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Whenever I meet with startups to review their services and/or apps, I generally always stress the importance of usability. It’s so critical that a service be useable – both to keep current users and to have those same users recommend the service.
Since my first visit to Austin for SXSW many years ago, there was one thing I noticed that bugged me regarding usability at the Austin Convention Center. Lots of panels during SXSW are on the 3rd floor at the convention center but this floor and area is the hardest to get to. It’s obviously easy to get into the building on the first floor and there are lots of options to get to the 4th floor, but getting to this mysterious third floor was always odd. I am sure that if you have been to SXSW, you know what I am talking about.
To get to the third floor, there was just an escalator at the far end of the convention center or an elevator down that same hall. If you were coming into the building at the top end, it was just poor usability in the method needed to get to the third floor.
But there was always a simple fix – the huge double escalator from the first-to-fourth floors has a landing on the third floor but there is no path from the escalator to the third level. Why was it built like this? To torture people as they can see the third floor and it would be just a short hop across but yet there is no way to get across without fear of falling and a certain death?
Continue reading “The Austin Convention Center Realizes the Importance of Usability” »
The interactive portion of SXSW 2012 is now signed, sealed and delivered. Based on foot and car traffic downtown, this was the largest attendance since I started coming to Austin 6 years ago. As always it was great to meet so many people I only speak with via email or social media. For the last two years, I’ve provided photos of the expo hall, and this year I bring you fresh photos in case you weren’t able to attend the conference. You can check out my 2011 and 2010 photos for comparison.
The expo hall continues to grow – my first year the expo hall was tiny and this year it was as large as most “trade show” conferences. The expo hall was heavy on the interactive side but is open for days that cross all three SXSW sections: film, music and interactive. I was disappointed not to see Izea with a booth – I think they have been here every year I’ve attended.
We begin our photo tour with a woman dressed up like an angry bird?
Here at SXSW, smart companies know that the way to win is to offer free food, rain ponchos and row boats to get around Austin. This morning I snapped the below photo of the Salesforce offering. Salesforce has a mini Taco truck with free tacos and the slogan, “grab a free taco and a spicy new #dreamjob”. If you look closely, the back compartment is filled with tacos. When I passed the truck one hour later in the same location, the truck was empty.
I’ve got lots of CloudContacts pens to give out so find me and ask me – they are perfect for signing the job offer letters from Salesforce.
Since I am currently living in Austin, I figured I would be early for the first day of SXSW registration and badge pickup since the line usually resembles the TSA airport security lines. I was there so early that the process had not even begun. There were a lot more people on line when SXSW registration opened at 11am local time than last year — probably because it seems there are more events this year on Thursday than last year.
I noticed something odd on all of the laptops being used for registration – from afar they looked like Apple Macbook laptops but the logo was covered up? Sure enough, when I made it to a check-in booth, the laptop was an Apple Macbook and the logo was covered with a post-it! See the image below as confirmation. The same thing appeared over the Apple logo at the press check-in.
Why would SXSW cover up the Apple logo? Generally the only time a logo is covered up is on television or in media when a brand hasn’t paid for the “product placement”. On the drive home I assumed that perhaps Dell or Microsoft are SXSW sponsors and that’s why the Apple logo is covered up – but neither company show up in the sponsor list. SXSW has become the Nascar of tech conferences so perhaps any brand that doesn’t pay gets no love?
Anyway – if you are attending SXSW this year, welcome. Remember to relax, and have a backup plan in case the events and sessions you want to attend are full or crappy. Should you need any local Austin tips or tricks, send me an email.
If you are anything like me, you find it hard to go more than a few days without pizza. And if you are a NY’er, that becomes very hard when you travel since real pizza is only found in NYC (sorry Chicago!).
I’ve attended SXSW for many years now and have come up with a short list of great pizza places in Austin that will make any NY’er proud. These three pizzerias are very close to the Austin Convention Center and the middle of all of the SXSW 2012 action. If you want more pizza places to try, check out Worst Pizza and Yelp. And if you run a pizzeria in Austin and want to make the list, send me an email and I will come give test you – do you got the pepperonis?
SXSW Pizzeria #1 – Hoboken Pie
For all my years coming to Austin, the now number 2 was my favorite. But just like when Hogan slammed Andre at WMIII, a new contender has moved into the #1 slot. Hoboken Pie (718 Red River Street) has some very tasty pies and very good garlic knots. If you close your eyes while eating their pizza, you would think you are in Manhattan. Hoboken Pie is walkable from the convention center and right around the corner from the Hilton Garden Inn. They also deliver to the local area for a fee. The only downside to Hoboken Pie is that they have a very small seating area with about 6 tables.
SXSW Pizzeria #2 – Home Slice Pizza
I’ve always enjoyed the pizza at Home Slice Pizza and it was always a stop for me and friends during SXSW. Home Slice Pizza is a bit too far to walk from the convention center so you will need a cab or a friend – no delivery here. Home Slice offers a pinch thinner crust than Hoboken Pie but is still top quality NYC pizza. They have a large dining room, big outdoor space and a take-out location next door. You should note that sometimes the wait can be up to two hours so plan accordingly. The garlic knots are great here as well. The owners of HSP take their whole staff to NYC each year to learn more about pizza and new styles of NYC pizza – that’s dedication to the art. This location is also on the next block from a large number of food carts. And if you want the best freaking burger I have ever had, try Hopdoddy across the street.
SXSW Pizzeria #3 – Whole Foods
I know you are thinking I took one too many sausages to the head but trust me Whole Foods has really good pizza. I would certainly pick either of the two above over WF but they have a full brick oven and make a nice pie. Whole Foods also offers a number of calzones and other italian sandwiches. They offer 2 slices for $5 and obviously offer all of the fresh fruits and salad bar that all of the Whole Foods locations offer so you can go healthy. There is seating and a very large parking deck. It might be a bit of a long walk from the convention center but it is not that far from the hotels along Congress Ave. I suggest stopping at WF to stock the hotel room with healthy goodies so why not pick up a couple slices at the same time?
I look forward to meeting all of the awesome CN readers and CloudContacts customers during SXSW – say hi and grab some groovy stickers and pens!
At SXSW 2011, the biggest mini-event seemed like it wasn’t the conference or the parties at the bars, but the pop-up store Apple setup to sell the brand-new iPad 2. Many of the tech blogs covering SXSW were trying to get all of the details and photos of the Apple Pop-up store before its opening. Lots of blogs covered the line of geeks waiting for the latest tablet.
With lots of chatter that the iPad 3 will be announced on March 7, will we see another pop-up store arriving in downtown Austin at SXSW 2012? SXSW interactive runs from March 9-13 and SXSW music and film run through the 18th. There are two stores in Austin but both are not within walking distance or a reasonable cab fare from downtown. The 2011 pop-up store was just a few steps from the convention center and I heard the chats on line were some of the best conversations during the entire event.
Google has setup an “interactive village” near the Austin Convention Center to offer lots of developer events (including Android) throughout SXSW. Apple’s potential offering to SXSW attendees might be the latest version of the iPad. Something tells me that if Apple does offer the iPad 3 at SXSW, the Google Village will be running a bit light for a few hours while a caravan of developers head to Congress Avenue to get their iPad fix. Since the Google village is to far to walk to the potential pop-up store, maybe Google should offer a shuttle to help developers get their crack and then back to Google.
It’s just a couple weeks until the next version of SXSW hits the pavement in Austin, Texas. I still believe this will be a huge “badgeless” year and I keep betting that SXSW officials will eventually not allow access into the convention center at all without a badge.
If you are looking for parties, here are three great guides to help you find free beer, free bbq, free networking, etc. If you aren’t going to have a badge, make sure the parties you are interested in will allow badgeless access. And if you will have a badge, make sure it is with you when you head out to the parties so you can get into the clubs and bars.
Gary is the master of Gary’s Guide and he has an in-depth list of parties around Austin during SXSW. You will easily spot Gary around Austin as he wears a suit with a bright red tie.
Social event guide Lanyrd has an event guide as well. Their event guide includes parties and all other events during SXSW.
SXSHHH has a party guide for all of the free and unofficial events – they charge $5 for the list. RSVPster will register you for every party for $20 – so basically you will take a slot for every party even though you won’t go to most of them and you will block someone else from going – blah on that.
Republic of Austin has a party guide and all of the parties they have listed are badgeless events.
Lastly here’s a link to the official SXSW party directory. My guess is that all of these events will require an official event badge.