Independent content is the new web app

Attending SXSW Interactive not only tunes us in to web trends and ideas we may have missed, it also makes clear where we are in the life cycle of developments with which we are familiar. Thus in 2001, if you weren’t already aware of it, a quick scan of panels and parties made it manifestly obvious that blogging had peaked. The spread of web standards was the previous year’s meme: practically everyone I met in 2000 apologized that their blog didn’t validate “yet.”

Two years ago, everyone I talked to at SXSW Interactive asked what app I was working on. I felt painfully unhip to still be doing content and design—like I’d shown up for a punk gig in disco drag.

But times change. Even the quickest scan of this year’s parties and sponsors made it obvious (if it wasn’t already) that the Web 2.0 “get bought” window is closing fast. If your tag management app isn’t out of alpha by next week, don’t bother—unless you actually wanted to create a tag management app, and weren’t building it to finance a Sean John lifestyle.

I came away this year with two impressions:

  1. Possibly because “Web 2.0” has pumped money into the field, people care about the craft again.
  2. Web 1.0 is the new Web 2.0.

As the second point is more interesting, I’ll focus on it.

SWSX Interactive is about zeitgeist, and what’s on people’s business cards can tell you as much about the industry as what’s being discussed on the panels. Last year people’s business cards told you that AOL, Google, Apple and Yahoo were hiring everyone with a nice blog, a SXSW panel, and an A List Apart article to their credit. This year’s business cards are about (drumroll) content.

The kind of content we used to create on personal/independent sites like {fray} and afterdinner.com, many of us are creating again (not that we ever stopped). But this time, we are creating it at the behest of companies like AOL, Google, and Yahoo.

Ficlets, for example, is a collaborative fiction site put together by Cindy Li and her colleagues. It’s awesomely cool. But instead of being something Cindy and her colleagues do at night, after their day job, Ficlets is their day job. And it’s not a long-shot day job at an underfunded startup. It’s a day job at America On-Line (and the content is part of the AIM.com network).

Not long ago, giants like AOL were buying startups like Brian Alvey and Jason Calacanis’s Weblogs Inc. network. That was smart. Now the giants are creating their own startups and networks. That’s also smart, and it’s doubtless more cost-efficient than hunting and buying.

What is the trend? First, big companies (excluding AOL) ignored the web. Then they hired professionals who didn’t understand the web to design their sites and other professionals who didn’t understand the web to create their content. Last year, or maybe two years ago, these companies began hiring smart, experienced web designers who understand usability and web standards. Now they are hiring smart, experienced web content creators. Web 1.0 is the new Web 2.0. Long live Web 3.0.

[tags]sxsw, sxswi, web1.0, web2.0, independentcontent, webdesign, aol, google[/tags]

A List Apart dinner at SXSW

25 A List Apart staffers, Happy Cogs, and friends broke bread (well, more accurately, we broke spring rolls) at Mekong River Restaurant in Austin, Texas. Here Peter is seen making sweet love to his noodles. Missing, and missed: Dan Benjamin, Krista Stevens, Erin Lynch, Andrew Fernandez, Tanya Rabourn, and Andrew Kirkpatrick.

[tags]sxsw, sxswsi, sxsw2007, alistapart, happycog[/tags]

Austin Power

As snow falls prettily on the island of Manhattan, Mrs Zeldman and I prepare for our annual junket to sun-baked, star-studded Austin, Texas, accompanied by the keynote speaker of 2025 and cradling the blessed StarTAC. Most of Happy Cog and the A List Apart staff will be there as well, many with speaking roles. Here are a few panels I found (with more to come):

Writing, Better

Ballroom F
Saturday, March 10th
10:00 am – 11:00 am (same time as “A Decade of Style,” below)

If content is king, why don’t designers talk about it? Panelists will discuss what makes for good writing, what each person does to keep fit with verbs and vowels, and what the future might hold for the written word in a world that is being inundated with podcasts and video.

Moderator: Greg Storey

Greg Storey Principal/Creative Dir, Airbag Industries LLC
Bronwyn Jones Mktg Comms, Apple Computer
Erin Kissane Editor, Happy Cog
Ethan Marcotte Vertua Studios

A Decade of Style

Room 19AB
Saturday, March 10th
10:00 am – 11:00 am (same time as “Writing, Better,” above)

A small group of grizzled veterans reflects on a decade of successes, triumphs, failures, disappointments, reversals of fortune, and just plain fun in the world of CSS and web design.

Moderator: Eric Meyer

Molly Holzschlag Pres, Molly.com Inc
Eric Meyer Principal, Complex Spiral Consulting
Chris Wilson IE Platform Architect, Microsoft
Douglas Bowman Visual Design Lead, Google

After the Brief: A Field Guide to Design Inspiration

Room 18ABCD
Saturday, March 10th
11:30 am – 12:30 pm

You’ve received the creative brief; now what? Learn how to draw creative inspiration for your web design projects from a number of likely and unlikely sources.

Moderator: Jason Santa Maria

Jason Santa Maria Creative Dir, Happy Cog Studios
Cameron Moll cameronmoll.com
Rob Weychert Art Dir, Happy Cog Studios

Ruining the User Experience: When JavaScript and Ajax Go Bad

Room 18ABCD
Saturday, March 10th
4:05 pm – 4:30 pm

With the exploding popularity of DOM Scripting, Ajax and JavaScript in general, it’s important to know what to do—and what not to do—when dealing with these technologies.This session will walk you through several real-world examples, pointing out common mistakes that hinder usability, accessibility, and searchwhile teaching you ways to avoid them altogether, either programmatically or simply by altering the way you think about JavaScript-based interactivity.

Aaron Gustafson Sr Web designer/Developer, Easy! Designs LLC
Sarah Nelson Design Strategist, Adaptive Path

Book Signing

SUNDAY, MARCH 11
3:00 pm

I’ll be signing Designing With Web Standards, 2nd Edition in the SXSW Bookstore, located in the Trade Show + Exhibition.

Robert Hoekman Jr. Designing the Obvious
Jeffrey Zeldman Designing With Web Standards, 2nd Edition
Brendan Dawes Analog In, Digital Out
Phil Torrone MAKE Magazine
John Jantsch Duct Tape Marketing-The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide
Marrit Ingman Inconsolable: How I Threw My Mental Health Out With the Diapers
Gina Trapani Lifehacker: 88 Tech Tips
Elliot McGucken Own the Risk: The 45Surf.com Guide to Hero’s Journey Entrepreneurship

Get Unstuck: Moving From 1.0 to 2.0

Room 18ABCD
Monday, March 12th
10:00 am – 11:00 am

Is your team mired in the goo and muck of old-school thinking? Are your designers and developers divided on their approach and about to throw in the towel? This panel features formerly stuck experts as well as those who have helped clients get out of the muck.

Moderator: Liz Danzico

Liz Danzico Director, experience strategy, Daylife
Kristian Bengtsson Creative Dir, FutureLab
Chris Messina Co-founder, Citizen Agency
Luke Wroblewski Principal Designer, Yahoo!
Jeffrey Zeldman Founder and Executive Creative Director, Happy Cog

Preserving our Digital Legacy and the Individual Collector

Room 8ABC
Tuesday, March 13th
11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Many great art, book and manuscript collections survive because an individual had the foresight or good luck to save the good stuff. Libraries and museums owe a debt to individual dealers, collectors and packrats for saving illustrated Czarist plate books from the Soviets, and WWII letters from the trash-heap. Who are today’s collectors? What are they preserving? How will they manage fragile born-digital collections long enough share with future generations?

Moderator: Carrie Bickner (aka Mrs Zeldman)

Carrie Bickner, Director of Education Outreach, The New York Public Library
Josh Greenberg Assoc Dir Research Projects, Center for History & New Media
William Stingone Curator of Manuscripts, The New York Public Library
Megan Winget Professor, UT at Austin

[tags]sxsw, sxswi, austin, texas, mrszeldman, alistapart, happycog[/tags]

StarTAC Memories

I’m doing something different for this year’s SXSW Interactive Festival. Instead of giving a talk or participating in a panel, I’ll be sharing my mobile phone with anyone who asks. Call it a micro-meetup.

Dust off your memories. I proudly carry the Motorola StarTAC. One day it will be as collectible as a Bulova watch from the 1950s, or the first-generation iPod. I acquired it before September 11th, 2001 and have held onto it all these many days and nights.

Lots of sleeker phones with richer features have come along over the years, but their interfaces always reeked, and I’m particular about interfaces: I like them simple, clear, and functional. I never felt the need to replace my Motorola StarTAC until I saw the iPhone.

After SXSW I will retire my faithful servant and switch to Apple’s new device.

If you see me at SXSW, whip out your digital camera (or camera-phone), and ask to see my Motorola StarTAC. We’ll commemorate the micro-event with a photo, and share the photos in a special Flickr group.

See you in Austin!

Update: they keep dragging me back in

So I’m on a panel after all.

Get Unstuck: Moving From 1.0 to 2.0

Room 18ABCD
Monday, March 12th
10:00 am – 11:00 am

Moderator: Liz Danzico, Daylife

Kristian Bengtsson, Creative Dir, FutureLab
Chris Messina, Co-founder, Citizen Agency
Luke Wroblewski, Principal Designer, Yahoo!
Jeffrey Zeldman, Founder, Happy Cog

[tags]micro-meetups, SXSW, SXSWi, Motorola, StarTAC, mobile, cell, phones, iPhone, Apple, memes, flickr, photos[/tags]