This post is dedicated to all the foodies at there who are on their way to Austin for the first or the BEST time ever. If you are looking for the typical BBQ/TexMex/walkable-from-the-conference-center recommendations – there are a ton of other sources out there for that. This is for those, who like me, want to know the secrets of a foreign city and who even if there on business, will make the trek across or even out of town to have extraordinary food. This is a list of personal favorites (in the moment) of mine and other foodie locals in Austin. By no means is it comprehensive, absolute or inarguable.

But it’s my gift to those of you who out there – and you know who you are – who appreciate a local’s crib sheet for where to eat without having to research endless reviews on Yelp or Trip Advisor. It’s one girl’s opinion — but it’s informed by 20+ years of living in Austin, many a dollar spent in ATX dining establishments over the years and a downright unhealthy obsession with Bourdain, Ripert, Colicchio, Pepin, et. al.

In no order. You’re welcome. And have an awesome conference! Hope to hear what you ate…. @kathykeanini

1) Kome – Best place to get your Grilled Squid and Monkfish Liver On. Seriously great Japanese food – Sushi is the bonus, the real star is authentic home-style Japanese cuisine. PS – they have Ramen at lunch *swoon*

2) Parkside – Best place for offal when you’re the only one who loves it. This is my favorite place downtown (so all you convenience factor foodies, rejoice). It’s funky, it’s Austin, it’s phenomenal food including everything from pork jowels and bone marrow to fried egg sandwiches.

3) Vivo – Best Tex Mex with style….amazing salsa, enchiladas, and puffy tacos. They even give the ladies roses upon departure and have scandalous artwork tucked away in corners throughout the restaurant.

4) Justines – Amazing farm to table French food on a sprawling lot on the east side. My friend Carole swears by the cucumber and lump crab salad. Fabulous vibe, get their early.

5)  Olive & June – Best Italian *influenced* spot with the second best patio in town. I highly recommend that you put yourself in the waiter/waitress’ hands and let them order for you or at least point you in the right direction – and you HAVE to get the fried artichoke hearts. They also have an amazing cocktail list – – and even carry Frenet from all you San Franciscans. 😉

6) Uchiko – Nationally known sushi restaurant, sister to the original Uchi. Uber creative with a menu designed by Top Chef winner Paul Qui who has moved on to other projects including East Side Kings and his own restaurant to open this year. (Who’s excited? This girl!)

7)  Chilantro – My homage to the ATX food trailer obsession. Korean Barbecue TACOs. How’s that for fusion. They are amazing – get the chicken on corn tortilla with kimchee and sirracha. Ridiculously good. PS – looks like they will be on Rainey St. Friday and Sat (i.e. near the convention center)

8) Second Bar + Kitchen – Chef David Bull brought some muscle back to the Austin culinary scene in 2011 when he returned to Austin and Second is his hip, approachable take on new American cuisine. Go for the Buffalo fried pickles and anything containing short ribs.

9) Perla’s – BEST patio in Austin regardless of weather. I love the oyster shooters, redfish on the half shell, scallops, potato cakes, brussels sprouts, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc…..

10) Lambert’s – Well, I guess I wouldn’t be a native Texan without at least one in this category. Lambert’s is the more civilized approach to barbecue – i.e. they are open at night, have a great vibe and don’t sacrifice on flavah. Located in the heart of downtown in a charming historic building, I’ve never had a bad meal there.


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How #SXSW Tweeters Connected Last Month

Next week, the South by Southwest — known now mostly by the moniker “SXSW” — kicks off. The pedants might correct me on that one: SXSW is actually three separate, though overlapping, events: the interactive conference portion, a music festival and a film festival. But even that’s not quite right:  SXSW can be further subdivided. SXSW Interactive, for example, has 17 different “themes,” from health to government, spread across more than 70 different locations spread across nearly four square miles.

But that doesn’t get at all the divisions. SXSW is only thinly defined by the actual conference and festivals themselves. Only 40,000 or so badges are given out, yet the flood of people who make it to Austin is measured in the hundreds of thousands. There is no ticket required to sip Shiners and skip from private event to private event. (If fact, we’d love it if you dropped by ours.)

I wanted to take a closer look at the different subcommunities that will be gathering in Austin, grabbing 20,000 or so tweets with the #SXSW hashtag last month and running it through an analysis that looked at 12,000 connections between #SXSW tweeters. The analysis spit back yet another number: 562. That was the number of separate communities that seem to exist around the single hashtag. While one was enormous (focused on the official SXSW handle and some high-profile individuals), the rest of the groups were smaller than 50 people. Most were smaller than 10. (The spiderish image that accompanies this post shows what that network looks like. Click to see it in detail. It works best at 6,400 percent zoom.)

Those who have hung out at SXSW won’t be surprised: you rarely see groups of more than 10 clumped around the bars on Sixth Street, and those clumps tend to move together, from sessions to beers to dinner to beers. Sometimes they’ll meet other, similar clumps. But that’s the extent of it. If SXSW has a weakness, it’s that the variety of opportunities is now so great that it’s easy to break down into ever-smaller groups, diminishing the magic that made SXSW special in the first place: the sense of serendipitous encounters with a genius in some distant — but not entirely unrelated — discipline.

There’s plenty of advice out there for first-time SXSW-goers, and it’s all good. But I’d like to offer some advice to the grizzled veterans of Austin: use your experience and position of authority to break up some of those clumps. If you’re the type to go to presentations, take half a day, find the bus and go to a theme that has zero to do with your day job. Find a presenter in that other building and buy her a beer. Go to one party alone.  Drag one of those new friends to your shindig. Buy a tequila shot for a stranger.

The growth of SXSW has been wonderful: it’s pulling a delightful and increasingly diverse crowd, which should (in theory) amp up the opportunities for serendipity. But, at the same time, the structure of the meeting makes random encounters more difficult. I’m not under the illusion that a couple of party crashers or a half-bottle of tequila can instantly change the culture, but it’s a start. After all, a little tequila never hurt anyone.

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Two weeks ago — in advance of an SXSW interactive panel on the topic — I called for more patient visibility at medical conferences. In this age of the empowered patient, ignoring the most critical piece of the health care system is dangerous.

But over the course of my time at SXSW, I had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with the great participants on the “Friending Pharma” panel — Kerri Sparling, Alicia Staley, and Allison Blass — as well as breast cancer advocate Jody Schoger, who drove up to meet us. And over the course of our conversations, it became clear that the issue of giving a voice to patients wasn’t as simple as handing the mic over to a well-known “e-patient” for an hour.

That’s a tact that has been taken, if not by large medical meetings, then by numerous conferences on e-health. Yet reviewing the agendas for some of those meetings, even those nominally oriented around patients, the patient perspective is relegated to window dressing. And I worried that SXSW was the same way. Yes, our  “Friending Pharma” panel had patients, but those voices were swamped by the dozens and dozens of other panels swamped with consultants and entrepreneurs and corporate execs.

So I am coming to believe the challenge is broader than just getting some patients to play a token role. What’s needed is a critical mass of patient voices coming together to tell the rest of the system — the doctors and the payers and the pharmaceutical industry and the pharmacists and the nurses — what it is that patients really need (rather than the other way around).

That’s going to require a different kind of conference/meeting/symposium/confab, one that’s run by patients, for patients, and where the rest of us are present only to the extent to which it helps the community get resources or information or answers. That would be a revolution, but it’s one that’s sorely needed.

[UPDATE: In the comments, the always-informative Susannah Fox pointed me to Lucien Engelen’s brilliant “Patients Included” effort, which is a fantastic effort to get us closer to real patient involvement. Again, I think this is a matter of not just ticking a box, but making sure that patients are fully integrated into a program. I’ll certainly be looking for the “Patients Included” badge on future conferences, and I hope you will, too.]

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What is SXSW?

If you haven’t ever been to South by Southwest interactive (SXSWi), it’s somewhat of a surreal experience. For anyone in the digital/social media space, it has become “the” conference to attend due to the sheer number of startups, brands, thought leaders and level of networking that goes on during the course of the event. This year, nearly 25,000 paid attendees descended on Austin, TX — many more attend without a badge — to network, attend sessions, drink and eat good BBQ (and not necessarily in that order).

Given that this was my fifth SXSWi and it’s been interesting to see the changes that have taken place with the event since 2008. The biggest shift in the event over the years has been the involvement of big brands and a transition of mostly blogger and social media types to folks that do PR and marketing as their full time jobs. It’s also meant more corporate sponsorships, more hype and more traditional media coverage. None of these things are good or bad, they just change the vibe of the event significantly. And while some people who have been attending SXSWi for a while feel like the conference has lost its mojo, I see it as part of the maturation process of social and digital media in the corporate world.

SXSW Dashboard

This year, our agency, WCG, pulled together a dashboard* to track some of the conversations and activity happening at SXSWi (pictured above). One of the things we wanted to measure was the overall share of conversation of some of the SXSWi sponsors based on Twitter conversations… and more importantly, how some of those sponsors stood up to popular Austin phrases like breakfast tacos, cowboy hats and boots. Our search query looked for the presence of a #SXSW hashtag with one of the keywords on Twitter. Not surprisingly, we saw breakfast tacos overtake the likes of Apple and Samsung a day into the event. We also tracked things like:

  • Twitter velocity – how many tweets mentioning #sxsw #sxswi or #precommerce, the tag for our own pre-SXSW client event
  • Check-in activity around downtown Austin
  • Top words mentioned in conjunction with #sxsw (in a word cloud)
  • Top mentions of @wcgworld (one of our Agency’s Twitter handles)
  • Most active Twitterers mentioning #sxsw

While part of building the dashboard was for fun, we also wanted to get a better sense of what the macro activity around SXSW would look like this year. The two big take aways for us were 1) spending large sums of money at SXSW doesn’t necessarily get your brand talked about (unless the name of your company happens to include the words “breakfast tacos”) and the volume of conversation on Twitter grew over the conference demonstrating that Verizon, AT&T and Sprint did their part this year to keep the data connectivity up and running this year (years past, not so much). Understanding how your brand can participate meaningfully in these conversations is a huge opportunity that many companies ignore.

Other Key Take Aways from SXSW

  • Location-based services are here to stay (read: foursquare) but they are starting to evolve into a new flavor that includes something called proximity services. The big players in this space are companies like Highlight, Sonar and In a nutshell, these services connect you to those people nearby that are either in your social graph or should be by looking at your similarities. While these services do provide a value to some, their ultimate utility to the mainstream user is still questionable.
  • Customer engagement is top of mind for many brands that have moved from the ad hoc to strategic use of social media. This means putting more thought and energy into mainstream channels like Twitter and Facebook is critical. It also means paying attention to emerging channels like Google + and Pinterest to evaluate the utility for customers and enthusiasts.
  • Big data is big and getting bigger. For anyone that doesn’t know what “big data” is, it’s essentially the ability to collect, store, process and analyze Terabytes or even Pedabytes of data (think customer conversations, search, location-based activity, census, etc.) Historically, this has been difficult due to lack of affordable storage and processing power. This is quickly changing and spells a whole new way for companies to look at trends and insights.

What did you see at SXSW this year? My colleague, Chuck Hemann, shared his take aways here. If you have a post or observations you’d like to share, please include in the comments below.


*Normally when we build these types of dashboards, we use a broader set of channel data (blogs, forums, Facebook, news) but in this case, we knew a lot of the real-time activity flows across Twitter (we also wanted to keep development cost/time down to a minimum).


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Another SXSW is in the books and most of the interactive world is suffering after five days (or more) of panels, networking events and parties. Contrary to what some of the experts argue before, during and after the show, SXSW still has plenty of value for brands and individuals alike. Has it become too big? Maybe. Can it be difficult to navigate for those attendees who are visiting for the first time? Yes. Is it an accurate reflection of what Austin is as a city? Definitely not. There are certainly some things that could be changed about SXSW, but to say it has no value is completely inaccurate. Here are five things I am taking away from this year’s show:

  1. Geo-targeting consumers is becoming very important – I am not a location-based marketing expert by any means, especially when compared to my colleague, Aaron Strout, but it was clear how important this medium has become. There was plenty of conversation at this year’s show about Highlight, but I’m talking entirely about tools. Marketers want to know how they reach people in specific locations in real-time. That’s where we’re going, and that was a significant source of conversation this year.
  2. The networking value cannot be beat – Even the most vocal critics of SXSW don’t (in most cases) doubt the networking value of the show. Most of the brightest minds in interactive are all in one location for almost a week. If you miss an opportunity to engage with someone that you’ve only met online it’s really your own fault.
  3. How big is too big – In talking to some people over the course of the last week, there seems to be a sense that the show has gotten too big. I’m not really sure how we quantify that because the organizers of SXSW are obviously in it to not only offer quality content, but make money at the same time. To be fair, there are probably more sessions than are needed, but turning away attendees? I’m not sure how that could be done. The growth of the space means we’re likely to continue seeing crowds like we saw this week. It just places a greater emphasis on planning ahead.
  4. We didn’t see the next big app/network – I could be calling this one prematurely, and surely someone will dig it up if I’m wrong, but I wasn’t exposed to an app that I thought was a game changer. Could Highlight be that app? Maybe. There appear to be several flaws (including how it identifies like-minded individuals) in the model that could be corrected, but are currently inhibiting its more widespread use.
  5. Brands can derive value from SXSW – In addition to the networking, a number of brands devote significant resources to establishing a presence at the show. Two of the biggest brands this year were Chevrolet and Samsung. Chevrolet had its Volt Lounge and Catch a Chevy program, while Samsung sponsored the blogger lounge, unveiled their Interactive Hub Media Wall and talked about its U.S. Olympic Genome Project.  Additionally, both brands were on the premises conducting interviews and capturing the event as it happened in real-time. I had a chance to catch up with Stephanie Wonderlin, who was Chevy’s host for the interactive festival to get her take on the show and, more directly, what she was doing with the company’s team. Take a look.

There’s value in almost everything if you know where to look. If you’ve never been, consider coming next year. But, before you do, make sure you lay out a proper game plan. Chances are good it’s only going to get bigger.

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Friending PharmaA week from Sunday, a panel of some of the leading thinkers on the topic of patient-industry relationships in health care will sit down in Austin, Texas for the “Friending Pharma” panel at the SXSW Interactive conference. It’s a vital topic: communication between health care companies and active, online patients is growing, but those relationships aren’t always straightforward: there may be perceived power imbalances, privacy concerns and legitimate questions about motivations on both sides.

The goal of the session is to reach common ground on how patients and companies can build mutually beneficial relationships. But it’s not a dialogue that should be happening only at SXSW, or only among the panelists.

So this page will serve as a repository for best practices, both leading up to the SXSW panel and beyond. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section, and we’ll update the page regularly to reflect some of the online- and in-person discussions that will be taking place, along with the names and URLs of those who contribute. What follows is just a starting point. We look forward to your feedback.

Industry Rights and Responsibilities When Dealing with Patients

  • Transparency: Companies — and their representatives — should disclose on whose behalf they work, and what their goals are.
  • Education: A company should not approach a patient without making a good-faith effort read to understand their positions
  • Engagement: A company should refrain from asking for action from a patient without first building a relationship with the individual
  • Commitment: Companies that wish to interact with individual members of an online community should first make an effort to participate, in a non-commercial way, in that forum.

Patient Rights and Responsibilities When Dealing with Industry

  • Transparency: Patients should disclose industry relationships.
  • Privacy: Patients have the right to choose how and when their information is shared or used.
  • Honesty: When companies cross the line, patients should be able to say so, directly.

Please provide your perspective below. We look forward to seeing you in Austin!

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On the heels of SXSWi, I had the opportunity to exchange thoughts with social media evangelist, Chris Brogan, discussing social media today, best practices, and his thoughts on some of the people doing it right.

Chris Brogan, is president of New Marketing Labs, organizer of Inbound Marketing Summit conferences, speaker at several conferences per year, and co-author of the New York Times Bestseller Trust Agents. Follow Chris on Twitter – @chrisbrogan

Thanks to Chris for this opportunity, and I look forward to our next encounter.

How did you get started in social media?
I was using this kind of technology way back before it was called social media. In the 80’s, I was on bulletin board services and then AOL and Prodigy and the like. When blogs were called journals, I was there (in 1998). It’s always been my medium. I didn’t start realizing the business potential until 2005, and I didn’t start making consistent revenue from execution until 2008.

What social media tools have you moved away from over last 3-6 months?
I’m not interested in Foursquare. It’s not beneficial for me to share where I am with the world. For my clients? Maybe. Me? No.

Who is a company that is doing social media right in your opinion? Can you give a recent example?
I am pleased with all that Mark Horvath is accomplishing with He’s working really hard to funnel help to homeless people in the US, and he’s taking a very tactics-heavy approach. He does a lot of hands-on work, and still manages to use media tools like Twitter and blogs to build the right kinds of relationships.

What gets you jazzed to go the extra step with a project?
For me, it’s always about teaching people to fish. I like learning something new, breaking into it so I understand what it means, and then sharing with others so that they can replicate the success. Any days that I’m doing that are good days.

Without giving away the farm, what is the next big thing you’re looking towards?
I’m looking towards helping people make a few extra dollars in this economic downturn. I’m looking for ways to help others augment their businesses. For my larger clients, I’m looking for even more ways to develop channel and build business value.

How do you find the time to respond to as many people as you do on your social networks?
I derive value (both personal relationship value as well as financial) from my social networks. It’s like asking me why I hang out in my store and talk to friends and occasional customers.

What are you reading these days?
I read about two books a week (I don’t always finish them). Right now I’m reading Rework by Jason Fried and David H Hansson, and I’m reading a fiction book called Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem.

Tell me something funny about your trip to Bogota with DJ Edgerton (@wiltonbound)
In Bogota, DJ is considered this very passionate leader. He’s a strong source of inspiration and support to his team and to those who know him. But he’s also known for being extremely gregarious and outgoing. We ate at this huge restaurant (like there might have been over 1000 people in it), and I got to watch him dance a lot with his colleagues and with strangers. He’s got a great sense of humor, and every minute was a treasure.

Courtesy plug time – a brand, a person and more importantly, a charity you like?
If not, I’d also say that is doing great things with social giving. I’m very excited by all they’re accomplishing.

To borrow from James Lipton (Inside the Actor’s Studio)… what sound do you hate?
I don’t much like repetitive noises, like beeps of a phone’s ringtone, or alarms, etc. Anything that repeats also annoys.

Who do you suggest I spend the next 5 minutes with? Please leave comments below.

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This Thursday marks the inaugural Social Health 2010 event, the day before the infamous South-By-Southwest Interactive conference.

Organizers of the event, Shwen Gwee and Dana Lewis, have done a great job bringing together the best of the best to discuss social media in the healthcare industry. The keynote address will be presented by Doug Ulman, CEO of Livestrong. Other confirmed speakers of SXSH include Johnson & Johnson’s Marc Monseau, MD Anderson’s Jenn Texada, Better Health’s Val Jones, Ignite’s Fabio Gratton, David Hale and none other than WCG’s own Bob Pearson and Paul Dyer.

According to their site, SXSH will be a day-long international social health un-conference encompassing all aspects of healthcare. The event will have structured, previously announced presentations in the style of a TED conference, as well as an “un-conference” portion — similar to PodCamp or HealthCamp — where topics are decided by the participants. If you’d like to attend, registration is required and can be found here. A TPS application developed by Humana’s Greg Matthews and team is a great tool to track SXSH buzz prior to the conference and can be found here. There is sure to be plenty of conversation to follow on Twitter via the hashtag, #SXSH along with the conference Twitter handle, @SXSH.

Social Health 2010 will be a great introduction to conference week of South-By-Southwest. Since its addition to the SXSW Music Festival in 1994, the Interactive piece is now bringing approximately 12,000 techiest of the tech nerds into Austin, a town welcoming these entrepreneurs and companies with open arms.

Some must attend panels and events at SXSW Interactive include:
Opening Remarks: Privacy & Publicity with Dana Boyd
The Tweet House
Windows Phone TechSet Party
• Microsoft BizSpark and Volusion present TECH cocktail SXSW: Johnny Cash Blackout Sunday
PBS and Friends with ReadWriteWeb
Mashable: Mashbash 2010
Evan Williams Keynote
Rackspace Revolution
SXSW Interactive Closing Party / Hosted By Media Temple

While you are in Austin for the conference festivities, be sure and get the full Austin flavor by visiting the local sites. If the weather permits, be sure and spend an afternoon at Zilker Park or take a walk around Town Lake. Check out the The University of Texas and you’ll see why it continues to be a tourist attraction. Start by taking a stroll down Guadalupe and check out what Austinites refer to as “the drag” and stop by the UT Co-op to get some burnt orange apparel and Texas-themed souvenirs. When you get hungry, BBQ is the way to go – The Saltlick if you have time for a drive through the Texas hill country, or Iron Works and Stubb’s are both located downtown close to the convention center. Antone’s, the first club on 6th street, helped launch the careers of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bob Schneider. During SXSWi, they will have performances by Jimmie Vaughan, Gary Clark, Jr. and Pinetop Perkins. And last but not least, a visit to Allen’s Boots on South Congress is a must!

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