SXSWi Day One wrapup

As the first day of first SXSWi is behind me, I thought I’d take the time to sum up a bit about the experiences.

Overall, SXSWi is a nice conference. Nice in every aspect of the word; the organizers are nice – friendly, welcoming, there when you need them, saying the right things at the right time (like the fact that you can help Japan and their earthquake/tsunami victims here). The venues are nice – granted, it’s hard to make a conference centre nice, but they’re trying. Above all, the people are nice. People I’ve spoken to in queues, people I’ve talked to next to me at seminars, just about everyone is nice and happy to be at SXSWi. Which all summed up makes for an über-nice experience, so far.

At the back of the 330 pages thick SXSWi book is a wordcloud derived from the 1000+ strong programming sessions. It’s no surprise that ”social”, ”web”, ”media” and ”meet” are the largest words in the cloud – slightly more surprising is that words like ”cloud”, ”app” and ”APIs” are barely visible. But yes, social web and media, and meeting the people who are doing this, seems to be what SXSWi is about – this year at least.

The two sessions I attended were the fireside interview with Tim O’Reilly conducted by Jason Calacanis. It was a good interview – although Jason had a pretty easy time, as Tim was pretty good at speaking about the things he was passionate about. Some gems that came out of that discussion were for example talks about brands; as Tim sees it (and I agree fully), brands that connect in the right way with their targeted audience can give them the feeling of being in on something unique, something special. ”Being in the club” was the phrase Tim used. He went on explaining how a great idea is great, but it must be able to pull a load of train carriages behind it. Furthermore, it must go where a lot of people want to go, to fill up the carriages. Must be inclusive.

Tim O’Reilly categorized himself as being best at ”recognizing patterns”. This allowed him to think of ads online, of Web 2.0, etc. This is something that can be summed up as pattern recognition = having good notions of what is happening + have a core set of strong beliefs, loosely held + meet a lot of interesting, passionate people + make sure one pays attention to what they have to say.

At the ”The New Frontier of Social Gaming” with Brian Reynolds of Zynga, we started off with a look at social media. Facebook to the notion of being social to a new level – now you could be social efficiently. It doesn’t necessarily mean deep social interactivity, but Facebook is good at light social touches, which is where social games come in.

There was a lot of talk around the subject, but the key elements were that if you want ot make a social game, concentrate on helping people socialize more efficiently. Take something everyone can play, a pretty game, simple and featuring a universal aspiration. Finally, provide tools for people to express themselves. One unique element is that no matter what time of the day you play the game, other people logging in at 3pm are playing the same games as the people playing seven hours later. Now, games should be fun. FUN, according to Brian Reynolds of Zynga, is being provided with a series of interesting choices, where he or she can learn and recognize different pattern and provide surprise and delight to the ones experiencing it. So how do you make a fun app? Prototype it, revise it, show it to friends. Revise it. Review it. If it’s still not fun and ready, try to evolve it further. Put more choices. Make these choices matter more or build a story with surprise, suspense and/or humor. Hide patterns in your content that the audince can find them along the way. Add some kind of social like connection, and / or build a story where I – the audience – is the hero. Basically a lot of stuff that goes for transmedia development as well; if your content doesn’t feel good enough or fun enough, perhaps try one of the methods above? And if you’re not already testing your content on a bunch of people and revising accordingly, start doing so now!

In the evening was an informal transmedia meetup, attendend by a host of peole, such as Scott Walker and Sheri Candler. I enjoyed the conversations, and above all the feeling that transmedia people everywhere are struggling with the same things – sustainability, a measure of understanding from the client’s part, acceptance and a want to immerse from the part of the public…. Still, these are just obstacles to overcome. Looking forward to a lot more discussion at the formal meetup, on Sunday.

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