Notes from SXSW

SXSW 2011SXSW 2011 was among the best events I’ve ever attended. It was vital, fun-packed, and hugely educational – I have no doubts about coming back next year.

The Interactive Festival is exactly what I want to see from technology: it was optimistic, sociable, diverse and full of really interesting discussion, which ran the gamut from the highly technical to liberal arts. My two panels were well-received (thanks to Blaine Cook and Jim Moore for inviting me to The How & Why Of Decentralized Web Identity and Wikileaks, the Web & the Long, Strange Journey of Journalism respectively), and the quality of debate from the audience totally blew me away.

What I find really exciting is that technology has definitively grown out of its geeks-in-bedrooms phase (as much as it was ever there). Geek is fully reclaimed as a term of respect: someone who is smart, focused, and changing the world. I was lucky enough to meet a lot of people who are changing the world this week. I feel privileged to have had a modest impact through my work on Elgg; with latakoo, I’m enjoying once again working on a project with a global reach, and the conversations I had at the conference were inspiring.

It was striking to see so many companies move into the real-life space – it seemed like everyone was peddling apps designed for mass-market non-technical users to interact with on the go. People don’t seem to be focusing on early adopters any more, and rightly so. It’s no longer good enough to build something cool, or scratch your own itch. Now, finally, you’ve got to build something that makes peoples’ lives better.

If you can, find your way to Austin next March. For the conversation, the perspective and the sheer fun of it all, it can’t be beat. My one regret: I didn’t take a single photo, or a minute of video. I was simply too engrossed.

Photo: SXSW 2011 by Betsy Weber. Shared under a Creative Commons license.






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