I was surprised today to learn that attendance at the venerable South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, is up by 20 percent over last year. In this economy? Yep. SXSW is one of the premier networking events in the tech world. I’m back home now after spending two full days at the gathering, my third SXSW (after talking about “random acts of journalism” on an SXSW panel in 2003 and about my book Darknet on an SXSW panel in 2006 — funny that I get the itch every three years).
I spent the bulk of my time meeting new people and catching up with old friends, attending talks and sessions (such as the roundtable on LA’s tech scene — the participants paused to pose for a group shot above and the LA Times wrote it up here), conducting eight or nine video interviews (I’m now seriously backlogged), and taking photos. Here is a 76-photo Flickr set of SXSW 2009.
I had two glorious lunches, first with Barry Silverberg, President & CEO of the Texas Association of Nonprofit Organizations, Silona Bonewald and Eugene Lee (above) at PF Chang’s talking about building up a resource of social media learning materials for nonprofits, and the next day with Charlotte-Anne Lucas, her husband, and Katrin Verclas of MobileActive.org discussing mobile technology and effective use of social media by news organizations while we munched on fried green tomatoes and fried pickles at Threadgill’s. (Katrin threw the waitress for a loop by asking for fried Pepsi.)
I also serendipitously bumped into Lawrence Lessig after dark on Saturday, both of us wandering the streets solo toward our separate destinations (I was reading his new book Remix on the flight over; I’m mentioned in chapter 4, though like Lessig I’ve pulled away from the debate over intellectual property — which will still be ferociously waged well into the 2020s — and am focusing on helping businesses and organizations navigate the unfamiliar waters of social media).
You’ll be able to see more takeaways in the weeks ahead as I post the video interviews here. I captured three valuable interviews in the last half hour: Andy Carvin discussing his groundbreaking work (my term, not his) at NPR.org and the new media chiefs at Tribune Interactive and the Austin American-Statesman discussing how newspapers need to incorporate social media into their news strategies if they’re to remain relevant in an age when users are partners in the news.
Meantime, SXSW continues. Follow the Twitter stream, the blog posts culled by Technorati, the official schedule and coverage by the hometown Austin American-Statesman and 360.com.
JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.