The first day of SXSWi this year was a little overwhelming. Perhaps I was still recovering from the Geeks with Guns episode; perhaps there were just that many more people here this year. Nevertheless, it was great to see so many folks coming together. There also seemed to be fewer people attached to their laptops this year — although I was an exception to this rule. For the record though, I don’t even have wireless so I really was just taking notes!

Knitting Tag Clouds for Grandma — Beyond Folksonomies

The official site for this panel can be found here and my full notes are here

Key Thoughts:

  • FOLKSONOMY — bottom-up way for organising information, more general than a taxonomy
  • TAXONOMY — formal, top-down, specific way of organising information
  • Lot of talk about taking folksonomies to the next level and developing into something more generally useful. The chaps on the panel seemed to think this needed technological innovation; the ladies disagreed
  • Eventual consensus was that we really need to expand the use of tagging/folksonomies beyond the geek community and into the general public for the next level to be reached
  • Barrier is usability problems with current tagging implementations — everyone is focusing on growing their own tagging systems, without enough standardization or improvement


  • “I’m Liz Lawley and my blog is not my identity!”
  • “This will be more an exploration than an exposition”

Dan Gilbert: How to do Precisely the Right Thing at All Possible Times

This guy was fantastic and I took a lot of notes — you can find them here.

  • Expected Happiness = (odds of gain) x (value of gain)
  • This formula is all you need to work out how to do precisely the right thing at all possible times — but our brains aren’t wired to do this well.
  • People are prone to errors in the calculation of odds, because we decide how LIKELY something is based on how easily we can ENVISION it
  • We are also prone to miscalculating the value of gain, because we are basically built to detect CHANGE — we compare with the past (how much did it use to cost?) rather than the possible (what else could I do with this money?)
  • We also make mistakes when there is greater variety (more options increases the chance of not making a decision at all!) or when things are further away (in space or time)
  • Basically our brains have evolved a long way, but not enough to deal with the new world :: “We are not stupid, but we are ancient”
  • Application of science is what can help us make the right logical decision

Cyberplace: Online in Offline Places

This was essentially a ubicomp panel, although not billed as such. It was definitely a lot more practically focused than many ubicomp discussions I’ve seen. The key point was that we need to be able to tie information (online) to location (offline).

The panelists essentially just discussed the various products they had created or worked on and the positives and negatives of the experience. The inability of cellphones to really pinpoint their own locations was a frequent bitch. The value of tying online information to offline places was obvious — although personally I’m not sure how you’d distinguish between the “plaque” style of info and the graffiti … or accommodate the people who sometimes WANT to look at the graffiti!

My full notes can be found here.


  • “Although it seems really stupid from a safety perspective, the first thing that people do is to tag their houses: “I live here!”” — Michael
  • “Dodgeball makes me sad because I’m usually at home and all my friends seem to be out leading these interesting lives” — Heath

Designing for Global & Local Social Play — the Secret Identity game

Most of the session time was taken up with the Secret Identity game — everyone had to think of a secret and then we all went around the room trading secrets with people. The intent was that you treated each new secret as your own. At the end, people wrote their secrets on a big green sticker and stuck it on thier backs. There was a very interesting shuffle around the room, whilst everyone tried to see everyone else’s backs!

My full notes are here.

  • The dynamic of global and local is interesting — the web is global, but often we are more interested in local concepts : connecting to people we already know, finding out about the places we live in
  • Play doesn’t just mean gaming — it can mean “trying things on”, identity play and so on
  • New situations are a good opportunity for play. When you move to a new location, approaching finding out about your new surroundings as play means that you can safely explore
  • Interesting concept of “Collapsing Context” — more likely to find people you know in your online communities too. Analogous to “small world”, I suppose. Specific example is of Liz playing World of Warcraft alongside her kids


  • “You have permission to push back on things because it is play” — danah
  • “Packing and unpacking is a process of renewal” — Irina
  • “I’m not a grad student – I’m a professor and have tenure, so I didn’t do ANY research before turning up!” — Liz
  • “Your son is acting inappropriately in the guild right now — can you please logon and sort him out?” — Liz