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Ideas, Innovations, and Disruptions at SXSWi 2013.

The Crowd As DJ: The Results


Crowdsourcing Gives Everyone a Voice

The overall response to the Crowd Sourced DJ was overwhelmingly positive. It was described as "novel" and people loved that it allowed them to participate in the music selection. When we probed further about what made it attractive, party-goers were enthusiastic about the philosophy of crowdsourcing, noting that it is a vehicle that gives everyone a voice. We were struck by the passionate tone and language of the participants. Some of the comments included:

- "It's for the community by the community,"
- "It's democratic,"
- "You have a chance to have a say"

However, while people embraced the spirit of crowdsourcing, many openly acknowledged that it compromised the quality of the output. We heard comments like:

- "The masses have bad taste"
- "I don't trust the public"

And yet those interviewed did not perceive the conflict between crowd selections and individual taste as an inherent negative. One music-savvy partygoer intimated that while the music being played did not align with his preferences, it still "fell within his range of acceptability." In the context of a large social experience, like a party, the spirit of empowering the crowd reigns supreme. Many people acknowledged the party context and noted that there's a time and place for everything. So while crowdsourcing is okay in one moment and social environment, it may not be appropriate for every situation.


The Crowd As DJ: The Methodology

 Music shapes our experience of the world—it sets a mood, represents who we are (or who we want to be), captures memories, and defines a moment. The decision to embrace crowdsourcing as the DJ concept for the frog party was a risk in many ways. Who knew what the crowd might choose? What vibe would be created? Would it bring people together or further highlight our separate identities and divergent tastes? It was a meaningful social experiment—not only in music curation but also in social dynamics.

In order to fully embrace the experiment, frog dispatched 11 researchers to collect data at the party about music, crowdsourcing, and social dynamics. This article will both share the findings and reflect on the process that we used to take advantage of this research opportunity most efficiently and meaningfully.

The Crowd As DJ: The Concept


At frog, we often find ourselves conducting research in surprising places all over the world. Those of you familiar with our recent trip to Afghanistanwill know that we conduct field research everywhere from private homes and businesses, to civic and social institutions, to very public spaces. When we're in the field, we like to create "pop-up" studios to facilitate rapid synthesis, ideation, and prototyping. Last month in Austin, we created a unique pop-up studio very close to home, at the frog SXSW Interactive Opening Party.

The Clinician’s Dashboard

The following post is the second in a two-part series on storytelling, healthcare, and data from SXSW Interactive. The first part can be read here. 

Human health is the next battleground for advances in Big Data. From understanding the human genome to leveraging electronic medical records, the opportunities to improve our healthcare with data management and visualization is one of the most discussed topics this year at SXSW. Healthtech at SXSW Interactive has taken many forms, from start-ups like 23andme, which will map your genotype for only $99, to businesses at scale like GE Healthymagination, or venture accelerator RockHealth (who seems to be driving a lot of innovation in the space).

The healthcare provider community, including doctors, nurses and the organizations, like hospitals and clinics, that support them are in the middle of a massive overhaul of the methods and mechanism with which they interact with data. We would like to suggest an approach to includes the patient perspective, their raw data, and the public ecosystem.

Yesterday, Jon Freach described a methodology by which patients can construct coherent self-narratives of the history and state of their health. This methodology has the potential to reduce the emotional stress experienced during the treatment process and result in the best possible treatment outcomes. By giving the patient the ability to construct their own health narrative, this tool supports the current shift in the healthcare relationship from a provider/payer-centric model, focused on procedures and costs, to a patient-centric model, focused on health.  The words “patient-centric” and “self-constructed” are likely to give many doctors (and a few hospital administrators) fits, as the mere concept of enabling a patient to own their diagnosis and treatment threatens to disrupt the established healthcare machine.

But do clinicians have a choice in the matter? In a connected world, the patient is armed with more information than ever before. And patients seeing multiple doctors for different aspects of the same condition often quickly realize that they possess more knowledge than any one of their individual doctors.  I saw this growing up as my mother, who suffers from a chronic nerve disease, often would be seeing up to eight different doctors at the same time. In her case, she was the only one who could tie the story of her condition together. So, if the move to a patient-centric universe is a likely outcome, how can we give clinicians the appropriate tools to maximize healthy results and maintain a level of acceptable control?

SXSW: Technologies for Instinct, Emotion, and Serendipity


SXSW is known for the frenzy it creates around pinpointing the next big thing. In 2012, start-ups dominated the conference and you couldn’t walk a block without being inundated with promotions for hot new apps that promised to take you to the next level of connectedness. This year, fascinations with “the glowing rectangle” seem to have subsided, and there is instead a focused effort to articulate what we value as emotional beings in a physical world, and how the digital realm can accommodate our pursuits for a better life. Moving from panel discussion to solo presentation to special-interest meetup, I find myself engaged in a collective effort among conference participants to consider the psychological shift taking place as we invite technology into our cities, homes, pockets, and eventually (with Google Glass) to the very tip of our nose.

HTML5 Hacks

The following is an excerpt from HTML5 Hacks: Tips and Tools for Creating Interactive Web Applications  by frog Senior Software Engineer Jesse Cravens and Jeff Burtoft. Jesse and Jeff will presenting a SXSW session featuring the book on Tuesday March 12, at 11:30 AM. 

HTML5 is the new catchall term for “the Web.” Like Ajax and Web 2.0 before, the term can cause confusion when used in different contexts. HTML5 is technically the fifth revision of the HTML markup language, but you will find the term being used to describe an umbrella of next-generation web technology specifications that include CSS3, SVG, and JavaScript APIs.

In order to understand HTML5 in this context, first it is important to understand that HTML5 is not one technology that is applied or added to a web application. There are more than 30 specifications within the HTML5 umbrella, and each is at a different stage of maturity. Furthermore, each specification is also at a different state of adoption and, potentially, implementation, by the major browser manufacturers.

Depending on an application’s business requirements, the app’s developer will pick and choose the HTML5 features to take advantage of. It is entirely possible that only a handful of the available specifications will be used for the final implementation of a modern web application.

Building a Health Narrative

A caregiver shows an example of a family medical history document she created after learning about her father’s heart condition. She shares it with other family members and doctors to add important context to the care process

We tell stories to understand and express who we are, aspire to what we want to be, and shape what others think about us. We tell stories to entertain, mythologize, or just share. The many approaches to storytelling are a frequent topic at SXSWi this year, with 100+ panels that reference stories or storytelling. Our own story is being created every day, through conversations with our self, through interactions with other people, social networks, companies, and institutions. These days, we don’t have full control over it–online networks and digital communities are actively shaping, telling, and retelling stories about us and our behaviors that we’re not always aware of

At SXSWi, the popular author John Hagel raised the distinction between stories and narratives. Stories are finite. They have a beginning and end. Stories are also about someone or something else. They are not personal to the individual. Narratives are open ended, with a resolution that is undefined. Narratives are personal and contain an invitation for others to participate in the resolution.

How can the story of our health turn into a narrative with friends, family, physicians and the care community that is coherent, useful, participatory, and evolving? How can narrative put a face on our conditions and enable deeper understandings of ourselves and more meaningful interactions between us, our caregivers, and health providers that help us feel better and lead to wellness?

The New Experience Economy: Activity as Currency

Whether in our client projects, our recent work on wearables, or even this year’s SXSWi Opening Party, we at frog spend a lot of time these days developing intelligent connected devices. From self-tracking equipment, to wearable computing, to ambient sensing and sensor-embedded environments, the Internet of Things was discussed more than any other subject this year at SXSWi.

Some of the best thinking on this subject was shared at Sunday’s panel entitled How Self-Tracking Geeks are Shaping our Future, featuring Gary Wolf (Founder of the Quantified Self movement), Lisa Kennedy (CMO of GE healthymagination), and Sonny Vu (CEO of Misfit Wearables and creator of the world’s first iPhone connected medical device.) The conversation highlighted emerging consumer wearable technology and health-related devices. As one would expect, the conversation eventually led the personal value of data generated by this equipment, but did not directly address the value of this data to the enterprise.

We all know our data has value. Why else would Google give me products, like search, Gmail, or Google Drive, to use for free? I know they are monetizing my data through advertising, but I don’t care because I get to use great products for free. Value exchange models like this abound in our digital experiences, from Google, to Facebook, to Foursquare (a company that has figured out, albeit indirectly, how to give me something tangible in return, in the form of that free slice of pizza I get from the pizza place where I am the mayor.) To date, the digital experience economy has largely been a one-way economy, with those companies who attract our attention monetizing our digital activity with their ecosystem partners. 

But the great equalizer to make this experience economy a true, two-way economy may be the simple sensor embedded in my clothing, car, or public space. Digital value exchanges are beginning to extend far beyond the screen of my phone or laptop. Embedded sensors will allow me to increasingly exchange my activity for currency.  

SXSW: Is this Progress? More Meaning in Our Digital Life

VP of Creative Paul Pugh—responsible for shaping frog’s focus on software and the ever-evolving mobile industry—led a SXSW panel on Sunday, discussing the opportunities and reticence associated with making our content and identities digital.

IT advances have created a mass transformation comparable to the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. The panel sought to evaluate the impact on our analog realities as we use digital tools to create new connections and experiences.  As our lives become increasingly miniaturized and virtualized, and user experience becomes ubiquitous, how can we create meaning?  

SXSW: Lean Startup for Big Brands

Click here for full image.

Eric Ries’s Lean Startup methodology was one of the hottest discussion topics of 2012 and was back again this year at SXSWi with a whole day of panels on Saturday. Central to this line of thinking is the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which represents a startup’s first test to judge the customer's interest in their offering, with a rough, often flawed version of their product. This strategy helps companies avoid early investment in unproven products or technologies and ensures efficient use of precious capital, all going directly towards iteratively rebuilding the MVP into what will eventually be the company’s core offering. 

Our clients are often curious how Lean Startup approaches can be best applied in their companies (largely incumbent players, intent on disrupting theirs or a parallel industry with a breakthrough innovation.) Incumbent companies are faced with a dilemma when considering the MVP approach: they too want to use capital efficiently, but are often afraid to put their brand or customer relationships, often built over years or even decades, at risk with a poorly performing product. 

Ries positions his methods as useful to both entrepreneurs and those looking to innovate from within established organizations. And, while an entrepreneurial attitude and management-style can bring a lot of value to an incumbent company, the considerations for the launch of an innovative enterprise differ depending on the context. This year at SXSWi, the Lean Startup stage welcomed a number of successful entrepreneurial test cases that exemplified a number of overlaps and differences for innovation at startups vs. established brands.