SXSWi 2008: A Recap

so it begins

For the second straight year, I attended the South By Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) festival. This trip was much different than the last for many reasons.

The Panels

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There weren’t a ton of memorable panels, to be honest. These stood out:

Nick Finck’s The Contextual Web gave me some good ideas for things I could do on BatchBook, especially if we start optimizing for iPhone/mobile. I went to the Henry Jenkins Keynote because of the urging of my friend Kate from PatientsLikeMe. The talk was amazingly thought-provoking and probably should have a post of it’s very own. Jason Fried’s 10 Things We’ve Learned at 37signals was a reinforcement of a lot of things we’ve already heard on his blog, but it was nice to hear it all in one package.

Social Design Strategies (Joshua Porter, Chris Messina, Daniel Burka, and Todd Sieling) was one of five panels I was considering going to. It was a good choice. I was particularly interested in Todd talking about the “gardners” ma.gnolia uses to control spam accounts. I don’t use ma.gnolia enough… probably should. Kathy Sierra, of course, was fantastic in Tools for Enchantment: 20 Ways to Woo Users. The online downside was the remember that we don’t get her incredible blog posts anymore.

Again, seven panels at one time that I wanted to see. Who won? Self Replicating Awesomeness: The Marketing of No Marketing Brian Oberkirch was supposed to moderate this, but unfortunately he couldn’t make it. But the panel still featured Dave Parmet, Hugh MacLeod, Tara Hunt, Jeremiah Owyang, Chris Heuer, and Deb Schultz. The only complaint is that there were so many great minds on the panel that it could have gone on for at least a couple hours. Portable Social Networks was another one that really could get it’s own post. Jeremy Keith is a moderation master and his panel included Chris Messina, Leslie Chicoine, Joseph Smarr, and David Recordon.

A Few of My Favorite Things… and People

John Eckman

We hung out with a lot of great people at SXSW. It was great to spend time with folks like Kate Brigham and Joshua Porter again, but one person I had never hung out with before was John Eckman. By then end of the trip, we were playing shuffleboard with John. Best moment? Michelle’s amazing 5-spot on her final shot against John:

Michelle hangs on for big win

Matt Gillooly

I had met Matt Gillooly of Providence-based Public Display before, but… never really got to know him. Some of his pre-SXSW Twitters clued me in on what was to come (things like wondering if the sharpie on his arms from the night before would be a problem with airport security).

The dude didn’t disappoint, and I come back from Austin a total Gillooly fanboy. The dude knows how to rock. Not only that, the dude knows how to work under pressure. You see, he was at SXSW to show off his product, FuseCal. They were going with a relatively lo-fi booth anyway, but then Delta went ahead and lost everything they had, including business cards.

But Matt ripped up sheets of notebook paper and wrote “”, asking attendees to email that address so they could be mailed a real business card. The booth design (seen in a video shot by Michelle below) actually won them an official “Fanciest Booth” award from SXSW.


Many people were asking as SXSW approached… “What will be this year’s Twitter?” The answer was easy: Twitter, again.

SXSW ran on Twitter. The audience revolted using Twitter. Meetups were planned ad hoc using Twitter. Party arrangements were made using Twitter.

Even Michelle started using Twitter.

Three cool things about Twitter this week:

  1. We never had to plan what we were doing at night. We just checked Twitter to see what might get the most bang for the buck.
  2. I had never met Kara Soluri before, but we’re Twitter friends. Turns out, we were in the same panel. So we Twittered where we each were sitting and met after the panel ended.
  3. We didn’t get to meet Dave Seah at the recent Newburyport meetup we attended, but the first evening in Austin he Twittered that he was in the hotel lobby checking email. Just so happened to be our hotel. So, we went downstairs and said hi.
From Hard Rock to Storytelling

There’s karaoke, then there’s karaoke with a live band. Karaoke Apocalypse played at the end of BarCampAustin (shortly before we got there) and simply rocked. It was here that Chris Brogan and Pistachio (two well-known Boston bloggers) completely stole the show. Ewan Spence was the M.C. and that Scot rocked like no other.

At the other side of the spectrum, Fray had a storytelling event. It was an open mic for personal stories. Again, Ewan was there. He told an amazing personal story… he writes about it, so I’ll let him explain it.

Ira Kaplan

I already blogged about meeting Ira Kaplan. That still hasn’t quite sunk in. I did actually meet two rock stars. One of them just happens to be a techie NOW. But back in the day, I was a HUGE Orbit fan. I met frontman Jeff Robbins.

Steve Ganz

I like to say that this year was about meeting real rock stars and not web rock stars (see above). But being a fan of Microformats and LinkedIn, it was really cool to meet Steve Ganz. I told him about some of the things I’d like to see from LinkedIn, debated portable social networks a bit, and talked about my complete lack of Javascript knowledge. Hell of a guy, really.

The Final Word

It was a very inspiring trip, again. I gotta thank BatchBlue again for sending us. I know I’ll be going next year—I’ll be going every year. In fact, I’m already planning to submit a panel…


  1. On March 13th, 2008 at 11:04 pm Barce said:

    Let me know if you want to run your panel idea by me. I definitely want to do a panel next year, too. I already have a title: Codefringe.


  2. On March 13th, 2008 at 11:17 pm Joe Cascio said:

    I and several other unfortunates for this year have taken a solemn blood oath to make it to sxsw 2009 no matter the cost or consequences. Your post here has also convinced me that I can’t afford to go with the dinosaur of a cell phone I have now that garbles twitter texts. Imagine missing a bomb-ass party cuz your phone borked a tweet. Oh the horror, the horror. :)

  3. On March 14th, 2008 at 7:40 am Michelle said:

    Adam is the best SXSW tour guide anyone could ask for. He knows who everyone is, can navigate a nonsensical convention center with ease, picks the best panels, and totally has fun no matter what he is doing.

    I’ve already booked him for next year :)!

  4. On March 14th, 2008 at 9:08 am Adam Darowski said:

    @Barce: I have a working title so far, but I’m gonna flesh it out a bit first. :) Codefringe… sounds cool!

    @Joe: Hearing you talk about “borking” and “bomb-ass parites” makes me wonder how in world you decided not to go this year! You’d fit right in!

    @Michelle: Next year, same time, same place. You got me!

  5. On March 14th, 2008 at 11:00 am Chris Brogan... said:

    I only did so well because they closed the list before you were allowed to get on. : )

  6. On March 14th, 2008 at 12:16 pm Jon Moss said:


    Great write up – thanks! :)

    On a side note, I really like your links at the bottom of the page – is it easy to do? How have you done it?



  7. On March 14th, 2008 at 12:32 pm Adam Darowski said:

    @Chris: I checked their web site… they didn’t have “my song”… not sure what I would have pulled out of my pocket, but that would have put me at a real disadvantage… ;)

    @Jon: Actually, just an unordered list styled with some background images on each list item. Lemme know if you need help checking out the code!

  8. On March 14th, 2008 at 6:50 pm Jon Moss said:

    Adam, I need major help with code as I don’t know any! Shoot me a mail via my blog if you can – help would be much appreciated!

    Blog –