Digidave http://blog.digidave.org Journalism is a Process, Not a Product Thu, 19 Nov 2015 20:25:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.1 The Ethics of Virtual Reality Storytelling http://blog.digidave.org/2015/11/the-ethics-of-virtual-reality-storytelling http://blog.digidave.org/2015/11/the-ethics-of-virtual-reality-storytelling#comments Thu, 19 Nov 2015 20:17:31 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4543 Continue reading The Ethics of Virtual Reality Storytelling ]]>

I’m an Adjunct Professor this year at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism (Go Bears).

In a recent class we had an awesome VR company come and give us the low-down. Thanks Emergent!

Many students told me they came in skeptics and walked away “believers.” I think this means the class is going well, since my main goal is make sure they don’t turn into Beliebers.

I’m willing to bet every serious journalist understands the potential storytelling power of virtual reality. Let’s take that as a given. It’s not up for debate. That’s not what this post is about. This is about how our ethics stay the same, but have to be applied with a different lens.

Ethics by way of analogy

Matt Waite is talking about a new lens for our ethics in regards to drones.

How close should a drone get to a disaster scene with people actively mourning? How close should a drone get flying over Syrian refugees, people who may be fleeing other kinds of drones and could stampede away at the site of one?

These are important questions.

It doesn’t change our ethics. The standard remains: Treat people with dignity, respect and minimize harm. We just have to apply those ethics through a filter we aren’t familiar with (flying objects as our acting agent).


Virtual Reality Flips the “Willing Suspension of Disbelief”

At the beginning of the Virtual Reality class our guest speaker, Peter Wilkins, said something along the lines of:

The goal of Virtual Reality is to create a sense of “presence,” whereby even if your higher level brain knows what you are observing is virtual, your low-level brain absorbs the experience as a kind of real memory.

The way Peter worded it felt like the line at the beginning of a Sci-Fi movie, where the resident scientist explains a concept that will become important later on in the film. You know that moment. It’s always a telegraphed concept. Implanting false memories is hardly a new Sci-Fi trope. But here’s a technology that can really do it.

More on “presence” here.Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 12.11.01 PM

“We use the phrase “suspension of disbelief” about the experience of watching TV or movies. This implies that our default state watching TV and movies is disbelief. We start to believe only when we become sufficiently immersed.

With VR, the situation is reversed: we believe, by default, that what we see is real.”

Peter showed an example of a person in Virtual Reality holding a virtual chainsaw and cutting down a virtual tree. The tree falls and the person observers the tree falling, sees the branches break, hears the tree hit the ground and more.

The purpose of the experiment was to see if people would cut back on paper and recycle more in the real world after their virtual experience of destroying a tree.

They did.

We all intuitively know that Virtual Reality can have an effect on our psyche. This can be a huge positive. It can be used to treat phobias or PTSD.

After Peter showed this example my mind immediately went to two places.

  1. Lots of people say after slaughtering an animal they eat less meat. Could the same be true of a virtual slaughtering experience?

2. It reminded me of the 1993 (cult classic?) movie Demolition Man where characters played by Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes have “behavior modification” done to them while they are in a cryogenic state. Stallone KNOWS that the behavior isn’t natural to him, but he just wants to knit and he is really good at it too!

It’s easy to imagine how advocacy organizations could use Virtual Reality to increase empathy around a cause. And let’s be honest: Every journalist wants to create empathy as well. Doesn’t every journalist want to tell a story that would make somebody cry or change somebody’s mind?

At the same time, I would posit journalists don’t want to implant false memories. Journalists don’t want to give their readers PTSD. Journalistsdon’t want to unfairly manipulate somebody’s low-level brain functions.

If journalists do want to change real-world behavior, we have to think carefully about why and how.

Journalist in Conversation with Plato

Plato: Do you want to get people to vote.

Journalist: Yes!

Plato: Do you want to influence who they vote for?

Journalist: Well, kinda, yea.

Plato: Do you want to influence how they vote without them knowing how they came to that decision?! Do you want to violate their sense of being an independent actor?

With VR, that slope can get slippery real quick.

Ethics don’t REALLY change

None of these questions are new. They map to existing ethical standards. The SPJ Code of Ethics (disclaimer — I’m on the advisory board) remains an amazing resource. A kind of torch light to take with you while navigating uncharted territory.

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“Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.”

In a VR environment where memories can be created, we must take care that the “memories,” even if not originally lived by the consumer, are as close to accurate as possible. And this requires thinking about accuracy in three-dimensions. How close to that building did this occur? Is that really what the chandelier looked like? Was this emotional music really playing in the background, or are we over-emoting?

For some of these questions we might not know the answers. How do we square that circle?

“Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.”

This comes from the “minimize harm” section of the code. And that phrase does all the lifting we need: “minimize harm.”

Now, we don’t want to shelter people from the world or ideas. It sucks to know the crappy things happening in the world or confront ideas we disagree with. I don’t think journalists should be expected to withhold these for the sake of minimizing harm.

But as I mention above: I can imagine scenarios where a VR experience gives a user nightmares. Makes them scared of real life situations or gives them a kind of PTSD. Certainly there is some line where a journalist should admit we can do real harm to a reader that isn’t justified by the information/story we are trying to convey.

The next section of the code of ethics is titled “Act Independent” with the line:

“The highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism is to serve the public.”

If we really take to heart this notion that VR can do more than “inform” people, but can alter real world behaviors, we are swimming in really interesting waters. I expect commercial companies to fully take advantage of this. But should non-fiction truth tellers? Presumably we tell stories to make change. We want people to re-think their place in the world and how they act. We want to hold powerful people accountable and empower less powerful people to act.

But should we create a story that will increase the likelihood of somebody to protest (as a kind of example)?

That doesn’t mean “share the information” and hope somebody will protest in response. I mean: Should we craft a storytelling experience that we know with statistical significance will increase the likelihood of somebody showing up to protest. Should we treat people as objects to be influenced? Should we manipulate? Can we do that and claim it’s in the public interest? And if the answer is “no,” to what degree should we avoid having that kind of influence?

I don’t claim to know definitive answers to these things. But I do have plenty of questions (how’s that for an unsatisfying end!)

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What I’m up to: The Alpha Group http://blog.digidave.org/2015/11/what-im-up-to-the-alpha-group http://blog.digidave.org/2015/11/what-im-up-to-the-alpha-group#comments Tue, 10 Nov 2015 12:35:42 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4480 Continue reading What I’m up to: The Alpha Group ]]> Not too long ago I left a digital venture, AJ+, that was experiencing meteoric growth with an awesome team doing interesting work.

Why would anyone leave that?

I was pretty vague at the time and I hope to give a few more details here, although it still might leave some wanting. Bottom line, I left an awesome job because the opportunity at Advance Digital was too exciting to pass up.

Say Hello to the Alpha Group


My new role is Senior Director of a new team at Advance Digital, the Alpha Group.

It has become commonly accepted that technology companies are media companies. And it’s increasingly obvious that media companies have to incorporate and adopt the best practices and principles of technology companies. We are doing just that. The company has been doing investments and taken on projects that show a commitment to innovation. This new division is going to be another example of that.

First and foremost the Alpha Group is going to be a place to test hypothesis, build out ideas into MVPs and hopefully, spin out some cool new products. We have put together a talented core team now, but we hope to build it out further so that we can begin to spin out multiple experiments at any given time.

There’s obviously a lot to do and we are just getting started. We want to develop a unique and cogent view of innovation, a philosophy towards rapid development and theories about what kinds of projects make sense for our group to undertake. We hope to develop values around smart and capable people who create products and projects that lift each other. Make no mistake – people will be our greatest resource and we will need to build a community of support, teamwork and innovation. 

Where do we fit in Advance?

We are an autonomous team. One of the things that convinced me to make the jump, I could see a commitment to creative freedom for this group. We plan to stay lean, agile and focused. We are given the space we need to put our heads down and focus.

What is the role of Journalism?

We are thinking outside of the box. News and information will still be at the center of what we do and I suspect will be at the heart of our “unique and cogent view of innovation” described above, but we will not carry that as a chip on our shoulder.

What next?

Stay tuned! If you’ve followed me at any stage in my career, you know I try to make myself as available and open as possible. For me, working on new products isn’t just about business, users and eyeballs. “At its best, innovation expressed through entrepreneurship is a form of cultural critique.” And I hope the projects we work on at the Alpha Group will have elements of critique, making a statement about the world and the way we think it should be. That’s what drew me to this opportunity. There will certainly be some failures along the way. That’s just an occupational hazard I’ve come to accept.

There will be a lot more to talk about soon. You can of course follow me on this blog (or Medium) and keep your ear out for news about the Alpha Group (Twitter: @AlphaGroupNYC) . We are just getting started.


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Millennials Got A Raw Deal With Social Media http://blog.digidave.org/2015/11/millennials-got-a-raw-deal-with-social-media http://blog.digidave.org/2015/11/millennials-got-a-raw-deal-with-social-media#comments Mon, 09 Nov 2015 21:56:14 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4517 Continue reading Millennials Got A Raw Deal With Social Media ]]> 1-dqMucLscs_WJRSGCLPAGvQ

Essena O’Neill quitting social media is making a splash. And why wouldn’t it? It speaks to something we inherently knows is true. Social Media is mediated. It is a farce.

I wrote a post to the same effect in 2013. It was actually in the aftermath of the Justine Sacco “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” Twitter-storm.

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In the 1976 satirical movie ‘The Network’ there is a scene when the main character goes on a rant about how television is a charade. A kind of shadow cast on the wall of Plato’s cave. Take four minutes (or skip to the 2-minute mark if you really have no time). It’s a great rant. Then look yourself in the mirror and admit you’ve had these thoughts about television.

Socializing on the internet is to real social activity as reality television is to actual reality.

In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” — Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol couldn’t have been more right about this. What he failed to include was the notion that everyone will THINK they are famous for much longer than 15-minutes. When a “real person” is cast on a reality show, we are not seeing the truth. We are seeing a performance. And while there is no “casting” online — much of what we see is a farce. It is directed. It is mediated and produced. Even moreso for those whose professions (digital gurus, social media editors, etc. etc) are inherently connected to the online world.

Let’s add another element to this conversation.


(Ideas on what generations deem as success is informed by a talk by Clint! Runge)

Generation X found success in owning stuff.

This is why Fight Club resonated so strongly.

Millennials have defined success as owning social relationships.

Let that sink in for a moment…….

Success is about owning social relationships.

In a conversation with my friend Andrew Haeg we came to the conclusion that Millennials have been born into a time where they must bear the brunt of social media anxiety.

They are the first to see the world through a social lens where every moment is harnessed for sharing. There is a debt of social activity they must constantly keep up with. Have I read all the Facebook posts? Did I see all the Instagram photos? Have I let my social network down?

The emergence of mass production led to abundance. But eventually left us with psychological and environmental externalities. Millennials have lived through the age of mass production of social capital. We have experienced the abundance and commodification. And we aren’t sure exactly what it all amounts to. What does a Millennial Fight Club look like? What are the externalities?

Why do I switch between talking about Millennials as one and sometimes as an observer? Read the section “On Generations” below. I have never felt truly Millennial or Gen X.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 1.51.56 PM

And I should note with the headline “Millennials Got A Raw Deal” thatdoesn’t mean social media is bad in and of itself. It has benefits for society. Just like mass production does. The abundance is something we wouldn’t want to give up. And over time, perhaps a balance can be struck.

And what about Gen Z

The next generation doesn’t need to answer the question “who am I.” Their identity has already been created online by their parents. Their photos already posted. Their jokes already delivered.

Success to the next generation will be in owning experiences.

Generational Theory

Everyone wants to know how to tap into “the kids.” It’s where the money supposedly is. One of the most important things to keep in mind. EVERY generation is rebelling. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

But if they are rebelling against their Gen X parents, their form of rebellion may look like social responsibility and maturity. What generation raises you has a BIG impact on how you turn out — on how you rebel.

And every generation goes through life phases. Gen Xers were rebelswithout a cause when they were younger. Now they are in their prime earning years. When they are supposed to be the workers and managers of society. Meanwhile the Boomers are moving into the later stages of life, where their value to society is in being wise sages.

All this is just to point out the framework by which I think about the play between generations. This is very inspired by Strauss-Howe Generational Theory.

Want a skeptical look at the world — check out my newsletter below.

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*Before you respond keep in mind the caveat “not all” applies whenever talking about a generation. “NOT ALL” millennias or Gen Xers, etc have certain traits.

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What is ‘Platform Intelligence’ — Embrace the constraints http://blog.digidave.org/2015/11/what-is-platform-intelligence%e2%80%8a-%e2%80%8aembrace-the-constraints http://blog.digidave.org/2015/11/what-is-platform-intelligence%e2%80%8a-%e2%80%8aembrace-the-constraints#comments Wed, 04 Nov 2015 17:28:11 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4513 Continue reading What is ‘Platform Intelligence’ — Embrace the constraints ]]>

There is a new breed of editorial organization. Buzzfeed, NowThisNews, AJ+ and others that create content to distribute on social networks first. Everyone should pay attention to them and understand the methodology by which these organizations operate. It can be broken down into a phrase which really just means “embrace the constraints.”

“Platform intelligence” which is really all about embracing the constraints.

Why it’s important to pay attention?

As Emily Bell of the Tow Center recently articulated: “2015 will be remembered as the year platforms became publishers.”

This post is not about analyzing to determine if this is a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just a recognition. In the past, publishers were in charge of their own space. They only had constraints that they created for themselves based on their own assumptions. Today editorial publications must publish on platforms that have constraints out of their control because they make different assumptions.

Platform intelligence

Your content should be made with “Platform Intelligence.” It’s a phrase I was struggling for in a conversation with my colleague Kim Bui from Reportedly and she put it out there. I still think it’s the best phrase to explain the concept: Create content made to publish on specific networks.

And how does one get into the right mindset for that? Just embrace the constraints.

Facebook has a constraint around video. It MUST auto-play and it starts on silent. You don’t have a choice here. It is a constraint dictated to you. And you must embrace it.

What you get as a result is an increasing number of videos in the AJ+ or NowThisNews style. Why? Because they embraced the constraints an figured out what works.

YouTube has different constraints. Sound is implied, but there is no auto-play. This should change the nature of your content. Instagram has a constraint of 15 seconds.

My friend Brian Boyer says “nobody ever invented a cocktail in a full bar.”By which he means “embrace the constraints.” They are a good thing. They give you direction and purpose. Are you writing something for Twitter. It better be 140 characters. Maybe create an image to make it go further. Make use a quick tool to ensure the image is cropped for Twitter.

It’s a skill that develops over time. One builds sensitivity to the constraints and begins to push their boundaries. Here’s an example of a quiz one can make with Twitter (not a poll!).

All this took was an awareness of the constraints of Twitter. 1) You can upload up to four images. 2) These images will be cropped based on an algorithm that detects the center of an image.

What platforms do you want to succeed on? Your own (create your own constraints). If it’s somebody else’s platform — study their constraints. Then create intelligent content around it.

What does that look like on Medium (for example). Maybe like this.

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How Defensible Is Viral Content? http://blog.digidave.org/2015/11/how-defensible-is-viral-content http://blog.digidave.org/2015/11/how-defensible-is-viral-content#comments Mon, 02 Nov 2015 18:01:11 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4507 Continue reading How Defensible Is Viral Content? ]]> Here’s a not too uncommon video. “Americans Try Latino Sodas.”

This is NOT a Buzzfeed video. It’s by Flama which is part of the Fusion network (I believe).

But it is without a doubt in the Buzzfeed style of: “People with X background do something from Y background’s culture and comment on it.” I don’t even think the good folks at Flama would deny this is a ripoff of the Buzzfeed style.

And hey — I don’t blame Flama either. It’s a clever kind of editorial. But not difficult to mimic (as evidenced here). The same critique could have been made of of Upworthy’s headlines circa 2012–13. You know, the ones that ended with “what happens next might make you cry” or “7 things that” etc. The formula behind those “curiosity gap” headlines isn’t hard to duplicate. And it was indeed a formula.

This image was from a presentation the founders of Upworthy gave. I once saw in another presentation this put forth as a literal formula (with an equals sign and other math symbols). The theory behind Upworthy was that virality could be turned into a science. And if that was true, in a literal sense, then it could be repeated. And if that was true — then anyone could do it if they got the science right.

If that’s what makes you different — then it’s easy to copy. And then you end up with black hat actors like Viral Nova. And when the water gets muddied by black hat actors, then white hat actors get dirty as well. And Facebook will have to respond and punish everyone a little bit.

I am not calling Flama a black hat actor here. They are well intentioned copy-cats. When that becomes black hat (which is a term I’m using perhaps differently from its original intention) is up for debate.

But if you are Buzzfeed video you must be thinking two things.

1. Imitation, flattery, etc.
That’s all well and good. It is flattery and a sign of your success. But you must immediately then go to thought #2.

2. We gotta do something else.
And you better hope that something else won’t be easy to copy
. Because if it is — then you’ve started a never ending arms race. Perhaps that race was kicked off with listicles (which have suffered since Buzzfeed video took off).

A student at UC Berkeley’s J-school, Zainab Khan, calls this a problem of “pacing,” which is an interesting term for it. At what “pace” do you develop new editorial styles and viral tricks? She also points out that, just as Buzzfeed “borrowed” from Reddit (which stole from 4chan) for their listicles, their videos may also be “borrowing” from YouTube styles pioneered by independent producers like Smosh.

And this just leads to a giant devil’s advocate. As long as there is niche internet culture, their will always need to be a clearinghouse for it. This means Buzzfeed’s role isn’t in “owning” any style. It’s in appropriating whatever internet fad the kids come up with next. They are the hipsters of the internet in this sense — Doing stuff JUST before it becomes uncool, but not early enough to say they added anything of real valueto the culture other than blowing it up. And that still leaves an open question about how “defensible” that editorial position is.

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Links that make you go hmmmmm…. Oct 22. http://blog.digidave.org/2015/10/links-that-make-you-go-hmmmmm-oct-22 http://blog.digidave.org/2015/10/links-that-make-you-go-hmmmmm-oct-22#comments Thu, 22 Oct 2015 17:35:53 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4504 Want to get these via email? Click here – or the red “Get Blog Via Email” button which you should see in a widget on the right side of this site.

More posts →

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Eye catching things this October 21st http://blog.digidave.org/2015/10/eye-catching-things-this-october-21st http://blog.digidave.org/2015/10/eye-catching-things-this-october-21st#comments Wed, 21 Oct 2015 17:09:45 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4502 Click here – or the red “Get Blog Via Email” button which you should see in a widget on the right side of this site.

  • The Future of News Is Not An Article

    Wherein the NYT R&D Lab makes the case for Circa: "In May of this year, Facebook announced Facebook Instant Articles, its foray into innovating the Facebook user experience around news reading. A month later, Apple introduced their own take with their Apple News app, which allows “stories to be specially formatted to look and feel like articles taken from publishers’ websites while still living inside Apple’s app”. There has been plenty of discussion about what these moves mean for the future of platforms and their relationship with publishers. But platform discussions aside, let’s examine a fundamental assumption being made here: both Facebook and Apple, who arguably have a huge amount of power to shape what the future of news looks like, have chosen to focus on a future that takes the shape of an article. The form and structure of how news is distributed hasn’t been questioned, even though that form was largely developed in response to the constraints of print (and early web) media."

  • Boston Globe’s David Skok elected to ONA Board; Artley, Bui, Cohn, Carvin, Herrmann re-elected

    Hey, I got re-elected to the ONA board. A line I used to use a lot at Spot.Us was "I work for you." And I meant it. If you had a pitch up on Spot.Us. I worked for you. That's how I feel about being on the board of ONA. Let me know how I can help.

  • How Can We Achieve Age Diversity in Silicon Valley?

    "Through an accident of birth, I am 64 years old. This makes me an utter outlier among startups and small companies in the Valley."

  • What Is Slant?

    What I would call a "pure play" citizen journalism site - with the added promise of extra editing. You don't see too many of these plays anymore. Mostly because I think the best practices and principles have been absorbed by the larger industry. Still - good to see new attempts/twists at it.

  • Choose doctors with confidence - Amino

    Amino is a new startup that launched. It caught my eye because the folks from Studio Shah worked on it. I met this husband/wife design power couple back in 2008 or 2009ish. I've loved watching the work they do. If you're looking for a doctor, this is a great site. And if you just want to see a great implementation of design and interface, this will also do the trick.

  • Eric Pickersgill

    An artist digitally removes cell phones from images. Shows people starring blankly at their hands instead of each other.

More posts →


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Interesting Finds: Oct. 20, 2015 http://blog.digidave.org/2015/10/interesting-finds-oct-20-2015 http://blog.digidave.org/2015/10/interesting-finds-oct-20-2015#comments Tue, 20 Oct 2015 23:12:14 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4487 Continue reading Interesting Finds: Oct. 20, 2015 ]]> A long time ago there were two types of bloggers “linkers and thinkers.

I liked to do a bit of both. But Twitter, Facebook and email newsletters has eaten away from the linking. There’s barely any true link-blogs left these days (NEVE LEAVE US KOTTKE!).

I could join the cool newsletter trend. But there is something that just doesn’t feel right about that to me. I hate to call it ‘elitist.’ But it’s certainly closed off somehow. And besides – anyone can subscribe to my blog via email already (if that’s your preferred medium). Click here – or the red “Get Blog Via Email” button which you should see in a widget on the right side of this site.

Are these going to be daily? I don’t know. But I certainly come across great reads/finds daily. So why wouldn’t I share them? I used to do this via Delicious, and then those bastards cut off an easy way to port it. But, I’ve come up with a new system. Let’s see how this goes. Let me know if you like these kinds of posts or not.

  • The Trading Game`

    Bloomberg created a game where you have to make instant decisions about when to buy/sell stock. At the end of the game you find out how you compared to industrial average and which stock you were playing with. I was doing great until the very end when a stock I held completely tanked. It was ENRON!

  • Design engaging images for your social media posts in under 30 seconds

    One of the key things for AJ+, NowThis and a growing list of organizations (following the Buzzfeed trail) is tailoring content specifically for different networks. If you are going to publish in somebody else's space, you might as well do it right!

  • Histography - Timeline of History

    An example of structured journalism. This WILL blow your mind and be fun to play with. Prepare to waste some time!

  • appear.in – one click video conversations

    A fun little tool to make teleconferencing quick and light. My new team has a dedicated URL and I just hang out in there all day. People can stop by and chat with me as if I was right next to them.

  • Twitter hires New York Times editor at large for its Moments channel

    One week after announcing major layoffs, Twitter is hiring New York Times editor at large Marcus Mabry to help develop editorial direction for its new Moments section.

  • John Cook Is Named Executive Editor of Gawker Media

    Mr. Cook’s appointment follows a stated aim of Gawker’s founder, Nick Denton, to move the organization in a different direction. After the scandal, he vowed in a series of memos to make Gawker nicer and less tabloid in its sensibilities.

  • Great Big Story

    CNN Unveils Millennial-Targeted Video Site Great Big Story

More posts →



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2016 SXSW Accelerator: Entry Deadline Nov. 6 http://blog.digidave.org/2015/10/2016-sxsw-accelerator-entry-deadline-nov-6 http://blog.digidave.org/2015/10/2016-sxsw-accelerator-entry-deadline-nov-6#comments Tue, 13 Oct 2015 17:18:04 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4478 Continue reading 2016 SXSW Accelerator: Entry Deadline Nov. 6 ]]> Once again I am humbled to be a SXSW Accelerator advisor.

What is that? It’s the chance to showcase your startup  in front of industry leaders.

From the organizers:

Take advantage of the opportunity to showcase your emerging technology product or service in front of industry leaders by participating in the 2016 SXSW Accelerator. This event takes place on March 12th and 13th as a part of the SXSW Interactive Festival, during which you can improve your product launch, attract venture capitalists, polish your elevator pitch, receive media exposure, build brand awareness, network, socialize and experience all that SXSW Interactive has to offer. The deadline to register is Friday, November 6, a few months away, so visit http://sxsw.com/interactive/accelerator/entry-info today.

Past Participant’s Research

Of the 305 companies who participated in SXSW Accelerator between 2009 and 2015, over 63% received funding, with combined funding in excess of almost $2.613 billion (does not include undisclosed grants, angel and seed funding). Of these 305 companies, 13% have been acquired by the likes of Google, British Telecom, Huffington Post, Apple, Live Nation, OpenTable, Constant Contact, and Harmon. For more information on past alum please visit http://sxsw.com/interactive/accelerator-alums

Applicants must be within one of the six categories:

Enterprise and Smart Data Technologies
The Enterprise and Smart Data Technologies category encompasses technologies that facilitate the comprehension and application of information and information workflows.  These startups seek to improve productivity for businesses and/or individuals. Big data, cognitive computing, analytics, AI, data security, and related aspects of data collection, management, analysis, presentation, interpretation, and augmentation are examples of the technologies appropriate for this category.

Entertainment and Content Technologies
The Entertainment and Content Technologies category highlights applications and technologies for gaming, music, film, television, video, news and publishing, streaming and digital storytelling, as well as new and hybrid forms of entertainment. These are reinventing the ways in which we learn, relax and enjoy our time. This category also contains technologies that focus on the entertainment components of various cultural sectors such as sports, travel, and dining.

Health and Wearable Technologies

The Health and Wearable Technologies category focuses on human-centric health applications and technologies that connect the “health optimizer” and those with illnesses, their care teams, primary and specialist clinicians, inpatient and outpatient facilities, benefit providers, and corporate wellness programs to share timely, relevant health data and drive better outcomes at affordable and sustainable cost levels.

Innovative World Technologies
Any creative and innovative technology that does not fit in another category is encouraged to apply here. We are currently seeing lots of innovation in the Internet of Things, privacy, transportation such as autonomous vehicles, energy, space, natural resources, agriculture, and robotics. If your business / service / application applies to one of these fields (or something not on this list that is even more ground-breaking), then this is your category.

Payment and FinTech Technologies

Technologies that deliver new consumer or business payment methods, including new forms of currency; that deal with the extension of credit and other lending processes; equities trading; transaction processing; asset management, insurance and any other functions traditionally provided by banks and investment banks are welcome in this category. Major banks are themselves beginning to create “iBanks” – evidence that there is considerable entrepreneurial opportunity for disruption in this category.

Virtual Reality Technologies

Companies with concepts using VR and other novel visualization technologies, including applications for Cardboard, Oculus Rift, and other emerging offerings from industry giants, are encouraged to apply in this category. The foundation technologies are rapidly becoming available; who has an idea to capitalize on this fast emerging trend? Applications may address such uses as gaming, entertainment, data visualization, education, medical care, warfare, transportation, and more. If your concept makes novel use of VR, choose this category over any of the market categories about. This will be your show.

We SXSW announce the Judges and Emcee before the event?

Yes, the Judges and Emcees who are industry experts and/or investors from the financial community will be announced later this year on theSXSW website.  Here is an example of past Judges and Emcees – Tim Draper of DFJ, John Sculley of Apple/Pepsi, Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media, Paul Graham of Y Combinator, Naval Ravikant of AngelList, Guy Kawasaki of Alltop, Chris Sacca of Lowercase Capital, Chris Hughes of New Republic/Facebook, Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures, Albert Wenger of Union Square Venture, Scott Weiss of Andreessen Horowitz, and Bob Metcalfe of Ethernet/3Com.

Where can I get more information:

Visit the Accelerator website at sxsw.com/interactive/accelerator

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In the morning meeting: Don’t tell me what you’re working on, tell me how you feel…. http://blog.digidave.org/2015/10/in-the-morning-meeting-dont-tell-me-what-youre-working-on-tell-me-how-you-feel http://blog.digidave.org/2015/10/in-the-morning-meeting-dont-tell-me-what-youre-working-on-tell-me-how-you-feel#comments Wed, 07 Oct 2015 12:45:40 +0000 http://blog.digidave.org/?p=4454 Continue reading In the morning meeting: Don’t tell me what you’re working on, tell me how you feel…. ]]> My time at AJ+ was great and one of the things I had time to reflect on was management. In any business, trust and communication are key. Whenever there is tension, these two are likely culprits.

If you don’t trust the people you work with – nobody will delegate. If you can’t effectively communicate who is doing what, then no amount of trust will solve the fact that wires will get crossed.

A natural solution to this problem is “the meeting.” At its most existential moment the “meeting” is a tool to address an issue and create trust/communication among stakeholders so everyone can move forward.


Any newsroom with a daily cycle has a morning ‘budget’ meeting. This is where everyone sits in a circle and talks about what they are going to tackle that day. Because this meeting is essential and daily it sets the tone for all other meetings. This is where an organizational pace is set.

The downside: It becomes a list of things somebody is working on. At its worst, it is a resume-like list of things said without care just so everyone can move on.


Here’s something to try every now and then and a way to also set a different tone on any given day/week.

Take an extra 10 minutes and start a meeting with “I don’t want to know what you’re working on, I want to know how you feel.”

It’s disorienting. And the first few times people might not know exactly how to respond. But it’s a great way to build communication and trust in a broader sense. Not about who is covering what, but about who needs help. Where pain happens. If you want to build trust, you have to expose vulnerability. And that’s not easy in a professional setting. But if you ask this question (and you should be ready to answer yourself) it’s a good way to create head space for those tougher conversations.



Midway through my time at AJ+ I was reminded of an old internal challenge with myself when I lived in New York. Every day in New York was a battle, I’d joke, and at the end of the day you have to tally who won – you or the city.

I began to ask individuals: “Did you win today?”

It’s an easy question to comprehend. It has a definitive answer, but allows for an open ended discussion if needed. It’s informative, especially if the answer is “no.” People only respond in the negative if something is specifically on their mind. All things being even – “winning” is the way we want to see ourselves. (Side note: I started this by offering people a win/lose/draw option, but the tendency towards “draw” as an answer was too much and I removed it from the possible responses).

I would ask this question to people on other teams whenever I had the chance. Daily if I could. It exposed me to the struggles on other teams that would otherwise be under the radar to me.

My team knew that on Fridays we wouldn’t have our morning “what are you doing and/or feeling” meeting and instead we’d huddle in the afternoon to talk about if we won or lost the week. It was always one of the more informative moments of the week for me and even better – a great ‘team building’ experience. If you have a space where people can admit “loss” but acknowledge wins, the team begins to take responsibility for each other. We can have tough conversations about what went wrong that might have thrown the whole week off. And doing it on Friday means that next week is a whole new ballgame.


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