lots of ways to crunch data. Are there new "tribes?"

Silver: Sometimes we have micro-targeted groups that make us short sited. At some point it makes sense but we can go to far about being too overly specific.

Baker: Most Americans don't care about specific issues-would you agree?

Silver: In some ways the issues in a campaign are superficial.. I think people are looking at things outside the issues. Would be interesting to have qualitative look at people, say 1,000 one-on-one interviews with voters. That could be fascinating.

Baker: How does Pekota relate to politics?

Silver: They're pretty different. I believe in being really meticulous. If you really want to solve a problem the most interesting things you learn are when you are at the part of the curve with little difference. Decisions made on margins. But both are long seasons, you don't find all that much info at once,. One poll in June means almost nothing. People are trained to overreact. A lot of what I was doing was urging patience.

Baker: Was there an instance that swing a state for you?

Silver: There's a variable in ancestry. Its a badge of pride in certain areas. is is what leads to the forecast?

Baker: How much is Manny Ramerez worth this year?

Silver: Baseball puts too much emphasis on what just happened. He's being paid twice what he is worth/ Teams underrate how rapidly players decline.

Baker: What effect does the economic crash have on voters?

Silver: We've never seen this in the modern era, this level of not being able to see the light. People are almost fearful. It's almost a 9-11 type of event. At some point maybe in 2010 there will be an intersection between Obama's approval rating and the fearfulness. There's about a 3-6 month grace period but after that, after about 18 months people will assign him much blame as much as Bush. he needs things to turn around soon. Although people think the recession will last a long time, they are more pessimistic than economists so he could actually beat expectations.,

Baker: Is anyone polling zip codes for high foreclosure states?

Silver: Not really. Rate of migration is lowest its been on record except during wartime. There are a few areas of higher unemployment, That is the key area to look at. Employment may actually lag behind recovery an you will still get blamed if that is the case.

Baker: You talked ab out recency and how people have ignored past recessions. How can you compare different recessions when you on;t have the internet an there are so many changes?

Silver: Over the long run the volatility of the economy has decreased.. Still people dismiss recessions of the past. System like the economy are complex. We're good at making up explanations when we see random data.

We try to put probabilities around everything we do. If we're off were we wrong or unlucky? It's hard to say. For example, a baseball player playing badly might be due to him breaking up with his girlfriend and drinking too much.

Baker: Project looks at workers behaviors and networks and predict what a worker will be worth in a few years, do we provide training, etc.?

Silver: A lot of what Gates is f=doing is how to we evaluate teachers? I;m a little suspicious that a poorly executed objective option is worse that a well executed subjective one. At a 30k foot level it might be helpful in deciding general things, But there is a give and take there.

Baker: If you could get a masters in something what would it be?

Silver: Computer Science. In some fields a master's doesn't help you. But if I could write some of my own code that would be helpful.

Baker: Would you put your genome on the Internet?

Silver: No, I am relatively private. I'm surprised at how much people are willing to share every detail of their life right now. It's GenY'rs. Average 15 years old girl sends 2500 text messages a month, constant desire to be sharing. I think there's a balance there.

Trying to branch out a bit. Tried to do Oscar predictions but didn't go that well. Looked at 30 years to find variables that are predictable. Got best actor wrong. But some are ok to get wrong.

If you know you're gonna be wrong keep working on your f* model.

Baker: Are you going to get into predicting who is going to be a terrorist?

Silver: In baseball you have 100 years of stats plus no cost if you are wrong. Terrorism you're looking for a needle in a pile of needles. It's hard. No one has great answers. A lot of people working hard on it but collecting data that is reliable is a challenge.

Baker: People on twitter inters ted in predicting whether flights would be cancelled.

Silver: I like JetBlue because they have TV but if you look at on-time for airlines, JetBlue is punished because it flies out of JFK so you would like something relative to the airports.

Baseball is the perfect data set. You can see a 4th and 5th order correlation but it spoils you in a way.

Questions from the audience?

Q: How did you face the challenge of collecting the polls?
Silver: Not too challenging, steal off the polling sites an they steal off us; folks would email us etc. But no way to validate whether it's real or even good.

Baker: A challenge for media is to acquire the skill of collecting data.

Silver: I'm not a huge fan of prediction. Stock market is biggest example and hasn't been doing well lately. I think crowds are generally pretty wise but they can also be every wrong sometimes. This is the big question: how do people form their opinions?

SXSW 2009 | Derek Powacek Designing for the Wisom of Crowds

Sunday
11:30-12:30

Description: People are often dumb, so how can crowds be wise? James Surowiecki laid the groundwork in his book, "The Wisdom of Crowds." In this solo presentation, Derek Powazek will apply those ideas to the web, concentrating on how to design websites that empower people to work together to create something truly awesome.

Four Concepts

1. Focus on small simple tasks
Good examples: Hot or Not or Threadless
Bad example: Assignment Zero (started by Wired(), told users to go write magazine articles; then refocused in smaller tasks, such as who should we interviews, pick someone to interview, etc.

2. Large Diverse Groups
Important because they help avoid group think. Online communities often do this because they tend to raise their barriers of entry over time. Example: Chevy Tahoe campaign. Powacek claiming this as failure in group think ... but the ir sales went up!

3. Design for Selfishness
Large groups of people do not participate unless they are getting something out of it. You must take into account people's selfish needs. What are they getting out of this? Why should they bother? Think about hoe people tag photos. People are just trying to get to their photos, not build the semantic web. If properly harnessed our selfishness can become smart for business.

4. Result Aggregation
For example favrd.com. Takes flickr tags and aggregates them daily. Surfaces stuff the crown likes without asking them.

The Heisenberg Problem

Say we do these four things and it produces a list of "best" things. Once we surface to their world we are showing a leaderboard pf a game ... and then we are developing a reason to participate in the "game."

Flickr has interestingness and assigns a number to it. They created a game. But screwed up ranking becuase it created an incentive for bad behavior ion the site. People then try to get to the top, game th e system, etc. This is the tension between showing the wisdom of crowds and creating bad incentives. Now they just show a random mix of interestingness. They took away the ranked list and it becomes a better display. The interface can change how it works.

In Threadless, you can vote for a week and then they display the results -- but not while voting is going on. That way you avoid the group think.

Popularity does not have to rule. It's an easy mistake when you talk about voting and rating to surface that data. But the most popular thing is not always the best thing. Most votes does not always win.

On Amazon, you see a best and worst review side by side (an d the one voted most helpful). That is a good Wisdom of Crowds approach. .They also show a histogram of reviews and show a small visual element so you can get quick insight from the crowd.

Implicit vs Explicit Feedback


Explicit feedback: voting and rating. How do you ask your audience for feedback? It depends. Different interfaces work for different projects. Never ask people to do more thinking than they have to. If you can not think of a reason why you should not use a thumbs up or thumbs down, then just use the thumbs.

Implicit feedback: Monitoring pageviews, monitoring searches, velocity (how much is something changing), interestingness (algorithms for monitoring stuff around the data). You sometimes get better data when you don;t ask you just observe.

Design matters.

How you ask questions changes the answers you get. The interface for how you collect feedback changes your site, sometimes in subtle ways (such as color). Example, kvetch.com. Powacek changed the color of the site and the comments changed. There was recently a study in Science Magazine that showed that people had different responses to different colors of borders. Color affected response.

Putting it All Together

Brooklyn's Museum Click! exhibition. Had an online gallery where people can vote on photos. First, they asked raters to rate themselves regarding how serious they were about art. Users can toggle through the results via the self rating. And you can see which photos appeared across all groups. They did an actual gallery display sized by their votes.

GetSatisfaction. Offers number of ways to aggregate feedback as well as mood. Numerous little Wisdom of Crowds techniques. Overall creates better experience.

Seeing Things

Grandma Powacek stopped making cucumber salad because it makes her hands hurt (it was the cucumber's fault not that she had arthritis). "Mother stories." Our brains are good at taking diverse feedback and turning it into a story that we tell ourselves. We fill in gaps to make the story make sense. (Listen to Radiolab podcast)In the online space all of these gaps are filled in by data (because we don't have body language, sound, smell, etc.) Often what we fill it in with things based on our insecurities.

Talking about study about in control and out of control groups. When you;re feeling out of control you make up stories to connect the dots which have nothing to do with reality. Similar in the online space because we are deprived of social data and our brains our filling in the rest. It says more about us than what is happening (it's why people are insane on the Internet!).

WOC systems work because they provide context, less mystery, brain has to work less hard to figure out what is going on. Simply getting people to get in touch they feel in control of changes the experience.

Challenge is how can we bring these WOC settings to the community settings that we create? How can we give people in-control experience that make them a little less crazy online.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

SXSW 2009 | My haiku dedication

Users, data, web
Geeks on floor with computers
SXSW yes!

SXSW 2009 | Collaborative Filters, The Evolution of Recommendation Engines

Description: Recommendation engines have boomed in the era of social media. These panelists are experts at collaborative filtering systems. Citing Digg, Amazon, and Netflix as examples, they will have a high level discussion about the evolution of recommendation engines and how each approach is different.

Speakers: Anton Kast (Lead Scientist, Digg), Scott Brave (CTO, Baynote Inc), David Maher Roberts (CEO, The Filter), Jon Sanders (Dir Recommendation Systems, Netflix), Erik Frey (Research Engineer, Last.fm)


Anton Kast
-Collaborative filtering has deep academic roots , Xerox, UMN, MIT
-Definition: Combines the input from many different people to filter the information better than would otherwise be possible
-Technique is everywhere from spam filter to comment moderation to tagging in facebook ads to pagerank
When it is personalized, it is "recommendation" ... Amazon, Netflix, behavioral ad targeting
-How DIGG works: anyone can submit, vote on any story; can view most popular stories
Problems: the sparsity problem (not enough) early rater problem, gray sheep problem (what's not popular but a small group likes...how do you serve?) user opposition

Eric Frey

-Last.fm is social music website with 25m ussers
-2 sets of relationships: songs and people; people and people
-Different types of reco's provide different context
--Lean forward reco's: user is engaged in site, want to discover new music
--Lean Back reco's: continuity is important
-Focus on mining better data rather than developing complex algorithms ... Data is the most important ingredient (at last.fm it's social tags and listening data)
The recipe: can increase reco's by how you model the user to build their attention profile and figure out what they are interested in

Scott Brave
-Reco's offered as a service to other websites
-Use java to capture info on site, how they got there and what they do on site
-Data feeds into affinity engine and they look for value
-Social search - reordering of results based on what people are using

David Maher Roberts
-Filter is a digital entertainment content recommendation and relevance engine, focus on video and audio, delivers as white label serviuce, 10m reco's a day
-Visualize data via a "taste cloud"
-Created an entertainment dna

Jon Sanders
-60% or purchases happen via reco's
-10 years ago netflix was a stand alone site, first introduced rating widget, then looked at how to make reco's more credible, then asked about interest, then asked other people who write reviews, etc., finally started explaining why we were recommending something or showing user a genre
-Million dollar competition going on
-More data is always goo
-CF is a component of personalization

SXSW 2009 | Charlene Li, The Future of Social Networks

Almost 20 years ago tot he date Tim Berners Lee wrote that the web is a more social tool and a technological one.

What is a social site? What it is today is going to seem odd in 20 years we will think, isn't it odd that we had to go to these sites (like facebook or twitter) to be social?

In the future social network will be like air, it will be everywhere around us. For example, ratings on Amazon will be from people that I know. Or I give Amazon permission to know I am and who my friends are and I get to see those ratings and reviews.

Another example is how social will influence events, or how mobile apps will connect people or how TV becomes social. Current TV shows tweets, but maybe I just want to see my friends' tweets or a certain type of tweet?

Integra5 is TV that enables you to invite your friends and comment in real time while watching the same show.

Salesforce enables facebook profiles to be integrated. LinkedIn also has a plug in. Increasingly social network activity is not happening on social networks.

What do we need to make social networks like air?


1. Identity - who you are
I have two places on each network and different email addresses to sign into them. Ideally there is an identity that you control. But it can be complex.

2. Contacts - who you know
Friend management is tough today. Plus your relationships are constantly changing
Use implicit social data to fill in gaps.


3. Activities - what you do
What sites I visit, what I read, who I call, etc.

The social algorithm will make privacy and permission easier to manage.

We are just at the beginning, so patience is needed.

Two sets of rules/standards that exist
1. facebook - great job of identity and contact via facebook connect
2. open stack - open id, open social, oauth, portable contacts

Some people think there's a war about to happen but these standards can interact in future.

What will get everyone to open up? It's the money, according to Li.

Most social ads require explicit activity. Or overstep bounds (a la facebook ads).

Media6 identifies who is closest to you, your "network neighbors"" for example serving ads based on one user visiting a site/ad, and delivering it to one of their network friends.

The rise of the personal CPM


Measures level of influence and charges advertising accordingly. Turns things upside down.

In 2009...

1. Standards will become more applicable
2. Players will become more diverse.
3. Biz models will look at making ad models more efficient by targeting social data

In your world...

1. Identify where social makes sense...mobile, retail, TV...
- Leverage existing identity systems
- Get privacy and permission policies in line
- Think about who your trust agents will be?

2. Get your back end data in order
-Get SSO
-Share data

3. Prepare to integrate social networks into your organization
-Traditional silo's are being blown up
-Put customer at top and CEO at bottom (how cybernetic!!!)
-Social networks fall throughout the organization
-If social media is so compelling, why is it so hard for organizations to adopt it? It's due to traditional organizational structure and power structures.

Summary
-I believe that social networks will be like air
-The technologies are not yet there but are inevitable
-Open networks will be the norm so consider how you are going to open your business

SXSW 2009 | Open Remarks by Tony Hsieh

Description: At Zappos.com, Tony Hsieh has fostered a culture where extraordinary customer service is the norm. Hear him talk about how good deeds can help you leverage the power of your audience to massively extend your brand.

Zappos started as shoes but is not just about shoes. Philosophy is take 90 percent of what we would use in marketing and put in customer service. Growth is due to customer service and wom.

View customer service phone line (they get 5k calls/day) to be t a great tool. They see it as the best branding device.

They also offer free shipping (so folks can order numerous shoes try them on and send back the ones they don't like) and have a 365 day return policy. For repeat loyal customers they provide a free shipping upgrade.

Customer service reps look on at least three competitive websites if they get a call about an item they can't find on zappos. It's not about losing the sale it's about building the lifelong customer. It's not about imposing the sale but about what's doing what's right for the customer. The phone reps don't have scripts or call times. They spend as much time as needed to satisfy customer (longest call ever was four hours ... sometimes customers just call us because they're lonely :)

But the absolute priority of Zappos is company culture. Starts with hiring process and candidates must pass on culture interviews. Same with firing, even if they perform but are bad for culture they will be fired.

They also focus on training. Everyone goes through the exact same training which lasts for five weeks. Then everyone is on phone for two weeks with customers. Later in career you will spend time training in warehouse. There are monetary incentives throughout training which offer being paid for the time you spent training plus $2k if you leave now. We want people who want to be there. In 2007 we had 3 percent of people take the offer; in 2008 it was 1 percent. It makes sense to get rid of those folks now...but biggest benefit was that it made those who stayed more committed and engaged.

They have a 500-page culture book and each employee contributed, It is unedited except for typos. It is given to potential employees.

They use twitter. Out of 1400 employees, 700 are in Las Vegas and 400 of those choose to use twitter and it fosters out of work events and in work trust. Creates personal connections. Here's the feed: http://twitter.zappos.com/

(Fyi here's another way to catch the opening remarks ... via twitter. It's distributed microblogging!)




We believe that a company's culture and a company's brand are the same thing.

Companies are becoming more transparent whether or not they like it. If our brand is customer service then it about the whole company not just a department. tells story of warehouse working returning money ... the culture was right so they did not need expensive processes and procedures around security.

In 2009 want to own the three C's: clothing, customer service and culture.

Zappos is about delivering happiness. People will always remember how you made them feel.

10 "Committable" Core Values of Culture


1. Deliver Wow through service
2. Embrace and drive change
3. Crate fun and a little weirdness
4. Be adventurous, creative and open-minded
5. Pursue growth and learning
6.
7.
8.
9.
10. Be humble
(sorry didn't catch these all)

But it's not so much about what your core value are as long as you are in alignment.

7 steps for building a long term sustainable brand

1. Decide
2. Figure out values and culture sooner rather than later (at Zappos everyone ass involved); when your personal values are in line with your company's values then you don't need to worry about PR and brand values, etc.
3. Commitment to transparency (for example on twitter their only guidelines for employees is to be real and sue your best judgment). Have internal Q&A channel and an extranet for vendors that is open. We know have another 1500 eyes on our site helping wit our business. Give tours to other companies.
4. Vision, customer service vision had a snowball affect on customers, employees, vendors. Chase the vision not the money.
5. What's the greater purpose beyond money or profits?
6. Build your team; if I had to do it all over again I would fire more quickly and hire more slowly
7. Think long term

What is your goal in life?


For most people it is happiness, but people don't always know what will make them happy. There's a science behind happiness. People are bad at predicting what will bring them long term happiness. What if we spent some percentage of time learning about happiness?

Happiness is about:
1. perceived control
2. perceived progress
3. connectedness
4. vision/meaning

For example, we applied perceived progress to training and broke down training into smaller pieces so people perceived progress to be happening quicker even when it wasn't.

Or go from job to career to calling (a la Peak, Chip Conley)

Or pleasure -> engagement -> meaning.

Suggested reading: Peak, Tribal Leadership, Four Hour Work Week, Happiness Hypothesis (Haidt)

Take away: What is your higher purpose? What is your company's higher purpose??

SXSW 2009 | Creative: Show the Path not the Destination

Speakers: Jim Coudal (Coudal Partners), Brendan Dawes (Creative Dir, mN)

Description: Join Brendan Dawes, Gary Hustwit and Jim Coudal for three short presentations followed by a discussion on the subject of creating more involving, entertaining, successful projects by structuring them in a way that encourages the audience to be a key part of the process of discovery.Generally speaking you should be pointing your audience in the right direction and then getting the hell out of the way. In film, programming and design, the most satisfying works are those that on their most basic level are created along with an audience, not simply for one.


Brendan Dawes

I’m really into people vs machines. Desire lines. Examples of how people walk across a park compared to how we plot paths. Good design can also be about taking things away.

Shows project: doodlebuzz.com; about serendipity and randomness; you get associated subjects; what is interesting is the way you can get to informations, it's a little bit scary

We get complacent with interfaces. These days people think that if you can't use it within 2 seconds its rubbish and that's not true.

Questions from audience ... comments from speakers ...

SXSW 2009 | Lessons Learned from Open Source Software

Description: Open Source Software, once considered revolutionary, has increasingly been accepted as mainstream. In this panel of some of the most experienced open source leaders and analysts, we will explore what has made open source successful and what lessons all businesses can learn from this paradigm shifting technology.

Speakers: Michael Cote (Analyst, RedMonk) Neelan Choksi (COO, Lexcycle), Mark Brewer (VP & GM Enterprise Delivery, SpringSource), Sara Dornsife (Consultant)


Cote: What are you looking to do with Open Source? If you are working with devs, unless you are Microsoft, you have to be working with Open Source. It's what is expected. In that way it has been a success.

Dornslife: There's a misconception that just because you have an Open Source project, devs will come and help and solve problems for free.

Brewer: Another way to say that OS is a success is look at the businesses using it, such as IBM.

Dornslife: Look at Sun's acquisition of MSQL, look at strategy and acquisition models or larger businesses

Brewer: OS is a great way to get feedback and not spend so much money in initial state. You do find that if you build a piece of technology that is different and interesting you will get devs to work on it.

Dornslife: Puts things our early and often. OS addresses question, is marketing necessary? Because of WOM you don't need big splashy launches and hide behind a curtain. Makes marketing less of a necessity.

SXSW 2009 | Making Web Widgets Accessible

One of the tings that interests me in the dev community is the focus on accessibility. (Back in 1995 we used to build website with versions in Lnyx!) But when it comes to being accessible to those with disabilities, often these findings help all of us. I am constantly amazed and inspired by the collaborative ways in which the web is continually being developed--and would argue this collaboration lends life to the web. (Thanks Tim Berners-Lee :) No other medium I am aware of is developed like this.

Speakers: Michael Cooper (Accessibility Prod Mgr, W3C - World Wide Consortium), Shawn Henry (W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, WAI), Catherine Laws (IBM), Thomas Logan (VP of Product Development, HiSoftware), Richard Schwerdtfeger(Distinguished Engineer, IBM)

Description: Browser vendors, code library developers, and Ajax gurus demo best practices for making widgets and dynamic web content accessible. You'll also see how they're implementing W3C's new Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite, WAI-ARIA (nearing completion or done by SXSW 2009!). Get tips and tricks for next generation web accessibility.


Thomas Logan:

Goal is to standardize keyboard interactions on the Web. ARIA allows for screen refresh without click and allows you to provide status to user. Can assist user in surfacing information. More info at codetalks.org.

Cathy Laws:


Talking about challenges to companies trying to support standards, especially ARIA. What users where need these app first? What tools do we use ... Adobe, OpenSource...? Need to develop accessibility of tool. Do we need to try out apps with every screen reader or just popular ones? Do we comply at basic compliance levels or go beyond that? How do we make social networking tools available?

We participate in Open Source projects and develop our own tools as well. We educate our teams by setting up a check list that harmonizes with standards coming out in different countries and set up information sharing tools from conferences to wikis to FAQs, etc. We encourage going beyond basic level A compliance. .Not just accessible but usable. More discoverable, logical, consistent, etc via usability. Incorporate people with disabilities in testing.

Shawn Henry:

WAI-ARIA overview overview is here: http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/aria Currently in working draft.

Richard Schwerdtfeger:

Next step is application delivery will change according to user!

Friday, March 13, 2009

SXSW 2009 | Everything you know about Web design is wrong

March 13 @ 2pm
Ballroom A

Speaker: Dan Willis, Consultant, Sapient

Description: Just as early filmmakers struggled to break free from the conventions of live theater, after 10+ years Web designers are still trapped in the structures of the past. Forget pages, linear text and other archaic vestiges of design's print ancestry; the separation of content from presentation has already changed everything.

Talk starts.

Take the Harry Potter site. It's beautiful but print in disguise. All of the digital native stuff is hidden on the top right corner, everything else can be found in a magazine. It's print in disguise.

Same with Washington Post. Can't break away from newspaper perspective. Organizes like a newspaper, too linear. It relies on the headline format.

Benjamin Hotel site. Nice photography and good use of Flash but who cares? Again, it's print in disguise.

The web has not yet become a medium in its own right. The presentation of the Web is lagging. We're not there yet. You see this in film as well. It mimicked theatre at its start.

Birth of a Nation changed this. Outside of its offensive nature, the presentation was similar to what you see today. He strung together a combination of techniques to create a modern cinema type film, such as:
-cross cutting (allowing for individual story lines running at the same time)
-the close-up, so you get a sense of what the character is thinking
-geodesic domes, pulling in emotion

Those are three good examples of the elements of film grammar.

What is the equivalent in web design? We don't know yet...but we can start thinking about the elements of web design?

1. Random voyeurism
For example flickrvision: what is really going on is we are getting insight into the people posting. Found magazine talks about a shortcut directly to people's minds and hearts; it's uniquely powerful when it happens online.

2. Self aware (but uncontrollable) content
Web content is getting smarter everyday. Data know about itself. Creators are losing control on content.

3. User created context
Users control the context and if you try to control it they rebel. Fighting the user doesn't work.

4. Ambient awareness
Microblogging is trivial and profound at the exact same time.. Over time our knowledge about people allows us to know them in a very specific way.Each mundane tweet is like a dot in a sophisticated painting. In the future, it will lead to ... we don't know but we will recognize it.

5. Experiential content
When this becomes what it is going to be it will not be about the content but about the experience, just as the roller coaster is not about the tracks. It's the experience of interacting with the content. Moving forward, this is part of the future of what designers do for a living. You put the elements in place for the users to use; they have to share space with the user.

So, what does that look like in practice?

Let's go back to the Benjamin Hotel site.
-What if you integrated webcams into the site to include ambient awareness into hotel?
-Deep specs from around the web about sleep to deepen the experience
-Use the sleep concierge to get people interested; start experience online

Nothing radical, but put together in the grammar of web design and combine them in ways where it becomes something else.

Let's look at the Washington Post site.
-Elevate web native stuff such as news judgment
-It's no longer about the distribution method. Take out the relevant pieces and use meta-data to connect it to other stuff. And do it every day so that it becomes more and more powerful. Allows user to drive the context.

Here's how we have to think to move forward: design it not about looking pretty, visual design is a means to an end. Design must solve problems. This is a disruption.

Design must start at the beginning. How do you design an organization to allow it to transcend the basis of print design?

Change is disturbing. What has happened in the last 14 years is that each group has been silo'd. In some ways it was important because we needed to, for example, separate out interaction design so it could be seen as important. But moving forward we need to a jambalaya model. Everyone is involved at the beginning.

We must exploit and protect expertise. We must be flexible, but not a free-for-all.

Tips for Transcendent Web Design
1. Organize cross discipline teams that are agile. Exploit and protect expertise.
2. Design for specific users and their specific needs
3. Embrace your ignorance.
4. Don't be distracted by business models that don't begin and end with the user
5. Don't be distracted by technology.
6. Don't be distracted by failure.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Funologists Live & In Person: Guerilla Game Research

I was recently asked to moderate this super cool panel. Check out these participants-- it's a fabulous group of folks. And join us on Friday! Oh, and if you have questions you would like me to ask, please add them via comments.

Funologists Live & In Person: Guerilla Game Research
Room B

Friday, March 13th
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm

If you work at a game company, research means understanding play, not analyzing boring spreadsheets. Meet Big Fish Games and Pogo funologists and learn how listening and watching gamers transforms product and web design. We share different innovative guerilla (discount) and traditional research methods to inspire user-centered design.

Julie Ratner Research Mgr, Big Fish Games
Erica Firment User Experience Designer, Second Life
Tracy Fullerton Professor, USC Interactive Media
Jason Schklar Founder & Principal Consultant, Initial Experience Consulting

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

SXSW | My schedule so far

SXSW Interactive is just nine days away! It's my favorite geek fest by far and I will do my best to live blog as many session as I can. If you have thoughts please feel free to comment or email me.

Friday, March 13th
2:00 PM
-Everything You Know About Web Design Is Wrong

5:00 PM
-Funologists Live & In Person: Guerilla Game Research

9:00 PM
-AMODA Digital Showcase at The Mohawk

Saturday, March 14th
10:00 AM
-Making Web Widgets Accessible: Tools and Techniques

11:30 AM ... a tough one--look at all of the great panels!
-Change v2 (Lawrence Lessig presenting)
-Emerging Trends of Mobile Technology
-Lessons Learned from the Open Source Software
-The Search for a More Social Web

2:00 PM
-Opening Remarks (Tony Hsieh, Zappos.com)

3:30 PM ... another time with too many great panels!
-Designing for Irrational Behavior
-Everything I Needed to Know About the Web I Learned from Feminism (danah boyd + Heather Gold together!)
-Gestural UI: iPhone Taught Us Flick and Pinch. What's Next?
-Kicking Ass With Controlled Metadata
-The Future Of Social Networks (Charlene Li)

5:00 PM
-Collaborative Filters: The Evolution of Recommendation Engines
-Social Media Nonprofit ROI Poetry Slam (I have a feeling this is going to be good :)

8:00 PM
-SXSW Interactive Opening Party Hosted by frog design (because frog always has the best opening party)

Sunday, March 15th

10:00 AM
-Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business

11:30 AM
-Kick-Ass Mash-Ups with Punk Rock APIs
-OpenID, OAuth, Data Portability and the Enterprise

3:30 PM
-From Flickr and Beyond: Lessons in Community Management

05:00 PM
-How Social Networks Are Killing the Revolution

06:00 PM
-The Penguin Books / Clay Shirky Party

7:00 PM
-Adobe 12th Annual SXSW Web Awards Ceremony - Presented by Adobe

Monday, March 16th

3:30 PM
-Using the New Digital Social Media to Accelerate Sustainability
-Wireframes for the Wicked

5:00 PM
-Developing Super Senses: Tools to Know Your Users

Tuesday, March 17th

10:00 AM
-Collabotition: Can Companies Work With Their Competitors?
-The State of the Internet Memescape: 2008-10

3:30 PM
-Brave NUI World: The Fearless Future of Device Interaction
-Location Location Location: The Future of Mobile Advertising