South by Social Media: Improving the Signal-to-Noise Ratio

South by Social Media: Improving the Signal-to-Noise Ratio

It’s no secret that Silicon Valley and other tech centers empty out for the annual ritual now known as “Geek Spring Break” – the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas (March 11-15, 2011).  Flights from SFO, Seattle and other cities, christened “Nerd Birds,” converge on the vibrant, colorful city at the heart of the Texas Hill Country, carrying tech and media professionals from all over the country (and indeed the world).

It’s impossible to capture all of the ideas, experiences, people, products, pitches, events of such a huge, intense event in one blog post, so I’ll be adding more later. Meanwhile, a few thoughts and resources to cut through the chatter:

  • Full schedule of official conference events on the official SXSW website
  • Plancast put together an unofficial guide to the many official and unofficial events in Austin during the conference, sorted by category.
  • The Social Media Club is again staging a Social Media Clubhouse, serving both as a place to forge in-person relationships and as a studio, hosting a series of livestreamed conversations with thought leaders in technology, digital media, online marketing and more.  See below for embedded video stream.
  • Gowalla, a location-based “check-in” service headquartered in Austin, has gone out of its way with a host of special SXSW-themed goodies. One particularly helpful addition is the ability to use the Gowalla mobile app to check in on competing Foursquare at the same time.
  • Speaking of Foursquare, the New York-based company also released a major update and set up a special SXSW page highlighting its usefulness in navigating the maze of activities and keeping track of hordes of people.
  • Hashable, while a work in progress, is showing its value in enabling in-person interactions to be chronicled online (and broadcast, if desired). Used properly, it can serve many purposes—both professional and personal—in this kind of setting. I’m still eagerly awaiting the widely adopted, idiot-proof, one-click/one-button solution to replace paper business cards once and for all. It still blows my mind that such a thing still doesn’t exist eight years into the social media revolution.
  • Photo- and video-sharing applications abound, of course, such as Instragram and PicPlz. While useful, they also add to the flood of tweets and other updates competing for people’s limited time and attention.
  • Speaking of which, real-time group messaging services, whether location-based (Yobongo) or tied to mobile phone numbers (GroupMe), show a lot of promise, yet add even more demands on the determined geek’s scarce time.

So far, my impression is that all these clever technological advances, while clearly adding value, continue to add to the “clutter” in our digital lives.  As with all forms of etiquette (which became “netiquette” early in the online era, then “Twittiquette,” and now my personal favorite, “deQuorum“), things need to evolve, quickly, to avoid overtaxing ordinary people’s time and patience.  I’ll write more on this later, with some specific recommendations for social startups and their users.

P.S.: If you’re in Austin on Pi day (3/14), one remarkable last-minute addition is “PIE Hard,” a silly yet clever promotional event sponsored by Gobbler in which they hope to set a record as the world’s largest pie fight (really)—for a good cause, the Sustainable Food Center of Austin.

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