Sunday, August 22, 2010

SXSW panel shopping? 13, er, 14 items in my cart

If you're like me, you're inundated with tweets, emails, Facebook messages and spamblasts soliciting your vote on proposed SXSW panels. No wonder. Public "thumbs-up" and comments count for 30 percent of the decision-making process. (Sort of like hinging a college admission on the dubious qualifier of how many letters of recommendation a candidate drums up.) Over 2300 panels were proposed this year. Your two cents counts in deciding which ones are chosen. How to shop through them if you're not a bot? You could start with the ones I'm buying, listed in no particular order:

1. Tweeting On Weekends: Are We Becoming Socially Anti-Social?
As technology allows us to share every moment instantaneously online, are we missing out on what is right in front of us? Posing this question (and presumably answering it) is Ogilvy's Rohit Bhargava, author of the new marketing book, Personality Not Included and writer of Influential Marketing blog.
Recommended For: anyone who's ever been grappled with the question of text-iquette or gotten the stink-eye for tweeting under the table

Vote and/or comment here.
2. Ad Agencies Need a New Mindset to Survive
Will the ad agency survive now that the reins of media have transferred from a few professionals to 2 billion individuals? If so, it will have to revamp its entire way of thinking. How? Find out from Edward Boches, CCO, Mullen who's organizing a panel including Rob Schwartz, CCO, TBWA\CHIAT\DAY, John Winsor, Founder & CEO of Victors & Spoils and Ben Malbon, co-founder of BBH Labs.
Recommended For: marketers, branders, anybody with a job in adland, or looking for one. Great networking possibilities.
Vote and/or comment here.
3. Ladies Claim Digital Strategy is the New Creativity
What makes this panel interesting to me isn't only its topic (what the heck constitutes creativity now?) but the fact that the panelists are all of the female persuasion. Which may be a first at this testosteroned geekfest. Organizer is Ana Andjelic, i [love] marketing blogger and contributor to AdAge. Panelists include former BBH Chairman Cindy Gallop known for her irreverance onstage and off, who I once saw flabbergast into silence a (mostly male) audience by holding up⎯and explaining⎯ a new kind of dildo.
Recommended For: creatives, strategists, planners, social media pundits. With ovaries and without.
Vote and/or comment here.

4. I'm So Productive, I Never Get Anything Done
Hoping that, for my own state of productivity, this one makes it. David Carr, digiculture columnist for New York Times, promises to shed light on a question that hobbles more of us every day: how to get things done when you're busy doing myriad other things. Like, um, writing blog posts. He produced a book. So maybe he knows.
Recommended For: anybody with a to-do list and easy access to interwebs
Vote and/or comment here.
5. Why Doesn't This TV Have a Pause Button?
Kids are growing up in a world where connectivity is as taken for granted as air. How will this affect the future of media? Spatial relationships? Multi-tasking? Panel features experts on this topic⎯kids. Moderated by Alan Wolk of KickApps, writer of acclaimed blog ToadStool⎯and dad.
Recommended For: Anyone who plans to be around in the future.
Vote and/or comment here.
6. Genius Steals: Remix Culture IS Culture
According to Faris Yakob, MDC Partners, the only way to achieve new is to remix the old. In fact, he says, recombinant processes are the only source of novelty, from sexual reproduction to idea creation to technology. Faris is a thoughtful and riveting presenter, more fun than you'd think a guy with a doctorate from Oxford would be, and I look forward to the originality with which he's sure to support his assertion that Originality is a Myth.
Recommended For: writers, strategists, creatives, thinkers, content creators
Vote and/or comment here.
7. Community Thunderdome--Branded vs Unbranded, You Decide
This panel was given last year and I was going to blow it off. It was on the last day I was there, it was early and I was exhausted. But it turned out to be one of the best I attended. Ostensibly, its subject is serious: how can brands harness crowds and collaborate with communities to find meaning within culture and market products? But more compellingly⎯it's a lot of fun. Sitting back and watching fantastic collection of entertainments compiled by Bud Caddell (creator of Bucket Brigade publishing project) and Mike Arauz (Undercurrent) provides much needed respite from talking heads.
Recommended For: anyone afloat in the information-overload that is SXSWi
Vote and/or comment here.
8. Keds. The Original Sneaker, Relaunched
What's great about SXSW is how many ideas are discussed, how many assumptions challenged. But sometimes you need a break from the headiness, to sink your teeth into a meaty case study. Darren Paul tells the story of how his interactive shop Night Agency succeeded in making a century-old brand relavent again. The tale isn't just about creativity. It's about strategies for aligning the forces of three brands with seemingly little in common⎯Bloomingdales, Keds and the Whitney Museum.
Recommended For: marketers, branders, advertisers, anybody with something to sell
Vote and/or comment here.
9. Better Crowdsourcing: Lessons Learned from the 3six5 Project
One of the most innovative crowd-fueled ideas I know: diary of a year as told from 365 points of view. Imagine having to rally, coach, edit and proofread a different writer every day. (Disclosure: I am honored to be one of those writers.) Take a peek into amazing collective consciousness created so far. I look forward to hearing behind-the-scenes stories and learning from the3six5 creators Len Kendall and Daniel Honigman as they talk about mistakes and revelations.
Recommended For: content creators, nonfiction writers, publishers, digital strategists, rabble-rousers
Vote and/or comment here.
10. Futureproof Publishing: Interactivity, Magazines, Journalism and Augmented Reality
Does the internet need to kill journalism and quality publishing or might it be what saves the industry by creating a new kind of interactive magazine? As an industry that survives on marketing dollars, how can interactivity make the publishing industry more attractive to marketers? These and other questions impacting the future of publishing will be explored in a panel moderated by Benjamin Palmer, co-founder of The Barbarian Group which has recently made interesting forays into futureproofing corporate communication.
Recommended For: writers, publishers, journalists, digital strategists, content creators, storymakers
Vote and/or comment here.
11. Interactive Narratives: Creating the Future of Literature
Oh, yea. The emerging field of creating new narratives is a topic in which I am very interested. Razorfish's Andrew Lewellen is putting together a panel of experts to explore how technologies like augmented reality, transmedia storytelling and interactive stories offer new ways for narratives to be created and experienced. What's more, he promises insights into how writers and developers can work together to go so far as to create new forms of literature.
Recommended For: writers, AR creatives, transmedia tellers, content creators, creative technologists, readers of all persuasions
Vote and/or comment here
12. Transmedia Artists Guild: New Media Needs New Representation
And who'll represent the interest of players emerging onto this new field? At SXSW last year, a group of transmedia, ARG and net-native story designers formed a new advocacy organization, representing individual producers and artists working in this still-hazily-defined world: the Transmedia Artists Guild. TAG seeks to fulfill needs that are currently overlooked by established creative guilds and advocacy organizations. What is it and how can it transform your career? Panel organized by Jay Bushman, with whom I shared a fun panel at Digital Hollywood, so I can vouch for his entertainment skills.
Recommended For: writers and creators of fictional worlds that spin off from the page or screen where they first combusted
Vote and/or comment here
13. Saying It Short: Writing Workshop with @BettyDraper
Yup, this is my own session. (If you can't sell yourself, how can you hope to sell anything else?) It's on a topic I hope interests others as much as it does me: how our definition of good writing is evolving in an age ruled by search engines and character counts. I'll take what I've learned winning writing awards in three areas (advertising, social media, litworld), pull out teaching chops (one student went on to become Lady Gaga) and, with the help of like-minded others (you!), put on a show that's interactive, informative, learning-based entertainment.
Recommended For: anyone writing today, which is to say pretty much everyone
Vote and/or comment here.
Let me know if I've missed any unadvertised specials. Shopping ends Friday, 11:59 CDT, geektime. Your two cents matters even if you can't be at the conference. SXSW releases podcasts of presentations, so you don't have to miss them even if you don't make the digipalooza in person.

UPDATE: How, in my original post, did I omit the timely Is Facebook Skynet? which explores the all-too-real possibility that as in Terminator (remember?) the platform is growing progressively smart enough to annhiliate the whole human race. (Already, it's terminated life as we knew it.) Panel led by Ian Schafer, CEO of Mad Men agency Deep Focus, who is touting it with Draperly genius: a trailer.
Recommended For: 500 million Facebook players and marketers who love them

Vote and/or comment here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

does writing still matter?

In this age of character counts and SEO metrics, are keywords now more important than words? Should writers write to captivate people or search engines? But as Copyblogger points out, "It’s people who use search engines--not some other life form." In fact, the latest SEO strategies aren't about keywords, they're about creating content so compelling others want to share it. And it's hard to make content compelling without knowing how to write well.

What's losing relevance is the way you learned how to write in third grade. The grammar that worked for Proust "dznt always matter, unless u r anal," observes Ann Handley of Marketing Profs. (She goes on to make the case for general use of good grammar, however, because "as a business leader, colleague and boss, it’s important for you to communicate clearly.")

Of course, writing for screen has its own rules of grammar which you must abide by or come off sounding stupid or pompous or careless or clueless. Remember Oprah's first tweet in all-caps?

New media is expanding our definition of good writing and putting new value on the mastery of saying it short. Brevity is becoming a key to success not only in the world of commerce. Poems are being created on twitter. Novelists are publishing stories in six words. (Longed for him. Got him. Shit.Margaret Atwood) Literary gatekeepers are finally giving the nod to flash fiction writers like Lydia Davis.

This new emphasis on short-form has implications for writers of all persuasions, in both new and old media. It's a topic that fascinates me, and one I hope to explore in a session I've proposed for the upcoming SXSW conference: Saying It Short: Writing Workshop with @BettyDraper. Check it out here. I'd vastly appreciate your comment and/or thumbs up whether or not you can come to the conference. Tx. I mean Thanks!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

home sweet homepage

I'm baaaaaaaack to the blogosphere after weeks of gadding about China, but as you know if you were kind enough to keep up with me in abstentia, I didn't disconnect altogether but remained helplessly tethered to email and twitter and facebook and tumblr.

The New York Times did an article recently about five scientists who took to the wilderness to escape the relentless bombardment of digital stimulation; in other words, to think. “There’s a real mental freedom in knowing no one or nothing can interrupt you,” observed one.

I thought China might provide that same opportunity; I'd heard twitter, blogs, gmail, facebook were firewalled. But vaulting the wall turned out to be as easy as logging into WiTopia. And once over the wall, I found myself powerless to resist partaking in virtual pleasures.

Ironically, the daughter I was travelling with is digital-averse⎯suitably agile on email and facebook, but she dislikes having to use them, preferring to communicate face to face or via printed-on-actual-dimensional paper. Which made for recurrence of an improbable late-night scenario: baby boomer hunched over a desktop, tap-tap-tapping on keyboard while millennial, engrossed in pages of hand-held literary tome, looks up now and then, asking when she'll desist.

Monday, August 2, 2010

welcome to china

Rate your customs inspector at PVG airport: Greatly Satisified? Satisfied? Basically satisfied? or Not Satisfied? Imagine if TSA instituted this.

I'm blogging long distance for a couple of weeks from Shanghai. So posts might be even more sporadic than usual.

Sinophile friends can follow me on my tumblr.