SXSW Picks and Fun

This will be the fourth year that I have taken a group of students from TX State to SXSW, covering it on our blog (and my 7th year attending). Each year, the most important thing I tell new people coming to the Interactive portion of the festival is to do some advanced prep, scout out your panel strategy and spend some time with the schedule. SXSW can be overwhelming to even the most veteran participants, but if you plan, relax and go with the flow, you can make the most out of the experience. So, I thought I’d take my own advice and get working on things. You can see some of the events I am planning to attend during the Interactive right now at I’ve added some music panels, but haven’t even begun the showcase selections. I’ll do a post on that soon at And forget the films. I haven’t even started looking at them, but always like to try to squeeze in one or two.

First, there are the featured speakers. I’m excited about lots of them. Marissa Mayer kicks things off at 3:30pm on Friday, March 11, the very first day of the event. She’s a VP at Google and definitely one of the most powerful and influential women in tech. At 2pm on Friday, Tim O’Reilly (of O’Reilly Media fame) is interviewed by Jason Calcanis, so that should be an interesting conversation. And, I’m very interested in the keynotes by Christopher Pool of 4chan, Felicia Day of the Guild and Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes.

All the location services are in the house this SX, and I am looking forward to comparing their approaches and strategies. Josh Williams, CEO of Austin-based Gowalla, has a presentation Where Are We Going? The Future of Location on Monday at 3:30, Seth Priebatsch of SCVNGR speaks on Saturday at 2pm, and Dennis Crowley of Foursquare will speak with Pete Cashmore of Mashable about Enabling New Experiences and Creating Serendipity Through Check-ins on Monday at 12:30. Of course, I’ll be at my own location-themed panel on Tuesday at 3:30, with Jonathan Carroll of Gowalla, on Rockin’ the Checkin: Location Strategies for Musicians. Hope you can join us.

I’m very proud of the TX State alum that are now panelists at SXSW, some of which are graduates from the project! It’s definitely a sign of the great results the project has produced in four short years. Maira Garcia (Austin American Statesman) and Anna Tauzin (J-Lab) will talk about Landing Your Next Job Through Unconventional Personal Branding, Dee Kapila (KUT-Austin) and Michael Trice (Ph.D. student at Texas Tech) will be on a panel discussing Too Small, Too Open: Correcting Wikipedia’s Local Failure and Jordan Viator (Spredfast) will talk about Getting Strategic with Social Media for Social Good. I also noticed that Neil Petty (T3 and local musician Neiliyo) will be on the always fun panel How to Rawk Out at SXSW Interactive.

I’ve got other friends, colleagues and acquaintances on some great panels. Please don’t view this as personal favoritism, because they are all awesome. Amy Schmitz Weiss (San Diego State University) will be on a panel discussing The Impact of Social Media Tools in Mexico. Aron Pilhofer (NY Times), Chris Tomlinson (Texas Observer), Jon Lebkowsky (Plutopia Productions), Katharine Jarmul (USA Today) and Niran Babalola (Texas Tribune) are on a star-studded panel discussing Will News Apps Re-Invent Journalism? David Neff (Ridgewood : Ingenious Communications Strategies) is on The Future of Nonprofits: Thrive and Innovate in the Digital Age panel. I’m very interested in Rachel Sklar’s Sausagefest: Getting More Women into New Media and Tech. I’ve never met her in person, but we’re virtual friends, participating on a Poynter chat last year, but definitely plan to change that this SX. Rachel is also on the panel The Female Funny: Is It Different for Girls? Evan Smith, who is CEO and editor-in-chief at Texas Tribune, has a very cool discussion planned on Yes, It’s Quiz Time: News as Infotainment. Burt Herman (who is the founder of Hacks/Hackers and Storify) and Jennifer Lee (Knight News Challenge) are on a great panel called Hacking the News: Applying Computer Science to Journalism. New friend, Bob Metcalfe, one of the innovators of the Internet and founder of Ethernet now working at UT, has an interesting topic The Future of Enernet that will be a must-see. Gary Vaynerchk (Wine Library TV) came to our Mass Comm Week at TXST in 2009, I interviewed him and spent the day chauffeuring him around. He’ll talk about his new book The Thank You Economy, which I can’t wait to read! Another Mass Comm Week alum, Simon Salt will talk about Social Location Marketing. Flip Kromer of the Austin company InfoChimps is on the Big Data for Everyone (No Data Scientists Required) panel.

As far as just some cool and knowledgeable people in general, I also noticed Chloe Sladden of Twitter on the It’s Not TV, It’s Social TV panel. She was recently featured on the cover of Fast Company. I saw Jane McGonigal give a keynote a few years back, and she was fantastic. This year, she continues in her gaming-interest theme with Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better. Steven Johnson is a great author and visionary. I’ve always loved his talks before. Alan Rusbridger, the editor-in-chief of the Guardian, will talk about Wikileaks: The Website That Changed the World? You don’t get much more heavy hitting and influential that that! There are many more powerful and important people at SXSW, so just check out the schedule to discover your own rockstars.

More in the music realm, Dave Haynes of SoundCloud heads an interesting discussion called Love, Music and API’s. Also, another friend, Troy Campbell, local musician and digital collaboration pioneer is on the panel How Digital Media Drives International Collaboration.

I’m also pretty excited about Accelerator this year. It’s sort of an American Idol for tech startups, and friends Aron Pilhofer and his DocumentCloud project and Burt Herman with Storify are finalists! Best of luck to them both!

Of course, I always check out the new technology skills panels. This time there appears to be alot about HTML5, CSS3 and mobile applications. I have several of those on my schedule, and will try to hit as many as possible. Some of the most promising are Web Anywhere: Mobile Optimisation With HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and CSS3: Beyond the Basics.

And then there are the parties. I’m involved with the Awesomest Journalism Party. Ever (details to come – but featuring Austin band Quiet Company), sponsored by Hacks/Hackers (I helped start the Austin chapter last year), Online News Association and more. Plus parties by Austin on Rails, WordPress, Razorfish, Ning, Gowalla, Mashable, Blogger, Drupal and of course, the Texas Social Media Awards (on March 10) and the closing night SXSW Interactive Awards (March 15). There’s something for everyone, so get out there and have a blast!

As you can see I am quadruple booked or more during most time slots, so there will be a lot of tough decisions to be made on the spot. No matter what, it’s always a great way to combine learning, networking and enjoyment. It’s going to be crazy, exhausting, exhilarating, at times painful but definitely rewarding and fun. Hope to see you out and about during SX. Maybe you’ll even chat with some of my students for our coverage.

SXSW is truly the best time to be in Austin!