developerWorks on South by Southwest Interactive: Day 1.5

Scott Laningham and Todd Watson cover South by Southwest Interactive 2009 in Austin. First up: Championing social media to the man.

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



06 February 2009

You can listen to this podcast HERE.

developerWorks: Scott Laningham here at South by Southwest Interactive 2009 Day 2. I guess it's day one and a half, really. Here with Todd Watson, popular developerWorks blogger. You all know Todd as Turbo Tech. Todd, how are you doing, man?

Todd: I'm good, man, I guess I should say this is Todd Turbo Watson logging on.

[LAUGHTER]

developerWorks: So you've ... this is my first year here strangely, living in this town. I don't know if that's wrong....

Todd: That's just not right, Scott.

developerWorks: But I've been living vicariously through the rest of you. What are your impressions this year compared to last year, the year before, so far?

Todd: Well, my first South by Southwest I actually should juxtapose it with the very first one which I was actually working with IBM in New York and I flew down in 2000 to speak. And one of the things that was interesting about that was that the Cluetrain Manifesto had just been published. Doc Searles, who I just saw walking around, Christopher Locke, a former IBM speech writer, a number of other people, had put down this claim of markets are conversations. And I remember hearing Christopher speak and I think Doc spoke as well if memory serves; that was nine years ago. And I got my book signed and ran back to New York telling everybody you know, markets are conversations and transparency is king, et cetera.

So to come here today in 2009 and hear some of the dialogues I'm hearing, it's pretty remarkable. So let's come back to that because there's definitely a lot of meat to be explored there and I'll talk about a conversation I had last night at one of the parties that was pretty fascinating. But I think my overall impressions are that I walked in here thinking there wouldn't be a lot of people.

developerWorks: It's getting huge....

Todd: It's absolutely the biggest I've ever seen. So I don't know if everybody is just....

developerWorks: They're actually rolling over into other facilities, too, like the Hilton and everything.

Todd: And I don't know if it's because people are out of work, I hope that's not completely the case and they're just killing time, but I do know people who have been impacted by the downturn, so it's a good opportunity to come and learn.

developerWorks: Sure.

Todd: You know, turn lemons into lemonade. But I do think there's also a growing organic interest in this space and in the social media especially, and that's lending itself. In terms of just housekeeping, like the joke is always waiting in line to get your badge. This year they opened it up early. You could go Thursday night. Me and my amigos got here, got our badge, were out of here in 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and then ... but as soon as we walked back downstairs the rush in bread lines had begun.

You know, some lessons they never seem to learn or they don't learn from last year like the program this year. If it was interactive and I could click the pages....

[LAUGHTER]

developerWorks: Then the layout would work better, right?

Todd: So I've been winging it and trying to get on my wifi so I could see which session to go to next. But I think it's exciting. I mean, I think to see this kind of energy and vitality around this conference and having been here so many years now, in this environment I think it's encouraging. I think it shows it's maturing as a discipline and there's a lot of opportunity in them thar hills still yet to be found.

developerWorks: There's a lot of variety in attendees and in conversations going on here. But obviously as you started to mention, I mean, social media, social networking, that's a huge topic here this year.

Todd: Well, it was actually the first session I went to, and I actually took a few notes because in one of my responsibilities in our software business I'm trying to champion social media myself along with some of my colleagues and there was this, the session was called "My Boss Doesn't Get It, Championing Social Media to the Man."

developerWorks: To the Man....

[LAUGHTER]

Todd: And I couldn't decide, well, am I the man, are they the man?

developerWorks: Who's the man?

Todd: Who's the manufacturing? But I think there were clearly a lot of people in that room who were wrestling with, how do we demonstrate value of this new approach to marketing and communications being more open, being more transparent, how do I measure it, how do I programmatize it. A lot of traditional marketing people and communications people, it's a very structured and rigorous approach. You know, we do things in waves or flight, even the language we use. This is much more chaotic, right? And how do you bring order into that chaotic environment and try to demonstrate value both to the consumer and to the enterprise?

So I don't think anybody walked out of there with absolute answers. I think Peter Kim, who is one of the leading thinkers and analysts in this space, he's now part of the Dachis company, remember Jeff Dachis from Razorfish, he started Razorfish. Peter talked about some of the things and you know, I was having a flashback. We need to better align IT and marketing with a mutual beneficial coexistent strategy. And that ROI from a marketing perspective comes down to more art than science and it's completely dependent responsible your existing operating structure and overhead.

And what I thought what was interesting about that, well, I could have had that conversation 10 years ago. This tension between IT and marketing needs to evaporate or evolve into a progressive conversation about how we can all get more value out of things like technology in terms of our marketing and communications efforts ... because if you don't bring those two worlds together and start planning more cohesively and strategically, you're going to see a lot of splintering and you're going to see a lot of investments going to different types of parts of the organization.

You know, PR may be doing one thing over here, somebody else will establish a Twitter strategy. And then it just, you're going to be spending years cleaning it up the way many of us in the enterprise Web had to clean up the first two years from 1994 and beyond.

developerWorks: So that talk, you felt good about it, about audience participation, receptivity, it went well?

Todd: Oh, I didn't mention that they had a Twitter stream projected on the screen. They had TweetDeck, if you're familiar with the application. Many in the audience that we're talking to will be. They had a couple of hash ties that you could put into your tweet. So there was wifi enabled in the room -- there would be a riot if there wasn't -- and they were actually taking questions and responding to commentary in the session for people on the screen and out in the Internet audience.

developerWorks: Awesome.

Todd: That was very cool.

developerWorks: That is very cool. I missed that session. I heard a different one.

Todd: Steven Johnson?

developerWorks: The crowdsourcing one. Curating for crowdsourcing.

Todd: You know, I started in that one and I'm sorry to say for them that I felt like I needed to put my attention elsewhere and went to see [Lawrence Lessig]. But I don't know, did you hear about the ecosystem with news and Steven Johnson and the future of the newspaper, essentially?

developerWorks: I really wanted to see that one.

Todd: [LAUGHTER] First of all there was a little bit of time travel involved back to 1987 when Steve talked about going in and out of a College Hill book store in Providence, Rhode Island, looking for the latest issue of Macworld. So let him set the scene. He's going to MacWorld to get the issue of Macworld in '87. What had been released then, like may be the Plus and the SE Macintosh? It was early, right? That's where he got his information in a timely manner, the third week of every month. And he was getting the information two weeks late.

Think about what happens in an Apple keynote speech now from Steve Jobs and how quickly that information is distributed to a global audience. Think about those two end points and that's really all you need to know about the social media and what's going on because the ecosystem that exists today includes so many more participants. Back then it might have been a few editors and writers at Macworld, but here we are in 2009, virtually anybody can cover that event, even if you're not in the room.

developerWorks: We're almost getting buggywhipped to car distance between that old news publishing model and where we are now.

Todd: And that's really what Steven Johnson was talking about. You know, he addressed this issue of the panic that newspapers are going to disappear as businesses and information's going to disappear with them because newspapers can't afford to do all of that investigative journalism the way they used to. And you know, he made a joke about, will bloggers ever get out of their pajamas and go set up a Baghdad bureau. And I think Johnson was saying, you're really missing the point, right....

developerWorks: Because they're already there.

Todd: Well, they're already there and quite frankly the newspapers could liberate a lot of those more mundane local coverage things that they do today, especially local newspapers, right? We've been reading about the Rocky Mountain News going defunct and some of the others.

developerWorks: Exactly.

Todd: And what he's saying is, let the local citizen journalists do that and let's us go create some more Seymour Hershs from The New York Times to break open those stories where we do really need to put a check on authority and keep people honest. And that there is an opportunity. But he says that the newspapers waited too long to make that transition, a); and b) it's going to be a lot harder to get from here to there now because of the market downturn because they had a while they could have caught up and kind of cannibalized themselves but that no longer is going to happen because the money has gone down the toilet. So a lot of newspapers are likely facing the same struggles as the Rocky Mountain News.

developerWorks: So realize they have the same ... they've got to find their niche just like everybody else is finding it?

Todd: Exactly.

developerWorks: There's none of the centralized communication model that's going to be left.

Todd: Do what you do best and link to the rest, as Jeff Jarvis says.

developerWorks: Where are you off to next?

Todd: Well, I am going to hear Charlene Li who is formally a Forrester social media analyst and thought leader. She co-wrote the book with Josh Bernoff, Groundswell, which if you have never read is definitely worth checking out. Charlene's on a new venture. She left Forrester last year, so I'm really interested just hearing what she's going to be talking about with regards to the future of social networks. That's where I think a lot of us won't understand with the growth of Facebook, 150 million and counting I believe now in multiple local languages now.

I was just overseas as you know, and it was just from the time I was in Spain last June to this February, dramatic difference in how people were thinking about using tools like Facebook in an IBM, in their own personal lives, for work purposes. So I'll [be] real interested to see what Charlene is thinking now about where it's going to go from here because I think there's still a lot of questions with regard to everything from privacy to monetization to using Facebook Connect versus open ID versus Google's open social protocol for authentication. So I mean, it's an embarrassments of riches. I'm excited. And you know what, we're going to have to cut this off soon because we're going to have to walk on down the hall.

developerWorks: I'm going to go see David Scott talk about World Wide Rave, how you can become a sensation overnight.

Todd: I can't wait. Well, I'll be looking for you in the haze of the South by Southwest dawn.

[LAUGHTER]

developerWorks: We're going to continue this. So thanks for this moment.

Todd: All right.

developerWorks: Catch up with you later.

Todd: All right. Take care.

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