After two years of co-founding and organizing NxNYC, I thought about finally attending SXSW after hearing all my friends’ stories about “Geek Spring Break.” When being asked to join the Chevy SXSW Road Trip, my decision was cemented. The reins of NxNYC were handed off to Devin and Leslie, and I was off to Austin, Texas.
Since I decided to go with such a short lead time, I opted not to purchase a badge for the SXSW Interactive conference, which kept me out of panels and other official events, so I was not able to experience the panels or educational aspects. I was able to access areas I was theoretically not supposed to and check out the entire convention center, talking to vendors and learning about different tech that was available or forthcoming.
The amazing part to me was how everything was sponsored. Large logos loomed everywhere and startups with backing put money up everywhere to give everything away. One could conceivably go to SXSW and eat, drink and be partially clothed completely free for the entirety of the week spent in downtown Austin. Open bars, sponsored food and free t-shirts litter the landscape as tech companies shout into the wind to be heard.
The biggest technologies I saw used were location based and group texting apps. Among my friends, Foursquare was the location based app of choice to find out where people are and which were the good parties. Gowalla also had a strong showing, but it felt like more of a regional preference among users than actual winning on either side. Other location apps were around, like Whrrl and Loopt, but people just seemed to be using them to win prizes rather than the actual services. Everyone I knew at SXSW was using GroupMe to group text among people and coordinate where they would be. I heard talk of Fast Society and Beluga, but didn’t know anyone using them when most people were on multiple GroupMe text groups.
Beyond all the technology, swag and educational opportunities, the best part of SXSW was the people. I met some really amazing people that I never would have had the opportunity to meet had I not attended, plus I got to reconnect with people I haven’t seen in months and years. Between the Chevy Road Trip and just bouncing around Austin, I got to just talk to some people who came from all across the country (and some from outside the U.S.) who brought different perspectives that I never would have heard had I not met them in Austin. Additionally, we’re all so busy with our lives here in New York, and it was great to walk into a party or down the street and see someone I hadn’t seen in more time than I could recall.
For me the only detriment was my own health. I didn’t get much sleep, didn’t eat right and barely exercised, with the exception of joining Run SXSW Saturday morning. I’ve spent the last year working on my diet and general health, but being in Austin and not paying attention to what I was consuming completely imbalanced me. In hindsight, I didn’t eat enough, didn’t drink enough water and didn’t sleep enough, which led to me being completely imbalanced. I was unable to write or code anything and looking back at messages I sent over the course of the week, I was practically drunk texting even when I wasn’t drinking. I take responsibility for my actions, regardless of my state, but if I did or said anything that offended anyone, I offer a sincere apology, as it was never my intent.
SXSW Interactive was an amazing experience for me. Now that I know what it is like, even if some who have attended prior SXSW events claim it has “jumped the shark,” I enjoyed my time in Austin. I look forward to visiting again next year and may even try to stay for part of SXSW Music to check out some bands while I am down there. And thank you again to everyone I met and spent time with in Austin, you helped create an amazing experience for me, and I hope I did the same for you.