I have to say, going to a conference has a different feel when you’re a presenter and not just a punter. I end up paying more attention to presentation techniques (the transitions, the things that work, the things that can go wrong) as well as how panels frame the content – what they include and leave out. And being on the last day leaves more room for prep and anticipation and less room for partying. Oh wellz.
The first panel I got to was Touch + The Holy Grail of Delight. This seemed the most like Beyond Sci-fi so I was especially curious. Turns out it’s a bit of a different focus, theirs being retail. They talked through their use cases on immersive out-of-home touch screens that augment and personalize product information in stores.
There is some crossover with my talk in getting at the importance of multi-platform strategy. Us UX designers just can’t stand the thought of porting what’s essentially a web site to these emerging platforms. The more we can get that across to clients the better!
Being a touchy-feely day, I also caught A Touchy History of the Future. The talk basically covered some emerging and futuristic technologies like brain interfaces, RFID, jetpacks, etc. with some thoughts on how compelling or viable they were. Um, I think. They were actually couched in terms of how compelling or viable they were in a future zombie apocalypse. Kinda funny, kinda random. But I agree with Stassi on voice (it’s too loud).
The last one I caught was PayTV vs. Internet – The Battle For Your TV. Or rather, I caught the first few minutes until the Austin Convention Center had to be evacuated (!). I think it turned out a false alarm, but in the confusion I didn’t catch the rest – and really wish I did.
I wished the *showdown* between Cuban and Ronen was framed a little better for those unfamiliar with their apparent blogging saga. I didn’t entirely know what they were fighting about being that the issue is large and complicated. But from the little I saw as well as the blogging and scanning some tweets, I’d have to side with Cuban.
From looking his blog, I believe Ronen is naive as to how complex and interconnected the economics and practicalities of content production, marketing/distribution and infrastructure are. He sees the current system as flawed and the inevitable direction more choice and segmentation. But the current system works for the average user. You can try to end broadcast as we know it, but something fairly similar would spring up in it’s place.
We at SXSW are a unique bunch. We crave interactivity and choice and open systems, but for most people all that amounts to is more work (to find media) and much less payoff (in quality). Content bubbles up in You Tube because of one reason: it’s short. People are not going to browse 1/2 or 1 hour shows or 2 hour movies to find what’s good. That would take all day. Someone else will end up doing it. And while they’re at it, they should make the quality better so it doesn’t look like it was shot in someone’s bedroom. And next thing you know, you got an industry of networks and production companies that is looking for exposure through the people who build a wide-reaching technical platform, i.e. cable companies.
I also think the hate of cable companies is curious in that they seem to be the potential partners of the Boxee business model (making the software and hardware of set-top boxes). I totally understand the burning desire to make a single, optimized platform. TV platforms are unique (in a bad way) because unlike any other device, the TV is a single display that switches between a bunch of wildly different computers that are running through it. Integration is a noble goal, but you would need more that a great UI for that experience. You need content and the wires to get it to people.
Granted, I’m not exactly non partisan on this issue. I work on UI for, oddly enough, Ronen’s own maligned provider Cablevision. Because of vastly different technology and histories, the iTV and internet communities have strangely little contact together, but people in iTV certainly know of UI trends and social networking. The development cycles are also huge and hardware roll-out is glacial as opposed to the ADD device replacement of consumer-driven PCs and web. There are definitely ways iTV can change and it indeed is. There’s just a lot of procedural and economic complexity dealing with infrastructure and content licensing. TV can learn from the internet, but I also think the internet is also going to have to deal with this – only in retrospect. You used to have a business model first, then work on the product. Internet sometimes works in the opposite way, but you eventually have to end up in the same place – viable and sustainable.
I’m really trying to understand this issue in that it’s a crucial one for the future of ALL media. It relates to similar challenges in music and (in the wake of Kindle and iPad) books and is one I hope to explore in greater depth. But for now, I really must get some sleep. -.-