Last Thursday, AOR was generous enough to fulfill one of my geekier lifetime dreams: attend South by Southwest, the premiere Austin-based arts festival. Every March, independent filmmakers, emerging bands and the hottest web startups converge on the trademark “weird” city in Texas for a week that celebrates cultural and technological advancement.
The Google Village! Our favorite web corporation showed off new Maps features, the new Play store, and several developer tools. They also had some kickin’ games.
Even at only five days into the festival (the music arm of the festival has yet to officially start), the city of Austin gets transformed dramatically. Normal bars become corporate-sponsored huts that offer free food and excellent networking to anyone with a badge—over the span of two blocks, you could learn about new phone technology in the Nokia Lab, kick back and use a 60″ HDTV to video chat over drinks in the Skype lounge, demo the newest Samsung TV that is controlled by hand gestures, play a game using ridiculous technology, and even blend your own lemonade by pedaling a bike in the Google Village. Every place has plenty of reps ready to brief you on their company’s newest advances before they go live, so it’s a great way to get a firm grasp on what’s happening in the world of technology.
Ha! Web designer jokes. So funny, right? Guys?
The meat of the 5000+ events throughout the festival takes the form of panels, workshops and keynotes in a handful of larger venues. In these classes, professionals discuss emergent technology and offer advice. Whether it’s Sean Parker talking at a high level about the role that the Internet can play in politics (side note: here’s a cool start-up) or the more down-and-dirty developer professionals discussing best practices in CSS, there’s always something for a passionate web developer & new media artist like myself to learn. And hey, if you’re an AOR client or someone who shares my interests, we’ve got good news: you benefit from this. For the former, we’ll be applying new these newly learned skills and theories in coming projects. For both, though, the best I can offer is my notes on a handful of the panels I attended:
The contents of my bag after a day spent networking around town.
By the way, did I mention that Austin is an amazing city? This festival has brought me into the spring mentality with what I believe to be the most amazing fireworks display possible. Despite the first two days being perpetually rainy and generally miserable, the sun eventually shown through and the some 30,000 attendees instantly spilled out into the streets as a response. Live music blares from the nighttime party venues; people get in spirited, honest-to-God conversations with total strangers; bikers and bike taxis almost outnumber cars in the festival hotspots; food trucks are so prevalent that my diet for two days consisted solely of delicious (and free, thanks SXSW badge!) street tacos. Although I return to AOR tomorrow, I can definitely say that both personally and professionally, it’s been an experience that I’ll remember for a long time to come.
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