South by Southwest (SXSW) use to be a place where much of the tech industry focused on what was going to be the next best thing, such as Squarespace showing off its web building technology, Foursquare showing a way to share your location to friends to even this year a new video streaming service called Meerkat.
This year however felt a whole lot different. As many people know, data has become the name of the game and this year definitely proved it from many companies learning how to monetize users and their data. The keywords I kept hearing across the show floor was “data”, “monetize” and “analytics”. This definitely sparked a nerve with me because SXSW use to be able ways for companies to show off new tech but this year there were a bunch of data analytical walls and companies pushing “big data” and turning fans into customers. I understand that people are trying to expand brands and push forward into the future but seeing each of the users as a type of monetized data cluster on a server isn’t probably what the typical user would like to hear about. But is this where the internet and SXSW is going? How to collect everyone’s information and just sell them more brands?
Now another thing that I definitely noticed while walking around the show floor is that percentages are always used with big data, “20% of users do this” or “you lose your audience 80% of the time unless you do this.” Having gone to SXSW for the last few years, I have seen how it has changed, I use to see a lot more robotics and tech companies showing off new products or apps, remember how Twitter took off at SXSW? Or Group me? Or Even Phonebooth me?
I really hope in the coming years data collection isn’t just a primary focus of SXSW but actual innovation, now I understand that every second data is collected and people want to understand that but I don’t think that should be the primary focus of SXSW.