Brief thoughts on SXSW 2010

[I borrowed @richardatdell’s hat]
by David Alston on Flickr

This post is intended as a collection of loose notes and thoughts, really. I haven’t had enough time since the end of SXSW to step back and take time to reflect, but now that a fortnight has passed since the opening day, publish or perish.

1. If you see sentiment expressed along the lines of, “SXSW is a waste of time. I’ve never been, but…” you can stop reading right when you hit that conjunction. There’s no substitute for being there. Read Heather’s take on this.

2. Predictions about “this year’s Twitter” will be wrong. In 2010 many thought it would be plancast. Neither Twitter nor FourSquare became what they are today until well after the long weekend.

2.1. Fears about failed network coverage turned out to be unfounded. The new fail in 2010 was battery life. Three on-the-spot opportunities for an entrepreneur next year: mobile device charging, hand sanitizer/Airborne shots, rain gear.

3. Past performance does not predict future results. The panels, the parties, and the people that were great last year may not repeat the next. Hedge by mixing big events with small events. It’s a small, concentrated area and if you miss people one day, you’ll likely see them the next night.

4. You go there to meet the people in person. Two factors increase the potential for engagement: it’s a weekend so it seems less like work. It’s also in Austin, a city not known as well for its business as for its cultural scene. Why not a NXNE? Location matters.

5. Many seemed to think that next year will be the tipping point for brand involvement. So if you thought there were too many people and SXSWi was too big this year, wait until next year.

6. More than a few non-official but industry-related events happened before and during SXSW – we held a Social Business Summit, Tim Hayden and Chris Brogan held Get Ready To Live, Chris Heuer’s Social Media Clubhouse held programming all weekend long. Look for these to get even better next year; with sentiment generally criticizing panel content as weak, the value of external curation goes up. Attendees can still learn by day and socialize by night.

7. Many thanks to all of the great photographers like David Alston who captured the experience in pictures to remember and share.

Your loose thoughts in response are welcome as well, naturally.

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  1. Great recap. NXNE is a great idea however I would be more partial to a NXMW :). I think your attitude about Austin might be spot on from a cultural/mindset perspective. It’s changing quickly based on the growing skyline, but for me, this definitely felt more like vacation than a conference.

    Aside from that, I was lucky enough to be able to stay for music. Watching the contrast in populations was a highlight from my overall experience. Getting to see the latter half of musicians and non-geeks was an excellent reminder of just how much the masses don’t know or care about some of the things SXSWi’ers are passionate about. Although the tech community is certainly now better at taking things mainstream faster than adoption (foursquare partnering with Bravo?) I think talking to people on 6th street on a Wednesday is a nice snapshot of what our tech reality actually is.

  2. I live in Madison, Wisconsin so any time I fly anywhere, I have to change planes at O’Hare. Everytime I do that, and wade through the massive crowds in the United terminal, I think “nothing…absolutely NOTHING…replaces being there.” Otherwise, airports would be empty, because plane travel is so painful.

  3. Great summary of the event Peter. You hit on all of the points. You are right, it hard to explain all the benefits of SXSW to someone who hasn’t been there in person – you just have to go to completely get it. It is truly one of the highlights of the year for me each year, especially the #Allhat gathering. Thanks for the kudos on the photos.

    PS. I think we need to get you in your own hat next year now 🙂

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Being: Peter Kim