Wednesday March 15, 2006

SXSW 2006: Day 4

Ah, relief and sadness. The final day of SXSW. I’m tired and ready to go home, but it feels like this conference has passed by too quickly. It feels like we’ve just begun…

Behind the Scenes: Developing OS X and Longhorn

Tom Merritt, Cordell Ratzlaff, Mark Ligameri

This was an interesting panel for me since it actually came from the perspectives of designers, not developers.


  • OSX design was really driven by Steve Jobs, who really pushed the new UI through the hesitation and red tape. He also compared the working version of OSX every week to the prototype, pixel by pixel. If it didn’t match up, some engineer was going to get yelled at. ;)
  • It was suggested that similarities between OSX/Windows are more a result of convergent design and recognition of best practices/good design than copying or stealing.
  • OSX had no user testing and suffered some backlash over the dock. Kids, don’t try this at home. Always user test or do some sort of research.
  • The “finished” Longhorn leaks (and essentially all Windows OS leaks) are really just working versions of the OS, whereas Apple’s OS reveals are the finished product. Difference of company culture/style. It’s interesting that Ligameri painted Microsoft as more of an open, iterative company and Ratzlaff confirmed that Apple was all about secrecy. That seems to go against each of their respective cultures/personalities.
  • Much of OS design is “fashion.” Interesting.
  • Web design has appeared to have influenced OS UI design (color exploration especially).

The Future of Radio

Elise Nordling, Celia Hirschman, Roman Mars, Tim Westergren, Kevin Smokler

This panel piqued more of a personal than professional interest for me as a lover of music.


  • 10% of people who listen to Pandora end up purchasing something as well.
  • Successful radio models are based on trust (reputation of the DJ, trust in his musicla tastes, “cool factor” of the station)
  • Pandora and Soma FM are less competitors and more complementary services. Elise rightly noted that radio is a more personal experience, where listeners really want that human voice and mind on the other end of the radio waves to provide a human connection to the music. That’s something that is lost on services like Pandora and where all you can do is listen to computer-suggested similar artists.
  • The average mp3 player is 5% filled (what the???)
  • When someoen buys an mp3 player, radio listening drops off to almost nothing for 4-5 months. After that, radio listening ususally returns to or exceeds the level it was at before.
  • Traditional radio will always live as long as there are cars (untill, I might add, internet radio comes to cars. Then Clear Channel is screwed. ;) )
  • Most people listen to the radio in cars than anywhere else.
  • Kevin Smokler referenced our Geek Bingo insert twice as he used words that were on the card. Thanks, Kevin!
  • Sound Exchange is the evil bloodsucking collection arm of the RIAA. Currently, the Sound Exchange skims 12% of Soma FM’s income (pre-tax) and are currently trying to raise that amound to 37%.

Dogma Free Design

Kelly Goto, Luke Wroblewski, Dirk Knemeyer, Joel Grossman

This panel was excellent, meaning I forgot to take a lot of notes. The primary message was to throw out the dogma and rhetoric and adopt practices and beliefs that actually work for design.

Dirk started by holding up a list of 5 statements:

  1. Web design should be controlled by Designers.
  2. Ajax is the future of the web.
  3. Every big company should have a usability lab.
  4. All web apps require ethnographic research.
  5. 99% of Flash is bad.

Then he tore up the list, calling it “antiquated,” I think.


  • “Design is the funadamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”—Steve Jobs
  • Design needs innovators and implementers in the same room (keep design involved in the whole process)
  • Design is not a product in the assembly line
  • Design is not a bunch of requirements on a checklist

In Summation.

If there was one overarching message at this year’s conference, I think it was this: Businesses or services have customers, clients and/or users. And those are people. Human beings. The way of speaking to and otherwise communicating with those people is changing. The press release is boring. People would much rather read a blog. Corporate-speak is a thing of the past. There are ways to stay professional and better engage customers. Because no one is passionate or really excited about a company that they don’t relate to. The key is passionate users. With so many options for consuming services, it is key to incite passion in customers, clients and users. They should be proud to “buy your t-shirt”—believe in your culture, message and persona. It is the experience that sells. It is the experience that differentiates.

To those people I was fortunate enough to meet, it was a pleasure. To those who managed to slip by my radar, I know what you look like now. I’ll get you next year.

Keep on keepin’ on.

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