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.
- Last year, I must admit, the main goal was getting my name out there so I could find a position doing more SXSW-y type things. This year, I’ve got that gig. I was there to network, learn, and spread the word about our product, BatchBook.
- Last year, I dragged my laptop and camera everywhere, blogging like crazy. This year, I carried an iPhone.
- Last year, I blogged 16,657 words in 29 blog posts. This year, I took a few notes in the Notes app on the iPhone.
- Last year, I went to a panel at every time slot. This year, I realized better things happen when you skip panels sometimes.
- Last year, I went alone. This year, I had Michelle from BatchBlue with me.
- Last year, I tried to plan everything I was going to do. This year, I let Twitter dictate it at night.
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
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:
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 “firstname.lastname@example.org”, 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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…