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    Posted March 9, 2012 by
    Austin, Texas
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    SXSW through your eyes

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    App Alert: People are the 'Highlight' of SXSW Interactive


    Whether you're attending SXSW Interactive for the panels or the parties, one thing is for certain...the people are what make this festival well...interactive.


    In a day where traditional face-to-face human interaction may happen less frequently than the connections and 'friends' that are made online, we're seeing more and more 'interactive' apps that bring people together.


    One of the latest mobile apps that accomplish just that is an app called 'Highlight'. It may be a newer and more refined version of an app some know as Sonar. (http://www.sonar.me/), that helps you connect with those around you. Foursquare and Facebook have check in capabilities that allow you to see who checked in where, but alerts about nearby people you know is a newer (and some may find invasive) social experiment.


    I found out about Highlight just yesterday from a friend who saw it featured in BusinessWeek. (http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-03-08/an-app-that-helps-you-cozy-up-to-strangers). I'm not a big 'app' person. I use apps that are useful, not necessarily for the entertainment factor. But, especially as I prepared for this techy festival I am immersed in as I write this, I sometimes find it daunting to find people I know among the crowds. And texting doesn't suffice because I only text those that come to mind that I know are attending the mega-conference. But, what about those I know that aren't top of mind that may be in the next room and I'd never know it?


    So I downloaded Highlight 24 hours ago to test it out. I connected with their simple Facebook connecter and invited friends I knew to join. (Note - Android users are eagerly awaiting a version.)


    And, sure enough, last night as I toured three pre-SXSW networking events, my networking paid off. I received an alert from Highlight with a message from someone named Cy introducing himself, saying he noticed we had a mutual friend in common (who lives in L.A.) and that I was nearby. His company BetterWorks was hosting an event at a nearby restaurant and they had extra food and drink to share. Being the cautious gal I am, I responded asking how he found me and if he worked for the sponsoring company of the event. He eased my concerns noting our mutual friend that was identified in the app and that he did in fact work for the company he mentioned. To be extra safe, I extended the invitation to a friend to meet me there. And we did.


    Immediately, as we approached the check-in table for the sponsored event, I met Cy and the 'strange' in 'stranger' instantly disappeared. Highlight had told us who our mutual friend was, which not only added a trust factor, but also served as an ice breaker and a catalyst to relationship building. The world just got a little bit smaller.


    Thanks to Highlight, I not only met a new person that shares our mutual friend, but I learned of a new company that applies to my focus: finding and providing resources to small business. (If you haven't heard of BetterWorks, they partner with local businesses to offer discounts as benefits to employers.)


    Since that 'highlight' of my evening last night, I've since noticed the people listed in the app that I was near yesterday or those near me as I type this - complete with their location and our common interests and contacts. I share over 10 people in common with some of those listed and I'm very inclined to reach out and say hello! In fact, when I'm exploring the conference and find myself in need of a buddy, I now have a list of options presented to me and an easy way to start a conversation!


    As with all SXs, the possibilities are endless. And, the people that I meet this year, online or offline, will most definitely be the highlight.


    Highlight Features in the Past Week:







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