Wednesday, March 13, 2013

SXSW Tuesday: I'm tired. Of. It.

OK, so motivation is a little harder to come by today. Cory and I had a great time at the SXTxState Taco Party and the Statesman Social Media Awards last night. And now to get through the last day before it's back to work for a couple of days.

Pandora and Techcruch

A talk with Tom Conrad, one of the leaders of Pandora music service. It was interesting, but I won't spend a lot of time here on it (or on anything today).
  • Pandora thinks their future still lies with advertising models because of their scale of listener base, unlike Spotify, which is subscription based more than advertising.
  • Even though their CEO is leaving, the company is poised for greatness as advertising dollars are starting to shift to mobile.
  • They didn't like putting on the 40-hr cap on web streaming when they did, and removed it once their monetization model caught up. Same goes for the mobile streaming limit, which is fairly new. After 40 hours in a month, they will charge a $1 for the rest of the month.
  • As they've faced challenge after challenge, and competitor after competitor, their focus has been to turn back into the product and make it better.
  • In a discussion of House of Cards style commissioning of content, Conrad joked that they should get the cast of Glee to record every song in their catalog and they would offer that.

Getting ready for the job that doesn't exist

This was Cindy Royal of Texas State Journalism and Aron Pilhofer of the New York Times talking about the kind of people and skills needed for future jobs that don't yet exist.
  • College is good for teaching you how to learn. Don't depend solely on it.
  • Have a passion and pursue it and do it well.
  • Pilhofer says not enough people come out of college with a specialty they do really, really well. Too many generalists. Have a passion for something, and it will show.
  • Never underestimate the value of being able to write a sentence. It helps with any profession.

Scrum as theater

This talk by Gwydion Suilebhan was actually very interesting, talking about the similarities between the Scrum agile development methodology and Devised Theater. Being familiar with Scrum from my previous work as the Technical Solutions Manager at the Statesman (a role I loved and hated to see scuttled) I thought this would be a good way for me to go get reinspired about agile thinking and find a way to bring it to my daily work.

Devised theater, which has been around for 40 years, bucks the trend of traditional (read waterfall) development method of theater where a playwright writes at script, then gives to an Artistic Director who gives to a Director who gives to designers and then actors to perform. This puts the playwright further away from the finished product.

In devised theater, the script is something that comes together as a collaborative process with the director, actors and designers. In fact, it may not get written at all until the work is "done" and someone else might want to perform it. The audience is brought in very early to see scenes and previews performed and their feedback is sought and watched and incorporated into the play.

A couple of thoughts to come out:
  • Suilebhan suggests the first minute of a Scrum standup be used for warmup exercises. It gets everyone engaged and ready to move on.
  • A talking stick could be used to help control some of the team dynamics of shy and talkative people.
  • Almost every tenant of Scrum -- user stories, themes, epics, review meetings and retrospectives, backlog grooming, individuals and iterations over process and tools -- all have equivalents in devised theater.

Bruce Sterling

Another case where trying to synthesize what someone says is a challenge. Sterling is always a pessimistic treat to end the festival, foretelling the doom of our age in general and Austin specifically through different metaphors.

This year he compared the South by Southwest tech scene of 2012 to the ancient Sinagua Indians tribe of the Southwest, the tech leaders of their time. Here's hoping we don't end up the same way, with building shells and a legacy of what ifs and what the Fs.


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