Savannah Geekend Debrief

On November 5-6, I went to a conference called Geekend in Savannah.  After going last year and really learning a lot, I went again and here are my thoughts.

Straight from the conference program:

What is Geekend?

Geekend is the annual gathering of the geek tribe in Savannah, Georgia.  Geekend is what you might call an interactive conference with some truly awesome parties.  It’s the kind of event that you’ll be texting, Tweeting, and Facebooking about, making all your friends back home super jealous.  Geekend is a mashup, a meetup and a Tweet-up all mixed together in a delicious Lowcountry boil of innovative ideas.  It’s networking, Savannah style.  It’s a veritable supermarket of fresh idea ideas.  To sum up Geekend up in one word is really quite impossible, but we tend to use this one:  Fun.

Is Apple More Open Than Google and Why Should You Care?

This session was clearly aimed at software developers interested in writing software from freely available open source code.  While the answer to the question might be obvious (Google is clearly more open than Apple.), the presenters explained that both companies contribute quite a lot to the open source community either with money or source code themselves.  For example, Apple’s OS X operating system is built on open source code, the BSD kernal.  Also, while Apple and Google are fierce competitors in the iPhone vs. Android cell phone market, Google uses Apple OS X servers for their development.  Several examples of companies were given as truly open.  Photo-sharing application Flickr is a good example because of the way their photos use the Creative Commons content rights method and how their entire database of photos is searchable to anyone.  Another example they gave was Twitter.  Twitter was fully open from the very beginning and they allowed users to use Twitter tweets however they wished.  In fact, the hashtag (#) and reply (@) features were not a part of Twitter originally.  Users added these features and then Twitter brought these features into the core of the application later.  In fact, Twitter is so open that 70% of all tweets come from user-created Twitter applications, not the Twitter site itself.

It’s All Social:  How to Succeed in Today’s Connected World

This presenter was Phil Peterman, the head of social media at Paula Deen Enterprises.  He spoke about how a brand’s social media impact can be measured.  Good metrics:  sales, time on the site, bounce rate (when they leave the site), amplification (retweets in Twitter or forwarded links in Facebook or email).  Bad metrics:  sentiment, authority, and number of followers.  He stated that having a quality message on social media is not a measure of success.  For example, more people know about LOLCats than how much the Gates Foundation is spending on medical research.  People want to be entertained on the Internet.  The incident with Paula Deen accidentally getting hit in the face with a thrown ham was an example.  Paula’s response of, “I should have ducked”, showed responding to something potentially negative in a positive way gave her brand even more credibility.  The brand’s biggest failure in social media was when she tried to use her authority to influence a contest one of her relatives was participating in.  The backlash from the user community was swift and harsh.

Paul also touched on web site analysis from Google Analytics, Alerts, Sprout Social, and Clicky.  Every brand should be using one of these measuring tools.  The key to social media success is to find the conversions and engage.  Do not try to control user conversations.  Let them create buzz for you and continue to respond.

Other notes:

  • The average person sees 3000 advertisements every day
  • 78% of people trust recommendations from peers
  • It’s not about the product; it’s about the relationship to the brand
  • The Paul Deen brand has 1.2 million Facebook users and 200,000 Twitter followers
  • The Facebook users tend to browse the website but rarely buy products
  • The Twitter followers tend to buy more products than the Facebook users
  • Why?  Twitter followers may be younger, more affluent, and more tech-savvy.

Do You Have a Power Adaptor I Can Borrow?

The presenter spent a great deal of time going through the multitude of cell phones he has owned over the years.  He displayed how cell phone towers are now disguised as trees and are even inside of church steeples.  He raised the question of whether we are too connected and our phones need to be simpler.

Teenagers:  We Get It

The presenter was Parth Dehbar, a high school junior, who created, an iDevices review site.  He went over all the pressures teenagers go through each day:  peer pressure, parents’ pressure, and grades.  His advice was to constantly write your ideas down.  He also mentioned the three biggest hurdles of being an entrepreneur: money, time, and infrastructure.  He said he hired all of his writers and developers for through Twitter.  He said when you have an idea, just start something small, don’t be afraid if it’s never been done before, and expect criticism because that means your are doing something right.  His advice for teachers is to create an entrepreneurs club at school to give students the chance to work on their ideas.

The War on Stupid Needs You!

This session raises the issue that we are so inundated with information from biased sources we cannot make sense of any of it.  We are reaching the biological limits of what the brain can process.  We are also suffering from three limiting factors: cognitive bias (we believe what we want to believe), option paralysis (we shut down when given too many choices), and information buffet (there is too much information from too many sources).  The traditional sense-makers (media, academia, government) are now highly mistrusted.  As a result, we are living in an echo chamber where we read only what we agree with (example:  liberals read the Huffington Post and conservatives watch Fox News).  Consequently, we have seen the rise of pundits giving their opinions instead of reporting the news.  Also, a loss of civility has occurred with the left and right becoming more hostile toward each other.  Solution?  We need creative people to create forms of media we can easily digest (Jonathon Jarvis explaining mortgage crisis with animated pictures, The Story of Stuff by Dan Roam).  We also need journalists to create the content that gets closer to the truth.  What kind of journalists can be trusted?  Presenter’s answer:  non-profits like NPR are trustworthier than for-profits like Fox News.  Other resources:  Radiolab and book I Live in the Future

Keynote Speaker: Oscar Gerardo from

Oscar is the Chief Architect of, which has won numerous awards for interactive content.  The site has created several successful projects based on primetime shows including:

  • A virtual social network based on the show The Office.  Fans created a persona with a virtual job and had to perform tasks to earn points and gain levels to create a virtual desk.
  • An information weight-less and nutrition education program tied in with the show The Biggest Loser.

What Instruction Manual?  Interactive Process and Education

A coordinator of interactive media at Elon University gave this session.  The speaker quoted Marshall MacLuhan frequently, the most notable quote being, “If it works, it’s obsolete.”  He was referring to interactive projects always being in a state of flux and never being truly finished.  He talked about how most people are visual learners and vision controls 50% of the brain’s resources.  He referenced books such as Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud and Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug to illustrate teaching visually and information overload are changing the way we understand information.  These presenters stressed to save everything you create: projects, ideas, etc. so you can refer back to what you have done and create something new.  He also talked about the repeating three phases of a project:  revise, rework, and refine.

Job Search and Recruiting With Social Media

Social media experts in health care and employment resources presented this session.  They claim social media is a window to the culture of a company.  When employees give updates about their companies, they should include non-business related updates to give a prospective employee a view of how the day-to-day life is at the company.  As for employees concerned about employers constantly spying in their social media updates, they suggested people read and set privacy settings accordingly.  The also used the simple advice, “Be smart.”  “If you are posting pictures of yourself hung over on Facebook six days in a row, you can expect employers might not be too happy about that.”  They mentioned Germany is introducing legislation limiting how much social media information employers can access about their employees.  They advised using social media site LinkedIn to network.    They also advised updating your social media profile every 30 days to show you are an active member of the community.  Finally, they recommended spending one hour per day to read blogs and tweets about your industry.

Your Social Media Soundtrack

While pictures, video, and text are used for most social media, audio is sometimes overlooked.  This session explored the role of audio in social media.  The presenter talked about the old school mix tape as the first version of social audio, where users created their own media of songs to fit a certain purpose.  He went on to talked about a few social audio tools like Chirbit, twtfm, and Trottr.  He discussed sonic branding.  Companies like Audi have used sonic branding to develop a corporate sound for the entire organization.  The sounds of the car engine, doors, etc. are used extensively in the company’s marketing.  Another example of audio in vehicles is Microsoft’s Ford Sync where the drive only needs to speak and the vehicle will respond.  Apparently there is a term for everything.  Ever had a song stuck in your head?  It’s called an earworm.  Like to have an audio diary?  Try AudioBoo.  For recording audio, tools such as GarageBand and Audacity are good for voice recording and podcasts.

Mobile Application Development for the Web Developer

This session discussed to topic of native and web-based mobile development.  Web-based development using Javascript and CSS may be more cross-platform compatible, but using web engines like Trident, Gecko, Presto, and Webket for Android and iPhone have better performance.  But the web user interface is slow, which has been a big problem.  Hardware acceleration and Internet speeds have been used to compensate.  Also, CSS animation that separates function and design has been used as well.  Recommended tools:  Sizzle and Xcode for iPhone.  Also the book Javascript:  The Good Parts.  Web reference:

The New Human:  Technology, Social Innovation and Intentional Evolution

Two futurists spoke at this session and used many terms you might have to look up:  mindjacking, zettaflopping, lifelogging, datascaping, neuroplasticity and singularity.  They mentioned humans need four traits:  transformational, adaptive, resilient (instead of sustainable), and possibilians.  We are heading towards multiple futures created with every decision we make.

Four rules of the new human

1.     The revolution will not be organized optimized

2.     Your future is data exhaust (e.g. Foursqure check-ins)

3.     The new you is an exoskelton (created by your Facebook account)

4.     Change comes from the bottom up, not the top down

Finally, we need to embrace diversity because it breeds creativity.

Keynote Speaker: Noah Everett from TwitPic

Twitpic was a weekend project and completely self-funded.  Noah was working a full-time job and living with his parents when he created Twitpic, a photo-sharing helper application for Twitter.  The company now has 12 million users.  The site rose to prominence during the airplane crash in the Hudson River.  A passenger posted the picture on Twitter through Twitpic and the company became massive overnight.  Further pictures from the Iran conflict and election made the Twitpic what it is today.  Twitpic also works with many non-profits to help their causes.  Noah is creating a new project called Heello which will be out very soon.


  1. Dayna

    You rock! This is great information. You have a great writing style, and I enjoyed reading about your conference. See you tomorrow!

    • Thanks Dayna!

      It’s nice to have blog comments from someone other than my mom!


      • Dayna

        Lol…you crack me up! I am so enjoying working with you!

  2. John Morales

    Great writeup, Mark!

    • Thanks John! I’m not sure I was entirely accurate with the technical stuff since I’ve been out of the development realm for awhile, but it’s close enough.

  3. Just found your posts while doing some research about Gowalla.
    Not only are your posts informative but they are highly entertaining.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Robin,

      Thank you for reading my blog and the compliment!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: