John Allsopp said in Vancouver last month, “you bring people together and stuff happens”. He was referring to Web Directions North at the time, but you could certainly apply that to any good conference. And it’s true, there’s no substitute for meeting with like-minded people in physical space. Stuff happens that wouldn’t happen otherwise on either end of bits and bytes.
SXSW 2007 came to a close earlier this week, and the reasons for returning have been confirmed yet again: going to SXSW is about people. The panels and presentations are a bonus — but it’s primary asset (for me) is about connecting and reconnecting with people. People who share a common thread about the work we do and the stuff that matters in relation to that work.
SXSW was big this year. I missed the previous year, and so it seemed _really_ big compared to 2004 and 2005. An overwhelming schedule, not enough time to see everyone, etc. Surely they’ll reach a point of maximum capacity — but it doesn’t appear there’s a cap on attendees. This year, I put far less pressure on myself to stick in panels all day. Instead, I chose a few I couldn’t miss, then didn’t mind skipping a few because lunch (and interesting conversation) ran later than expected.
In terms of the overall vibe of the conference, I think Jeremy Keith nails it here
… technology is being relegated to its correct role: a tool for allowing people to connect and share their stories. Whether it’s Ruby on Rails, Ajax, tagging or the World Wide Web itself, I got the feeling that what really matters now is personal communication — storytelling by any other name.”
It didn’t occur to me until after reading Jeremy’s post — but there was a _real_ quality to the things people were excited about, talking about, working on, etc. That was motivating and inspiring.
I’d be on any panel with Brian Oberkirch. The guy just makes it easy. It was fun talking about something other than CSS, and our _power session_ panel ran more like an interview about working remotely, outside the Bay Area and what that means in creating for the web. I wish we had time for questions though, as several people came up to the stage after the session ended and we all had some really interesting discussion that would’ve been great for the whole room. Ah well. I’m half-hoping they ditch the 25 minute sessions next year.
I was also honored and flattered to introduce Andy Clarke and Jason Santa Maria: Bullet Tooth Web Design: Plan Your Web Site like Pulling off a Robbery. The room was _packed_ (and rightfully so to see those dudes) and the gag was a funny one. The best part was the continuation of the metaphor throughout all of the Q&A, with the audience framing their questions as if the entire thing was rehearsed.
All in all, good fun. I’m getting more and more out of the smaller, more focused conferences these days, but in getting the most bang for your buck, you can’t beat Austin in March.