Guy Kawasaki with Vic Gundotra on search and the future of G+ Vic holds a pretty lofty title - head of search at Google - and he didn'...

SXSW Day 3 - Star Trek computers, Rebecca Black and the beauty of serendipity


Guy Kawasaki with Vic Gundotra on search and the future of G+

Vic holds a pretty lofty title - head of search at Google - and he didn't disappoint. His passion for the subject was self evident and he displayed a very human face in contrast to the supposedly 'evil' organisation.

He talked about how much search has evolved and the importance of relevance, implications of mobile, effect of G+. The ambition he frequently referred to was the ambition to create the ultimate Star Trek computer, all knowing and highly responsive. In terms of what the future olds he cited speech recognition, natural language alignment and knowledge craft and promised that his 100% focus was to work for the customer and focus on their desires to create success in search.

Contagious Content - why do things catch on?

In a packed room, Wharton Business School's Jonah Berger shared some great insights based on the 10-year research he conducted on why a product, a video, or an idea becomes more infectious. The key conclusions he covered were: - INFLUENCERS ARE NOT THE ANSWER - even though they might help create awareness they are not very effective at making things go viral. He asserted that contagious content spreads regardless of who is doing the talking, therefore think of not focusing too much on the messenger but think rather on the message. - MENTAL TRIGGERS - Ever wondered why Rebecca Black went annoyingly viral? Because every Friday people still search YouTube for the video. Due to a mental trigger, stimuli that remind people of products and ideas prompt them to think about related things. Designing products and campaigns that are frequently triggered by the environment is key.

- SOCIAL CURRENCY Most people don't share stuff because they think it would reflect badly on them or make them seem dull, dumb or boring. Word-of-mouth has become a tool for us to make a good impression. Sharing has become a social currency, so think about how you can give people a way to make themselves look entertaining, clever and hip while promoting your products along the way.

Nate Silver - The signal and the noise

Silver’s speech at SXSW focused on how data analysis needs to be used in a way that is actaully beneficial to the world and not just for predicting election outcomes or winning fantasy baseball leagues. It’s a challgenge far greater than we even realise, though, as Silver pointed out, and in many ways data is working against us. The more widely information is proliferated, the more conflict ensues, which both Silver’s numbers and history prove. He pointed out that after the printing press was invented in 1450 and literature became readily available, the 1500s were Europe’s bloodiest and most war-torn century. For a more recent example, Silver pointed out how Republicans and Democrats are farther apart than ever before. According the his metrics, the vast divergence began to take shape in earnest 30 years ago, right around the time when CNN was founded. The split widened further in the early ’00s, when Fox News and MSNBC started to gain popularity. His conclusion was perhaps most telling - it is more about attitudes not analysis and whatever you do, don't exaggerate.

Serendipity and Technology - Creating luck

The highlight of my SXSWi2013 was a panel session about serendipity featuring an eclectic mix from an MIT Director to a songwriter for the Grateful Dead. The subject was broad but the conversation very focused on how you take an idea from conception to making it happen and in particular how you make it interesting and successful. The line "Serendipity lives at the edge of the network" summed it up for me - in essence successful people have lots of loose ties with people who are not like them and that encourages debate, consideration and innovation. They concluded that serendipity needs creativity, enthusiasm and opportunity and we need to adopt a beginners' mind and lose the jaded nature we automatically develop over time. John Perry Barlow quoted Marcel Proust: ”The journey of discovery lies not in new vistas, but in having new eyes." So don't be selfish, don't plan your whole life, but instead put yourself in the best positions and be confident and enthusiastic at all times. Wise words indeed....

SXSW is not just about Interactive, it's also a film and music festival this means that every night the bars also feature a huge array of live music - the British Embassy set up by UKTI for the event was no exception and we were lucky enough to see Skinny Lister - a kind of Pogues / Mumford cross over and hugely entertaining and fun.

We finished the evening at the Goodby, Silverstein and partners party at The Driskill (the oldest and grandest hotel in Austin) - it was packed with young agency types - the entrance hall says a lot about the agency with the partners all displayed as below...go figure, as the Americans say...

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