SxSWi Conference Highlights

Here’s a list of some of my favorite things from SxSW:

Kicking it with the Wakoopa guys who I shared a room with. Nice to hang around with a Dutch crew and some crazy stuff happening in the nights.

It was very interesting to see how people would behave in an environment with adequate bandwidth and Twitter saturation. As noted in tweets the immediacy of social interaction with your social subset, the people aimlessly wandering the corridors absorbed by their mobile displays and the HUGE backchannel were just symptoms of more to come.
For us Europeans attending an event such as this without a data plan is somewhat annoying. After leaving the convention center, war walking will only get you so far.
Also the realization that you don’t need a laptop or a DSLR (thanks Derek!) to enjoy a conference was a golden one. An iPhone, a charger and a small notebook will do just fine and won’t wear you down as much. Most of the time you’ll be busy talking to people at parties, walking around or eating, which does not require you to lug a complete digital office with you.

Steven Berlin Johnson‘s talk on the Ecosystem of News (text) should not be missed. He painted a picture how the developments which look so bad for newspapers are actually good for news and journalism as a whole leading to a much richer and much more diverse ecosystem.

I almost missed the joint session by Jon Gruber and Merlin Mann but a quick tweet got me in the room shortly after it’d started. These are my favorite two bloggers and having them speak on the old theme of how to be yourself and do cool stuff was a lot of fun even if they’re both dicks (by their own admission).

Daddy's

The food all around Austin (more on it later) was great. I caught some burgers with the guys from Mangrove at Daddy’s which is a combined sports bar / burger joint and it was as awesome as a typical American experience can be.

The New Think for Old Publishers panel was odd in that the publishers did not do any of the new thinking but sollicited the panel for ways to go forward with their industry. Fortunately it had Clay Shirky on who’s usually right about stuff. I got to ask a question to the panel (on a Spotify-like service for books more on which later) which was well received by the audience and by Mr. Shirky (which was pretty damn cool!).
They handed out copies of “Here Comes Everybody” which I hadn’t bought yet for som reason or other. I started reading it in the plane and it is as good as everybody says it is. Compulsory reading for everybody who thinks they’re doing stuff on the internet.

The Fray Cafe 9 at the Red Eyed Fly was a very cool podium live speaking event where some awesome speakers told their true stories. I don’t know exactly where or when the recording will become available but definitely recommended.

Of the parties around the event the Facebook party was one of the best. The two DJs they had spinning were very good and got the dance floor filled up and moving. Nice after that was drinking a bottle of vodka at our afterparty in the Hilton lobby.

There also was a Django lunch which is usually nice but it was extra interesting to meetup with a couple of guys from Sunlight Labs who are pioneering a lot of very interesting open government stuff in the USA.

Hearing Bruce Sterling talk makes his rambling essays a lot more bearable. He gave a very unadulterated piece of his techno-nostalgic cynical mind with some interesting perspectives on the future.

The Designing Change in America talk with the design team who did the Obama campaign was fantastic with a lot of interesting stories from inside the campaign and its break neck pace.

At the SxSWi closing party there was a mechanical bull and not being from America I of course could not resist the chance of riding it (movie). As they say, when in Texas…

Polvos

No visit to Texas would be complete without some Tex Mex. Being fed up with the conference scene offerings I caught a cab and headed to Polvo’s on South 1st. I’d heard a lot of good things about it and it turned out to be a very nice place for Mexican food. I don’t get why people at SxSWi wait in line for the places near the convention center instead of rounding up some people and catching a cab.
On the last day I took the Wakoopa crew out for some good Tacos at Torchy’s Tacos on a recommendation from Nikhil of Turn2Live. I love the abundant availability of Mexican food in this part of America and it always makes leaving a painful experience.

Torchy'S Tacos

The last night we were in Austin I magically found a group of Dutchies and we walked up 6th and Red River a bit randomly sampling bands in the cafes. The music festival hadn’t really started yet but still there were a lot of very cool bands (punk / speedrock) playing. The next day walking a bit along 6th during noon they were just building up and it already was really busy. Maybe next year I’ll stay a couple of extra days to see more bands.

Band

And of course all the other people I met who are too numerous to list here. That is the real charm of the conference, the number of people I’ve just met randomly because they’re all there, has been staggering and is the real value of this event.

De NS spant het paard achter de trein

Een redelijk zachte review van de nieuwe NS-applicatie op Marketingfacts (ook Tweakers).

Reisinformatie ‘nieuwe stijl’ is ook maar een woord om te verhullen dat de manier van informatie aanbieden die de NS hanteert jaren achterloopt en dat ze zelfs actief mensen die zelf dit niveau proberen op te schroeven zoals Trein.app het verhinderen.

De reis app die door de NS uitgebracht is werkt op Java wat mobiel niet het handigste platform is en waar ook niet de interessantste gebruikers zich bevinden. Versies voor iPhone en anderen schijnen nog te komen, maar deze versie heeft al een jaar op zich laten wachten, dus wanneer is erg onduidelijk.

Wat hadden ze dan moeten doen?

Het wil de NS en de andere vervoersaanbieders in Nederland niet aan hun hoofd dat hun core business het vervoeren van mensen is en dat het essentieel is dat de informatie over hun vervoersmiddelen zo wijd en vrij mogelijk beschikbaar is.

Mensen willen waarschijnlijk op ontzettend veel verschillende manieren vervoersinformatie tot zich nemen. Teveel om aan één aanbieder over te laten. Er zijn genoeg mensen die iets kunnen maken, maar het niet makkelijk beschikbaar zijn van de gegevens maakt het te kostbaar en ingewikkeld om aan de slag te gaan.

Als de NS de actuele treintijden en routes vrij zou geven via een API dan zouden de kosten voor andere ontwikkelaars om ermee aan de slag te gaan sterk worden teruggebracht en denk ik dat er een bloei aan interessante applicaties zou ontstaan. In zo’n situatie zouden er wel afspraken gemaakt moeten worden gemaakt in een gebruiksovereenkomst, maar de hoeveelheid controle die de NS op dit moment wil uitoefenen is onrealistisch en contra-productief.

Reisinformatie

9292ov heeft pas iets slimmer maar nog steeds bijzonder kortzichtig een wedstrijd uitgeschreven waar studenten een reisapplicatie kunnen maken. Deelnemers doen wel afstand van al hun rechten (!) en er is hier ook geen publieke databron beschikbaar.

De noodzaak voor publieke data heb ik hierboven al beschreven en een volwassen reisapplicatie vereist een toegewijd team dat eraan blijft werken, niet een situatie waar deze overgedragen wordt aan een andere partij die de capaciteiten mist (want waarom anders die wedstrijd uitgeschreven?).

Usability

Uit de review van Raimo maak ik op dat deze applicatie ook weer nodeloos ingewikkeld is. Waar Trein.app ook de mist in gaat is het dynamisch reisplannen. In veel gevallen is mijn reis nogal flexibel: ik wil op een gegeven moment ‘s avonds weer terug naar Delft maar ik weet niet wanneer. Ik weet dus waar ik heen wil en de applicatie weet al waar ik ben en kan beschikken over een actueel reisschema.

De enige vraag die er voor een gebruiker dan toe zou moeten doen als je de applicatie opstart is: “Waar wil je naar toe?” daarna moet de applicatie me laten zien wat mijn opties zijn. Dit is het simpelste geval wat opgelost moet worden, de rest is extra.

Update: Ik was net op Radio Online waar ik beknopt pleitte voor het vrijgeven van de vervoersgegevens. In het voorbereidende gesprek met Tonie vonden we het al frappant dat bijvoorbeeld Tunesië en Egypte betere Google Transit dekking hebben dan Nederland.

Away from office

Ik ben even een weekje naar Austin voor een woestijn-retraite met vakgenoten.

Update: SxSW is met gemak één van de beste algemene events waar ik geweest ben. De hoeveelheid en in sommige gevallen kwaliteit van de sessies dragen daaraan bij, maar nog veel belangrijker is de concentratie van mensen die hier aanwezig is.
Er is een absurde hoge concentratie hier van mensen die werken in ons vakgebied, dit maakt spontane en geplande ontmoetingen erg waarschijnlijk en is de voornaamste reden om hierheen te komen (het is toch niet mogelijk om alle sessies te zien en ze worden ook opgenomen en binnenkort online gezet).
Absolute aanrader dus als je Engels kunt en zelfredzaam bent. We zijn nu al met een recordaantal Nederlanders hier maar ik denk dat dat aantal nog een paar keer moet verdubbelen.

Adjustments

Freshly one day back in from San Francisco some adjustments need to be made. The time difference has been reduced from 9 hours to 8 thanks to our splendidly European invention: DST. Along with the time difference there is also a slight difference in daylight and a large difference in temperature (15º centigrade) and precipitation (nearly non-stop rain the past day).

Last view

Adjusting to the superficials will be easy enough, but as after every big trip and after having seem some truly splendid natural and metropolitan vistas, adjusting the mind to a realignment of the world brought about by new experience will be somewhat more difficult.

San Francisco

I’ve always wanted to go there and tomorrow I’m finally going. Some vague plans, tads of serendipity and friends pushing me over the edge were enough to have me book the ticket, I think, only three weeks ago. Tomorrow Lufthansa will take me over an ocean for the first time of my life.

Halfway during the trip there’s a four day capoeira event celebrating Mestre Acordeon‘s fiftieth year of teaching capoeira with a Brazilian festival in Berkeley on Saturday. I’ll also try to get some surfing in and see if I can visit the local tech hubs and meet some people, so it’s not purely a holiday.

If this wasn’t enough to stress me out, today my laptop decided to not boot anymore. So I spent most of the day panicing and restoring a backup, after which everything seems to work again but no clue for how long. Maybe I should try to sneak a new Macbook past customs on my way back.

Take care, I’ll be back the 27th.

Daily life in София

It’s nice to have friends who are pushing their bounds photographically to try and improve their skill and to see them improve leaps and bounds as a result of that.

One such friend is Mony and during his yearly holiday to Bulgaria he has produced a very nice set of street photography out of Sofia:

Picture by Mony Nedkov from the set Sofia.

For me it’s of particular interest to see pictures of a city neighboring my love Istanbul. I have just this one picture I would call a good street photography shot. The effort it takes to get even halfway decent shots is staggering.

On a different photograpic note, I’ve brought away the 120 film I shot this weekend for development. I hope the repairs on my Yashica worked out and the pictures are in focus. Shooting manual metered medium format film is a very different experience and pace than I’m used to from my 350D and something I could very well get used to. The digital set is still being edited and should go (partly) up tonight.