SXSW 2016 – Recap and Reflections, part 1

This past week I went to SXSW (South By Southwest) in Austin, Texas.  SXSW is actually 3 conferences and festivals; Interactive, Film and Music. I was invited to speak at SXSWInteractive. I also was invited to speak in 2014 so this was my second SXSW experience. And if you haven’t gone, trust me, it really is an experience unlike any other conference.


First off it’s larger. Attendance this year is estimated to be around 100,000 for all three events.  The Interactive/Film portion, which overlap, is said to be about 25,000.  SXSW takes over one of the biggest conventions centers you can imagine and that is in no way enough space. They take over eight other hotels and other venues to have enough room for all the sessions and events.  In addition eleven other venues participate as partner venues, associated with SXSW but run by private companies or organizations.  I typically went to 3-4 different venues per day.


Second, there is a huge array of topics.  This year I went to the following sessions, divided up into the tracks they were in: Click in each session to see my thoughts detailing what it was about and then my live impressions of the event via my tweets.

  • Keynotes and Featured Sessions
    • Conversation with Ira Glass (founder of ‘This America Life’ on NPR)

      Twitter Notes and Quotes

      Ira Glass was hilarious. His session was simply him being interviewed about his professional activities of late, which include (besides his regular radio show) producing numerous podcasts, a feature length movie and a stage act that he performs with two dancers that he has been touring in almost every weekend for over a year. He is disarmingly humble but he is not a slacker by any means. He talked again and again about ‘Will’, how you have to will something creative into existence, how you have to will something to be great instead of mediocre. That was his inspiration point for me.

    • Gretchen Rubin – Five Counterintuitive Truths About Habits

      Twitter Notes and Quotes

      Gretchen Rubin has been a favorite author and online personality for many years. She combines fantastic research with great story telling to illuminate ideas. Her ‘Happiness Project’ gained her great attention and she has followed that up with a book on habits called ‘Better Than Before’ this is what she spoke on. After the speech I was first in line to get her autograph on two books, one for my daughter and one for my wife.

    • Meet ‘NOM’: Food and the Future of Live Video

      Twitter Notes and Quotes

      I was in this session because the one I wanted to go to, ‘Gender in Media: Why it Matters’ with Geena Davis, was cancelled. This session though was very appropriate for me since it was about streaming media, which I use every day with Periscope. The presenters basically were creating a Periscope for foodies and it was very interesting to hear how they made the decision and what went into creating the website, which launched just 5 days before.

    • Elephant in the Valley: Gender Bias in the Tech Industry

      Twitter Notes and Quotes

      This was one of the big themes throughout SXSW this year. Whether it is the tech industry, media and film, politics or science, there were sessions and conversations about it. Hopefully these discussions will lead to change.

  • Intelligent Future
    • Igniting Creativity with Periscope (my session)

      Twitter Notes and Quotes

      I will have a separate blog post just about this.
  • Branding & Marketing
    • How to Stop Speaking in Bullshit

      Twitter Notes and Quotes

      This session didn’t really break new ground on anything. We all know the world is full of BS, especially in politics, PR, and marketing. What was interesting was watching how hard it was for the presenters to avoid BS words and phrases even while attempting to discuss how to avoid using them. One of the presenters, Jon Favreau, had been a speech writer for President Obama, and it was interesting to hear his stories about Obama and his desire to be and sound real in his remarks and speeches.

    • Tech and Social Good: A New Model for Collaboration

      Twitter Notes and Quotes

      This session was a bit of a disappointment for me. I thought it would be more about how to use technology to help build awareness and raise money for non-profits and charitable causes in general. It did touch on that a bit as it applies to the LGBT community but not as much as I would have liked.

  • Content & Distribution
    • Can Periscope Equal Profit?

      Twitter Notes and Quotes

      Mario had some interesting things to say about making money via Periscope and some eye-opening statistics but I was hoping for more specific tips on apps, etc. to use to facilitate doing this. He did use a number of testimonials on people who are making money on Periscope, including one of my favorite periscoping couples, Doug and Ally of ‘Frameable Faces’. One thing that bothers me in general about money making on social media is how much of it is made by attempting to teach people how to make money on social media.

    • 140 Characters, Zero Context

      Twitter Notes and Quotes

      This was a session focused on twitter and it’s uses in the media, especially in breaking news stories, and how easy it is for a tweet to be let out into the twitterverse without enough thought to the context, or lack of context. This in turn can lead to terrible judgment, misrepresentation, and viral condemnation before you can blink an eye. It made me nervous to tweet about anything!

  • Startup Village (Entrepreneurship)
    • From Success to Significance

      Twitter Notes and Quotes

      This session was about applying for and participating in various fellowship programs for successful people. He focused on the Aspen Institute’s Crown Fellowship that he participated in recently. He explained the process, when they met, what they read, and things like that. It seemed to me to be a bit of a bragging session in some ways, talking a lot about all the other famous (and very wealthy) people he rubbed shoulders with. I understood it in some ways, he was like a recent convert who had great enthusiasm. But at the same time I wished he had known his audience a bit better and talked about a wider range of opportunities in more detail, not just those for entrepreneurs and millionaires.

  • Design and Development
  • Work and Career
    • Connecting at the Speed of Story

      Twitter Notes and Quotes

      This was another favorite of mine. The facilitators wasted no time getting us up and active in learning a new, more natural way to network and connect. That’s why I had so few tweets during the session!

  • SXSports
    • Connected Coaching: Active Learning for Athletes

      Twitter Notes and Quotes

      Even though this was geared more toward elite college age athletes it still helped me a great deal in thinking about new and better ways to coach my runners at Fleet Feet. It really came down to staying connected throughout the coaching process, both in person and online.

  • Government and Policy
    • Protecting the Digital You

      Twitter Notes and Quotes

      I had high hopes for this one but the speaker tended to wander off topic and not address the questions and issues as directly as I might have liked. She didn’t use any slides and I think they could have been helpful in giving details of apps and methods for protecting our privacy. Having said that there were some very interesting concepts and practices from around the world that she did discuss.

  • Art, Science and Inspiration
    • #DistractinglySexy: Fighting Science Sexism Online

      Twitter Notes and Quotes

      I went to this session because my daughter is a scientist. It was focused mostly on the University setting and how professors in particular can get away with egregious behavior and not have any or minimal consequences. When I talked to me daughter about it later she backed up from personal experiences, many of the horror stories the women in the panel were talking about. It is an ongoing problem in all too many professional fields and it seems the solutions are long term, first and foremost, training and raising boys and girls from early on to know what sexual harassment is. And second, to reorganize corporate and academic structures so people are held accountable in a consistent, transparent and fair way.

    • Art for All: A Look at The Art Assignment

      Twitter Notes and Quotes

      I really enjoyed seeing a session all about art. Sarah Green explained a program she started that is shown on PBS called ‘The Art Assignment’ where she picks artists from around the country to come up with an art assignment for themselves that when shown to the general public is then opened up to them also fulfilling that same assignment in whatever way they want. I was enthusiastic and hopeful when I heard about it, that maybe I could participate as one of the artists, but upon hearing Ms. Green’s explanation I realized her criteria for picking the artists is way to bound by traditional art success in the museum and gallery world and it would be very unlikely she would consider me adequately successful. But I still like the idea!

  • Future of Entertainment
    • Creative thievery = What’s Yours is Mine

      Twitter Notes and Quotes

      This was another session dedicated solely to art and I was surprised to see so many this year. This was all about ‘appropriation art’ or art in which the artist uses preexisting art or images and repurposes them to create something new. Of course the problem and controversy is when either the new art is not a substantial transformation of the old art or when the original artist is given no credit or financial reward for his or her images being used in the new art. This is particularly troublesome when the new art is sold for millions of dollars, as has actually been the case more often that one might realiz in recent decades.

  • Online Harassment Summit
    • Women in Media and Online Harassment

      Twitter Notes and Quotes

      This session was scary coming in. There were police everywhere in the hotel and there was a bag check that was MUCH more thorough than anything I have had to go through at the TSA line at an airport. Why you ask? Because this session, and the whole Online Harassment Summit, was created in response to violent threats having been given when an earlier session proposal about sexism in the gaming industry was proposed. Because of how bad threats were they cancelled that session. They then had a change of heart and designed an entire program for SXSW. This session was one of the big ones because it had Wendy Davis in it, the former Texas gubernatorial candidate speaking on the panel.

  • Partner Programming
    • Being an Artist Today

      Twitter Notes and Quotes

      This was pure art and I loved it. The artist was a great speaker, talking about her own creative journey and at the same time encouraging others to pursue their own path. Many things she said are very similar to things I have been saying to artists and students for many decades now, but it was great to hear a fresh take on how to say those things. She was very inspiring.

And here are the tracks I didn’t get to at all!

  • Gaming & VR/AR (virtual reality/augmented reality)
  • SXGood (non-profits/charities)
  • Networking
  • SouthBites (food)
  • Health and MedTech
  • SXStyle (fashion and fashion industry)
  • SXCreate (maker movement)

That is it for part 1. In part 2 I will explain my sessions (I had two actually) and my Airbnb stay, and in part 3 I will show you a bit of the wild fun nightlife of Austin.


Commentary and images © 2016 Marty Coleman |


What Ignites Creativity?

The Creative Process

Creativity is often seen as a solo pursuit. But that isn’t always true.  Yes, the spark can seem to happen within the individual sitting alone in the studio. But all you have to do is think of all the creative ideas from others that went into that individual’s history long before the moment of inspiration hit to realize he or she does not truly create alone.


The Spark Within

Here is the drawing I did yesterday. I am using it in my workshop at SXSW later this week.  I drew this while I was streaming live on Periscope. I play a game called ‘Guess the Quote’ when I do my napkin drawings, with the viewers playing a variation on Hangman, guessing one word at a time while I draw the image and give hints.  

I came up with the idea of these two very unique characters, one standing on her head, to illustrate the idea of upending expectations. I had already drawn the two characters and had written in the quotes when one of the ‘#NapkinKin’ (my tribe on Periscope) suggested something that led to an even more effective illustration of the idea.


The Spark Without

He suggested I turn the second part of the quote upside down. I had already written it in so I couldn’t change it on the actual napkin. But I was able to change it in Photoshop.  However, even without changing it in the drawing the idea sparked my decisions about how to complete the background. 

All of a sudden I was thinking about symmetry and reflection, making the top and bottom look the same but not exact, so if you rotated it 180º you would feel it still made sense (granted, this making sense is within the context of a drawing that really isn’t about making sense, but you know what I mean).



In my larger charcoal and pastel drawings I often use models. The best ones are the ones that know it is a collaboration. Yes, I am the artist. But the creativity is sparked not just from within myself but by them as well. That is why models are often called ‘Muse’. Because they inspire the creativity of the artist.

Your Spark

If you are an Artist, never forget that your creativity, no matter how individual and unique you might thing it is, owes much to the artists of the past and those around you who inspire and collaborate with you.

If you are not an Artist, never forget your creativity isn’t restricted to that fact.  Your creativity is not just about what you create, but about what you inspire others to create as well.

Either way, creativity is one way you can be sure to change the world.


Drawing and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman |

Quote is Anonymous


‘Igniting Creativity with Periscope’ – #SXSW Workshop cover page

Here’s the cover page for my presentation. It will animate with additional information after the Workshop starts.  




I am finishing up the presentation and starting to rehearse content and timing this week. I leave for Austin Thursday, stopping in Dallas for lunch with my daughter Caitlin. I am staying at an Airbnb townhouse that I am hopeful will be a great spot.

Let me know if you are going to be there! Use twitter to connect if you can, I will be checking it often. I am @thenapkindad there too.

You will be able to watch the presentation on Periscope (hopefully). Just find me, @thenapkindad and tune in on 3/11/16 at 3:30 Central Standard Time (USA).

Wish me luck!

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