A ChatGPT generated image of South by Southwest, showing a large crowd inside an industrial building, with many people wearing VR goggles.

Finding the Creative Synthesis of SXSW, AI and FileMaker

Attending SXSW as a FileMaker developer is akin to diving into a melting pot of creativity, innovation, and cutting-edge technology.


A FileMaker Developer’s Perspective on SXSW

This March I had the opportunity to attend SXSW Interactive, one of the premiere gatherings for creatives, technologists, and business leaders. It’s no surprise that SXSW is known as the conference of creativity. I left the event with new, innovative ideas spinning in my head.

In this post, I share with you my key insights from the conference, along with demonstrating the role that AI can play in our modern workplace, based on my own experience using it to synthesize the conference materials. Furthermore, I also want to leave you with a creative parallel – demonstrating how SXSW and FileMaker have grown up in similar fashions.

What is SXSW Interactive? Isn’t it Just a Music Conference?

It’s true South by Southwest (SXSW, or South By) began as a music festival, but since its inception in 1987, the conference has diversified to become a pivotal hub for technology, innovation, and networking.

I chose to attend SXSW Interactive, a segment of the conference that has gained recognition as a launching pad for new ideas and creative technologies. It’s where the latest trends in the tech industry are showcased, from cutting-edge startups to the newest advancements in digital media, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. The festival’s diverse program includes keynote speeches, panel discussions, workshops, and networking events. The attendees are a mix of entrepreneurs, developers, and creatives seeking inspiration, collaboration opportunities, and the chance to discover the next big thing.

A ChatGPT generated image of South by Southwest, showing a large crowd inside an industrial building, with many people wearing VR goggles. Possibilities for AI and FileMaker abound.
The importance of SXSW lies not just in its role as a showcase for new technologies and creative content, but also in its ability to bring together a diverse group of thought leaders, innovators, and influencers. This convergence of creative minds from various sectors fosters an unparalleled environment for networking, learning, and collaboration. Attendees have the unique opportunity to connect with industry leaders, gain insights into future trends, and be part of a community at the forefront of driving innovation.

How SXSW Made Me a Better FileMaker Developer

Power to the Problem Solvers

I consider myself a problem solver, part of the extraordinary community of FileMaker creatives, dedicated to solving business problems through creative solutions.

Being a problem solver means I don’t always have the right answer immediately at hand. I use somewhat unorthodox tools in order to put myself in the position where the answer might arrive.

Sometimes that’s going for a run, sometimes it’s playing Legos with my daughter, and sometimes it’s attending a creativity conference and a session by a former NASA engineer turned YouTube star who surprises you with his creativity.

This March I decided to attend SXSW in pursuit of expanding my horizon, gaining knowledge of the latest emerging technologies, and immersing myself in a spirit of innovation. I have been very interested in combining AI and FileMaker and this conference has spurred that interest on even further.

Driving Digital Innovation 

From a FileMaker developer’s perspective, SXSW offers a valuable opportunity to find inspiration for innovative technologies and digital strategies showcased at SXSW. I am always on the lookout to find ways to develop more advanced, user-friendly FileMaker applications that can give our clients a competitive edge. I attended a wide variety of sessions and left with new ideas and a greater understanding of the importance of AI in the modern workplace.

How I Used AI to Enhance My SXSW Experience

When you go to a conference there’s so much information to digest – slide presentations, notes, recordings, conversations, including everything that happens off the screen. It can be overwhelming! I knew going into this conference I wanted to capture a lot, so I Incorporated the software Otter AI to record some of my sessions and then used their tool to generate word clouds in order to synthesize the primary messages.

SXSW Opening Remarks

Graphic of the dictionary definition of the noun, JOMO - Joy of Missing Out.

I attended the opening remarks session with Hugh Forrest. The room was crowded, to say the least! The conference veritably takes over the Austin Convention Center, plus numerous hotel venues in downtown Austin. Filing into the large auditorium, I took a seat and prepped myself for the welcome.

The intro remarks both delighted and surprised me. I left learning a new term – JOMO (joy of missing out) in contrast to FOMO (fear of missing out). It calmed my anxiety in looking at the schedule of events, all of which I desperately wanted to attend, but knowing I would only be able to make a fraction of them. (Because there’s no way anyone can be in three places at the same time!)

One of the most beneficial bits of advice I heard came from the opening session – “Attendees should push outside their comfort zones, make new connections across different fields, and fully engage with the variety of content and people at SXSW.”

Word cloud created during Kate's attendance at SXSW, with the largest words being southwest and south.

Elevation of Women’s Voices

I found myself emotional at the sessions that touched on women in the workplace, marginalized groups, and people who were really striving to make a change in business. It was evident these presenters were people who were choosing to follow their hearts – when people speak about what they’re really passionate about it strongly shines through.

I particularly enjoyed attending the session – fittingly, on International Women’s Day – called Breaking Barriers, Shaping Narratives: How Women Lead On and Off the Screen and featuring Katie Couric, Errin Haines, Brooke Sheilds, Meghan the Duchess of Sussex, and Nancy Wang Yuen.

The Future of AI

Most of the sessions I attended were on AI and the workplace, and they all offered fascinating insights and future projections. These are some key insights generated by Otter AI.

  • Unconventional AI: orthogonal strategies
    • The potential for generative AI like ChatGPT to be unpredictable and unreliable, requiring new approaches focused on human involvement, trust, and understanding context before deployment.
    • Innovative ways AI can be applied in business to improve workplace culture, support employees, enhance human decision-making, and unlock solutions. 
  • Accountability in the Age of LLMs
    • The risks of AI-generated content that sounds human, and the importance of transparency and accountability in AI development to mitigate harm.
  • Business, Life and the Magic of Austin: Michael Dell
    • The need for advancements in AI hardware, architectures, and infrastructure to support complex models and tasks.
    • The importance of customized AI models tailored to specific companies and geographies. 
  • What does an AI Utopia Look like?
    • AI’s potential impact across industries like music, publishing, robotics, self-driving cars, and space exploration.
    • The role AI can play in space exploration, weather forecasting, ocean monitoring, and other scientific pursuits.

Draw SXSW – Another Use of AI

I wanted to include some images in this article to represent SXSW and I decided to use Dall-e, in conjunction with ChatGPT, to contribute to the artwork. What I found was amazing.

I entered the prompt, “Draw an image representing SXSW,” into ChatGPT and I chose to generate several results. To me, there is something quite striking about the images that were returned. With such a simple, generic prompt ChatGPT depicted people as the central focus found at SXSW. This insight parallels my experience of the conference as well.

A ChatGPT generated image of South by Southwest, showing a large outdoor crowd centered around a large stage, with helicopers and drones in the sky.
A ChatGPT generated image showing a large outdoor crowd, between a row of buildings, with the Austin skyline in the background.
A ChatGPT generated image of South by Southwest, showing a large crowd inside an industrial building, with many people wearing VR goggles.

Did You Know ChatGPT Can Tell Jokes?

Not a bad start, perhaps?

Joke created by ChatGPT. Q: Why do FileMaker and SXSW make the perfect creative duo? A: Because they're both experts at thinking outside the box office!

SXSW and FileMaker: Humble Beginnings to Global Phenomena 

SXSW is such a powerful conference due to the blending and fusion of a vast array of topics. This synthesis of ideas spurs creative connections. The feeling is contagious and after just a few days at the conference, it dawned on me how much FileMaker and SXSW had in common. Using ChatGPT as a research tool, I decided to showcase my theory in this article.

Parallel Paths of Innovation: SXSW and Claris

SXSW was created as a reflection of Austin’s vibrant cultural scene, aiming to bring together creative people from all over to learn, share, and celebrate the convergence of music, film, and digital technologies. Its founding was rooted in a genuine appreciation for the arts and a desire to create a unique event that supported the growth of creative industries.

The history of FileMaker is a fascinating journey through the evolution of software development, particularly in the realm of database management systems. FileMaker, initially released in 1985, was developed by Nashoba Systems but gained significant traction and underwent extensive development after being acquired by Apple, Inc., through its subsidiary, Claris.

Both SXSW and Claris were conceived out of a desire to forge connections and empower their respective communities – SXSW through the amalgamation of music, film, and interactive media, and Claris through groundbreaking software solutions aimed at simplifying complex tasks for businesses and creatives alike.

  • Foundation on Common Ground: The inception of both organizations in the mid-1980s underlines a shared zeitgeist of creativity and technological exploration.
  • Growth and Transformation: Throughout the years, SXSW and Claris have not only expanded their core offerings but have also continuously adapted to the evolving demands of their audiences, embracing changes in technology, culture, and business practices.
  • Withstood the Test of Time: Both SXSW and Claris have not simply endured through recent history, they have thrived, diversified, and demonstrated growth and stability.

Comparative Timeline: SXSW versus Claris / FileMaker

1985Nashoba Systems develops the original version of FileMaker.
1986Apple Inc.’s subsidiary, Claris, acquires FileMaker, broadening its capabilities.
1987SXSW is established in Austin, Texas, initially focusing on the local music scene.
1990sSXSW diversifies, adding film and interactive components.Release of FileMaker Pro, enhancing usability and functionality.
2000sEmerges as a crucial platform for tech startups and digital media.ntroduction of web publishing and SQL connectivity in FileMaker.
2010sContinues its growth, increasingly embracing digital culture and tech trends.Expansion into mobile with FileMaker Go for iOS.
2019Rebranding to Claris International Inc., signaling a wider focus. Launch of Claris Connect.

For those of you data geeks interested in a more in-depth view, check out this amazing FileMaker timeline managed by Luminfire, while the complete SXSW timeline can be found here.

A screenshot of Luminfire's detailed FileMaker Pro timeline. It won't be long before AI and FIleMaker are added.
Section of a black and white timeline, highlighting the SXSW years of 1987 and 1988.

The Cross-Section of FileMaker and SXSW: Problemista

Some of you may have been out to see the recent film, Problemista. To me, the most interesting intersection of SXSW and FileMaker is the recurring references to FileMaker Pro found in this cult indie film which premiered at SXSW 2023.

Click on the image below to watch a clip where the film’s director, Julio Torres, is asked about his FileMaker use and how the program became such a central character in his film.

From SXSW to AI and FileMaker: Translating Inspiration into Innovation

The conversations I had, the sessions I attended, and the people I met have all served to reinforce a fundamental truth: at the heart of technological advancement lies a relentless pursuit of betterment, not just in the tools we create but in the lives we aim to enhance.

As we stand on the brink of a new era where AI integrates ever more closely into our daily routines and work, it’s crucial to remember that technology, at its best, serves to amplify our human capacities, not replace them.

Taking It Home

Your FileMaker database may operate seamlessly (though many older systems could benefit from modernization). But it’s important to take a broader look and see what your database is doing for you, and what is possible. Is it enough that your solution helps meet your daily goals, or are you ready to open some doors you may not have previously considered? With a dose of creativity and an understanding of what AI and FileMaker can do, the list of options continues to grow ever larger.

When people ask me what can be done with Claris FileMaker, I always emphasize that if you can imagine it, we can build it. The platform is that flexible. My recent immersion at SXSW provided a glimpse into avenues I hadn’t previously explored and AI was definitely at the core. AI continues to reveal a trove of prospects for how you may want to integrate it into your solutions.

We are here to help. As creative problem solvers, we are delighted to talk with you about embracing the full potential of AI within your business operations. Contact us below to get started.

About the Author

Kate Waldhauser joined Portage Bay Solutions in 2006, and as lead Claris FileMaker developer plays a key role in our custom development projects for a variety of clients. Kate’s communication skills, friendliness, and technical expertise make for an unusual combination: a high-caliber developer who can communicate effectively with our clients.

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