Be Good Not Bad by Brian Warren

20 March 2007

SXSW 2007, Flat Guys Get All the Fun.

It is hard to believe that less than a week ago I was in Austin at SXSW. It’s already feeling like a bit more distant of a memory than that. After I returned to Denver, I took a pleasant nap and bravely waded into the waters of a flood of work that was waiting for me. The work is still there, glaring at me for taking some time out to write, but I gave it a stern look so I should be good for a few more minutes.

This year, SXSW was bigger, more fun and, strangely, a bit more relaxed than last year. I made a point to get more sleep, not do everything and to pace myself a bit better – I even grabbed a few naps throughout the week.

SXSW is a different sort of conference. Ever since I started hearing about SXSW I’ve heard the same thing year after year: With SXSW, you don’t go for the panels. All the magic happens in the hallways, at the meals, and at the parties at the end of the day. That’s not to say people don’t care about the panels – we do. In fact, some of them this year were quite inspired and had me hanging on every word. Brian Fling’s Mobile Web Presentation was very excellent as was Khoi Vinh’s & Mark Boulton’s Grids are Good, and Richard Rutter’s & Mark Boulton’s Web Typography Sucks. All told, these represent just a few of the gems from this year. Then again, the consensus is that the panels this year, on the whole, weren’t as good as last year’s. The few I just mentioned, and others, were outstanding on their own. You could make a day long seminar on any one of them, and I’d show up. But, every year you’re going to have a few duds and it seemed like this year there were a few more than last year.

As I mentioned above, people don’t seem to care that much. It’s a good thing to talk about at the end of the day over dinner, but it’s not the main reason we come. The essence of SXSW is the people. It’s a gathering of the tribe. You invite a few thousand of us web designer types to the same town for a week and some good stuff will happen.

I enjoyed catching up with some old friends and meeting lots of new ones. It was great to have most of the Method Arts crew there. It was Vincent’s first SXSW and I think he’s hooked. A few highlights were the EllisLab party, bowling, SXNW and Ms. Jen’s wine and cheese get together. I also enjoyed a fantastic lunch at the Halcyon cafe with Megan, Mark, Jesse, Sean and Scott before getting caught in a storm and missing the Helvetical film. Dangit.

The picture above is of FlatHicks at the wine and cheese party. Jon Hicks couldn’t come this year, so Glenda built a flat version to keep everyeone company. He has his own Wikipedia entry, Flickr feed and someone (I know who, but am not telling) was Twittering on his behalf the entire conference.

This year I feel like I caught a bit more of the essence of SXSW. It felt more intimate, more conversational and a bit more relaxed. So, pretty much about 100 times better than last year. Next year I want to fly my wife in on the last day, so we can enjoy the music portion of SXSW for a few days before heading back to the real world.