An Overview of SXSW 2007
As one of the last to sound-off on this awesome conference, I'll try not to bore you with some of the details. What I am going to do is commit grand theft entry on my friend DKR and take a look at the conference from (hopefully) a different set of lenses.
For this conference goer, the trip to Austin and back spanned 17 days and over 2,500 driven miles. Even though I'd probably never drive halfway across the country ever again, what I found and experienced in Austin has once again changed my outlook for the coming year.
So how was the drive?
The trip started with a little stop with the family. With cats in bags, we took off towards Los Angeles for a semi-surprise visit to our families. It wasn't a planned stop until I had gotten word from my sister that she'd be in town a week before departure, which made the week leading to the trip that much harder. Although it was refreshing to see the family, I was more than excited to take off towards Austin. The trip officially started on the 6th from Austin, and for my Twitter followers, that was the beginning of nearly constant updates of where I was (in case, you know, people cared). Naturally, this was my first road trip sans family so it was really a test of my stamina (and willingness to forgo sleep to gain that extra mile).
Day one took the both of us from Los Angeles across Interstate 10, deserts, mountains, deserts, barren landscapes, the Continental Divide and a few yes-I-know-I'll-get-fined-double-if-I-speed-in-them-can-the-signs-be-any-bigger Safety Corridors to the lonely town of Deming, "dust storms are possible" New Mexico or about 700 miles (in 10 hours). Did I say deserts yet? On the way there, we took a few stops to shop. You know those outlet stores, whew. It's interesting how fast you catch onto the different techniques of dealing with hundreds of trucks you have to maneuver yourself around. Another interesting observation is how many signs you seem to read on a road trip. I'm sure I parallel the curiosity of a 3-year-old child when it comes to road signs.
Day two was mostly spent in Texas, as we crossed into the Lone Star state an hour into the day. Other than passing within a mile of the Mexico border in El Paso, the day was filled with 80MPH speed limits, a ticket and 678 miles of boring oh-my-god-I-can-see-the-road-at-the-horizon or shit-I-hope-I-have-enough-gas-to-get-to-the-next-station-in-60-miles driving. Let's look at the satellite picture, yea, it really looks like that. When we finally said goodbye to the 10 about 100 miles outside of Austin, it was so dark that it made for perfect stargazing conditions. If only we had brought a telescope with us. By about 10PM that night, we had arrived in Austin greeted by traffic and a looming decision over where the hell we'd stay.
Four stops to refill and $200 in gas got us to Austin, so let's actually talk SXSW.
Have a good time there?
Well self, that's quite a question, but the more I try to put it into words, the harder it seems to get. Every minute of that whole week contained something to remember, and if I had the memory to keep that all in, I would. For me, it's always the people; those personalities that you get to interact with for that minute amount of time. Distance no longer is a factor with everybody at SXSW as oceans, time zones and computer screens are stripped away. The only thing keeping you from that person you've always wanted to meet is your own shyness and inhibitions. I always feel like a kid when I think about it, because I feel I get a bit too excited about seeing people. For instance, if this were say, an anime, I'd be the token excited-out-of-my-wits kid that would produce a cloud of smoke in his wake and tackle every person he saw in utter joy. However, since it's not, I seem to do a good job at keeping those feelings in check.
Now, since my favorite part of the conference was the people, parties and the hallways of the Austin Convention Center were the venues I naturally migrated to — if I didn't get trampled on the way there. Let's see... as for parties there are too many to count to be honest. However, the ones I found myself having the most fun at were the Great British Booze-off and PureVolume's Tejas. The night with the Brits was definitely the definition of a great medium-sized, talk-your-ass-off-and-actually-be-heard party. I got a lot of face-time with people I hadn't run into during the conference. However, on the complete opposite of the spectrum was Tejas' dance-until-you-die atmosphere. Sure, they had a Wii, Red Bulls and Izze (ugh, puke) but I was there to dance, and dance I did. The music was perfect and I just felt comfortable enough to let it all go. Don't ask me though. :P
Having a car proved to be a blessing in many ways, especially when it came to the sudden "oopsie" moments that seemed to appear. Examples of this would include Jen's handbag breaking when we checked into the Courtyard Marriott or buying some new clothes for my panel after finding out that I was a bit too large for my older garments.
Well, I seem to be off-track already.
But you're there for the panels right?
Oh the panels? Yep, I went to a few. Even did one with three people whom I highly respect. Let's talk about the latter first. It was a great experience to actually be behind the table on a SXSW panel. I have to admit that I was pretty comfortable coming into this. One of the reasons could be narrowed down to the fact that I was extremely nervous before speaking at RefreshWorld a night-or-so before. Some things didn't go exactly according to our plan, but it's always expected in situations like that. All-in-all, I'd love to work with Kelsey, Jeff and Veerle on another panel if the opportunity ever revealed itself.
As for the other panels, I'm very split. My favorites parallel with many of my colleagues, Grids are Good or Bullet Tooth Web Design for example. To be honest, I was either busy preparing for ABX or my own panel. Out of the panels I did go to, I left early (except The Influence of Art in Design). Some of them were just disgusting. Just hearing people in the green room meeting for the first time minutes before their panel or hearing excuses like "we didn't really prepare, but that allows us to be more free-form," sickened me. This is South by Southwest. Other than that, I wasn't a big fan of the Power Sessions as many of the topics they plugged 25 minutes deserved at least a full-hour, going back to Khoi and Mark's grid's panel as an example.
So what are your thoughts on its effects?
This is a great year to be in our industry. SXSW infuses people with ideas. For instance, the idea of Sidebar was born at last year's SXSW. I took Live From the 101 to another level starting at last year's SXSW. I've even heard stories about Adaptive Path starting at a SXSW years ago. See where I'm leading up to here? Well, I won't give it all away now, but I do slip on at least one of the "ideas" that hit me at this year's conference in the podcast. Maybe I shouldn't be giving all the credit to this one conference, but it does set the stage for what will take form in the year ahead.
We have a lot of time ahead of us until the next conference, and we have to rock each and every day. SXSW gave us the motivation and now it's time to act on it. Even if you weren't able to make it, there's enough to go around. Feed on it. :D
Oh, and one more thing?
Have to give a shot out to Trey Philips for handing me one of the nicest but most confusing compliments of the conference by saying, "you're pretty popular with the young people." o_O;