Takeaways from Northside 2018
It’s really an act of total submission, eating one of Wylie Dufresne’s $3.50 Chocolate Caramel Brownie Donuts in the midst of the 10th annual Northside Festival.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s worth it. Northside AND the donut. You’re here in the heart of Whole Foods-era Williamsburg at New York City’s longest-running music and innovation festival. There are politicians, entrepreneurs, academics, major players, plucky startups, and many, many people from WeWork.
Also … it’s ever so subtle … is that a darkly satiric whiff of Silicon Valley?
Politics As Product
Democratic congressional candidate Suraj Patel was part of the Expanding the Electorate to New Generations panel, and anybody who’s walked around North Brooklyn, Greenwich Village, or Manhattan’s East Side has probably noticed the distinctive design of his campaign materials.
While the session had the usual talking points of “reaching the youth” and “doing things differently,” there is a sense that Patel’s campaign appreciates the power of design in a way few other politicians do. The website’s UX and the muted Wes Anderson-pink signage share a point of view, as does the clever branding. Recently, at coffee carts all over the district, cups featured Patel’s face and the words “Vote June 26.”
Artists + Scientists = Magic
When artists and technologists combine their skills, they create dynamic duos. Creators at Hyphen-Labs are challenging conventionality and working at the intersection of feminism, art, and science.
Innovation & Diversity
Our takeaway from the New Paths to Discovering and Retaining Diverse Teams panel was this: if you want innovation and progress, you need to rethink traditional methods of recruiting.
Businesses inherently lower their standards by hiring from a limited pool. It’s not that the talent doesn’t exist, it’s that they aren’t looking for it. There are steps businesses can take to minimize biases in their hiring processes, using new tools like Pymetrics and the augmented writing platform Textio. It’s a win-win: diversity improves a company’s financial success and fosters a better, more inclusive workplace.
“The world will be painted with data.”
Augmented Reality is on the verge of taking over, and that is both amazing and scary. In her discussion about the future of immersive storytelling, Cortney Harding (Friends With Holograms) imagines a world where, instead of looking down at our phones, AR will lift our heads up.
Buses could display their arrival times, stores could display discounts and sales … even apartment buildings could display their available rentals. In a world drenched with data, AR can create a new system of organizing information: contextualizing stories and allowing us to navigate the world in a different way. Check out the MOMAR app to get a feel for what this might look like.
Fact: making a daily podcast is hard — even if you’re one of the pros. Vox’s Irene Noguchi and Sean Rameswaram discussed their method of madness, explaining the history and philosophy behind their 20-minute podcast Today, Explained.
Neither of them had done a podcast before, and cranking one out daily was a massive challenge. The formula had to be simple and straightforward, but not dumbed-down. That means gathering all the important stuff going on, deciding what’s super-important, then condensing it into a 20-minute episode. Oh, and also making it sound cool and effortless. Sean’s goofiness and Irene’s seriousness strike a nice balance. Have a listen.
“How are you protecting people.”
The wide-ranging Bringing Ethics to the Future of Work panel touched on everything from autonomous cars to Cambridge Analytica. Many companies are starting to take ethical, inclusive product design, internal culture, and data management seriously, as are backers worried about liability. “How are you protecting people?” is a question cropping up more and more in meetings with VCs.
But … there’s always a but … BrightHive COO Natalie Evans Harris expressed a desire for government to take a stronger role in guiding companies. Compliance with regulators often acts as a much stronger incentive than recommendations from internal committees.
An audience member made an interesting point about the challenges not just facing the major tech companies, but thousands of startups and less-established innovators. Small headcount, pressure from investors, strict timelines, heavy competition … a company’s code of ethics can get lost in the rush to create an MVP. There’s no quick solution to that.
As a publisher of news, earning trust from readers is an uphill battle: someone will always find something wrong with what you report. The panelists of Establishing Trust in a Fake News Era discussed the complexities of creating trusting relationships between business and consumer. That applies to politics, commercial brands, or media entities.
All panelists agreed that the same crisis management advice applies to all three:
- If you mess up, apologize quickly.
- If you have a good track record, hopefully it won’t do too much damage.
- Don’t use the passive voice when you apologize. Take responsibility!
- If you falsely report something, you must respond to complaints about it and do your best to fix it. Just as Ikea would replace a defective piece of furniture. Same principle.