developerWorks on South by Southwest Interactive: Day 2.5


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developerWorks: Scott Laningham at South by Southwest Interactive 2009. This is day two and a half, I guess is what you call it. I'm here at....

Todd: 2-point-5.


developerWorks: 2-point-5. We're in an Irish pub on Sixth Street in Austin. It's called PD Riley's. It's a cool little place. There's a lot of people in here and there's a band playing in the background. We thought it would be some nice ambiance for what we're doing today. I'm here with Todd Turbo Watson. Todd.

Todd: I just want to say in the spirit of full disclosure that I created this ad hoc tweet up because a buddy of mine owns the bar, so I figured we'd bring in some business.

developerWorks: Sweet.

Todd: So all four of us showed up.


developerWorks: And David Salinas is here, too. David, good to [have] you here.

David: Hi, this is David Salinas, and for full disclosure Todd is not completely drunk. When he said four, we have a friend of mine here with us who's not going to be on the podcast, so....

Todd: Okay. Well, I meant customers, not necessarily podcasters. I sit corrected.


developerWorks: Now, before, let's ... we're not going to talk about the difference this year to previous years. We covered that yesterday. We talked a little bit about what we were checking out yesterday. But after we talked, you guys both saw Charlene Li. Why don't you two share your thoughts about that?

Todd: Okay. Well, first of all, I just want to juxtapose this whole Charlene Li future social network session with the fact that if you think about South by Southwest, it's the only conference I think in the world where like 10,000 people show up, go to a room to be in the same room together and they spend all day looking at their laptops. So I just want to get that out there.

Okay. But following up on Charlene. Charlene, I have a great deal of admiration for her, her work, as I said yesterday. She told us that social network in the future are going to be like air. And I just wanted to say hopefully it's not going to be like the air in Beijing first of all. She said there are three things to make this happen: identity, who you are; contacts, who you know; and activities, what you do or what you do. And I said, well first, I don't have a clue who I am, I know a whole bunch of people, and I do a whole bunch of stuff. So good luck with that.

But seriously, she indicated we would have a social media algorithm someday that would make privacies and permissions easier to manage and it would help us manage all these relationships and all these different social networks.

And David, I'm sure you've thought about this as well, it's like, who has time to go manage multiple personalities of which I have many, across multiple, multiple social networks? So there's got to be some consolidation. What do you think about that?

David: Yes, I totally agree. And what a key take-away for me was it was finally an admission and all the time that I've done to this conference there was never an admission that the plumbing needs to be there. I mean, she actually came out and said, we need to invest in the infrastructure, evolve the standards to allow for this interoperability. And I'm just amazed that someone actually said it. I mean, it's like the big elephant in the room that no one ever said it. So I thought that was amazing by her to admit that. And that was great.

And I agree, the problem is is that there's a lot of people that are very passionate about the Web and that's a niche and they're willing to go through the pain to go and create multiple personalities ... sorry, personas and profiles in multiple places. But then how do you get all that to connect?

Todd: And you'll know what she said would be the thing that would unclog the pipes, right, and that's money. I mean, she came out and said that. And she said also interestingly and I thought it was very ironic, the most digital activity resides outside the social networks. There's a long tail of activity that takes place outside of the main two or three.

David: And if you don't mind me jumping in, that's true especially in emerging markets. Like in Japan, there's a huge amount of activity that's going on where people use their cell phones and so forth as cash that has no connection to social media offerings and Web sites.

Todd: Yes. So it's transaction as well as attention and stream. I got one of the biggest thoughts of that session that I really walked out kind of with an a-ha! moment and that's when she talked about the rise of the personal CPM. Now, if you don't know what a CPM is, basically it's how advertising has traditionally been bought in the mass media. You pay so much per thousand users. And you know, when she was basically talking about herself as a mom and as an analyst and researchers and thinker and writer, and that that latter part of her profile, which is another part of her identity, is actually words something in terms of others accessing it and leveraging it and monetizing it. just kind of banged my head and said, okay, now we're talking.

David: I was just going to add to that, that I think what she was really speaking to in addition was that the ripple effect that we've seen that the Web is having on society and individuals, is going to keep on happening. And that for example, places that have been isolated from this, like retail stores, brick and mortar, they are going to need to start picking up their game because there's going to have to be a lot more value they're going to have to provide.

And the way we, big corporations like IBM, for example, or any traditional company, they're going to have to reevaluate how they engage their users and how they measure that, and that's really going to be important. Because, for example, people that are engaged at the brand have more loyalty and are more likely to then therefore buy a product from that brand, right? And additionally not in tradition that the brand was ... could be controlled by the company, that's no longer true. That has now been offshoots to the individual users. So companies are going to have to be willing to concede that and work with that and be willing to mix it up with the users to help shape the brand. And that's really what it is is collaboration with your users.

developerWorks: You know, it's interesting how this goes right along with the chat that I had with the author David Meerman Scott who wrote this book, World Wide Rave. He did a session yesterday. I interviewed him and we'll be putting that on tonight or tomorrow. And he was talking about one of the key elements of creating a rave, creating a buzz around anything, is the willingness to lose control, not to try to constantly maintain control. I thought that was an interesting ... it was one of those like five or six key points.

Todd: Yes, I've heard that as a theme throughout. And I mean, you go back to [clue train manifesto] when [Doc Serles] and [Chris Lock] and those guys first put it out there, I mean, they basically said in so many words that that was part of what this was all about.

And you know, I thought back to that when we were speaking yesterday. That's been nine years ago. So, you know, God help us, it took us nine years to get to this point. But I see it accelerating and I think we heard that from Tony ... I'm not sure how you pronounce his name, but it was Hsieh, Tony.... Anyway, he's the CEO of and he was talking about their relentless focus -- obviously, if you've never been there, on customer service. And that for example, their call centers, the reps are not trained in traditional ways. There are no scripts. There are no time limits for how long they can spend with a customer on the phone. And the point that the phone was a great extension of their brand because it gave the opportunity to have the relationship with the customer that many have kind of thought is passe. I mean, we all still carry around cell phones, right, so phones are not passe.

He made the point that every page on the zappos Web site has the 800 number. And he also talked about, he was talking about not having a phone link, you know, how long somebody can talk to somebody, he said one time, their longest phone call with a customer was four hours.

David: Oh, my God.

Todd: And he said, we didn't really dig to find out like what that call was about, but you know, there you go.

David: You know, I think this goes back to the fundamentals. You know, what's so funny about all of this is that I guess the economic situation sort of taught us that the fundamentals of economics are important. He should have paid attention to them, right? And I think the fundamentals of a relationship, you still have to pay attention to those, too, right? And you know, you can, just because there's this wonderful whiz and bang out on the Internet doesn't mean that he can suddenly get away from the still fundamentals, where you have to build a relationship with, individually with your customers. You've got to value that relationship and you have to value their time and their commitment to interact with the brand. And if you do that, if you keep those fundamentals correct, then everything else will happen, everything else will evolve from that.

developerWorks: And I don't know how much we hear about the connection between the fundamentals of economics and the fundamentals of relationships. Too often you get those silo'ed and those need to be talked about in concert, too, because relationships are a critical part of the successful economics.

David: Well, you know, it's like the tech industry to a degree loves their technology and it sort of abstracts away from the human side of it in a way. And I think what you're seeing in the last couple of years of South by and what you're seeing in the industry is that we need to re-attach ourselves, if you will, to the human factor, right? And I think that's what we're fundamentally seeing. In fact, that same presentation I thought it was my a-ha! moment was that when she was talking about the org chart needs to be changed so that the user's at top and that the CEO's at the bottom. And I was like, yes, that totally makes sense.

Todd: Especially in all the investment banks.


developerWorks: Todd, are you ... have you been taking notes on your Blackberry phone?

Todd: No, I'm not quite that bold. I took notes on my Mac Book Pro and then I emailed them to my crackberry, so.

developerWorks: That is cool.

Todd: So I don't know if there's any interest in the audience, but maybe a quick one to cover, it was called "Ditch the Valley, Run for the Hills." And you know, it looked at though it was about trying to get venture money in Austin, but I think there was a more universal theme there about, can you start a startup and get venture capital outside of that core area in the Bay and Sand Hill Road. And panelists included Robert Scovall (being a long-time blogger), Mike Maples, Kaiser Crow, and others. And at first the question was could Twitter have started anywhere but San Francisco? And it actually seemed the consensus was no. But Maples brought up the fact that, you know, Twitter was an accident. If you look back at what Evan Williams and the team were doing, they were trying to focus on podcasts and video, if you remember that, and the only reason that Twitter came along was because Williams or one of the principals wanted to be able to keep better track of their employees as they were tweeting about the Bay Area. So, you know, let's not forget where this stuff came from.

So anyway, there was this really fascinating guy from China who pointed out that 75 percent of all VC in China is going through Beijing and not through some of the other bigger cities like Shanghai or Shenzhen or even Hong Kong or Taipei.

Another person, Penelope Trunk, who has done a number of ventures explained that if you want to build a startup in Kansas, you'd better get a good plan to get money from Kansans because the beginning of a startup is totally fragile and it takes a very special sauce which requires the people to be in the same vicinity. And she made the point declaratively that to try to get money from Sand Hill Road when you're in BFE Wisconsin, you know, good frickin' luck, because those guys are going to want to put their people into your management team and be able to keep an eye on you and it's hard to do the that remotely.... Even though somebody in the audience stood up and said, wait a minute, what about Skype, what about Twitter? I can manage people remotely. And they said, you know, we're still a needs-based culture despite the fact that we're using all this great technology.

And then finally Maples said, the reason they want to put you in the Bay Area is they're going to keep that thumb very close because they're not throwing their money away; they're making an investment and they want to be able to touch and feel and see what they're getting for that investment.

developerWorks: Sounds like a good session. David, is there another one you heard that you want to comment on as we kind of quickly....

David: Yes. There was an interesting session on designing for the wisdom of crowds. And what I thought was very interesting about it was first it was talking about, that you've got to remember that there's four points to designing for crowds: diversity, independence, decentralization, and aggregation. And then sort of translated that to sort of action items. And those are taking small, simple tasks for you users, additionally, oh, I'm sorry, I lost my notes here.

developerWorks: That's okay.

David: Next one was....

developerWorks: I don't know how you can read that. I can't even see my face.

David: It's very dark in here, by the way, for all our listeners. Large, diverse groups are important. Have design for selfishness which I thought was extraordinarily funny but very appropriate. And then, of course, have results of the aggregation.

What I thought was the most interesting was just a lot of times we sort of don't call out immediately and should be is that we, the users are driven by something psychological, deep that we have to validate. It's not only just a time commitment, they're also trying to fill a need. It's very important to find out what that need is and to then validate that need to the user.

And so it's this ... and I think we're hearing this level of sophistication that Todd sort of mentioned that we're seeing in all these panels. The discussion is that it's not only tech, it's also the business side, the strategy side, it's the design side. It's the psychology side, all that integrating together, that that is the solution that we need to go and that we need to keep ... be very mindful of that. And I found that very, very insightful.

And I think for our developerWorks and for our users that are listening to this, is that I think that we'll take away from the table, I mean, this conference, is that we need to be a little bit more mindful and we do it right now, we do usability sessions and we try to understand how our users interact with the site. But we need to take more action upon those things and we need to do and get more feedback from our users. And I think that's one of the things that for developerWorks is probably should be one of our action items is listen a little bit more to our users.

developerWorks: Yes. Todd?

Todd: I absolutely agree with you 150 percent. Because as I was sitting in that same session, it struck me you mentioned the selfish interest. You look back at Delicious. One of the things that made Delicious take off so well is it gave you an opportunity to do something you need to do which was to save your bookmarks on a server because if you're like a geek like me and use multiple computers, you don't want to have to try to start, you know synchronizing Firefox and whatever. So you put them all up on a server. But, a natural by-product of that was, I could share them with you, David, you, Scott. I could start to tag them and pretty soon there's a whole community that sprouted up around a single link. So I think absolutely the crowdsourcing approach is something that needs to be much more embraced in especially in corporate Web sites.

You know, you see in a lot of the native [bloom] sites, the Web 2.0 startups. But I think there's huge opportunity, you know, to create the wet clay, as I like to call it, on external sites and allow the audience to come in and do some of that work for you. And then that gives you valuable market intelligence and insight to help you create a better experience for them.

developerWorks: You know, the last thing I heard before I came was I think his name is Gary Vaynerchuck, I'm not sure I'm pronouncing his name properly, but he's the very popular video blogger that has Wine Library TV and he spoke to a room that was just full of, I mean, there must have been 800 people in that room. And as I watched these people get up, first of all, he's ... I hadn't heard him before, I'm behind the times, but he's worth checking out. He's incredibly funny, very dynamic, high energy. He, as somebody said, you're doing the Jim Kramer thing and he's doing Jim Kramer for wine, but he said, there could never be a worse time to be Jim Kramer than right now. But he, the people that got up and spoke and asked questions, a couple of long lines of people, it just showed what's so special about this conference. It's a room full of people from all walks, very driven, a lot of entrepreneurs. It's just a fantastic place to be and it was cool hearing things that they were asking him about, what do you do to be successful? How do you get the attention? What's your strategy? Because everybody talks about him because of what he's done with Twitter and Facebook to build this audience. Gets 80-plus thousand viewers of his video blog a day.

But he said, you know what? The numbers don't matter. He said, it's individual relationships and how you take care of them and the attention you give to them. He said stop worrying about gigs; I don't think he means entirely stop worrying about them, but he said get your focus on caring about each of these conversations, taking care of them, connecting with these people.

Todd: I didn't get to see that session, but I have heard of the gentleman and it sounds like a very genuine response. And juxtapose that with the public relations session that I went to where they were talking about PR in this post....

developerWorks: Post-PR world almost.

Todd: Well, I guess kind of, yes. And for example, I thought this was pretty pithy, but your job is no longer to do PR but to get others to do your PR for you. So I can buy that. They talked about, for those companies who don't use social media, they're going to find themselves in real trouble, to which I say, yes, maybe, except for funeral homes because dead people don't Twitter. At least not yet. I say give it time.


developerWorks: Closing thoughts? I mean, we've got a good long podcast here. We don't want to wear them out before we start all over again tomorrow.

David: Well, I think that the most important closing thought is that tech people need to get out of their tech corner and engage people. If you're going to be involved in social media on the Web, you're going to have to engage people. And fundamentally that's the most important. And the Web evolves from purely texts, to purely transactional, now to purely relational. And that new, latest stage we're involved in requires a level of intimacy and transparency and genuine. You have to be genuine with the users and I think that's the route of success. And that's what I'm hearing everywhere, so.

developerWorks: There's a lot of that going on here and that's what's exciting about it.

Todd: And as we like to say in Texas, there's been a whole lot of no hat, all cattle.


Todd: All hat and no cattle.

developerWorks: Well, I want to go see the Web awards which is happening in just a few minutes. So that's supposed to be pretty cool. I'm Scott Laningham, here with Todd Watson and David Salinas, developerWorks podcast. We'll be back tomorrow from South by Southwest. Thank you, guys.

Todd: Hasta la visa.

David: No problem. Bye.

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ArticleTitle=developerWorks on South by Southwest Interactive: Day 2.5