Amy Webb is the CEO of Webbmedia Group, an award-winning digital strategy and ideas agency that advises Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies, media organizations, foundations, governments, universities and other groups around the world. Her book about how she gamed online dating using data analytics is due out spring 2013.
This week kicks off the 26th anniversary of SXSW, a two-week festival celebrating the best in film, music, technology, journalism and publishing. Every year, we wade through the conference lineup -- more than 500 sessions -- and select must-see speakers, screenings, workshops and panels.
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Why does SXSW matter? It's not just about the insane parties and live-action Angry Birds games. It's an important timeframe, during which major products launch, emerging brands get early exposure and relative unknowns in the tech space suddenly find themselves in a very bright spotlight.
Southby is a frenetic, exciting, exhausting week. Whether this is your first or 15th year, it pays to have a plan of attack before you arrive in Austin. And for those of you tuning in from home, determine which sessions to follow via Twitter, livestream and Facebook.
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Below is our list of must-attend SXSW talks and panels. We took into consideration the speakers, the likelihood that you'll learn something new, and the opportunity for engagement and information. Let us know your picks in the comments section below -- and save time to enjoy some Texas BBQ!
FRIDAY Time: 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. What: Fireside Chat with Guy Kawasaki and Vic Gundotra Who: (see above) Where: Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D Why: The focus of this talk will be strictly Google+, lessons learned, growth strategies, challenges, etc. If there’s a Q&A (here's hoping), it should be fantastic -- and probably heated.
Time: 5 p.m. - 6 p.m. What: MIT Media Lab: Making Connections Who: Andy Bardagjy, Catherine Havasi, Joichi Ito, Yadid Ayzenberg, Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye Where: Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon FG Why: The folks at the Media Lab are doing some of the best work in information and communications technology. In this session, they’ll talk about connecting people and technology -- should be fascinating.
SATURDAY Time: 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. What: I Used Data Analytics to Game Online Dating Who: Amy Webb Where: Driskill Hotel, Driskill Ballroom Why: This year, Amy will tell the story of how she met her husband. She used data analytics, SEO techniques and a whole bunch of spreadsheets to study the behaviors of online daters. In this session, she’ll detail how she gamed online dating, and what that means for anyone trying to land a committed relationship with their users.
Time: 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. What: A Penny Press For the Digital Age Who: Fiona Morgan, Jessamyn West, Norberto Santana Jr, Ryan Thornburg, Tom Stites Where: Sheraton Austin, Capitol ABCD Why: This session will talk about journalism as a public good, and the speakers will all present terrific case studies and ideas.
Time: 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. What: Does Your Product Have a Plot? Who: David Womack Where: Austin Convention Center, Ballroom BC Why: This should be a compelling session about storytelling and narrative through the perspective of a creative director. Recommended for journalists, marketers, product developers and others working in the digital space.
Time: 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. What: The Curators and the Curated Who: David Carr, Maria Popova, Max Linsky, Mia Quagliarello, Noah Brier Where: Sheraton Austin Capitol ABCD Why: You’ve heard us talk about each one of the folks on this panel at one point or another. They’re smart, engaging and know curation better than anyone else. Learn their methods, the tension between original and curated content, and what makes content curators so magical. We highly recommend this session.
SUNDAY Time: 11 a.m. - 12 p.m. What: Community First: Lessons for Early-Stage Startups Who: Chrysanthe Tenentes, David Noël, Diana Kimball, Ligaya Tichy Where: Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon D Why: Learn it takes to achieve startup success from folks who’ve all been involved in early-stage startups. They’re promising to share case studies and lots of inside scoops about the companies with which they’ve worked.
Time: 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. What: Design. Build. Transform. Who: Emily Pilloton Where: Austin Convention Center, Ballroom EF Why: A talented speaker, Emily will tell the story of how a high school classroom constructed a full-scale piece of architecture in its hometown.
Time: 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. What: Open Web; Open News: Reporters & Developers Remix Who: Andrew Leimdorfer, Dan Sinker, Emily Bell, Mohamed Nanabhay Where: Sheraton Austin, Capitol EFGH Why: As the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership enters its second year, what lessons did it learn? What comprises the best collaborations? How can we get journalists working better with technologists? Dan and Emily are terrific speakers and brilliant thinkers.
Time: 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. What: Fulbright: How the First Social Network Adapts to Social Media Who: Doug Mitchell, Katie Day Good, Megan Neff, Vijay Renganathan Where: AT&T Conference Hotel, Salon D Why: This is a great chance to learn about how Fullbright intersects with public diplomacy in an era of digital transformation.
Time: 5 p.m. - 6 p.m. What: Austin 2032: Shaping Future Cities with Mobile Data Who: Alexander Howard, Chris Volinsky, Chris Osgood, Eric Paulos Where: Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon H Why: Alex Howard is a fantastic speaker, an expert in matters related to tech and government and a super nice person. He’s put together a brilliant panel to talk about the future of networked cities and mobile data. Should be great.
MONDAY Time: 11 a.m. - 12 p.m. What: Net Smarts: Essential Skills for Thriving Online Who: Howard Rheingold Where: Austin Convention Center, Ballroom EF Why: Howard is a TED speaker and a fascinating cultural observer. He’s releasing a new book at SXSW about our digital literacies and network awareness.
Time: 12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. What: Future of US Cities: Technology in Public Service Who: Abhi Nemani, Chris Vein, John Tolva, Nigel Jacob, Rachel Sterne Where: AT&T Conference Hotel, Salon C Why: This is a dream team panel of smart people, who are working to bring technology into public offices. They’ll show examples from Boston, Chicago and NYC, and will also talk about White House initiatives.
Time: 2 p.m. - 3 p.m. What: Keynote Speech - Expanding Our Intelligence Without Limit Who: Ray Kurzweil, Lev Grossman Where: Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 5 Why: Kurzweil is studying the bleeding-edge of communications and technology. This should be a fascinating conversation about the future.
Time: 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. What: It’s Not News, It’s Business Who: Ann Friedman, Colin Raney, Justin Ferrell, Justin Ellis Where: Sheraton Austin, Capitol ABCD Why: The panel will open a frank discussion about the business side of news, and will talk in detail about creative partnerships, products and business ideas. We’re particularly looking forward to what Ann (GOOD magazine) and Justin (Washington Post) have to say about the news business, what Justin (Nieman J-Lab) says about the tech side of things, and what Tom (IDEO) has to say about product.
TUESDAY Time: 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. What: Vetting in the Age of Social: Who Do You Trust? Who: Alicia Stewart, Michael Pranikoff, Shelli Whitehurst, Tom Miale, Tony Uphoff Where: Sheraton Austin, Capitol ABCD Why: This panel will focus on how content is vetted and what this means for communities. The magnificent Michael Pranikoff has put together a fantastic, diverse panel that should be thought-provoking and entertaining.
Time: 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. What: Reported Aggregation: A Truce in the Content Wars? Who: Clara Jeffery, Nick Baumann Where: Sheraton Austin, Capitol EFGH Why: In the past year, we’ve seen more news curation than ever before. Tools like Storify have helped journalists package content from other networks, to great success. In this panel, Clara and Nick will show a bunch of projects, share best practices and ideas and highlight tools for you to try.
Time: 11 a.m. - 12 p.m. What: Agile Apps: Effective Mobile & Native Development Who: Amanda Wixted, Anne Halsall, Jonah Williams, Kyle Neath Where: Austin Convention Center, Ballroom A Why: This panel will talk specifically about working on native applications and what strategies have worked. This is an advanced session.
Time: 12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. What: What Journalism Can Learn from Science Who: Matt Thompson, Gideon Lichfield Where: Sheraton Austin, Capitol ABCD Why: Gideon and Matt are amazing speakers: thought-provoking, insightful and entertaining. This session should be heady but invigorating. They’ll talk about peer review, data and making journalism better. We promise it will be awesome.
Time: 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. What: Radically Open Cultural Heritage Data of the Web Who: Jon Voss, Julie Allinson, Adrian Stevenson, Rachel Frick Where: Austin Convention Center, Room 10AB Why: These very smart folks will be discussing metadata within the world’s libraries and museums. They’ll discuss how to use linked open data for commercial interests, preservation and more.
Time: 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. What: News Entrepreneurs vs Traditional Journalism Who: Jan Schaffer, Susan Mernit Where: Sheraton Austin, Creekside I & II Why: These two veterans of pro-am journalism have seen the citizen journalism space evolve. They’ll discuss their experiences and points of view on news startups, best practices and lessons learned.
Time: 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. What: Getting the Most Out of Google+ Who: Keri Kandel Where: Hilton Austin Downtown, Room 616AB Why: For those of you interested in Google+ but still not sure about how it can be used, this is a fantastic, practical session. It’s geared for beginners, so you’ll be able to ask how to get the most out of this emerging social network.
Image courtesy of Cory Harbour
This story originally published on Mashable here.