If South by Southwest Interactive (or SXSWi, for those in the know) is good for anything, it’s breaking news that makes no freaking sense whatsoever if you don’t already know the names of the companies and apps at issue.
I was thinking about sending gibberish tweets involving SXSW-style jargon using the #SXSWi hashtag, just for fun and because I’m kind of a snarky ass. My Twitter handle is @wellslawoffice, though, so it doesn’t look all that credible coming from me.
I could start a @BreakingInteractiveNews account, I suppose….
Most of my ideas are pretty mean, could possibly lead to at least some civil suits, and really just need to remain ideas in my twisted brain…… Not that I’ve ever let that stop me before.
South by Southwest, or SXSW, as it is more commonly known these days (or #SXSW, as it more commonly appears in online references these days) is now underway, with the Interactive portion of the festival, or #SXSWi, having begun this past Thursday. I attended this part of the event as a full-fledged badge holder in 2012 and 2013, and I may do so again some day, but there is also some value in observing the festivities from afar.
One aspect of SXSWi that particularly jumps out at me is the near-total inscrutability of much of its news and gossip, especially with regard to the quest to be this year’s “it” app. Take this headline, posted to Facebook by my friend Jen: “Twitter cuts Meerkat off from its social graph just as SXSW gets started.”
Literally nothing in that headline, or the comments to Jen’s post, makes any sense at all without heaping amounts of context. I initially just assumed that Meerkat and Periscope are companies, or apps, or websites, or programming languages, or something else tech-y. It’s just funny how the tech world has normalized jargon so much. Continue reading →
My online petition asking HBO to cast Grumpy Cat in the role of Lady Whiskers in season 4 of Game of Thrones was a bust. Since last August, it has only gained three supporters (and that might include me). Besides that, season 4 starts in a few weeks.
[Typed on an iPad with minimal proofreading.] Since it was a Saturday, I could use my fiancee’s parking pass downtown. No bus for me!
I almost immediately regretted trying to drive downtown. I got one of the last parking spaces on the roof of the garage, which I only obtained after a lengthy process of abruptly stopping to avoid rear-ending the driversnwho seem to think that you must close every 10-foot gap between you and the car in front of you at 20 mph or more.
Te first session I attended was entitled Tweets from the DMZ: Social Media in North Korea with Jean H. Lee, AP Bureau Chief for North Korea. While there was some interesting “slice of life” information about a Seoul-based journalist’s regular trips to North Korea, it mostly consisted, quite literally, of screenshots of tweets she has sent. I learned some interesting stuff, though. She said that the regime never stops her from taking pictures, but they always know what she is doing. They try to make sure she is “respectful” to her subjects more than almost anything else. South Korea has very strict limits on access to online material from the north. It is apparently illegal in South Korea to access North Korean websites, and the government has a strict firewall in place. It is illegal even to retweet something from North Korea. People in South Korea, she said, must be careful even following people in North Korea. North Korea has a few government-run sites, including Flickr, Twitter, and Instagram. The main goals of these government-run social media sites are propaganda, getting pictures of the leader out, etc. One person, during questions, basically suggested that she was a dupe of Pyongyang, doing their bidding by presenting their side of things, but she disputed this. He even suggested that North Korean agents might be in the room keeping eyes on her. She responding by inviting any North Koreans in the room to stand up and say hello. No one did, and I decided that would be a good time to leave.
Last year, I met some interesting people in the Samsung Blogger’s Lounge, so I headed there next. Let me try to be charitable here……while I recall that they used the room last year both to give bloggers a place to work and socialize and to do webcasts of interviews with people who are “buzzing” at SXSW, this year the interviews were harder to ignore. Impossible to ignore, actually. The host of these interviews is probably a very nice person, but her style is, I dare say, not suited to any room where anyone is expected to pay attention to anyone except her. She’s bubbly, goofy, and loud, is all I’m saying. I was able to finish my Day 1 blog entry, but couldn’t hold a conversation with anyone for long.
I hesitated to attend the next panel, for pretty basic social reasons of taboo and embarrassment. I’m glad I did, because it was one of the best sessions I’ve attended at any conference, ever. Not just because the presenter, Cindy Gallop, has an awesome British accent. The session was entitled The Future of Porn, and the line to get in extended out of the ballroom quite a long way. (She noted that nearly everything she was going to say in her talk could be a double entendre, andit was good to get that out of the way.) This was not a discussion of smut per se. In fact, she maintains that the sites she created, MakeLoveNotPorn.com and MakeLoveNotPorn.tv, are not porn, but “real world sex.” I’m just going to paste some things from my notes (shout-out to Evernote here):
What happens when you combine easy access to porn online with societal reluctance to discuss sex at all?
MakeLoveNotPorn compares porn world to real world. Led to TED Talk in 2009.
Not anti-porn. Issue is lack of honest conversation about sex in the real world.
Social media platforms generally won’t deal with sex. She wants to “socialize sex.” Launched MakeLoveNotPorn.tv, where people can submit their own videos of real sex. Site is curated, so it’s not like YouPorn. $5 submission/curation fee, $5 rental fee for 3 weeks unlimited viewing, 50% of revenue shared with submitters. The “Etsy of Sexy.”
Not porn, not “amateur.” They are #realworldsex. Community tells them what real world sex is.
Real world sex is funny, while porn sex is “earnest.” Sexual equivalent of “America’s Funniest Home Videos”
Real world sex is messy. Porn is “clean,” i.e. hairless, and you never see lube. No sex during periods [Ed. note: no judgment here. Whatever floats your boat.].
Real world sex is responsible. Porn either doesn’t have condoms, or they magically appear. More condom use if it seems sexy.
“Lazy person sex” – after long day, really tired, but horny. Don’t want to lift a finger to get off. No representation of that in porn or other media.
Thumbnails & copy are all SFW, so no one has to slam down the laptop when someone walks by.
You can make personalized playlists, send them to people. Lets you tell people what you like w/o awkward conversations [Ed. Note: I don’t get how this is less awkward than talking, necessarily, but what do I know?].
Could be the “Kinsey of today.” Had to design in-system scoring that is easy to use and one-handed. You hit the space bar to say “yes!”
Porn industry has been supportive. Gen Y in porn has reached out to her (entrepreneurial, ambitious, want to be part of the “new world order” of things.)
They’re not competing with porn. Most porn labeled “amateur” isn’t.
One viewer told her “Porn makes me want to jerk off. Your videos make me want to have sex.”
No bank in the U.S. will work with her because “porn” is in the name. No mainstream payment processor would work with her. Finally got PayPal challenger Douala (?) on board, had to go with a European bank and payment processor.
Porn is falling prey to the same dynamics as the music and publishing industries. Businesses play it safe by doing what everyone else is doing. Porn’s way of dealing with it is more controversial.
***”It’s not that porn degrades women. It’s that business degrades porn” Pushing any business into the shadows enables bad things to happen. She’s trying to change the world through sex, make sex better for everybody. Business world is trying to stop her. She says the business world is driven by men who believe men are their target audience. She listed women entrepreneurs who are doing great work (Nina Hartley, etc.) “Women challenge the status quo because we are never ‘it.'”
She listed a few other products or sites she felt were worth mentioning:
Vibease – device for couples in LTRs.
Offbeatr – website for sex projects
They Fit – custom-made condoms, no FDA approval in the US
Bang with Friends – launched about a month ago.
Average age of first seeing hardcore porn online today is 8. They don’t necessarily go looking for it.
Less than 5% of parents, she says, ever talk to their kids about sex. The talk has changed, as it needs to include discussion of what shows up in porn.
Legalities: 2 forms of ID, “no children, no poop, no animals.” Brought in adult industry lawyers to help.
Protecting privacy and IP: members-only site, no way to guarantee no piracy, though. They review everything submitted to the site before posting it. They remove videos on request if a couple breaks up.
Finance: adult industry-specific companies, payment processors, etc. She wants business partners who get their mission. AI-specific processors think they’re just porn, have extortionate rates. Even they though MLNP was too risky. Company like Manwin has $$$, has easier time with banking.
None of their videos have an “extraneous” cameraman. Spouse might record other spouse, or person might use webcam.
Difference between porn and sex ed. Teachers have asked to use MLNP dot com in their sex ed classes. So few people are willing to stand up for these issues, that everyone wants Cindy to do all of it.
A couple of questions stood out. Someone eventually asked if Cindy appears in any of the videos on her site. Less predictably, the questioner was a woman, and the question was asked very earnestly (as opposed to a pervy manner). A mother of teenagers got up and described how her kids have used the family computer to access adult content. She is worried about the false impressions they will get about sex, and so asked about how to use the MNLP video site to give her kids access to more realistic, perhaps even “educational” material. Mom of the Year? Quite possibly.
I could write for weeks about everything I think is wrong in the way we deal with the issue of sex. It’s prety screwed up in most of the world, but I’ll focus on the U.S. Her opening statement summed it up very well, though: we have unprecedented access to “adult” material, and not just through porn, but through an overall sexualization in our culture. At the same time, we still lack almost any ability to discuss it like rational adults, and we still attach ridiculous forms of stigma to people regarding sex. This applies to people who have sex a lot (cf. Sasha Grey), people who don’t have it at all (cf. Lolo Jones), and everything in between. And that’s only covering the conventionally-attractive young white woman demographic. Don’t get me started.
I went to a 15-minute session on copyright law after that. Blah blah fair use and so on. Then I went home to assemble more IKEA furniture.
I’m going to be honest here: I’m not really feeling it this year. I suspect that is approximately 100% due to the fact that I moved into a new house at the beginning of this week, and am experiencing the associated anxiety and odd depression that always seems to come with that. Don’t get me wrong, I love our new house. It’s just that I also sort of hate it at the moment.
It was in the midst of this chaos that I embarked on my second year as a badge holder at SXSW Interactive. Once again, I don’t really have a clear notion of my goals, other than to meet people, learn more about tech, blogging, and social media, and just be around talented, interesting, and occasionally self-important people. I’m sucking at the “meeting people” part so far, but being at the Austin Convention Center in a relatively festive atmosphere is a welcome reprieve from a week spent mediating between furniture deliveries, movers, and contactors. (Also, the purchase of a house with enough repair needs to quickly burn through most of our money, but let’s not go there just now.)
I took the Capital Metro rail for the first time, parking where I’m probably not supposed to park and riding the train to the final stop just outside the Convention Center. I don’t know if the train is usually that crowded, or if that is a SXSW effect, but it was a decent ride. It certainly beats trying to find parking downtown.
Since I don’t do much late-night partying anymore, I was able to arrive downtown at about 9:30, give or take, and it took a mere 5 minutes to get my badge. I remember last year needing about 20 minutes, but then seeing that the line had circumscribed the Convention Center later in the day. This would be an example of the hipness of being square – less time waiting in lines, or something.
I spent much of the morning catching up on work, and found the environment to be oddly conducive for work. Maybe there was some osmosis of creative power, or maybe I was just determined to finish so I could move on to fun things.
By the time I broke away from the siren call of legal-blogging-for-hire, I was not sure where I wanted to go. I considered catching a shuttle to a different venue for a panel on the business potential of animated GIFs, but ran into a friend who was going to a panel on disaster relief.
Disaster: The Future of Crisis Communications addressed how the Coast Guard has made use of social media and other technologies in disasters like Hurricanes Sandy and Irene. Very interesting stuff. Much of what they said seems obvious at first, but when you consider conditions after a disaster, you understand their importance, and how easy it might be to overlook them. In sufficiently serious crises, the very network we rely upon for information might be out of commission. How would we get information without our smartphones? Yes, many people still use things like radio or newspapers, but social media allows responders to get information out in, to use a cliché, real time.
Teaching Cheetahs: Disruptive Education in Africa was the only other panel I went to this day, partly because it sounded interesting, and partly because I didn’t have to change rooms. A group of panelists included two executives from a nonprofit that funds scholarships for top students from African to study at American universities, the founder of a Kenyan startup that provides tablets to students loaded with school curricula, and the director of an organziation that produces documentary videos highlighting educational needs. There was far more than I can justifiably summarize here, but the overall theme was “African solutions to African problems.” I just read an article the other day about well-intentioned but catastrophic efforts at aid to Africa, most of which amounted to dumping America’s leftovers in rural Africa rather than supporting infrastructure and education. It is also generally annoying that people in the U.S. often refer to “Africa” in a unitary sense, when in reality it is a continent with 54 countries (I think that’s the right number), about 1 billion people, and a wide diversity of culture, history, and language. It’s also more than twice the size of the U.S., so it’s big. Here are the organizations and companies represented, and I’d say they are worth checking out:
African Leadership Academy in South Africa
African Leadership Bridge in Austin, Texas
The Nobelity Project, also in Austin
eLimu, a startup based in Nairobi, Kenya
After that, I went home to assemble IKEA furniture.
Other highlights of the day included getting my picture taken in the Iron Throne…
…and also with Clifford the Big Red Dog…
There was also this odd display by 3M, which I call 3M’s 2D Hottie.
Meet Daniel. Daniel is an Austin musician who just wants to meet cool people and hang out for South by Southwest, and he is offering up his place if you need somewhere to crash.
And if you’re a lady. Or two ladies. Who are willing to provide “services.”
I’m looking for one to two ladies to stay free during SXSW at my place. This is a simple deal; a free place to stay with many extras, for your services.
The precise meaning of “services” is left unstated, although you can read between the lines.
He offers many amenities, including “recording equipment and instruments” and “free internet and computer access.” This sort of begs the question: who charges for internet access at their own place?
Listed among the amenities, it is worth noting, is “a 6′ tall 190 lbs 6% body fat with ripped abs and a musician, for company.” The grammar is unclear, but I think that is all in reference to Daniel, although it is possible that he has a musician growing out of his abdomen. If he does, you can’t tell from the picture.
Anyway, Daniel wants us to know that his needs are pretty simple, and that he’s just reaching out to make new friends.
I’m just looking for cool people to hang out with during SXSW.
• Two friends
• One girl is fine too
I mean, when I meet a woman with whom I’m interested in forming a friendship, I always ask if she has a twin. Who doesn’t?
Perhaps I am being unfair here. Perhaps this really is just an Austinite reaching out to make friendships and offer a place to stay during the city’s busiest week of the year, when hotel rooms are scarce and expensive. What do you say, Daniel?
I’m not a shallow person as this ad may seem. This is really a business deal, a nice way to meet cool people, and have some fun at the same time!
Were you maybe picturing something like this? (via moejackson.com)
A……business deal? I’m a little confused. I don’t usually include a picture of my abs in business proposals, but then again, mine are hiding under multiple layers of pizza. Yes, you said you could offer a place to stay with free home-based wifi in exchange for “services.” You also just want to make friends. With ladies, possibly twins. It’s almost like there’s something you don’t want to come right out and say……are you going to make these women clean your pool? Let’s just go with that.
Also, thank you for stating that you are not shallow. I have always found that the best way to reassure someone that you’re not shallow is to tell them that you are not shallow. Because we are all the most credible source when it comes to our own shallowness, or lack thereof.
I suppose I should applaud Daniel’s initiative. Who knows if he’ll get any responses, or if any responses he does get will be remotely close to the image he may have in his mind. He’s offering room, board, other amenities, and his abs in exchange for “services.” I have long advocated for decriminalizing sex work, and now I can point out that decriminalization would make not-shallow stuff like this mostly unnecessary.
Because I figure the post will come down soon (I can’t be the only person to have noticed it), I screencapped it here and here.
UPDATE (March 8, 2013): I forgot to give a hat tip to Damon, who brought this bit of oddness to my attention.
Via Addie Broyles at the Austin American Statesman, here’s an interesting take on South by Southwest Interactive:
For your Sunday reading, a baffling letter to the editor in @statesman about SXSW interactive fest: “I can’t think of anything more diametrically opposed to the arts than the high-tech industry, which cannily creates addictions to countless gadgets that further detach its users from actual experience and emotion.”
I will be the first to admit that South by Southwest Interactive is a smorgasbord of first-world problems and self-important navel-gazing, but I would hardly say that it bears no relevance to “the arts” per se. Some huge percentage of all internet technology is now devoted to transmitting music and movies around, and much of the conference seems devoted to finding newer and shinier ways to do that.
People do make good connections and do quite a bit of business at SXSWi. Much of the purpose of the conference, after all, is to connect people in ways that will make them money. Having never been to a Star Trek convention, I have no idea if any business networking goes on or if any actual products get rolled out there. Maybe haters are just gonna hate.
Even if the vast bulk of what goes on at SXSWi is generally useless fluff, the same can be said for nearly every gathering of people in history. After all, it’s only five days. The Constitutional Convention needed four weeks, to use a wholly-inappropriate analogy.
Cue Sturgeon’s Law, paraphrased as “ninety percent of everything is crap.”
It’s over. The hipsters will return to their respective coasts, and the music scene will recede to its usual level of cultural dominance. Many Austin businesses have more money in their coffers, and many Austinites probably have raging hangovers right about now. Starting tomorrow, if you want to see ironic handlebar mustaches, you’re going to have to look harder.
This has been a great opportunity for me, not only in that I got to meet amazing people and learn quite a bit, but forcing myself to write about it every day has helped jump start my creativity again.
That said, I’m tired of writing about music. I will simply recap my last day of South by Southwest 2012 by telling you who I wanted to see buy didn’t, and who I saw.
We wanted to see Nada Surf at Waterloo Records, but didn’t quite make it. “High/Low” was a recurring soundtrack to my senior year of college in 1996-97, and I’ve never seen them live. It was a time in my life when lyrics like this seemed quite deep:
Take a look at what’s been done
The killing wound is the thousandth cut
A dead turtle on the beach puts my happiness out of reach
Everyone probably remembers “Popular,” but the entire album is solid. You should check it out.
I had hoped to see Shiny Toy Guns at Auditorium Shores, but again, fatigue and an overwhelming sense of just wanting to chill out kept us home. I had learned that all of their songs I know were sung by their previous lead singer, Sisely Treasure, who left the band last year. I bet it was still a great show, I just would not have been as familiar with the material. (I tried to find a good concert video of “When Did This Storm Begin,” but the sound was terrible on everything I could find on YouTube.
We did make it to the Cult at 8:00 at Auditorium Shores. As you may know, they were big in the late ’80s, particularly with their song “She Sells Sanctuary.” That song has always stood out to me as being one of the most iconic rock songs to almost completely lack any specific hooks (unless you count Ian Astbury wailing “Hey yeah heh heh-eh-eh” over and over again.)
I won’t belabor the point that I suck as a music writer, so I’ll just say it was a great show. As my imaginary Shakespearean friend might say: Off with our socks did they fucking rock.
I even took a cell phone video of “She Sells Sanctuary” that turned out pretty well (see attached).
I thus conclude this chronicle of SXSW 2012. See many of you next year.
My assessments of the music at South by Southwest this year have been unremittingly critical, and I figured out why. For various reasons, we have been looking for specific events with bands we know well. This is great, but the spirit of SXSW has always been discovery: wandering around downtown, or any number of other parts of Austin, to just see who’s playing. I have on occasion made some great discoveries. This year, though, we are keeping it relatively simple. I hereby commit, in front of whomever might be reading this, that next year I will take in some unknown bands and then say at least a few nice things about them.
Back to tonight: After an attempt to hear the Cult play the Waterloo Records parking lot (you really can’t hear them from across Lamar while a band is playing on the Whole Foods patio, although it creates a fascinatingly jarring stereo effect), we made our way back to Auditorium Shores for Counting Crows.
Let me first say that “August & Everything After” was my theme music for part of the mid-90’s, and Adam Duritz is one of my heroes among singers. I had high hopes for the show, and those hopes were fully realized when they played “Rain King.” Unfortunately, that was the last pre-encore song of a roughly 90-minute set. There are two terms I’m trying to remember, but Google isn’t helping:
When singers who have been performing for a long time start to forget their own lyrics during concerts; and
When bands with long careers end up having to mostly play songs from two or more decades ago at their concerts.
I saw R.E.M. play a show in Houston in 1995, and while they put on a phenomenal show, they clearly could not remember the lyrics to several of their most famous songs. No one really knows all the words to “It’s the End of the World as We Know It,” except hopefully the people who wrote it. When Billy Joel played in Houston around the same time, it was clear no one cared what he had released recently. We just wanted “Piano Man.”
Tonight, it felt as though we waited politely through about an hour of new material for them to play “Mr. Jones.” The musicians were incredible, but Adam Duritz was not displaying the energy that always made them such a great band. He mentioned that he had been partying all week (and that’s partly what SXSW is for), so perhaps he was just dragging a bit. Still, I sensed that they are tired of playing their old stuff. Okay, enough negativity. Here’s the song that had me so excited:
Today was a less-than-satisfying attempt to venture into the music side of South by Southwest. The plan, hatched several days ago, was to catch the Shins’ free show at Auditorium Shores at 8:00, then head to the gutted remains of Spaghetti Warehouse at 10:00 to see Girl Talk.
A note on Girl Talk and the overall trend of making people jump through hoops in order to get to see shows. Maybe offering vague hints of a show’s location (or even very existence) is an effective way to generate buzz and get some people to wander downtown Austin and/or the internet doing whatever it takes to get to the show, but that ain’t me. Maybe I’m just grumpy and old, but I prefer to look up a show’s date and time, purchase a ticket if necessary, and go to an entrance of some sort in order to enter a venue and watch a show. That’s how most of the world works, but SXSW sometimes does it different.
But I’ll get back to that.
This was the best picture I could get of the Shins from the spot where we could actually hear them, alas.
As for the Shins, they’re a pretty good band. I get them confused with the Strokes for two reasons: (1) their names are both “The ***” names beginning with “S” and (2) I am out of touch with music. The main observation I can make about the show is that the stage, set up against the backdrop of Lady Bird Lake and downtown Austin, reminded me of the Austin City Limits studio stage, except that this backdrop was real. We wandered the park in search of a good spot to both see and hear the show, eventually concluding that there was no available spot where we could do both. The best sound, in my opinion, was actually on the walkway of the 1st Street bridge, where we couldn’t see anything.
Anyway, the Girl Talk show was part of a Nike/VEVO event promoting a new doodad that Nike rolled out this week. Getting on the RSVP list involved tweeting something to VEVO and getting a password to a website. They never got back to me with the password, but then someone tweeted the password and it showed up on Facebook. The line to get into the former Spaghetti Warehouse was long–not as long as some lines I’ve seen, but pretty damn long. A volunteer told us that the venue only holds 500 people, that there were 100 VIP’s that would get in no matter what, and that over 7,000 people had RSVP’d. Another volunteer told us that if we did not receive an e-mail in response to our RSVP with the subject line “Awesomeness,” then we were not on the list.
At any rate, I didn’t really want to support Nike anyway, because of reasons.
That left us wandering downtown Austin with no wristbands and no particular idea of what else was going on, and then my phone battery died because I left the camera feature running for too long. Nothing seemed to be going on outdoors, so we went home.
I remember Thursday night of last year’s SXSW being much more active, in terms of people being out and music going on in accessible places. Last year, the Thursday of SXSW week was St. Patrick’s Day, which I’m sure had much to do with the activity. This year, it just seemed like nearly everything was behind one barrier to access or another, except for Auditorium Shores. Again, though, maybe I’m just getting older and grumpier.