Thanks to NewTek, I attended the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin last week, and here are some of the take-away ideas I gathered. Overall, it was a great experience, and refreshing to be around people who are more like me that the general population. In other words, I was surrounded by geeks!
The Buzz: Newspapers are Dying
At SXSWi, one of the big buzzes was that traditional print / newspapers are dying. This is not news to those of us in the Internet business. But they don’t have to DIE, they just need to adapt and pay attention to new ways of disseminating important information and new revenue streams. There’s a lot of fear of the unknown out there. Younger people embrace the change, older people fear it. Content is no longer king. Social interactivity is now required to have a cutting edge web site.
Some Web Designers Can’t Code
Because the Internet refuses to have rigidly defined roles, there was a discussion of the benefits of being a specialist and the overlap of a variety of self-defined job roles. The generalist makes sure that execution matches intention and can do a (sometimes poor) job of everything. A generalist lives at the intersection of technology, design, and business in the organization. The specialist can act like a hit man, and be assigned a particular problem area or task to accomplish. Specialists are the first to be laid off, right after the people who design and can’t code.
Meetings are Toxic
I attended one meeting where the rather arrogant presenter ironically proclaimed that meetings are toxic, and that he doesn’t go to them. Of course, he doesn’t go to the office either. He’s from 37 Signals, the creators of web apps for office collaboration like file sharing and scheduling. He had a few nuggets that are worth remembering: “decisions are progress;” “there’s only one way to get exactly what you want, but 1,000 to get approximately what you want. Be happy with approximations;” “culture is the result of consistent actions.”
Reduce Friction to Get Things Done
A lot of things don’t get done simply because it’s too hard to do them in an organization. Several panels focused on reducing the friction for people so that it was easy to do their work.
FourSquare is Hot
If Twitter was all the rage at SXSW a couple of years ago, now FourSquare.com was the hit of the show. FourSquare had a group of people playing (guess what) four square outside the convention center. People were collecting buttons with the foursquare badge icons on them. The app was really high profile and this had to be a stellar show for them.
Revelation – “The Cloud” isn’t anything too fancy
After talking with at least three Cloud vendors, I determined that The Cloud wasn’t as magical as their marketing departments made it out to be. It is simply a VM ware software component installed on bare metal that allows management of 1 – infinite(?) number of machines with one interface. The system can be managed as if it were one server, but can have many instances of servers that can also be independently managed. Useful? Of course. Revolutionary? Not so much. Spin factor = high.
Last week, back at my desk with my huge bags of swag, I pondered the relevance of attending conferences. I have never been a big meeting person, nor am I an auditory learner, so I’ve typically avoided attending events like this, but there was something really encouraging about seeing thousands of people engaged in Internet work. I’ve been here a long time and these people were all fresh, young, new and excited about the possibilities. Critical mass has finally arrived.