20 SXSW Interactive panels that journalists should attend

This year's South by Southwest Interactive panels will emphasize how technology is revolutionizing the way we share content, consume information and engage with the communities around us.

The interactive event, which will take place March 11-15, is best known for highlighting emerging technologies such as Twitter, but many of the panels -- the final batch was announced Monday -- have a strong journalism component.

In looking through the list of confirmed panels, I was struck by how many of them focus on why people are using sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Gowalla, and what this could mean for the future of content sharing and distribution.

I also noticed that there are several panels on public media. And the majority of panels are led by men. Similar to last year, about 70 percent of the panelists are men, said SXSWI event director Hugh Forrest.

I've looked through all of the proposed panels and selected 20 that I think journalists would find worthwhile, in social media, mobile, community engagement, productivity, privacy and more. Given how many panels there are, I’ve probably left out some good ones. Feel feel free to add your picks to the comments section of this piece or respond to @Poynter via Twitter.

Social media

You Like Me, You Really Like Me
So, what's the value of the "Like" button on Facebook? Facebook CTO Bret Taylor will address this question and talk about how the Like button can extend the life and relevance of a news story. He'll also discuss whether likes are replacing links and how the Like button will evolve over time. When it comes to the Web, Taylor says, the "most valuable insights are no longer abstract algorithms, but the connections between people and the things they care about."

Beyond the Check-In: Location and the Social Web
This panel will look at how the "ever-present human desire to share" leads to success for check-ins using location-based services such as Gowalla and Foursquare. Josh Williams, co-founder and CEO of Gowalla, will explain how people's propensity to share where they are and what they're doing is changing the way we communicate.

Williams will also share insights on how geolocation has shaped mobile technology and what's next for Gowalla and other mobile-social services. He plans to address questions that would be of interest to both journalists and news consumers, including this one: "OK, so I've shared all the places I've been and connected it with photos and videos. Now what do I DO with all that data?"

Exploring the Twitter APIs
This panel is worth going to if you want to find out how the Twitter API works, how some of its new features came to be, and how it might look and work in the future. In particular, Matt Harris of Twitter will talk about what you can and can't do with Twitter's API. The panel is bound to be technical, but at the very least it will help you gain a better understanding of how APIs work.


Designing iPad Interfaces - New Navigation Schemas
Lynn Teo of AKQA, an agency specializing in interactive marketing, will look at trends and best practices in iPad application design navigation. Based on an assessment of more than 50 iPad apps, Teo will provide an analysis of navigation methods and will answer questions such as: "Are there specific wayfinding and browsing mechanisms that make for a satisfying and productive iPad user experience?" and "How effective are the navigation approaches? Why are some more/less effective than others?"

App, Shmapp, Tell Me What Works Across Platforms!
This panel could be of interest to publishers and developers who want to better analyze consumers' behavioral patterns to "develop the best possible mobile application and mold the app to harness the advantages of each platform." Aaron Forth, director of product design at Intuit’s Mint.com, will look at how mobile apps have changed the way companies interact with their companies and will explain how developers can create behavioral-based apps for the iPhone and Droid platforms.

Behind the Curtain: Secrets of Mobile Application Wizardry
Razorfish's Paul Gelb says "tens of thousands of developers and hundreds of thousands of mobile applications have gotten it wrong" and have failed to attract active users. Gelb plans to show participants how they can do it right and will talk about the biggest mistakes that developers make when creating apps. He'll also offer tips on how to measure the performance of a branded application.

Community engagement

Tech Power to the People! Digital Community Engagement
Latoya Peterson of Racialicious.com (and a Poynter sense-making fellow) will look at best practices for engaging minority and low-income communities. She'll be joined by other panelists, who will explain how they have used blogs, mobile campaigns, apps and other methods to engage their communities and transfer skills.

The panel will address ways to help those who have been left behind in the tech revolution and will tackle questions such as: "What are the best ways to provide information on technology while dealing with issues of literacy and comprehension?" and "How can mobile campaigns (for both smartphones and dumb phones) be used to mobilize communites?"

Creation, Curation, and the Ethics of Content Strategy
Margot Bloomstein of Appropriate, Inc., a brand and content strategy consultancy, will explore the "ethical debate of curation and creation" and look at how curators create meaning. Bloomstein will also address ethical and copyright issues that arise when people mash up professionally-produced content, user-generated content and citizen journalism. Perhaps most interestingly, she'll share thoughts on what user experience designers and editors can learn from museum curators and exhibit designers.

The New Sharing Economy
Neal Gorenflo of Shareable Magazine says sharing has become "an industry" that's critical to the way we mobilize and socialize as a society. Last year, Shareable magazine and Latitude Research conducted a related study to better understand the new "psychology of sharing." Drawing on the study's findings, Gorenflo plans to answer questions such as: "What are the perceived benefits of sharing?"; "What motivates someone to try sharing initially?"; and "What are the barriers to sharing, and how do we overcome them?"

Better Crowdsourcing: Lessons Learned From the3six5 Project
If you want to learn more about how to effectively crowdsource, check out this panel led by Len Kendall of the3six5. The crowdsourcing project, which led to a book, told the story of an entire year from the perspective of a different person every day. Kendall will address some of the challenges that arise when you crowdsource content and will offer tips for getting people to contribute and improve when no tangible rewards are at stake.

Open Wide: New Models for Public Media
Jacquie Jones of the National Black Programming Consortium says public media needs to do more to reflect the public's needs and engage communities at the local level. She'll explain this  during the panel and will talk about how to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse society. She'll talk about what role the government has in funding new participatory models of public media and will address questions such as: "Are there revenue-generating models associated with these new platforms and strategies to more fully engage the public? How do creators get paid?"

Personal improvement

Fail Big, Fail Often: How Fear Limits Creativity
As a journalist, it can be difficult to embrace failure when you're working on deadline and under a tight budget. But Jeramy Morrill of Big Spaceship says failure is a necessary part of creation. During his panel, he'll talk about how our responses to failure improve or decrease our potential as creative thinkers, and how to get satisfaction out of the process of "failing forward."

I'm So Productive, I Never Get Anything Done
Media columnist David Carr of The New York Times will look at how technology contributes to, and detracts from, journalists’ productivity. He raises relevant questions for journalists who want to strike a better balance between consuming media and creating it: “Is your desktop a window on the world or just a view of the prison yard?” and “What specific steps have you taken to bifurcate your world into productivity and recreation?”


Let's Get Naked: Benefits of Publicness v. Privacy
In advance of his upcoming book, "Public Parts," the City University of New York's Jeff Jarvis will talk about what Google, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, government, and companies should do about privacy. He'll also look at how we can achieve open government and business; how we can protect the openness of the Internet; and how the ethics of privacy and publicness should inform our decisions in business and social interactions.

Oauth, OpenID, Facebook Connect: Authentication Design Best Practices
James Reffell of Designcult will talk about the benefits and challenges of using third-party authentication services such as OpenID, OAuth and Facebook Connect. He'll share best practices for password selection, account creation and login/logout, and will talk about how third-party authentication services work and how they affect user experience. He'll also share insights on how today's users view authentication and passwords and will help you determine whether you should use these authentication services on your news site.


Hacking the News: Applying Computer Science to Journalism
During this panel, Burt Herman, founder of Hacks/Hackers, will talk about how computer science can help make journalism more personalized and flexible. He'll also look at how journalists and developers can collaborate to re-engineer journalism's future, and the opportunities this could create for social integration, structured data and APIs.

Newstopia: The New Business Models For News
Mark Briggs, who's working on a book about using digital tools to launch and sustain a new media news business, will look at new forms of journalism that are succeeding. He'll focus on why traditional outlets are struggling while new media sites such as The Huffington Post are thriving. He'll also explain what this trend means for people looking for jobs in journalism and will share lesser-known success stories about media news startups.

Unpacking Gender: Men, Women, Technology and More
This panel will address the lack of women in technology and will challenge gender biases. Debbie Chachra of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering plans to answer questions such as: "How do I unconsciously send messages that reveal how I think about gender?" and "How can I more realistically think about the experience of women in technology environments?" Though not directly tied to journalism, the panel speaks to an issue that journalists, hiring managers and technologists would benefit from taking into account.

Q&A With Google & Bing On Website Ranking
This looks like a worthwhile panel if you're interested in search engine optimization and driving traffic to your site. Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, will join Google's Matt Cutts and a representative from Bing to talk about ways to increase your site's ranking online. They'll address questions such as: "What are best practices to do well with Google & Bing?" and "What are common design techniques that should be avoided?"

The Death of the Death of Longform Journalism
As much as technology can distract us from long-form journalism, it can also be a gateway into it. So says Max Linsky of Longform.org, a site that aggregates long-form journalism dating back as far as 1899. During his panel, Linksy will talk about the tools that are making it easier for people to read long-form stories, how they’re being used and how some publishers are taking advantage of them.

He'll answer questions of interest to publishers, such as: "Who's making money on digital longform journalism and who isn't?" and "How do mediating tools like Instapaper address gaps in the user experience of reading?"

  • Mallary Jean Tenore

    As managing editor of The Poynter Institute’s website, Poynter.org, I report on the media news industry, edit the site’s How To section, and moderate the site's live chats. I also help handle the site's social media efforts, and teach social media sessions on the side.


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