Five Things I Saw at SXSW

Steve Johnson - 03.19.2009

Having been in high-tech for 20 years, I’m always fascinated by new technology and trends. One can’t say what will happen, but here are a few of my unscientific thoughts on potential trends emerging from SXSW 09.

Trend Observations from SXSW Interactive:

1. Emergence of a new UI: Twitter

The obvious success of twitter nationally was highlighted at SXSW. Business cards will soon have @twitter addresses if attendees are any indication. It was the exception rather than the rule when an attendee DID NOT have their twitter name on their badge (interesting note is that the conference didn’t have a place for this). Also fascinating was the fact that more than one start-up has taken off by building additional functionality on top of the twitter API.

2. Apple Rocks

Outside of MacWorld at Moscone Center, I don’t think I’ve seen more Mac computers. There isn’t a doubt that at least this group is devoted to their Macbook pro’s and other Apple computers. And for those not lugging thier laptops around, iPhones were ubiquitous. At times I felt old school with my Blackberry and felt the need to sneak into a corner to check email before I was discovered and marked as “not with it”.

3. Mobile Rules

Mobile, as just mentioned above, is heavily dominated by the smart phones. Operation Smile was testing mobile donations at the show, and everywhere people were immersed in twittering, sms messages, emailing, looking at schedules, maps, and flight times on their mobile devices. Non-profits should have a strong mobile story –how do they want to add this new way to interact with their donors?

4. Social video everywhere

The social medium continues to explode. As the domain continues to develop rapidly I got the definite sense at the show that social networks like Facebook and photo-sharing were becoming the “old” standard. Everyone had, and used them – but I often heard statements like. “Yep, I have a facebook account and an email account, but contact me on Twitter.” On the photo side, the community is moving on as well: people were videoing panel discussions, each other, the parties, the signs. Digital still pictures were there, but video has emerged as another wave to be handled.

5. Everyone is a journalist

Interviews on cell phones, interviews with handheld video camera’s, twittering, live blogging, digital pictures were a constant. Everyone was an author, podcaster, internet broadcaster, video editor, producer or star. The impact on traditional media couldn’t have been more on display.


How are these emerging trends effecting your nonprofit and its efforts to stay connected with supporters in a changing world? We’d love to hear from you.

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