SxSWi Conference Highlights

Here’s a list of some of my favorite things from SxSW:

Kicking it with the Wakoopa guys who I shared a room with. Nice to hang around with a Dutch crew and some crazy stuff happening in the nights.

It was very interesting to see how people would behave in an environment1 with adequate bandwidth and Twitter saturation. As noted in tweets the immediacy of social interaction with your social subset, the people aimlessly wandering the corridors absorbed by their mobile displays and the HUGE backchannel were just symptoms of more to come.
For us Europeans attending an event such as this without a data plan is somewhat annoying2. After leaving the convention center, war walking will only get you so far.
Also the realization that you don’t need a laptop or a DSLR (thanks Derek!) to enjoy a conference was a golden one. An iPhone, a charger and a small notebook will do just fine and won’t wear you down as much. Most of the time you’ll be busy talking to people at parties, walking around or eating, which does not require you to lug a complete digital office with you.

Steven Berlin Johnson‘s talk on the Ecosystem of News (text) should not be missed. He painted a picture how the developments which look so bad for newspapers are actually good for news and journalism as a whole leading to a much richer and much more diverse ecosystem.

I almost missed the joint session by Jon Gruber and Merlin Mann but a quick tweet got me in the room shortly after it’d started. These are my favorite two bloggers and having them speak on the old theme of how to be yourself and do cool stuff was a lot of fun even if they’re both dicks (by their own admission).

Daddy's

The food all around Austin (more on it later) was great. I caught some burgers with the guys from Mangrove at Daddy’s which is a combined sports bar / burger joint and it was as awesome as a typical American experience can be.

The New Think for Old Publishers panel was odd in that the publishers did not do any of the new thinking but sollicited the panel for ways to go forward with their industry. Fortunately it had Clay Shirky on who’s usually right about stuff. I got to ask a question to the panel (on a Spotify-like service for books more on which later) which was well received by the audience and by Mr. Shirky (which was pretty damn cool!).
They handed out copies of “Here Comes Everybody” which I hadn’t bought yet for som reason or other. I started reading it in the plane and it is as good as everybody says it is. Compulsory reading for everybody who thinks they’re doing stuff on the internet.

The Fray Cafe 9 at the Red Eyed Fly was a very cool podium live speaking event where some awesome speakers told their true stories3. I don’t know exactly where or when the recording will become available but definitely recommended.

Of the parties around the event the Facebook party was one of the best. The two DJs they had spinning were very good and got the dance floor filled up and moving. Nice after that was drinking a bottle of vodka at our afterparty in the Hilton lobby.

There also was a Django4 lunch which is usually nice but it was extra interesting to meetup with a couple of guys from Sunlight Labs who are pioneering a lot of very interesting open government stuff in the USA.

Hearing Bruce Sterling talk makes his rambling essays a lot more bearable. He gave a very unadulterated piece of his techno-nostalgic cynical mind with some interesting perspectives on the future.

The Designing Change in America talk with the design team who did the Obama campaign was fantastic with a lot of interesting stories from inside the campaign and its break neck pace.

At the SxSWi closing party there was a mechanical bull and not being from America I of course could not resist the chance of riding it (movie). As they say, when in Texas…

Polvos

No visit to Texas would be complete without some Tex Mex. Being fed up with the conference scene offerings I caught a cab and headed to Polvo’s on South 1st. I’d heard a lot of good things about it and it turned out to be a very nice place for Mexican food. I don’t get why people at SxSWi wait in line for the places near the convention center instead of rounding up some people and catching a cab.
On the last day I took the Wakoopa crew out for some good Tacos at Torchy’s Tacos on a recommendation from Nikhil of Turn2Live. I love the abundant availability of Mexican food in this part of America and it always makes leaving a painful experience.

Torchy'S Tacos

The last night we were in Austin I magically found a group of Dutchies and we walked up 6th and Red River a bit randomly sampling bands in the cafes. The music festival hadn’t really started yet but still there were a lot of very cool bands (punk / speedrock) playing. The next day walking a bit along 6th during noon they were just building up and it already was really busy. Maybe next year I’ll stay a couple of extra days to see more bands.

Band

And of course all the other people I met who are too numerous to list here. That is the real charm of the conference, the number of people I’ve just met randomly because they’re all there, has been staggering and is the real value of this event.

  1. The convention center was big enough to be an environment unto itself.
  2. Wasn’t there a cheap international data roaming plan somewhere?
  3. I hear there’s something similar in Amsterdam’s Toomler but can’t find anything really.
  4. Still my web framework of choice.

5 comments so far

  1. Robert Gaal March 20, 2009 6:58 pm

    It was a pleasure walking around with you as well Alper. Let’s definitely repeat this next year, but even better :)

  2. alper March 20, 2009 8:23 pm

    Hmm, do I feel a Dutch party coming up next year?

  3. Peter Robinett March 23, 2009 1:51 am

    That’s awesome you rode the mechanical bull. And we totally need to throw a Dutch party next year!

  4. Ruben Bos April 28, 2009 1:05 pm

    I miss those damn tasty hamburgers from Daddy’s

  5. alper April 28, 2009 1:31 pm

    You and me both Ruben!

    And to think that you weren’t in on that tasty texmex action at Polvos or Torchy’s… Next year?

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