SXSW 2006 Day 2
Day two seemed to start off fairly low key. The conference centre didn’t seem to have the buzz it did the previous day. I strolled in, much like the day before, just before the first set of presentations at 10:00am.
Sink or Swim: The Five Most Important Startup Decisions
I decided to check out Sink or Swim: The Five Most Important Startup Decisions. Michael Lopp (Apple) moderated this panel of Evan Williams (Odeo), Joshua Schachter (del.icio.us), Joel Spolsky (Fog Creek Software) and Cabel Sasser (Panic). This was a lively presentation with some really good discussion amongst the panellists and the audience. Cabel in particular often presented his own questions to other members of the panel. One of the frequent topics was that of hiring. Across the board, the focus was on grow slow and hire quality. Joel specifically said to rely on interns. They offer an inexpensive way to test and find new employees. Joel and Cabel, who both produce products as opposed to services, tended to be very conservative in their approaches and have actually been able to bootstrap their operations with no venture capital. Joel, in fact, reinvests in his company by hiring more staff. None of the panellists had business plans. They just did it.
The Future of Education in a Digitally Convergent World
After that I checked out The Future of Education in a Digitally Convergent World; mostly because I’m currently working on an e-learning application and wanted to see the panellists’ thoughts on the matter. This panel was hit and miss. Firstly, each panellist did a 5-10 minute pitch which, in the case of Andrea Angelo, this was her opportunity to pitch her company. She also offered little to the rest of the conversation.
Betsy Spears and David Palumbo were certainly the most vocal and I was happy to see them disagree and discuss things later on in the session. Spears focused more on the use of gaming theory to develop “interactive branching”. Game developers, she felt, do the best at creating multiple levels of difficulty and a depth to their products that keep users engaged. This allowed for self-direction and self-pacing. This, in turn, meant they learned more and were inspired more to continue learning. Convergence also offered greater possibilities for learners to learn through kinetic and visual means and not just through audio as traditionally happened in a classroom.
Palumbo really felt the measurement aspect was important; having rigorous ways of measuring how people were learning. This really seemed more focus on school systems as opposed to generic learning systems.
Michael Anderson actually touched on what seems like more general learning concepts. Essentially you have three types of relationships: learners to content, learners to teachers, and learners to other learners. Online systems have tried to duplicate the traditional Roman method of teaching by bringing the lecture online. Anderson felt that synchronous learning events and a movement towards social networking allowed for a diversity of communication. In discussions with adolescents, it was determined that “doing is more important that knowing.” By keeping people connected, they stay more focused and they can expect to learn from other learners just as much as from a teacher.
All in all, I wasn’t overly impressed by this presentation. It felt out of place in the overall scope of the conference.
Lunch today was pretty low key with about ten of us hitting a Vietnamese-Thai place on 6th Street. Like the day before, though, I ended up staying just a little too long at lunch to make the keynote speech.
Web 2.1: Making Web 2.0 Accessible
Okay, I felt a little obligated to go to this one. My hometown man, Derek Featherstone, was on this panel. During his intro, he mentions boxofchocolates.ca only to have a bunch of audience members exclaim, “oohhh!” It started off with Shawn Henry giving some background on the W3C’s various initiatives such as WAI, WCAG (1.0 and 2.0), ATAG, and UAAG. It was nice to see a person representing the W3C and to have a more personable front to what often comes across as a very unfriendly standard. One of her best comments was, “do not read WCAG 2.0!” But really she meant was, “read Understanding WCAG 2.0 instead.” After which she said, “don’t read Understanding WCAG 2.0.” Only to temper that with, “do user testing!” Very amusing stuff. Derek provided the only technical how-to example of the panel in demonstrating the use of the label tag along with an error message in emphasis tags. I would’ve liked to have heard more from Matt Vande Voorde who used to work at the Bank of America and to impart more of his experience.
Holistic Web Design: Finding the Creative Balance in Multi-Disciplined Teams
The End of the Day
The big event his evening was the Web Awards (where 9rules, James Archer and Bryan Veloso among many others were nominated). After dinner, however, I decided to skip on the awards (and ensuing after-party) and enjoy a relaxing evening in the hotel. Tomorrow there’s some great presentations so I must get some rest!