Oh, That Party Culture

The following photo essay is about SXSW Interactive networking events. However, before I start that, this year’s festival was been marred by events on Wednesday night, specifically a drunk driving attack on Red River Street that resulted in death. Anyone who has partaken in SXSW knows Sixth Street, and could imagine this happening. People are walking, meeting, and greeting everywhere — as evidenced by the photo below.

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SXSW Networking Culture

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Many people debate whether or not the content at SXSW is valuable, but for me the conference has always been about the incredible networking parties. In fact, I have been to only one session in the past three years.

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The long table at the Yahoo! Lounge.

Whether it’s sitting across a table sharing a drink or a cup of coffee or walking around at a networking party seeing friends and meeting new people, events dominate SXSW. You can walk up and down the streets of downtown Austin, and see venue after venue filled to the brim with interactive pros.

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Howard Greenstein and Cory Doctorow on 3rd Street.

Of course, networking events are not about masses of attendees, the streets, party themes or the venues themselves. While these things add to the ambiance, SXSW is always about the people.

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From left to right Richard Binhammer, two friends, Laura Thomas and Paull Young.

For example, a charity poker match benefiting charity: water hosted by Porter Novelli provided an opportunity to catch up with my friends Richard Binhammer, Christopher Barger, Wesley Faulkner and Laura Thomas.

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My original SXSW coach from 2009 and former housemate Aaron Brazell caught up with me at the DC All Star party. He’s showing off his new tattoo in the above photo. Both Aaron and I have a penchant to get ink in Austin. Fortunately, I escaped tattoo-free this year.

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One of my colleagues at client Vocus Dee Wong struck up a conversation with this sales rep from Hootsuite. The two were pretty funny on camera!

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Wherever you went you could see conversations happening. This chat happened at the IEEE party between William Hurley, or Whurley as he is known, and Eric Gradman from Two Bit Circus.

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It was wonderful to talk more with people who I am just getting to know like Ann Tran.

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That’s in spite of the fact that she and Kerry Gorgone photobombed this pic of Calvin Lee and Brivo LabsMike Martoccia, LOL! That’s what SXSW is all about, hanging out with work colleagues, building new relationships, and having a little fun together.

What was your favorite SXSW 2014 moment?

The top featured image was taken at Mellow Johnny’s during the Chevy Tweethouse event. You can see my whole SXSW 2014 photo set here.

Freaking Out About Surveillance at SXSW

The topic of surveillance threaded the general conversation at the SXSW Interactive Festival this year. From live video keynotes by the exiled Julian Assange and Edward Snowden to ever present sensor enabled wristbands and a surprising amount of people wearing Glass, privacy — caused by sensors, data, and the Internet-powered applications they empower — found its way into the very pores of the conference.

As a result, the always-on quantified self created a bit of a freak-out amongst attendees. Almost every conversation I had touched on this topic.

First, let me say it was refreshing to see social media and marketing take a supporting role at SXSW as the conference moved to discuss larger trends in the interactive sector. Clearly, the movement towards an omnipresent Internet creates dramatic implications for society and businesses beyond extrapolating personal data to deliver contextual marketing.

It was ironic to see everyone wearing sensors and discussing the latest personal data-driven app, while they conveyed concerns about societal. Those fears included stalking, government and corporate abuse of data, personal privacy (will your Fitbit report your bedside activity?), and the impact on self identity caused by constantly being on.

Yet, most of us felt that while valid, the sensor train has already left the station. We move about our lives vaguely knowing the tech we love is disrupting our own privacy and security, and ignoring the consequences. People may value their privacy, yet they strap on their fitness band or allow access to personal data via social networks, mobile phones, sign-ups and web browsers.

Perhaps it was the Snowden and Assange video keynotes that caused the underlying meme. Invariably, when conversations begin about on these topics people become concerned.

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Having attended (and walked out of) the Assange session and seeing what Snowden said, the two keynote speeches struck me as the self-justifying rants of sociopaths. The exiled self-proclaimed defenders of the public interest seem to need the attention, and enjoyed the audience. It is clear Assange and Snowden think they are above the law, and have no remorse for the certain deaths their actions have caused.

I am not saying that the societal impact of surveillance by friends, family, co-workers and government is not a worthy topic. People are rightly concerned.

BUT surveillance is a government, corporate and personal action that has been occurring since the beginning of civilization. Discussion of spies can be found as far back as Sun Tzu’s Art of War. The medium creates the current manifestation of data and video surveillance. It’s no surprise that governments are collecting and sharing data, while pressuring companies to open their information repositories.

Unrestrained corporate actions leveraging personal data are not a surprise either. We live in a free capitalist economy that influences the government with lobby or special interest dollars.

No Restraint with Personal Technology

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My reaction to a full explanation of sensor-driven personal data.

What is surprising is our personal lack of restraint about data and privacy. We treat it like we treat the environment. There is no personal valuation or action to address the situation even though we fear the worst.

Yet when surveillance in this new digital world order is discussed, we freak out. That is ironic given the larger context. In reality, the fear is self-centered. We don’t like the thought of our little wrongs and guilty pleasures becoming easily accessible to others via the Internet.

Vulnerability is not openly embraced by a vast majority of people.

In the social media era, we saw ourselves, good and bad. In the end, we saw the ugly side of human nature. Perhaps we’re not ready to see even more of the bad openly served to the digital public thanks to our various personal technologies.

Yet, you have to think that such exposure would be bad business for many of the companies involved. Who wants an app that’s going to out them at every corner? Of course, if you live an honest life this is not an issue.

In addition, this is an issue of the moment, and for the older generation. The next generation, the children of today, will grow up in this world. It won’t even bother them.

What do you think?

The Marketing of Winter

Back when I was a kid (are you groaning yet?), we didn’t have polar vortexes or named storms. No, it just got cold with arctic blasts and the occasional blizzard.

The Weather Channel had a nice justification for naming its winter storms, specifically safety through awareness. But let’s be honest about this, the channel is making its content more attractive to the marketplace through personification and mystery.

It’s the marketing of winter.

Can you blame The Weather Channel? In an era of niche media, there are few things that commands attention across wide swathes of the population. Major weather events happen to be one of those things, the Super Bowl being another.

Believe me when I say this: The Weather Channel has to do everything it can to drive ratings. A victim of its own successful Internet applications, the Weather Channel lost 20% of its viewing audience when DirecTV dropped it earlier this month. This follows a 19 percent drop in its ratings since 2011 as a result of its hyper successful Internet apps.

It makes sense. Some people may prefer spending 30 seconds on the Weather Channel app as opposed to watching ten minutes of programming to get the same information.

Competitive weather networks won’t help. In addition to WeatherNation, Accuweather is launching a 24-7 network this fall as is Network Weather. It seems like there will be more fish fighting for this smaller pond.

But if The Weather Channel sees people checking the weather via their apps instead of tuning in via cable, wouldn’t it make more sense to invest in interactive content instead of fighting for less cable viewers?

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That’s why the marketing of winter makes sense to me. There is one thing we can be certain of; sooner or later the weather will turn foul. The added panache provides a compelling story that translates across medium.

Vortexes and named storms offer The Weather Channel a differentiator, and allows them to sell advertisements and sponsoships of major weather events on their networks. The mobile ad check-ins alone are probably worth it. “Sponsor coverage of five named storms this winter. You can make sure your mobile ads for snow shovels show when someone is within five miles of a store.”

What do you think of the The Weather Channel’s marketing of winter?

9 Videos on the Digital Future

Happy April Fool’s Day! We now resume our regular programming…

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Five weeks ago at xPotomac, nine speakers and one emcee delivered speeches and conversation starters that sparked 25-30 minutes of questions and answers each. The following nine videos are listed in the order of presentation.

Special thanks to my client Vocus for providing videography services. Vocus is hosting the Demand Success 2013 conference in Washington, DC this June 20-21. The event focuses on marketing best practices for converging media, and includes speakers like Arianna Huffington, Content Marketing Institute Founder Joe Pulizzi, digital journalism expert Jay Rosen, and many more. Check it out.

Please feel free to leave comments and feedback about the conference here. We’re listening!

xPotomac Introduced: BlogPotomac Legacy and Future Vision

DC’s very own Shana Glickfield (Beekeeper Group) provides the introduction to very first xPotomac. xPotomac is where the digital media future meets businesses. This groundbreaking conference features seven media technologies most likely to impact businesses and marketers in the immediate future.

This smaller intimate conference features limited attendance to ensure maximum learning and networking. Speakers will present in a tight setting with the stage centered in the round or in a horseshoe formation. Each session features a gladiator like format with 15 minutes dedicated to speaking and 30 minutes of question and answer from the audience.

Opening Keynote: Voice Search Changes the Game

The opening keynote at xPotomac was provided by Vanessa Fox. Given how much of the current web — social and content marketing included — revolves around search, voice search represents a game changer, especially given mobile use with Siri and Google Voice Search.
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Transactions Anytime Anywhere Sans the Wallet

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Traditional methods of credit card payment and mobile payment are shifting. The $15 trillion electronic payment market will continue to evolve, and our wallets will disappear, slowly but surely.

Point of sale is no longer the domain of a physical location, and not even necessarily a function of swiping a card on a mobile reader, such as Square or competing devices. Logging in provides a quicker way to buy and leave, simplifying customer experiences.

PayPal unveiled a new series of traditional and mobile APIs at SxSW last weekend that empowers developers to incorporate payment functionality in any media form.

In theory, with log-ins added to the equation, events, apps or any other kind of device can complete business as necessitated by situation and customer preference.  This new transactional evolution empowers commerce in mobile or stationary environments.

One can see web site developers have a new set of requirements developing on the horizon. Not only do they need to incororate social and mobile into design, but now another new element enters the picture, the transaction.
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