SXSW13 - Highlights from the talks

SXSW is an insane monster that is incredibly hard to navigate when you attend for the first time. This was my first time. It took me a couple of days into the event to get my bearings and know how to tackle a day successfully. In the beginning I oscillated between not eating regularly, drinking too much and missing talks that I wanted to get to because of the crowds.

I attended about four talks per day on average for five days. Some days were less, some days were much more. Depending on where the talks were it could ruin your chances of seeing other talks afterword. I figured this out and started planning my days better.

Bre Pettis


The conference was officially kicked off with a keynote from Bre Pettis of Makerbot. He spent his time talking about the importance of 3D printing and how it allows us to expand what we thought we were able to produce. It can make many fields more interesting, productive and agile (not in the development sense).

Bre has been doing this for a long time and it is really exciting to see how his interests as a hobbyist maker have transformed into a full-fledged player in the design space. With the work that he and his team are doing (along with other companies in this space), what we thought was possible to design and manufacture is completely changing. We don't need to rely on outsourced prototyping and production. If you want to make something completely new, the tools are at your disposal to own the entire process of designing hardware all the way up through the software to run it. This is a very exciting time to make things.

Learn more about Bre at

Christina Wodtke

Christina gave a talk on gamification. I know, gross. The thing is, it was a really good talk. When I saw that she had most recently worked with Zynga I wasn't sure that I wanted to go to her talk. It was close to where I was at and therefore very convenient so I stopped in.

The way that she presented the concepts of gamification were much more sensical and useful than I had ever heard them before. It did help that she started off the presentation talking about how gamifying something doesn't mean add a bunch of meaningless badges and achievements to mundane tasks. What it really is about is connecting with your users in a real and meaningful way.

To make your product sticky and interesting you need to provide a hook to make it addictive and rewarding. I feel like her approach is much more human and respectful than how I have heard it presented in the past.

Learn more about Christina at