5 Big Takeaways from SXSW 2010 (And 5 Cool Web sites)

I wrote about my general impressions of this year’s SXSW Interactive (hey, people are pretty cool!) and posted recaps of some of my favorite sessions. To finish off my 2010 SXSW blogging, here are my 5 big takeaways. They’re all pretty common sense, but they are themes that kept popping up, and I’m happy to have the reminder.

People need understanding and connection, not just information.
If all you’re doing is blasting your community with content, you–and your audience–are missing out. Both the Future of Context and How to Spark a Movement panels beautifully explained this point. Help someone truly undersand something, connect your community members with each other and unite people around a common mission. That’s when the magic starts to happen.

Think Visually
Three of the best sessions were about this. Dan Roam’s Why Words Won’t Work explained that we’re all visual thinkers, and pictures are key to solving problems. Interactive Infographics showed off how data can come to life if the visualization is done well. And they pointed out that infographics have gone mainsream: How I Met Your Mother uses them regularly (Marshall even needed a charts and graphs intervention because he was using them so frequently) and comedians like Demetri Martin use visualiztions in stand-up. In other words, infographics are cool.

And Visual Note-Taking 101 was the perfect primer and call to action for all of us budding artists.

Stories are powerful
Storytelling, experiences, journey, quest – whatever label you use, a narrative arc is going to resonate with people. A panel about enhancing the museum experience asked “What’s the epic win for your user?” In Narrating the Crowd, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and his brother showed off their project, The Kahani Movement, which is capturing the history of Indian-American immigrants by asking people to record their own family’s stories. “Ordinary people have extraordinary stories to share,” they said.

Stories help us remember information. In his Perfectly Irrational presentation, Stanford prof Dan Ariely explained how we are motivated by short-term rewards by telling the story of how he treated himself to a movie day every time he gave himself a painful injection he needed to treat his liver disease. That kept him on track and made sure he got his medicine. I”ll never forget that story, and as a result, that lesson will stay with me.

Open Up
NASA has embraced President Obama’s call to government agencies to become more transparent, and as a result this massive, aging organizations is connecting with new fans in a way that hasn’t been seen in a long time. All of their content is in the public domain, which means anyone can participate in space research and exploration.

View more presentations from Nick Skytland.

Embrace Contradiction
You can be a cool science museum, an open bureaucracy, a warm-hearted business person, a funny girl, a designer who fights malnutrition. In fact those apparent contradictions are often where we find the most interesting people and projects.

Bonus – 5 Cool Web sites
Each of these was mentioned in a SXSW talk. Click and explore!

Apture.com – add contextual multimedia content to any site
www.Walking-papers.org – print maps, add notes and scan them back to share with others
www.Futureofcontext.com and www.explainthis.org -making online journalism more relevant
http://www.data.gov/ – more data than you could ever ask for

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I write what I know (and love). Mostly higher education, writing and public relations.