THE BLOG
05/12/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

SXSW: The Austin Tea Party

The highlight of the day was hearing the word "Curation" spoken out loud about 20 times. It is what's next. And I'm not just saying that because I've been saying that for about a year (see my site, curatorialist.com for traffic, er, proof), I'm saying it because it's palpably true. And like all great Nextnesses, it's not exactly clear how it will happen. But it's close.

Here's what we all know -- it's an insane clown posse of data at our disposal right now. Not only are there 600 tweets a second, 400MM people on Facebook and all kinds of other impressive stats about Web usage, Web growth and what the kids are doing in droves, but the information being collected on the information is more than you know. Think about that. Information about information. As in, what you think is just a tweet is really your location, your opinion, your contribution to a subject, or brand and many other things. As one panelist said, even if you think people aren't listening to you in your social network, SOMEbody is listening to you.

My day has been incredible. Just coming out to Austin is a pleasure -- a place I'd never been. And along the way, people help you in ways that remind you that you're a human being, not a customer. Think about how much of the day you spend feeling like a customer; on websites, in stores, watching TV, playing video games, at amusement parks, on airplanes. It's getting worse. It's pretty easy to feel like a customer even in your own car, as OnStar reminds you of how many minutes you have left on your phone plan, while you drive by billboards and receive reminders on your phone for software updates and put in information to get a badge on behalf of someone else's business on Foursquare. The "freeconomy" isn't going to make that any less, btw, as your basic experiences on mobile will all come with their own way of monetizing through advertising.

But not as much out here. Here, they paint the name of their businesses on the outside of their buildings. People bike you to and fro and you don't even discuss money, you discuss skateboarding and design and travel. And they can barbecue like nobody's business. Like it's not a business. I see what people see in this place. It's human.

Which makes it all the more interesting as a venue for discussing the inhuman amount of data and the incredible advancements in non-human technology that descends here in Spring. But what you realize when you sit through the panels and talk to people in between, is that it's all human. Technophiles and programmers are perhaps the most honestly human humans you can hang out with. I've known crazy ones, I've known difficult ones, I've known moody ones - but I've never known a fake one.

According to Wikipedia, Robert Scoble soldered a motherboard together at age 11 and helped his mother build Apple II's. Now, he's a tech guru with a big following. He's so tied in to the digital world that he himself is being used in a campaign by Junaio, a leader in Augmented Reality, that has people taking pictures of a QR code on his t-shirt here at SXSW. The most advanced technologies, the most innovative marketing - on a guy's t-shirt. This is what I'm saying.

I spent a good amount of time studying Robert Scoble. Robert Scoble is so clearly addicted to information, news, the social web, trends, memes and new technology that he can't not be checking on it while he's on a panel. Literally, his screen is up on the overhead and you can see everything he's doing. In a thirty minute period, while participating on a panel, he visited Google Buzz, Foursquare, TweetDeck alerts popped up at a rate of one a minute, he checked his own traffic stats, accepted friend requests, went to austin.vicarious.ly, checked on techmeme.com, read some articles on the iPad, introduced us to Google Blue Dots and The Cadmus. And he was still engaging, smart and a major contributor to the discussion. How did he do it?

How, indeed.

At first you might think he's manic, but you'd be missing the more obvious truth. This is, in fact, what he loves, it's his passion. He's done some version of this since he was 11 years old. His mother built Apple II's. It's in his blood. He's so practiced and good at it that he's learned how to accept all friend requests while not letting that slow him down. He even took time out to talk to me. He's Neo, seeing the agents in green code.

But that leads to what we don't know. Because not all of us do what Robert Scoble does for a living. We have other jobs and we're not all quite as turned on as he is by the flow. In the lightning round of the panel, Jim Louderback asked the group, "What's missing? What do you want from social networking that you can't get today?" Echoing what has been on a lot of people's minds, and lips, and hearts, Scoble said, "Curation."

Big sigh from the audience. If he's asking for it, then there's hope for all of us.

What will that mean for the future? Not totally in focus, but most likely it means that rather than dipping your cup into the river of ALL information -- and feeling overwhelmed -- you will get dashboards from the people you trust most, the people in your inner circle. In real life, we call this "asking your friends." Sounds pretty good to me. Sounds pretty human.