It’s my first SXSW and I’ve kept off the laptop so that I can devote as much attention as possible to what’s going on in the sessions, conversations, and parties in between. I have been taking notes and for the benefit of readers (and just in case I misplace my notebook) I’ll dump them here in the next few posts.

Online Publishers & Ad Networks

Cody Simms (Yahoo!) points to very informative research report from Morgan Stanley. Direct Mail still a jaw-dropping 25% of the total advertising budget for the US.

Larry Allen (Tacoda) – Advertisers consider anything with comments as “user generated content” and are wary about having their messages appearing alongside anything they cannot vet in advance.

It bears watching how this view will impact advertising revenues alongside the recently launched USA Today redesign. Learned on the Trade Show floor that these comments are powered by the Pluck SiteLife product which has a broad agreement with the Gannett chain to power all their papers so I’m sure they are watching this closely too.

Bridging the Online Cultural Divide

People are using the web to either build a false persona or exaggerate an existing tendency. Like drunkards at a loud party, people take controversial things to get attention and traffic to their site. Add crude methods of monetization that are a derivative of your traffic and it only makes the problem worse.

Arguments online are often two dimensional where as in the face-to-face world they are more nuanced. The analog to this is modern politics where democracy boils down the candidate race to a yes/no vote – there is no room for grey and that is what polarizes us, pushing out more thoughtful discussion.

Under 18: Blogs, Wikis, and Online Social Networks for Youth

danah boyd – everything is moving towards mobile but you need cluster effects to really get things going. There is no such thing as a concept of “net neutrality” in the mobile world and the US carriers are just standing in the way.

The room erupted in spontaneous applause.

Kathy Sierra Opening Remarks

All apps have a Asperger’s Syndrome.  They cannot pick up on visual queues from their users such as when someone is angry, frustrated, or confused. If a user has these reactions to software, they quickly fall below the suck threshold.

Successful apps quickly push someone beyond the suck threshold and up beyond the passion threshold to a zone where users realize that they enjoy using an app because it helps them do things that have an impact in the offline world.

To prevent users from falling into the “canyon of pain” why not provide a WTF button. Allow users to tell you when they are lost and at wits end. Help and FAQs are for more reasoned times, it’s the happy tech support with the clipboard. A WTF situation is more dire, a time when you need to open with a “Don’t Panic” and speak to the user in a language they understand. Provide links to sections written in a conversational tone – user testing and feedback emails are a good source of the questions you need to answer.

There are two levels upon which a user can enjoy a product. High and Low resolution. A wine critic enjoys the, “subtle hints of tannin” in a fine bordeaux. A low resolution user (she used an example of Robert Scoble) enjoys the one-bit choice between red and white wine.

Web Hacks, Good or Evil

Kent Brewster (Yahoo!) showed off a number of simple hacks with links to how it was done. Badger will take the JSON output of any Yahoo! Pipes feed and turn it into a simple linkroll which you can put on your page. In such a world where information becomes ubiquitous and readily mashable, the only thing of value is attention. It is less a world where finding the information is the problem but more a world where efficient presentation is the key.

Pay Up! Should Publishers Choose the Porn Path?

The affiliate model is where the real money is made in the porn industry. The selling of subscriptions to “networks” of affiliated sites is the most advanced of these models. Mainstream media is only just now starting to catch on.  The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Economist, MIT Technology Review are available as a “conglomerated membership” for a single price. (I would argue that services such as Factiva and Nexis have been offering this type of access for years).

Another model is where a mother site (i.e., NSFW) offers tools such as hosted galleries, pic of the day, and integrated RSS feeds so that affiliates can customize their own site and start feeding leads with a minimum of effort.

John Halcyon Styn on value – in the pre-internet days, “porn was more valuable than gold.” Now that it is readily available, the value comes from features such as interactivity and privileged access.

On design all panelists agreed that, for porn sites, the temptation for slick design should be suppressed.  Think of the audience. They want to find something “dirty” or “raw.” One panelist told the story of a non-profit that had their site refreshed and then saw their donations go down because their donors felt that if they had enough money for a smart looking website, they didn’t need their donations.

Mapping: Where the F#*% Are We Now?

Currently, mapping applications feed simple location data to your device. In the future, they will be able to layer additional metadata to provide a rich interaction. With GPS enabled, a mapping application can set up a two-way dialog with your mobile device.

Imagine a world where, when walking from one neighborhood to the next, the mapping application polls a crime statistics database and, upon entering a high-crime neighborhood, a heat device makes the back of your neck hotter.