SXSW05 Interactive Wrap Up.

posted 25 Mar 2005, 11PM | 1 Comments

It's been over a full week since I returned from the annual Austin trip, so here are some thoughts before posting about the conference all goes completely out of style. This was the best SXSWi in recent memory, despite the notable absences of friends like Rusty, Jared, Shaun and Lisa. I was glad to travel and bunk with my friend and coworker Star, (a conferenece rookie), since his presence shook up the old routines a bit and helped me look at the event in a fresh light. Plus he's hilarious.

Socially and intellectually, this year balanced the new with the familiar. New friendships, new ideas; familiar venues, familiar alcohol and cigarettes. So here's a brain dump of observations, notes, memories and conclusions, heavily annotated with links to Flickr photos and friends.

  1. The lack of legroom when flying in economy class is downright opressive. O American Airlines, does the seat pocket that my knees are pressed up against really need a metal bar inside its rim for added structural integrity? This is borderline descrimination agaist tall folk. I'm calling my tall lawyer.
  2. The Hampton Inn's continental breakfast is hands down the best thing that's ever happened to my conference experience. I trudge out of my hotel room at 9:30am, jonzing for free eggs and fruit and muffins, and never miss a 10am panel. Brilliant.
  3. Fifth year of Break Bread with Brad. Such a great tradition. I dug the vibe at the Ginger Man, with its yummy sammiches, empanadas, and 700 microbrews. The G Man is also a good place for Boggle, as Alison, Jason, Michael, Leonard and I discovered. Jason and Alison were ahead after three rounds. Not enough Boggle played this year, although Dan's photo of Min Jung is badass. Also, Kottke cheats. There, I said it.
  4. Thanks to Ryan Clark and Shawn for frontloading the conference full of hipster energy and for introducing us to Sparks the high-energy taurine + malted beverage meme that didn't stop giving, once we figured out where to buy it. Eventually the 6% alcohol wins, and you pass out... even though you can't sleep.
  5. I can palm a kickball.
  6. The Boiling Pot: a resaurant where they dump a pile of boiled food and arthropods in front of you, caveman style, complete with primitive blunt tools. The entire experience was messy comedy gold, since crab parts make for great prop gags.
  7. Was a pleasure to get to know Sandy Weisz, Sam Felder and Cinnamon Cooper this year.
  8. The week before the conference, Star and I bought tickets to see the Comedians of Comedy Tour at Emo's on Monday. All very funny, especially Eugene Merman, Brian Pohsen, and Patton Oswalt. It was nice to get a break from the usual evening to laugh at professionals. Patton and I took photos of each other on the plane to Austin.
  9. Flickr SHINED during this event. Amazing. I'd flip open my Powerbook in a panel only to discover that someone had already posted a picture of the room. The Geekarazi was in full effect. I managed some pretty steady cameraphoning, and kept busy tagging friend's photos and viewing the latest sxsw shots. Remember, tagging makes the baby Jesus happy.
  10. Min Jung Kim has become a cultural force at SXSW Interactive. Her kisses were everywhere. That girl needs corporate cosmetic sponsorship.
  11. I demand more time with Cameron Marlow next year.
  12. I exercised my narrative muscles at at Fray Cafe this year (the annual open mike inspired by My story was a slightly rambling true account of encountering a car crash with Jenny during a drive to San Francisco. From time to time I paused and took a cameraphone shot of the audience, commenting on the voyeurism of the experience.
  13. I'm not a dumb guy, right? Don't answer that. Still, why haven't I learned to carry a water bottle with me? The whole weekend is walking, drinking coffee/gin, not sleeping, and sun.
  14. There were some good panels this year, especially the Malcolm Gladwell, Bruce Sterling, and New New Economy? panels. By far my favorite was from Daniel Pink, author of a A Whole New Mind and the recent Wired article that summarizes his thesis about an impending shift in the focus of tomorrow's careers. He gave out free books, which rocked. It felt a bit like a dry run for his book tour book tour, but it was entirely idea driven. He stood up, walked around, talked with the audience, showed slides. It was engaging. I'm starting to realize that a good panel doesn't need only an interesting topic or set of panelists, it needs a substantial, engaging narrative. Deliver a message to me. Make me the message. I've decided that I'm going to try and participate in panels next year. Here are some helpful tips for myself, before I forget:
    • Please, please spend no more than 45 seconds introducing yourself and the publishing/ search/ design tool and/or publishing/ search/ design book you're pimping. We probably know about it anyway, and if we don't, we'll Google it. Immediately, while you're talking.
    • It's safe to say that your audience is pretty damn smart. As such, you can talk fast, change gears quickly, hop topics. We'll keep up.
    • Good moderators are johnny-on-the-spot with the web browser, pulling up panelist URLs and sites for referenced services or ideas. Lane Becker has mastered this.
    • Be interesting, and I won't open my laptop.
  15. I very much enjoyed watching Sam Brown draw Exploding Dog comics in person.
  16. Always delighted to see how each speaker spends their 2 minutes at 20x2. The questions and format consistently generate good art. Props to Kevin, Jeff and Mike et all for putting so much effort into it every year.
  17. The Wired-sponsored Sterling party was pretty great. Some genius left a giant basket of Zoob modular toys upstairs, and the Geekarazi was upon them. (I'm especially fond of this shot. Next year, I want to find a way to throw a party in a giant room filled with beer and some kind of modular toys. Legos? Tinker toys? Preferably something on the large side, soft, and easily manipulated/conected into complex shapes or machines. Ideas? If we're gonna drink and talk, we may as well build shit.
  18. Erik Bensons's What I learned at SXSW and Etech summary is outstanding. I recommend Cinnamon's wrap up (with reaction to the tinge of sexism/racism at SXSWi - see boyzone, with resulting discussion on bluishorange). Leonard took it upon himself to post notes about every panel he attended; he'll surely never spend that kind of time again, but it's a nice breakdown of the experience and ideas and a good read.
  19. That taco place just down the street from the Hampton was so convenient. What was that place called? Taco Shack?
  20. I've noticed that for several years running I've been a bit emotionally fragile during the final night and morning before I leave. I'm chalking this up to lack of sleep, alcohol dehydration, and anticipation of stimulation withdrawal... as well as homesickness for my girlfriend. Something to be aware of next year. Probably should just drink more sparks.

Thanks, everyone, for making it another great visit to Austin. Next year we're getting WORLD CLASS BAD ASS TATTOOS!

There are 1 Comments


26 Mar 05 at 11:45AM David said:

prologue - btw, kool site redesign. been following it & mcpilgrim for years now but only commented on posts a couple times. my choice to sit and "listen" to the others' rhythm to get a feel for sixfoot6 discussion style before leaping.

i'm David, the dude you ran into at the bend in the top floor main hallway (the elbow) where the right turn into the interactive panel rooms is, after the we both exited from the Gladwell panel.

i complimented you on your short films, by you & bud, Leonard Lin and other mcpilgrim films. remember? hmm, maybe you got several similar compliments that day so to jog your memory, i was the guy that recognized you from Fear To Fear. hehe. and you got any clips of your own adventures at sxsw?

i read that you recorded the Gladwell speech; did you record the Wonkette interview and offering it for watch & download as mpg or avi clip or know where it can be found in video clip?

epilogue - awesome work on "Still Standing". farsical poinient glimpse into Boston subway performers' emotionally-charged pseudo-existenz. your comedy has a Robert Smigel Saturday Night Live short film feel. every consider submitting your work to Lorne Michaels? i suggest you make Twilight Zone farse about a guy waking up after sleeping since 1998 and finds Bush as an Orwellian dictator and Big Brother watching us. the terror in his face as he walks the streets finding everyone as mindless "zombie" Bushite "body snatcher" people. a perfect kind of stab at Bush that no one has done yet i don't think. hehe keep it coming, dude ..

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