SXSW Day Three / by Dan Weingrod

Sunday at SXSW started quietly. Most likely because of the massive amount of sponsored parties that went on late into Saturday night. Sessions were also relatively sedate for me. Unfortunately missed perhaps the best session of the day from Clay Shirky, but I followed the tweets from the session I was in and remarkably was able to converse semi-intelligently about it with someone who had actually been to the session. Something to say about tweets and I'll have more to say about Shirky and the role of agencies later. Three of the sessions I did make presented some interesting and new ideas in the arena of gaming and Apps, which somehow seem to be related. A panel discussion around social gaming interested me because of the role that games and game structure plays in social media apps such as FourSquare and GoWalla, as well as Facebook. In fact, one of the sessions that Jen Vallez, one of Cronin's Web designers, attended discussed how game-like features can make a difference in the first moments of Web engagement. An interesting perspective.

An session covering Apps and brands included some solid commentary and analysis from three experienced designers and strategists in this sphere which seems to combine gaming and social media. The one major consensus that I took away from this session was that Apps must have some level of utility for their participants in order to succeed. The apps that simply recreate a micro-site or a brand experience will simply not gain traction.

The most entertaining session of the day was Dan Ariely of Duke talking about behavioral economics and decision making. I had heard some of this before on his appearances on Marketplace Radio. In the context of SXSW, Arieli made some great points about how people will generally settle for the "default" option when they have a complex range of choices available. Something for us all to think about when we want our users to take a favorable action. Arieli presented this with great and humorous examples. Maybe economics isn't the dismal science.