I just returned from the South by Southwest conference in Austin. SXSW Interactive has turned into a great annual event for the tech world, and Colorado was very well represented this year.
It’s a challenge to say what I loved most about SXSWi 2008, but if I had to narrow it down to the best 8, for me, it would be these:
8) The People of SX
The first morning I got to Austin, Laurie from sk*rt let me know I could come meet her and the rest of the girls at Halcyon, where Dooce’s very own Heather Armstrong was holding court (alongside Jon, one of my design heroes). I got there to find a line from one end of the cafe to the other. That same morning I met Shannon from Shopify/jadedpixel. I sat next to and perhaps drooled on Hillary/quepol on the plane ride home. Super cool ladies, all around.
The Technorati crowd is an amazing thing to behold. We’re talking gorgeous, friendly, intelligent people. It feels like a down-to-earth version of Hollywood. I talked with Veronica Belmont, Tantek and Moby all in one evening. That’s a party!
It was a morning party of sorts, but the Java Morning with the sk*rt chicks was a blast. I got my official editor tiara and saw all three of the co-founders at their best and cutest. Really an honor to be part of such a talented team.
7) The Food
I ate the most delicious apple-full gingerbread pancakes I’ve ever had at Magnolias (pictured above). The Texas toast at Austin Java was infused with cinnamon and decked out with whipped cream and strawberries.
6) The Trade Show
Magnetic balls, a miniature bookstore with independent books, a bar. The trade show buzzed with electricity. I helped in the booth for Socialthing! (email me if you need an invite, I have 1000000) and got to meet Justin(tv) and a few other folks just through evangelizing the service. People were inquisitive and really wanted to walk through the site. I got to play educator and entertainer all at once. Talking up Techstars and Boulder. Not saying I could do it all the time, but for a week, most definitely. Some of the most fun I’ve had this year.
5) The Parties
Most parties warmed up around one or two in the morning. I admit I’m not a late-nighter as a rule, but I had a blast partying this past week. Highlights: The Socialthing! party was an absolute highlight for me. The team was on fire. We talked with folks late into the night and I didn’t stop smiling for most of it.
The DIGG party was mind-bogglingly packed. The Rock Band party (for which the Socialthing! Dev team and I performed Radiohead’s Creep and all scored above 90%) was mad fun. I got to hang out w/the lovely Monica Danna, Erica O’Grady and the Houston kids. And that was the last night of SXSWi.
4) The Weather
Living in Boulder we infrequently get the moody skies like Austin does (not that I’m complaining about near-constant sunshine, mind you). I was in Austin this time of year four years ago doing my yoga teacher training. What was most striking about both these trips is the way each day almost seems to cycle through an entire season. The morning greets you with birds chirping. Sometimes it rains a little. The day is often cooler in the afternoon. The sunsets are delightful.
I <3 Austin.
3) The Biz Cards
I’m going to write a post dedicated to my favorite business cards from South by Southwest. There are so many that struck me as tiny pieces of art. There’s a site dedicated to the business cards of SX. People take this stuff seriously and it shows.
2) The Service People
I was surprised by how friendly people in Austin are. I got on a bus and the bus driver talked me through the entire bus system in about 30 seconds. He was informative and funny. Waitresses and shopkeepers, same deal. There’s a convenience store right up the street from Pure Volume Ranch where the sweetest old couple actually let me in a few minutes after close so I could buy a Rice Crispy Treat. I mean, seriously sweet.
1) The Pitch
Some people hate it. I love it. I love it when people pitch me and tell me what’s turning them on about what they do. Entrepreneurs have an enthusiasm that’s unflagging and contagious. And that’s why I do things like SxSW. To tap into and help catalyze that enthusiasm.
This week was the cherry on top of an already delicious cake. Proof that techy = sexy. As if you needed more proof.