Après Thursday, le déluge – or, recapturing the intimacy of SXSW

Kristina Halvorson on the porch at Moonshine on the afternoon before SXSW Interactive begins.

SXSW INTERACTIVE is an amazing festival, conference, and annual gathering of the tribes—a place to see, be seen, and find out not only what’s happening on the web, but what will happen in the coming 18 months. The festival’s explosive growth—from minor music festival adjunct to megalopolis attracting over 20,000 interactive attendees this year—mirrors the miraculous growth of the internet itself. And the festival’s challenge echoes the challenge all internet community faces: in a word, scale. Not just the mechanics of scale, but the gauntlet of obstacles that must be overcome if a community is to grow wildly while remaining true to itself.

It is hard for someone who has not attended to imagine the scale of the thing—I flew here from New York on a JetBlue jet whose every passenger seemed to be attending this show; it was like a flying blogroll. For that matter, it’s too big for attendees to completely comprehend. It’s like New York City that way: you can visit, get a taste of it, you can even move there and be part of it, but you can never take it all in. And of course it is impossible for current attendees who missed the early years of SXSW Interactive to picture what the conference was like in the old days, when almost everyone attending knew everyone else personally or by reputation.

Each year I wonder if this will be the year the festival gets too big for its own good (or too big to be good), and each year SXSWi remains great—but great in a different way than before (again, just like the internet). Each year I salute the people behind this show. I could not even dream of putting on an event like this. I am a boutique guy at heart. I know how to make small things good for a select group of people with a certain taste and interest. The people behind SXSW cater to select needs and special tastes, too—but they also do massive. I’m looking forward to this year’s show, which begins today, and to my own panel and the panels and presentations of my friends (including friends I haven’t met yet).

As for the lost intimacy of SXSW that some of us long-time attendees lament, it isn’t really lost. The first trick is to show up on Thursday, before most attendees get here. Register early with short lines, then buy a water and sit anywhere in the vast conference center. Within five minutes, you will meet new people; within ten, you’ll see old friends. You can then go off with these new or old friends and enjoy a luxurious lunch table at a place you won’t even be able to get into after Friday.

Always arrive a day early. You will not regret it. My experiences yesterday and the memories I will take with me have already more than justified this year’s pilgrimage here.

And once the festival begins? Don’t be afraid to occasionally skip a panel and go off with people you bump into (whether that bump takes place in the hallway or on Gowalla and Foursquare).

Coffee drunk, cold pills swallowed, mischief managed. All right, SXSW. Thrill me, baby.


Kristina Halvorson on the porch at Moonshine on the afternoon before SXSW Interactive begins. Part of this complete breakfast.

Awesome Internet Design

Attending the SXSW Interactive festival in 2011? Be sure to see Jeffrey Zeldman’s Awesome Internet Design Panel.

He brought us The Web Standards Project, A List Apart, Designing With Web Standards, A Book Apart, and so much more. Now legendary blogger, designer, and creative gadfly Jeffrey Zeldman brings us a SXSW panel.

You, the people, have spoken. We will not let you down.

Pick a Peck of Panels

Voting is underway for next year’s SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, TX, and members of Happy Cog have proposed eighteen panel ideas shown here. Follow the links to vote for your favorites, increasing the likelihood you’ll see them on the schedule in March 2011. Voting ends 11:59 PM CDT on Friday, August 27, 2010.

Project Management

  1. Project Management for Humans (No Robots Allowed)
  2. Panelists:

    • Brett HarnedHappy Cog Senior Project Manager
    • Dave DeRuchieHappy Cog Project Management Director
    • Sam Barnes
    • Pamela Villcorta
    • Rob Borley
  3. Your Meetings Suck and It’s Your Fault
  4. Presenter: Kevin HoffmanHappy Cog User Experience Director

User Experience

  1. Critical Thinking for UX Designers (Or Anyone, Really)
  2. Dual Presenters:

    • Russ UngerHappy Cog User Experience Director
    • Stephen Anderson
  3. Guerrilla Research Methods — Live!
  4. Dual Presenters:

    • Todd Zaki Warfel
    • Russ UngerHappy Cog User Experience Director
  5. Inside-Out UX: Clients, Expectations, Politics, Personalities
  6. Dual Presenters:

    • Whitney HessHappy Cog Senior Experience Designer
    • Tom Daly

Design

  1. Can Design Save Philadelphia? Happy Cog vs Cliches
  2. Presenter: Christopher CashdollarHappy Cog Creative Director

  3. My Title Is Web Designer, Now What?
  4. Panelists:

  5. Nontent: Is Smashing Magazine Helping or Hurting Design
  6. Panelists:

    • Kevin SharonHappy Cog Senior Designer
    • Mathew Smith
    • Aex Giron

Development

  1. Developers: Saving the Web From Your Dick Move
  2. Panelists:

    • Jenn LukasHappy Cog Interactive Development Director
    • Mark HuotHappy Cog Technology & Development Director
    • Kenny Meyers
    • Noah Stokes
    • Paul Irish
  3. Digital Bookmaking for Designers & Developers
  4. Panelists:

    • Brian WarrenHappy Cog Senior Designer/Developer
    • Scott Boms
    • Grant Huchinson

Personal Development

  1. Jeffrey Zeldman’s Amazing Panel
  2. Presenter: Jeffrey ZeldmanHappy Cog Founder & Executive Creative Director

  3. Company Culture: It’s All Your Fault
  4. Presenter: Greg HoyHappy Cog President

  5. Panel Title: [ INSERT PANEL TITLE HERE ]
  6. Dual Presenters:

  7. GeekFit: How to Embrace Technology and Healthy Lifestyles
  8. Presenter: Robert JollyHappy Cog Client Services Director

  9. Breaking Taboos: Pros Get Real About Money Matters
  10. Panelists:

    • Mark Hemeon
    • Daniel Burka
    • Joe Stump
    • Whitney HessHappy Cog Senior Experience Designer
  11. Maintaining Your Humility While Enjoying Your Success
  12. Presenter: Whitney HessHappy Cog Senior Experience Designer

  13. Bridging The Generation Gap: Or Is There One?
  14. Panelists:

  15. Making Memories Capturing Your Awkward Social Media Years
  16. Panelists:

    • Kenny Meyers
    • Luke Dorney
    • Greg StoreyHappy Cog President

Should Publishers Attend SXSW?

In Should Publishers Attend SXSW?, Lorraine Shanley of Publishing Trends answers her own question this way:

Yes, because sxsw offers a chance to see options for the future—amazing gaming, interactive software, inventive marketing, creative content development and deployment. But as Will Schwalbe … said, “If publishers come to sxsw to create their own sessions track, they’ll learn nothing. If they come to attend panels on subjects about which they know nothing, they’ll learn an enormous amount.”

The PDF version of the April issue includes additional SXSW coverage (with nice things said about our panel and A Book Apart), data on how different generations find books, search engine conversion strategies, and more.

Download PDF.

A SXSW Story

One of the things about SXSW Interactive is that you are constantly meeting new people. One day at breakfast, I was introduced to a friend of a friend, who said:

“Your book is dangerous.”

“That’s kind of you to say,” I replied, “but exactly how is Designing With Web Standards dangerous?”

“Oh,” he said. “You didn’t write Rework?”


My SXSW

It’s that time again. Spring and pheromones are in the air, and 11,000 web geeks are about to descend on beauteous Austin, TX for our industry’s version of the TED Conference plus Spring Break, SXSW Interactive.

Along with nearly all of Happy Cog, I’ll be there. Join us, won’t you?

  • Friday, March 12, at 3:30 PM, come to Battledecks 2010 in Room 18ABCD, where I’ll compete against the likes of Avery Edison, Ted Rheingold, Mike Monteiro, and SeoulBrother Number 1 Albert McMurry to see who can create the best impromptu presentation in response to random slides.
  • Saturday, March 13, at 5:00 PM, open your mind to New Publishing and Web Content, where I’ll explore the creative, strategic, and marketing challenges of print and web (and hybrid) book and magazine publishing with the brilliant Erin Kissane, Lisa Holton, Mandy Brown, and Paul Ford.
  • Also on Saturday, March 13, beginning around 10:00 PM, join the fine folks of Happy Cog and 700 screaming karaoke fans for the best official party of SXSW, Ok! Happy Cog’aoke 2, brought to you by Happy Cog and sponsored by these good folks.
  • Don’t miss the book signing on Sunday, March 14! Swing by the South by Bookstore with your copy of Designing With Web Standards; Ethan Marcotte and I will be glad to scribble on it for you.

The rest of the time, depending on what else is going on, I will probably be findable via my personal SXSW schedule. (Create your own with Sched by MailChimp.) You can also find me on SitBy.Us, a scheduling web app for iPhone or any good web-enabled phone, designed by Weightshift—and bless them and HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for it. Sitby.us members, my schedule is posted at http://sitby.us/zeldman/.

If you can’t be with us at SXSW, please watch this space and my Twitter feed for photos, links, etc.

And if you aren’t attending and couldn’t care less about SXSW, you might want to unplug for the next six days, because the internets, they will be filthy with SXSW tweetage, bloggage, Flickrage, retweets, retumbling &c.