SXSW 2007 recap


The big room, originally uploaded by mathowie.

- SXSW was huge this year. Word on the street was 5,500 interactive attendees filled the halls. Due to this, a lot of the big public parties were full and required lines.

- The subject matter felt like a perfect mix of various subjects. Sometimes a SXSW feels like every panel is about blogging, or money, or mobile apps, or CSS, but this year felt like it had something for everyone. Kudos to Hugh and the planners for getting that just right.

- There was almost no hallway time! I think it was the crowds, because when panels would get out, it was like a flood of humans taking up every inch of the halls and you’d be swept up if you were sitting on the ground with a laptop. So all my schmoozing was at parties instead of the convention center.

- Having half the talks on one side of the convention center, and half a ten minute walk away on the other side seemed like poor planning. I felt like I was back at college, running across campus during a short break.

- This was my seventh SXSW but the first one that I truly enjoyed stress-free. In the past, I’d wake up early and hit the first panel and motor through the entire day, but I’d eventually reach exhaustion early in the evening and have to retire early. This year I stayed on west coast time and only saw one panel before noon the entire time. It was a great vacation, and it’s all about staying out until 2 and sleeping until 10.

- The panel I spoke on went alright, but I think what held it back was that I never met two of the participants before. My favorite panels always include people I’ve known and can joke with. I’m afraid the unfamiliarity came through to the audience and we would have been a lot more fun to listen to and watch if we were looser around each other. Lane Becker’s panel reminded me of this, and I always love Lane’s panels because he can keep things jovial and everyone seems to be old friends (without being chummy)

- There never seemed to be enough time for questions. Talks either ran too long or questioners rambled. If I were to redo this year, I would have brought a wind-up egg timer and convinced our moderator that after every 5 minutes of the panel talking to each other we’d stop and take a question (and those asking questions would have 1 minute to get it out).

- There were a lot of parties, but they weren’t outrageous. There was no imported sashmi platters or fire dancers like in 2000, this was simply a bunch of rented bars with free drinks (a party at SXSW this year seemed to run about $5k which isn’t an insane number, especially compared to whatever people did during the bubble of 2000).

- I heard a lot of advice on how to run a business online, both good and bad. I decided on the flight home that I’ll be starting a new blog talking about the lessons I’ve learned building and running a business. More on this soon.

- Wil Wright’s panel blew my mind. He talked a mile a minute, but not so fast you couldn’t understand or keep up. It was like a full 40 minutes of total laserbeam concentration for me. His slides were great too — revealing his points in several layers as he shotgunned us with his thesis — you barely noticed that he probably made them in Microsoft Paint using cilp art from the 1980s. They almost had a handmade quality to them.

He played Spore for about ten minutes and it was an incredible simulation game. It was a perfect mix of SimCity, The Sims, and the basic principles of science. It looked quite fun (a bit cartoony and Wii-like) and I could see it being immersive without consuming my entire life like I bet World of Warcraft would. I can’t wait until that game gets released.

6 Comments

  • Will Wright! Spore! I’m so jealous that you got to see this firsthand. Did he mention a release date?

  • Great summary, I agree with lots of what you wrote here. This was my first SXSWi but hopefully not my last. The creative, positive atmosphere was electric. I liveblogged the whole event but will write some highlights, low points, etc in the coming days. Being a newbie I went to tons and tons of panels. I didn’t have a down moment!

  • CitrusFreak, he avoided the obvious question of release dates by ending his talk, saying thank you, and walking down into the crowd to sit down. There were zero questions allowed.

  • Looking forward to the blog about starting a business!

  • Absolutely agreed. Very very pleased with the subject balance of panels – hadn’t even consciously realized how good it was until you brought it up and I was thinking back.
    And oh man oh man do I want to play Spore!
    My question for Will would have been “Is all the evolutionary change of the creatures in the game player-directed or are there other mutation and/or selection processes factored in?”
    Just wondering if The Selfish Gene is on the influential bookshelf too…

  • Glad we finally got to meet offline.
    At the Getting Unstuck panel, they kept questions short by passing out index cards for people to write a 2 sentence question. The moderator read them quickly and cut off panelists who rambled, and had a big clock on the display for what they called “the lightning round.”
    That was a much better way to handle questions than letting anyone get up and rant about how amoral the panelists are for suggesting strict copyrights might not be perfect, like in the Web Hacks panel.

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