March 16, 2010

Highlights and photos of SXSW 2010

Interviewing Cashmore

From Guy Kawasaki’s Twitter addiction to Evan Williams’ keynote

JD LasicaI‘ve learned long ago the challenge of covering South by Southwest Interactive, which hums along at its own idiosyncratic pace compared to more linear conferences. Thus, I spent last year and this year doing less blogging, conducting more interviews (which I’ll roll out in the coming weeks), taking more photos and doing much more networking.

I returned home from my fourth SXSW last night after 74 exhausting but satisfying hours. Here are 54 photos from the event I just uploaded to Flickr.

Before I return to real-world mode, here are some snippets from the South by Southwest 2010:

A few random bits from SXSW

Exchange between Guy Kawasaki and Laura Fitton at the last panel I caught on top Twitter tools. Kawasaki: “There are two types of Twitter users: Those who want as many followers as possible, and those who are lying.” (I’ve heard Guy repeatedly trot out this chestnut.)

Fitton: “Bullshit, Guy, you have to find the right followers.”

I’m with Laura on this one. I could have hit 50,000 followers long ago through manipulation rather than attracting the 10,000 high-signal followers I have now. Twitter is about connecting with the right people, not creating another broadcast station, though I see how Guy has made good use of his large following.

• If there was ever a doubt that Twitter co-founder Evan Williams is a tech rock star, his keynote chat made that clear. The main exhibit hall and two ballrooms were packed to capacity. I like the modest new Twitter program @anywhere, which lets users follow a writer straight from her byline or tagline on a blog or news story without having to go to the Twitter site. As Ev says, “It reduces friction.”

• Williams: “Openness is a survival technique, because some of your core assumptions are probably wrong.”

• More Ev Williams: “it’s been important to us for Twitter to reach the weakest signals in the world. SMS can reach all these people. It’s actually profound in the right situations.” Those of us who rely each day on the Internet forget that billions of people still don’t have Internet access, though many of them do have cell phones. Twitter has agreements with 65 carriers in world, and people in the developing world are discovering the benefits of using Twitter via mobile carrier. “We take that [Internet connectivity] for granted, that anyone can communicate with each other,” Williams said. “For Chilean farmers who hear there’ll be a downpour in a few days, it can be a life-changing event.”

• Williams says media corporations are adapting to the new landscape. “Ecosystems get richer if there are new species. The old species die off if they’re not adding enough value. Pretending the new species don’t exist or saying I’m at war with that — that doesn’t work.”

• Loved Friday’s TechSoup-led display of “world-changing mobile apps,” including:

    • The Good Guide, with info about 70,000-plus health, food, toy and beauty products — including an API that lets you create a custom product directory that pulls from its database.

    Ushahidi — the Swahili word for witness — allows anyone with a mobile device to tell stories in an organized way that enables action. Major relief organizations and agencies, including the Red Cross, US State Department and US AID — relied on Ushahidi to assess the situation on the ground in Haiti and deploy resources in a more strategic way.

    • Check out for an amazing backstory.

• During the Web fonts session, Jeff Veen pointed to Mena Trott’s The Sew Weekly for an old-timey type treatment using TypeKit. Personally, I’ve downloaded TypeKit for this blog but haven’t used it because compatibility issues across platforms and browsers still persist, download times are an issue (the entire font family needs to download into the browser, and the payoff isn’t that compelling quite yet — but that day is coming. “It’s gonna be sort of byzantine for a while,” said design legend Roger Black, whom I finally got to meet.

• Also got to meet Pete Cashmore, founder/editor of Mashable, who’s even classier and more personable than his online persona. (Pete said he was a longtime fan of my writings, and the feeling is mutual.)

• Poor premise of the Media Armageddon panel torpedoed that puppy — what happens “after the New York Times dies.” But a few good quotes. Markos Moulitsas: “Markos of Daily Kos: “Now [former NY Times reporter and Iraq War cheerleader] Judith Miller is at Fox News, where she belonged in the first place.” … One panelist averred: “When a newspaper goes there’ll be a desire in the marketplace to fill it.” Nope. That’s a simplistic view of newspapers, where the fluff stuff has subsidized serious reporting for decades — especially reporting that won’t be sustained in a vertical, stripped-down, unbundled world. It’s a fundamental mistake to posit that “the civic reflex and impulse that newspapers developed” — as David Carr put it — has no value if it can’t sustain itself in the new digital marketplace. As a society, we have to find a way to undergird those civic responsibilities of sharing mundane but important information and ferreting out corruption.

• Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg has it right, I think. She said during her panel: “You hear things from friends, and they link out to validated news sources. Teens 17-19 are engaging with news more than ever and becoming fans of trusted news sources more than ever.”

• At Saturday night’s Digg party, I made my first contribution using Square, the Jack Dorsey startup and app that attaches to an iPhone so you can swipe a credit card. Charity:water got my $25.

• “Every time a talented young producer goes off to work for Google, another startup dies,” said Matt Ewing of Democracy Alliance quoting a Silicon Valley aphorism and making an allusion to how social change innovators should consider launching their own projects rather than getting absorbed into nonprofits or socially responsible outfits. “A lot of little ideas that can change the world aren’t being funded right now.” Democracy Alliance is looking to help change that.

• Great to see such a robust turnout for Saturday’s Social Media Breakfast at the Hyatt.

• Good seeing or chatting up a slew of old and new friends, including Dan Gillmor, Jeff Jarvis, Chris Saad, David Spark, Beth Kanter, Amy Sample Ward, Gregarious, Kenny Yeung, Steve Rosenberg, Scott Rosenberg, Maria Ogneva, Matt Ewing, Drew Olanoff, John Hagel, Katie Bisbee, David Isenberg, Brynn Evans, Jake Brewer, Susan Mernit, Adina Levin, Espree Devora, Shira Lazar, Leo Laporte, Robert Scoble, Brian Solis, Staci Kramer, Gina Hughes, Ponzi Pirillo, Jeremiah Owyang, Deb Schultz, Charlene Li, Janet Fouts, Kari Dunn Saratovsky, Holly Ross, Sloane Berrent, Andy Carvin, Missy Ward, Alia McKee Scott, Jon Lebkowsky, Sarah Austin, Jean Russell, Monica Guzman, Dave McClure, Marshall Kirkpatrick, Liz Gannes, Halcyon Liew, John Schwartz, Jon Funabiki, Sarah Astin, Amanda Coolong, Christina Gagnier, George Kelly, David Cohn and many others.

Cross-posted to Socialbrite.JD Lasica, founder of, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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