Back from Austin – SXSWi 2008 Wrapup

I really wanted to do a proper, long and detailed wrapup post for SXSWi but I’m not going to because there was just so much going on and it’s still digesting in my mind what transpired in Austin. That and I’m really tired due to a day at the airport, flight delays and BBQ withdrawal.

SXSWi 2008

So in no particular order, here’s some thoughts on what happened in Austin over the past week:

  • this year was way bigger than last year – lots of people guessing on the numbers so take this with a grain of salt but it’s ‘supposably’ 50% bigger than last year. So that puts it somewhere between 5000 and 10000 geeks in one place. This was especially evident since previously, you’d always run into people you know but this year, I know there were people I knew in Austin and yet I never managed to see them in the halls/panels
  • I wished I made it to the I Can Haz Cheeseburger panel – they were actually giving out hamburgers to the audience
  • 12 sessions per time slot does not work
  • 10am panels are very hard to attend
  • there needs to be more technical panels. Of all the ones I attended, only two could be considered (by me) technical and they were incredibly well attended – as in standing-room-only-geeks-sitting-in-the-aisles-fire-hazard kind of well attended. Of course since there was 12 sessions in every timeslot (plus other stuff in and around the convention center), it’s entirely possible there were more technical sessions.
    SXSWi 2008
  • the panel rooms need to be reworked (again). Nothing sucks more than having to go from room 18ABCD to Room C – it’s like walking to Surrey from North Vancouver. I’m all for the walking but when you consider that a panel ends at say 11am and the next one starts at 11:30am, it doesn’t give you much time to actually talk to the panelists afterword, or with friends about the panel before you have to start hoofing it to the other end of the convention center to get a decent seat for the next session
    SXSWi 2008
  • Twitter stayed up during the whole conference which is a huge deal since it was probably the number one web site talked about (yes, even more than Facebook and the infamous interview). Impromptu ‘Tweetups’ happened everywhere and were awesome. Your twitter name should be printed on the badge next year (everyone just wrote it on theirs this year)
    SXSWi 2008
  • Internet access generally seemed better this year…except at my hotel which crawled. The convention center’s wifi was much more robust this year and they had a 802.11n access point which was great. Also more and more venues had free wifi so it made using Twitter and checking Google maps a breeze. My prepaid AT&T sim also got a good workout and thanks to some flaky hotel access, ended up costing more than it should have – see my $12 flickr photo for one example:
    SXSWi 2008
  • Apple should have sponsored a shuttle to the Apple Store…there was a convoy of cabs there from the convention center on a daily basis.
  • Canadians showed up in force this year. Not just the 20-30 Vancouverites I knew were going either….great folks from across this great land came down and had a great time
    SXSWi 2008
  • Once again, the Raincity Studios crew had the best, most coveted t-shirts (read about it in the L.A. Times) and hosted the best party at the Iron Cactus. My second favorite shirt (after the Space Invaders RCS shirt) is the “Hacking is not a crime” shirt I picked up from the MAKE booth
  • in Austin (and probably just for SXSW) the term ‘Ranch’ can mean many things. What I didn’t expect it to mean at the Pure Volume Ranch (home of the huge Digg party among others) is dirt floors covered in wood chips and port-o-lets. Moby and Kevin Rose didn’t seem to mind.
    SXSWi 2008
  • Finally had a chance to visit the Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, Texas (outside of Austin)…been coming to SXSW for three years and always heard about it but never had the chance to make it out there. It lives up to the hype
    SXSWi 2008
  • you can buy iPods at the Houston Airport from a vending machine
    SXSWi 2008
  • iPhones were everywhere and mine at least was indispensable during the trip. From the wifi that was available everywhere, to the Google Maps locate me feature, it was easily the most used item I brought. Using the tool to make a customized calendar of sessions/events/parties to attend, it was easy to see where to go next or what our options were if we decided to change our minds.
  • I was able to get a tag for my camera that I should have exploited more. Strangely, I saw all kinds of cameras (not just DSLRs) with the tag, including a tiny little lipstick-sized webcam. There also seemed to be some discrepancy as to who should get a tag as Peter was denied just minutes after I got mine.
    SXSWi 2008
  • If you don’t like Rockband, be glad you weren’t at SXSWi….every second booth in the Trade Show had it setup and many events used it as a focal point
  • Adobe had a sneak peak of their new Adobe Media Player in a bar with a live band and a skateboard halfpipe. Nothing kills a party faster than trying to demo your software on a projector in the middle of a bar AFTER a decent local band played while skateboarders used the halfpipe in front of the stage. Still surprised about the presentation’s inappropriateness and the fact they thought they had to explain RSS feeds to a room full of geeks. The Media player actually looks decent (if not a little iTunes-ish) but they really need to work on the promotion side of things and figure out who the people that attend Southby are
  • Most heard/overused word/phrase I heard this year: ‘Fail!’ or used in a sentence: ‘Epic Fail!’. #2 was ‘iPhone’. #3 was “I’ll have another Shiner Bock”.
    SXSWi 2008
  • There wasn’t as many MacBook Air’s there as I would have expected. Consensus from those I talked to about it was they were hoping for more from Apple – or technically less as they wanted a true replacement for the 12″ Powerbook in screen size (or even smaller). It definitely got a lot of looks and was asked to hold it many times. There were a ton of eeePC’s in attendence which was cool to see.
  • I managed to head over to BarCamp Austin between sessions at the convention center and sit in (briefly) on the iPhone DevCamp. As if the fact there was too much concurrent content at SXSWi, the fact that an awesome BarCamp AND iPhone camp was going on at the same time. Too much to do, not enough time to take it all in.
    Iphone DevCamp @ BarCamp Austin
  • As if you aren’t already tired of me talking about the BBQ, all the food was amazing…well except maybe not that late night pizza from 6th street
    SXSWi 2008
    SXSWi 2008
  • as I write this post, there are over 12,000 SXSW related photos on Flickr. I have about 200 in there.

That’s pretty much it for me and this post…as I said at the beginning, there is still a lot of digesting to do (bbq and otherwise) so I may add to this once I’ve had time to take it all in.

See you next year, Austin!
SXSWi 2008


  1. Peter says:

    Great wrap-up. Damn, now I want to go back ;).

  2. Dan says:

    Sounds like the whole conference (minus a now famous interview or two) turned out great!! I hope I might be able to check it out next year :)

  3. Raul says:

    Great wrap-up too, and thanks for the Altoids :) By the way, thanks also for coming out to bowl, it was great to see you. See you soon, I hope?

    Best wishes.

  4. colleen says:

    i miss….

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