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Thoughts and Sound Bites from SXSW
Posted on March 13th 2014
I’ve just spent the last three days at SxSW. Yes it’s insane. Yes people drink too much. And yes there is good stuff to be had. Some of it in the sessions. Some of it just by having conversations with old friends and new acquaintances.
As in past years it’s hard to decide what to sit through. Often two or three interesting subjects occur at the same time. How overcrowded Asian Cities Inspire Innovation. Or Snowden 2.0: A Field Report from the NSA Archives. I went with Snowden. Cory Doctorow as interviewer and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Barton Gellman as interviewee were both great. Better even than Snowden himself, piped in remotely, during his appearance in the next session.
There were some central, unifying themes this year. Big data was evident in everything from startups pitching new data-driven platforms, to the profit motives (somewhat disguised as altruism) of companies mapping our genes, to IBM’s Watson-informed lunch truck. Global impact and policy had an entire track. As did content and distribution, art, science and inspiration, design and development and health and business. And, of course, there were sensors. Embedded in everything from appliances to the human body.
I thought about sticking to one track but instead chose the tasting menu approach. Here are some random thoughts that stuck with me.
There are big opportunities in un-sexy
We have a culture crisis, not an education crisis
Coca Cola does some good things
Facebook gets only five percent of what it knows about you from you; the rest comes from friends
Social startups have a big opportunity in encryption