Posts Tagged ‘Austin’

What Is A SXSW Interactive Campus?

February 14, 2011

As someone who knows (and works with*) the organizers for SXSW Interactive, I can tell you that every conversation with them has the same theme: how do we make the conference better for attendees?

This year, one of the ways that they’re going to do this is through campuses.

It’s the evolution of something I noticed last year.  Many of the sessions I attended were around the Business track, and those sessions were mostly in the Hilton and as a result, much of my interaction (meeting new people, seeing old friends) was outside those rooms.

It was nice.  I spent more time talking to people, and less time pulling “West Wing” walk-and-talks, hurrying to the next session.

A lot fewer “ships passing in the night” moments and a lot more interaction.

A campus is a single location where similar programming is held and their goal is to create micro-events at these locations.

Below is a list of the campuses (here’s the full article) and something that they plan to do shortly is put these into the schedule as “themes” (something we at IBM do for our events, but we call them tracks – and it’s always a favorite thing for attendees).

Hope to see you at SXSW this year and keep an eye out for me (which will be easier this year since I’ll be centralized thanks to the campuses).

Friday, March 11 – Tuesday, March 15

Keynotes, Featured and Distinguished Speakers
Book Readings
Meet Ups
Branding / Marketing
Design / Development
Greater Good

Friday, March 11 – Tuesday, March 15

Meet Ups

Friday, March 11 – Tuesday, March 15
Work and Happiness

Friday, March 11 – Tuesday, March 15
Late Break

Friday, March 11 – Tuesday, March 15
The Social Graph

Friday, March 11 – Tuesday, March 15
The Future of Journalism
Saturday, March 12 – Tuesday, March 15

Friday, March 11
Saturday, March 12
Latin America
Sunday, March 13 – Monday, March 14
Monday, March 14
Tuesday, March 15
Special Programming

Saturday, March 12
Special Programming (TBD)
Sunday, March 13 – Monday, March 14
Social Broadcast Track
Special Programming (TBD)
Tuesday, March 15
Special Programming (TBD)

* full disclosure: I am a member of the SXSW Interactive Advisory Board.


The 411 On 311

September 30, 2009

Friday, I had a problem.  And, that problem was attempted murder!

(cue CSI theme song)

In all seriousness, the setup to my problem is as follows: I live on a one-way street.

While driving home from lunch last Friday, I was shocked to see an SUV barreling straight towards me.

As the SUV sped down the wrong way on my one-way street, I kept honking my horn (no reaction from the SUV) as I veered onto a side street and narrowly missed the oncoming car as it sped past me.

Since it was the middle of the day, I threw out the possibility that the driver of the SUV was drunk.

My initial thought, then, was that they somehow missed the one-way signage farther down the street.

After doing a quick inspection, I did indeed notice a tree partially covering one of the many signs.

OK.  So that’s all well and good.  But what do I do with this information?

Well, years ago I read an article in Wired magazine about this thing that Mayor Bloomberg started in New York city; 311 service.

311 is now in most major cities (here is the link to 311 Service In Austin) and one of their uses is that they are an  “information concierge” where citizens can call and speak to someone to help them find the right resources to solve their problem.

On Monday, I dialed 311 and spoke to a representative and told him about my narrow collision with the wrong way SUV and how I thought that one of the one-way signs was partially covered by a tree and that I was looking for “someone” (didn’t know who) to come out and inspect the signs.  The City?  The Police?  I wasn’t sure who does this sort of thing.

He put me on hold for few minutes and came back with some information and told me it would be taken care of and they would contact me and then provided me with a reference number.

Today (Wednesday) I had not heard back from anyone and dialed 311 again.  Since I had the reference number, I gave that to the representative.  While I was a bit upset I didn’t get a call back, I did have that reference number and that made the call pretty easy.  He checked the reference number, checked the status and then assured me someone from the city sign shop (yes, apparently there is such a thing) would call me back later today.

Sure enough, a nice guy from the city sign shop called me back.  He told me they trimmed the tree and also did something else with another one of the signs.

To me, this was pretty awesome news.  It hopefully means that I won’t be seeing any more wrong way drivers and it also makes me happy to know that I was able to make a difference in my neighborhood.  The reality is, my street is pretty dangerous (speeding at 15+ miles over the posted limit and at least one accident a month by my count).  Anything we as a community can do to make it safer, helps.  I’m glad that 311 was able to help out here.

So, I tell you that to tell you this: use 311.  It works.

This Is How You Do It: Frank (Restaurant, Austin), American Express And Apple

September 10, 2009

So, after this whole “Intuit thing,” I got to thinking about companies that provide rapid response and provide value to their consumers.

Companies like that do exist.  They are not “dry land.”

Here are three companies that get it right.

Frank (Restaurant, Austin)

In one of my infrequent visits to downtown, I stopped for dinner at a restaurant called, “Frank”  and since I am in the habit of posting reviews to Yelp, I wrote this the following day and I got an almost immediate response from the owner.

Here’s the thing.  One e-mail from the owner isn’t going to immediately turn me into a rabid Frank fan.

But, a great customer experience with the friendly staff, a good hot dog, a fantastic cold root beer, a rapid and polite response from the owner…I hope you see where I’m going with this – by starting on the right foot and keeping the momentum the sum of all of these things are the building blocks that form the basis of increased loyalty by me (the customer).

I’ve since responded to the owner and plan to go back there the next time I’m downtown.  They have made me a a fan, and I’ve told a bunch of people this story (you included).

American Express (AMEX)

Last year, I purchased a one year software subscription and since then the computer with that subscription is not in use anymore.

This past weekend, I noticed on my AMEX statement that the software company automatically billed $60 to my card for another year of support.

I didn’t even bother trying to figure out how or why the charge got on my statement.  One of the reasons I pay the service fee for an AMEX card is that they have people who do that for me.

I say that and I can tell you that it was pretty much this simple:

  1. I called AMEX.  A nice phone representative asked me a few questions about the charge and politely put me on hold.
  2. He came back about two minutes later and gave me a confirmation code and told me the charge had been removed from my statement.
  3. The end.

I spent five, maybe seven, minutes on the phone from dialing to hanging up.

It is well worth my time to pay the service charge on my AMEX.

What do I mean by that?

Well, when I was a kid, my brother’s car was stolen.  At some point they found his car and it was in an impound lot in Arizona.  He got this letter saying that if he didn’t show up by whatever date, they’d sell it at auction.  So I asked my brother, “When are you going to Arizona?”  He said, “It’s not worth my time?”  I said, “What do you mean by that?”  And my brother, in a way only he could, proceeded to break down the mathematics of the cost of his time, the cost of the car, travel…all the variables involved, and after ten minutes or so of some serious math, I was in full agreement with him.  Not worth his time.

So, five minutes and a service charge is easily a better bargain than having to call up the software company and get into a shouting match with them and then going back and forth and around and around for however long it would take to resolve this mess (in fact, I had to cancel a credit card in the past because after seven months they would not remove a charge made to a hotel in a state I hadn’t been to in years  **ugh**).

So, I Twittered about my positive customer experience and wrote, “Why AMEX is worth the $. SW company auto renewed a sub without my authorization. Called AMEX. Charge is gone. #DONE! #TheEnd

Sure enough, the next day I got a very nice response from @AskAmex, “@NoahGK, Hi, it’s Beth from Amex. Noticed your tweet. Glad to hear issue was rslvd quickly. If you need assistance in the future, tweet us.

So now, I not only had a great experience with AMEX but I now have someone (Beth and @AskAmex) to contact if things get hairy in the future for whatever reason.

Like I said.  This is how you do it.

Apple Retail Stores

I recently convinced my father to switch from his 28 year run using PCs (he owned the original IBM 5150 PC) to a MacBook Pro.

So far he’s liking it and he opted to purchase the “One On One” to help retrain him and smooth out the transition.

The thing that we have both noticed about the Apple Retail Store employees is that they are highly educated on the products and highly motivated to help customers.

They’ll work to help you as much as they can.  If they don’t know the answer, they try to pass you to someone who can help you.  But they never give up.

When I was on the PC, I used to waste so much time going it alone and Googleing my way to try to solve problems.  I was forced to become an expert.  It was almost like how owners of early automobiles like the Ford Model T had to have mechanical skills to ensure their cars wouldn’t break down.

I joked with my friend Dan that in my first month switching over, I used to stare at my computer a lot not knowing what to do. Literally, since I used to allot time for doing disk defrags, antivirus updates, spyware checks and who knows how many other pointless tasks.

Now, when I have a problem, I write it down and just plan to stop into an Apple Retail Store at some point and ask someone.

Sophie’s Choice, The Outlier And Sandwiches

July 28, 2009

(Not to make light of the subject matter in the 1982 movie, but it made for what I thought was a humorous title)

Anyhow.  Here’s the deal.

Recently, I’ve been doing restaurant reviews on Yelp.

I see it as my way of giving back to a site that has helped me tremendously in the past.

In addition, it is one of the many things I’m doing to try to shift from the “90% lurkers” group and into the  “9% frequent contributors” group (see 90 9 1 rule).

The Sandwich

I recently wrote a review for a brand-new sandwich shop in Austin.  I won’t name it, but if you want to do the legwork on Yelp to figure it out, by all means.

Regardless.  The place has only been open a week.  Maybe two.

I ate there and gave them a three star rating.

At the time of my writing this blog, there were eleven reviews; two 2 star, seven 3 star (including mine), one 4 star and one 5 star.

The 4 star review is from a user who has also reviewed eight other restaurants in Austin.

Then there is the real outlier; the 5 star review.

The Outlier

The first review on the page is this outlier / 5 star review, which is long and glowing with praise.  The user ID has only been active within the past month and this is the only review that this user has contributed to the site.

Just the fact that a place that has been open less than a month can get a 5 star rating was curious enough to me to pause to dig a bit deeper into the review and the reviewer.

When I was there, I (along with other reviewers) noticed enough problems they were having with general workflow (things like measuring sandwich contents, bumping into each other behind the counter and speed to deliver sandwiches to customers) that a 5 star review seemed a bit out of the ordinary.

The outlier review’s only negative comment; not enough seating because the place was so packed with customers.

The outlier in question can be one of two things:

  1. Legit, But Not Legit Enough To Quit: the outlier could be someone like me on the other end.  A 90%’er who is looking to move into the 9% club and decided to write her first review (this sandwich moved her).  She created a user ID, wrote a review but then got sidetracked with life (or whatever) and hasn’t contributed any additional reviews.
  2. “It’s A Fraud!” (say it like Admiral Akbar): The user ID is affiliated with the restaurant and it’s a “shill” review meant to set a positive tone for other reviews (which it didn’t) and/or get the attention of readers who might ignore the other reviews.  Either way, it should be flagged and removed and is an abuse of the community.

The Choice?

I’m being cautious here because I don’t want to yell “fraud”and scare off what very well might be a contributor who could help the community in the future.

But I also don’t think there is any place for this type of behavior in the community if it is indeed fraudulent.

Successful communities are in part based on information that can be trusted.

So, what say you?  Flag the review or let it go?

And I guess the better question: if you were a 9%’er and got flagged.  Would you hold it against someone?  Would you be offended?

Be On The Lookout For Fakers

March 24, 2009

After a week of optimistic conversation about social media at SXSW Interactive, I was saddened to see two articles about the nastier side of the world we are creating.*

First, The Austin American Statesmen reported on the “Fake Austin police Twitter page shut down.”

Then, MSNBC reported on, “Disturbing Gang Initiation Text Message Circulating Throughout Coastal Bend.”

CORPUS CHRISTI – A disturbing text message is making its way through the Coastal Bend, warning people of a gang initiation that would involve killing several people at a local retailer.

The most interesting part of the article is,

Police said it’s all a hoax, stemming from a text-chain that began in Memphis, Tenn. back in 2005.

Much like urban legends, these type of hoaxes proceed to live and have a life of their own long after they first surface.

These are not the first.  Nor will they be the last.  Transparency is key and stay frosty.  All for now…

* I have been informally tracking these type of hoaxes since I read the Kevin Poulsen WIRED articles on “Swatting” (“Blind Hacker Says He’s No Friend of Convicted SWATters” and “FBI Charges Blind Phone Phreak With Intimidating a Verizon Security Official“).

Commuter Rail: Part Deux

March 23, 2009

File this under, the “are you fraking kidding me?” column.

The Austin American Statesman ran a front page / top of the fold article, “Rail opening on indefinite hold

Capital Metro said Friday that it is indefinitely delaying the opening of its Leander-to-downtown-Austin rail service in the wake of further allegations of federal safety violations and because of continued technical problems.

In addition, the transit agency called on Veolia Transportation, its rail operations contractor, to fire its local safety director. Capital Metro is bringing in rail officials from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which has a dozen commuter rail lines in the greater Boston area, “to assist with startup operations and safety implementation.”

To quote Michelle Huddleson from Hot Shots! Part Deux, “Now we have to go in to get the men who went in to get the men who went in to get the men.

I wish I could really laugh about this, but the sad fact of the matter is that we have spen…err, wasted quite a bit of money on what will one day be known as the “train to nowhere.”