Wrapping up SXSWi 2010

SXSW 2010My tweets and blog has been full in the last 7 days of reports from SXSWi, and this post explains what all the fuss was about.

South By South West, held in Austin, Texas, started in 1987, and is best known as a world famous music festival but in 1994 the organisers added film and “interactive” streams.

I attended the 5 day long interactive portion (SXSWi) which is a packed schedule of events including keynote presentations, panel sessions and book readings focused on cutting edge technology that provide practial training as well as big-picture analysis. If that all sounds a little bit serious then there’s dozens of parties on every night of SXSWi, and many say this is the real focus of SXSWi. One thing’s for sure, it’s really hard to pack it all in, the parties are usually sponsored so there’s a lot of free alcohol and hangovers are to be expected. The organisers are well used to this and fortunately few of the big events take place before lunchtime.

The parties, alcohol and hangovers have earned the festival the unofficial title of “spring break for geeks”. It’s a lot of fun!

My blogs on SXSWi:


There is a great mix of people, a majority of whom are from North America, but there was a good number of British, and other Europeans too. I even met one person from Australia and another from Taiwan. It’s not just  the usual contingent from silicon valley -although they are there – but people involved in technology from all over the US, including a surprising number from Texas itself. (Austin is a significant centre of technology and start-ups). The event is not corporate at all, the majority of attendees are freelancers or are working in start-ups. There’s a definite presence from venture capitalists and angel investors too. Personally I think there were a few too many “social media experts” and “digital agencies” in attendance, and I did hear some complaining that the increasing numbers of non-techies is making it less worthwhile over time. Despite this I still thought it was a great bunch of people to spend the best part of a week with.


This year keynotes were delivered by Daniel Ek of Spotify, Ev Williams of Twitter and in previous years have included Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Tony Hsieh of Zappos. Other well known participants in 2010 included Guy Kawasaki,  Paul Graham, Dave McClure, Robert Scoble, Pete Cashmore, Clay Shirky, Joi Ito, Danah Boyd, Gary Vaynerchuk and Doug Richard. There’s literally hundreds of events each year, so there should be something for everyone.


It’s definitely the best value conference I have ever been to, the most fun, and also one of the most useful and interesting. The 5 day pass for this year was just $395 if booked in advance. Although hotels are busy, I was able to book  a decent Crowne Plaza hotel only a few months before, for just $100 per night through Priceline. Expect to pay quite a bit more staying in downtown, which is certainly more convenient, but it’s not the end of the world to be a few miles away, especially considering the significant savings.

Experience SXSWi for yourself:

Attend! Failing that, you can catch up on the best of previous years: Select Videos and Podcasts from SXSWi are posted on the official website and YouTube channel.

Tips for newbies attending SXSW:

  • Although not crucial, it’s definitely more convenient to stay downtown. If staying elsewhere make sure your hotel operates a free shuttle bus, or you could try staying somewhere close to the new Metro light rail system (which opened just after this years SXSW closed!) The official SXSW shuttle buses don’t seem to operate until the music festival, so don’t rely on those.
  • Go through the whole schedule a few days in advance of your trip and add all the events you think you might like to attend to my SXSW on the official website, then bookmark the page on your mobile phone or download the mobile app.
  • Wifi is plentiful and free within the official venues, and for the most part seemed to work well. The exceptions were the largest rooms where there were simply too many people trying to log on for the infrastructure to cope.
  • Usual advice for a big conference applies, wear comfy shoes!
  • Get connected. Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla and Plancast all play an important part in
    • fitting in with the rest of the geeks
    • discovering the best parties to go to

Get in touch:

I will definitely be going back to SXSWi, so get in touch and we can meet up.


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