It’s been a month since SXSW in Austin, and my friends are tired of hearing me rant about it. I have no professional connection with SXSW. It just changed my life.
Before last year, I did the SXSW pub crawl as a recruiter for music venues. I always thought the Interactive festival was just for gamers who looked wasted and were leaving as I was just arriving, fresh and ready for action. This year I won a pass to go to the Interactive festival, so why not? I’m still plowing through all the books I bought and getting to know all the cool new people and tech toys I met, and here’s why I know I’ll be there next year:
1) The world is moving fast, and even though we think we’re on the bus, it’s Transformer time. I was buffeted between Reid Hoffman’s view of Web 3.0 — to being scared silly by spooky surveillance techniques chronicled by Evgeny Morozov, who wrote “The Dark Side of Internet Freedom: The Net Delusion”).
2) The energy level makes you glad to be living alongside tons of great thinkers. One presenter said this was the “Davos for Social Media.” Twitter guys were hysterical. I was particularly impressed by Gary Vaynerchuk and Bruce Sterling. Some of the sessions are uploaded as podcasts and excerpts.
3) I learned not to be mad at the big dogs, but learn from them. Google’s Marissa Mayer (head of their Geo Team), presented the latest in “fast, fun and the future” of their mobile plans. In a half hour she covered more ground than all our little bodies and phones have ever dreamed of traveling (including a great GPS tracking of her team on a ski trip), and then invited questions for the remaining half hour.
The most insightful Q&A which you won’t see online came when she was asked to describe her favorite thing. It was worth the trip to Austin to hear how her mind contemplates the great design and functionality of her watch. If I say any more you’ll think I’m bought & paid for by the big G (which I’m not), but I must say, she made me glad to be able to witness what it is to have earned a spot on top of the world.
4) It felt like being in the middle of the hurricane news cycle. The Guardian staff was there to talk about Wikileaks, but also put out a great special 36-page issue that was more thoughtful and interesting than anything I could write.
“The Internet is Over” is a great recap, and Ian Katz’s interview with Andy Carvin highlighted one of the most poignant aspects of the conference; the confluence of the new technologies and current worldwide events. I’m now a faithful follower of his retweets.