High-Tech At South By Southwest Festival
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Much of the new technology we discuss on this program eventually finds its way into your homes and offices. And the latest gadgets have been on display this weekend in Austin, Texas at South By Southwest Interactive, a conference for tech entrepreneurs and aficionados. Our technology expert, Omar Gallaga of the Austin-American Statesman, has had a pretty packed weekend checking it out. Omar, you surviving okay?
OMAR GALLAGA: I'm trying. It's - it's a really big festival and there's a lot of ground to cover but I'm having a great time and thanks for having me.
BLOCK: Oh, sure. And, you know, I think of South By Southwest in terms of music, but I guess if you are in the world of technology and cool stuff, Austin, Texas right this week is the place to be.
GALLAGA: Yeah, I mean we've got thousands of people in town for the festival and it's really kind of the geeks meeting the geeks. You've got web designers, social media mavens, bloggers, online video stars. They're talking shop, drinking, twittering. They're going to panels and parties and of course eating barbeque because of Austin, Texas.
GALLAGA: And it runs concurrently to the South by Southwest Film Festival and as it peters out, then the big music festival starts.
BLOCK: Well, we sent a producer, Laurel Wonsley(ph), out onto the conference floor to find out a little bit more from conference goers about what they're there for. Let's listen to some of what she heard.
Mr. CRAIG MCDONALD(ph): I'm Craig McDonald. I'm one of the founders of Hourville. And Hourville is basically a social marketplace for people who offer anything that can be priced by the hour. So, at the booth today we have a masseuse, that's an example of the type of service providers that would list on Hourville, but think babysitters, students, dog walkers.
Ms. FELICIA DAY(ph): My name's Felicia Day. I'm a Web content producer. I have a Web series that I write and star in. And I also am known for my social networking in co-starring in Dr. Horrible's sing-a-long blog (unintelligible) Web series.
Mr. WILL BRIARLY(ph): My name is Will Briarly and the game is called "Get Out of My Face."
Ms. HOLLY BENSON(ph): My name is Holly Benson and I work at Google. Oh, we don't like to do think we're the popular kids. It's easier. People know about Google but the prime question everyone - they think there're being witty - but they come up and ask: What is Google? What do you guys do? So we try to find some creative answers for that.
BLOCK: So, Omar, a small sample there of some of the people gathered there in Austin. Are you getting also though a sense of what's going on in the overall economy?
GALLAGA: Well, everyone here's talking about it and there are panels about it. But the big stunner this year has been that the best of all itself is grown about 20 percent over last year's attendance, which is surprising everybody. We think it's a mix of job seekers, people with new small companies to promote, and people who are taking advantage of cheap airfares and the need to really do some hardcore business networking with as many people as they can.
BLOCK: And what's new this year at South By Southwest Interactive?
GALLAGA: Well, just at looking at the whole shebang, there seems to be less focus on, kind of, hardcore tech and more on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. There's lots of talk about how to start or grow or market a Web business. And also how old media is transitioning to new media to, you know, phones and mobile and the Web. The New York Times staff for instance has a really unusually large presence at the festival on panels and even in one of the keynotes.
BLOCK: And what about cool gadgets, new trends we should be looking out for?
GALLAGA: Well, Twitter really took off here in 2007. It really, kind of, got kicked off at the festival that year. So, this year everybody is asking, what's the next Twitter? What's the next Facebook? And really we think, you know, it may just continue to be Twitter and Facebook for a while. They're still huge and they're still growing.
But one thing that I started to kind of hear about and people have seen some chatter on Twitter about it is a very tiny device called Poken, that's P-O-K-E-N. And it's a tiny device, looks like a little USB drive that you carry around. It's colorful and you carry it around like a business card. And when you meet someone who also has Poken, you lock them together. They have a little spoke looking things on them that lock together and it exchanges data. Now when you plug it into your USB connection on your computer later, the data shows you what your new acquaintances social network profiles are and that you can connect with. So, it's like exchanging business cards but instead you're trading LinkedIn or Facebook links that you can connect with letter. So, you might be carrying a Poken in you pocket, wherever you go from now on.
BLOCK: Have to get bigger pockets. And Omar, you are going to be blogging about some of the other discoveries you've found there.
GALLAGA: Oh, yeah. I don't sleep for five days. It's like, I'm a little punch-drunk right now.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GALLAGA: But yes, there's a lot of interesting stuff going on. It continues through Tuesday and I'm going to be adding information about it and links to all the coverage that I'm doing - videos, blogs, Twitter everything on the All Tech Considered blog and it's at npr.org/alltech.
BLOCK: Enjoy the festival, Omar.
GALLAGA: Thanks so much. We're having the blast. We really are.
BLOCK: Omar Gallaga of the Austin-American Statesman.
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