SXSWi: Panel Summaries

Today I sent my company a report on SXSW (so they can justify sending me). I provided short descriptions of each panel, so I figured I’d share that information here.

How to Rawk SXSW
This was a mostly silly panel (the panelists were literally passing around… and guzzling from… a brown paper bag) that kicked things off. The goal was to make sure you had the adequate tools to best take advantage of the SXSW experience. The name of the game was Twitter. If you want to know more about Twitter, hit me up. On the rock star front, I met Tantek √áelik (CTO of Technorati) and Matt Mullenweg (The 23 year old kid that wrote WordPress).

World Domination Via Collaboration
This panel should have swapped “collaboration” for “community”. Luckily, both are realated to TRACE-SE and this gave me a lot of ideas for the future of TRACE. Topics included “killers” of community, reviving a struggling community, how to find the experts in your community, and how to convice companies to “let go” and embrace the input of their customers.

Turning Projects Into Revenue Generating Businesses
This was a panel of total rock stars, folks that turned their side projects into businesses. I’ve done some research on business models for TRACE (to sustain it after Phase II), and it was nice to get some input from people that have actually done it. For rock star meetings, I timidly introduced myself to the wonderful Tara Hunt (of Citizen Agency).

Kathy Sierra Opening Remarks
Kathy is the author of Creating Passionate Users (best blog ever) and produces the Head First series of books for O’Reilly. The key point Kathy made was about how we are still nowhere near being able to capture and decipher the bewildered look on users’ faces when they are confused while using an application. She proposed a simple solution: A “WTF?” button. The WTF button could be context sensitive and guide users to their solution, based on thewhere they are in the app and a series of questions the user answers.

Commercialization of Wikis: Open Community That Pays the Bills
This fantastic (though short) discussion outlined a series of ways you can get your wiki to generate enough revenue to sustain itself. Best quote: “EFF THAT. I hate the term crowdsourcing. It’s one of the ugliest terms ever invented on the internet. People in wiki software are some of the most idealistic, altruistic people on the planet. We don’t want to exploit people.”

Web 2.0 and Semantic Web: The Impact on Scientific Publishing
This was another classic Web 2.0 vs. Semantic Web chat, this time in the area of publishing and archiving scientific articles. The big question still is… while the Semantic Web would be better in theory, is getting to a point where it is useful even possible? Maybe it is. I don’t know. The moderator (John Wilbanks of Creative Commons) said he would come back to comment on my blog when he gets his head around what the panel discussed.

Using RSS for Marketing
The best thing I got out of this one was that we won’t be calling RSS “RSS” when it hits mainstream, similar to how SMTP is just called “email”. Will it be “feeds”? Will it be “live bookmarks”? This also got me thinking about Microformats. When this extra semantic, usable data is detected in future browsers, what are we going to call it? New friend Aaron Walter recommends “portable content”. Er… enough about that.

Design Workflows at Work: How Top Designers Work Their Magic
Some didn’t like this panel. It was more about process than technique. And when I say process, I don’t mean tool-heavy discussion either. Still, it was good to hear about the environments others work in. Sometimes it’s nice to now I’m not a freak for wanting to close the door, turn off the lights, and crank the music to 11 just to get some work done.

Accessified! Practical Accessibility Fixes Any Web Developer Can Use
I had no idea there were accessible table and form building tools out there. I look forwad to using these in the future. I learned some other tricks using the Web Developer Toolbar for accessibility.

ValleySpeak for the Rest of Us: Developing Apps Outside InternetVille
Dan Cederholm and Brian Oberkirch. Do I need to say more? This panel aimed to show that you can develop successful web applications without being part of the Silcon Valley gang. It also covered the pros and cons of remote development. I had met both Brian and Dan, but after this session I had a really good chat with Joshua Porter of User Interface Engineering (who I have read for a long time but never met). Then… after walking with Brian… I met… THE Jeffrey Zeldman (A List Apart, HappyCog, etc.). :)

Get Unstuck: Moving From 1.0 to 2.0
This was another panel of rock stars, featuring Zeldman, Chris Messina (who I’ve spoken to a few times but had never “met”), and Luke Wroblewski (of Yahoo and author of the great Functioning Form blog). This was another (as was the trend) that focused more on strategy than implementation. I certainly appreciated that.

Scaling Your Community
Matt Mullenweg (WordPress) gave a humorous and inspiring chat about scaling. It sure would be a great problem to have on TRACE, and I’d like to be prepared.

The Growth and Evolution of Microformats
This went over the history of Microformats. Two interesting notes. The first I already wrote above (when they are more widely adopted, what are we going to call them?). Second, soemone asked about what happens if fictional content (as part of a game) is Microformatted and the search engines crawl it?

Bullet Tooth Web Design: Plan Your Web Site like Pulling off a Robbery
Totally humorous. Totally worth it. Sat on the floor next to Andy Budd (and turned around and told him I’m halfway through his book).

Design Patterns: Defining and Sharing Web Interface Design Languages
Luke talked about design patterns, what they are made of, and how they work better than style guides. I’ll have to look at some of the Yahoo examples closer.

The Death of the Desktop
This one is going to lead to some CogBlog content. Aza Raskin, son of Jef (father of the Macintosh), and his company (Humanized) are making some pretty cool software that allows you to run most commands you would in the destop as an overlay on top of your other applications. He spoke of the theory behind this development process and while Chris Messina made some great counterpoints, I think they are doing great work.

Web Typography Sucks
This was one of the best panels. Two UK designers gave a very inspiring talk on type on the web. The emergence of content management systems has forced designers to lose their grasp on the subtle typographical elements in their designs. When content developers incorrectly use things like double hypens for em dashes and straight quotes, the designer is losing the intimate details he or she has tried so hard to achieve.

Design Aesthetic of the Indie Developer
Another strategy panel, this time from the perspective of a developer that works by himself, for himself.

Instructional Online Video – The Next Big Thing
Not too much here, but some interesting techniques were shared.

Can Social Networking Build Your Brand?
This was one of the pleasant surprises of the conferece, for me. Jason Schwartz talked about how you can use sites like del.icio.us for market research in order to target site to advertise on or partners to match up with. A rare social media tactic I haven’t heard yet.

The Global Microbrand: Are Blogs, Suits and Wine the New Sex, Drugs and Rock
This one was very inspiring on a personal level. I left it thinking about what exactly I am doing by blogging. What are my goals? Where do I want it to take me? There were some very compelling stories about connecting with your readers. Great panel, too, featuring Kathy Sierra, Hugh McLeod, Gabe Rivera, and David Parmet. Chris, Tara, and Brian added some great questions and comments as well.

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