SXSW: Day 2 Part I

March 17, 2009 — Leave a comment

A real quick observation before I get into my notes.  There were times when I was sitting in a panel wondering ‘what’s the point?’  Panels discussing who your friends are can feel to be a waste of time for me; I’m not sure they move anything forward or add any significant value. 

However, sometimes I  jump to conclusions quickly and write these discussions off without giving them much thought.  After I sleep on it I end up seeing a different side of the conversation, one that does add value.  All these discussions are important, however trivial they may first appear.  There are many different aspects of the ecosystem we play in and it’s important to explore them all.  There is something we can learn from all of the panels we attend, the challenge for us is to find what it is.  

There’s an element of laziness that plays a part in writing off a panel as ‘hit and miss’ or ‘too many academics.’  I’m guilty of both criticisms.  And while these criticisms may be true and there may be improvements to be made, there is definitely something to be learned.  Let’s find it.


Day 2 Part I

Panel:  Is Privacy Dead or Confused

Here’s SXSW’s description of the panel.

different people have different views of what privacy is.  it’s hard to universally define

  • In today’s connected world, how can you control your reach?  Can you control your reach?

Siva Vaidhyanathan focused on Google, as he’s writing a book: The Googlization of Everything

  • Two myths he’d like to dispell:
    1. Privacy is the oppositte of publicity (it’s not binary)
    2. Privacy is a substance that can be measured (he’s tired of hearing how people would give up their privacy for better functionality – gmail)
  • However, he went on to say that privacy is a form of currency.  it’s my understanding that currency can be measured and can be traded.  i believe he contradicted himself here, but this was a talk given early in the morning and the caffeine may not have kicked in yet.

it’s important to note that it was during this part of the panel that I wrote the following in my notebook: Many of these panelists are very happy with themselves and like to hear themselves talk

just thought you might need to know that…back to the notes…

  • Judith Donath took a much more historical approach to the subject
    • Our history online amounts to our body in the physical world
    • our self-portraits are made based on the interactions we’ve had online
    • It is importnat to understand how contextual history affects our view of privacy; how our views are shaped by historical events such as Watergate or the Cold War (my examples)
  • There are different privacy facets to different pieces of our lives.  eg, we’d tell our doctor things we’d never tell our friends, and vice versa
  • There are levels of surveillance that we invite:  hanging out on our front porch, walking our dog, sharing with our neighbor.  
    • we give them enough information to keep an eye on us, but not too much that they can use it against us.  We like this kind of privacy, it makes us feel safe



Panel: The Search for a More Social Web

So, the first 20 minutes of this panel started out informative but turned into a Facebook launch party.  

Here’s SXSW’s description of the panel.

Here’s an article that goes over, in excruciating detail, the blow-by-blow.  I tuned out when I realized all they were doing was humping FB Connect.  

My two main takeaways:

  • Our network is getting scoped and faceted – need to keep track of who’s who, and their relationship to us.
  • On the social web, the key isn’t talking, the key is listening


I will say, some of the games they announced seemed pretty cool, especiall SGN’s Agency Wars.  Another observation: people were cheering as if it were a rock concert.  It was exciting.



Opening Remarks:’s Tony Hsieh, CEO

Here’s SXSW’s description of the presentation.

OK – easily my favorite presentation of the weekend, and I’m sure I’m not alone here.  

Here are my main takeaways:

  • 75% of orders are from repeat customers – crazy
  • They take the $ they would normally spend on a marketing budget and focus it on customer service.  That’s their marketing.
  • #1 priority = culture
    • After the first week of your new-hire training they offer you $2k to LEAVE.  This is done in an attempt to weed out anyone who doesn’t really want the job.
  • They have a culture book where each employee writes a few paragraphs about what the culture means to them
  • Your culture will eventually catch up to the brand
  • Figure out your values – this needs to be your first step and will drive your organization.  It’s obvious that has has mastered this – they want to bring happiness to the world
  • The last part of the presentation focused on happiness.  I loved that Hsieh brought this up, as I’ve done some research on the subject and have been trying to spread the word around the office as well.
    • Remember this: the bottom line reason we do anything is because we think it will make us happy
    • Most of the research in this area concludes that what we think will make us happy is usually wrong. 
  • Here are two great resources if you’re interested in learning more about the science of happiness:


Here’s Tony’s presentation, but there’s an even better drawing/story below that sums it up.  The slides are great. Go through and learn how to get this culture thing right.  It’s kinda important.  


Zappos Keynote Visual Representation


Zappos Keynote Visual Representation

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