Jeff Pulver, the founder of #140conf, recently emailed me an insight he had whilst at the SxSW conference. It certainly makes interesting reading with lots of visionary tantilisation so I’ve reproduced it in full here unedited:

SXSW 2010: The days twitter became less relevant

Jeff Pulver /

At South By Southwest 2010 (SXSW), a strange thing happened on the way to Austin. A community of twitter faithful shifted from sharing everything about everything on only twitter (and maybe Facebook) and changed their habits to rely on learning about what was happening and where things were happening by using foursquare and Gowalla instead. I’m sure there were other products and platforms being used including Loopt and GySPii but foursquare and Gowalla were the dominant platforms.

Friends of friends not attending SXSW may have (greatly) appreciated the reduction of what might otherwise appear as “noise” on twitter about specific happenings at SXSW. However, the unintended consequence of not using twitter at SXSW meant SXSW spent little time as a trending topic which in turn may have lowered the buzz and the impact being a trending topic can have.

In the year since SXSW 2009, a number of my friends became passionate and dependent on using Foursquare and/or Gowalla as the platform to share where they are and what is happening around them. At SXSW, this was taken to a new level. It turns out that if you are spending time around your friends and you have a chance to speak to them almost at will, there is something to be said about only sharing your location information and then having the ability to make decisions of what to do (or where not to go) based on this information.

There were times where I could feel the ebbs and the flows of the people move as different people checked into various locations. While most of this was felt locally in the place I was in, it also became apparent on the platforms when hundreds of people would rush to check in to a location. There were also times when it felt like I was chasing ghosts; These were the times I would go to a spot because a friend had checked into that spot only to discover they were no longer there.

Personally I thought foursquare’s introduction of trending places was a good one and a foreshadowing of future features. I look forward to seeing more derivative information shared in the future. I believe it will be the information shared from the 1st and 2nd derivatives of the core information that will keep people using location based services.

Based on an unscientific poll of a just a few people I spoke to during the breaks, at lunch and my flight home, a typical comment shared was: “I haven’t been on twitter for 2 days. Not sure when I was on last on Facebook. Instead I just look on Foursquare for what is happening and where it is happening.” These words were shared by many of the people I spoke with.

I do not believe this is the case of one community moving to a new platform just because it is new and cool. I believe the shift was intentional and was a means to an end. And it wasn’t about the games or the badges but rather it was the tool used by people to figure out the: who, what, where things were happening. I also believe the shift was a transient one. Moments after returning from SXSW, I found myself and friends had switched back to using twitter once again as our default communication platform.

One cottage industry that could have taken off at SXSW would have been “safe & secure” smart phone recharge stations at the various parties. Turns out at SXSW, the duration for the battery life for many of our devices was less than the amount of time we ended up being awake. By the end of each evening, we were not only tired but our phones had no energy left either.

What does any of this this really mean? I am still not entirely sure. But I do believe SXSW 2010 will be known as the time Foursquare came of age and the place where at least one community’s dependence on twitter had shifted and their use of twitter changed, albeit slightly. This is a topic on my mind as I continue to work on April’s #140conf NYC event and something I will be covering in detail tonight at the monthly #140conf NYC Meetup

Best regards, Jeff

p.s. While at SXSW, David Spark caught up with me and captured one of my real-time web rants. You might enjoy listening to this.