March 20, 2011
My Top 12 Apps for #SXSW or any Conference for That Matter
After a gruelling week (translation: no food or sleep) in Austin for SXSW, I took a look at the apps I used most frequently and why.
Here's my top pick: the top 12 apps, most of which are iPhone apps, but some of them I also used on my laptop.
Plancast: Plancast is doing remarkable things given that it's still only a team of three. I had a chance to hang a bit with founders Jay Marcyes and Mark Hendrickson on the main floor early on. When I brought up the issue of Plancast seeing multiple accounts (this happens if you check in with Twitter the first time and another social network like Facebook the second time around). They know about it and can now automatically merge accounts. I used it to see where friends and colleagues were going to hang throughout the week, including international folks. It also included guest lists of some of SXSW’s biggest events and parties, which was instrumental for planning SXSW in advance. Since you can also see how many people (and who) signed up for each one, the sheer volume can give you an idea of whether its likely to be crowded with long lines or have a smaller more intimate feel.
Foursquare: While I'm not a heavy user of Foursquare or any location-based service app on a regular basis, I find it incredibly useful at conferences where a large number of known colleagues, companies and industry people will gather. I used it just like I did last year....to see where friends were traveling and when so we could hook up. While I used email and texting in advance to line up "must-do" meetings, it was incredibly useful to get a sense of who was going where and when. You could also get a sense of where the "geeks" were hanging out vis a vis the big brands, the marketers, the early adopters, the bloggers and so on.
Twitter: Hands down, I still used Twitter more than any other app at the conference, with Foursquare coming in a close second. And yes, I used it on my laptop during sessions and on my iPhone during after hours.
iPhone App SXSW Go: I couldn't have lived without this at SXSW this year. Trying to cover Interactive and Film while also trying to catch a few music acts in between it all, was mind boggling even with a full night's sleep, no alcohol and tons of caffeine. The search funtion allows you to search for a few key words of a talk you're looking for or a person who is speaking and you can also navigate within the app by each section of the event: Interactive, Film or Music. Or, you can search across all three.
iPhone App Wi-Fi Finder: With thoThe app actually works. You can set it to automatic and it will pull up known places within a certain parameter. It also lets you know if its locked, paid or free so you can make the best possible choice. It apparently also has an international feature to find hot spots outside the U.S. as well. (useful for international conferences/events if you do many of those).
Hootsuite on the iPhone: If you manage more than one Twitter account like I do, Hootsuite on the iPhone is a great user experience, especially when it comes to managing streams of your accounts as well as your lists. I can easily and quickly scroll down a handful of accounts to determine who has DMed me recently or not. While SXSW was particularly cluttered and it was easy to miss messages, HootSuite still provided me with the most efficient way to manage the process. BTW, on the Blackberry, I'm still a huge fan of Seesmic.
Bump: I just met Bump co-founder Jake Mentz at DEMO three weeks ago and I have to admit, I gave him a hard time the night after his presentation because frankly, I simply didn't 'get it.' He was patient and took the time to share various scenarios of where it would be useful and frankly, where and when it wouldn't. I did my first "bump" with USA Today reporter & pal Ed Baig.
The first time didn't work but when it did, we both had an aha moment. I'm still not sure I see myself using this app frequently although I DO get the times where it could be useful, such as the time I was introduced to a friend of a friend who I knew I wanted to stay in touch with. We were both at a dark (and loud bar) without business cards and no pens. One bump and we both had each other's data, photos, Twitter handles and Facebook account information. Useful. I'm such a card junkie to be honest and still write down notes from our meeting including a visual to remind me of them, i.e., purple scarf who was a Social CRM geek. You get the idea.
Urban Spoon (Austin Eats): Given how insane my schedule was this year, I actually didn't have TIME to eat. I kid you not. I went four days living off nacho chips and diet coke, something that works when you're 22 and in college, but not when you're covering hundreds of panels, events, and films over the course of a few days. After the fourth day, I started tapping into Urban Spoon for recommended BBQ joints and food trucks (great ones on the East Side of Sixth Street -- under the bridge).
Foodspotting: See above. I needed food, couldn't find food and 90% of the venues and parties didn't have food. Chips ain't enough friends. Foodspotting and Urban Spoon became close friends mid-way through the conference.
Uber for the iPhone: Uber is relatively new -- in fact, I read a New York Times article on an airplane (over someone's shoulder) before arriving. With hundreds (okay, thousands -- 50K you could say) of attendees all competing for far too few taxis and pedicabs, Uber comes to the rescue. Uber provides on-demand town car service via both its app and text messaging service. You simply launch a map so Uber determines where you are, lock down where you would like to be picked up and put in a credit card. (btw, Android is also supported). We used it a couple of times and yeah, it actually worked.
Instagram: All I heard about for months was Instagram, Instagram, Instagram, to the point where I was thinking "ENUF already." Then, peer pressure won as it often does in the technology industry and I tried it after migrating from my Blackberry to the iPhone. Okay, so I had many "this is really cool moments," especially when I could instantly make industry gurus and Apple fan boys blue, red and sepia with one button click. Instagram makes you feel like a ten year old again, a ten year old in art class who can create on the fly without a lot of effort. And so, I had a one month love affair with it, and then I got bored and went back to the regular iPhone camera - simple and quick and most of the time, did I really need antique, sepia or gothic additions? That said, during SXSW, I found it useful as photos with a little more texture and color can add depth, humor and a little "fun" to your tweets, especially when you're tweeting four times as much as you normally do.
Lastly, here's an app everyone seemed to be talking about at SXSW but I did NOT USE:
Beluga: Beluga is like having your own chat room with friends. Perhaps I didn't get this because I felt it was for a much younger demographic. Then again, I didn't really get into "using it" so perhaps there are wow moments I've yet to have with it. Beluga allows you to set up messaging groups, called “pods,” and then blast out messages to an entire group. Mobile chat room of the future? Hard to say, but where it could be useful if I were a tad more organized is setting up a group dinner at a restaurant in between parties on the fly.
Oddly, I pretty much ignored Facebook for most of the week although I did check in from time to time to make sure no one sent me messages there. (not the most efficient way to reach you when you're on the road). At least, it's not a great way to reach me.
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