10 Take-Aways From SXSW, 2016
Shared by Hal Brice Wednesday, March 23, 2016

I just got back from my first SXSW event in Austin.  This was the 30th annual and it’s definitely grown. The interactive portion that I attended was so full of amazing content that it was actually overwhelming.

The sessions I saw ranged all the way from fashion bloggers to an investigation of the dark web and deep social, to programmatic advertising, to privacy. I wish I had been able to attend at least 20 more seminars. Every hour was like a Sophie’s choice of what to try and get into. To give you something to talk about around the cappuccino machine this week, here are 10 amazing takeaways from SXSW.

1. You gotta call it “south by”  You call it “south by southwest” and you’re an automatic newby nerd. Don’t be a newby nerd.

2. Be prepared to stand in line. A lot. The registration line went around most of a full city block and almost every presentation I went to had a line to get in. Also, be prepared to sit on the floor from time to time. Next to some really interesting people. The crowd is startlingly serious. For those approving expense accounts, this is NOT a party. People walk fast and stare at their phones. Like they are on the quest to find the next UBER or something. Or maybe they already have the next UBER and they’re looking for funding.  That’s the scene, here’s facts:

3. You couldn’t go more than two or three minutes without hearing these words:  Millennials and Mobile.

4. Facebook has been stalking us again. Among other things, they’ve found that in the US, there are over 51 million posts about lost phones every month; the most common hashtag associated with lost phones? #samaritan. So continue to believe in inherent goodness.

5. Also, new parents are interesting. They post 2.6 times more than they did pre-baby and they get 46% more interaction on average. People love babies. But here’s the real kicker:  The time most new parents go on facebook? Between 4am and 7am.  Pay attention all you diaper makers and coffee roasters.

6. Facebook did some proprietary research on the use of video on mobile and found that contrary to what you might think, we actually pay more attention to videos on mobile and generally have higher retention than regular TV. Apparently that’s because you lock into your phone and tune out distraction in ways you can’t while watching regular TV. Who would care about that? Well, for one, people who sell you video ads on mobile devices (Facebook).

7. Movie marketers are having fun with mobile. And they are using the social following of their stars to be able to promote in ways they never have before. For furious 7–which is basically the highest grossing action film ever at over 1.5 billion dollars—someone realized that their cast had a collective social following of 420 million people. That’s over 100mm more people than the total number of people in America. Vin Diesel alone has 97 million.  That’s the entire population of the Philippines JUST for Vin Diesel. Who knew? So it probably wouldn’t surprise you that when the cast pushed out the trailer for Furious 7, it got 110 million views on Facebook really quickly. The studio still did traditional TV ads, but social video increased likelihood to attend by 7%. NOTE: Here’s why that’s so smart:  When celebrities post on Facebook, 100% of followers see the post. When businesses post, only about 6% see the post. Celebrity postings are 96% more efficient!)

8. This is amazing. The percentage of traffic on the internet that is “open”—sites like Wikipedia for example, only .2%!  98.8% of web traffic is in what’s called the Dark Web, where access is controlled by passwords or restrictions or is behind digital firewalls.  However, there are still plenty of interesting things you can stumble upon. How about insecam.org? It’s a library of insecure video cameras streaming live to world for your entertainment. There are thousands and thousands of cameras you can watch right now and more new ones are being added every day. And do you know what the solve is for that problem? Put a password on your camera. That’s it.

9. But do we really care? Every year since 2008, people share double the amount of information online than they did the year prior. We have all come to understand that we basically trade our information in exchange for something. Usually it’s convenience. Easier logging in. Getting free shipping.  A discount.  Something like that. Research shows that kids are starting to understand that this is transactional.  And they know that everything they type into google lives in the cloud forever… that all tweets, yes everything Kanye says… is stored in the Library of Congress!  They know that opening an email could lead to a hack that allows others to watch their laptop camera and listen through their microphone. That appliances like the Amazon Echo, can record everything you say and store it in the cloud. It appears to be a risk that many people are willing to take. But still, the rapid rise of technology in every facet of our lives, combined with a lack of education and a general glossing over of the issue by companies we trust our information with, leaves us with this. Nothing on line is private and the burden is on us as individuals to protect ourselves. And we are doing a really bad job of doing that.

10. Finally, if you’re interested in interactive design, you’re going to be hearing a lot about “nudges.” Nudges are the small features that attract attention and influence the behavior we make on a site. An example might be showing the user how much time it will take and what exactly they will need, before they sign up for a product or service. More on nudges in a follow up post.

SXSW is famous for its parties. Sorry, I didn’t get to any. I walked by a few and they frankly didn’t look that fun. If you are at all interested in the future of digital technology, South By (see??) should be your first stop in knowledge acquisition. Just be prepared to wait and walk. And take notes furiously.