SXSW Protips

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This will be my fifth SXSW interactive. It’s also, notably, the first SXSW that I am an Austinite. Since SXSW starts next week, the usual flood of tweets asking for advice or emails asking me to provide tips or asking me to be their guide began. It started earlier this year (back in January) than in years past. I’m chalking that up to the fact that I’m also living in Austin and am expected to “know the ropes”.

Trust me. I do. On Austin and on SXSW.

I’ve got a rant going up on Get Off My Lawn next week. But this post is not a rant. This post is about trying to be helpful to the many attendees coming here without having to commit to coaching each of you. This is my coaching. :-)

There are 18,000 Attendees this Year

That’s right. 18k. That’s more than every other year of interactive and is now the largest of the three SXSW festivals, eclipsing music for the first time and dwarfing film. You can’t meet everyone. Don’t try.

Attendees will be everywhere. They will be at the convention center. At the bar getting a beer during the day. In the Hilton Lobby, a place WP Engine Advisor Ben Metcalfe (@dotBen) posits the following observation:


Sitting in Hilton lobby bar during SxSW is like sitting a safe distance away from the car stuck on the level crossing with the train comingless than a minute ago via YoruFukurou

My point is… people are everywhere. Don’t be in a rush to be someplace. Ever. You’ll miss out on an opportunity.

The Right Place, The Right Time

Continuing that thought, if you’re scheduling your day out, you’re doing it wrong. As my friend Jeremy Wright (@jeremywright) puts it:


@duanebrown most of southby is knowing your options, and then making a choice on the fly.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Use your Plancast, Google Calendar, or whatever. Use these tools. Give yourself options. You may have some things that are required items and are non-negotiable (i.e. you’re throwing a party… it’s your party. You better be there). Other times, you just need scaffolding to give you options. Then you make your decisions in real-time. If you plan everything out and try to stick to that plan, you will miss out on opportunities and people.

Anecdotally, because I was in the right place at the right time, I’ve met NBA Dallas Mavericks owner and serial entrepreneur Mark Cuban, former Twitter CEO Evan Williams, Fark.com creator and Chief Looney Officer Drew Curtis just by being at the right place at the right time.

If you rush, you’ll hate SXSW and you’ll miss opportunities.

Hydrate!

I cannot emphasize this practical tip enough. In Austin in early March, you’re going to have warm days (the long-range forecast at this time shows mid-70s most of the time) and cool nights. (We’re also good for a monsoon-like storm at least once… it happens every year). You’re going to be drinking a lot at night. You’re going to be walking a lot during the day. With a bag on your back. Hydrate. And take a 5 hour energy* before you start going to town on booze… you’ll thank me in the morning.

Strategic Locations for Some Random Product that May be Launched on Mar 11

Apple Store – Barton Creek Mall
2901 S. Capital of Texas Hwy
Austin, TX 78746 (map)
Estimated Cab time: 15 mins

Apple Store – The Domain
11410 Century Oaks Terrace
Austin, TX 78758 (map)
Estimated Cab time: 25 mins

AT&T Store
1011 W. 5th St
Austin, TX 78703 (map)
Estimated Cab time: 5 mins

Verizon Wireless
9600 S IH-35
Austin, TX 78748 (map)
Estimated Cab time: 20 mins

You know… just in case.

Food

Go to @peachedtortilla, my favorite food truck in town, and say hi to Eric and Lou. Get some Banh Mi tacos or pork belly sliders. I think they plan to be around Congress and 6th 5th and Colorado but follow them for more details.

Also, on the Saturday of SXSW (Mar 12), Franklin BBQ is opening up a short walk away from the downtown center at 11th just east of I-35. Franklins is somewhat legendary in Austin because of their original restaurant farther north.

Grab the chicken fried steak and a Mexican Martini for lunch at Cedar Door 3 blocks away from the convention center at 2nd and Brazos (behind the Hampton Inn).

Enjoy some Absinthe-based drinks at Peche on W. 4th St in the Warehouse District. It’s a mere 6 blocks and worth it. Don’t ask for vodka. No, really…

Finally

Don’t be a douche. We welcome visitors and want you to enjoy this fine city. Leave it the way you found it. Remember, you are a guest and we have long memories. Tip your bartenders well. Did you hear me… WELL. If it’s an open bar, assume no one is tipping them. Carry some cash for the occasion. Bartenders do remember bad patrons just like patrons remember bad bartenders.

You’re not entitled to anything. Don’t jump party lines or use “Do you know who I am?” lines. No one gives a shit and you look like a prick. Treat people respectfully… Most of you do. Some of you don’t.

And that’s it. Any veterans have some protips to share as well?

* 5 Hour energy tip given by D’Ann Faught :-p

Working SXSW (And How I Will Be Hired)

SXSWi at the Austin Convention Center

SXSW Interactive is now over and with it comes a big long exhale. For those who were here who I saw, it is always good to catch up and meet new people. For those I missed, let’s connect online somewhere.

This year I came with one goal in mind: to find a job. I didn’t come for the parties. I didn’t come for the constant, lame fist pumping and business card sluttery. I came to find a job. To that end, I did not get a badge. That may seem counter-intuitive but, in fact, worked tremendously in my favor. Every day of the event, I tracked down people who I thought could help me in some way. Shameless? Perhaps. The reality is that karma is always something that goes around.

Photo by AllAboutGeorge on Flickr

I’m not about to do the namedrop thing where I list everyone I talk to. That’s lame and it’s really no one’s business but mine. But what I do want to address what I do because, as much as I have been a public face, there are a lot of public faces and it’s become clear over the past few months that a lot of people really have no idea what I do or what I want to do. They want to help, but when all I can be introduced to an executive at a company as, “a really famous blogger,” then there is a disconnect in my own personal messaging. As more companies are discovering that I am on the market, they really want to know what I’m about.

In short, my official bio can be summed up as: “I am a business-savvy author and PHP developer who has led development teams, managed technical product lifecycles and have built up enough social capital and marketing prowess to put any agency to shame.”

In greater detail, I come from a PHP development background having coded for the last 10 years. I still do that. As part of that, I have been part of the WordPress community as a core contributor for years and have built a reputation as a high-end WordPress “data guy” (as opposed to a design guy). I build plugins and do architecture stuff, for the uninitiated. I have led development teams. Remotely. Which is hard to do. We built products for the internal growth, analytics and monitoring of our company and for our investors. Very nimble, very small, very distributed teams.

Somewhere in the past five years, I became a marketer. Not really because I don’t have a degree in communications and I don’t really do marketing. But I know how to do marketing well and can run circles around Agency types who like to ask, “Do you have Agency experience?” and then don’t want to talk because I don’t. Son, I could school your entire Agency.

I came to SXSW to find a job. Specifically, I came to find a job in Austin or a job where I could at least move to Austin. I have several solid leads from the resulting conversations and introductions. I did it by being real and not trying to be someone bigger than I am. I did it by acknowledging my own strengths. And my own weaknesses. I didn’t get caught up in the scene. It’s a distraction.

As a result, for the first time in four years, my SXSW experience was better during the day than at night during all the parties.

I don’t know if I will find the technical job with a business and public-side interface that I’m looking for. But I do know that there are people now who know that I can run a development team to build a kickass product that is going to need the grassroots, public-facing social capital that I’ve built up. I think I met a few this week. Here’s to hoping.

Recap of SXSW Interactive 2009

As I sit here in a daze induced by 4 crazy days of interacting with geeks the world over, sleeping little and attending party after party after party, I find myself nostalgically looking back at SXSW 2009.

It wasn’t as good as previous years, in my opinion. Maybe it was the huge number of noobs. There are always newbies, but this year it seemed to be more than ever. And that’s not a bad thing. I am happy when new groups and segments of the internet community are introduced to the wiles of SXSW, however this year seemed to be extravagantly more than normal. And it did affect the way the festival went off.

Chris Brogan
Chris Brogan

Interestingly, over 7000 people registered for the Interactive festival, up some 25% from last year if I recall. However, the actual attendance seemed to be down. In the context of conversations, I think I realized what was really at play. Despite no one mentioning it out right, it was clear that the economy had people in funky moods. Last year at this time, we were discussing venture capital, web startups and Facebook’s expansion, as an example. This year, however, the tone and look on peoples faces was a little more stark. It was a very interesting dynamic.

Of course, that didn’t mean people were in sour moods. They weren’t. The parties flowed. The long lunches happened. People laughed and talked. In some cases, we sang.

Alex Hillman at Cogaoke
Alex Hillman, IndyHall

Sorry, if you missed me perform Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” at Cogaoke. I did not win the karaoke competition but at least I had fun trying.

SXSW always is a must attend for me because it represents, much like Facebook does for my real life, a confluence of all of the circles of my geek life.

For instance, my Boulder peeps were there:
Jeremy Tanner
Jeremy Tanner

My Silicon Valley peeps were there:
Rick Klau
Rick Klau, Google/Blogger

And, of course, a very large (largest in SXSW history, maybe?) DC representation:
DC Peeps at SXSW

I am hardly impressed by celebrity and most of the “celebrities” that were there are not people that are anything more than friends for me. For instance, Chris Pirillo and Loic Lemeur were there. Friends doing great things, like Gnomedex and Seesmic

Chris Pirillo and Loic Lemeur

My only really true geek boy moment was meeting Drew Curtis of Fark, a guy who built his company the old fashioned way (without VC money) and is not prone to jump on technology bandwagons just because everyone says they are cool.

Finally, as a bonus, I give you Julia Allison, the woman that so many love to hate but geek guys fawn over anyway, Brittany Bohnet and Randi Zuckerberg, the Facebook Director of Market Development, and the sister to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Julia Allison, Brittany Bohnet and Randi Zuckerberg