South BY Southwest, Inside-Outside-Upside-Down

I am behind on my SXSW blogging, to the point where I’m pretty sure there’s going to be no one definitive blog.  What I did get was a set of topics on which I want to blog, so I’ll be publishing the fruit of SXSW for some time, even if there’s no blow-by-blow rundown of what I did, what I ate, what I bought, who I met, and archive of collected swag.  What I am doing instead is publishing links to my collective storify synopses, but I’ll lead off with a few general observations  before sending you off to into the minutae.

What was startling about SXSW from the get-go is how effectively it turns all of downtown Austin into Terminal D of the DFW airport.  Everyone is squatting around on the floor, competing for plugs, waiting for the doors to open up and get their badges scanned in a manner  evocative of lining up at an airport gate.  In spite of the amount of personal contact you have with the low-pile carpet in the Austin Convention center, it’s not entirely unpleasant.  Within the airport-esque bubble there’s some seriously magical stuff going on.  Company sponsored airport lounges, like the one set up by Nest and full-size pop up ads like this one for A&E’s Bates Motel serve to reinforce the idea that your reality has been altered, albeit only in a very specific geography.

The Nest Your Home Away from HomeDon't Park Here

Next year, when people pitch their theories for what IBM should do at SXSW, and they include things like handing out grilled cheese sandwiches on the street using a squadron of teenagers on stilts, it’ll seem just slightly less like someone bumped their head than it did before.  At least with respect to the grilled cheese sandwiches, the question is “didn’t someone do something just like that last year?”

South By Southwest, Analyses and Day-By-Day, oddly intertwined.

1) Outside the Expo, iPhones are OUT. Inside the expo, iPhone is king.
Samsung was everywhere, handing out batteries and generally kicking ass. And while this is a data set of one Google-owned company, there weren’t recharge plugs available for iphones in Nest’s hangout.  On the other hand, there were companies in the expo center who were so exclusively iphone-focused as to be somewhat alarming [Really, Olloclip? Really?] The rate at which they adapt to the changing demographics of Android that going to determine the viability of anyone making a phone accessory.  Just plain ignoring it is just plain embarassing.

Storify Day One: Where, how, and with whom I rolled.

2) Wearables.
Are you making a wearable device? Are you Samsung? Or Shaq? Meet the standard by which you will be judged.
2014-03-10 14.23.31

 Storify Day Two: Rollin’, part two.


3)  Things people want to print out: pictures.  Things people still can’t quite grok: 3D printing.
At least two of the lounges I saw, and at least two vendors in the expo, were offering digital-turned-paper pictures. It seems we want the bulk of our pictures digitized, but if the paper is instantaneous, we’ll take that too.  Whomever owns the Poloroid brand name, take note.

3D Printing was still a big presence, but it’s clear we’re struggling with what precisely to do with it commercially.  The most popular item I saw was fake google glass printouts – meaning someone had printed a plastic faker google glass arm.  What does it mean when someone wants to pretend to be a glasshole?

 Day Three: Walking the Trade Show

4) Social media isn’t fun anymore.  It has much more to do now with analyzing the motivations of who’s socializing and scoping out who isn’t.

One of the two panels I got shut out of was on Social Media Analytics, and the best-attended (and most mindblowing one) that I got into was on “What Social Media Analytics Can’t Tell You.”  The idea of social media content and strategy  being simply a question of acquiring followers and blurting out one sided announcements is so done so as to be laughable.  Now not only do you have to mine who’s talking, you need to understand that you’re probably only getting active responses from 32% of the people who are actually looking.  Lurkers and how to enfranchise them is the next big question.

I was proud of IBM’s presence in this area, starting with the #socialbizshakeup event at the W and then onto the personality trait analysis available in the expo.

I’m not clear I’m ready to take this unswerving a  look in the mirror of my own tweets, but knowledge is power.  We also managed to party! On more than one occasion! And only one time was a jazz combo involved.

Day Four: Sold Out Sessions and Werewolves

5) Evernote + 3M, sitting in a tree.  K-i-s-s-i-n-g.
Between this Secret and this booth, featuring  giveaways of Evernote premium…Consider this my first acquisition crystal ball shot call of 2014.

Day Five: Livetweeting for my LIFE

That is all the news I thought to write down, intermixed with my days [and nights] of SXSW 2014.  Enjoy.

 

 

South By Southwest and Taco Obsession, an Insider’s Guide

I’ve lived in Austin for 18 years. I’ve learned to control it, the urge to make a diet out of tacos.  But I’ve seen  too many of my friends – Texans in Exile especially- go Taco Crazy to pretend it doesn’t happen.

This is supposed to be a tech blog.  Or a blog that addresses tech trends and strategy.  So I’ll loop that in by saying that after 18 years of departing Austin the day that SXSW starts and coming back the the day it ends, this year I’m headed to the party.   My primary objective is going to be chatting with IBM’s existing and prospective clients about IBM Service Engage.  But my secondary objective is to learn more about three things.

1) Marketing Strategy
2) Social Media
3) Millennials, even though I’ve already well placed a stake in the ground with this post.

I’ve built my agenda accordingly.  My walking shoes, still packed from Pulse, will be making a reappearance.  So I’m set.  I couldn’t help but notice, though, that the SXSW Interactive crew loves three things themselves this year.

1) Wearable Tech
2) Milliennials (What a stroke of luck!)
3) Tacos.

Damn, everything is about the tacos.  The secret menu tacos.  The breakfast tacos that coat your stomach with redemption after a night of mistakes.  The haute taco based on interior Mexican cuisine.  The bas tacos that pull in southern cooking.  Tacos with breakfast cereal BAKED RIGHT IN, people. It’s everywhere.

So I’m going to help you out and contribute my expertise.

Call it my way in to the narrative, so to speak.

Here’s how you Taco, Austin-local style.

Breakfast

On a normal day, in the normal way, breakfast tacos of average excellence  are not going to be hard to find.  Austin Java does a fine job, for instance.  Pretty much any place that serves breakfast is going to feature a taco-building option, and I find just as a general guideline, adding avocado to any taco is going to take it to the next level.  Even so, we’re here for the insider dish, so I’m going to point out three outliers, both good and bad.

1) My personal morning-after-the-night-before favorite isn’t a taco at all.   After about three ingredients, it’s time to stop with the pretense and just go whole burrito on the situation.  Everything you secretly want on one taco but can’t wedge in there.  Enter the Burnet Road Burrito from Taco Shack. Taco Shack overall is a breakfast revelation, pretty much as good as you can get breakfast wise without stumbling towards advanced levels.  Especially important is the application of their sauce- don’t leave without at least one ounce of the stuff in your bag or you’ve missed the point.

2) Advanced levels. Secret society level stuff…Torchy’s tacos Taco-of-The-Month this month is the Roscoe. It’s hard to explain the Roscoe without weeping or using religious terminology.  Flour Tortilla, Fresh Waffle, Fried Chicken, Bacon, Maple Syrup.  You’ll be back for another one. I don’t recommend this one for the morning after…let your stomach warm up and make this one a lunch or dinner experience if you’re suffering.

3) From the Meh Files:  Rudy’s BBQ breakfast tacos and Taco Deli in the Morning.  Trust me we will revisit Taco Deli later.  But Rudy’s tacos are available for resale Austin wide, making the otherwise improbable downtown encounter with them possible.  It’s wholly personal opinion, but there’s something added to the eggs, some ? spice that I can’t get into.  They make up for it by delivering the best possible BBQ options with your taco, including brisket and sausage, but still.  The eggs.  I can’t quite make it happen.

Taco Deli in the morning swings close but has potato issues.  They’re mashed.  I think this is because the focus here is on authentic Mexican cuisine, which shines in other areas, but not in the morning with the mashed potatoes.  Just no.

Bonus round: The Airport.  Beware here because there are some vendors who think that American cheese in a breakfast taco is something people should be paying money for in this the year 2014.  Hell No.  Ask before you buy.  Especially important because the airport is either going to be your first or last taco experience of the fest.

Non-Breakfast

I divide the taco world into two sections, which I mentioned before.  One is going to be Tacos the way Mexico intended them, the second one is going to be Texan-Southern.  I love both.  But make sure you walk on both sides of the street before you declare yourself a convert either way.

1) Best -in-Class, Interior style: Taco Deli.  Oh Taco Deli.  I was an Original Taco Gangsta at the one near the IBM office.  At one point in my reign I was one of the people consulted about whether or not they should close early on holidays. Even more extreme, the counter help were consistently polite to me.

Once you leave the breakfast menu behind, there are no missteps here.  But if you want to get it done right, go on Thursdays.  Why? Because of the Scallops (grilled scallops tossed with roasted red and poblano peppers, grilled corn and a garlic lime mojo sauce.)  You might also find the Taco Lomo (pork loin with red cabbage) on Thursdays, but I haven’t seen that in a while so try to manage your expectations.

2) Best in Class, Southern Style: Torchy’s.  There are those who believe that you’re either a Deli or a Torchy but I disagree with this level of divisiveness.  The key here is to go slow, trying a crazy one and a conservative each visit.  And beware that the odds of falling down a Torchy’s Tacos K-Hole, where it’s the only thing you eat the entire time you’re in Austin, are high.  My typical order, when Roscoe isn’t in town, is the Green Chili Pork on Corn and the Baja Shrimp on Wheat.   But again, it’s hard to go wrong here if you’re willing to be bold.  Be sure to buy some of the Elote as well.

Honorable Mentions

1) Fresca’s Chicken– This is the place where I finally found out what a corn tortilla is supposed to taste like and why they exist.  Much like Torchy’s, there’s no such thing as just one visit here.  I usually get a Anchote & Citrus chicken meal.

2) The Mighty Cone – This is basically a taco served in a paper cone and termed the Hot and Crunchy Cone. They’ve relcoated from their original stand on Congress to Rio Grande.  For my own dietary protection I  only let myself eat them during ACL festival.  They come in Avocado, Chicken, and Shrimp. I’ve had all three, I generally get the chicken when I indulge.

3) Maria’s Taco Express – I only vouch for this place on Sunday mornings, and even then it’s more cultural experience than a taco.  They have a gospel brunch that’s worth sitting through, even if the counter staff are notoriously rude.

Be aware that like anything that inflames passions, Taco recommendations and opinions are going to be varied and heated.  There are people who will disagree with everything I’ve said here, and they’re welcome to it.

Looking forward to seeing everyone and their tin foil wrappers at SXSW!