Since this is my first time at South By Southwest (SXSW), I figured it would be a good idea to write about my experiences for others who are contemplating going in the future and also, make sure I don’t forget anything that I picked up during my trip. If you’ve never heard of SXSW, it’s an interactive, film and music conference and festival every year in Austin, TX. As someone who works for a .com and made the first 7 years of my career as a web developer, I came here specially to attend the interactive part. Let me sum up the last 4 days with one word: exhausting. And that’s with skipping the first full day!
Our technology team has what we call “Think Days”. Essentially, it’s one full work day every other week where the developers are allowed to research any topic that may or may not be related to the current projects that they are assigned. The best way that I can explain SXSW is that it’s Think Day on crack. It’s definitely a place for information overload but in a good way.
During the day, you have a number of choices of different sessions that you can choose from at various locations in downtown Austin. It’s a little bit of a challenge to pick which session is the right one for you. It reminded me alot of what it was like to pick classes during my undergrad days. Since some of the locations were much farther than the others, you had to decide if you had enough time to hop between locations and if it was generally worth the time and effort. I found that the shuttles that were supposed to take you to the various hotels was not very efficient so I kept my sessions down to only three locations. There were definitely more than a few that were at one location that I wish I could have attended but it would have basically cost me 2 additional sessions, one before and after, with just the time it would take to travel back and forth.
Despite that, overall, I would definitely recommend going… and it’s not just because it was a nice break from the Chicago winter. It was quite an experience. For someone who likes to be creative and whose job is to come up with new ideas, whether it be for new ways to improve existing products or to come up with totally new ones, it felt fantastic to be surrounded by people who shared similar interests (i.e. big geeks) and were able to stimulate my mind with a thousand new ideas that I can take back to my company.
Because there’s way too much information to share for one, it’s probably best if I split up my writeup of each day as a separate post. Some days were better than others but I can say without hesitation that every single session generated some new thought.
Oh and one more thing, I used Twitter more in the last few days (you can follow me at @okaychamp) than I have in the first so many months that I have had an account. It was without a doubt the communication channel of choice for the conference without even being sponsored by them.