Here’s a little bit o’ video about trying out Virtual Reality (VR) for the first time at SXSW. It was all over the conference this year – the topic of panels, the highlight of the trade show, and new gear announced to film it and support it. VR is here, and it’s going to start changing our media experience on a consumer level soon.

You can do this with a smart phone and a cardboard headset (or a more advanced one). Google Cardboard is cheap and simple to use. Check it out here. Samsung has a VR headset that does amazing things for $100. Stick your phone in. Enjoy a new form of media/entertainment/education/who knows what.

The wrap up to our SXSW adventure with deep thoughts about stuff and Kerry Washington. Not bad not bad!

SXSW 2016: Day 5

17 Mar
2016

The last day of Interactive. You kinda fight a sense of relief because your brain is so saturated with ideas and talks and smart people that you kind of need a break, but you are sad because do you really have to wait all year for SXSWi to come around again and be inspired? (No, but it’s definitely one of the big awesome places to be inspired).

Creating A Movement: SoulCycle

What better way to start the morning of the last day than to sit down with your Starbucks spinach feta egg white wrap and listen to the founders of Soul Cycle talk about how they built their brand?

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It was more interesting than I anticipated. I LIKED them, but I was basing my initial impression about them on some snarky Gawker articles about SoulCycle being a cult, so…extra surprise. They started SoulCycle because they hated to exercise (natch) and were working in real estate and as a talent agent. They focus a lot on branding and experience, and the thing that really impressed me is they do not want to franchise, because they’re control freaks. So often a brand will franchise and then you never know what you’ll get as it grows and other people are in charge of customer experience but don’t have to follow all “the rules.” I like that they refuse. If I had a successful something that could franchise out and make me filthy rich, I don’t think I’d do it either.


“How Streaming Has Changed Listening”

This panel converged over the tech and the music part of the conference. Nothing totally shocking here and – NEWS ALERT: no one knows what to do about the new music industry – but some good stats. One of the panelists was from Bandcamp and he stated that on their service, CD sales (the disc kind) had actually gone up by 10% last year. And vinyl sales were up 40% (what up, hipsters!). People still do want physical product. Ultimately, the streaming world means more access to music for fans (good) and decreased revenue for musicians still (bad).

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Zach Anner: The Art of Starting From Nothing

I had no idea who Zach was when I went to this panel, I just saw that he was a Youtuber and it was across the hall from the previous panel (laziness counts!). I was so glad I chose this one…Zach turned out to be one of the highlights of the conference for me. Check out his Youtube channel here. He played a lot of clips from his videos and explained how he started (basically, you just START). He also reiterated there should be no obstacle in your way if you want to create. It’s true. The tools to do film are dirt cheap at this point and so is editing software. Check out his amazing Workout Wednesday series (my favorite is here) and dive in. Truly a great inspiration.

Brian Solis – The Future of Brand, Tech & Business is Experience

The last panel. It was PACKED. I was hot. I couldn’t take one more note, but I was glad to just sit and listen. Brian is a guru whose latest book “explores the intersection of where business meets design to create engaging and meaningful experiences.” Sweet. Truthfully I had heard the terms “experience,” “personalization,” and “authenticity” so many times this week I was not sure I could comprehend them anymore, but that’s another blog post.

We wrapped it up with pancakes at Kerbey Lane and I spent yesterday sitting in silence thinking about things. And messing with the Google Cardboard VR headset, but that’s for a vlog post.

There is truly nothing better for my brain than immersing it in a conference like this…hearing people talk about topics I am working directly with, or even better – stumbling on a topic I know nothing about and having my mind blown. SXSW always offers a good balance of both. Now to start synthesizing. I think I need some sunlight for that.

Oh and I found Amy (who is actually working this conference and dealing with these crowds!) and we got free hats. Blue steel duck face.

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SXSW 2016: Day 4

15 Mar
2016

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We ate the Blistered one.

Monday…a fresh start anywhere, even at SXSW. After the Sunday slump you rally a little and are starting to feel the nagging “only 2 days left of Interacticve…only 2 days to pump my mind so full of inspiration I’ll run on dreams and starlight for the next 6 months.” No pressure, really.

Flail or Fail: Marketing to Fandom

This was a panel of geeks and I loved it. Understand…there is being a fan of something and then there is being IN the fandom of something. Level 2 includes activites like joining online communities for the thing you’re a fan of, communicating with other fans, creating fan art for your fandom if you are so inclined…it’s a way more active way to be a fan. Things like fanfiction are a level of fandom that allows the fan to re-write or add to the “canon” (the accepted truth of the storylines as written by the official show writers). Marketing to these types of fans means you should listen to them, be authentic with them, and know they’ll see right through you if you marketing unauthentically to them. Using the right platorms to reach your fandom is essential…don’t use Twitter if your fandom is on Tumblr. That sort of thing. Yay geeks!

New Indie Frontier: DIY TV

This panel was a little bit slow for me as it wasn’t really about DIY TV series at all, but more about how you need a lot of money to produce something so high quality you have a chance of having it picked up by a major distributor like Netflix. Sigh. Fun fact though: 75% of videos streamed online every day are 15 minutes or less, so content can be short form and episodic and keep an audience. We’ve broken from the weekly half hour sitcom mode finally.

Then I went to a panel about how musician unions get musicians paid but it focused on people playing on Hollywood movie scores and that’s fine but not applicable so I wandered the trade show and picked up free swag.

Livestreaming Is Bigger Than You Realize

Omg, guys. Have you heard of YouNow? I hadn’t. It’s a livestreaming app that actually allows you to monetize your streaming. Streaming apps like Meerkat (which no longer does streaming) and Periscope have busted out at SXSW before, and while I’d argue there’s no real “it” app this year, this one seems interesting. On panelist was Zach Clayton, a 15 year old who has amassed a 700,000 subscribership on YouNow and broadcasts for an hour a day to 7000-10000 people on average. People tip him. He makes thousands a month. Other services like Twitch allow gamers to livestream them playing a video game, and thousands of people watch. (Zzz). I feel like this is the Wild West of the internet.

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12 Inevitable Tech Forces That Will Change Our Future – Kevin Kelly

I love panels like this. Granted, the title is misleading…Kevin Kelly is releasing a BOOK with all 12, but he only went over 3 forces. But they were good. AI is going to change is massively in the next few decades…and not in the “thinking robots will kill us all and take over” way, but in a more helpful, benign way (according to Kelly). AI thinks differently than a human…so it can learn to do “productivity” based jobs that humans have to do now. Kelly maintains in 100 years we’ll be stymied about how people in the past used to do jobs that are obviously robot jobs. The jobs that will replace these are…not invented yet. This pie in the sky thought always makes me pause but he did point out…think about our largely agrarian society in the early 1900’s. If you would tell them that by 2016, only 1% of our U.S. population will be farmers, they would ask…”what does everyone do, then?” And we’d say things like “programmer, coder, fitness instructor, social media manager.” And it wouldn’t make sense. So think about 100 or even 50 years into our future…we have no idea what’s coming folks. And the robots will help us. The other 2 forces Kelly talked about were Virtuality and Tracking, which I could yammer on but I’ll just link to his website. Fascinating.

Thus ended my day…VR is really a thing, guys. Try some goggles. More on that in another blog post.

SXSW 2016: Day 3

14 Mar
2016

The Sunday Slump. It happens. It occurs when the clocks get set back after you’re already sleep deprived and you have hit it hard for 2 conference days and it’s a little bit harder to focus and you need all the coffee. But it was a pretty good Sunday, full of panels from 9:30 – 6. Let’s go.

The New Web Typography

This was fascinating. It was a panel about fonts and design, but the implications behind them were beyond anything I had considered before. The main point I got was that good typography online and in print empowers the reader to better understanding. Good typography should not necessarily encourage FASTER reading, because comprehension goes down. Subtle design elements like a lower color contrast between text and page can slow a reader down. Friction increases understanding. Whoa.

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Olivia Pope…I Mean…Kerry Washington!
The New Rules of Social Media Stardom

Kerry Washington is turning out to be one of my favorite panelists of the whole (unfinished) conference. She was eloquent, smart, compassionate, knowledgeable, and um…she’s stunning in person just like on TV.

Kerry talked about her (very well done) social media presence and how she manages it as a celebrity. She keeps her personal life private, but doesn’t shy away from posting about political issues and things she cares about. She live tweets Scandal (and claims social media kept the show afloat after the first season…now it’s in season 5). Everything on her social accounts comes from her or her social media manager, who will sign posts…so people know when Kerry isn’t posting. This seems to be a very atypical hands on approach in Hollywood in these times of publicists tweeting for celebrities. She did mention, “I decide whether to read the comments or not based on how close I am to a therapy appointment.” And she did acknowledge the hate she receives is more about the person commenting than her. She’s got a really healthy, engaged attitude about social media which was good to see from someone who could let it affect her self-image or her work or her family.

Also one more photo of Olivia Pope, I mean…Kerry, because I didn’t take many photos yesterday and also OLIVIA POOOOOOOOOPE.

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Cracking The Human Code

We have printed the human genome IN A BOOK. It is 176 volumes and here is an article about it. Knowing the genome and the abberations that lie within will help us create customized courses of treatment with drugs specific to the patient and identify markers for potential diseases way before they manifest. This panel tried to avoid the moral implications of all this science but it’s hard not to ponder it. Will we self-select poor genetic traits out of our population? Hm.

Niche to Movement to Mainstream

This panel used food trucks and hip hop as examples of things that started niche, became movements, and are now really mainstream. I can speak to the food truck evolution – they are everywhere. I’m ok with that. Some things move from their tight niche subculture into the mainstream “norm,” and some never do. Marketers of course want to crack to code to perform this leap. This panel had no answers (I guess that makes sense) and moreso described the process of things that have made the leap. So really, your guess is as good as any.

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Skip the Sale – Driving Subscribers with Content

This was a panel share between Facebook and The New York Times. Straight up, I really wanted it to be more interesting. It was probably the Sunday Slump setting it. I did glean a few things…Gen Z checks their phone on average 157 times a day. A DAY. So your content had better be mobile ready and engaging. Companies like the times are moving to create a very personal and personalized (different things) experience for users. Things will continue to be more tailored to your interests based on data collection from your app use. I guess that’s cool. I fear sometimes maybe our personal news funnels will get so narrow we’ll get dumber but what do I know.

Stay True To Your Craft and Online Brand

We all have online brands. If you are absent from the internet that also tells us something about your brand. Of course this is coming from tech panelists but the advice here is that you should have SOME sort or curated online brand because we’re all watching. Interesting stat: 40% of the workforce will be freelancers by 2020. This doesn’t surprise me, though many online brands have been built on this rogue freelancer lifestyle. Since that will be the norm in 5 years, we have to differentiate…differently. A good equation:

Brand = your voice + your vision + your visuals
Your network is your net worth, they kept repeating. Make content. Make it authentic. Just make it. Or move to a commune in Oregon, you can always do that.

Then Chad and I jetted to dinner in quiet, peaceful Wimberley with Susan where we have her Virtual Reality in a Box and the world will never be the same. The end of Day 3.

The vlog form of the blog post below. Whoa.

SXSW 2016: Day 2

13 Mar
2016

There’s always a lesson. I took a bit of a risk today and it paid off, but it was REALLY down to the wire and the line was split between “risk that pays off big” and “complete waste of time.” But first…

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer from Broad City

YES. These girls are top of the heap great comedy these days. It was a treat to see them speak about their creative process, production life, and other projects. Did you know Abbi makes coloring books? Fact. I laughed a lot in this panel.

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Ellen Page and Ian Daniel: Film Keynote

Ellen Page…you know, Juno. Granted, she’s done a bunch of other amazing projects since but…Juno. They talked about their new project “Gaycation” – a travel show – and the risks involved in producing the project. Another panel I didn’t take many notes in, but enjoyable.

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Making Epic Sh*t

This panel was a talk by Regina Dugan, the former Director of DARPA…like…Department of Defense crazy science level stuff. It was packed. She was a good speaker. I was 15 minutes in and realized my Vlogging Inspiration and Hero (TM) Casey Neistat (watch a vlog of his Austin adventure here) was going to speak at the Samsung House down the street in 1.5 hours and I probably had to get there early. So I bailed. I’ll get notes from the archived talk later.

Samsung…and CASEY NEISTAT!

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I got there really early. This talk wasn’t promoted much until the day of, and I was loitering in the Samsung House Lounge where the talk would be. I struck up a good conversation with a couple of folks from Belgium who are also big Casey fans, so we were enjoying the hang. Then Samsung decided to clear the lounge and we had to go stand in line. We needed wristbands. We did not have them. They were not sure if they were letting anyone else in. The panel had started. At this point I had already skipped a panel and was missing the Brene Brown keynote (which would have been cool). I was on the sidewalk WILLING them to discover some more wristbands and…it happened. I got to go in. Casey was talking about VR and 360 cameras (WANT) and it was awesome to see the guy I watch every day online in the flesh. He’s just like he is in his vlog, which makes sense, because it’s hard to be fake on film every day for a year.

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THEN HE TOOK SELFIES. He took about 7 of them on my phone, which is smart, because…what if the first 6 were bad? Lots to pick from. Glorious.

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By this point I was so jazzed on life and trying out 360 degree cameras and almost convinced enough by the shiny glow of Samsung that I would have dropped $2000 on a new phone and VR camera if

a) I had $2000 and
b) If the 360 camera was even on the market yet. We were playing with prototypes.

I decided to wrap up on a responsible note and head to one last panel from 5 – 6 PM:

The Linguistic Secrets Found in Billions of Emoji

This panel was interesting, namely because the presenter, Gretchen McCulloch, is very passionate about her topic. Emoji use has grown exponentially in the last decade, obviously…switching from the first widely used emoticons : ) ; ) :/ to the more graphics based emoji. Here are the most used emoji across the globe:

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The main question was “Is Emoji A Language?” The answer came down to the thought that no…it’s not. It is a language supplement. Emoji use has its own rules and norms which is a lot LIKE a language, but it generally still just supplements text.

And then we ate dinner and I tried to edit my vlog and then I slept and then I woke up and then I kept editing my vlog and then we drove into Austin again and now it’s Day 3. Bring it.

Here we go! The schedule here is crazy…it’s wake up, go all day, eat dinner, drive home, try to stay awake for an hour to get your stuff charged, emails checked, and footage imported. It’s all good. It’s great, actually! But…these vlogs will roll out on their own time. Here’s number one…a lot of the conference aesthetic that I love so much (really, I do!). Walking, escalating, hotel conference room carpet, all the good stuff.

SXSW 2016: Day 1

12 Mar
2016

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MY FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR, KIDS! SXSW is in full swing. Many Austin locals hate it because streets shut down and drunk techies take over, but I find it all inspirational and super fun. Day 1 was a good settle in period…lots of walking to panels in different hotels around downtown proper. Very full panels but I didn’t get turned away from any of them (there’s an art to the quick leave/early arrival). Let’s discuss.

Fluidity and Honesty: Generation Z in 2025

Right now Gen Z (to be followed by Gen Alpha in case you were wondering like I was) is aged 5 – 20. They’re starting to make economic impact and they’re about to make more. They make up 25% of the U.S. population, and they’re the most ethnically diverse, multiracial generation we’ve ever had. They ascribe more to gender fluidity than any other generation. They’re expected to have 3 different jobs by the age of 30. They come from non-traditional households. They represent the largest identity departure from the previous generation in decades. Lots of the discussion circled around things I can identify with as a Millenial, though the lines will get clearer as Z ages. For brands, it means Z doesn’t care about the branding and the logo. They want simplicity, style, and things that fit into their identity. In 20 years we’ll likely find “branding under the hood” – less focus on who made it and more on how functional it is and how good it looks. Gen Z is the chameleon generation, for sure.

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Gary Vanyerchuk

Gary Vanyerchuk – #AskGaryVee

Gary runs VanyerMedia, a multi-million dollar social media brand consulting company. He’s the scrappy kind of entrepreneur, and he cusses a lot. I loved it. He called out the BS guru cults of the online self-help pantheon…which are most of them. So many people telling you how to live a best life when they can’t back it up. He says 90% of people online don’t believe in what they sell, which is a problem. He said to look for more product placement advertisement as crowds get increasingly deaf to obvious promoted content. Snapchat will be around in 7 years, so get used to it. My favorite quote was, “Bullshit entrepreneurs cry because of the way they want it to be verus the way it is. And you should never cry about the way it is. Just work harder.” This guy gets in the trenches.

Learning Like a Noob – Erik Natzke from Adobe Systems

This was a very visual presentation from the artist in residence at Adobe Design, and it was neat to see how a high level designer keeps himself on his creative toes. Basically, get curious, get into the creator state of mind (“it’s not a talent, it’s a mood”), and do things. MY takeaway term was “aesthetic communication,” which is a good term for me to think about since I spend so much time thinking in words.

I caught some of the POTUS Keynote from a live stream at The Westin Hotel.

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Go Native Or Go Home: Ads and Addictive Content

Camille Styles headed up this panel and apparently she runs a lifestyle blog, but I don’t think she caters to the folksinger aesthetic crowd. Other panelists were from West Elm and Domino Magazine. They talked about the trend of sponsored content (publications being paid to talk about a brand), and how that type of advertising works way better than banner ad content at this point (we’re all ad blind) and when the partnership is right, it is a genuine piece of content that is useful to readers and useful to the company pushing the ad. It works best when the brands align naturally. I would like to announce that I will be considering any offers of sponsored vlog content from Taylor Swift, Starbucks, GoPro, Timberland, and Google. Come on brands, pitch me.

Publishing A Book on Instagram – Jason Sperling

Jason published an animated book on advertising on Instagram…one post per day for 176 days. You can read/see it here. He made an interesting point about releasing things on the internet – they don’t ever actually have to be totally “done.” It made me think in terms of how many versions of an album I could make in various incarnations and how to share that process with people. Why ascribe to the old school model of publish and move on?

Also, I got a free donut. It was a good day. Onward to Day 2!

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In which I experiment with nootropics and play a lot of Lilith Fair tunes. Pre-gaming for SXSW…I should probably be napping right now.

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