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Sxsw 2011

For the second time I have the opportunity to attend the SXSWi conference in Austin, Texas. This trip I will be joined in attendance by a large contingent of Harvest teammates. I am most excited to see these folks again since I have not seen my colleagues in person since November.

I first attended SXSWi in 2009. It is an eye-opening event. The vast options for talks, parties, activities, and food are overwhelming. The tendency, especially for newcomers, is to overdo it early in the weekend and crash toward the end of the conference. I am not going to say “you’re doing it wrong” because you’re probably not. The thing starts on the weekend, after all. Just be safe, folks.

SXSWi stands in stark contrast with developer conferences I have attended. There are a ton more “type A” personalities at SXSWi, which is overwhelming for an introvert such as myself. In 2010 there were over 14,000 registrants for the interactive portion of the festival, which in itself is a staggering number. Given that amount of people, naturally there are millions of dollars poured into downtown Austin. Adding a lot of glitz and glam to an already stupefying display is the fact that you will probably see some recognizable entertainment personalities. See, the SXSW Film Festival is taking place at the same time as the Interactive Festival.

My favorite part of attending in 2009 was not all of the activity around the web or technology. My favorite part was not the glitz or the Benjamins being dropped. My favorite part was getting together with pockets of developers for meals, drinks or general chit-chat. Almost all of the people I’ve kept in touch with over the two years following were from these interactions.

This is the greatest challenge of SXSWi - finding a way to make connections. If you’re in marketing or a social media logorrheist blasting your message at as many people as possible, then what better place to do your online thing in meatspace? If you’re involved in any myriad of specialized “interactive” activities, whether it be UX design, user testing, programming, or whatever, be prepared to put in some work to have a meaningful experience.