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SXSW: Using Technology to Save the World

JeskaD March 17, 2011 User blog:JeskaD
  • Free Hugs Guy at SXSW (c/o helzerman)
  • Japan Nite Booth, fundraising
  • Networking Event (photo c/o philliecasablanca)
  • Downtown Austin (c/o mattlucht)
Howdy Wikia,

I've been down in Austin this week, experiencing the geeky craziness that is the annual South by Southwest Interactive festival (SXSW). Already I've seen some interesting threads running through this event. From small businesses to large, from founders to marketers, app builders to wine sellers, people in the online space are starting to realize the need to be more authentic to be successful. This goes beyond simply listening to their users, fans, or customers. They need to be more human.

Web Entrepreneur (and wine guy) Gary Vaynerchuk expanded on this idea in his new book, The Thank You Economy. During his high-energy keynote on Monday he said: "Human elements are going to matter more than ever."

This thread appeared again on Tuesday, when I attended a panel called "If Techies Can Save The World, Why Aren't They?" pulled together by Brooke B Farrell, founder of Recycle Match. She describes her company as the "eBay of recycling," as they allow companies to buy, sell, or give away their waste or recyclables online. Other folks on the panel included Rebecca Moore, from Google's Earth Engine project, which utilizes Google Earth to help locals counter illegal deforestation and Joel Serface, a cleantech entrepreneur and investor.

Brooke and I chatted after the event and I asked for her thoughts for techies who want to help save the world, but aren't sure how. She had this advice to offer Wikians who want to make a difference: "Saving the world sounds really big and overwhelming. The key is to look around and find a specific slice of the many huge environmental issues that are out there and get deep into learning about that one slice. Preferably it’s one that you already know about, care about or want to learn about. From my experience, the unique combination of your technical skills and your new-found knowledge of this one subject will lead you to powerful opportunities to make a difference."

I looked around the convention center and saw that some SXSW attendees were already taking this advice to heart and were using technology for good. There was a non-profit track at the event, with many different panels and meet-ups to bring like-minded folks together.

Also, various organizations worked with SXSW to set up an official page dedicated to the fund-raising efforts for Japan, and at least one party shifted from networking event to fundraiser for the victims of the recent earthquake/tsunami disasters. At Wikia, we've also been focusing on Japan this week, updating the Japanese Earthquake wiki with real time crisis resources and giving $1 to the Red Cross for every retweet of this message until we hit a $500 donation.

Do you know a great wiki that is working towards a greater good? Please share information or add a link below.

Thanks,

Jeska - Director of Content, Wikia

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