SXSW: March 11 2018

Today was a mostly good SXSW day. I attended a nice variety of Interactive sessions and enjoyed a movie at the Paramount in the evening. My only complaint is food-related: once again I missed lunch. My mid-afternoon search for free food was a waste of time. I finally gave up and paid for a meal.

Today I also began on my systematic aisle-by-aisle exploration of the Trade Show. I love that show. It’s only open for 3 days, so you’ve got to be organized to see everything.

Break & Re-Make Your Brand with Uber

Bozoma Saint John is the Chief Brand Officer for Uber. She was interviewed by Jo Ling Kent, a correspond for NBC News. First, Saint John showed a really cute video called Once Upon A Ride where she told a story about taking an Uber ride in Austin and inviting her driver to join her at a dinner with Iggy Pop. She had worked for Pepsi and Apple before moving to Uber less than a year ago. She works in what she calls Pop Culture Marketing. Some quotes: “I’m the kind of woman who wears frickin’ sequins in the middle of the day, so I’m not really afraid of a lot.” “If I have an chance to be at the table in a leadership position, then I absolutely want to be there—in my sequins.” “The product plan is just as important as the cultural plan.”

Interactive Keynote: Melinda Gates

Melinda Gates spoke about growing up in Texas and working as a programmer. She called on companies to embrace diversity in hiring and invest in mentorship and support. She was joined on the stage by Joanna Coles (Hearst Magazine) who then assumed the moderator role. Coles asked her about balancing responsibilities with Bill Gates. She answered that he was staying at home while she was here at SXSW. Gates noted that young women coming out of college feel that they can reach the top, but as they get older, they starting worrying about balancing work and family.

Nina Shaw (Time’s Up) and Stacy Brown-Philpot (TaskRabbit) joined the conversation. Shaw talked about the salary controversy involving Mark Walberg and Michelle Williams. Brown-Philpot said that TaskRabbit educates women about what salaries they should be requesting for their work. Gates said that less than 2% of VC investments go to women-founded businesses. Shaw: “I think there’s a bunch of guys waiting for this to be over. This will never be over.” Brown-Philpot: “We still need men to be allies.”

Investigative Journalism in the Social Media Age

I arrived quite late for this session due to a failed mission to find free food. David Fahrenthold is an investigative reporter for the Washington Post. He is focusing on investigating the Trump Organization’s debt this year. I was surprised to hear that the Post uses bots to write some local sports stories.

Shredding the Newspaper

Emily Bell (Columbia University) led a discussion with John Keene (Quartz) and Alexis Lloyd (Axios). Keefe’s organization is exploring conversational interfaces related to media. Lloyd is working on redesigning the format of the traditional news article format. The same format is not appropriate for all news organizations. Keene is excited about machine-based learning in the newsroom with data visualization.


Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal play best friends who live in Oakland CA. Diggs and Casal were also the writers and producers. They said that they spent nine years on this project.

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