It’s that time of year again… SXSW Interactive, an Austin-based haze of mixers, tacos, and lovable geeky meet-ups is right around the corner, but never fear there is still time to get your interactive game plan down.
SXSW Interactive features five days of compelling presentations from the brightest minds in emerging technology, with tons of exciting networking events hosted by industry leaders, the incredible SXSW Trade Show, which “wows” me every year and an unbeatable lineup of special programs showcasing the best new digital works, video games and innovative ideas the international community has to offer. Taking place March 11-15, thousands of prospective panels get submitted by all kinds of people… The trick is to weed through the panels to hone in on focused area’s of interest that can or will be applicable to your field of interest, or heck perhaps may just seem interesting.
It is near impossible to go through every panel. Here are a few that caught my eye, but I encourage people to keep their eyes on the inter-webs for helpful tips, and also take the 5 seconds to Google the speakers you may be interested in, a little Google research goes a long way. Some panels I chose because I know the presenters are good. Some I picked because the subject matter is interesting to me. And some I selected because the description well… it just seemed pretty darn interesting. For a list of all panels and locations, I have included the following links:
PANELS WE RECOMMEND (and will be attending):
How Print Design is the Future of Interaction
This session is about how the history of Print Design is becoming an important influence in the evolution of Interaction Design. As a craft, design for printed media has a rich history. Several generations of designers have pushed its boundaries in countless directions. It has been shaped over several hundred years as both a functional and aesthetic discipline, with a deep foundation of principles, practices, theories, and professional dialogue. In comparison, Interaction and UI Design is still a relatively young field. Its history has largely been driven by technology and functional goals. The dialogue around it has been centered on usability, which has been its purpose in the context of technological advancement. The visual language of UI has evolved from that standpoint: that it should evoke the familiar, analog experience of tools, buttons, knobs, and dials. That foundation has led to a very specific visual language in interactive experiences. In the past ten years however, the relevant technologies that support the design of Interfaces – displays, processing speeds, and rendering engines – have matured to a point that they provide a more capable canvas for design… Presented by Mike Kruzeniski
Anatomy of a Design Decision
What separates a good design from a bad design are the decisions that the designer made. Jared will explore the five styles of design decisions, showing you when gut instinct produces the right results and when designers need to look to more user-focused research. You’ll see how informed decisions play out against rule-based techniques, such as guidelines and templates. And Jared will show you the latest research showing how to hire great decision makers and find opportunities that match your style. Of course, Jared will use his unforgettable presentation style to deliver an extremely entertaining and informative presentation. Presented by Jared Spool, Founding Principal of User Interface Engineering.
Inclusive Design: Creating Beautiful, Usable & Accessible Websites
The concept of the Web for All is something that we hold dear, but sometimes it feels like we are holding on to it for dear life! There is plenty of knowledge sharing about Web Standards and best practices, but too many opinions about what a website really is. If you ask a designer, a developer and a marketer, you will probably get 3 different answers and this can be a tad problematic when you only have one website. Things that are designed are invariably products of some sort and it became clear that the internet is a product that people interact with using technology. Learning to apply the principles of Inclusive Design to building websites makes sense, but existing technologies and practices in order to ensure its successful implementation is where we are at now. Presented by Ian Pouncey
Creative and Effective Leadership in Design Environments
A search on Amazon shows 62,000+ books on leadership but almost nothing to help creative team leaders build and sustain a creative environment. Creativity and innovation can be delicate and emotionally fraught processes. Leadership theories are helpful, but what do you do when your star designer suddenly starts mailing it in? Or a project team is frozen in infighting? Or one of your designers just can’t find their footing in a new project? When you got your big promotion for being an amazing designer, no one told you that you needed an entirely new skill set. Sink or swim, baby. Learn tips from vision development to team alignment, from bottom-up empowerment to top-down intervention. Presented by Sarah B. Nelson, Hot Studio
Web apps, mobile phone apps, websites that work anywhere, SVG, HTML5, Widgets, location-aware sites, Media Queries. Beyond the buzzword assault is a revolution in the way sites are made, what they can do, and how they are accessed.Explore different methodologies for making websites that users can access on mobile phones and other devices, and how to optimize your existing website for mobile. Find out what’s coming around the corner in HTML5 and the W3C APIs that allow websites to access native capabilities on devices. Presenter: Bruce Lawson
The Politics Behind HTML5
HTML5 is the flavor of the month. Steve Jobs thinks it will feed his cat, Google thinks it means whatever they think is good, and the rest of us are waiting to discover what (apart from video, better forms, and interoperable parsing on the web) it actually *is* when it’s done. Obviously, there is a lot of interest in the next generation of such an important technology, and a lot of discussion about what it will be, how it works, etc. Where the people go, politics follows close behind. From CSSquirrel to MrLastWeek, from the New York Times to bloggers in Kyrgyzstan, people are also watching the politics. And there is a lot of it. On this panel, the people who have been there take you on a guided tour of the (smoky backroom) discussions and deals that shape HTML5, and looks at what is happening now. Where did HTML5 come from? Who were the players, who are the players, and what do they think? Why is X3D not in HTML5 if MathML is? What happened to accesskey, and why are people unhappy? Why does HTML5 have two licenses, and two specs? This panel *won’t* answer your questions about how to include HTML5 in your website. It will explore the thorny questions you want to ask but nobody wants to answer, and we’ll maybe have a little fun along the way.
Beyond the Check-In: Location and the Social Web
This panel will look at how the “ever-present human desire to share” leads to success for check-ins using location-based services such as Gowalla and Foursquare. Josh Williams, co-founder and CEO of Gowalla, will explain how people’s propensity to share where they are and what they’re doing is changing the way we communicate.
Williams will also share insights on how geolocation has shaped mobile technology and what’s next for Gowalla and other mobile-social services. He plans to address questions that would be of interest to both journalists and news consumers, including this one: “OK, so I’ve shared all the places I’ve been and connected it with photos and videos. Now what do I DO with all that data?”
Exploring the Twitter APIs
This panel is worth going to if you want to find out how the Twitter API works, how some of its new features came to be, and how it might look and work in the future. In particular, Matt Harris of Twitter will talk about what you can and can’t do with Twitter’s API. The panel is bound to be technical, but at the very least it will help you gain a better understanding of how APIs work.
Designing a Seamless Web to Mobile Experience
Clearly more and more consumers and small businesses are making the move to mobile to help manage their day to day lives. With that migration comes the demand – and expectation – for seamless utility between their Web and mobile experiences. Rather than having services live separate lives via their desktop or Web applications, customers are looking for instant gratification in an end to end experience independent of what device they’re using to access their information. The problem? No one is providing this seamless experience yet – and if they are, it is not meeting customer expectations. Explore the ways that companies can and are making the successful translation of Web to mobile and how that will result in customer delight and uptake of new mobile services across the market. Presented by Omar Green, Director of Strategic Mobil Initiatives at Intuit.
Designing iPad Interfaces – New Navigation Schemas
Lynn Teo of AKQA, an agency specializing in interactive marketing, will look at trends and best practices in iPad application design navigation. Based on an assessment of more than 50 iPad apps, Teo will provide an analysis of navigation methods and will answer questions such as: “Are there specific wayfinding and browsing mechanisms that make for a satisfying and productive iPad user experience?” and “How effective are the navigation approaches? Why are some more/less effective than others?”
App, Shmapp, Tell Me What Works Across Platforms!
This panel could be of interest to publishers and developers who want to better analyze consumers’ behavioral patterns to “develop the best possible mobile application and mold the app to harness the advantages of each platform.” Aaron Forth, director of product design at Intuit’s Mint.com, will look at how mobile apps have changed the way companies interact with their companies and will explain how developers can create behavioral-based apps for the iPhone and Droid platforms.
Behind the Curtain: Secrets of Mobile Application Wizardry
Razorfish’s Paul Gelb says “tens of thousands of developers and hundreds of thousands of mobile applications have gotten it wrong” and have failed to attract active users. Gelb plans to show participants how they can do it right and will talk about the biggest mistakes that developers make when creating apps. He’ll also offer tips on how to measure the performance of a branded application.
Apps vs. Mobile Web: Which to Reach Consumers?
This presentation discusses the pros and cons of using Mobile Web and Applications to reach consumers. It draws on GetJar’s experience as the world’s 2nd largest app store with over 1 billion downloads on what works and what doesn’t to reach consumers on mobile. The presentation will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using mobile apps vs. mobile web. It will also discuss innovative new ways to use both mediums to reach your consumers in a way that is scaleable and cost effective for your organization. The presentation will also discuss who you can communicate your mobile web / mobile apps offering to your consumers in a way that is clear, simple and easy to follow for consumers regardless of what kind of handset or platform they are using. Presented by Patrick Mork, CMO Get Jar
Fail Big, Fail Often: How Fear Limits Creativity
It can be difficult to embrace failure when you’re working on deadline and under a tight budget. But Jeramy Morrill of Big Spaceship says failure is a necessary part of creation. During his panel, he’ll talk about how our responses to failure improve or decrease our potential as creative thinkers, and how to get satisfaction out of the process of “failing forward.”
I’m So Productive, I Never Get Anything Done
Media columnist David Carr of The New York Times will look at how technology contributes to, and detracts from, journalists’ productivity. He raises relevant questions for journalists who want to strike a better balance between consuming media and creating it: “Is your desktop a window on the world or just a view of the prison yard?” and “What specific steps have you taken to bifurcate your world into productivity and recreation?”
*Geek Out ALERT! An Interview with Mythbuster Adam Savage
As one of the co-hosts of The Discovery Channel’s & Mythbusters, Adam Savage’s work is interactive at the most literal and basic level — yet also indicative of the forward-thinking approaches to communication celebrated at SXSW. A proponent of both DIY trouble-making and an outspoken advocate for science over rumor, Savage has to balance the enthusiasms that spring for wanting to see something for oneself with the hard facts that have been proven by others time and again. An industrial designer and special effects supervisor prior to busting myths, Savage brings an engineer’s methodology to the problems not just of urban myths and historic legends but to the larger problems of scientific illiteracy and know-nothing-ism in American culture. Presenter: Ana Marie Cox, GQ Magazine
Q&A With Google & Bing On Website Ranking
This looks like a worthwhile panel if you’re interested in search engine optimization and driving traffic to your site. Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, will join Google’s Matt Cutts and a representative from Bing to talk about ways to increase your site’s ranking online. They’ll address questions such as: “What are best practices to do well with Google & Bing?” and “What are common design techniques that should be avoided?”
The Grand Challenges in Media
Robin Sloan is a serious media innovator, having moved from Current TV futurist to Kickstarter-funded novelist to media integrator at Twitter. He’s going to “describe the significant unsolved problems in media, and talk about why they matter,” and then offer “a starter kit” of models and ideas that point to a solution.
Tips to surviving SXSW Interactive:
1. It’s OK to skip a few panels. The numerous options of panels, book signings, speaker sessions, and meet-ups can be totally overwhelming, especially for first-timers. But definitely maintain a “must attend” list, but also take time to enjoy the spontaneous hallway conversations that often take place when roaming the convention center.
2. Ditch the lap top, but carry a charger. This tip certainly isn’t for everyone and your job may require that you carry your lap top with you everywhere. If your lap top is optional, then you may want to consider leaving it in your hotel room and instead carry pen/paper or use your phone. You’ll be doing tons of walking to/from/around the convention center and may not have a break to drop off your bag at your hotel before going out.
Between geo-location check-ins on Foursquare or Gowalla, live tweeting during panels, taking notes, and text messages/calls/DMs to meet up with people, you don’t want to run out of juice early in the day.
SXSW has a Volt Recharge Lounge on the ACC floor that will have lots of chargers & plug-in space.
3. Say hello to people! People are very friendly and approachable — even the rockstars of social media and emerging technology. Introduce yourself to people sitting next to you in panels or while walking from one session to another. At SXSW, everyone enjoys learning things such as where other people are from, what they hope to get out of SXSW, and what they think of the Texas BBQ!
4. Arrive early to popular panels. Due to the size of the convention center and number of people trying to get from point A to point B, it can take 10 – 15 minutes to walk from one session to another. Many of the sessions fill up to maximum seating capacity quickly, so if there is a session on your “must attend” list, then not a bad idea to aim to arrive 10 minutes early to that session.
*SXSW Pro Tips. The food always runs out before the drinks at SXSW, so if your only priority for the week is sustaining yourself on the generosity of blogs, publicists, and Internet start-ups, enjoy fighting through that taco-and-Sailor-Jerry’s hangover in order to get in line early enough to gulp down another aluminum-foil chafing dish full of barbecue, rethink this…projections in number of participants for this years SXSW is way higher then last year. Pack a snack or visit one of the bar/restaurants on either 4th or 6th Street like Frank, The Jackalope, B.D. Rileys, and Halcyon, they all usually have SXSW specials during the month.
The learned SXSW-attendee knows that the “free food” is a bonus, but definitely not a guarantee. A day of day panels, shows and industry parties can be quite long—so pad your wallet with a little lunch money.
Also, Block Off Some Time for the Trade Show Block Party…The Block Party will be popping this year from 4:00pm to 6:00pm on Tuesday, March 15, the Block Party is styled after a traditional pub crawl.
Instead of pubs, registrants are encouraged to visit the booths of participating companies for tasty treats and refreshing beverages, both alcoholic and non. This year will feature participation from over 30 entities, so it is sure to be a good time.
To stay up to date on all the SXSW happenings in the Trade Show and beyond, visit the SXSW Schedules often.