It seems the times are a indeed changin’ here in Austin at SXSW. No longer are rock stars required to play music, but instead write source code and create websites.
Being a first time attendee at SXSW is needless to say an eye-opening event - as the saying goes, there is so much to do with so little time. While attending panels, events, networking sessions, and parties are all great, the truly fun thing to do at SXSW is strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know or someone you really admire - the rock star. This tactic alone has been the most valuable take-away so far on this trip - having someone important take the time to actually listen and care does make a difference. Within the past 24 hours alone I have been able to randomly meet founders of some really awesome and impressive companies – but I really shouldn’t name drop (Reddit and Foursqure, cough). Although it is a struggle to keep the groupies away when speaking, I was impressed with all their honesty and friendliness - there is a real pay-it-forward demeanor here.
SXSW also provides a great platform for people to take what they want while still making the most of their experience. I have received great ideas for Broodr while attending panels, but better advice direct from founders themselves. The moral of this post is not to be intimidated by anyone or anything while at SXSW. It seems that the people here really are rock stars in the truest form (brilliant yet humble, and crazy and constantly on the move) however, they are also easy going and easy to talk to.
While I do hope Broodr become a hit, I realized the rock star lifestyle may not be for me - especially after the thought of grown men chasing me around (kinda creepy)!
On occasion, panels at sxsw are infiltrated by buzzwords, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t incredibly valuable. This morning’s panel on Banking on Big Brands/Cells for the Web was one of those panels hat featured a few great panelists seasoned with a bit of snakeoil.
Comedian Kevin Pollak was great talking about how celebrities can leverage the internet to create an independent platform for themselves to create original content about which they can get really passionate. On occasion, this content can ally with a brand to create some social media and internet marketing heaven, but when it goes wrong, the audience can see directly through the gimmick rendering it useless.
Joined by a great moderator and others in the entertainment industry, Kevin’s points and anecdotes about what I’ve dubbed celebranding made for a really educational panel.
But he was joined by a buzzwords specialist from AOL. I don’t know how this woman qualified to be on the panel but she (and on occasion the rest of the panel) spoke of ‘quality content’ without defining quality and spoke as if impressions were the number one way to manage brand engagement. In this case, I think she has a lot to learn about social media and branding, especially since the AOL content farm rarely produces what I’d rate as quality.
The panel, though making a great point about taking control of content from the main studios and finding a niche audience on the internet, did not apply any of these tactics to their branding strategy. They talked about getting the most impressions, but views do not measure brand loyalty or effectiveness, and are considered by most effective social media pros as poor ways to measure community. To pick on the low, Charlie Sheen acquired a large following quickly but how many of those are just watching the proverbial car wreck.
I’ll rag on the AOL chick because ignoring her buzzwords is possibly the best content filtering tool I can think of, but after siphoning off her contributed, the panel was actually very informative.
Eliza Dushku also sat two seats in front of me and srmiled at me so this might just be my favorite panel this year.
Being an ignorant SXSW newbie, I figured a panel entitled “How To Not Be A Douchebag At SXSW” would be a stellar way to kick of the world’s greatest meeting of tech nerds and aging hipsters. I was right. This discussion helped me discover some common “Interactive” pet peeves, including “drunk Tweeting,” “surfing name tags,” “drive-by business card shootings,” and “invasion of locational privacy.”
As a student aiming to balance representing Syracuse University’s Newhouse School with promoting my own startup (the recently launched VouchBoard), it is essential that I conduct myself in a professional manner while meeting people at SXSW. I will strive to be passionate, communicative, and creative. I will do my best to soak in Austin’s culture, while listening to innovative ideas and developing a greater understanding of how new media continue to influence more traditional platforms. Being a douchebag will only get in the way.
I can’t wait to see what I will learn on Day 2.
- Andrew Bank (Senior at Syracuse University)
Its not the entrepreneur who’s chasing the million bucks. It’s the entrepreneur who’s chasing the big idea. — Tim O’Reilly
I think storytelling involves two things: adding context to media … and putting it in a timeline. — Yan David-Erlich at the “Future of Social Photography” panel, making a surprising (if simple) correlation between conventional journalism and your party pics.
we built a platform and it’s your responsibility to make the most of it. — sxsw guy
SXSWi is famous for its geeked out parties and last night was an awesome kickoff to the festival. I signed up for the Austin Startup Bar Crawl and met up with a few friends (Liz from the Syracuse Student Sandbox, John from DeviceKnit and James and Shawn from Levlr) to explore the startup offices of this hospitable town. A number of startup businesses opened their doors to the early birds of SXSWi, letting us explore their awesome collaborative work spaces.
The first stop had ice cream. What more could you ask for? Well, ice cream, beer and some Dutch entrepreneurs.
The second stop at Conjunctured, a “coworking space” in Austin, had a dunking booth, but, as the host pointed out, everyone was more interested in the pizza he ordered than dunking him in a tank full of water. The space was located in an old house in which the pretty much every room but the kitchen was converted into office space. It was here we met a guy developing a way for people to get group travel rates by allowing users to create “trips” people can join. This allows young travelers to book hotels, etc. together, get a discount rate and travel cheaper (I’ll update when I remember what it’s called).
Then we all missed the bus, so we missed a lot of the other places on the Startup Tour, but we ventured over to the Gowalla offices on the other side of downtown Austin. Bikes hang from walls and the location-based service gave us a lot of swag, including a beer cozy that works like a snap bracelet from my childhood.
Liz and I ran into the Head of Recruitment and HR for Gowalla, who talked about her methods and some challenges she faced in finding developers. According to her, it’s more important for the company to recruit people who get the culture of Gowalla, even if they don’t have as much experience.
The Gowalla party was the place to be last night for entrepreneurs and startups. Everywhere we looked, someone was talking about their exciting new venture and it’s near impossible not to feed off their excitement, or maybe that’s all the free green tea I drank at Gowalla.
Daily Orange article on Vouchboard -
Andrew Bank and Michael Gursha were fed up with how sites like Facebook and LinkedIn divided the Web into strictly professional or social spaces. Now the two are trying to bridge the gap between the sites.
“Facebook is overly social, and LinkedIn is overly professional,” said Bank, a senior television, radio and film major. “We wanted to combine the two and get others to think differently about what others have to say about you.”
Bank and Gursha created VouchBoard, an online site where users can make free accounts and use their “boards,” similar to Facebook walls, to send and receive “vouches.” Vouches are testimonies written by anyone from friends and family to professors and employers about a person’s creativity, work ethic, personality and more. Users can create categories on their boards and organize vouches in any way they choose, Bank said.
VouchBoard will launch Monday, though people can already make accounts on the website. There are currently more than 500 users testing the site and providing the team with feedback, Bank said.
VouchBoard was created in four months with help from developers hired to design the website. Bank and Gursha said they wanted students and instructors to sign up for VouchBoard to get a wide range of voices speaking for one another’s talents and skills. The two hope VouchBoard can grow and be used in the professional world for employers to get a better idea of potential employees’ personalities, Gursha said.
VouchBoard provides an alternative to LinkedIn recommendations, which can be frustrating because of their formal nature, said Gursha, a 2010 alumnus of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. The team took that aspect of LinkedIn and expanded it with VouchBoard to fit the need for more personal, informal recommendations, he said. Users can search for “vouchmates,” people they may want to vouch for or who want to vouch for them. A receiver of a vouch must accept it before it can appear on his or her board, which ensures positive and accurate testimonies, Bank said.
Users can send out vouches they receive to Facebook and LinkedIn accounts as well.
“VouchBoard builds up a person’s good reputation through the eyes of those who know them best,” Gursha said.
Bank and Gursha want to turn VouchBoard into a needed service connecting the social and the professional aspects of Web communication, Bank said.
During Spring Break, the team will travel to Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest, the annual music, film and interactive festival that showcases the newest and most creative media and technologies.
They will join a Newhouse group and Sean Branagan, director of Newhouse’s Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, to spread the word about VouchBoard, Branagan said.
“The future of digital media is played out at South by Southwest,” Branagan said. “It’s the perfect place for natural collisions between creative entrepreneurs and professionals.”
Branagan helped with the development of VouchBoard and said he believes South by Southwest is a prime opportunity for the website to gain more exposure and for the creators to connect with professionals and possible investors.
Branagan said he thinks an “A-team” like Bank and Gursha can propel an idea like VouchBoard to success.
Tyler Gildin, a senior television, radio and film major, said he enjoys the freshness of VouchBoard’s positivity. “In a world where people are constantly being bashed online, VouchBoard differentiates itself because it’s one site where only positive things are displayed,” Gildin said.