What a week! The breakfast tacos have settled, the souvenirs have been lugged back through customs, and my brain is full of knowledge after attending South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.
It was a whirlwind! I don’t think I have ever seen SO many people in one place before, and they were all walking and iPhon-ing – something I advise against after my toes being stepped on a few times. And if you’re wondering how my first time on a plane went, I survived! Here are some highlights and lowlights from my adventure:
The rain! My first few days were spent running and hiding from the torrential downpour (which is apparently unusual for Texas during SXSW) that hit the city on the first 2 days. Let me tell you, 20,000 soaking wet tech-geeks simultaneously scarfing down free tacos may not be the greatest of experiences. The convention center was packed on those first two days, with everyone trying to stay dry, and at times it was a little overwhelming navigating through the crowds.
A city transformed
What I found to be amazing about SXSW was how Austin really transformed itself. Streets were closed, buildings were rented out, pop-up food truck trailer parks took over – it was really amazing. SXSW has become sort of like a trademark for Austin – and the city completely adapts to the swarm of geeks checking-in, Tweeting, and Instagram-ing their lives away. I was really surprised to see how tech-savvy the city was. Every check-in on Foursquare came with a discount or deal, and every menu had a Twitter handle or a Facebook page printed in big letters.
As you can see above, CNN has their own pop-up grill at SXSW. On a regular day in Austin, CNN’s grill is actually Max’s Wine Dive. Max’s Wine Dive rented out its prime retail space on the corner of 3rd Street and San Jacinto St. (just steps from the Austin Convention Center) allowing CNN to completely revamp the place into a SXSW hotspot!
Trying to get into a session was probably one of the biggest challenges at SXSW. Line-ups sometimes started an hour before the session, and every room was packed (especially on the rainy days). I did manage to get into at least one per day – my favorite probably being “Y Rappers R Better Marketers Than U” hosted by Bill Pauls and John Mcale (which I’d previously mentioned in my last blog post). The duo did a great job at pointing out how rappers like Jay Z, P Diddy and Ice Cube do a fantastic job at marketing themselves and provided a few tips on how brands like Corel can use some of those techniques.
I also attended some of the bigger keynotes and discussions (this was almost by default because they were hosted in the bigger rooms, so I actually could get in). On the first day I attended the Fireside Chat with Guy Kawasaki and Vic Gundotra on Google+. It was an interesting session, and granted that we here at Corel are currently experimenting with G+ (our Google+ page is here), I was hoping to pick up some quick tips and pointers on how to use that social network more effectively. I learned a lot about the roadmap of Google+, and Vic made one very interesting statement:
“Google used to be built in silos. Now, we’re using Google+ to stitch all of our products together… to get it right”
Another exciting announcement coming out of my sessions was the launch (it’s still in private beta) of Instagram for Android. In the session ‘Inside Instagram’, Kevin Systrom, co-founder of the service, joked about dropping his iPhone and when asked by the moderator, Alexia Tsotsis of TechCrunch, how he can use Instagram if he has an Android phone, Kevin announced that they had the Android app in private beta. He also stated that he thinks Instagram for Android is better than Instagram for iOS!
Oh, and on a more personal side I saw “The Business of Kevin Smith” for all of you Clerks fans out there!
I had a great time and South by Southwest is definitely one of those once in a lifetime experiences. After answering about a thousand questions on what it’s like being Canadian while having drinks at the Driskill (see below), and more Mexican Food than any normal person could eat – I’m back at my desk at Corel with my memories and a lot of business cards!
Thanks for having me SXSW!
Were you at SXSW this year or have you read about some of the panels and news stories from the event? Post a comment below and let us know what you thought!