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SXSW 2012: 5 TRENDS by Marauder

SXSW 2012: 5 Trends

But first, a reflection. Many have chastised SXSW as a liquor-fueled Vegas for tech people. In respect of the truth, I would say that this is true in many respects. There is alcohol. People drink it. That said, the beauty of SXSW is in the aggregation of a true set of innovators, from start-ups, VCs, investors, programmers, and digital marketers. Many have written about the serendipity which makes SXSW great. I fully agree with this. The important marking point of what you get from SXSW is in what you expect from it. If you expect to saddle up to a prescribed list of panels and meetings, you’re at the wrong conference friend. If you can let go, and allow the world to provide for some meetings with some astounding people by coincidence, you’re spot-on in the right place.

From running into Ian Schafer from Deep Focus & Josh Riedel from Instagram at the Foursquare party to meeting employee #1 from Mint & connecting with Zach Greenberger from Fullbright on what makes a good user design experience, my best conversations were usually the unplanned ones. I learned more in the past 7 days than I have in the past year. Topics included everything from launching a movie, how Twitter changes the writing style of a TV writer, how certain apps don’t work at SXSW and why that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t ever, and how Foursquare investigative work can help you figure out who hooked up last night.




The Rain

Austin is usually very sunny and hot, but this year it rained…a lot. Brands capitalized quickly offering branded panchos, like this one from Fandango, and umbrellas.



Printing pictures from your Instagram feed, using a hashtag. This particular one was so engaging; they used a velvet rope around it.


Creative Promotions

I’ve noted the large brands in Trend #5 but the online sites got in the game too. Skype featured a town crier who would scream out your tweets.


Cool Technology

This is the Makerbot. It is a 3D printer which prints out a physical object from a model on the computer to the left. GE featured a DIY tent where SXSW-goers could learn about new tech like this.




#1: Social Pairing

–Apps in the Space: Highlight, Glancee, Kismet, Sonar & Banjo

–Objective: Connect people together either solely digitally or in the real world to facilitate real connections and ease the discomfort in connecting.

-Why is this a Trend?: Highlight played SXSW app darling going into the conference but didn’t hit a resounding high note while there. While an app like Foursquare is more effective at SXSW, Highlight is less. The app became ineffective on the ground at SXSW because the size of the conference caused massive numbers of suggestions. In essence, when suggesting connecting to everyone, you end up connecting to no one because the sheer size of referrals is to large. Think about the stress you feel when you see 52 emails sitting unread in your email box. The same insight applies here. All this aside, simply the fact that something does well at SXSW does not mean it is instead fire or on the flip side, instant fodder. Consider that most SXSW-ers are not the target market of Pinterest for example. The success of social pairing has been proven, for the most part, in apps whose objective is pairing potential daters. Getting the interface right is the central sticking point in who wins here.


#2: Sharing


Sites in the Space: Neighborgoods, Airbnb, Spinlister

Objective: Allow strangers to share items and connect them together in a community of sharing.

–Why is this a Trend?: Airbnb connected many SXSW-ers with space to stay while in Austin but more importantly, the graph below begins to explain the rise of sharing. For one, we all have enough stuff to last a lifetime. Being more sustainable and limiting the additional items in the world not only helps each other but keeps those items out of a landfill making the Earth just a smidge happier.


#3: Future of Music Consumption

Sites in the Space: Spotify, Pandora, MOG, Rdio, & Turntable

Objective: Allow strangers to share items and connect them together in a community of sharing.

–Why is this a Trend?: In 1895, Nikola Tesla transmitted a radio signal 50 miles from New York City to West Point, NY in the first test of radio transmission. The golden age of radio took shape from the 1920s through the 1950s. As traditional radio begins to the see the shadow of online radio, it’s clear that a transitional point is upon us. This past August, Pandora surpassed popular terrestrial radio stations in New York City for the first time. Online services including Pandora, Spotify, Turntable and Rdio have been rapidly growing thanks to the strength and speed of cloud computing and a renewed appetite for online music discovery.


#4: Gaming for Good

Tech in the Space: Kickstarter, Google, Nike, Fitbit, NASA, Google, Gylo, Ayogo Games

Objective: Game dynamics motivate users around virtual points and play to our human desire to win. This new gaming model encourages us to improve our health, learn new things, or raise funds all in the sake of personal improvement.

Why is this a Trend?: Between Fitbit, the Jawbone Up, and Nike’s push behind the Fuelband, gaming for personal health is on a serious upswing. While in Austin, I was fascinated by some of the applications that pushed game dynamics or offers based around social good or education. For example, Cause.it rewards users with discounts for volunteer work offered at non-profits.


#5: Technology is Listening & Watching

(Taken during the Superbowl, the screen above was presented when Shazaming the Pepsi commercial.)

Tech in the Space: Shazam, Kinect, Soundhound, Siri, IntoNow

Objective: Allow users to interact with technology by moving or by being heard.

Why is this a Trend?: Shazam commenced operations as an application which helped users identify songs but has evolved as an app to help brands connect their TV commercials to content on mobile phones. While this is a band-aid for the television being able to enable a connection to digital, it does allow for a fascinating TV to digital extension for brands. During SXSW, I also heard David Jones, EVP of Marketing at Shazam, mention that Shazam was working towards an always-on listening model. Just like Foursquare has an always-on model for location, Shazam would employ the same for listening. One question. Why type of folks want their technology to be always listening…or even always watching? Creepy alert.


Brands, Brands, Brands


AMEX promoted its Sync, Tweet, Save promotion linking twitter and discounts using an AMEX card with a Jay Z concert at Austin City Limits.

Effectiveness: 5 (scale 1 -5)


Nike promoted its new NikeFuel band, a sports band which tracks expended energy by selling the bands at times communicated via Twitter and setting up a sports park for Fuel Band wearers to stay active and win FuelBand points.

Effectiveness: 4 (scale 1 -5)


Chevy provided vehicles which could be hailed as cabs to transport SXSW-goers throughout the conference.

Effectiveness: 4 (scale 1 -5)


Pepsi paid to take over the Austin Convention Center, usually owned by Coke, replacing all vending machines with Pepsi. They additionally ran a meet-up space called Pepsi Co Central with talks by special speakers.

Effectiveness: 3 (scale 1 -5)





This week, SXSW descends over Austin. If you’re unfamiliar, SXSW is a three-in-one conference encompassing interactive, film, and music. SXSW has launched a few innovative companies in its midst including Foursquare and the now-acquired Gowalla. In my opinion, it’s a nerd fest reunion with some music folks on the back end. Once a year, all of my digital nerd friends from all across the US get together to drink, party and possibly hit a panel or two. This week, I had a conversation with an ad agency executive in NYC about the merits of SXSW.


While this particular person had never attended SXSW, he felt that the information which returned was never of value. The thought was that SXSW was simply a drunken booze fest without value.


I thought about this argument and sat down to read an article in the New Yorker about Davos. Davos, as contrasted to SXSW, rounds up the top world leaders with the hope of igniting inspiration at the highest levels. I’m sure cocktails are shared but I’m guessing no one ends up at the Driskill Hotel at 2 in the morning passed out in a hotel lobby arm chair. That said, my argument in defense of SXSW centered on the simple physical aggregation of start-up folk, programmers, product people and marketing experts alike. Primarily, in the past four years that I have been attending SXSW, this has included an audience under the age of 35. We are young, we are innovators, and yes, we like to drink. Let’s face it, a cocktail or two lowers our fears and in many cases, allows creativity to flow. Steve Jobs referenced LSD as “one of the two or three most important things [he had] done in [his] life” as he considered the experience principally one which opened his eyes to creativity in ways he did not think possible.


Now, I’m not condoning alcoholism or drug use. I’m simply pointing out that discounting SXSW because this particular audience parties or drinks heavily,is simply disregarding it based on unfair terms. It may be Spring Break for digital folks but don’t we all need a vacation from reality every once in a while? If you’ll be at SXSW, I’ll be speaking on a panel entitled, “Are We Killing Social with Social?”  Stop by and share some thoughts, cocktail or no cocktail.


In other news, Pinterest is surging while Google + is puttering, Lady Gaga becomes the first person to hit 20MM followers on Twitter, newspaper revenue tanks shocking no one, smartphone owners now outnumber other mobile users in the US, Yelp shares surge on their first day of trading, and co-founder Naveen Selvadurai is leaving Foursquare.


Some more Cool Sh-t:

The Lowline: Underground NYC Park Life




Stan Honda / AFP / Getty Images / February 18, 2012


Whitney Houston’s funeral Saturday drew more star power than the Grammys the weekend before including Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keyes, R Kelley, Bobby Brown, and Aretha Franklin. Wait, those last two weren’t there. Bobby Brown left because of a “seating incident” and Aretha Franklin had leg issues even though she performed in concert that very night. [raised eyebrows] I thought Kevin Costner’s words concerning his work with the star on the Bodyguard were intriguing. Not only were they clearly heartfelt but they demonstrated the challenges of being a worldwide star. Incidentally, both the Grammys and Whitney Houston’s funeral both clocked in at 3.5 hrs.


After being in NYC for 10 days, I attempted to mimic that city’s RIPocolypse love. From snow storms to Whitney’s death, everything on Foursquare is a RIPocolypse in New York City. I also wanted to see if a location of this nature would trend in Los Angeles like it trends in NYC. One problem. It never showed up in search results. I contacted one of the co-founders of Foursquare who told me the search results take a bit to update. 3 days later. Same issue. I know we’re on the opposite coast and a little bit farther south than where digital hearts show their affection, but damn it, we Angelinos are digital nerds too. Where is the love?!


Apart from the digital snafu, I also noticed how polarizing Whitney Houston was when I asked friends to check-in to my newly dubbed WhitneyHoustonRIPocolypse. Some were eager to jump on and some simply flat out said no, not because they didn’t want to break out Foursquare, but because they didn’t “feel the love” for Ms. Houston. I do find it intriguing that certain folks feel so negative towards the pop singer because of her demons with drug abuse. I certainly don’t condone it. That said, entertainers, while making a ridiculous amount of cash, are owned by their audience, incapable of living away from prying eyes. Entertainers have the ability to inspire so many but they are human beings like all of us. Let’s be honest, we all have our demons. So, with that, I will continue to want to dance with somebody and yes, my love is your love.


Along with the pop star’s farewell, the din of Linsanity, an homage to the popular NY Knicks player Jeremy Lin, has been reaching fever pitch. Unfortunately, ESPN made the mistake of running a racially fueled headline on Friday bringing Lin fans to punches. Thankfully for the fans, the Harvard alumnus finally joined the social network and took the dive into his first public Facebook page.


In other news, a warmer winter has slowed sales of typical winter purchases, gossip surrounding the coming iPad 3 announcement on March 7th has erupted, and Twitter gets yet another boost from Apple, this time with the release of the Mac operating system Mountain Lion. Take that, Facebook overlords.


Some more Cool Sh-t:

Beauty on the Go: Pop-Up Shopping Wall

SXSW 2011: TOP 5 TRENDS by Marauder



This year’s SXSW was the largest interactive event in the festival’s history. An estimated 18,000 participants joined the conference this year up 30 to 40 percent from last year. This is my fourth year in a row attending SXSW and I consider it important both for the aggregation of innovators in the digital space, but more importantly, what that aggregation of folks causes in terms of behavior.


For example, based on the mass of digi-nerds with smart phones and a suite of applications, Foursquare was the clear winner last year in terms of what the audience was using at the conference to connect with friends and find the next drinking location (cough), I mean panel. This year, I watched carefully to see what the masses were doing, and by participating in those activities with a mass of folks, try to figure out where we’re going next in the digital marketing space.


Five trends emerged.


1) Group Texting


Group texting allows a group of people to text each other exchanging information to organize groups. The main competitors of the group texting wars at SXSW were GroupMe, FastSociety, Beluga, & Kik. Above, you can see an infographic tracking online mentions over SXSW from March 11 – March 15th indicating the winner by share of conversation.


GroupMe, the winner, launched first in August of 2009 with a simple premise of allowing a group of people to text each other. They have since added features to allow sharing of photos and location along with allowing users to join groups.


In second place, Beluga, allows users to send group messages with photos and location as well. Facebook also acquired it in March.


Finally, Kik, commenced operations as an instant messaging application but announced a group messaging feature last week and picked up a new round of funding.


In my own experience at SXSW, I started the conference using Beluga with a group of other digital folks so that we could organize our plans throughout the day both at panels and throughout the night. As I had not turned the SMS notifications off, I found my battery was severely drained as the group texted each other about every panel and party they planned to go to. I promptly turned it off after a day but noted the value in organizing a group around events like this.


2) Social TV


Social TV made a splash at SXSW with a panel devoted to the topic becoming packed 15 minutes before it even began. Jennifer Preston from the NY Times quickly organized a panel next door to the panel room dubbed #rebeltv. The panelists re-convened the following day at the CNN Grill to discuss the topic and again the panel was packed to capacity. Informally, I grabbed drinks with the CEO of Miso, the CEO of ClipSync (technology that runs the social aspects of Showtime, Epix, and CBS, and some other folks from the Social TV space.


In addition, I attended one of the most interesting panels I have seen in 4 years: Social Media in the Middle East coordinated by reporters from the NY Times and attended by MSNBC, NPR, Al Jazeera and others.


Above all, I think the message from both avenues boiled down to the fact that information and conversation is being aggregated across the web on television and in print/online news media to empower the message and the experience. Some highlights:


· People are conversing in real time while watching TV. How do TV networks access those conversations making those moments engaging like the stories on screen? Chloe Sladden weighed in on how Twitter has been integrated with TV on MTV, CurrentTV and others to promote the community conversation.

· What amount of information should be visualized on the second screen while someone is watching TV? The answer is somewhat complicated. A mobile application that will go unnamed has being doing covert tests with its audience and has found that synced content can easily become distracting from the original goal: watching a TV show.

· In essence, TV networks will continue to practice and test with their audience to figure out what works but it is clear that these conversations have a part in the TV watching experience.


3) Anonymity (Canv.as) vs. Personalization (Facebook) on the Web

While waiting for the launch of the rumored Google Circles, Google’s coming social network, the conversation swirled at SXSW surrounding the anonymity the web was founded on vs. the personalized tagging that Facebook has made popular. In other words, the 90’s were about anonymous posts on message boards and the like. Facebook, through its interests in aggregating all of this personal data, has created a network where everything is identified by the person who said and/or posted it.


Christopher Poole, the founder from a site called 4Chan, gave a keynote on the subject discussing the popularity of his site 4Chan but also the social network he’s building (Canv.as) meant to create a social network founded on the principles of anonymity. The site is still in closed beta but Business Insider offers a preview of the site.


4) Social Shopping


Social deal sites have blown across the Internet in a fury, taking with them a path of discount destruction. Groupon, Scoutmob, Livingsocial, & Gilt Groupe were all discussed in this particular panel. In addition to these sites, which create a groundswell around the time-limited deal, the “qualified recommendation engine” otherwise known as friend opinion is of primary importance. Technologies which empower the social shopping concept through mobile or online platforms include QR codes or other mobile tags, near field technology (rumored to be included in the iPhone 5 launch) and location-based services like Foursquare and others.


5) Location-Based Meets Discounts

Location-based platforms like Foursquare and others have rushed to integrate deals within the fabric of their applications. Foursquare launched an AMEX integration days before SXSW. For users who link their AMEX card to their Foursquare account and check-in at participating locations, they will receive $5 back when they spend at least $5 or donate $1 to Grounded in Music. This represents location-based gone loyalty program.


As quickly as deal sites like LivingSocial and Groupon work to integrate location, location-based sites like Foursquare and Gowalla work furiously to integrate discounts. In essence, location and discounts have become interwoven as principal reasons users integrate with these platforms.


Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare, spoke to Mashable’s Pete Cashmore in a keynote at SXSW on the topic as well as the additional features in Foursquare 3.0. Those features included an updated UI evoking more information for users when they check-in, re-enabling the gaming dynamics, and adding a recommendation engine. For example, when I checked in at a location with my friend Dan Berger, founder of SocialTables, I got a message saying that I hadn’t checked in anywhere with him in several years. Interesting data.


With all of these features, it is clear Foursquare’s ability to surface deals in a way that is organic to the user is most important. Crowley takes a different stance from a Groupon strategy in that he thinks the most important function of the app is the friend recommendation rather than the deal. I think that is true for many folks who happen to use Foursquare but not for many others.


In this same keynote, a girl from the audience asked Dennis Crowley for a hug on stage. This proves that Dennis Crowley is the Justin Bieber of SXSW. It also illuminates the digerati empowered at this event in Austin.

Got Tech?: The Spring ITP Show Does by Marauder

Got Tech?: The Spring ITP Show Does

Guest Writer: Erin Hauswirth

While many prodigal sons and daughters visited their mothers this past Sunday, nerd-do-well students, bloggers and window-shopping venture capitalists flocked to ITP’s Annual Spring Show.

The Interactive Telecommunications Program, an alternate media school in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, is one part entrepreneurial think tank, one part guerilla hacker collective, creating new platforms across tech disciplines.

Geo-Social Frenzy

Given the recent success of alumnae like Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley and blogs a-twitter with big bets on New York City start-up culture, it’s no surprise that there were a number of event-based geo-social solutions at this year’s geek chic show and tell:


Oscar von Hauske and Vitaliy Dikker’s less-committal Meetup cousin, Hangalong.com, invites users to post activities that they want to do today and allows friends or strangers to join suggested “hangs” (e.g. “let’s go get a beer”). Rather than being venue driven, the site/mobile app is activity driven, tapping into the world of “what are you up to tonight.” While that eliminates the age-old problem of having more than one friend respond to the same invite, Hangalong’s success relies on the notion that sites like Hot Potato or Meetup are not being used for the same immediate gratification.


Wallet friendly insta-Groupon from Brian Jones and Cindy Wong, Socialdrinkster.comcrowd-sources frugalistas to unlock freebies at local haunts. The SocialDrinkster network alerts members when there is a deal, at which point users can accept or reject the invite. If accepted, the invite unlocks a QR-friendly mobile coupon redeemable in-venue and starts a digital countdown clock that generates timely foot traffic for business owners. In other words, friends can stop warring over mayorships and enjoy cheap margaritas in peace.

A Bigger Trend in Augmented Reality

The explosion of interest in geo-social only points to a larger trend in augmented reality demonstrated by other innovations in the off-Broadway workspace — merging actual and virtual environments in order to make interactions with technology more tactile.

Michael Kneupefel and Noah Waxman’s Digital Terrarium displays images of ants on a wooden table that re-direct their path or cluster together when objects on the table are adjusted.

Nien Lam and Scott Wayne Indiana’s next-gen AugTopia superhero toys contain cubes in their tummies that can be adjusted to simulate different QR codes, generating new on-screen super powers with each combo when held up to a webcam.

ITP has always been internationally recognized for producing idea-led inventions that make tech ergonomic and accessible. And it seems simplifying science to the level of child’s play uncovers the most creative implementations of new tech.

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MOBILE by Marauder


John Biggs from Techcrunch just got his hands on the the Twitter Peek aka the Tweek and he’s trying to figure out who, specifically, this is for. First, consider this his review: this device is not very good if you’re a Twitter “power user” like him or anyone else with maybe 100+ followers and a few hundred folks you follow. (Techcrunch 11/3)


When Loopt launched in 2006 it was ahead of a curve that is just starting to be recognized: Location. Now, with services like Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite and even Twitter fueling the location-based services frenzy, Loopt realized that it needed to shift its strategy a bit. Enter Pulse, a new feature launching today. (Techcrunch11/3)

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