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5 things to expect at SXSW 2018

(BUSINESS NEWS) A quick snapshot of SXSW, Austin’s biggest festival (and arguably in the nation’s most popular), and what you can expect in 2018.

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A little festival

If you have a pulse, you’ve probably heard of a festival (see: conference of colossal size) in Austin, Texas called South By Southwest, and if you haven’t heard of it, you’ve probably seen a hashtag or an ad or some other media referring to something called SXSW.

People everywhere

SouthBy (as the privy affectionately call it) started in the 80s with a few hundred attendees and has grown in nuclear proportions to be a festival that registers over 50,000 of people and shuts a few miles of downtown Austin down for two weeks.

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In particular, SXSW Interactive (SXSWi) boasts high attendance and typically accounts for almost 75% of the festival’s attendees.

This year everyone was diggin’ on the acronym chili

AR, VR, AI, and so forth filled the halls of the conference center plus a few of the hosting hotels. There was also an impressive number of breakout sessions regarding the marijuana industry – but I digress.

But what about next year?

We got some exclusive insight from Deb Gabor, CEO of Sol Marketing in Austin and Author of Branding is Sex.

In her own words below, Gabor describes what 2018 will most likely have in store:

Brands, brands, brands:

SXSWi 2017 was a showcase for brand activation, but not the technology and digital media brands you might expect at a conference traditionally attended by trendsetters and tastemakers.

This year’s conference featured 360-degree, immersive, interactive brand experiences targeted at everyday consumers, highlighting upcoming TV shows, movies, retailers, apps, gadgets, and consumer products.

The 2017 fest featured everything from a visually accurate, full-sized Los Pollos Hermanos fast food pop-up focused on creating excitement for the comeback of Gus Fring (the character played Giancarlo Esposito on AMC’s “Breaking Bad”) to its “Better Call Saul” prequel, to a provocative and highly immersive Gatorade sports performance experience, to Casper Mattress’ brilliant partnership with the OneNight app providing 45 minute nap respites to tired attendees at the ultra-hip and retro Austin Motel.

Each year, the activations become more pervasive and increasingly clever.

These savvy brands don’t benefit from their in-person activations alone; they grow legs with great media exposure, social sharing, and word of mouth.

I think we’ll continue to see SXSW as a platform for brand launches and unexpected activations.

However, based upon unofficial reports, the total number of events for which attendees could RSVP dropped by almost 100 from 2016 to 2017. It’s possible we’ll continue to see a decline in the number of events, with a corollary increase in more curated guest lists, as the quality of those events and activations increase in quality and excitement.

Brand absenteeism:

While brand activation was a big story for me this past year, I was surprised by the absence or dialing-back of some SXSW’s mainstay brands like Spotify and Samsung – brands that seem like a perfect fit for SXSW’s vibe.

SXSW has become a global stage for translating online and media brands into offline experiences.

However, many brands are finding it expensive and inefficient to garner awareness and bond with audiences offline.

At an event that hosts an estimated 70,000+ attendees, exhibitors, performers, and guests, it’s become increasingly difficult for brands to get their messages to the right people, at the right place, at the right frequency, at the right time.

Between Austin’s enhanced real estate restrictions that made getting space downtown for special events more difficult this year, and the sheer proliferation of brands and messages, Austin’s SXSW has become an increasingly difficult event at which to activate brands.

That is unless you have huge ideas, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and budgets that can cut through the noise.

Since downtown Austin isn’t getting any bigger, I think we’ll continue to see a changing brand landscape at future festivals.

Technology not for technology’s sake, but as a means to create a lifestyle:

This year’s SXSW featured an entire track dedicated to retail technology and fashion as well as lots of deep-dives on Virtual and Augmented Reality.

As technology continues to be a means for producers and purveyors of hard goods, soft goods, and experiences to deliver to their customers, SXSW stepped up its game to showcase technologies such as VR and AR and their roles in personalizing and customizing our shopping and media consumption experiences.

Since VR and AR technologies are in their infancy, this dialogue is sure to continue well into coming years.

SXSW gets political:

While SXSW 2017 featured many of the delightfully quirky and geeky attributes we’ve come to expect from the 31-year old conference, attendees saw politics – specifically the issue of inclusivity – step into center stage, on and off the show floor.

From Joseph Biden’s impassioned Cancer speech (Biden said that cancer is the “only bipartisan thing left in the United States.”), to SXSW organizers’ bathroom signage stating the conference’s pledge to being “inclusive, diverse and forward-thinking,” and opposing “discriminatory legislation,” SXSW 2017 took a very strong political tone.

This year’s show featured panels that addressed Silicon Valley’s diversity problems.

Tumblr’s CEO Tom Karp announced an initiative to support Planned Parenthood (#TechStandswithPP.) And the music part of the conference hosted showcases featuring bands affected by President Trump’s travel ban. As long as powerful people speak, exhibit at, and attend SXSW, we’ll see the event as a platform for advancing political sentiments.

Inclusivity increases:

While it’s been my personal experience that SXSW has been encouraging diversity, 2017’s actual Interactive conference attendees (those with paid badges I saw wandering around the convention center and other official badged locations) still looked like a bro-club to me.

While conference organizers claim that the entire festival attracts 70,000+ attendees and speakers of all ages, genders, ethnicities from upwards of 80 different countries, badged SXSW Interactive attendees still look like 30-40 something year old white dudes.

For all the forward thinking, futuristic nature that the conference supposedly embodies, a lot of what the naked eye sees is rooted in traditional industry structures.

Aside from panels about diversity in the technology industry, and investing in companies run by “diverse” founders, and a handful of sideshow events and meetups, the conference itself doesn’t exactly match the faces of the technology industry I know and love.

While the industry has made some important strides towards inclusivity (and had many setbacks too – recent news of Uber’s President resigning amidst a bevvy of sexual harassment claims at the company doesn’t bode well for the industry’s future), I think we’ll see SXSW assuming more of a lead role in populating an event with faces that more closely match those of the industries it celebrates.

#SXSW

Kiri Isaac is the Web Producer and a Staff Writer at The American Genius and studied communications at Texas A&M. She is fluent in sarcasm and movie quotes and her love language is tacos.

Business News

Wal-mart can’t keep up even with fresh online technology

(BUSINESS NEWS) Wal-mart had hoped to keep online retailers from encroaching on their turf with AI assisted shopping start up Jetblack, but unfortunately that didn’t work.

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Wal-Mart’s exclusive delivery service, JetBlack, is no more. What’s the deal?

Wal-Mart’s acquired start-up, JetBlack, had an interesting challenge: getting affluent New Yorkers to purchase goods from Wal-Mart, instead of other places. Now, about two years after its initial launch, JetBlack has been shut down. So, what’s the deal?

JetBlack was a delivery service with an interesting twist: it utilized AI to respond to text message requests. For instance, users could send a text like “I need more toilet paper” and drawing from initial information input into the system, past experiences, and the occasional “professional shopper,”, JetBlack would hook the user up with a delivery.

The AI could also give suggestions if users asked questions. Don’t want to shop for your niece’s birthday present? No problem, JetBlack would give you ideas of what to purchase and then deliver the gift to your door, gift-wrapped and everything.

By increasing the convenience of the shopping experience, Wal-Mart hoped to use JetBlack to lure wealthy households back to buying from Wal-Mart. Membership fees were $50 a month, which seems steep, but Wal-Mart asserts it was actually losing about $15,000 per member on a yearly basis. Awkward.

So, what went wrong?

Part of the problem might be just how much work went into a small percentage of customers. For instance, it took effort to get new users onboarded. Best case scenario, this was a phone call to tackle basic needs and interests, but users could also opt to have employees visit their home and assess their preferences in person. (It’s also incredibly creepy, but hey, at least there’s additional convenience?) Point is, these personal touches aren’t exactly sustainable for a growing market.

It also might just be that Wal-Mart wasn’t really skilled at putting this newly acquired start-up to work. An interview with Business Insider reveals that the ordeal, while expensive, also served as a massive learning process.

While JetBlack has ended its current run (and lost a number of employees in the process), the technology developed by the company will live on. In fact, Wal-Mart is going to try to strengthen their infrastructure and hopefully integrate JetBlack’s texting and AI capabilities in a wider release. Who knows, maybe in the future, more of us will be able to send off a text to have someone else take on the challenge of purchasing our niece’s birthday present.

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Business News

How remote work has changed over the last decade

(BUSINESS NEWS) let’s reflect on how remote working and telecommuting has changed in recent years and look to how it will continue to change in the 2020s.

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As someone who often works remote, it’s interesting to see how much that means for work has evolved. The increase in commonality has been steady, and shows no signs of slowing down. Go Remotely has developed an insightful graphic showing the changes in trends regarding remote work over the years.

“For decades, the established economy dictated that you should pick one job, visit the same office for the next 40 years, and then retire,” reads the graphic’s intro. “However, recent remote working stats suggest the working world might be in for some revolutionary changes.”

From there, the graphic is broken down into five facets: Flexible Workspace Policy, Entrepreneurial Minds, Telecommuting is a Growing Trend, The Role of Companies in the Remote Working World, and The Future of Telecommuting.

With Flexible Workspace Policy, its suggested that telecommuting could be a solution for costly issues including lack of productivity caused by employee distractions, health problems, etc. It is said that employers lose $1.8 trillion annually due to these issues.

The end of 2018 found 35 percent of the US workforce working remotely. This is only expected to climb. Ten percent of employees don’t know if their company offers flexible work policies (this is something to check into!)

Bills and laws for virtual jobs passed by governments reflect the need for accessibility, economic stability, and emigration concerns. Companies with flexible work policies have reported seeing increases in productivity and profits. (Funny those both start with pro, no?)

With Entrepreneurial Minds, a few interesting things found include: remote workers are less likely to take off if they are sick, the majority reports better productivity when working alone, the majority reported lower stress levels. However, there is a problem with not being able to unplug after work which is an issue for some.

Telecommuting is a Growing Trend finds that there has been a seven percent increase between 2012 and 2016, with the majority (80-100 percent) reporting they work remotely. Industries seen embracing remote work include: transportation, computer/information systems/mathematical, arts/design/entertainment/sports/media, finance/insurance/real estate, law or public policy, community/social services, science/engineering/architecture, manufacturing or construction, healthcare, education/training/library, and retail.

The Role of Companies in the Remote Working World finds that the pros to hiring remote workers includes: finding talent outside of your geographic area, improves retention on work/life balance, increases productivity by decreasing commute time, and saves money by requiring less office space. The cons include lack of timeliness when it comes to receiving information from employers.

Finally, the Future of Telecommuting suggests that in 2020 the US mobile worker population will surpass 105 million (and will account for 72 percent of the US workforce). Hiring managers predict that telecommuting will increase tremendously, most skills will become even more niche over the next decade, and many think that 38 percent of their full-time workers will be working remotely in the next decade.

How do you feel about the increase in remote working and telecommuting?

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Business News

ClickUp team productivity app is gorgeous and wildly efficient

(BUSINESS NEWS) Seeking to improve your productivity and speed up your team, ClickUp is an inexpensive option for those obsessed with efficiency.

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Back again to obsess over productivity apps – ClickUp, is a project management tool seeking to knock the frustration out of PM. It’s getting some good reviews, so I gave it a try for a week by setting up my current job search as a project and getting a feel for the app. And as you’ve read in my other reviews, we will address features and design.

On the feature front, ClickUp offers a pretty standard set up of tools for a productivity app. What stands out first and foremost are the status options. In general, most productivity statuses are simple: not started, started, in progress, done, etc.

But ClickUp lets you set up custom statuses that match your workflow.

For example, if you’re doing instructional design projects, you may assign projects based on where they are flowing in an ADDIE model, or if you are a Realtor, you may have things cataloged by sold, in negotiation, etc.

Customization is king and custom status is the closest you get to building your own app. And if you like it simple, you don’t have to customize it. The assigned comments feature lets you follow up on specific comments that originate action items – which is useful in team collaborations.

You can also assign changes to multiple tasks at once, including changing statuses (I would bulk assign completion tasks when I finished applications that I did in batches). There a lot of features here, but the best feature is how the app allows you to toggle on and off features that you will or won’t use – once again, customization is front and center for this platform.

In terms of design and intuive use, ClickUp nailed it.

It’s super easy to use, and the concept of space is pretty standard in design thinking. If your organization uses Agile methodology, this app is ready for you.

In terms of view, you can declutter the features, but the three viewing modes (list, box, and board) can help you filter the information and make decisions quickly depending on what role you have on a board or project. There is also a “Me” board that removes all the clutter and focuses on your tasks – a great way to do focused productivity bursts. ClickUp describes itself as beautifully intuitive, and I can’t disagree – both the web app and mobile app are insanely easy to use.

No complaints here.

And the horizon looks good for ClickUp – with new features like image markup, Gannt charts (!!!!!! #nerdalert), and threaded comments for starts.

This application is great, and it’s got a lot of growth coming up to an already rich feature base. It’s free with 100MB of storage, but the $5 fee for team member per month that includes team onboarding and set up (say you’re switching from another platform) and Dropbox/Google Docs integration? That’s a bargain, Charlie.

ClickUp is on the way up and it’s got it all – features, a beautifully accessible UI, relentless customization, and lot of new and upcoming features. If you’re into the productivity platform and you’re looking for a new solution for your team, go check it out.

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