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Five Things at SXSW 11

By March 17, 2011 One Comment

SXSW LogoI want to add my South by Southwest (SXSW) recap to the countless blog posts already out there with five things that captured my imagination at this year’s conference. Needless to say, these are things that I’m already very interested in, so we sort of found each other this year. In no particular order:

data Our nation’s very own Department of Health and Human Services Chief Technical Officer, Todd Park, rocked everybody’s world on Sunday by hipping us all to the fact that just under a jillion Government data sets are accessible to developers through the website:  http://www.data.gov/health. What I loved about Todd’s panel the most was his energy. Very inspiring. He really drove the point home that all of this data being unlocked has already been paid for by the taxpayer, is already available to the taxpayer, and is now actually accessible to everyone to use in their innovations. Score.

search One group that I was really interested to talk with was the crew at Blekko… mainly due to Marshall Kirkpatrick’s review of the service. I wasn’t disappointed. The idea is that anybody can create and curate their own search engine of sites that they trust around a given topic. The mechanism for doing so is called a “slashtag,” which looks like this: /mentalhealth. So let’s say that you knew what the 50-100 best sites were on a given health topic. You could easily create and curate a slashtag around that topic so that people could search for answers to their questions among ONLY those sites. In my case, it would be helpful to amass the top psychiatrist blogs, and perform a search against them around technology, in order to find out who I should know. If I created a Blekko slashtag called: /psychbloggers, then what I’d type in the search box would be: technology /psychbloggers and I’d ONLY see results from the sites in the slashtag. I happened to run into Ed Bennett in between sessions and chatted about the idea with him. It turns out that he is already all over it, and is advising Blekko on the topic with regards to health. So good times, there. 

visualization A colleague told me about Tableau Public prior to SXSW, so I was pumped to meet a member of the team on the showroom floor. Tableau Public allows anybody to create rich visualizations from data sets and share them publicly. This could have big implications for health, with all the data that is already available and as an increasing number of data becomes available. On another note, I was also pleasantly surprised to rediscover mapquest, of all services. They have a clean new look and have reinvented themselves in a way that I think could work. I really like the approach their taking to crowd source mapping, and am excited to tool around with the service.  

people This was my second consecutive SXSW and I learned last year, that the best reason to come is to meet and rub elbows with people in the trenches, like me. I racked up a stack of business cards and hope to engage with everyone I met in a meaningful way over the coming months. It was also great to catch up with Twitter friends in real life. Hanging with the people who roll out to SXSW is definitely worth the price of admission in and of itself.

@mindofandre, @hallicious, @danamlewis at PF Changs

@mindofandre, @hallicious, @danamlewis


sustenance Being that this year’s interactive conference had 20,000 attendees and was spread out throughout the city of Austin – two mile walks aplenty… I also discovered that one can live off of street pizza and Gatorade alone for up to 72 hours, in case of emergency. Although I wouldn’t recommend it, I found that it is possible to utilize this combo in order to keep pace with the lightning speed required to keep up with everything going on over a three day span.

That’s my take. See you there next year.

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