Posts Tagged ‘austin’
11th March 15
Posted in sxsw
Author: Mel Exon, Managing Director BBH London and Co-Founder, BBH Labs
Keep Austin Weird … is a phrase you are probably going to see and hear a lot once you get to Texas.
In several lucky years of going to South By, it’s the best bit of advice that has stuck with me: Austin prides itself on being an island of culture, creativity and difference in an otherwise very conservative part of the USA. As a visitor, it’s your responsibility to avoid everything you recognise and dive into the stuff you don’t.
So it’s really tempting to hang out with loads of UK agency folk, get press ganged into drinks with your brethren, attend loads of talks about advertising, but I’d ditch all of that and go see a talk by an astro-physicist or a roboticist, eat pancakes, ribs and tacos exclusively*, go find a karaoke club in an underground car park, place a bet on Chicken Shit Bingo … and make sure you head to the Lustre Pearl for beers and shots, not the Hilton. Except maybe your first night when it’s just nice to see some familiar faces and hear what’s happened that day.
(*You can get vegetables when you’re back in England.)
My second bit of advice relates to choice, or rather the over supply of choice. SXSW has been a massive conference for years and years.. several floors of several rooms all showing talks and workshops simultaneously, now in several different locations all around Austin. It takes some getting used to, take a minute on the flight over to look at the whole schedule and pick some stuff you want to see.
Over the past few years the Interactive bit of SXSW, neatly sandwiched between Film and Music, has got incredibly popular with the UK marketing industry, but that doesn’t mean it’s got tame or lame, you’ve just got to work a bit harder to find stuff that’s genuinely different and worthwhile… BUT perhaps somewhat counter-intuitively, I would avoid trucking all round Austin when it comes to going to talks, it takes ages and you waste tons of time shuttling between locations: only do that for something you hear is going to be amazing. The best talks are often under your nose in the main conference centre. Apart from seeking out the things you know nothing about, there are major keynotes not to miss every day, which often make headlines – for good or for bad – and are worth hearing. Bruce Sterling usually does a great closing keynote. If you don’t like a talk ten minutes in, you can get up and leave and try another one. Use Twitter to find out what people are enjoying most at any given time, most people tweet using #sxsw and #sxswi. If you’ve not done so already, make sure you set up a Whatsapp group IMMEDIATELY. Obviously.
Try to orientate yourself quickly around the conference centre early because it makes everything easier and don’t be afraid to ask for directions if you get lost (everyone gets lost, the whole time, this is normal).
Carry as little as possible. Get one of those mobile chargers for your phone. And use the abundant free wifi, or face the wrath of your office manager.
Eat from taco trucks as often as possible. Go to Salt Lick if you can arrange a bus out of town, or book a table at the Broken Spoke for line dancing and chicken in an odd white sauce. If you’re brave and your religion permits it, try a Baconator in a cone. Get a proper cocktail at The Driskill hotel. Old school.
I think that’s it. As you can tell, I’m two parts jealous and eight parts excited for you.
Have a whole load of fun, stay safe and come back with stories to share please.
18th March 11
Posted in sxsw
I’ll admit to being a little bit cynical (or ungracious, depending on how you want to look at it) at the prospect of SXSWi 2011. I’d been a couple of times before and, at my age, things are never as good as they used to be. But despite the poor quality of many of the panel sessions (too much reading, not enough arguing!), the corporate branding of most of downtown Austin and the overcrowding (attendance up 36% since last year) I came back from Texas feeling refreshed, inspired and engaged, for one simple reason;
SXSW reminded me how much I enjoy the company of geeks. Simply, for five days in spring Austin is the gathering point for geeks of all kind – app geeks, marketing geeks, book geeks, geolocation geeks, social media geeks – they’re all there, all involved and all itching to share their latest project, idea or thinking. Because, while there might be four group messaging apps and another four check-in services competing for attention everyone goes to ‘SouthBy’ because they are enthusiastic and because they want to participate in the new. SXSW is a live, real-time collaboration and all the better for it.
Personal highlights of five days in Austin include; plenty of instagram action; meeting ‘Cyborg Anthropologist’ Amber Case and learning about geoloqi; Bruce Sterling‘s angry State of the Union address, discovering some interfaces for geotemporal visualization and meeting my neighbour from Second Life in ‘meatspace’ for the first time since we met ‘inworld’ in 2007.
Plenty of other fine people have written up their own SXSW experiences; for a planning perspective @patsmc‘s take is here while @malbonster is on typically enthusiastic form here. Ogilvy generously sponsored the creation of visual notes of many of the sessions which can be downloaded from here and for a more flavourful impression of the SXSWi scene there is the obligatory Overheard at SXSWi tumblr.
So, if you like hanging out with geeks, Austin in March is the place to be (and it was great to meet so many good folk there). See you there in 2012.
1st March 11
So in 10 days we’ll be relocating the BBH Labs experience to Austin, Tx for the annual geek jamboree that is the South by SouthWest Interactive festival. I last attended three years ago, when I was an earnest book publisher and before advertising folk had descended in force and totally harshed the vibe, man.
This year I’m really looking forward to meeting lots of likeminds and seeing where, if anywhere, the paradigm has shifted and intend to follow @katylindemann‘s guidance of not going to see anything I already know anything about already, which makes for a pretty packed itinerary.
Given that the web based scheduler is, imho, ‘not very fun to use’ it might be that twitter or sitby.us prove to be more useful discovery tools for the good stuff, providing of course that wifi and/or 3G are in operation. We’ve hacked together a rough list (with agile development and rapid iterations built in!) using madthumbs the web interface, the recently launched official app, an old fashioned contacts book (yes, friends and family are represented at SXSW) and have uploaded it to sitby.us where you can find it here.
Ping us if we’ve missed anything vital, if you want to hang out and, most importantly, to let me know where I should go for breakfast tacos now that Las Manitas has closed down!
See you there.