There’s a lot I could say about SXSW so far, but one of the most interesting things I’ve seen was in the panel How to Build Your Brand with Blogs. The five panelists had a very sparseand this is not a bad thingPowerPoint presentation (or perhaps the Mac equivalent), so what one of them did, and I presume it was Robert Scoble (a.k.a. The Microsoft Guy), but I could be wrong, was interesting. When one of the other panelists was talking “off slide” and didn’t have something important going on on their own laptopand I have to say this is one of the few things SXSW got right: giving the panel a video switcher that actually works so they could show any of their laptops at willhe would take summarizing phrases from what the panelist was saying and type them into Google. In this way, he very effectively allowed Google to create PowerPoint slides for the panel on the fly. What’s really interesting is that Google provided more interesting, more entertaining and possibly even more relevant slides than could have been produced by a human, even if the scope and topics were known and scripted in advance, which they weren’t. The point is, for any phrase uttered, we instantly got to see the top six or so contextually similar things in the world. Makes me wish they had captured the browser history from that guy’s laptop from the session.
This also dovetailed nicely with the panelists’ assertions that authority and authenticity (as well as passion, but I’ll come back to these as a trio in a separate post at some point) are critical for bloggers. What’s more authentic or authoritative then showing your audience what Google has to say on your topic in real time? Effectively you’re self-fact checking on the fly. If you say something and any of the top six Google hits contradict you or go in a different direction, the audience is instantly going to have access to this information and is going to act on it. This is what some of the more geeky audience members would already have been doing with their laptops. Incorporating it into the session itself shows courage and insight into the processes of blogging and talking about blogging that I found refreshing and unexpected.