Dispatches from SXSWi

We’re spending a few days at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, so I thought that I could share  notes from three of the sessions. In a few days we travel to Las Vegas for the MIX10 conference and I’ll share some of the goodies from that show next week.

Austin is packed this year – more panels, more attendees, more packed restaurants and lines to get into parties. Kinda overwhelming and makes me wonder if they may start to limit attendance next year. Might be a good idea to set a cap on the number of people and the number of talks….

In Code We Trust: Open Government Awesomeness” was an interesting panel about open government initiatives, sharing of data, and collaboration between government and citizens. The panelists discussed access to census data and pending legislation, which was interesting, but more so was President Obama’s initiative on open government and his directive that departments use challenges and prizes to encourage innovation and cost savings (Ross discussed this in a post last week).

Imagineering the Fully Digitized and Connected Future” imagined the conected world in 2015. The main themes the panelists discussed were how in 5 years every surface is a screen (not just your refrigerator),  buying things bleeds into all areas of our lives (advertising is everywhere and access to those products is instantaneous) and  cell phones become “stitching” devices which connect the user to all of the data and functions which will surround us.

Monkeys with Internet Access: Sharing, Human Nature, and Digital Data” Clay Shirky writes and teaches about the “social and economic effects of Internet technologies.” His phenomenal talk (no doubt one of the best of this year’s lineup) focused on the concept of the 3 forms of sharing: goods, services, information. Shirky posits that yhe first is hardest for us (and research shows also for primates in general), second is relatively easier, and the third is easiest. For instance, the sharing of music CDs is sharing goods and so we hesitate before we give our CDs away. Sharing services, such as creating and giving away a mix tape is is a bit less onerous for most of us. But easiest of all is sharing music in the form of information (i.e. digital files); evolutionarily, we are biased to sharing information and we LIKE doing it. To Shirky, the refusal to share information is spiteful and the music industry’s expectation is that with digital files we should “act out of spite.” This expectation and the maneuvering to prevent sharing has proved disastrous to that industry. Another “big” idea that Shirky spoke about was the idea that abundance is a bigger challenge to society than scarcity. We know how to deal with scarcity of goods and information, but abundance changes the world we operate in and the fundamental equations of business and society. (Think about the controversy that crowdSPRING generates within the design industry and you get the idea)