SXSW: I have arrived

It’s actually a small miracle that my 8-hour trek to Austin yesterday didn’t take longer. With the snow that had fallen in Dallas the night before, flights were overbooked (mine by 12 seats!) and the next flight out was at 7:35 pm last night. A few folks (including me) squeezed our way onto the tiny USAIR plane, and made it to Dallas despite awful turbulence and the flight attendant turning the temperature down to 50 degrees, to keep people from vomiting with all the bumps. Actually, cold has been a theme this year of SXSW.

When I arrived in Austin at 3 pm yesterday, the overwhelming thought on everyone’s mind was “man this place wasn’t supposed to be so cold!” But it is. Last night I think the temp went down to 20 degrees - not ideal for a bunch of skinny techies anticipating 70 degree, balmy days. My jean jacket and jeans would have to suffice, and worst case, there’s been chatter of finding a local REI to bulk up on some thermals.

After getting my bag(s) and throwing out 95% of their contents (along with hundreds of other folks who had filled up all the trash cans in the conference center), I caught up with some folks, had a tasty dinner downtown and sidled my way over to the SXSW Mix at Six - the same place the infamous MySpace party was held last year. The line outside (in the very very cold outside) wound its way around the block a good ways, and by the time I made it through the doorway (a very cold 45 minutes later), the open bar was closed. Luckily Shinerbock in a can was only $2 and Chris politely served me up at the roof bar. The night ended with the premiere of 21 at the Paramount theater - a very fun movie with a great plot and well-known cast. I think I have a new actor crush on Jim Sturgess.

The crowd seems to be pretty much the same as last year. A lot of newbies, a lot of veteran - and maybe it’s just me, but I’m running into a lot more non-profit folks than last year, and I’m pretty happy about that. Everyone has hooked up their phones on twitter, SMS is obsolete, iPhones are ubiquitous, people are using phones with GPS to find parties and theaters (thanks Matt!), and the wifi still totally blows (I tried four networks before I found this one, and it’s painfully slow to respond). If you’re interested in watching parts of SXSW live, check out the feed at Kyte.tv for attendee uploading videos. Sadly me and my shoddy LG will have to watch from the sidelines as we are twitterless AND videoless. I still think there’s something quite magical about “real reality” myself :o).

I’m looking forward to Steven Johnson’s opening remarks today, and a few panels on online communities - how to handle uprisings and managing them across oceans. There’s a bunch of other panels that sound really fascinating to me, but I’m going to stick with the work relevant ones for now and sneak in a few on women’s issues if I have the time.

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