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First reactions to SXSWi

Last week, I attended Austin’s South by Southwest: Interactive (SXSWi), an event that has quickly grown to become one of the largest gatherings of programmers, technologists, social media gurus, and geeks of all other stripes. The result is a diverse menu of hundreds of panels, presentations, and keynotes on an extremely broad array of topics.

Due to this wide breadth, I’ll go through a list of just a few of the topics that we are excited about from the perspective of the Voting Information Project as well as broader public policy applications:

  • SCVNGR (pronounced “Scavenger”) founder Seth Priebatsch gave my favorite keynote on the infusion of what he calls “game dynamics” into everyday life through technology. SCVNGR is a check-in service akin to Foursquare or Gowalla, but adds gaming components to allow visitors to complete challenges to unlock prizes when at a specific location. Thinking about this in the context of VIP, we would love to work with SCVNGR to allow voters to check-in and add a fun dynamic to the polling place… What better way to spend time waiting in line to vote?!
  • GeoTemporalViz is a great site that demonstrates the power of overlaying geographic/GIS information with time. We’d love to see something on here akin to Jess3/Foursquare’s project to map check-ins at polling places using VIP data (which also got a few SXSWi shout-outs) that adds temporal components.
  • is another great site that displays great data visualization work, something we love!
  • Gary Vaynerchuk (of WLTV, Vaynermedia, and Crush It fame), one of my favorite social media gurus, gave a presentation on his new book, “Thank You Economy”, and discussed his belief that organizations, through social media, will soon be personified. This is definitely something to consider for non-profit projects like VIP, that could use social media outreach to promote their services through tools like Facebook and Twitter by directly interacting with those they serve.

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