SXSW Day 4

2014 SXSW InteractiveIt’s been a bit hard to find clear trends, or brand new things, here at South by South West. It’s been more about refining things we already now and a lot of areas are maturing more and more. For example; wearables, 3D printers, the maker culture, connected cars and so on isn’t really new but are discussed a lot. We’ve known about it for quite some time now, but people starts to get a better understanding on how to relate to all this.

However, one area that is getting a lot of attention is personal privacy and what happens when everything is online. Lots of sessions talks about consequences of big data, meta data, data from devices (related to Internet of things), owning your data, mass surveillance and so on.

This area obviously got a lot of attention on day four, having two main sessions on Edward Snowden. Starting of with Snowden 2.0: A Field Report from the NSA Archives with Barton Gellman who is one of three journalists having direct contact with Snowden. A really interesting talk enlighten the enormous impact of PRISM and other massive data collection initiatives have on personal privacy. Nice to see a journalists that actually understand the technical stuff going on here and is able to share it with a wide audience. Now it’s not just the tin foil hats that starts to understand what this is all about.

Next up was a streamed live interview with Edward Snowdem himself, A Virtual Conversation with Edward Snowden. I wasn’t sure they would actually pull this off, but with heavily encrypted lines through seven proxy servers, they managed to get video streamed interview with him, though the frame rate was like 1 fps. The main problem today is that reasonable secure tools, such as PGP, are far too complicated for regular users. There may be many views of Snowdens actions, but he’s certainly made both people and companies aware of the problem of misusing mass surveillance data and we’re seeing more and more services being encrypted by default. But there’s still a long way to go.

During the two sessions, a not so well known issue was highlighted, that NSA partnered with global companies to deliberately put weaknesses in security applications and weakened random number generation in common used encryption algorithms, in order to “pass government approval”. When widely used algorithms, TPM-chips etc are compromised, you cannot trust anything being really secure. They might have thought mass surveillance was to be a good idea, but in reality it didn’t work.

Snowden argues that there is really no way to hide from NSA if you’re a target, but if we learn how to leverage from encryption, and the tools become easy to use, breaking the encryption would be too costly and of no value for mass surveillance. Unfortunatly it seems like we need whistleblowes, such as Snowden, for big companies to get it, and have theirdata and connections be secure and encrypted. What do we need to do in order to ensure all other companies follows? A more in depth interview summary is here.

Moving on to some trend spotting. There’s a lot of buzz about wearables, but finally I saw something new. Smartphone connected illuminated T-shirts that is made of soft cloth, is washable etc as any other textile. No circuit boards here! Those are still hand made and very costly, but they’ll soon be affordable. Trend spotters are also talking a lot about google glasses, having sensors everywhere, especially in the sports area, where we’ll be able to monitor heart rates, speeds etc of athletes. Some argues that sensors in our clothes will soon solve a lot of health care issues as well. A lot of focus is also on autonomous cars and what we’ll have on the journey getting there, such as the car knowing where your heading and so on. But of course privacy comes into play here as well.

SXSW Day 3

2014 SXSW InteractiveAnother great day at South by South West! Todays schedule started a bit later, and apparently we’ve change daylight saving as well. Didn’t know that until in the afternoon. Phone and computer doing its job 😉

My plan for today was to just stick around the major session halls in the Austin Conference Center, trying to find good speakers in favour of subject. So I found myself mostly in the large main keynote session hall listening to whatever was presented there. This turned out to be a really good move.

Dean Kamen Robotic "Luke" armDean Kamen, best known for inventing the Segway, held the first session. He also showed his robotic “Luke” arm and his projects on creating drinking water and electricity for developing countries. A lot of focus got to his FIRST project, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, to inspire students at all ages through sports.

Next up was Stephen Wolfram on Injecting Computation Everywhere. He’s the creator of the Mathematica computation system. He showed live demos of the awesome Wolfram language, connecting linguistic analysis with real world data with mathematical and logical operations resulting in amazing small pieces of applications that he deployed to live cloud API’s. Watch out for the upcoming Wolfram Programming Cloud and try out the website. Try it out and ask questions, such as “Where is ISS”, “Height of Petronas tower”, “sunrise to sunset in gothenburg”, “Cities in Sweden by population”.

Todays keynote The Future of Genetics in Our Everyday Lives with Anne Wojcicki, founder of 23andMe, gave a little more insights on US health care and the forces driving patient treatment in favour of preventive health services.

Wrapping up todays sessions with a portion of Wearables & Beyond With Shaq, hosted by Rick Valencia and Shaquille O’Neal. Sorry guys, putting an ex-baseball & rap star on the scene won’t compensate for lack of content.

ExoskelettonToday was also the opening of the SXSW Trade show with a whole bunch of exhibitors. A bit too much to grasp in an hour, but an exoskeleton, an interactive billiard table, small satellites, vinyl engraver and scanning post-it notes into Evernote caught my attention. Thanks Sitecore for the power bank charger! Invaluable these days.

SXSW Day 2

2014 SXSW InteractiveI took a dev track on day two of SXSW, starting of with Star Trek UX | UI Rules for phones, tablets and TVs. The idea was to take the simplicity of Star Trek UI into regular UI, such as plain graphical elements, leverage from voice commands and audio, leverage from large screens and keep things simple.

Next up De-Suckifying Third-Party JavaScript with Kent Brewster on how to ship widgets that will run on other web sites. Among things, he’s been working a lot on the Pinterest API. Key take away: Be very careful when building this kind of stuff or you’ll break others websites and host your code on github or equivalent. As a user of this stuff, you’ll have to trust the author, so select widgets with care. Consider self hosting. Kent’s presentation is here (navigate with arrows).

Next up was CSS Pre-Processor Myths with Ramon Lapenta. I’m happy to see his survey that the majority of developers (~80%) in Europe leverages from such tools. Strange it’s almost the other way around in America. To summarise, do use it!

Then I took a short trip to the SXSW Gaming Expo and SXSW Create. Nice to see all these creative kids playing around with 3D-printers building hexacopters, sewing E-textiles and creating all sorts of cool stuff. I also had the time to say hi to the nice guys at Sparkfun and check out a laser cutter. The Gaming Expo on the other hand, unfortunately, wasn’t worth the ten minutes I waisted there.

Instead I headed back to the keynote conversation with Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson. A really entertaining speech about education and inspiring people to learn stuff.

Continuing my dev track, I went to Jeremiah Lee Cohick great speech, full of energy, on Design Patterns Beyond REST. He summarised all the things we developers always should do, but sometimes finds excuses not to. One of my favourites was developers complaining about it’s hard to make an API do this and that… “Well, I don’t care if it’s hard for you. Solve it, and make it easy for all others that’s gonna use it!”. Jeremiah argues that API’s should be simple, descriptive and intuitive, so they are simple to understand, debug etc, and I couldn’t agree more. My favourite quote: “The secret to machines talking to machines is to speak human first”.

Jeremiah’s and Kent’s sessions was by far the best dev sessions today! Thank’s! The others wasn’t really up to the level I expected unfortunately.

What could be better than wrapping up a long day with a panel discussion about cats on the Internet.

SXSW Day 1

2014 SXSW InteractiveFirst day at SXSW, Austin TX, was a great start of a fantastic event. My day started quite nice an slow, with the some queueing and light sessions about UI design and Digital Disruption – The Next Wave of Innovation.

Then on to a bit more comprehensive session about the Lego eco system and their fans. This session talked about the fine edge of controlling a brand and use your fan base, without having a huge mob turning against you. A really good discussion about how grown up Lego fans improve the brand, but stil kept on a level where it applies to virtually any brand.

Then on to todays keynote with Austin Kleon and his new book “Show your work!”. A great speech starting off with Picasso, Vampires and Human spam. There are no geniuses, only sceniuses. “Shut up and listen” to people, credit people and their work, share your work and make relevant connection and you’ll succeed.

Then on to a short but interesting session about “Designing Smart Objects for Emotional People”, talking about how our machines can sense our feelings, through eye tracking, touch, breath, speech etc.

Best session today was the panel discussion about “The Future of Making” with Joi Ito from MIT and Tim Brown from IDEO. A wonderful mix of design tools, gigant 3D printers, biochemistry, self building structures, custom fabrication etc, discussed from both the individual and global perspective with a nice meta perspective touch. Just awesome!