SXSWi 2007 is now over and I’m back home in Toronto. What a week away! I’m sure I’m still a bit out of it after being awake for over 24 hours (8:30 AM Thursday though 9:30 PM Friday) so hopefully I’m somewhat coherent.
My 6AM Friday flight back to Toronto left me feeling particularly paranoid about sleeping through an alarm, so I stayed up chillin’ at my bud Rob Jones’ place in Austin until it was time to leave. I had to gas up the rental car, drop it off and then do all the usual stuff at the airport. Luckily, no problems with my connecting flights and I actually made it home a few minutes earlier than expected.
Back to South By…
March 9th through the 16th was a crazy week and I’m flat out exhausted. SXSW was a great time and a nice break from work, allowing me to finally put faces and personalities to the names I mostly knew only online via Flickr, Twitter or other social networking sites.
The web standards/design community has a lot of great people in it; folks I admire and look to for advice, encouragement and inspiration. People from the Canada, the US, UK, Australia and elsewhere - all of whom came together to what is truly an international conference like no other.
Based on what I heard from numerous people who’ve attended previous South By conferences, this one, in terms of the actual conference panels was a bit of a let-down. The talks were often less interesting, less focused and poorly prepared.
In some ways, looking at the names of panellists, it stuck me as a bit of a changing of the guard in some respects. A lot of names I didn’t know with only a handful that I did. As such, I found myself spending more time socializing with my peers outside the panels, at various restaurants or bars around the 6th Street area rather than actually attending the panels. The handful that I did attend in general were good or at least passable.
Given that this was my first South By I find it hard to judge fairly aside from saying that these panels were generally much less well prepared than those at Apple’s WWDC conference, RailsConf or other conferences I’ve attended in the past. I think some of the panels touched briefly on topics that overall would have been more interesting than what the panellists actually spoke about.
Unfortunately, I think I missed just about all of the really good panels such as Richard Rutter and Mark Boulton’s panel on Web Typography, Khoi Vihn and Mark Boulton’s grid design panel. Luckily there are podcasts to make up for that in the same way Apple provides WWDC attendees video/audio and PDFs of the sessions each year.
THE Social Conference
Aside from the panels, and as I hinted at earlier, SXSW is really a massive social experience, even more so than I expected. Meeting the people and personalities I’ve almost exclusively known online and having them all turn out to be really cool, fun, and down to earth was the icing on the cake. Although I didn’t get to meet everyone I would have liked or had enough time to chat with the ones I did, I can’t complain.
I was fortunate enough to get to meet and/or hang out with folks like Dan and Alex Rubin, the entirely awesome Blue Flavor posse, Tiff Fehr, Matthew Pennell, Derek Featherstone, Veerle and Geert, Andy Budd, Paul Boag, Robert Scales, Mark Bixby, Brian Warren, Steve Smith, Patrick Haney, Jina Bolton, my homie Mike Stickle, Dave Shea, Jason Santa Maria and his lovely wife Liz (your mugs are in transit), Shaun Inman, Jesse Bennett-Chamberlai, Jon Snook, Faruk and his Apple Web Store cohorts, Anton Peck, Greg Storey, Bryan Veloso, Scott Raymond, Garrett Dimon, the Veer gang (Grant, Brock, Aaron, Issa and Yuval), Sean from frogdesign and undoubtedly many more who I’m blanking on right now.
I also finally got to meet the business partner of Theresa Neil with whom I’ve been working on the FiveRuns application for the last year - Rob Jones, a former frogdesign(er) and who’s just the best. Rob rocks, and along with his girlfriend Shara, was kind enough to put me up for my last couple nights in Austin while I was takin’ care of business.
The Year Of The Button
2007 was the year of the button. I’m nearly positive I’m heading home with more 1” buttons than business cards. I can think of a few folks though who I just realized I never snagged a card from and a few who just didn’t have any at all. But the buttons seemed to really be a big hit all around. They’re fun and it’s just something a little different.
I’m still adamant that the Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. popsicle buttons were the only ones that were hand-made (by my lovely wife). I think they turned out fantastically given the fact they weren’t printed and assembled until just hours before I left to come down to Austin.
There’s still a small handful of those buttons left for anyone who didn’t get one that wants one. Just send me an e-mail or IM me with you deets and I’ll get something in the mail for you.
About SXSW’s Idiotic Registration Process
As I said to Bryan Veloso when we briefly chatted during his and Dan Rubin’s Live from the 101 podcast, my biggest complaint about SXSW, aside from some bad or uninteresting panels and poor scheduling was the absolutely ridiculous registration process and just some generally bad conference structuring problems in terms of the location of things, including the panels.
Assuming you pay $300 to go to the conference, I think there’s a pretty darn good chance you’ll actually go.
Taking that into consideration, badges should have all been pre-printed for registrants like at every other conference in the world so that when you go to register, everything is just waiting for you. Having to wait in line, fill out a card with info they already have, possibly get your photo taken, then wait around for someone to print out your badge and yell out your name before you can actually finally get your badge. That’s just inefficient and stupid if you ask me.
For a conference with as much history as SXSW, that seems like a lesson they perhaps should already have learned. The same goes for putting the registration area right in the middle of a major throughway of people going to and from panels. Apparently much of this was worse last year which is a scary thought.
A Few Fun Moments
Other random fun moments — the Trailer Park Boys wandering around the convention centre, some dude dressed as Superman though with a cellphone and Blackberry case attached to his bright yellow belt, and apparently missing Paul Rudd as we left the trade show area. I’m also still convinced I saw Tarantino a few times on Saturday or Sunday night too when we were all out partying.
In terms of parties, I had a great time at just about all of the ones I made it out to - definitely the Blue Flavor party being my fave and MediaTemple one being possibly the most pretentious and possibly dull (hence my early exit) even though I made it into the “VIP” area.
The fact that Monday’s events were on my birthday made them particularly memorable and the most fun. Thanks to all for the birthday wishes and Twitters and to Mark Bixby and Brian Warren for filling me full of beer and assorted alcohol.
Monday the 12th was also made special by the Veer gang for taking me out for a big birthday steak dinner at Fleming’s. I know everyone loves Veer — but those guys really are the coolest, and if I didn’t enjoy working for myself, I could see having a lot of fun working with them. Right, Grant?
Lunch with Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain, Mark Bixby, Brian Warren, et al on Tuesday at Halcyon was also a real treat. Sure we got a bit wet (damn rain) making our way back to the convention centre for the afternoon but it was more than worth it.
It was nice to get away for a week though I missed Emily and Gillian and was very happy to get home. Talking with them on the phone or via IM just isn’t the same. I’m still filtering through pics to upload to Flickr, but should have the ones I want to post all up soon enough.
Thanks again to all my South By peeps, it was a blast. See you next year!