Information and Insights from Sessions at SXSW in Austin, TX

SXSW Interactive 2009 Notes – Table of Contents

Posted: March 18th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Friday, General, Monday, Saturday, Sunday, SXSW '09, Tuesday, Uncategorized, Wednesday | Comments Off on SXSW Interactive 2009 Notes – Table of Contents

Tuesday 3.17.09

Monday 3.16.09

Sunday 3.15.09

Saturday 3.14.09

Friday 3.13.09

Other Notes:

Designing Change in America

Posted: March 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: SXSW '09 | Comments Off on Designing Change in America

Tuesday, March 17th at 03:30 PM
John Slabyk – Obama for America
Scott Thomas – Obama – SimpleScott
Alissa Walker – Gelatobaby

The Designing Change in America panel will discuss the Obama “brand”, it’s birth, it’s evolution, and it’s rise to power. We will discuss the challenges of being in-house designers in a fast-paced political environment and how though challenges informed our process for designing and developing.

State of design for Obama Campaign. Got the gig because they were the first to respond. Many ideas and designs were done more on a question of speed vs. design elements. They just needed to get it to print.

Banners used all the tricks in the book to make it pop on camera (drop-shadows edges etc).

Website used every shade of blue possible and WAY too many typefaces.

John and Scott got introduced to the campaign with a cross between Web/Print and do both sides. There was simply no time for traditional design (not market research or usability). They built an airplane while in flight. The timeline wasn’t strongly considered when working on something that big. They put together and got out flyers every single day. You couldn’t look down the road too far. You were stuck in the middle doing the NOW stuff. They had to show through the website that design is important, and prove themselves.

We need to deliver clear concise messaging focused on the “we” rather than the “he.”
Keep message of hope while dismantling the notion of being aloof. There were crazy long titles for certain events, that ultimately go changed by time right in the field. They had to get to the core of what the function would be. It was hard to make Obama not feel aloof. Hope could be communicated visually without actually using the word “hope.”

Communicate the historic atmosphere by pulling from the imagery of the past. They tried hard to pull historical images or documents and base design off of that. Pull feelings and emotions out of those images. How could these things be used down the road. They’ve created print versions of speeches that are a piece of history – a historic document.

Establish a consistency and balance to exemplify stability and experience. Lock type up in a consistent manner, use simple consistent color palettes, and make sure that stays solid in everything.

A logo was handed off, and there was no brand standards. They noticed that there were things missing in the word mark. The typography didn’t match the logo itself. There wasn’t a solid block. They went about changing it – all caps – adjusted the ends – balanced. It needed to be adjusted to tie it to the rest of the brand. Perfect circle on the “O” rounded the serifs.

The notion of participation was very important to the campaign. They wanted to make sure that it was a 2 way conversation and could download design aspects and being transparent. It’s weird how the election cycle is kind of the olympics of technology as far as what’s possible (watching video on the internet of speeches)

What to do with the homepage – everyone needed/wanted to be on the homepage – how was that dealt with?  The fold was destroyed, and it scrolled for content. Ver. 2 highlighted the personal In the initial stage of the campaign, it was happening live! There was no test server.

Vote for Change – make voter registration easy. It has never been done before since it is so varied over the country. Eliminate the questions and complexities. One question at a time, one by one.

Did you know anything about Barack Obama, and when was your first contact?

A speech four years ago energized John. Was the country ready for this guy? How much do I believe in this? Is it worth the crazy work and less money?

Scott was talking with his mother the night before being asked to give up a year in a half of life. Called, responded, interview the next day, started the next day.

There was never a break – there was meeting all the time. You could get a request at midnight for a graphic needed the next morning. It was a crazy work environment.

When did you realize that the designs were getting great attention?

Change you can believe in banner – typeface author blogged about the use of their font (uh… maybe we should pay for it).

When events were going on, there was no ability to proof something. The political schedule doesn’t allow for time to prepare. It would hit and go live. It was nice to see how things showed up on TV or on a newspaper. It was like real-life proofing since going live was the proof. If it isn’t perfect, get it out there, you can change it if it doesn’t work.

What was the role in and moved to DC with a couple of designers – what about They did to a small roll in getting it rolling, but they didn’t do the entire thing. was a quick thought initially since there were more important things to do.

It is still important as things transition and move into the actual presidency, that the grassroots pieces that made the campaign work, and the web tools and design tools used still need to be part of the process. There is still always room for improvement.

Prove what you can do… it is always going to be better with good design. The bad design happens because of the situation you’re in. Maybe a speech is happening in a town with a small print shop and a local designer. That’s how some of the inconsistent things get out. Getting a handle on this and keeping things consistent top to bottom is important.


  • How much of a battle was it to communicate the need for whitespace on your site, and the above the fold mentality?
    -It was a battle, and everyone needs to fight it. It helped that things were moving so fast, it might get ignored – or it’s easier to ignore. Always asked, “Are we communicating efficiently?” What is the solution? What is the best way to do this? It’s not a question about whites pace, but rather a question of what is the best way to communicate? Respect the people you work with and include them in the decision making.
  • There was a tremendous distance between the global branding and the materials on the ground, were you aware of that?
    -Yes, absolutely! In many cases, it could have just fallen to the local office for fliers or materials. Hopefully in the future, there is more of a “how to” kind of thing for local product design.

Podcast of Panel (mp3)

Building Strong Online Communities

Posted: March 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: SXSW '09 | Comments Off on Building Strong Online Communities

Tuesday, March 17th at 11:30 AM
Ken Fisher – Ars Technica
Alexis Ohanian –
Drew Curtis –
Erin Kotecki Vest – BlogHer Inc

Largest women’s blogging network. It started by a question at a conference of where are the women bloggers? From that, a flame war started, and BlogHer was created. The Blog Her conference happened in San Francisco. They continue to meet and blog at the site

Comments were added 2000 (Drew needed to learn SQL). Not a huge fan in online communities but it has grown organically after a small nudge

Started in 2005 in college – too many comments in Slashdot. They just wanted a site that listed cool links. An article was written about it, and it took off from there.

Ars Technica

Comments went up shortly after 1998 as a way to comment email (other people would answer questions instead of Ars staff. Tried to create a place for people to find answers to these tech-y questions. Fostering discussions helped to kill the trolls that were found at many places around the net.

How do you balance your own vision for your community with the actual community? How do you enable communication with your users?

You have a number of voices and you need to take it with a grain of salt if it is actually what the users want, or just a crazy user. You have to balance small sections of complaints with the rest of the folks who actually read and enjoy something. "Well organized minority"

Reddit created sub-sites for different topics (programming). They let the community set up these sub-sites. How do people get in touch with Reddit? Just one guy answering emails doesn’t scale very well (moving to Twitter?).

Blogher – you need to listen and implement as much as you can to engage the community. You need to listen.

Ars – twitter gives you an insight on what is actually happening in your community. Only a certain percentage of the folks are regular participants in the discussions. Created a forum for complaints and feedback. Other members can respond to the feedback, allowing you to take the communities pulse. Providing a place for feedback is usually good for the community.

Comment on how the community really influences itself – does it police itself? Moderation teams? How did you get there?

Blogher – very strict community guidelines so that the bloggers feel safe. Nobody will get attacked and there is no hate speech. You don’t always get that at other sites. The community is pretty strongly self-policed – don’t be an ass! Give your moderation team the tools to police. Nark function to call out inappropriate comments. Narking throws the comment into a queue to be handled by moderators.

Reddit – "reddicate" Once sub-reddits were created, the moderators are given the power to handle issues in those sub-sites, and generally police themselves. It’s pretty hands off

When you run into problem bits of content, what do you do with them? Do you leave them? shame them? Delete them?

Blogher – removed them fully. It is so rare there is no backlash. Things got heated during the presidential campaign, and relied very heavily on the guidelines. & Reddit – leave them, but sometimes revisit and change if necessary. Stuff is removed on fark all the time (5000 people permanently banned from fark now).

Ars – don’t delete or modify unless spam. Sometimes it can be perceived as censorship, and abuse the trust of your community if you silence someone. There is a "law" of cardinal and compulsory rules where they can call people out on certain things. Strike 1 – one week ban, and it gets more severe from there. Why don’t people just come back under a different name? People are very invested in their community and name.

What mistakes have you seen other community participants or managers make?

Blogher – they tell rather than ask – don’t let the community know when change is coming. The community isn’t involved on many of the decisions being made. – a moderator would troll the users. Don’t listen to your readers too much. Most readers are too anal. When you redesign, you get a crazy reaction. When you redesign, most will get over it after a bit of time. When people threatened to leave, a user would record it and throw it in their faces when the DID come back.   

Reddit – the majority of users are silent – never log in. Most never tell you how they feel. You need to trust your gut, and listen to the core users, but think of the people that don’t really have a voice.

Ars – Surveys are fantastic! The results are shared with the community. It proves you were totally wrong or you’re right in your choices and the minority is the most vocal. Started with only 3 forums. Forums are added as needed, not 100 forums at first that look like a ghost town. People think that nobody is there.


What are you looking for in a community manager?
-biggest skills you need is patience, level headed. neutral. someone who can multitask.

What has blogher learned about the conferences?
-very community driven on what they want to speak about and hear.

Reddit & Ars part of Conde Nast – any problems with upper-management, pressure?
-They know better than to ask about that – very open discussion.
-People assume that Conde would create issues, with ownership issues. Ars asked the audience what they wanted, and went from there.

How do you attract people in this landscape?
-People can easily go to both, and not worry so much competitive.
-Having a niche and passion will show, and attract people who are like-minded.

What do you think about anonymous comments?
-If you can’t say something with your name on it – we’re not interested (fark)
-Do you just want a big comment number on your post? 2 quality comments are better than 14 anonymous comments.

Brand Noir: Crafting a Who-Why-How Dunnit

Posted: March 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: SXSW '09 | Comments Off on Brand Noir: Crafting a Who-Why-How Dunnit

Tuesday, March 17th at 10:00 AM
Presenter: Charles Sayers – Sapient

This type of stuff would probably come under the heading of strategy (but not quite as boring). It shouldn’t be approached in a way that makes it a long grinding process. I could/should take 2-4 weeks to get a strategy of any size. Stories for everyone (not just the creatives).

Sapient – largest interactive firm in US. On the consulting side, it’s more about the infrastructure and how to do these things.

The university is made up of stories, not atoms. The brand is actually experience, but you have to figure out how to tell the story. It is the art of storytelling, and a lot of creativity goes into it. There is no formula for creating a brand (everyone is different, culture is different). Have a structure in place is good – some containers to catch the creativity.


Ever story begins before it begins. You cannot go in and say you’re going to define a brand – companies will say they already know their brand. The issue is more that they can’t communicate that brand.

Coca-Cola approached to define the brand definition. How do you break apart the company and the drink. They wanted to define the company on its own. They couldn’t talk to stakeholders, they had very short time, and couldn’t talk to anyone about it. Interns were brought in, and communicated very differently (some draw, some photograph, etc.). They all communicated very differently. One intern would doodle constantly. A room was set up called the idea room. You had to leave an idea in there when you leave. Nothing was thrown away, and there was no order. There is no right, no perfect – people are scared of criticism. All ideas are valuable, and there is no wrong. The doodler just went, and got caught up in the passion. The ideas he created prompted other ideas, or the questions when people looked at his material.

What is in the name? If you remove the logo, do you still have the same feeling? Tool called the roll of opposites. You’re different because someone wants to be the opposite of you. Does Coke want to be a vessel where everything is contained, or stream where items move through? Solid or fluid? Heritage or Vitality? A choice needs to be made on these. People don’t want to make choices. This slows things down. The choices are important – dictionary vs. a novel. Someone chose the words to use in the novel.

Clients love context – Who are we like? Say, we want to be like Apple or Target or BMW. You don’t want to be them, but how do you want to be like them?

Force people to think in ways they aren’t used to thinking. Make people uncomfortable, and they’ll be forced to move in a direction. If they’re uncomfortable, they’ll work themselves towards and answer, and know why.

Your stories will have multiple maps. As much as you plan A-B will be different for every person. Create things that cause a lot of reaction to see where people will go with it. You can be aware reactions (positive and negative) to see where people will go.

Role and Positioning – Ask the question "what if?" This is better than "What is?" or "What should it be?" Don’t wait until the end to have a point of view so you can start experimenting on it right away.

Set up a brand room, then let Coke senior executives come in and look at the walls. He started to see things differently than anyone else had seen. The story came out of this experience. The story (room) turned into a book, "Our Manifesto for Growth." Everything in one place helped point and move the company in the right direction.

  • Who are they?
  • How are they different ?
  • What position can we own in the marketplace?

If everyone is agreeing to these questions, that is bad. There should be some argument. Find the person who is very angry. You’ll get passion from that person. Conflict is needed in the story.

Who is involved? Facilitator – forces people to challenge assumptions – someone curious,
Visual thinker – someone who isn’t necessarily a great speaker.
Marketing and IT in the room to conflict with each other.
Strategy person – someone rational balanced
Business person

Tool: Everyone goes to the movies. Celebrities have a certain reaction in our culture. People feel they know celebrities in a different way. Pick a spokesperson for our company. When you pick someone, why did you pick them? They went with Christian Slater, and they agreed he was right.

What are the challenges? Web domains. How do you communicate what you want through a short (probably taken) web domain? Create differentiation through combination.

Vision – what do you want to be? The heard of the world’s auto marketplace.
Difference – revealing choices, you don’t buy a car, you find a car.
Benefits – best vehicle selection, confidence that everyone will find the care they want or sell the care they have.

What type of leadership do you want? Leader through control (Steve Jobs). Do you really want to lead? Do you want to be known as a leader? Is leadership what you want? Autotrader probably didn’t want to be a leader. Are you the best friend or the leader?

Do you want to lead, or do you want to be the best? Start playing with the differences.
Do you want to be a roll model or do you want to be a friend?

Who is Your best friend with millions of cars. Regular everyday kind of guy with a really big parking lot.

Developing Super Senses: Tools to Know Your Users

Posted: March 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: SXSW '09 | Comments Off on Developing Super Senses: Tools to Know Your Users

Monday, March 16th at 05:00 PM
Mark Trammell – Digg
Juliette Melton – Lumos Labs
Nate Bolt – Bolt|Peters
Carla Borsoi –
Andy Budd – Clearleft Ltd

Useful Tools:

  • User testing – more of a design tool and not a research tool
  • Interviewing users – direct questioning, or interviews
  • Talking directly to users
  • Analytics and specific web testing – loyalty of users coming back to site – the end result
  • Customer service feedback – satisfaction level with a product
  • Behavior vs. Opinions
  • One on one testing – simply watching what faces people make
  • Surveys – a good way to access a lot of voices at one time, and the ability to break down demographics or pull out specific quotes.

Useless Tools:

  • Eye tracking "seems like science, but not" – BS! – Why aren’t people clinking on this link? You don’t need eye tracking to tell you it is small or out of the way.
  • One on one interview is much more useful than what you can get out of a focus group. A brainstorming session with strangers motivated by candy, One-on-one is better. You CAN get useful info out of a focus group if done well.

Concerning yourself with user research? Steve Jobs: "I don’t"

It all comes down to genius design (Ives at Apple or 37 Signals). "We don’t need to do research!" These people know exactly who they’re designing for, themselves, or Steve Jobs. If people (like them) find it useful, then great. We all feel like we have a better insight on our users than we actually do. Apple is actually doing research in the background, they’re building prototype after prototype and testing internally, so that testing IS happening, just not in the public. If you define research as any sort of internal testing, it counts. Flickr started as a game site and turned into an incredible photo site based on what users wanted out of it.

Remote Testing:

Observing someone through some sort of remote test (from another location). Lab testing is BS. "Imagine you’re buying something at this soulless computer in a white room with a 2-way mirror."

How do you poll users?

Silverback is a nice app to record the user as they are interacting with your website. It captures video of their facial expressions.
How do you pull in the things that are wrong into the research? Research can be boring – getting people involved can be easier to make it more exciting (food/drink?!?). There is sometimes an empathy with a user who is struggling.
Sharing the feedback of the test, or the decisions made off the results.
If you have to bribe your designers/developers to care about their users, they are not good for your team. They should WANT to be involved.

Ah Ha Moments

Starting with paper prototypes, we learned that it was not the right way to go. Getting it early was helpful.
Even though customers trusted the company, but not a certain product over a competitor. Hearing it actually come from users, with evidence, it make it around and created change.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research

Quantitative: A/B testing on a group statistically important (inside)
Qualitative: "This one user said" gives the story behind it. (ammunition)

How do I pay for this?

You have users, just find some people and ask. Some of the best research is cheap/free research.

Agile Testing

MS put this together for Age of Empires game. They schedule time between tests to actually fix the issues between the tests, and over a few days, you get things fixed from group to group. Right Methodology

Biggest Mistakes Made

  • Testing for less time in the UK vs US
  • Biggest failed study with kids from Chile/Mexico none of them speak english
  • Getting people you know for user testing (don’t fit the people who really use the site).
  • Only drawn bloog once in a usability test (oops)

Change Your World in 50 Minutes: Making Breakthroughs Happen

Posted: March 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: SXSW '09 | Comments Off on Change Your World in 50 Minutes: Making Breakthroughs Happen

Monday, March 16th at 03:30 PM
Presenter: Kathy Sierra – CreatingPassionateUsers

You to your goal – where you want to be (business, product, company, performance in something)
There is a big F&*#%ing wall in your way!

You can’t make incremental progress to get through that wall.
Incremental vs. a Breakthrough

When the incremental things don’t work – Incremental is an arms race.
Quality or Features arms race or Marketing arms race or viral arms race.

How do you get past that wall w/out incremental steps?

Breakthrough ideas or performances – suddenly becoming a WHOLE lot better at a skill. Maybe helping your users make big breakthroughs.

WOM (word of mouth) vs. WOO (word of obvious)
What’s stopping us from kicking ass? (stuck in SLR “P” mode)
People are afraid of sucking – we need to get them to upgrade.

Anyone can compete…

–Get to know each other: Flight vs. Invisibility, what would you pick? (convince your neighbor why)

What super power would you give to your users? Picture it on the super suit (pivot-table man spreadsheets, photoshop channels guy, twitter man). Would it work as an action figure? What problem do you solve? Productivity doesn’t work (broccli)

14 Ways (just bout):

2. Superset game – you vs. competitor. take on search vs. google. Ask yourself which bigger thing are all these things a part of? There is something bigger, what is it? What cooler is my thing a part of?

3. Shortcuts to a breakthrough – 10k hours to be amazing at something. 2 ways to shrink the 10k hours: learn the patterns and shorten the duration.

4. Deliberate Practice – kicking ass in < 1000 hours if they deliberately practice. Not just doing it. After 1-2 years, experience is a poor predictor of performance/expertise (10 yrs vs. 1 yr repeated 10 times). Offer exercises, games, contests, tutorials that support deliberate practice of the right things.

5. Make the right things easy and the wrong things hard. Make it easier for users to have a breakthrough than to stay where they are. It’s not in the corner because you don’t use it, ou dn’t use it because it’s in the corner.

6. Get better gear (and offer it). Help them justify the better gear. Find, make offer gear to keep users moving forward

7. Ignore standard limitations. Be stupid sometimes and just jump in ignoring the people who tell you that you can’t

8. Total Immersion Jams. How often you get your users to do something matters. 16 hours over 2 days vs. 16 hours over 2 months. Motto: “Always be closing.” 24 hour film festival forces you in to go quickly.” Less Camp, more Jam.

9. Change your perspective – don’t make a better X make a better use of X. Make your *thing* the best it can be.

10. What movie are your users in? What is their journey? What movie do your users WANT to be in? What role do you play in your user’s lives? Your company is to your users as ______ is to Frodo.

11. Don’t ask your users. If you want incremental improvements, don’t ask – if you want a breakthrough, ignore everyone. What they say is different than what they REALLY want. You can end up passing over the happy medium and having too many features. Ask other people’s users, and not your own. Look at something else, and ask about the bigger experience.

12. Be brave – Concept car moving towards actual model. Moving from the fantastic idea to the real thing, fear works its way in and the final product changes. We’re so concerned about our users we oversimpify. Henry Ford said, “if I asked my users what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Look at things people think are dead or obsolete and see if it still has utility of some sort.

14. Change the EQ – Move the sliders, price, number of features, quality, service, performance. Add new sliders that aren’t normally part of a particular product to make breakthroughs. Dethe Elza made a slider generator. What did Gary do?

Gary Vaynerchuk in Talked about wine from the heart. There was a severe lack of wine self esteem.

15. Don’t mistake narrow for shallow – lolcats+translation = 52,000 google hits.

16. Be amazed!

Who is awesome? You are awesome!

More notes from this panel available here:

Browser Wars III: The Platform Wins

Posted: March 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: SXSW '09 | Comments Off on Browser Wars III: The Platform Wins

Monday, March 16th at 11:30 AM
Arun Ranganathan – Mozilla
Chris Wilson – Microsoft
Brendan Eich – Mozilla Foundation
Charles McCathieNevile – Opera Software
Darin Fisher – Google

Exciting year – 20th anniversary of the web this year (celebrated last Fri in Switzerland)

There is no Apple on this panel, but there is a representative from Webkit. Google Chrome is the new guy on this panel this year. Mozilla, Google, Opera, Microsoft represented.

What’s in it for Google in the browser game? Explain…

browserGoogle started to help make Firefox more successful, they just wanted to make browsers better. They see competition as a way to improve the browser marketplace. Chose Webkit because they didn’t want to create another rendering engine – wanted open source. You’re left with Gecko and Webkit – looked at both. Webkit was very fast at laying out pages, but the JS engine wasn’t as fast. Mobile were using Webkit in many areas, and ultimately went that route. They also didn’t want the full platform (like gecko), just wanted a rendering engine. Google cooperates with Apple on the code (involved in the Webkit community).

With IE 6 disappearing, and potentially being replaced with IE 7/8, there is no single majority browser – how do we work together? Standards! Silverlight has a huge presence here – many of the features are in HTML 5. What’s going on with Silverlight?

Chris doesn’t work on the Silverlight team. There are a set of scenarios where it makes sense, and Chris does what he can to move the standards-based platform forward, which is what IE tries to do outside of non-standard software (flash, silverlight).

You can try to get a standards-based platform, but there will always be theses separate marketplaces and platforms. These provide competition, or something to aim for that can be done with standards. It is a lot of companies competing in a marketplace to do the same thing. They push each other. In the end (hopefully) the standards win.

People still build websites, but many still pull out their hair because of browser differences.

The web is likely to move in a direction where you won’t be able to tell between silverlight and flash from the standards based web. There won’t be stable landscape (IE 7/8, Webkit, Moazilla engines).

How are standards actually made?

“Like sausages… you don’t want to know!”
HTML 5 has many more extended elements for multimedia content. How is the actual spec licensed? The actual spec should/could be Open source. Could a company take the spec and change it and use it? The HTML 5 spec discussions are about HTML spec being too restrictive previously. Can you say, “do what ever you want with it, including forking?” Or is it better if a group looking at everything (property rights) handle this better? Ultimately it doesn’t matter because people will use the spec however they want, or implement it however they want. A license won’t solve this.

If there is competition or a war, it’s about javascript. JS performance, and how standards are set is a possible issue. It is no longer a toy language on the web, and is moving into a performance wars.

Many people are using different techniques and performance techniques to build/use tools in JS. It has moved faster than thought – the important thing is moving the spec forward, and ignoring the politics.

What can IE 8 developers expect in JS?

We are absolutely taking JS seriously! IE 8 focuses not just on JS performance, but also holistic (navigation) performance. The real-world performance is more important to get right at the moment. We still need to move JS as a language forward.

Are the JS tests for performance fair?

Some people set some benchmarks, but they may not be the entire story – but benchmarks are necessary. They are valuable tools, and we need more of them. We need applications that really take advantage of the newer JS engines. The response to Chrome’s JS engine has been great, and has encouraged others to do the same.

Opera has always had a fast JS engine, but for a long time nobody cared. Now they are starting to care, which is good. It’s getting better and faster across the board, and that is good for everyone. In the mobile world it’s even more important (battery life). Being in a world where we’re taking that seriously is great in taking the web as a platform forward.

Security: If there is no single browser with dominance, we can take it more seriously. IE 8 has certain measures, and it’s totaly on their own… why?

When looking at security in general, cross-domain requests or clickjacking, you need to respond very quickly. It is on the set of users you have. Users ignore the auto-update box. Clickjacking became a real problem, and IE couldn’t wait for another product cycle to address the issues.

Chrome – 2 parts, web security (between websites), and protecting the user’s operating system. Sandbox the rendering engine.

Audience Questions:

HTML 5 will be great, all of this was in Java applets 10 years ago. Why did they fail, and why has it taken this long for browsers to catch up?

Class loading took too long, and you had to be a top level programmer to get it to compile correctly. Didn’t grow like the web. It was a way different model. The ecosystem has changed – many factors.

Web Developers like to hijack browsers, as a user it is very annoying, can this be solved at the browser level?

It’s an escalating battle, and a cat and mouse game. There is a definite tradeoff for features and security.

Mobile Devices – How are companies are moving desktop class browsing to mobile devices?

User experience has come a long way, but the full desktop experience may not be totally what you want (size/power/etc). Giving users that experience in a way that developers can take advantage of that experience is what we want. There shouldn’t be two paths for developers mobile vs. desktop. It is very interesting what the iPhone has done, and people are trying to find ways to get web on a small screen usable.

IE 8 vs. Corporate using IE 6 and ActiveX – Consumers also using. As 6 dwindles, IE 7 is more likely to get replaced by 8 (since those folks get the roll-outs) How does MS handle this?

MS can’t do anything about the folks who don’t get things pushed. These people using 6 can’t necessarily be forced out of it but encouraged to IE 8.

W3C Widget Standards – Besides Opera, what are the plans from the other groups?

Widgets are  fairly low priority at the moment (more important things to focus on). MS has a similar story. Many things would probably show up above widgets in priority.

CSS Support of font-face rights vs. image rights. Is it the job of a browser maker to protect business models (font IP)?

Image/sound scenario vs font – the image folks give you rights for those images. The problem with font files is there is a limited set of fonts that allow you to do this, or rights to allow you to put it up on a server.

More notes from this session at:

BMW Uses Microsoft Surface

Posted: March 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: General, SXSW '09 | Comments Off on BMW Uses Microsoft Surface

There were a couple of places Microsoft had placed two of their surface tables around SXSW. In one area, it was the default interface that just lets you play. In another area, they had a demo going of how the product is being used in different venues. It has been installed in some hotels in Vegas where you can oder room service. The most interesting demo was the product’s installation in BMW dealerships. There was a special app in Surface that walks through customizing a car. There are swatches of actually colors and tectures for the outside and inside of the car. It’s a really great concept, and much more interactive than simply picking the packages of you car on a standard computer and monitor.

Beyond Aggregation — Finding the Web’s Best Content

Posted: March 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: SXSW '09 | Comments Off on Beyond Aggregation — Finding the Web’s Best Content

Monday, March 16th at 10:00 AM
Marshall Kirkpatrick – ReadWriteWeb
Louis Gray –
Gabe Rivera – Techmeme
Melanie Baker – AideRSS Inc
Micah Baldwin – Lijit Networks Inc

Favorite methods and strategies for finding the best content or the best technology/tools for finding content.


Information anywhere you look on the web. You can find info anywhere! Helpful to limit your sources. Google Reader as a starting point to pull in all RSS feeds. Read fast, share fast, decide fast, click fast. Share it, but know where it’s going (out to friendfeed, facebook etc).


Techmeme is driven by automation, showing the most important events/pieces in tech news. Relies much on link (one blog going to another going to another = newsworthy). It looks for situation where many articles are talking about the same thing over short period of time. A few months back an editing process was entered into techmeme, headlines can be tweaked/removed/moved around on the front page.


ReadWriteWeb editor – works on both human and algorithm side. Finding articles and then seeing how people react to it. Who are the influential people and topics, making sure their content moves in. Blogs can be chosen, and run through postrank to find the top content.


The starting point is a trusted source. Ligit aggregates trusted sources. It all starts with trust. By hand trust relationships are replicated online. The key to what’s beyond aggregation is tying it back to real life, and finding the key to trust.


ReadWriteWeb – finding the weirdest stuff on the web. Delicious, postrank, yahoo pipes, feedburner used to find interesting sources. Look up links (good?) on delicious to see how most people describe certain sources? Find blog/culture sites on delicious, and ran the feeds through filter, then ran them through yahoo pipes to slices them together, then ran them through feedburner. You end up with a feed of just the best culture/weird blogs.

For those looking to be found, you’ll hear – content is king, write, people will find you, you’ll soon be rich and famous. Truth is, if nobody knows who you are, nobody will find you. The space beyond aggregation provides many sites that take popular and run it through some sort of filter adding a human element to bring out the best (not just the most popular). If you go too much to the human, it’s all about personal opinion, but going too much to the computer side, you get generic results. Combining these two gets you a unique cross-section of the best – you get the wisdom of the crowd w/out just getting what is favorite today. Friendfeed is very useful for picking topics, and drilling down to the best of the day.

The next techmeme-like topic could be a business/finance site, brining together stories/topics in that area. – Stories get votes to raise most popular in news topics (not just tech).

The interlinked communities aren’t only in the tech space (they just may know how to use the system better). There are still quite a few communities for many other topics.

It isn’t easy to build lists of the top bloggers, but many people (check google) have done this. Think on the people level, to find who you can trust.

Are you looking to find interesting people, or are you looking for topics to blog about yourself? Things you find the old fashion way is probably better. Many of the "popular" things out there are popular because they’ve already been found. Look at lolcatz – they track memes. You need to find more voices than just your own – find new blogs you’ve never heard of before. That list should grow every day, and grow over time. This will drive you deeper into many things. – tracks memes on twitter
Twitter search in google greasemonkey script brings twitter results into your google searches.
Drag and drop zones let you drop your search on many search engines (custom or otherwise)


  • The focus is largely on blogs, and tech content – what about tools that search across other areas (Mahalo etc.)  for consumers or mainstream users?
    -There are plenty of tools out there every day, but the normal users will come to us and start using our tools instead of going easier and going from bottom up. It’s ultimately what their goal is – they’re looking for News of the day, many of them use the more generic sites (MSN starting page or MyYahoo).
  • Many times the top list sites (digg etc) start to grow and get worse as the community grows – how do these sites deal with this growth?
    -We’re seeing more sites with promote/burry features, and dealing with this growth.
  • What is this activity called (the whittling down of content/aggregation?
    -Intent-based Curation


  • One group took a look at popular links, then followed them back to when they were first added to, and started a list of the names that showed up repeatedly, then started following the blogs of those people. There were many similar names, and they continually provide good content.

The Web In Higher Education: What’s Different?

Posted: March 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: SXSW '09 | Comments Off on The Web In Higher Education: What’s Different?

Sunday, March 15th at 03:30 PM
Brad Ward – Butler University
Dylan Wilbanks – University of Washington School of Public Health

Many times there are usually just a small collection of people from higher education at conferences. The room for this session was overflowing with folks from higher ed.

This discussion is about ways we’re different and ways we’re the same. We’re a special group when compared to corporate environments. The audience is different, and the audience is different. We’re mainly focusing our communications on a very particular demographic (high school/college age). Education is much more open than corporate – sharing is more prevalent.

It was recently discussed that universities in Australia get more money based on the number of students in your school.

What are the downsides of Education?

  • There is less money (similar to a startup) with the negative hierarchy of a corporate environment.
  • There is a large age gap between the audience and the folks delivering content
    -Students want all content online
    -Professors don’t want all content online
  • Many things are done in small teams for low money (there are a lot of generalists)
  • Forced to look for cheaper solutions (open source, ning, etc.), but we get a massive return on investment for small things
    • Small teams CAN do great things
    • Don’t be scared of risks of cheap solutions (social media).
    • Always be present and willing to be there to help.


Marketing and/or Communications teams seem to do better (?)

Development or design by committee is generally bad

Where does your “web team” sit? IT or Marketing or Instructional? – All over

Faculty don’t always know what’s out there in tech (they are very busy) – Young facult dont’ always know about or are required to know what’s out there (tech not built into tenure)

What is the biggest problem now?
-Get faculty to use the learning management system
-Make human side of relationship easier and more easy to manage (prof office hours)


  • UF – looking at Facebook for recruiting and outreach
  • UCLA – it is a good connection with students in open forum – answer questions and also poll users (two way conversations)
  • Walden University (Internet only school) – Recruit students and market all events and communicate with students
  • DePaul – 3500 FB users – alumni said they want email and provided input and evidence to the alumni office via Facebook
  • Western – engage alumni for get togethers through FB – they are now pulling record numbers by using Facebook.
  • UF Law School – pages or groups? Pages: top level Groups: more niche has good breakdown


Software vs. Service offered by school or outside school. Sometimes it’s easier and cheaper to go outside based on internal charge-back.

Standards accessibility – are they important? YES (most). Multimedia accessibility is done on request (508). Enterprise tools to test across an entire site for accessibility  – IBM Radional Quality Tester or WorldSpace

Universities have brilliant people and sharing is a plus – it is helpful to set up groups to discuss various things – web or social media working groups.

Communication is successful when they know and trust you – open 2-way communications are important  (blog?)

“We wish challenges were technical and not political!”

Video of Presentation: