Archive for March, 2011

Letter From New York, SXSW, Day Four the day after, 03 15 11

March 15, 2011

SXSW, Day Four, in retrospect… March 15, 2011

So I am beginning this blog before I go to bed but won’t finish it until after I am awake again in the morning though I am doing my best to figure out all the things that have happened today which was, really, another interesting day of information overload.
We did an interview with Macky Alston of Auburn Media of the Auburn Seminary and an Odyssey member along with Jeanine Caunt, who is his cohort and Associate Director. He said some amazing things, mostly about how the last “generation” of tech kids was all about social media but that the next “generation” of tech aficionados was all about gaming.
And that’s something we’ve been hearing regularly here at SXSW – that it is the time of gaming and the way we might use it might actually be the savior of education as well as any other number of intellectual pursuits. Gaming is BIG! Gaming is HUGE! And if we can harness the power of gaming on the web and turn it to productive purposes such as educational opportunities we might have a “win-win” situation.
Which brings me to the keynote of the day, a one on one with Felicia Day, an actress from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER who is also an avid game player who then took her passion for gaming online to developing a series for the web called THE GUILD which has had one hundred million streams that then led to her developing another program which is now being sponsored by Microsoft and Sprint and she is in a bit of online hog heaven in what is happening to her and her series online. She hit the web jackpot.
And from listening to her, she deserved to hit the internet jackpot because she devoted herself passionately to making what she was doing online work – her presence was witty, funny, passionate, driven, emotionally engaged, desperately charged to make things work and profoundly lucky.
As she was talking about making Dragon Age: Redemption, her new web series, she was casting about for a Director of Photography. In what seemed a really devil may care attitude she entrusted someone who had volunteered to work on the production to come up with a DP. When he told her he had someone and that he was okay, she thought may be she should actually check out his credits and it turned out to be the DP from the first six seasons of LOST, who happened to be a fan of her work.
It’s her karma, she thinks, that these things work out the way they do. And it seems that she may be right – she has that aura of Kismet about her. It came through in her speech but what also came through was that she was absolutely 111% committed to what she was doing.
And that was wonderful and amazing and inspiring.
There were other good things about the day. I had an interesting conversation about Transmedia with Matt Mullin who is pulling together a Transmedia event this fall in San Francisco.
Transmedia? Telling the same story across a multiplicity of platforms. And that is the way the future of story telling is headed. How do we convey the same story across a variety of platforms? It’s the buzzword of the time and it is also the necessity of the time. This is what all folks who are working in the media need to be conquering – the ability to tell the same story across multiple platforms with multiple nuances. It’s a huge challenge and it is the demand of the time – and of the technology we are utilizing.
I also heard Richard Bullwinkle, Chief Evangelist for Rovi; speak, talking about making Channel Guides easier and more cost effective. And, interestingly enough, that was all about driving things to the mobile platform where software development was easier and quicker than software development for the set top box. And what I came away with was a sense of how vulnerable are the current giants in the field, the Comcasts, the Cablevisions, the Cox cable systems. As I said in an earlier blog, Goliath is in the field and he currently controls it but David has entered the competition with his slingshot ready to go…

Letter From New York by way of Austin, TX and SXSW March 13, 2011

March 13, 2011

I started this blog yesterday, sitting in a room of people who are becoming untethered. The panel was entitled: The Last Broadcast: Entertainment is Social – What’s Next?
10% of this audience of about 500 have either never been a cable or satellite subscriber or have cut the cord; which I have done. These are the folks who are at the center of digital transition and so one would suspect are changing faster than others. It’s most noticeable in college graduates. Ten years ago when folks graduated from college and set up housekeeping for the first part of their adult lives, they didn’t order landlines for their apartments. Now they’re not just ordering landlines, they’re not putting in cable or satellite, relying on Internet sources for their video content.
We are now co-viewing with people all over the world thanks to Twitter, Facebook, etc. And this is expanding our natural impulse to want to co-view with people. Jeff Cole pointed out the he and his wife “watched” the Academy Awards together while she was in Los Angeles and he was in Abu Dhabi.
3rd party recommendations rule our life; Twitter and Facebook make it even more so. And we have reached a point where there is DEEP fan engagement in a way that is different from fan engagement in the past. For example, people tweet as characters in dramas that air. For example, there is a woman who tweets as Betty Draper in Mad Men. [At first AMC wanted to shut her down then went, hey! what good p.r.]
After the panel was over Greg and I interviewed Jeff Cole from the Digital Center at the Annenberg School of Business who underscored the rapidity with which the world is moving to mobile devices and the opportunities he sees for faith communities in the mobile world .
We then tracked down and got to spend some time with Daniel Hope, from the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest who had led the panel: Everything is amazing and nobody is happy…
In this panel he and his fellow presenter, Zach Pratt, talked about how we seemed to be living in a time of technological entitlement. We have amazing technologies and we expect them to work flawlessly and are perhaps inappropriately angry when they do not. We’re living in a time of a new set of addictions generated by use of technology – of people alienated from the rest of the world because of their too deep involvement with the net. However, on the flip side of that is that technology also allows us to reach out and offer compassion to folks quickly. [My experience recently: a colleague I have been out of touch with for several years was fired from her job; I was able through the net to reach out and give my condolences and support almost instantly and have it received and appreciated almost instantly]. We are able through the net to be able to give tangible support to victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in a more timely fashion than ever in history. We are able to see and experience their tragedy in ways unimaginable in the past and if we allow ourselves to be open to the information technology brings we are able to open our compassionate selves to a wider range of people and situations. As with most things, we can use technology to help better ourselves or to indulge the darker parts of ourselves.
Again, I was struck by the dizzying array of interesting choices at SXSW Interactive. I need five of me to get to as many places as I would like to get to. Topped by the fact that yesterday the Film portion of SXSW opened, the buzz has only intensified with the glitterati now joining the digirati for an intoxicating brew of people and technology.
One of the reasons that SXSW has become such an important hub is that it mixes culture with technology, technology with hope. While the decline of America is debated pro and con all the time these days, here the streets are filled with hope and exuberance for a future that is bright with possibility, not just in America but also in the world.

Day One at SXSW

March 11, 2011

SXSW – Day One, March 11, 2011

Greg and I arrived at SXSW Interactive, Film and Music Festival safely. The security lines at Newark Liberty Airport were eerily non-existent and we got through in record time, which was the theme of our travels – all went smoothly, which is how you want travel to go.
Austin itself is, at night, a jewel of city, rising up out of the Texas plains, glittering, beckoning and promising. We arrived at the hotel, checked in, settled and walked across the parking lot to the legendary Threadgill’s Restaurant, a down home Texas place which, in its various incarnations, has nurtured many an artist, including Janis Joplin.
Over dinner, we poured over the SXSW official app, which is available on the iPhone, Android and Blackberry smartphones. There is a prodigious amount of material there; it’s free. If you have an interest in finding out what is going on at SXSW and have a smartphone, I suggest you go into your app store and download the app. It gives a blow-by-blow account of what is happening, what kind of panels there are and who is on them.
It also lets you know the 579 companies that are exhibiting at SXSW and how to find them. It has comprehensive maps, helps you create and organize a schedule. It seems to be a great app for this event. I found a few glitches in the search function but still pretty amazing.
There are a couple of conference calls I have to do and then I’m headed off to pick up my credentials and to get down to what is happening. The number of panels that I would like to attend is overwhelming. Each time slot has more than one that would be worth attending. Two that have caught my attention so far are “Lessons Learned from the Arab Spring Revolutions” and “The Potential for Augmented Reality”.
There is also a panel about digital changes happening to the Cargo Container business; new digital tools are apparently about to radically improve that business. You can also learn about creating your own event around digital advances, and another one about how textbooks may be morphed into social gaming opportunities, a radically new way of imagining education. Apparently in both Texas and California, states followed by most others in education, the traditional textbook is on the path of the dodo bird.
There are at least six panels happening at 2:00 I would like to attend. Same for 3:30 and same for 5:00, which has a panel on “Hate Gone Viral” as well as one discussing the impact of “singularity” – when machines are smarter than we are. Hello, Watson!
And as the days go on, over 2000 bands will be performing at SXSW and hundreds of films will premiere. There are classes offered by the festival on how not to be overwhelmed by the festival. Sounds like a good thing to me.
And so it goes. Greg and I have arrived and overwhelm begins. We’re excited. All of Austin has been taken over by the festival, a hotel room is impossible to find and the streets are crowded with an interesting mix of people. Right now, it’s the place to be if you are a digirati – or a film buff or a music aficionado. 100,000 people are attending, the biggest SXSW yet. More to come…

Letter From New York, March 7, 2011

March 8, 2011

Letter From New York

March 7, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…

Long ago, in the distant galaxy that was my high school years, I enacted a character in THE BIRDS, a play by the ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes, a comedy.  The first line of which was:  Here we are, ready and willing to go the birds, and we can’t even find the way!  It was about two men off on a hunt for knowledge — and power.

And that’s a bit like what I am about to do, go off on a hunt for knowledge – and I suppose power if one accepts that knowledge is power.  Greg Nelson, who works with me at Odyssey Networks and has been fondly called by one Odyssey member “Inspector Gadget”, are about to depart for the South by Southwest Interactive, Film and Music Festival, an annual rite of the digirati for the last several years when SXSW [as it is commonly known] began to become not just a place for those who had films to show or music to be listened to but also a place where the newest digital adventures were announced, and you could find the hottest software, the coolest sites, the breaking edge.

Our technical partner in our Call on Faith mobile app, GoTV, is going to be present and I know that many others are.  Video serving solution Kaltura, who is working with Odyssey, will be there as will Snag Films, which runs a website that features non-fiction films and has a section devoted to Religion and Spirituality.  Odyssey has provided them with some short form and will be giving them, too, some long form that will be featured.

Jeffrey Cole will be there.  Jeff runs the Digital Center for the Future at USC’s Annenberg School of Communications.  Here’s from the announcement made when Jeff moved to USC from UCLA:

“At UCLA and now at USC Annenberg, Cole founded and directs the World Internet Project, a long-term longitudinal look at the effects of computer and Internet technology on all aspects of society, which is conducted in over 20 countries. At the announcement of the project in June 1999, Vice President Al Gore praised Cole as a “true visionary providing the public with information on how to understand the impact of media.”

And I luckily know Jeff [and his wife Suzanne].  Jeff and I helped produced the Superhighway Summit at UCLA with Vice President Gore back in 1994 and have remained friends since.  His insights into the future are amazing.  He spoke, by the way, at last year’s RCC Conference in Chicago.  We’re planning on having dinner on Friday evening.

The array of events is absolutely dizzying.  Each day has somewhere between thirty and forty programs and I will have to in the next few days pick which ones I’ll be attending.

What will I be doing there?  Well, based on the fact I’ve been an active blogger for the last oh too many years, and that I am working with Odyssey, the kind folks from SXSW have given Greg and I press credentials so I will be actively blogging from there.  I’ll tweet too!  And Greg is going to have a camera and will be showing some of the sites of SXSW and there may be a little of me doing video blogs.  That one is a little scary to me.

But I am looking forward to it – SXSW has become one of the fertile places for finding out what is happening in the digital universe.  To get behind the scenes is going to be fun for me.  And hopefully for you, if you feel like following our adventures at  There’s going to be a page devoted to our blogs and I’ll be posting as often as I can.

And if there is anything you’d like me to look out for, please let me know.  I’ll see if I can find out.  Just ping me at

Here we are ready and willing to go the birds, but unlike the hapless guys in THE BIRDS, Greg and I know where we’re going.