SXSW 2011: Stop Dreaming, Start Doing: Tips For Execution

Scott Belsky

The problem is that most ideas never happen. Sure, some ideas should never happen. Even the greatest ideas suffer horrible odds. Ideas do not have to be because they’re great or obvious.

The Project Plateau

You’ve got a great idea, it’s exciting and you’re loaded with energy. Eventually you hit this plateau where your creative energy dies, and you give up on it. But as humans we love having these great ideas, so instead of completing the first one we just create a new one; over and over.

  • How organized are you? Only 7% of people say they’re very organized.
  • Lack of Leadership Capability: not being able to leverage your team and use people for what they want/need/can be used as will fail.
  • Lack of Feedback Exchange: we’re not getting the insights we need to keep going.
  • Disorganized and Isolated Networks: We’re not thinking about professional networks in putting our ideas together.

Making Ideas Happen

  • Creative Ideas
  • Organization and Execution
  • Communal Forced
  • Leadership Capabilities

Overcome Reactionary Workflow: email, SMS texts, facebook, twitter, etc. These things pull us away from what our overall goal is. Ceativity * Organization = Impact: If you have all the creative inspiration in the world, but no organization, your impact will still be 0.

The Action Method

  1. Action Steps: the ideas
  2. Back-burners: everything that piles up on our desks
  3. References

Action Steps

If you enter a meeting and you don’t exit without knowing anything, then you shouldn’t be doing them. Standing meetings, or creating an agenda are good. Having a culture of capturing Action Steps where you confirm they’re written down what they need to do (it’s kind of Big Brother). Another good technique is to go around in the last few minutes of the meeting and confirm everything there is you’ll need to do based on this meeting, just to confirm you gathered it all. If you do not do this, then you’re just destine to have a meeting again in a couple weeks.


Progress Begets Progress: Hang things around your desk with milestones and tasks (such as sticky notes) to make sure you’re doing things. Prioritize Projects Visually: make a chart with project priority board with Extreme, High, Medium, and Low. This way you have accountability to say “I didn’t get project X in High done as project Y in Extreme was mentioned as more important.”

Reduce your amount of insecurity work (facebook, twitter, analytics, etc). The best method is to ignore everything until a certain time you set in every day (such as at the end) and then handle it all then instead of trying to handle it throughout the day.

Types of People

  • The Dreamers: Tendency is to always focus on the new. Right before execution they want to add all these new features. They’re always thinking how they can make it better and add things to the project.
  • The Doers: They are the downers. They don’t want to do things as they have deadlines they will not make.
  • The Incrementalist: Very good at rotating between the Dreamers and Doers. Sure, you’d think this is what you want to be. Instead the problem with them is they just end up creating too many different things.

There really isn’t a good type of person. The best thing to do is to assign these to someone, and only have them focus on their own category. Then rely on your community to keep you accountability. But should you be scared that the community will steal your ideas? Well, the idea is no ideas ever get done anyways, so even if they get stolen at least you were more inspired to attempt it. As well, if they idea is so great then it’s probably not something easy to do that anyone else wants to do anyways. Another technique is to share ownership of ideas because everyone will have different views and approaches to complete the goal. Basic line: The benefits of distributing ideas outweighs the costs.

Seek Competition

Don’t get discouraged if someone else has already done it. What we’ve found are the most successful companies have spent time thinking how they can pace themselves with other similar businesses or ideas. Fight your way to breakthroughs by arguing about a topic as people get emotional about it, and great ideas come out. Eventually people will start to give in with Apathy and just say, “fine, whatever.” When that happens, don’t let it. Make them argue back. Don’t be burned by Consensus.

Overcome the Stigma of Self-Marketing

Use twitter, facebook, newsgroups to get people involved in your idea or product.

Leaders Talk Last

Let everyone else talk first, and then voice your opinion after you have a chance to absorb everyone’s ideas. If you talk first, then everyone else will just agree with what you’ve said and you’ll never get their ideas heard.

Value the Team’s Immune System

The Dreamers need to be the only ones involved in the Brainstorming process. The Doers then need to be involved after the initial Brainstorming, and the Dreamers need to keep silent. It’s the best way to get through things and result in a finished project.

We need to say in the business plan to allow for failure. You should plan for 20-30% of your development to be failure. This way you have that time, and your company will be the most creative.

When you’re interviewing new people for your team you should ask then, “What did you do to take initiative on your hobby/interest/experience XYZ?” Their initiative is more valuable than anything else; since just doing it isn’t taking initiative.

Gain Confidence From Doubt

When more and more people start to doubt you, you start to become more confident. When 99% of people think you’re crazy, you’re either crazy or you’re on anything. Society is very critical and shuns what society celebrates. Usually everyone who’s successful has dropped out of college or done everything no one said they could do.  So, honor this. Do this. Be this.

Nothing extraordinary is every achieved by normal means.

SXSW 2011: One Codebase, Endless Possibilities: Real HTML5 Hacking

HTML5 HackingJoe McCann
Principal Architect
subPrint Interactive

What is HTML5?

HTML5 is just the next version of HTML, and don’t expect it to solve all your problems.

What is the HTML5/Web “Stack?”

HTML is the “Content” of the application; the .html file. The styling is your CSS. And the business logic is the Javascript.

Benefits of the Web Stack

For the business individuals, there is an important concept that needs to be covered. There are value propositions which you want to have native development in languages such has Java, C++, Ruby, etc.

For majority of applications, however, you can the Web Stack (HTML/CSS/JS) without needing to know all the different environments.

When you’re designing your application there are some serious issues you may run into. Typically with a native design you’ll need designers who can develop across all different languages. However with HTML it’s just one language. HTML has native web components, and it’s cheaper to hire designers just for the web than everything else. There are many more web-designers than there are in other languages.

But what about maintenance? Across languages pushing updates requires updating to all different platforms. This can be costly, and time consuming.

Keep in mind HTML5/Web Stack does not solve all of these problems.

Web Stack Benefits

  • Significantly reduces development costs
  • Significantly reduces design costs
  • Maintenance becomes easier
  • A single codebase

Tool of the HTML5/Web Stack

  • Phonegap: bridges the gap between multiple phones through HTML and Javascript Bindings for things such as the camera, accelerometers, etc.
  • Sencha Touch: HTML5 development tool-kit for creating native applications using web technologies.
  • Appcelerator Titanium: Not only do they have cross mobile applications, but they also have desktop applications too!
  • jQuery Mobile: Uses HTML5 tag elements united with jQuery. It’s theamable, but really in early stages of development.
  • Yahoo! Query Language (YQL): not necessarily a framework or something that will create a user interface. This essentially turns the entire web into an API. It allows you to screen scrape websites (wow!). It allows you to create an SQL statement to parse through the HTML and respond back with XML or Json with what you want. This allows you to make calls with Javascript.
  • Node.js: Very easy to use, very fast. Allows you to write javascript on the client side, but then also use that code on the server. This makes it really nice for form checking. Basically if you can write Javascript, well, then you can now write server back-ends too.

One Codebase (How, Setup, etc)

First you need to figure out what is it you’re targeting: Google Chrome, Mobile Safari, Android Chrome, Native Mac OSX, Native Android App, etc.

Clearly there’s a server-side component you’ll need, but you can still use Javascript through Node.js.

Demos (click here for the code)


If you’d like to see this presentation you may so here.

SXSW 2011: Metrics-Driven Design

Joshua Porter (@bokardo)

Doug Bowman

Doug Bowman is the lead designer at Twitter. A few years ago Doug wrote a blog post about leaving Google, where he was hired three-years prior. He was really the first real designer hired at Google. There are very few hires like that who get so much press and people talking about it. Doug’s post was a post that he was leaving Google, and usually when you write these sorts of posts they follow the same type of formula: this is my last day, I’m sorry about leaving, and my co-workers are great. However, Doug’s post was nothing like that at all: “Unfortunately for me, there was one small problem I didn’t see back then.” And that’s the problem we’ll talk about in this session: 41 shades between each blue (the best they found was HEX #2200C1) to see which one performed better, and an argument over the width of a border (1, 2, 3px). Bing was/is using a different HEX color, which their UX Manager estimated being a loss of $80 million dollars. The data testing culture becomes a crutch for every decision, paralyzing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decision.

Spectrum of Design

Intuition-Driven (Doug)

  • Instinctive
  • Subjective
  • Daring
  • Follow other people’s practices
  • Trust your gut

Data-Driven (Google)

  • Everything is tested by small numbers, and small variables
  • This process is very slow
  • You rely on data for decision making
  • You don’t trust your gut

Imagine that Your Design is a Mountain

Your existing design is on the side of a little mountain. With an engineer’s approach you can only get to the top of that little mountain. An engineer quickly gets to a diminishing return as they can only go so high with the current design approach. It’s really dissapointing  because you’ll eventually hit a ceiling where you cannot go any higher, known as a “Loci Maxima” in calculus.

Our goal is to be at the top of the largest mountain where our goal is the best (or even just a better) design.

  • Optimization asks: What works best in the current model?
  • Design innovation asks: What is the best possible model?

What are Metrics?

Metrics are simple numbers that measure the effectiveness of your business.

  1. Metrics reduce (but don’t take away all) arguments based on opinion.
  2. Metrics give you answers about what really works. They can also lead you down a rabbit hole, but if you do testing and you have valid data they can give you answers about what really works.
  3. Metrics show you where you’re strong as a designer. They also show you where you’re weak as one.
  4. Metrics allow you to test anything you want. Metrics actually empower you to try anything, where as before you’d have to sell someone on a crazy idea.
  5. Clients love metrics.

Principle: Your metrics will be as unique as your business.

Vanity Metrics are thing such as old-school graphical hit-counters, which you shouldn’t rely on.

The Usage Lifecycle

  • Interested
  • Trial/beta User
  • Customer
  • Passionate Customer

Acquisition Metrics

  • How much did it cost to gain your customer? (Cost per Acquisition, CPA)
  • If your CPA is higher than their life-time earnings, then it’s not worth it.
  • Comparative Metrics: knowing where users came from, and their cost and outcome based on those.
  • The best acquisition outcome is still from Email Lists.

Engagement Metrics

  • Hits
  • Page views
  • Visits
  • Unique Visitors
  • Returning Visitors
  • Registered Users
  • Customers
  • Frequency
  • Time on Site
  • Daily Active Users

Cohort Analysis: Engagement over time. For instance, the number of customers remaining after every month from sign-up. This is very valuable.

Satisfaction Metrics

Net Promoter Score: How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague? (ligart 1-10. 1-6 is “Detractors”, 7-8 is Passives, and 9-10 is Promotes). “Maybe we didn’t have a high viral coefficient score, but we had a great satisfaction metrics.”

Emergent Metrics

Having friends inspires continuous use.

“Find the people you know” is a good example of this.

SXSW 2011: Seth Priebatsch, Keynote: The Game Layer on Top of the World

Seth Priebatsch
Chief Ninja

The Last Decade: Social Layer -> Connections

  • Last decade
  • All about connections
  • Facebook’s Open Graph
  • Construction is over

The Next Decade: Game Layer -> Influence

  • Next decade
  • All about influence
  • No set foundations
  • Construction has just begun
  • Seeks to act on individual motivation: why, how, when we do things
  • Has the opportunity to be 10x larger than the Social Layer

The Game Layer: real behavior in the real world, emulated in the digital world.

What can the game layer do for me?


School is a game, it’s just a poorly designed one. With a school you have: motivated players, challenges, rewards, rules, allies, enimies, levels, appointment dynamics, countdowns, initiatives, penalties, etc. The problems with schools is they’re not Engaged since grading is broken, and there’s cheating. Engagement is an incredibly critical concept which all game developers are aware of. Because the grading system in schools is broken, it has created the “Moral Hazard of Game Play.” It’s replaced the real reward for a letter, and these become chores.

Grades are failing as rewards. They are simple game levels Valedictorians, percentiles, and honor student status. The problem is these titles are boring. As well, these are game mechanics where people can loose, and this is not what we want in education. So why not create a grading dynamic where you start at 0 points, and then you gain points to focus on the positive. This way you cannot fail, or go negative point. It’s all about focusing on the end result.

So what about cheating? Princeton removed professors from the class room when tests were being taken and just required everyone to write down the code of ethics, and the realization

Customer Acquisition


  • Free Lunch: show the customer that although they’re skeptical, it’s still ok.
  • Communal Gameplay: the community needs to hit 50 people before “the deal is on.”
  • Countdown: Time left to buy. Everyone understands it, but it creates this huge exponential spike of activity right before it’s up.
  • Email List


Status: the idea of being a regular at a place. American Express uses status very well because they have levels, and they make you feel better based on the color of your card.

The “Level Up”: Jumping from one level to another.

Inclusive Ownership: everyone owns it, and so everyone benefits from it.

LBS -> Mainstream

How do you move location based services from something that isn’t mainstream, to something that is?

Big Partners + Big Money = Big Results. The problem is just a wee-little bit of the world uses these location based services. So how do we get everyone in on it?

Quantitative Easing: what the federal government does to flood the economy with new dollar bills, without actually having the value. They’re doing this because the “game” is too hard, and sometimes it makes sense to look at the rules and refactor them.

Tightly vs. Loosely Location-Based: basically, to play tightly based location you MUST be at a location. You cannot just be somewhere else. Because of this, it limits the number of people who can be engaging at that place at any one time. If you loosen this rule, then the number of people increases substantially.

Reward Schedules: everyone in the space naturally gets the question, “What do I get in exchange for doing this?” Everyone who’s doing LBS has some form of reward, badge, specials, etc. Rewards work really well. The problem is as once you’ve checked in and gotten the reward, you wont get it next time. As well, this reward will not be offered everywhere, just at certain places.

Global Warming

Not any one thing can solve these problems. While one thing cannot solve these massive problems, it can still give us the tools to move from something impossible, to something that’s just really hard to solve (but still possible!).

SXSW 2011: Diversity in the Digital Age

Anne Hunter (@followanne)
VP Advertising Effectiveness

How does the Internet change how we define communities and ourselves? What does diversity mean in a world of technological grazing? What does diversity matter at all?

This topic is looking at Diversity in what we classicly define as diversity, and what Diversity is on the internet. A digital medium, like the internet, can have the same kind of effect on communities that a television can have in local environments as it causes them to change.

Definition of Common Diversity:

  • The condition of having or being composed of different elements; variety, especially.

Definition of Digital Age Diversity:

  • The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect.
  • It means understanding that each individual is unique and recognixing our individual differences
  • These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, social-eco status, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.

Statistics on how people use the internet:

  • Genders: 54% of internet users worldwide are male. Mobile phones play a large part in this. Males, especially in the United States, are more likely to have smart phones. As prices drop, women being to buy these phones and actually consume more content than males through these devices.
  • Ages: The younger the generation, the more internet use they do. As we get older our generation will use the internet more than currently elder generations.
  • Locations: The Asian Pacific is the largest area for internet usage, and it’s not the USA. They are 38.9% of the worldwide usage.
  • How Often: Typically, every person in the world access the internet 18 days a month.
  • How Long: Statistically each person spends 26 minutes per use of the internet.
  • How Quickly: They are on broadband, they have a cell phone, they send text messages, but other countries do not have smart phones yet. This is, however, rapidly changing. Typically new technology is first obtained my “wealthy” males, and then later passed to the rest of the world and genders.

What websites: Globally 73.9% visit Google, 66.7% visit Microsoft Sites, 50.6% visit Facebook, 48.0% visit Yahoo, and 31% visit Wikimedia.

But Internet use is not typical! In January 2011 there were 416 thousand people in southwest Brazil were reading pet content online. 381 thousand people pensioners (older individuals) in the UK went online looking for love on personals sites. 1.3 million men between the ages of 25-44 in Vietnam were looking at cosmetic websites.

Does the ability to connect with other like-minded people mean we’re more diverse? Well, the internet has really made human “grazers.” We’re like Human Cows. The power of $0.99: On average 18 songs are purchased on iTunes per person. However, less than 2 songs per album. There’s not a lot of commitment for any one certain artist. People are looking at 9.8 artists per month, per person. Are there areas in music where people are more committed, buying specific genres, etc? Well, New Age is the most common, then Classical, Metal, Jazz, Inspirational, Rock, Christian, Hip hop, …, and Latino. Commitment to a particular artist varies worldwide. Brazil and Sweden are the most committed, and the USA is the least.

Even specialized content consumption changes online. Essence print magazine reaches 40% of all African American women every month in print. And almost all of these women who receive this are African American. However, online only 1/3rd of people who access their website are African American. This is because online you can link to an article and sample pieces of the magazine without having to commit to the entire thing which is targeting a demographic. This is a change we have not seen before, because access to content has always been very specific.

Video content consumption changes online. 180 million USA video viwers. 85% of internet users viewed at least one video. 13 hours of viewing time per view. Unlike sitting down and watching a sitcom, the average video length we watch is 3.9 minutes per video. This is because we’re “grazing.”

If we are grazing more, does that mean we’re committed to things less? Typically core audiences are still more engaged online. African Americans spend 62% more time per person on than non-African Americans. African Americans consume 2x as many pages on than non-African Americans.

The appearance of Diversity, the reinforcement of community. Sites link to other sites that are relevant to the topic, or ideas. Recommendation engines for example does this. If we start interacting with a certain group, they’ll start providing us with other knowledge and links for related materials. This happens with the advertising we see so that we are more interested in this.

How the internet introduces me. The first thing Facebook says about us is our job. Then it lists college and major, residence, relationship status, and then hometown. In a verbal conversation typically these things do not come up. However, with the internet we use this to introduce one another. Who you are is defined by different definition of your community. This online almost makes us less diverse, but gives us the abilities to connect.

Diversity prevents Vulnerability. The more diverse our MHC genes are the stronger our immune system. Inbreeding can make populations vulnerable to diseases because you do not have the genetic immune system built up.

Diversity breeds innovation. Societies with diverse natural resources prosper. Environmental barriers prevent the spread of ideas and societies innovated from new ideas.

The internet is a tool for benevolent and nefarious excuses. To harness the power of the internet, we must actively steward all forms of diversity. We need to go with full heart and say to ourselves, “Am I learning and reinforcing my ideas to help myself, or to limit my diversity to see the other side of the story?” As we go forth, we need to make sure we are active stewards of this.

In the Fortune 500 companies, the most gender diverse boards outperformed by 66% with women on their boards. In 2011 the World Economic Forum found equality drove prosperity as countries with almost parity between men and women to succeed the most.