SXSW Interactive 2007: Day Three

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(Read coverage of day one and day two of the SXSW festival.)

Here are our highlights from day three, with contributions from Lucas Chan:

  • The Growth And Evolution Of Microformats
    Moderated by the most active evangelist of microformats, Tantek Çelik, I was hoping this wouldn’t be another “introduction to microformats” talk. While the discussion didn’t really deliver on its promise of revealing what the future holds for microformats, it did at least go beyond the basics by covering:
    • the history of microformats, as illustrated by t-shirts (and here was I thinking that Tantek had put on weight since I saw him last — it turns out he was just wearing 17 t-shirts!)
    • the Operator plugin for Firefox, demonstrated by the plugin’s creator, Michael Kaply, including example uses such as adding events to your Google Calendar, adding contacts to your Yahoo contacts list, or viewing a map of a location that has been geo-tagged.
    • a sneak peak from Glenn Jones (Madgex) of a beta tool that uses microformats to help manage contact and profile info across social networks.
    • some example applications showing microformats in use (including an impromptu demo where Jeremy Keith used a modified extension based on the Tails plugin for Firefox to send contact details using hCard to his mobile phone over Bluetooth!)
    • the process by which a format comes to fruition, which was a good insight into how the community decides what formats should be developed, based on research and an open source attempt to mimic the scientific method
  • The Future Of The Online Magazine
    The panelists started with some debate about how the “blog-o-sphere” and Web 2.0 has changed their business. All seemed to agree that email newsletters were still much more effective than RSS in bringing traffic to their sites and that the average Joe doesn’t really care about Web 2.0, although that is certainly no reason to ignore it.

    Laurel Touby ( passionately explained that paid membership models were still valuable while Sean Mills ( argued that efforts were better directed towards the increasing online ad-revenue. Interestingly Mills also pointed out the 80-85% of their revenue came through advertising, while Ricky Van Veen ( explained that that offline products were considered only “break-even brand extensions”.

  • Do You Blog On The First Date?
    The SXSW program suggests “Try something new”, so for a complete deviation from the usual content, I sat in on this panel, not quite sure what to expect.

    An all-female panel of bloggers discussed the issues and traded war stories from blogging about their dates and their sex life. What was interesting was that three of the four panelists were employed by magazines to do this! This resulted in an exploration of how these brave souls have been able to capitalise on this opportunity for their career, but at the expense (and complete destruction of) of their social life. Composing blog posts in their head during dinner; legal issues from seemingly anonymous versions of an event that resulted in the individual being identified; book offers resulting from the blog; all made for fascinating discussion and I walked away pleasantly surprised.

Team SitePoint really went above and beyond in meeting their evening obligations, attending the Yahoo, Paypal and South by North West parties. Unfortunately, three solid days of heavy thinking is beginning to take its toll. While I’m sad at the thought that there’s only one day of the conference remaining, I can’t pretend I’m not a little relieved — I’m not 18 anymore!

Matthew MagainMatthew Magain
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Matthew Magain is a UX designer with over 15 years of experience creating exceptional digital experiences for companies such as IBM, Australia Post, and He is currently the Chief Doodler at Sketch Group, Co-founder of UX Mastery, and recently co-authored Everyday UX, an inspiring collection of interviews with some of the best UX Designers in the world. Matthew is also the creator of Charlie Weatherburn and the Flying Machine.

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