SXSWi 2008: "What teens want online and on their phones" panel notes

The notes from this panel are pretty thorough – it was one of the first panels I attended and I was pretty enthusiastic with the typing. Interesting findings, but the main takeaway for me is that these kids are clever and pretty discerning, we need to give them a whole lot more credit than we (or I) currently do!

“What teens like online and on their phones”
Panel of teens from age 11-17, based in the Austin area and of different levels of interest in technology, music, etc…
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SXSWi 2008: "Cognitive Seduction 4.0: 20 ways to woo our users" panel notes

Cognitive Seduction 4.0: 20 ways to woo our users
Kathy Sierra, Creating Passionate Users

For this panel, I’ll admit my notes were a bit patchy and I relied on a few other ppl’s notes to improve them. I was too mesmerised by Kathy’s talk to worry so much about notes. But read on anyways…

I’ve also borrowed a few of Kathy’s images to illustrate for those who weren’t so lucky as to attend. They’re completely her copyright, ownership and what not. (They rock!)
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SXSWi 2008: "A/B Testing: Design Friend or Foe?" panel notes

Since I attended SXSW last week, I thought it’d be the right thing to do to share my notes from panels. They’re incomplete, I’ve probably interpreted some statements wrongly, there are probably plenty of typos. But I felt I’d be a complete shmuck if I didn’t do the community thang and shared my notes.

So if you’re not interested, apologies about the next few posts, which will each summarise a panel. At the end, I’ll try to add links to other (better) coverage of the same panels to give the bigger picture. If you’ve taken notes or have something to add (like videos!), just leave a comment and I’ll include it in my post.

First off, the “A/B Testing: Design Friend or Foe?” panel notes…
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Hippie 2.0: Reflecting upon SXSW 2008

South by SouthWest is over. Well, the interactive bit is anyways. Music is clearly still going strong, as I witnessed walking down 6th Street and lucking out on seeing Simian Mobile Disco at La Zona Rosa with a few of the geeks still left in town.

Reflecting upon the past week, it’s comforting to see a clear sense of community amongst the geeks. Topics that kept reoccurring were ones of social capital, change and collaboration. The jaded half of me couldn’t help but snicker. Is this hippie 2.0* or something?

Don’t get me wrong, I find this “Let’s hug, love and help each other” attitude immensely endearing and refreshing, but I can’t help but be tickled by some of the more naive ideas that were exchanged over the course of the week. Not every single one of our ideas will live on past the panels, not every one of our harebrained startup ideas will become the next Facebook and not every suggestion is revolutionary. But it doesn’t matter, it’s motivating to be surrounded by people with faith in their ideas and seemingly endless energy to turn them into reality.

So if it’s up to me, I’ll be attending SXSWi again next year. The panels may not all have been oh-so-fabulous, but regardless, meeting so many new people is an injection of energy, if nothing else.

I now need to somehow make sense of this creative energy and communicate it to my team at work. I’m not sure I can express it in words. Maybe I need a Kumbaya 2.0 to express my feelings?

[* I seemingly didn’t coin the word, as it comes up on the Interweb in a different context, but I think it’s terribly fitting here as well.]

SXSW Day 1: Reconnaissance mission

It’s only day 1 of SXSW but it’s already been quite the trek! Left work around 4pm on Wednesday to go stay at a Gatwick hotel, avoiding the 3-4am start required if I’d tried to leave Cambridge the morning of the flight. Wise move as I managed to get up at 6:30am, feeling fairly refreshed and headed to the airport.

Now the flight to Dallas was the first leg of the journey. Long, LONG flight, but thankfully I had this nice old couple next to me who were quite easy going with the whole get-up-and-walk-around routine that’s required on a flight that length.

Get to Dallas and… well golly gee*, we’ve got ourselves some snowdrift! It was heavy wet snow, enough to affect landings and result in plenty of cancelled flights around the region. All flights for the Dallas-Austin leg of the journey were cancelled, and bookings for the next day weren’t looking too promising, with nothing until 8pm, and no hotels with free rooms anywhere nearby. Cots at the airport, oh joy.

Thankfully, I ran into this lovely bunch of people from Brighton, notably Niqui and Aral, who were in the same boat. We ended up steering clear of the magical mystery bus that had been raised as a potential option, with airport staff having no details on the situation, and opted for a large taxi who was willing to drive all 8 of us and our luggage to Austin.

Needless to say, porters at our Austin hotels were surprised by the arrival of Dallas Fort Worth taxis, but we were relieved to no end to all find beds and showers after a very long day.

As for today, so far I’ve had a huge American buffet breakfast, the first proper meal in quite a few days, seeing as I had a tummy bug before I left which left me with no appetite whatsoever. I’ve also found the CVS Pharmacy nearby (500 Congress Ave @ 5th St) and stocked up on water, drinks and headache tablets. This was a first, quick, successful reconnaissance mission.

Now time for mission #2, getting my pass. I can see the convention centre from my room, and people are starting to bimble in, so might as well head over!

Then mission #3 will be meeting a lovely bunch of girls at Las Manitas a bit later. Looking forward to meeting follow Twitterers and geekettes.

Follow me on Twitter if you’re wondering what I’m up to today!

(* ok, i don’t know if they say that in Texas, I just felt like saying it)

Mobile World Congress, Barcelona

Tomorrow morning, really bloody early, I’ll be heading off to Barcelona to attend Mobile World Congress, an event of gargantuan proportions (from what everyone tells me). I’ll be blogging as much as possible on the Taptu blog and twittering away*. If I’m lucky, I should have the time to post a few videos to my Qik profile.

If you’re also attending Mobile World Congress, then pop by and see me at the Taptu stand, 7D42, in hall 7 and join me for a coffee or a beer!

[* Thanks to Alex Payne at Twitter, I now have the username Vero, which uber-rocks!]

CragHoppers Customer Service: A shock to the system

Today, I’m getting out of the way and giving the blog limelight to my old work colleague and fantastic friend Tom Crinson. He’s the nicest guy I could have ever worked with, but he’s also completely bonkers and going on a life-changing trek up the Kilimanjaro in a few days. Here’s his interesting customer care story…

I am going on a walk. A very big frickin’ walk, up a very big frickin’ hill (Kilimanjaro). I am scared. However, I am about as well prepared as I can possibly be, I have decent kit which has cost a small fortune, I have been training a lot, which has hurt. However the biggest shock of it all so far has come from a customer services experience. This is what happened:

The trek is only a few days away and I am getting my kit together to run through final checklists etc. and I suddenly remember that after the trek I am going on a safari as well! As girly as it sounds, I have nothing to wear! I have been so focussed on the trek I had forgotten about it. Literally nothing I have would be good enough for the African savannah, and I start to panic. Mainly as I don’t have a day free to go shopping on to get kit, and it’s the middle of winter here, no shops are going to be pimping their summer wares just yet!

So panic sets in, I reach for the magical box which contains the internet (it is shiny and silver and has an apple on the front) and type in “Safari clothing”, up pop lots of results. Clicking about I find some shirts that look like they are up to scratch for 40 or so of your english pounds. £40! For a frickin beige shirt?? Holy jesus mary mother of poo no way am I paying that. Remembering that some of my walking trousers are from a company called CragHoppers I thought I would give them a go. Perfect. Good quality shirts with UV(blah) protection and stuff. £15. Now were talking. Ordered two of those and two pairs of walking trousers that zip off to form shorts for a measly £70. A-mazing. Value and quality I know I can trust.

Confirmation email time. Oh yes, this gem: “Please note: We are currently experiencing some delay in the dispatch of orders. Therefore your order may take slightly longer to arrive. Please be patient and bear with us at this busy time.” Appears in it! Not a single mention of this on the site, only after my money has been taken do they mention this. So I call them up….“Err.. WTF?” to hear an amazingly friendly voice which belongs to a nice lady called Dawn at the other end of CragHoppers’ customer services line.

She explains to me how their system went down over Christmas and that they are going mental trying to get the back orders through. “But I’m off on friday!” I say, “Fear not” says she, and about an hour and a half later, the wonderful wonderful woman has somehow managed to get their warehouse to dispatch my order that day. Literally ordered Sunday night, panicked Monday, goods arrived Tuesday. Brilliant.

I don’t think I have been so amazed by a customer services department before. She could have just told me to go away there was nothing she could do, but she went out of her way to help me and for that I am unbelievably grateful.

Thank you thank you thank you! I am now a teeny bit less stressed!

Travel Blog Carnival: The World Keeps On Spinning

This week, it is my honour to be hosting the second Travel Blog Carnival, launched last week by Darren at Travel-Rants. Last week, Europe a la Carte‘s Karen hosted the first carnival. Without further ado, here are my favourite submissions this week.

First, brand new blog J Top Ten publishes the Top 5 biggest comparisons between South California and North California. Having never been, I was surprised by the seemingly significant differences in culture between what’s known to a geek like me as Silicon Valley in the North and the much-caricatured Hollywood further South.

Next, the Travel Advice and Guides in the Nordic Region blog confirms my suspicion that the Swedes are a bit mad. “Local officials have now given permission for construction of the worlds largest Elk.” Yes, you’ve read this right. An elk, towering 45 meters tall, containing conference rooms, exhibition halls, a restaurant, with an outdoor cafe on top of the antlers, to top it all off. Please, please tell me the exit isn’t at the rear…

Hole in the Donut’s Barbara Weibel writes this week about her experiences in street crossing across the world. From the madness of Indian streets where there simply are no rules to the unbelievably organised Singaporean roads. I’ll certainly be following her advice when I find myself on a new street corner; “When traveling in unfamiliar places is to watch the locals and do as they do, because they’ve definitely figured out the order of things.”

And finally, Foxnomad makes his predictions on what 2008 will hold for travellers. Rising airline prices, the advent of greener travel and third-world trips becoming more attractive are only some of his predictions. Only time will tell how close Foxnomad will be! All I hope is that he is wrong about his prediction on the likely increase in terrorist activity on tourist destinations.

Want to take part in the next Travel Blog Carnival? You can submit any travel related posts which you’ve written in the last 7 days to blog.carnival(at)

Going to SXSW? Let it be known!

If you’re going to South by Southwest in March, let it be known. Add yourself to the wiki list started by Colleen and Adele, two Twitterers I’m following.

It’ll be a first-time for me, so I’m open to any opportunity to plan to meet and hang out with other bloggers or Twitterers!

[Update: Durr, forgot the wiki link the first time around. Thanks Mark for pointing it out…]

Further thoughts on the Cambridge Congestion Charge plan

Last week, I let a bit of steam out about the ridiculous Congestion Charge plans in Cambridge. But, unfortunately for Shona Johnstone, I’m not done with her case. The logic in her radio interview with Andie Harper is like Swiss cheese.

First, “I don’t think many people have appointments at Addenbrooke’s before 9:30am”. I’ve only looked at a few clinics’ opening hours and, while this is far from an exhaustive or scientific attempt at research, the first one, physiotherapy, opens at 8:15am. Shona: 0, The Rest Of Us: 1

Second, Councillor Johnstone seems to have an issue with London commuters. There’s no questioning that Cambridge, also known as the Silicon Fen, is full of life, brimming with successful and exciting businesses, startups in the Science Park and promising students, who often stay to work locally. There’s no brain drain conspiracy, and Cambridge is far from a commuter town. So Shona, take off the tin foil hat, it’s cute but you’re wrong. Shona: 0, The Rest Of Us: 2

This nicely brings me on to my suggested solutions…

Do not include Science Park and Park & Rides into the affected areas: I suspect the P&Rs aren’t going to be included, but based on the zoning map that’s been circulating, they’re not yet excluded clearly enough for my liking. As far as the Science Park goes, it would be completely and utterly bonkers to include it. The businesses settled there have selected it specifically for being on the edge of town, away from the city centre traffic. Staff won’t want to pay a fiver a day to get to work, and employers won’t want to cover the cost of roughly a thousand pounds per staff member. They’ll simply bugger off to Milton, taking their business out of Cambridge. That doesn’t strike me as a positive move for the city.

Improve transportation FIRST to see whether the situation alleviates
: Currently, taking the P&R is a pain in the @$$; at peak hours, it’s so packed that you have to wait for the next one, which might not come for another half hour, for all you know! At other times, the entire P&R parking is full, forcing you to change your plans altogether and drive into town. So the logical first step is to invest in public transportation improvements, and make people more aware of the great service available. If it IS better than driving into Cambridge, dodging cyclists and swearing at the price of parking, we’ll do it. We won’t need to be coerced into it.

Finally, if the Congestion Charge must go ahead for the centre of town, give carpoolers an exemption. Anyone who makes an effort to reduce the number of cars on the road by sharing the journey to work, that should be recognised. In Ottawa, certain lanes are reserved for taxis and vehicles containing more than two people, giving carpoolers a valuable advantage over everyone else. That’s a far more positive way of encouraging public transportation and carpooling.

So hopefully, the councillors will see sense and reconsider the Congestion Charge plan, opting for positive reinforcement rather than ripping off the local community. If they don’t, I’ll get my protest hat on, and we’ll go have a little party on Shona’s doorstep, how about that?