Sunday March 12, 2006

SXSW 2006: Day 1

This is as much an experimental exercise as it is an effort to share thoughts and notes that are fresh on my mind. I’m not much of a note-taker, so we’ll see how this goes as I review the events of today:

Traditional Design and New Technology

Panel: Jason Santa Maria, Khoi Vinh, Toni Greaves, Mark Boulton, Liz Danzico.

Most of the discussion in this panel revolved around the idea that art direction on the web has been lost, and that the emotional connections formed while interacting with print media aren’t being replicated or captured in online experiences. Mark indicated that this topic touched him personally as his brother had recently graduated from university with a degree in design, but didn’t know what leading was. He was schooled in how to come up with “big ideas” but was not at all familiar with the crucial details of design that create emotional connections.

Random notes:

  • Is lack of emotional experiences on the web caused by the utilitarian nature of the access tools (computer, cellphone, PDA…)?
  • Some print qualities cannot be recreated or represented on the web (smell/touch)—senses beget emotion.
  • Art direction online is more about imbuing the platform with some sort of expression

Ajax: What Do I Need to Know?

Panel: Dylan Schiemann, Dori Smith, David Humphreys, Jesse James Garrett.

I didn’t find this panel terribly interesting aside from Jesse James Garrett’s story of how the term “AJAX” came to be (it was basically created as a way to explain asyncronous server/browser behavior to non-tech people). There was some basic information about JavaScript toolkits and the downsides of AJAX, which include accessibility, the Back button behavior and potentially slow response times.


Cyberplace: Online in Offline Spaces—and Vice Versa

Panel: Dennis Crowley, Scott Heiferman, Michael Sharon, Molly Wright Steenson, Heath Row.


While I didn’t take many notes at this panel, it was very interesting as the discussion revolved around ways that physical spaces were becoming or could become more connected to the online world (and vice-versa, naturally). The original designers of the Pompidou Center in Paris envisioned that huge images could be displayed on the sides of the structure, effectively creating a sort of publicly-controlled slideshow or message board. The thing is, the Pompidou Center was completed in 1976, long before such technology was possible.

Currently, sites like Socialight, New York Songlines and Platial are working to connect people more to the places they visit. Very interesting and cool stuff…

How to Create Passionate Users

by Kathy Sierra

This was by far the most engaging and interesting hour of my day. Kathy is a skilled and (go figure) passionate speaker, and spoke a great deal about the natural thought/behavior patterns of human beings in relation to learning, understanding and feeling engaged by stimuli.


  • “Conversation beats formal lecture.”
  • Talk to the brain, not to the mind. The brain tells us what is really important, and the mind tells us what we think should be important.
  • The brain is designed to forget. Great energy is expended by the brain to keep it from retaining information it deems as unimportant. Call it the “Crap Filter.”
  • It’s important to challenge but not overwhelm users. As long as a user perceives that he can overcome a challenge, even if it’s difficult, he will pursue the challenge.
  • “T-shirt first development.” Kathy attended a Java conference recently and surmised that Java was alive and well based on the number of empty shelves in the gift shop that once held Jave-themed t-shirts. Buying t-shirts about Java indicates a passion for Java. Our efforts should be “t-shirt” worthy, or we’re wasting our time.

Kathy’s passion definitely made a passionate user out of me. I’ll be reading her website regularly from now on.

In Summation.

That’s the long and short of my track today. I know it’s not much, but hopefully someone will benefit from it. I know what it’s like to continually miss SXSW; This is my first year and it’s pretty exciting. I wish anyone who really wanted to be here had the means to do so. It’s refreshing.

Check out my updated Flickr page.


Heath Row » 5666 days ago #

Thanks for checking out our panel!

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