SxSW Travelogue – Day 1

Hello from Austin! Eve and I are here at South by Southwest Interactive to scope out the latest innovations, meet with potential partners and non-profits, and check out all the conference has to offer. I’ll be updating semi-live blogging from the conference from today through Tuesday – be sure to check back regularly for updates (assuming the wireless holds out). Day 0 here. -John Brian

  • The session of social media metrics was fascinating – it’s going to take some time to digest, but of particular interest was what one speaker had to say about the frequent desire to measure success in impressions, which paraphrases to "If all you care about is impressions per dollar, just buy some really bad Google Ads, which will get you a million impressions for no money." They then went to talk about ways to quantify social media success, which I’ll go into in a separate post.
  • Google throws quite a party. The line was out for about a block even an hr after it started, and it was not clearing out even after the official ending.
  • I’m impressed by the number of nonprofits here – there’s quite a few with a commitment to new media, particularly with NTC coming up later in the month. That said, most folks I’ve talked to have said that the line production and pm folks are here while the execs are going to NTC.
  • Tomorrow is daylight savings, which means I’m basically back on Eastern time. Well, it was nice while it lasted. Also, according to the front desk, if I want to move my clock back, I need to disassemble it. Boo.
  • Going through my collected stuff for the day, I found the lit piece from Angelsoft, which says "$1 buys access to 1.2 angel groups for entrepreneur funding." Attached is a $1 bill, which seems legit. I’m not sure if this is a good tactic, since it guerentees that everyone will pick up your lit, or a bad one, because your gimmick is gone as soon as I get thirsty.
  • Also notable swag: Adobe had a fortune cookie in a Chinese food box. Cool enough, but the fortunes are only half written, and if you match your’s to the person who has the other half, you win a complete Adobe suite. Makes people not just keep your chum but also discuss with others.
  • What both these have in common is that they’re something of value to the attendees. On the contrary, most of the bag with filled with generic lit and stickers – why should I advertise your product with something that has no other value to me? I’ll hit the show floor tomorrow to see what other swag I can accumulate.

This post is getting long so I moved everything else below the fold.

  • 3:15: There hasn’t been much talk of MySpace here, though of course everyone is talking about Facebook. Is there anything MySpace can do to get back to the top of socnet pyramid?
  • 12:39: Three observations:
  1. The wireless here is excellent. My notebook has been getting five bars pretty much everywhere. Every other tech conference: hire whoever SxSW did to set up the WiFi.
  2. That said, power access has been awful. I buy that energy costs money and the combined effect of charging thousands of notebooks is an expsne, not to mention finding a way to deploy that infrestructure, but still… no power means taking notes with pen and paper.  What about a battery exchange – you drop off your battery, get a loaner, and pick up the charged original a few hours later?
  3. That said, however, it looks like smartphones are decreasing the need for a notebook. And the iPhone : phone with a keyboard ratio here seems pretty much the inverse of DC.
  • 12:13: Looks like the "winner" is HP’s astroturf campaign. Jeff Jarvis made the point that the themes that the entries had in common were they were trying to buy off the public (particularly bloggers), lying outright (and the inevitable coverup), and advertisers trying to be the story, rather than their product.

    The big takeaway I found was that the folks in the room, many of whom were regular rank and file bloggers, really had a palpable dislike for these campaigns and the products involved. Will a few more of these screwups lead to an end to astroturfing?

  • 11:33: Ended up deciding on the worst ad campaigns panel – this promises to be pretty entertaining. We’re watching nominees, followed by voting to determine the "winner." I’m hoping that there’s some creative directors in the room who worked on these campaigns. So far, we’ve had Wal-Mart, HP, Carlton, and Molson (I’ll find links for these later).
  • 11:17: Big takeaway on Findable rich media: make sure version of content in not-flash is identical; any changes and Google assumes you’re cheating. Other takeaways are mostly reinforcement of good SEO strategy: make sure pages have unique URLs, include links outside your flash, particularly on a splash page, and use title tags to help search engines understand what you’re going for.

    It also looks like both Adobe and Google are aware of the problems of an increasingly rich web and the need for better indexing (there’s progress being made – I wrote last year about an effort to auto-index video).

    For the next session, I’m debating between The Suxorz: The Worst Ten Social Media Ad Campaigns of 2007, Managing Communities That Work, or Accessible Rich Media.

  • 9:45: The conference bags weighed in at around 5 lbs, half of which I’ve already discarded (the perils of having web 2.0 and video games share a conference). Interestingly, the included coupon for a free Fuze, which would have been awfully helpful to wake me up this am, is not being accepted by the Starbucks onsite, forcing me to buy a $2.75 bottle of water. Boo.
  • 9:36: Registration went pretty quick – it seems like a combination of a good process and the attendees not being early risers.
  • 8:59: Just created a twitter feed so I can update w/o taking out my notebook.
  • 8:52: Waiting in line to get my badge – I pretty much expected a zoo this am, but this isn’t bad. Riding over with a few other folks from the hotel, it looks like about three quarters of people are coming for the main interactive festival, with the other quarter coming for the screenburn portion. Of course, that’s from a sample of four people, so there’s a pretty big margin of error there.

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