Wednesday March 29, 2006

SXSW 2006 recap (finally!)

I know, I know, I know... SXSW was so two two-and-a-half weeks ago, but come'on, I'm busy! The quick recap is that Team Dodgeball (me + Alex + Harry) were down in Austin for five days, er, two weeks ago. SXSW = short for South by Southwest, a two week interactive + film + music festival. Being the dorks we are (or: SXSW rookies), we were only there for the interactive piece (we flew out when everyone else was flying in, but we'll fix that next year). Okay, so ready for this? (It's a long one.)


So, Day 1 = Saturday. I was on a panel called "Online in Offline Spaces" with Scott H. (MeetUp) + Mike.S (Socialight) + Molly.S (Yale) moderated by Heath.R (Squidoo). We were up against James Surowiecki (aka Johnny Wisdom of Crowds) in the room next door, so it was awesome to see that we still had a spill-over crowd. The panel went well and it was a lot of fun (I think panels are always better when you know the people beforehand - e.g I went to grad school with Mike, Molly acted as an informal advisor to my thesis, and I know Scott just from around NYC).

I brought a packback full of dodgeball t-shirts and gave them all out (all 50 of them!) in about 4 minutes flat after the panel.

Fast forward through a day's worth of keynotes + panels and we get to the official Opening Night Party thrown by Frog Design. Our first intro to the SXSW scene = we were swimming in free drinks.

Harry.H chatting up the nice girl he sat next to on the plane. Player = please!

When Frog's free drink tab ended, we headed in search of the next party. Our Brand New Best Friend Justin(tm) (aka Janelle's pal from back in the day) Dan.M's friend (with glasses - hi!) was nice enough to squeeze something-like eight of us in the back of his Jetta. I got stuck riding Alex's lap.

According to iPhoto, we ended up at the Sidebar late night - which reminds me of a cross between Welcome to the Johnsons and the old Barramundi (think: backyard). We rendezvoused with Ms. Danah + 43 Things Eric + what-looks-like Eris. Hi!

Bars in Austin close up around 2am, though the nice folk at the Sidebar got in the habit of kicking us out early. The only place that's really open past 2am (read: like 2:05am) was Coyote Ugly (I know, I know) which is a mere wedge shot away from the hotel. We (Dianne + I) hit it up on the walk home where she met up with some of her colleagues from work.

We hung out on the Coyote Ugly porch with $2 Bud Lights for about 10 minutes before The Man booted us out. Just as we were leaving (2:10am?), we ran into Min and her More Cowbell entourage.

We tried to bring the dance party back to the Hilton but they weren't having it. Eris, can you give me a little more furioso next time, okay? And Dianne, I love that you rocking that shirt the way my sister would in 5th grade (cue memory of Jonathan licking his shoulder at dinner to make fun of Little Sister Katie's off-the-shoulderstyle... hahahahahaha).

For the record, the Hilton Party Police hate hate hate the cowbell.

We still somehow managed to sneak a good-sized group upstairs. Not sure who all these people are, but I do know that the girl in the dark blue (bottom) was less than stoked when I misstakenly started poking her in the back thinking she was Dianne. (read: the girl in dark blue is where good times go to die!)

After party = Danah's room. Thanks for the whiskey, btw. (and goodnight!)


I kicked off Day 2 by hitting the gym (for real!) then spending all afternoon running from panel to keynote to panel (Mapping -> Kottke -> Everyware). And as much as I wanted to go, I skipped out on "Bloggers in Love".

I had an interview schedule for the afternoon with StudioSX, a spin-off (???) of SXSW where they interview speakers for Current.TV. They told me to show up at a certain place + time at 12:30 which is easy enough... but they didn't tell me that the interview would be held inside this giant fishbowl!

And that I would be interviewing David Pescovitz (co-editor of BoingBoing). It turned out that we were actually interviewing *each other* - how cute - though David did more of the interviewing than I did).

Oh anyway, the view from inside the fishbowl. Special thanks to Alex + Dianne for *not* tapping on the glass.

ps: And a quick look at the craziest contract clause (for the fishbowl interview) - granting the SXSW folk unlimited use of whatever content comes out of the interview, forever, and throughout the *entire universe*. Fair enough, I guess (I mean, I got a free bottle of water out of it, you know?)

ps2: The nice StudioSX folk said the interview should be online someday (and maybe broadcast on Current.TV?) If I see anything, I'll let you know.

Afterwards, I hit up Dianne's "Judy Jetson" trendspotting panel - two smartypants research types (Dianne!) flanked by two high schoool girls. Well done!

And then hit up the Kottke / Armstrong, er, "full time blogger" panel. Since I didn't show up 20 minutes early to the main event, I got stuck watching the video feed in the spill-over room where I sat behind this dude in a dodgeball tee. Rock!

And... that's it for Day 2 of the conference. Next up = free drinks courtesy of Yahoo (promoting Flickr / Del.icio.us / Upcoming.org - where, btw??). One of the few parties with a guest list (eh, good idea?) kept it not-too-crowded (though we still had to work at sneaking a handful of friends in).

Lots of freebee kicking around - Flickr temporary tattoos (which took 9 days to wash off - look out!), Upcoming.org baseball tees, Flickr Internet Bubblegum (come'on, clever!)...

... and all the tequila you can drink! Seriously, leave it to Harry.H to be like, "Yeah, we'll take 12 Patron margartias and 12 Patron shots... just put it on the Yahoo tab."

(left to right: Harry, Alex, Mike, Justin, some dude with half a moustache, Danny Denver, dude holding something that is not a tequila shot - boo!, your host dpstyles and Dianne (rumor = "hot shirt" was worn specifically for the panel)

One hour later (after the sun had gone down?), and Harry follows up with another freebee round. We seriously logged a good few hours (and a reputable amount of drinks) in these seats.

Thankfully, this is a 2nd bloggeratti shot and not a *third round* of shots.

Next park = the Funky Kingston (?) party @ Headhunter. The cute bouncer girl at the door was collecting names + emails for some reason:

Cute girl: "Can you guys please sign in, please?"
Overheard: "What's that? Autograph? Sure... who do you want me to make it out to?"

... xo, love you girl.

Harry.H not giving up on the "I want to die from tequila shots" dream. Dare to dream, Harry. Do it.

Headhutners = not too packed thanks to the 4-5 other SXSWi parties going on at the same time. The big draw was the food (sweet!). These kids got no time for utensils... in Texas, you eat pork chop with your hands!

And then we met this dude - Jeff B. from Crispin Porter - aka the wizard behind the Burger King football ads and, more recently, the new VW Un-Pimp My Ride spots (which hold a special place in me + Alex's hearts as they star the creepy guy from Prison Break).

Anyway, here's us (crunked), flashing VW gangsigns. I've never looked less harecore in my life.

Recap gets a biz haaazzzy here - we went back to the hotel. Dianne posed it up w/ some riiiiiimmmmss.

(btw, check out these rims that Alex and I saw the night before... complete with 22" sticker, just in case you were confused about the official and proper sizing of the rims in question).

No cowbell tonight, but I do believe I someone kicked in all the elevator buttons. Take that, Party Police!


Day 3 = Monday. Thankfully, there were no compelling early-moring panels, so I spent the morning time walking around downtown Austin (read: walking off my 800 tequila shot hangover - damn you, Harry.H!)

I walked for about a half hour or so... and just as I reeached the part of the city where it looked like civilization was about to end, I turned the corner and passed a whole line of people queued up for an 11am movie. And as I walk by the line, I see Carol Tully (Mike's sister) who grabs me as she's waiting for Mike to show up. Turns out they were queueing up to see Paul Schneider's latest film "Live Free or Die"

If you were paying attention earlier (40 photos ago?), you'd remember that SXSW is an interactive + film + music festival... and the interactive part overlaps with the film part. Which means the Gold Pass I was sporting around my neck (bling!) for being a speaker could also be used to see all the movies that were showing... for free!

The theater Paul's film was being shown in is part of a small Austin chain called the Alamo - which (to my understanding) coverts old theaters into new theaters that show indie films and serve food (!!). And this particular theater - Alamo Drafthouse, where I was standing in line chatting with Mike - was voted the Best Movie Theater in the Country. Huh!

So, of course I stuck around to see the film (which was hilarious, btw. Paul is amazing.) while I had a baconburger and a coke!

Q: How do you order? And isn't it too dark to see? And isn't it disrputive?
A: It's too dark to read the menu durng the movie, so before the movie starts, you fill write you order on a piece of paper and as soon as the movie starts, the waitress comes around and collects all the papers. When they deliver the food (like 30 mins in), you barely even notice (every other row in the theater is gone - replaced by an aisle and a table). Oh, and yes, it's dark so it's hard to see what you're eating, but whatever, deal with it.

ps: And instead of the bullshit ads + trivia they show at the theaters in NYC, they showed Wrestlemania VII as a warmup. Conclusion: Andre the Giant kicked a lot of ass.

Oh, one more thing on the film part of SXSW: Tully's nice friend from Montreal (who I was standing next to in line), circled a bunch of movies she said I should see (a must-have for film festivals where you have never heard of anything that's being shown).

Unfourtinately, I didn't get to see any of the films she recommended (too... much... to... do...), but in case you're more ambitious:

+ [er, i need to find this schedule... shit, hope I didn't lose it]

Which leads me to the film you see circled above (and the film Mike shot + directed), Cocaine Angel. Dianne and I took a cab out to another / different Alamo theater to check it out. I got a milkshake this time.

Maybe this is how it works with all film festivals, but before the movie, the director gets up a gives a quick intro about the film...

... and then afterwards, any cast + crew that are at the screening do a Q&A session with the audience. By the way, well done, Mike!

ps: More bonus points to the Alamo for having a signed Goonies poster.

Okay, so let's fast-forward a bit past the afternoon panels + dinner and you'll find us helping the Google / Blogger crew set up for their party @ Club DeVille. Special thanks to the Blogger kids who were nice enough to let Team Dodgeball jump on their bandwagon.

As we were setting up, they realized that even though they had sound equipment (read: speakers), either the DJ didn't show (or someone forgot to book the DJ), so there was this pre-party "Is there a doctor in the house?" type of moment as they were looking for a replacement DJ.

Er, I've kind of been waiting my whole life for this moment... so Alex and I were like, "Well, we're DJs". (Um, No Data? Hello?!)

So, we ran back to the hotel room to get out laptops + iPods and A/V cables. We got one of the Club Deville guys to loan us his amp and makeshift mixer and we were throwing playlists together on the fly with iTunes.

(ps: note our $72-same-day dodgeball banner representing on stage. Thanks Kinkos!)

Low-tech for sure, but we had a hip hop dance party going on. Complete with girls dancing on stage and throwing dball t-shirts out into the crowd. No indie rock, just hip hop dance party with a few Michael Jackson tracks thrown in for good measure. Special thanks to the Polish girl in the cowboy boots for looking real nice.

In between slamming hip hop tracks, Alex and I had a chance to hang out with the Blogger kids. Here left to right, Jason, Biz Stone (who sat next to be on that disasterous Harvard Business School panel, me, Erik, Alex

Someone said my eyes were looking sleeeeepy at some point (Alex?), which is when Jason (?) handed me over these "Redbull Eyedrops" that were imported from some far-away land. Man, they make your eyes go crazy (as in crazy good).

(They also apparently make one's nostrals expand to the size of silver dollars.)

On-stage dance party featuring Eric (43things), Willo and Danny.

Upskirts. This time with Limewire Meghan on the left and some other girl (who are you?) Meredith the SXSW Volunteer at 6:00. Danny gets +2 for doublefisting.

The Microsoft crew stopped by to say their hellos (and pick up some dball tees) - Lili on the left and Liz on the right.

We went utill about 10p or so (or whenever the free drinks ran out). Fine last-minute DJ'ing work if I do say so myself (Team Blogger, you owe us $20 bucks).

And before we get out of here, here's Hugh (the guy behind the guy behind the guy for all of SXSW), knee deep in the hip hop dance party.

Okay, off to the next round of free drinks! The Odeo / Consumating party was right next door at the Velvet Spade. In sum: crowded + crunked.

We ended up at Beauty Bar late night (fuck you, Sidebar!). I penned this note to the same cute girl I saw at the Frog Party. (the end. goodnight!)

Just a quick timeout for a second to talk about how sick it was to see so many people using dodgeball down in Austin. I mean, every other conference I've spoken at starts with "Raise your hand if you've heard of dodgeball" with three hands going up. This time around (a year later, post-Google, etc) and it's "Raise your hand if you haven't heard of dodgeball" and three hands shoot up.

I mean, here's a check-in message from Monday night at the Velvet Spade... 24 other users checking-in? I've never seen it that high in NYC before - sure, it's a tech conference - but still it's really exciting to see a large number of people not only using dodgeball but planning their nights around it.

We had people running up to us to show us their phones that we chock full with dodgeball message. Here's a look at Danah's Sidekick from Monday night.


By the time Tuesday rolled around, everyone was dragging - a full day worth of panels (read: paying attention) and a full night's worth of dance parties. Tuesday's big draw was the Next Gen Web Apps panel featuring superstars from Flickr + Odeo + Six Apart. Two crowded to even stand, nevermind sit.

On our way up the elevator one day, Harry.H made us all peer over the ledge to spy down onto the mountain of Legos below.

After a day or so, someone went through all the legos, picked up all the Spideman pieces and lined them up to form a giant Lego SpiderMan army...

... which may have been the most Flickr'ed thing at all of SXSW.

By Harry's count there were at least 500 - including the one imposter with the yellow head.

That afternoon, Dianne literally dragged us to a film screening at the convention center called "Air Guitar Nation" - a documentary about the Air Guitar World Championship and the quest for a handful of Americans to be a part of it for the first time.

When I say "literally dragged" I was being honest - I was thinking "how good can this be" and "but there's this panel I want to go to..."

... anyway, this film is so so so good - like change-your-life good (in the way the Guitar Hero for PS2 will change your life... if even just for a few weeks). Rumor has it, it's coming to NYC as part of the Tribeca Film Festival [screening info here - scroll down though], so make sure to go check it out.

I mean, it was so good (and I was so amped when it was over) that I rushed down to get my pictures taken with the American stars. Here, C-Diddy...

... and Björn Türoque.

And also, left with my mf'ing SXSW badge all autographed up.

Seriously, I was giddy like a schoolgirl.

(And to think that Grellan invited me to go to this back in the day and I was all "uh whatever")

Okay, so moving on... last night in Austin so we got a crew together and hit up Stubb's BBQ for dinner. The music part of the festival kicking off as we were eating dinner - the Strokes were going to be playing in the backyard of Stubbs. Mike Sharon tried his bestest to sneak via the VIP lounge, but they weren't having it.

We hit The Foundation after dinner for the SXSW Closing Party. Is that Willo on the bottom? Molly.S (from the panel) rocking the red shirt on the right.

Upstairs. It's early and we're already nursing the Nascars (Bud + Red Bull, you amateur). Team Dodgeball strategically hammed it up for the digicam so we could bring you this photo of people making out on the couch.

Next stop = we hit up the Red Bull @ SXSW house. Battjer gave me a head's up on this before coming down to Austin - story goes that Red Bull sponsors a house every year, stocks it with tech toys + vodka + redbull and invites people to just hang out whenever they have some downtime. Problem was the place like 100 miles away from everything (we walked), and when we tried to get in we needed one of their Special Keys (think: VIP pass, but one that you anyone can get as long as you get it early on in the week. By the time we got there, they certainly weren't having five dudes without Keys rolling in. Superstar Danny (right?) made the call which caused some random guy to come out and enabled a bunch of us losers snuck in.

Inside? Dead. A handful of raver kids dancing in an empty room. A bunch of XBox360s to play with and a lot of ITP-esque pieces sprinkled around, including this "push the planets on this screen by hitting them with your shadow. The also has some low-budget version of John Schimmel's awesome Networked Fireflies project (double-checked and it's not John's project).

Before we took off (and dball'ed out a "the red bull house is for suckers!" shout), we checked out the backyard which included such attractions as a basketball court, Marc Cantor and girls in dodgeball shirts (sticker says = "I got pierced at Mercy's"

Later and back to the Sidebar. We draggedd the whole entourage with and met up with the NYU crowd. Ordered another two round of $6 pitchers (for real?) and raced to finish them off before some jerk that works there literally grabbed my pint glass as the clock struck 1:30.

So we left (and posed for this retarded photo). And with this being our last night and not wanting to call it quits, were pretty desperate to find an afterhours party. Dude on the right is Steve Oskoui...

... the CEO of Smiley Media (not to be confused with The Happy Corp)...

... who's office space was right down the street! He invited us back to raid his fridge full of six packs and microwavable burritos normally reserved for Smiely Corp employees.

What, I don't have a pic of the ofice space? Smiley Corp's HQ was your stereotypical nondescript office space. Danny and I quickly went to work on our 2Q 2006 presentation by marking up this whiteboard we found in the CEO's office - notice how we decided to downsize Steve (er, not realizing he was our host and CEO) for being "bad news" and that we found the sweet spot in the reverse Long Tail in the upper left. Not sure what the X or the cat icon means in retrospect, but the evidence supporting the claim that 200 beers makes you a management consulting wizard is clearly there.

While Dan and I were getting out whiteboard out, two other were making out in the other conf room. (MAKE OUT!!!)

Okay, so blurry, but it looks like we left around 2:45. Me + Danny + Justin + Dianne headed back to room 1040...

... first there was some outside drama... []

... and then somehow the security folk didn't kick us out after Danny's olympic swimming run in the lobby... [

... or the Freestyle Floor Routine that was held in the elevator.

Oh, and then there was a freetyle bed jumping contest (front flip / back flip / 360 flips, suckas!). (God bless you, YouTube) [video]

And then we tried to have a bottle of champagne sent to Alex + Harry's room. And then to Danah's room. And then security came. And yelled at me. All while Danny + Dianne + Justin were hiding (5-year-old style behind the bed). Surprisinly, the guard was less mad about all the jumping around (seriously, watch the video... the next day I was thinking, "We couldn't have been *that* loud", but yes, we were).... oh anyway, the guard was less mad about the noice, than he was that the hotel mainteance man left an ionizer (!!) in my room (for getting ride of that smoking-in-a-non-smoking room smell).

Guard: What's all the noise?
Me: Huh? There's no one even here.
Guard: We had some comp... where did you get that?!?!
Me: What?
Guard: The ionizer!
Me: I dunno, the guy left it up here.
Guard: Give that to me! Goodnight!

The guard had us spooked for sure. Blurry after this, but I was pretty hungover on Wednesday. Made my flight though (and ran into Rachel Shapiro on my way to the airport - who knew?! [post-security recap video]

So, that's it for SXSW06. See you next year!

Oh, and in case you haven't seen enough photos, there's no shortage of Flickr pics. Help yourself!

+ Alex
+ Dianne
+ Eris
+ Martine
+ Micki
+ Mike Sharon
+ Willo

Wed 3/29 @ 6:58 PM | # link| Comments (8)
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