I’m just wrapping up my stay in Austin after almost a full week of geeking it up with some of the most amazing minds in the world during the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) conference. I had a chance to mingle with people from thousands of different interests and niches. This wasn’t just a conference with journalists. This wasn’t just a conference with coders, or marketers or promoters or CMS designers or graphic artists or people who are Internet famous. They were all there… along with so many other people.
My big take away from this HUGE experience is there are so many things happening in different niches… But there is a similar conversation. (You can see the list of all of the panels here) I took the advice of Thom Singer who told a small group of people at the start of the SXSW Interactive conference to make sure we spread out and speak to people outside our circles. I did just that. I went beyond my comfort zone of journalists and journalism researchers. I went beyond marketing professionals. I met people who are a part of the Open Source movement, bartenders, event planners, members of startups… I could go on and on. I met people randomly in lines, in the hallway and at a couple of social hang out spots on the first floor of the conference center.
I also had a few ways to meet people thanks to a little pre-planning. I brought a power strip and plugged it in as often as possible to keep my iPhone charged (I was obsessively playing around with Foursquare and Gowalla). Any time a person plugged into my power strip, I asked for one thing – to have that person introduce themselves to me. I didn’t require a card swap or official networking. But I did at some point decide to declare a hashtag in honor of some cool people plugging in: #powerfriends. It was silly, but I had suddenly discovered a new way to network with people. Less pressure, but we could easily find one another if we followed the hashtag. Silly? Maybe. But I met people who may want to chat with me again some day. (Including @schneidermike who I met randomly and shared a Gowalla OneTaco coupon with)
I met people I’d known a long time but never in person (@JessicaKnows) and got to know people who I’d seen in passing on the Internet but I didn’t really know how great they were until I saw them in person (@gawthrok, @jodiontheweb) and I got the meet some really wonderful new friends (including @inmikeswords, @moniguzman and @bradflora). And beyond that, I saw people I adore and have met at conferences and through the Internet before. (That list would go on and on)
I learned a lot of things in panels and outside of panels. But in the end, while some people say SXSW stunk, I think it’s a once a year event I hope I don’t miss. The opportunities for random meetings and discussions are unlike any other conference or meetup. It’s the low tech side of SXSW that wins me over. All of the face-to-face meetings mean the world to me.
Expect a number of postings where I hope to brain dump ideas and thoughts. But I wanted to summarize the experience itself before I start on my ideas.
Here are a few pictures to share from the fun and nerdiness of it all: