South by Southwest 2010
Another SXSW, another year. It’s hard to believe that this is my third SXSW, and more importantly, my third anniversary of being “introduced” to the industry. Two years ago, I knew no one else who worked on the web other than my coworkers — I took the plunge after receiving advice from my department’s keynote speaker at graduation that SXSW was the best place to network. And now, I have such an amazing social network that keeps growing more each year.
Honestly, the worst part of the conference is the panels. Since the conference is so huge (14k attendees!), there is at least six or more panels and talks to go to at any given time, and hundreds overall throughout the conference. These panels are in large part voted through a popularity contest, which unfortunately leads to (in my opinion), panels that exist for no other reason than to promote the speakers.
I had a large problem finding panels with any actionable information (expounded in my notes from the talks below) - mostly, the speakers would talk, the attendees would nod, but no one would learn anything useful.
Ranting aside, I did attend five panels, and took notes for four:
- SXSWi – Painfree Design Signoff with Paul Boag
- SXSWi – The Right Way to Wireframe (Part 1)
- SXSWi – ‘Seed Combinators’: Startup Incubators 2.0
- SXSWi – Your User Interface is your Laboratory
I also attended a “core conversation” about funemployment, which turned into less about making it work while unemployed and making the most of the conversation, and more about getting employed. Sigh.
I tweeted a few things throughout the festival so I wouldn’t forgetting little nuggets of wisdom that I would think of. Here are a few…
- “#sxswgoal: Eat dinner with a different group of people every night.” I wrote this before I decided to use “protip”, but it’s still great advice. Don’t stick with the friends you have, there are literally thousands of people at SXSW. Andrey and I even found someone randomly off the street to join our group for dinner.
- “#sxswprotip: Head to panels early to grab a side seat with access to power. They fill up 30 minutes (at least) before the sessions.” Don’t be a lazy bum (if you actually decide to attend panels) — good seats are vital to really enjoying a panel, so make sure to get there early. Every session I went to was wall-to-wall with people.
- “#sxswprotip: Started following too many? Use http://tweepsect.com to unfollow those that don’t follow you back or inactive accounts.” A shout out to Andrey who built this — this is a great app to discover all you’ve started following and aren’t following you back after the conference (and unfollowing if you wish).
- “#sxswprotip: The Starbucks at Screenburn is empty - avoid the lines outside and caffeinate here.” The obvious Starbucks at the corners of the convention center get swamped with people. Find the hidden ones (like the one they put in Screenburn) to get your latte faster than 30 minutes.
- “#sxswprotip: Figure out your dinner-mates before dinner. Everyone has a plan but me.” If you’re going to eat dinner with a different group each night, figure out who they are by lunch. Not fun to wander around looking for a group of people and everyone on Twitter is already tweeting about eating already.
- “#sxswprotip: SXSW isn’t about the knowledge from panels, it’s about the connections you make.” Reiterating my point that the panels tend to be useless, SXSW is about the people you meet and stay connected with. I met designers, developers, founders, VCs, newbs, l33t h4x0rs, and really cool, utterly normal people. Awesome.
In short: Don’t pay for a ticket, and make the most out of meeting people. And definitely go; far too many people I know miss SXSW every year.
What is this strange graphic in the background? It’s an illustration I created for a friend to display at his booth at SXSW. Eye lasers, pew pew pew!