SXSW 2012

We just got back to warm and sunny Pittsburgh from cold and wet Austin. A few quick bullet points about SXSW Interactive 2012:

  • It rained. A lot. Damn near the whole time, in fact (although Sunday was gorgeous).
  • Of all the people we wanted to see and hang out with, only about 25% actually made the trip to Austin. Contrast that to last year, where if you rolled a grenade into The Ginger Man after 9pm, web design as we know it would cease to exist.
  • This time around, we focused on hanging out and eating. Some highlights: Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Torchy’s Tacos, 24 Diner, and Kerbey Lane. We drank a lot of milkshakes and Dublin Dr. Pepper (which is disappearing within weeks). And then there was the BBQ. You know what, BBQ deserves its own bullet point…
  • Franklin BBQ. Accept no substitutes. We went with the Happy Cog Gregs to Smitty’s Market in Lockhart—the birthplace of Texas BBQ—but the old dogs can’t compete with Aaron Franklin’s brisket. Believe the hype and brave the line.
  • Speaking of lines: imagine you’re a platinum attendee. You spent $1000+ to attend all three SXSW conferences. How would you feel about waiting in an epic line—a line that snaked around the entire convention center and at one point went outside into the pouring rain—to get your conference badge?
  • The conference? Oh, right, the conference. Well, we didn’t actually go to the conference. Spend $1200+ for three or four quality talks? We’ll pass.

If there was one good thing about this year’s limited attendance, it’s that we got to spend quality time with the following friends, old and new. Thanks to everyone for their graciousness and hospitality. You’re welcome in our town anytime:

One final note, and it’s not necessarily a positive one: SXSW is over, at least as everyone recognizes it. It’s no longer the place our entire industry coalesces. The dropoff in high-profile attendees from 2011 to 2012 was staggering. The writing was on the wall last year, but it appears the overcrowding and diluted session quality at SXSW combined with the proliferation of smaller, more focused regional conferences have become an effective Austin deterrent. If you want to meet people you respect, you’re better off heading to Build, Brooklyn Beta, An Event Apart, or Greenville Grok. This trip was a ton of fun, and we’ll be back to Austin for sure, but I doubt it’ll be during March 2013.

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