99 THOUGHTS WE HAD AT SXSW
Numerous robots, one ball pit & 34 Lyft rides later…
Everyone’s favorite time of the year has come and gone. No, we’re not talking about National Pizza Day or National Puppy Day…we’re talking about SXSW, the annual conference held in Austin, TX that celebrates film, interactive media and music festivals. From robots, to AI, to tacos, we’ve brought you 99 of our favorite thoughts.
Live from the Mashable House puppy pin, Creative Director, Sarah O’Bryan, reflects on her third year.
1. Hello, Austin! Third time back at SXSW. I’m a veteran now. I can totally handle anything this conference throws at me.
2. Holy sh*t, I forgot how many people come to this.
3. Huh, even when I try to be present, I still end up viewing Jake Tapper and Bernie Sanders through the screens of a bajillion smartphones.
4. The Bern talks about the value of listening—a theme heard throughout our 5 days. He says, “People turn on the TV and want to see some kind of reflection of their reality and what they’re going through.” Focusing on the latest scandal does nothing. Listen to their needs.
5. What I need next is a Kleenex and a bill for the $250/hr therapy sesh keynote speaker Esther Perel just slayed.
6. Or perhaps I should opt for a bot for my next psychoanalysis. In “Robot Meets Freud,” I learned how technology could play a huge role in helping to solve the mental health crisis. Just by “listening” and responding via a complex series of algorithms, a bot could help a person think through, reflect and reframe an issue in the same way a therapist can. And provide fewer barriers for those seeking help.
7. Mind. Blown. Also, great example of how listening doesn’t necessarily have to come from a human.
8. 12,500 steps later…
9. I wake up with Google’s head of UX and head of design.
10. Get your mind out of the gutter.
11. In the beginning, a lot of Google’s energy was in the WHAT. Now it’s more about the HOW. How are they going to deliver the answers? Humans adapt their responses to the person in front of them. Technology needs to do the same. As these devices and services “follow” you throughout your day from home to car to gym to work, Google has to figure out how they’ll express themselves in ways that make sense to all of us.
12. Listen up—it’s tough topic time: sexism in the workplace. It happens, people. Sam Baber, head of Talent Experience Agency stresses, “Words matter. You want to strive to create a culture where everyone gets along, but you need to be thoughtful about how you architect the rules of the road for your organization.”
13. HR stuff is interesting, y’all! I’m feeling the emphasis on culture and talent, so I stick with another Workplace panel, Power to the People: How to Turn Employee Ideas into Gold.
14. Get ready for some #truth. 51% of employees are disengaged. Only 22% feel leadership has a clear direction for the organization. And just 13% feel their leadership communicates effectively. These sad stats result in $550 BILLION PER YEAR COST to companies.
15. Increasing employee engagement starts with—you guessed it—listening. Ask the questions, listen to the answers and act on them. If you aren’t doing all three, then it can be damaging to your organization.
16. Fun SXSW drinking game: take a shot when you hear the word “innovation.” 11 am rolls around aaaaaand I’m drunk.
17. No wonder there’s a panel on Innovation Fatigue. Evey Nagy from Slack reminds us all, “You don’t have to tell someone you’re innovating if you’ve earned trust and you’ve proven innovation.”
18. I wish someone would tell that to the 300+ vendors at the tradeshow yelling at me to visit their “innovative” booth. No, I don’t want to 3D print sushi, thankyouverymuch.
19. Wait, what? The cast and creator of NBC’s This is Us is screening the finale and doing a Q&A?! Sweet. No SX experience is complete without a good ugly cry.
20. Omg, Mandy Moore legit just made eye contact with me. I knew we would be besties. I can die happy.
21. Back to business. SXSW has so many experts, but Harvard Associate Professor Sarah Lewis and WeWork co-founder Miguel McKelvey give companies this advice: Be a deliberate amateur. You’re more likely to ask questions that experts wouldn’t dare and embrace the idea that you might be wrong. This allows for a sense of wonder and possibility.
22. I think it’s Monday by now, which means work emails start to come in. There are donuts in the kitchen and even that gives me #FOMO.
23. My next panel poses this v important question: how old is Winnie the Pooh? Seriously. Noodle on that one for a while.
24. *Checks Twitter* Has anyone liked or RT me? I’m live tweeting the crap out of these sessions but wondering if anyone really gets value out of random quotes that are out of context from the larger discussion.
25. Speaking of live tweeting, social media managers from A&E and TruTV reveal the shift in strategy they’ve had to take based on the rise of digital viewing. They’ve pivoted more toward an evergreen approach, scheduling out 90% of their content and leaving about 10% to be truly live.
26. They also emphasize the power of listening, “The decision to live tweet is often audience-led. If there’s no conversation happening around the show, then it’s not worth the time & manpower to force the conversation to happen.”
27. Fun fact: panels get even more entertaining when the presenter accidentally switches the screen to her personal email and texts.
28. How is it already the last day? I don’t wanna go back. Sure, I’m running on fumes and am starting to forget what wearing real pants feels like, but I could totes do another week. Just give me a IV of Red Bull and I’ll be GTG.
29. Time to stop at the merch table. I’ll take two of everything and yes, here’s my corporate card.
30. Just kidding, Jon.
31. I take a seat in my final panel—Creating a Movement Through UGC—and the topic of listening appears once again. A nice bookend to my time here in Austin.
32. Master marketers from NBCU, NatGeo and Case Foundation drop this gem on us, “Before brainstorming, evaluate how people are already interacting with your cause. Seeing the conversation that’s happening naturally can reveal where the holes are that your UGC campaign could fill.”
33. And with that, SXSW 2018 is over. Has anyone seen my sweater? I think I might’ve left it at the Mashable House in the Bitcoin ballpit…
Next up: Marketing Manager, Jordan Parnell, shares her experience through the lens of a first time South By’er.
34. Thoughts going into SXSW: One. This is going to be a long week. Two. I did not know that I was going to have to take a picture that I had to wear around my neck all week long. Three. These are some tasty tacos.
35. Okay first session. I feel like I’m back in college, sitting in a lecture hall, but instead of browsing Facebook I’m actually engaged in what they’re saying. This must mean I’m an adult…
36. How many times have they said the words “Innovative” and “Empathy”? Answer—a lot. Okay, these must be SXSW themes.
37. Innovation fact number 1: Innovation is a key element of success. 93% of executives said that if they want to grow they must innovate.
38. Wait, women seem to be a pretty big deal around here too. 60% of the sessions that I’ve attended have had all-women panels.
39. Theme number 3: the power of women.
40. FACT: Female founders are 15% more profitable than male founders because they’ve perfected the process of building a collaborative ecosystem within their organizations. “The funds go further, and the companies tend to fail less.” –Costello
41. Six hours in… “Okay, I think I’m gonna like it here.” 3 hours later…” Wait, what day is it and how long have I been in Texas?”
42. Everyone is talking about empathy. Remind myself of the difference between ‘empathy’ and ‘sympathy’. Okay good to go.
43. There are so many ways to approach writing content. An important aspect of content development is determining what you want your audience to feel when they read it. This is empathy.
44. Wow I’m getting a lot of really deep tidbits of information. Example: Jason Scholossberg, Managing Director at HUGE, “The truth is an illusion. Our brain has a hard time with what is actually true and what feels true.”
45. Am I writing coherent stories? If not, I should be because that’s the best way to make an audience understand what you’re communicating. Definition of “Coherent Storytelling”: writing stories that have a clear beginning, middle and end.
46. I never thought someone would tell me that it’s sometimes necessary to turn off my critical thinking, but they just did, and it makes sense. Sometimes critical thinking blocks our ability to be creative. Talk to different people, travel, read, explore.
47. I just realized that every session I’ve been to has made it clear that without valuing the importance of developing human relationships, my work is pointless.
48. Three houses into “house-hopping” …I wonder how much free swag I have in my backpack right now.
49. I should stop using the word “I”. The guy behind me in line just said influential people don’t say “I” they say “We”.
50. Why does it feel like we’re constantly trying to one-up each other? Being open to collaborating with others is a GOOD thing. A bad thing would be declining the potential to create something better together.
51. It’s okay if I fail. If I want perfection, I’ll never be able to innovate.
52. Mind blown fact number 978: “Today is the slowest day of your life.” –Bridget Frey, CIO of Redfin
53. Kids are way cooler than adults. We should listen to them more and strive to be more like them. FACT: Kids ask 900 questions a day. Adults ask 50.
54. I should follow all these people on Twitter.
55. Someone wants to tell me why it’s okay to get distracted? Sign me up. 15 seconds later—Oh look a live music, let’s go!
56. FACT: It takes 26 minutes to get back to state-of-flow after being distracted. But, this isn’t always a bad thing. We should be encouraging people to utilize the opportunity to learn as a positive distraction.
57. Sometimes it’s okay to let myself stray. Scratching an itch can tap a vein, and that’s where all the great ideas begin.
58. What do I have to do to get to HER position?
59. Walks into a session and it starts with “You’re the first people in the world to know about this.” Thought: Have I reached my peak level of coolness?
60. Eavesdropping on the conversations happening around me…Today’s average person uses a lot of acronyms.
61. Not everyone wants to only see six-second ads. Some people want to hear you tell a story that resonates, influences and connects with them. How long it is, is irrelevant.
62. I should spend more time reading and less time on social media.
63. I’m really glad everyone here is accepting of workout clothes and Birkenstocks as “conference attire”.
64. Stories don’t always have to directly relate to a product or service. If you are writing engaging content that pulls people in, you’re succeeding in grabbing their attention and driving them to learn more.
65. The connection I feel with everyone around me is incredible. I should take this feeling home and start better connecting with the people that surround me every day.
66. This week was incredible, but I’m reminded of how important sleep is to my overall likability.
Still trying to decide which taco was her favorite, we bring you the thoughts of Senior Designer, Sarah Adams. (Also a first time South By’er.)
67. There are a lot of people that look way cooler than me here.
68. I might need to clone myself to be able to attend all of the sessions and all of the brand houses in the next 5 days. Why has no one invented a cloning machine yet? Isn’t this the conference of the future?
69. Guys – spatial design is the new responsive design. Let’s not design in a 2-dimensional, vertical scroll only limited format anymore, k? We’ve really lost the artistry and game-like user experience to a design system assembly line where every website looks and acts the same.
70. There’s a huge trend this year focusing on relationships—with significant others, coworkers, people in general. I think we’re realizing we are missing a genuine human connection because of our constant obsession with a cell phone screen.
71. How can brands capitalize on that focus of human connection? “The best brands aren’t building services; they’re building tribes.”
72. Is this line even moving?
73. I’m realizing I should capitalize on the focus of human connection my getting off my phone and interacting with the people around me in line. OMG SO MANY NEW FRIENDS.
74. Stella Artois is doing a great job in their marketing campaigns of reminding customers to slow down and enjoy the moment they’re in. Really enjoying this trend of being more present, in work and in life.
75. Speaking of human interaction… apparently 55% of all human interaction comes from non-verbal cues. That explains a lot about why we all despise conference calls. But it also explains a lot about why animation in design is so well liked—when done properly and on-brand, it plays just as important of a role as the paragraph of copy I’m expected to read on this website.
76. Why is this the first time I’m seeing the “snap to learn more” QR-esque Snapchat code? This is pretty brilliant. And so easy. This plays a great role in this Fogg Behavior Model chart everyone is talking about here, by assessing the direct correlation behind user motivation to do something vs. the ease it takes to do it. Need me to fill out 40 forms? You’d better make me pretty excited about doing it.
77. Celebrate small victories throughout a multi-step user process. You’re way more likely to retain a customer’s attention (and their good spirits) through the end.
78. Hey you, great job making it a three quarters of the way through this list! Also you look great today.
79. There are robots everywhere. They almost feel out of place this year with the increased focus on human behavior and connection.
80. This dancing robot with eyes is an interesting mix of automation vs. humanity. I wonder, when the eyes are removed from the equation, if the robot still feels human in its animation.
81. Machines are only as human as what we feed them. How can we teach a robot to learn productive humility in a hostile information zone, or how to say “I don’t know the answer” when the answer isn’t 100% fact? To move forward with the robots of the future, we must favor accuracy over speed.
82. My phone battery charge is disappearing quicker than my paycheck at the SXSW merch table. #dataoverages
83. I should probably stop playing with Giorgio Cam, Google’s sentient rapping robot/AI experiment. My phone battery might last a little longer out here if I could stop making it lay down all these sick rhymes based on what it sees in my camera.
84. I’m not sure if I trust AI yet, and it seems like no one else does either. Whether we fear them, we feel a lack of connection with them, we don’t understand them, or we just hate change, “algorithm aversion” is very real. To overcome the feeling of wanting constant control over machines, we must design them for trust—it should do what we think it should do, so we don’t feel the need to manually override it all the time.
85. With all the inspirational content at this conference that’s blasting from every angle, I’ve got more FOMO than a Gen Z’er.
86. Why is everyone in line at that house? Should we be in that line instead? OMG THIS HOUSE HAS BABY GOATS.
87. Apparently the myth that Gen Z is a “short attention span generation” is false. We’re just not producing quality enough content to keep anyone’s attention anymore. With so much content from every angle, humans crave the kind of content they can dig into that separates itself from the 6-second noise everywhere else.
88. Once upon a time, there was a woman named Katie Swindler. She gave a great lecture on the subconscious influence of motion in UX, and taught me that stories are 22x more memorable than just facts. The end.
89. Learning about “optimistic UI” was the best thing that happened to me today. Creating these connections really shifts the cognitive load by helping our users interact with our sites more seamlessly, so we can focus on telling our story instead of our site design getting in the way of its true purpose.
90. I used to hate when speakers would make me interact with their presentations, but now I realize their presentations were far more memorable as a result. Humans crave interaction, not passive instruction, when learning about a new product or piece of information. It is our job to facilitate their interaction. Be more open. Create a conversation. Give your interactions meaning by adding natural questions and goals. Give your users a reason to feel like they own it. Learn because it is fun.
91. The same can be said for working out, and the brands that have cornered the online fitness market for engaging their massive tribe of fans to be inspired and interactive are changing what it means to be in a fitness community. There’s that “human connection” theme again. As it turns out, the real competitor to these big fitness brands is Netflix and chill. So anyone that can inspire millions to get up and move must be doing all the right things.
92. There’s a popup workout about to happen at this house? It’s 90 degrees outside, but I’m standing next to 15 strangers who know nothing about one another and they’re all high fiving and doing knee kicks with an intense fervor. Suddenly I feel a STRANGE AND INTENSE NEED to join their popup fitness community. #humanconnection
93. My legs don’t work, I might die of heat exhaustion, and I have to walk back to a hotel 5 blocks away to make my next session in time.
94. Thanks Lyft, for taking me on 34 different rides this week.
95. Lyft has totally #killedit with all of their brand presence everywhere. Between sneaking an easter egg into the HBO Westworld activation (ugh, FOMO again), making sure I never had to wait more than 45 seconds for a ride, and having their infamous pink van strategically placed throughout the city, they win a gold star for successful brand activation, ease of use and… you guessed it… human connection.
96. BRB, charging my phone again. What do people even do on their phones all day? Do they just use it as a tool to kill time? Browsing around? Searching for something specific? Time spent does not always equal time well spent. The more we can shift audience intent to a mindset of learning and time well spent, the more we can bring their “productive play” to the real world by engaging with real products. (ie- Pinterest creates brand interaction with Valspar to choose your next wall paint color based on the color palettes of images you’ve pinned. Save time choosing a paint color, and love Pinterest even more.)
97. I’m incredibly happy to see all of the female representation throughout all of these sessions and panels. There are lady bosses everywhere and they’re not afraid to speak up. The future is female. The present is female.
98. I’ve had tacos 5 times this week, so when I could get a screenprinted t-shirt with a taco wearing sunglasses from a company called Social Imprint, I was happy to do so—especially since the $5 donation went toward the nonprofit organizations that Social Imprint works with to get former drug addicts and felons back into good paying jobs. Turns out, people really want to help other people—you just have to give them a way to do so easily.
99. Above all things—in the world of robots, machines, FOMO, AI and the newest tech devices—remember that human connection should come before everything else. “Relationships are like stories. Write well and edit often.” –Esther Perel