SXSW 2008 II – Rome, Mobile, Communities, Voters, and the Dark Harbinger of more Drinking

Bruce Henry | March 8, 2008

left Image

Okay, hard night of drinking last night but never the less I was up and in the first sessions this morning. Good thing too. There were two really good panels and two… well… less than great ones.

The “Getting Unstuck: Desktop to Device” panel was a really good one. The panel was lively and covered the current state of convergence between desktop (or web based on a desktop browser) applications and mobile applications. The interesting thing was how bullish the panel was on the blurring of the lines between desktop and mobile applications. They strongly pointed out that they are indeed quite different in design and use, but they’re getting closer in implementation. Lots of talk about css3 and html5 standards. Speaking of standards…

“The nice thing about standards is that there’s so many to choose from.”
– John SanGiovanni (

That’s gotta be my favorite quote so far.

I asked the panel what they thought the most common “newbie” mistake was when going from a web application to a mobile application.

  • Not realizing how much testing is involved in mobile applications
  • Making rookie mistakes in form design (e.g. using alpha numeric fields when you should have used a numeric)
  • Not taking enough time for development interation between testing cycles

Mobile patterns of use are quite different from website patterns according to the panel. Website design tends to aim for “stickiness” whereas mobile should aim for “bouncy”. Bouncy is where people come in, grab a nugget of info or interaction, and then leave. Mobile isn’t just a smaller desktop.

Over the next 3-5 years the expect to see…

  • category killers in one segment hopping into other segments
  • what we think of as a “phone” will be very different
  • richer browsers on phones
  • movement from a phone with a computer to a computer that does phone stuff
  • identity will be less phone number based and more URI or email address based

Overall a great panel and really well moderated by Liz Danzico (Bobulate)!

SM SXSW Mic 2The other big winner panel that I went to was “Managing Communities that Work”.

The discussion about how to manage your online community was lively and surprisingly practical. Some of the best suggestions actually blurred the line between online and offline community.

  • go physically talk to the members of your community
    • travel to them and meet even with small groups
    • combine the online and offline community experience
  • identify your community experts (and cater to them)
    • talk to them about how sharing knowledge can help others
    • build guidelines on how to be a good moderator/participant

They also covered a bunch of stuff on how to get a community “off the ground”. Things like developing relationships with connectors in your community and trying to get access to their mailing lists or newsletters and attending networking events are pretty standard practice, but a good reminder that in many ways this is not rocket science.

Things they said that were “community killers” were moderating too heavily/toughly and trying to reduce your risk to zero through taking too much advice from your legal team. They were really emphatic about how important, but hard, it is to trust your users at first.

There was a plethora of useful/informative links given:

Anyway, the first and the last ones that I went to were fairly, well… bad. Not truly awful, just uninspiring and bland. The content of the “Rome, sweet Rome: Ancient Lessons in Design” talk was actually pretty good. But the presenter just read her notes and it was a little flat even though I thought she had good points, neat-o observations, and really good slides. It was just a bit flat for 10am. The last one was just this ecomomist shilling for his book. Blah.

I’m already getting text messages asking where I’m going to drink tonight. But now I’m sitting down to the “Social Marketing Metrics: Where are They?” panel.