SXSWi 2011 Recap

Note – Keynote speakers are excluded from session notes

Visit Keepstream to catch any of the Twitter streams for any session that happened at SXSWi 2011

SXSWi2011 – DAY 1 – Saturday March 12, 2011

Stop Listening to Your Customers

Session Schedule Link

When doing user research most firms do “bad listening”, which lead to bad decisions, features, etc.

-EX: Microsoft used extremely advanced techniques of user research and came up with Clippy the paperclip within MS Office which is one of the most hated features in computing.

The problems are:

  • Hypothetical Questions: “Would this be helpful if this other thing happened?..”
  • Provide a false premise

As UX designers we must reduce friction for users. Examples from Twitter:

  • The Twitter “Retweet” button (no copying/pasting of code)
  • Quick search of hash tags (single click search instead of typing into a search bar)
  • Direction @usernames – observe and act (study how people are using a webpage/app and adjust from there)
  • coming up with a handle on twitter was caused by people doing the @ sign in front of their handle.  Again, Twitter didn’t create that, the users invented it.

Craig Tomlin –

Drawing Back the Curtains on CSS Implementation

Session Schedule Link (Audio Available)

Left this session due to format and overall tone. I have been to sessions by these presenters before and have left before. I thought this would have been different.
I plan on listening to the audio from the link and taking what I can from the session.

Ordering Disorder: Grid Design for the New World

Session Schedule Link (Audio Available)

Grid design can be used to hold almost all content types and web page requirements.

The presenter reviewed how grids were used in print layouts in the beginning of the 19th century and how they are used today.
Grids can be likened to brick and wall cities: They are expandable and extendable
Grids can present order and they help predict where content will go. Easy to add new content as well as collaborate

Print Web
Press Browser
Pressman Designer or Coders
Harmonious process Standards based

Designers are like tyrants – Impose order

Using Grids in the web:

  • Problem solving before aesthetics
  • Serve the user experience
  • The simpler, the more effective


  • Research
  • Wireframes/Tester
  • Prep Design
  • Visual Layouts
  • Code It.

960px width is the sauce (for now)

Scot Hacker – – I wrote a Book

One of the best sessions I went to a SXSWi. Fantastic content and speaker. I plan on creating the next ACC webpage homepage and standard set of templates using grid design. I plan on purchasing this speakers book and using it moving forward.

Designing for Silence: Using Email for Good

Session Schedule Link

Some great tips for keeping email useable and relevant. I have gone to multiple sessions on email, why it’s good, why its bad etc. Last year one session I attended predicting users would receive their credit card statements via Facebook. I don’t see this happening quite yet but it could still be a reality. I was glad to see this session focus on the positive aspects.

We are using email in may ways here at ACC, and I hope these quick tips can help us improve the relevancy of the format.

Jennifer Conley –

Interactive Marketing Horror Stories

Session Schedule Link

An interactive panel discussion presented by Richard Laermer CEO RLM PR and Steve Lundin of BIGfrontier in which some recent failed interactive marketing campaigns were highlighted and then analyzed by asking the audience what they thought the issues were. A great fast paced session in which many of opinions were expressed. The speakers’ style was great. He would ask a question and then recap audience members responses in a few words. Excellent format.

Sloane Kelley – –

Optional Session: Web Anywhere: Mobile Optimization With HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript

SXSWi 2011 – DAY 2 – Sunday March 13, 2011

UX Research & Web Analytics: X-Ray Insights

Session Schedule Link (Audio Available)

  • Decisions just based on UX or web analytics may be wrong!
  • UX + Web Analytics is like chocolate and peanut butter. So good together.
  • Analytics data helps user interface designers prioritize
    • Questions for ACC: who is using our site? Our homepage? From there highlight key barriers.
  • Use a commerce model to develop funnels > From Future student or Apply to ?
  • Content Analysis – Focus on the strong
    Content type Analysis – what are people accessing and how
  • Make sure the seasonality of content is relevant to what’s displayed
  • Site Search Analytics for a better user experience
  • Local search vs. Web search – Searching from within vs. what actually got customers to your site

Jeffrey Zeldman’s Awesome Internet Design Panel

Session Schedule Link (Audio Available)

This panel was not about the internet or design, it was about publishing and content curation.
I went to this panel under a different title “The Future of Publishing” for SXSWi 2010. Zeldman actually mentions this in the first 30 seconds of the audio.

Personal note: I usually bolt from sessions when the content doesn’t match either the title or it has no relevancy for me, but it was hard to bail when someone who I have been paying attention to for a long time does something like this.

I should have went to
Where Web Typography Goes To Next or No Excuse: Web Designers Who Can’t Code

Worst Website Ever II: Too Stupid to Fail

Session Schedule Link (Audio Available)

In a highly-anticipated return to SXSW, an all-star lineup of designers, coders, and entrepreneurs compete to pitch their worst business ideas in short lightning rounds. Winner gets funded by a real VC. This was more of a comedy routine but it showcased some real creativity and highlighted the often wacky world of internet startups and funding. I was lucky to have a seat, they had to do it twice due to demand.

So I Started a Food Blog

Session Schedule Link (Audio Available)

A Q&A session with Orangette’s Molly Wizenberg, conducted by Emily Farris. I went to this session by request and it proved to be a great session in content generation and curating.

  • Taking a look at our ad networks for optimum exposure – may or may not be statesman/chronicle
  • Full post creation takes about 6-8 hours. Similar to one of our Banner stories on the homepage.


Moving the Web onto Mobile Devices

Session Schedule Link (Audio Available)

A panel discussion that brought forward and reinforced questions web developers are asking themselves in this transitional phase of web development.


  • Video delivery for mobile platforms – flash vs. h.264

This topic came up again and again in sessions I attended. It not only pertained to mobile platforms but the future of the HTML5 specification. Contrary to what Scott Vegetate Prod Mgr Dreamweaver Adobe Systems Incorporated suggested, which was to consider sniffing and forking for devices and platforms like we did back in the Netscape Navigator 4 days of yore because of Apple’s non support of Flash, I believe that Flash needs to find its way into its proper publishing realm and stop trying to force itself into being included in any sort of web standard. Flash is a platform that must be used properly and in the correct environments and I believe much to Adobe’s chagrin, web video distribution is not it.

  • Web vs. Native Apps

Native apps are usually more feature rich than a web based application. Mobile websites are often content driven. Firms need to analyze where the most return is for them and then focus on one but still provide both.

  • Consider CSS Media Queries and a fluid based design for displaying content for mobile
  • Use vector as much as possible
  • Use a flexible grid based layout – Reference A List Apart

Products and Services Referenced:

  • WPtouch Pro – WordPress plugin which adds features to WordPress for mobile + tablet theme support
  • Kaltura – Open source video distribution

Jared Spool – Anatomy of a Design Decision

Session Schedule Link (Audio Available)

Jared Spool – Anatomy of a Design Decision from User Interface Engineering on Vimeo.

One of my favorite sessions at SXSWi. I am sending this out to our team. So many good things about this talk it really requires its own post.

SXSWi2011 – DAY 4 – Sunday March 14, 2011

Hacking RSS: Filtering & Processing Obscene Amounts of Information

Session Schedule Link (Audio Available) , Slides available

Key to find relevant data to you within the RSS sphere

Most of our RSS feeds we don’t care about, 1 in 10 maybe you have a general care for

Prioritize your Reader with tags, move feeds to top

Find sources that you don’t naturally find. Ex:

RSS Filtering Tools

Yahoo Pipes Demonstration

If something is in the RSS feed you can use it for filtering or display

Ex: A Twitter search yields Person, Picture Tweet

Reformat the RSS to display author:tweet within the title of the “post” for quick viewing via an RSS reader

Use APIs to gather more information and create new RSS feeds based on the data you want to see

Ex: BackType +Twitter API + Yahoo Pipes into custom RSS feed with your parameters set.

Example of a “post” you would see within your reader:

paulcbrady (Followers: 7869) : Don’t forget to Thank Remote Team Members #gigaon http://tiny/ly/MDj

Use for personal productivity

Do not use this in production environments – “Yahoo Pipes not responding” is not an uncommon error.

Be a Lead Generation Superstar with HTML5 Forms

Session Schedule Link (Audio Available)

Technical workshop dealing with form elements in the upcoming HTML5 specification. This reference will be the most helpful in creating these forms:

The Current State of HTML5 Forms

I use references like this for CSS cross-browser support and am glad this is available.

Daniel Slaughter –

Reid Hoffman Presentation: Data as Web 3.0

Session Schedule Link (Audio Available)

Currently planning on listening to this podcast post-conference.

Tech Drawl – Ben Dyer

Voices From The HTML5 Trenches: Browser Wars IV

Session Schedule Link (I wish the audio was available)

My favorite panel of SXSWi. The lead tech/developers/evangelists for the major internet browsers (Google Chrome, MS IE9, Mozilla Firefox, Opera) were on hand to discuss everything from HTML5 support to updating frequency to the overall mantra of each browser.

Jeffrey Donenfeld : Blog – Panel – Voices From The HTML5 Trenches: Browser Wars IV

Some tweets I picked up form the discussion that I thought were spot on: (via

  • “A useful definition: “Web apps are websites with enhanced browser privileges running on HTML5, CSS and JS.”
  • “it would have been cool [for other browsers] to use the w3c widget spec rather than incompatible implementations”
  • MS Program Manager at #browserwars “Windows XP is our IE6”
  • Alex Russell coins the term “URL-ification”
  • “#html5 is the best sausage you ever had. it has chocolate and bacon in it”
  • ah, the “chrome dropped h.264 but kept flash” red herring from audience
  • “Alex: vote with your feet. A vibrant browser market is good for everyone.” (If you don’t like Google Chrome – switch and don’t b*tch)
  • “At Mozilla, we will never switch to webkit.”
  • “Microformats are UrbanDictionary for HTML.” (lol)

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