SXSW Recap: Content for a Cause


I had the pleasure of attending my third consecutive SXSW Interactive conference this past week. I attended sessions that were both educational and thought provoking. In this post I’ve included a few actionable tips and insights from my favorite presenters, who largely focus on living and contributing in world where it’s so easy to get caught up in the technology loop.

  • We are all makers: We create content. We consume content. We reference content and share content with others. We engage with content and we ultimately start back at the beginning and create and make again. We are makers (referred by Tiffani Jones Brown) or producers (as referenced by Kristina Halvorson). There are brilliant minds working within the discipline of Content Strategy to ensure that the interface is the publication and the publication is the interface. Content Strategists are not just content planners: a plan is nothing, but the planning is everything. This select team of individuals is testing what works and doesn’t work and constantly going through an iterative process.
  • Data visualized: As we continue to make and produce content, more and more data is becoming available. As a result, there’s opportunity like never before for researchers, scientists and historians to dig into large and complex datasets. For example, research is being uncovered at Indiana University with Johan Bollen that correlates the emotions expressed within Twitter with the rise and fall of the stock market. And the research team at Microsoft has created Layerscape, a powerful and visual tool to study and analyze complex Earth and oceanic datasets.
  • Back to basics: We all have the perception that we are indeed great multitaskers. We have many windows opened on our computer screens at a time. We participate in multiple conversations at once by either creating content or interpreting content delivered to us. We get stuck within the technology loop and crave to take in everything at once. Well, a fun fact is that multitasking isn’t possible when you attempt two tasks that require the same side of the brain. Good news is that most of us can walk and chew gum. We can fold laundry and listen to music. However, we cannot respond to an IM while reading an email while participating in a conference call. Here are some tips from the amazing panel:
    • Create environmental changes to change your behavior. Turn off the internet to write and do real work.
    • Create a to-do list with six quadrants. Five of the quadrants will hold items to be achieved within the year. The sixth quadrant will hold your tasks to complete today. Notice the time and effort put into the sixth quadrant and begin to shift your behavior to begin to focus on the other five key tasks to complete in the year.
    • Create a “to-don’t” list. And stick to NOT doing those things that are time sucks.
    • Set your watch to beep every hour on the hour. Take 1 min. during that alarm to evaluate the work you are doing. Is this valuable? Does this help me accomplish my tasks at hand? Realign and move forward for the next hour. 
  • Become a citizen first, consumer second: And the last take away from listening to very motivating presentations from Biz Stone, Al Gore and Sean Parker ultimately resulted in, do something for good. As we continue to create, make and produce, we need to be sure we weave cause into everything, daily. Stone states that opportunities can be manufactured and creativity is a renewable resource. We must learn to fail spectacularly to begin to succeed spectacularly. And look to leverage the power of social media and other technologies to give power to the people.


Additional links:
Your Brain on Multitasking
Rude Awakening: Content Strategy is Super Hard
Copy Matters: Content Strategy for the Interface
Data Visualization and the Future of Research
Content As a Means for Social Change
Sean Parker Presentation 

Ogilvy notes
Biz Stone  
Al Gore & Sean Parker

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