SXSW Recap

SXSWNow that SXSW is over and I’m back home, I’ve had a chance to ‘digest’ the conference and thought I’d post some of my thoughts.

This was my second SXSW and I learned a few things from last year:

  • book your hotel early: last year I was a 1/2 hour cab ride away. This year, I was about a block from the convention center – it made a huge difference plus they had a great breakfast buffet
  • pace yourself: there is some much to see/do at the conference, expect to not do it all. Despite my best laid plans, I still managed to miss some panels I wanted to see due to other things going on that weren’t planned – like great chats with new friends in the hallway

This year they tried these new ‘power sessions’ that were about 1/2 hour long. Unfortunately, some of the best topics this year were power sessions which means it was hard to really get a lot of them since they would just get going and it would be over and we’d be shuffled out of the room. Also a lot of the sessions were more free-form discussions rather than formal presentations.

While these are okay, I’d prefer more lectures than ‘discussions’. As with last year (although worse this time), there were many panel blocks with 2-3 panels I was interested in so you had to pick one and hope it would deliver. Fortunately, they record most, if not all the sessions and seem to be posting the videos and podcasts much faster than last year so if you missed a session (or couldn’t make it to Austin) you can get some of the flavor that is SXSW.

TwitterTwitter was the darling of the conference and I tried to use it to keep in touch with the other Canucks during the panels but between the flaky wifi and the unpredicable delays caused by our Canadian cellphone providers, we just couldn’t rely on it. We ended up using the ole ‘meet you near the bathroom’ after the panels approach. We suspect Twitter was also having some growing pains with so many people using the service. The plasma displays were cool though.

So here are the highlights on a day by day basis:


  • a travel day that started at 3am
  • chatting on the plane with Gino and his wife about Flickr
  • a coworker and two friends were going this year so it was cool to all meetup in my hotel room in Austin
  • ended with dinner with the guys and Mardi at the Rio Grande
  • went to bed very late considering the time change and long travel


  • fSea of SXSW bagsirst official day of the conference that started with a crazy long lineup for registration
  • picking up the ‘big bag’ of conference material – the nicotine gel was bizarre and creepy
  • lunching at the Paradise Cafe on Sixth Street
  • seeing KK and the flight crew on the Snakes on a Plane panel
  • going to the Porter Novelli Opening Party at Six which according to the homeless person that offered us directions is owned by Lance Armstrong.
  • I think we ended up at the Iron Cactus to call it a night


  • great day for panels that included Online Publishers & Ad Networks, Getting Users to Consistancy, Kathy Sierra‘s Opening Remarks, Grids are Good, Web Hacks (one word: horse-fisting – watch for the podcast), and Production Companies 2.0.
  • after hearing about Expression Engine at Northern Voice, we headed to the Moonshine Grill for a gathering of EE users put on by EllisLabs and had a great time meeting/chatting with a ton of people about EE, Canada, and the web in general while enjoying the amazing food. Cheers Rick, Derek, Peter, Seamus and Susie to name a few!



  • Bar-B-Q! WordPress Matt‘s Scaling Your Community was a highlight for today. A close second to Kathy’s session for me during the whole conference. Also checked out the Ajax Kung Fu/Accessability Feng Shui session, Bullet Tooth Web Design (wish it had a little more substance but it was a 1/2 hour session) and How to Create a Kick-Ass In-House Design Team
  • you can’t go to SXSW and not go to Iron Works for BBQ…mmm good.
  • watching Frank get responses to his Canucks sweater
  • the Mozilla party was fun, PayPal’s was not and South by Northwest lived up to the hype – kudos to Robert, KK and co for a great event! Had a chance to talk with a bunch more people….but like many others have already blogged, the after parties can be a challenge to ‘talk’ due to the loud music and sheer ‘volume’ of attendees. Robert told me they had 1400 people at the Iron Cactus!Best T-Shirt design
  • RainCity Studios also had the best t-shirt at SXSW in my opinion…might have something to do with the cactus in the logo


  • interesting browser session with panelists from AOL, Opera, Mozilla, and Microsoft – too bad Apple wasn’t there, Design Aesthetic of the Indie Developer, No Such Thing As the Mobile Web
  • getting to play with the OLPC at the Make booth
  • Opera gave away their Wii….I didn’t win but Kevin got the second prize of a Motorola cellphone


  • Salt Lick BBQtravel day
  • lots of geekspotting at the Austin Airport as the mass exodus had begun
  • had a good chat with Charles McCathieNevile from Opera after enjoying a chopped beef brisket sandwich from the Salt Lick BBQ at the airport – if only all food court food was this good!
  • spoke briefly with Kathy Sierra in Denver
  • got home around 10pm which was really midnight to me

Goodnight! See ya’ll next year. More pics in my Flickr set.


  1. Scales says:

    Hey John, thanks for the kudos and link love, it was great to have you at the party and glade you like the tee.

    See you on the flip side, Scales.

    Check out these killer pictures:

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