Live from SXSW Interactive 2011: Introduction & Preview

SXSW_2011What does the future of technology, social media and the Web look like? What are the trends and tools we should be mindful of in 2011? How can we separate the helpful from the hype? Most of all, how can we use this information to our benefit here at Boston University?

I’ve just arrived in Austin, TX for South by Southwest Interactive 2011 (SXSWi) on one of the the fondly named “Nerd Bird” flights — an airplane packed almost completely with SXSW attendees. There is already a lot of activity going on here with the conference beginning tomorrow, but I want to take a moment to let you in on the action. I’ll be writing a post at the end of each day with key talk highlights and session takeaways, so that you can learn about the latest and greatest right along with me. In the next several days, I’m looking forward to hearing from:

Of course, this only the tip of the iceberg. Mashable has compiled a list of 80 must-see events over the course of the next several days, which still only covers some of what’s unfolding here in Austin.

SXSW CrowdsVeteran attendees have given me (a SXSWi first-timer) some feedback on how to get the most out of my time at South by Southwest. Some tips I’ve received so far:

  • Wear comfortable shoes, because you’ll be walking a LOT — the Austin Convention Center alone spans six city blocks, and sessions are occurring in hotels all over the downtown area.
  • Barbecue in Austin is a must. Glad I’m hoofing it!
  • Get to the headliner sessions early, because they will fill up quickly. Choose your top priorities each day and arrive well ahead of schedule.
  • If you have an extension cord and a power strip, you’ll make friends fast.
  • There may be up to 20 talks occurring at one time all over the downtown area, so plan accordingly. However, don’t be heartbroken if you have to change your schedule. Be flexible.
  • Try to make friends with those around you. Networking is one of the most valuable aspects of SXSW, and you never know who you could end up talking with.

I’ve already learned the value of the last point; my Nerd Bird seat mate Ruthie (@unruthless on Twitter) is a developer and a fellow Terrier — she’s been both a student and an employee at BU. I asked her some questions about learning how to code — something on my Bucket List this year — and she had some great suggestions. I told her about my idea for a Twitter app and we scratched it out on paper. She’s now building out the framework on her laptop (sorry, I can’t tell you too much about it yet!)

“This, essentially, is SXSW,” she says — meeting up, talking shop and bringing ideas to life. If this is the flavor of the conference, I’m excited to get started.

Join me here tomorrow for a recap of day one at South by Southwest Interactive. If you’re in Austin and want to meet to talk about social media and technology in higher ed (or anything else) you can reach me on Twitter at @JennyMack.

SXSW crowd image courtesy Jennifer Conley / Flickr Creative Commons

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