SXSWi 2011 Wrapup: The creative stimulation is undeniable

A few parting thoughts from South by Southwest Interactive 2011

IBMers Rawn Shah (Business Transformation Consultant), Ranjun Chauhan (Social Intelligence Strategist), and Kate Motzer (Social Business Manager for the IBM® Centennial) share their chief takeaways from SXSWi 2011.

Scott Laningham (scottla@us.ibm.com), Podcast Editor, IBM developerWorks

Scott LaninghamScott Laningham, host of developerWorks podcasts, was previously editor of developerWorks newsletters. Prior to IBM, he was an award-winning reporter and director for news programming featured on Public Radio International, a freelance writer for the American Communications Foundation and CBS Radio, and a songwriter/musician.



17 March 2011

developerWorks: This is Scott Laningham for developerWorks at the end of South by Southwest Interactive 2011, been podcasting from this wonderful conference where there's so much innovation and cool things you hear about every year, and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year.

So until next year ...

Listen to this podcast.

For this closing podcast, I'm joined by Kate Motzer, right, Kate? Kate is social business manager for the IBM® Centennial. And Ranjun Chauhan, who is social intelligence strategist at IBM. Good to have you here, Ranjun. And Rawn Shah ... Shah, whose name I keep mispronouncing and misspelling on my blog. I apologize about that, Rawn. Rawn is social business transformation consultant at IBM.

It's good to have all three of you. Ranjun, I just want to go around and get everybody's chief takeaways and memories from South By Southwest Interactive 2011.

Chauhan: I think some of my biggest takeaways is in the context of our social intelligence program that we're working on — that really when we look at metrics and the success of what we're doing and listening to what's happening in social media and relative to our brand, that the information and the data happens and takes place in a much bigger context.

And it's very difficult for any brand or any company to really put a single measure that holistically describes what's taking place and how we're interacting with the communities.

So it's really interesting to hear, and I think we have a great plan in place for IBM, and I think we're ahead of the curve and I'm looking forward to executing on some of the things that we have planned for this year.

developerWorks: Did you have a favorite session or talk that you heard, or even quote, you know, that you remember from someone?

Chauhan: I don't remember any of the quotes, but there was ... the most recent session we went to, it was, Big Sexy Data, and getting the impact out of the metrics that you need. And it was really unique. It wasn't a group of brand consultants or agencies that were talking about how a brand can just sell more products.

These were filmmakers, independent filmmakers, that wanted to help other independent filmmakers get the most out of social media, so their investors and their communities and the impact that they're actually trying to make with these documentaries had the impact, the societal impact they were trying to make.

And it was really great to see some of the tools that they were using to put those numbers and those metrics, which are still very important, in a greater context. It was interactive, the communities could use it. They could see what was happening, what the impact was. It was kind of like socializing the social media data in a way so that other people could see the numbers and the impact, and it prompts them to then act.

So if you're talking about any political or social issue, these metrics around this film become an agent for change to make an impact. And I think brands could learn from that behavior as well.

developerWorks: You've been to a lot of conferences, I'm sure.

Chauhan: Sure.

developerWorks: Where does this one rank in the universe of those in terms of the palpable cutting-edge conversation that you hear around these topics, around social media?

Chauhan: Well, this is pretty close to that. This definitely is cutting edge and I think it's valuable. It's one of those conferences that with it being cutting edge and sometimes bleeding edge, it's not a conference where you come to figure things out. It's, or I should say, really to get the answers to things you've been looking for.

It's a place to come to figure things out with other people through dialogue, through learning other case studies. You're not going to find answers here, but you're going to find a lot of other people that are trying to solve some of the problems you're trying to solve.

developerWorks: Yes, and maybe together you come to some new answers.

Chauhan: Exactly.

developerWorks: Because clearly the sessions are the big draw that you first think of when you go to the conference Web site to schedule your day, but once you start wandering around the ... we're in the Chevy Recharge Lounge, which is a popular watering hole for electricity and something to drink, but there's so many areas where people stop and visit. And I think a whole lot of what makes this conference powerful is what we see going on around us right here, isn't it?

Chauhan: Yes. And people doing things. That's what's really cool. You have to make a choice, right? There's only so much analysis paralysis that I want to suffer from. At some point you've got to make a choice and say we're going to act on it, and if we fail, great, we'll learn from it. If we're successful, even better.

developerWorks: Yes. That's good stuff, man. Thanks, Ranjun.

Chauhan: You're welcome.

developerWorks: Kate, is this your first South By, by the way, or have you been here before?

Motzer: Yes, it's my first South By and my first trip to Austin.

developerWorks: Oh, really?

Motzer: Yes.

developerWorks: First time to Austin?

Motzer: Yes.

developerWorks: Well, how do you like Austin?

Motzer: It's a big trip. Good. Beautiful city.

developerWorks: Pretty awesome, huh?

Motzer: Yes, beautiful.

developerWorks: And what did you think of the conference?

Motzer: I loved it. It was great. Lots of good takeaways from the conference, and it also kind of reenergizes you to go back into your role and take a fresh look at the social media and social business and how you should be adapting your ... the takeaways from here with the projects that I'm currently working on.

developerWorks: Yes. And then did you find that there were a lot of things you heard that really resonated with what you're working on?

Motzer: Yes. Definitely. I focused on going to panels which discussed metrics, engagement and influence. And so all important things to the centennial and our goal to have IBMers become more active with social outside of the firewall, so.

developerWorks: Do you want to share anything that we're doing around social and the centennial?

Motzer: Sure. Well, the major tool that we just rolled out is the social business at IBM tool. Our goal is to activate the IBMers more outside of the firewall since we've always been an innately social company inside the firewall. So this tool provides enablement tips for IBMers that have never used social media to IBMers that are much more familiar with it. And so a large part of that tool also is activating IBMers around the centennial to give tips and suggestions and ways for which they can do that.

developerWorks: Is there a place you want to point them to go and look for this right now? I mean, is it go to ibm.com and they'll find their way to it easily?

Motzer: Yes. Yes. Definitely.

developerWorks: Okay. Kate, I'm glad that we got to meet here at the conference. And you're going to come back, I hope.

Motzer: Yes.

developerWorks: So we can ...

Motzer: I hope so, too.

developerWorks: Yes. You should be here. All IBMers should be here.

Motzer: Yes.

developerWorks: A lot of exciting things happening. So we'll continue the conversation next year, okay?

Motzer: Okay. Great. Sounds good.

developerWorks: Rawn, what did you take away from the week?

Shah: This is my second South By, and the change between last year and this year is certainly dramatic in terms of population. Apparently unconfirmed, but this is 40 percent bigger than last year. That's a whole lot more people.

developerWorks: That means like 20,000 range probably.

Shah: Yes, yes. So that's a lot of people here.

developerWorks: That's a lot of people.

Shah: And a lot of topics. And it's kind of hit and miss. I got to say, some of the topics I guess I got 50 percent return if you want to look at the number of sessions I went and what I found valuable.

developerWorks: Yes.

Shah: The ones that I liked the most, there's one this morning on data privacy and sort of a legal standpoint point of view of, how can you use a person's data? Some of it is demographic information about who you are, but some of it is just the activity and what you do in a social environment itself.

So that really affects us. I mean, one of the things that they talked about was the Do Not Track list, which is going through the U.S. Congress right now, and we are trying to figure out if this is valid inside the organization itself.

developerWorks: Right.

Shah: So Do Not Track list was simple as the Do Not Call list. You know, if you put your name on the list, you know, the call center stalkers will not be calling, should not be calling you legally.

developerWorks: So is this saying you can't put any cookies on my browser? Or what is it?

Shah: This is saying that even if they put cookies in your browser, they should not retain that information whatsoever other than for that one session. Right? So temporarily, and then it gets wiped.

developerWorks: And you can opt in to this list, in other words?

Shah: Right. So you would opt in to the list. But it's not very granular the way they describe it.

developerWorks: They're not very good with the no-call list, so I don't know how well this will work.

Shah: Well, yes, exactly. And, you know, it's not something they can easily determine.

developerWorks: Yes.

Shah: Unless you get litigation.

So aside from that, you know, the issues of how do we find information about people. And we use our network. So, you know, one of the things they said is you're trading off convenience, right, that is access to information and all sorts of stuff for sharing.

So the more you share, the more likely you'll get information, more in the case that it costs less for them to get that kind of demographics information. There are a lot of businesses, advertising, marketing, a lot of other businesses which depend on that kind of information. So if you take that convenience away, that means their costs go up which means you could have less innovation in the space and you could have less services in this space.

developerWorks: Right.

Shah: Or you might have to start paying for them, which then people realize, well, maybe that wasn't that bad. You know, I don't really care if they know I'm male. They probably know that anyway.

developerWorks: The currency, again, paying with some of your privacy is sort of some of the currency of this innovation really, isn't it?

Shah: Right. Yes.

developerWorks: I mean, clearly.

Shah: Yes. And there's something to be argued on the other side, which is the question I asked, you know ...

developerWorks: What if you don't want the innovation? [LAUGHTER]

Shah: Well, no, no, the argument was that this is, it doesn't allow you to have startups like you see in South By. These guys are coming up with the new ideas on what kind of information, how do you use them.

developerWorks: Right.

Shah: Well, the mass ... most of the these kind of trackings is actually in terms of the large companies, the really large marketing companies and agencies and such that keep this information. So it's not really stifling innovation in the small business space.

developerWorks: Right.

Shah: You know, it's more the big companies have an issue with that. So that's the counterpoint to, you know, is this a real problem. So, you know, you've got to consider both sides. It's not just one side is right, the other side is wrong.

developerWorks: Yes.

Shah: The other one that I really loved was a session by Genevieve Bell over from Intel. She's the anthropologist over there, and she's been certainly in lots of articles and such. Her question and presentation was, how smart is too smart? Are we starting to build things into our systems which are really not designed for human ... the way people work.

developerWorks: Right. Yes.

Shah: So a smart TV. You know, if your TV could determine what shows that you watch so you could send it off. You know, this is the information that you could send it off to some company that will determine how to better get your better content.

Well, when they surveyed, most people came back and said, no, I don't want people ... I don't want my wife to know what I'm watching, I don't want my girlfriend to know. I don't care how it is. And this was, it was actually overwhelmingly so in that respect.

So we're trying to be too smart about a problem that doesn't need to be solved. You know, the only ones who really like to solve the problems are the vendors on that side.

developerWorks: Yes.

Shah: And she had a lot of really, really great stories about this. So, I mean, that's one of the things when you look at innovation is, don't go beyond the capacities of what people actually do in the real life. Maybe there are things that you need to edge people move, and sort of think more beyond that, you know, move out of your shell, grow your culture. But at the same time, you can't be so far ahead of reality and practicality that it doesn't work.

developerWorks: Yes.

Shah: Right?

developerWorks: You know, just as you all said, I think if you come to a conference like this and you have one or two really good takeaways, it's worth it when you mix in all of the social contact that goes on, the new people you meet, the conferences you have. You know, I wanted to mention just a couple of my favorites. The Tim O'Reilly interview on Friday was a great one and ...

Shah: Wow.

developerWorks: ... I loved his ...

Shah: Oh, I would have loved to meet him.

developerWorks: You didn't see that? You didn't see that one? He's had ... his career was full of happy accidents that came from ignorance. That was a nice quote. I like that.

And just sharing a few other quick notes I made here in my IBM Think notebook, Tim also said the brand promise of a big idea is that it belongs to everyone that uses it, which is, it really dovetails with the whole social business atmosphere here, doesn't it, that ...

Shah: Yes, that's beautiful.

developerWorks: ... you know, we need to be able to, you know, clearly intellectual property is still something that's important. Brand ownership is something that's important.

But companies have to think much more openly and broadly about what it means to be a brand and where people help disseminate that brand and that people take ownership in the brand. So I thought that statement was really powerful.

Shah: Well, I have an add to that. This is how geeky I am, I guess. Star Trek IV, The Undiscovered Country ...

developerWorks: Yes, I remember that.

Shah: You know, it's not really about an actual country, but it's about what can you find from the relationships that you build. And in that case, between, you know, the peace treaty being humans and Klingons ... was it? Yes.

developerWorks: Yes, right. Yes.

Shah: So, yes, I mean, that ... this is warring factions coming together and looking for a new tomorrow and what will develop out of that. It doesn't have to be warring, but that's sort of the extreme of it. This is what we really love to hear about, you know, the serendipity.

developerWorks: Yes, yes.

Shah: The happy accidents that Tim found there.

developerWorks: There's a lot of philosophy at this conference.

Shah: Yes, there is.

developerWorks: You know, I mean, Tim also said he wishes he could see more ... wish we all could see more value driven decision making in our governments and in our big corporations.

You know, there was another panel that talked about, advertising needs to be more like content as opposed to content being more like advertising. You know, I thought that one was interesting. And a lot of discussion about what's happening in video.

The last two things that I attended today people were talking about the platforms for producing video and streaming video and disseminating video on the Web, how critical it's going to be to businesses going forward to have video as a part of what they do.

And this guy, his name was Guygal, G-U-Y-G-A-L, and everybody in the audience said, Are you serious? And he said, yes, that's really my name. It was interesting. He's from business media. And he was part of this unprecedented opportunities group of panels where they each had 15 minutes.

And that was pretty cool, because when you have rapid-fire time, 15 minutes, it really makes people cruise through those slides and cover the information rapidly. And he said, content is the currency of social media and search, and that video is going to be the gold standard of that currency. I don't know if everybody agrees with him, but clearly at the conference with all these camera crews wandering around, I mean, everybody's shooting video.

Shah: Right.

developerWorks: Three years ago I saw a few people with iPhones duct-taped to golf clubs. That was about the extent of the video.

Chauhan: The video part is so easy, and even when I walked in the trade show floor, you could see how many more companies are coming up with easy ways for the end user, the consumer to edit and post their video. So some people might be afraid of that, but I think that's great innovation, because people want to share their family videos.

What about families that are across the world or other parts of the country or our soldiers that are off fighting wars for us? They want to take videos and share it with their family very easily. Maybe they can edit and cut and stay in touch with their children.

developerWorks: Right.

Chauhan: I think there's some huge, huge strides that video is doing to help continue to bring people together, continue to make an impact, continue to do all kinds of things that really help people have a personal relationship and again, put things in a much bigger context and not be so narrow and fixated in a sound bite like we've been used to for a while.

developerWorks: You know, and I think it's easy to not take it seriously. But when we think about the fact on one panel I heard them say, you know, when we all started watching television, it was a community experience in the sense that you were all in the same room and you were watching a television, even if ... and then maybe you might be talking about what you watched.

With the Internet, media has been freed from that localized confine, you can ... but people can interact around this media across the world, right? They can tweet as they're watching. And in some cases the tweet activity around an event is exceeding the eyeball, you know, attraction of the event itself, so.

Chauhan: That's like what's happened in Egypt, right? As long as the Internet is still connected in Libya and other parts of the world, video is helping to create movements.

And we've ... while we've been here, there's a huge tragedy happening in Japan. Imagine if everyone could grab video, share that video, and we all can really kind of get a better sense of the impact.

You know, we're kind of a little apathetic to disasters that have happened, of course, unless they happen here in the U.S. But these types of video, when the users can go out there and very easily capture what's happening, the devastation that's happening, and share that, I think people will already be even more motivated than we already are to actually respond and help and to support people and to really come together as a community when such events take place.

Shah: So one thing about your points you just made, Ranjun, was the access in your country. And this was actually in Clay Shirky's presentation where he was sharing several charts in terms of openness of democracy and the level of Internet access, so the level per country.

And it showed that basically it wasn't causal, it was possibly correlational, he says it was definitely; I might agree with him, where the higher Internet access that you have the more democratic your nation tends to be.

So that says a lot about a society itself. And not just access, but the higher-speed access. So there was another presentation by a gentleman, Jon Wiley, from Google which was the ... what is the speed of Internet access right now?

So for him, South Korea, he mentioned, is actually five years ahead. I will say that loosely. But he was way ahead, South Korea was way ahead of the general Internet in the more advanced ... well, I won't say advanced, but the advanced countries like the U.S. and places like that. So there the average Internet speed is at least a hundred ...

developerWorks: Megabits?

Shah: A hundred million bits per second.

developerWorks: Yes.

Shah: It's a hundred megabits across anywhere in the country. We're not just talking about like, you know, in the office or maybe at home. Anywhere in the country.

developerWorks: Wow.

Chauhan: And that's awesome because, you know, that's ... everyone's always, especially with social media and Facebook, there's always this fear about risk of participation and anxiety over how much I want to participate and how involved or engaged I want to be, and there's all these stories of things kind of going viral. And of course Charlie Sheen's not helping, right?

But there's, you have to admit, technology in these cases is actually helping to change the world. I mean, it's amazing. It's not just helping companies do things better or more efficient, it's not about just the bottom line. I mean, people are changing the way they live and changing their societies and changing ... actually taking action to do something and being empowered to do so by the Web.

developerWorks: We're going to have to have a lot more bandwidth if we're going to ...

Chauhan: We will.

developerWorks: ... stay a part of that experience.

Chauhan: And I've always said this, and I think I will always probably stand by this, social media is not a technological phenomena, it's a sociological phenomena. And if you look at it in terms of culture and society, that's how you're really going to understand it. If you look at it in just a form of technology, you have a very myopic view of what's really happening to the world right now.

developerWorks: That's a great closing thought right there, Ranjun. Kate, did you have anything more that you wanted to say? You're okay? You're safe over there in the chair. I did want to mention to everybody that there are a number of other interviews that I did this week that I'll be posting over the next day or two.

Tim Washer, former IBMer who is now the social media lead at Cisco and also a comedian. He appears on The Onion occasionally as a baseball correspondent. Very funny guy, talked with him.

David Meerman Scott, a marketing strategist and author who is a regular at South By. I talked with him, very good conversation. Rachel Happe that Rawn introduced me to from The Roundtable Community, we had a nice conversation. That will be up there.

Joel Bush from amplifier.com and a couple of interesting guys with startups, small businessmen that were with him at a t-shirt shop talking shop about all kinds of innovative things with the Internet.

And finally, IBM's own Dr. David Ferrucci, who is the lead scientist on the Watson project, Watson being the computer that went on Jeopardy and won that contest. And we have a video interview with him that'll be posting as well as a talk that he gave at a Monday night technology reception that IBM hosted here at South by Southwest.

So more to come still, but this is our final group reflection podcast from South by Southwest Interactive 2011 in Austin, Texas. I'm Scott Laningham with Kate and Ranjun and Rawn. And I'll get all your names right on the blog entry, I promise. We'll talk to you soon. This has been a developerWorks podcast.

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