December 12, 2018

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

SXSW: A “Noob” With a View

SXSW: A “Noob” With a View

I had always heard great things about SXSW Interactive. Unfortunately, however, I had always watched it from afar. There was always something more pressing. Or more important. Or somewhere else I had to be. This year was different. This year I actually got to go. And that made all the difference. I’m sure you’ve heard—or maybe even been bludgeoned into a stupor—by the extensive coverage of the Zuckerberg interview. So, I’m not even going to touch on that. That’s been well-covered by others. I’d like to touch on the positives. Like the return of Kathy Sierra. Like the vision of the OpenID and OAuth proponents. Like the sheer excitement for community and the potential for the technology we currently have at our disposal. Because that’s what SXSW was for me. It was one of the most optimistic events I’ve ever had the chance to experience. SXSW provided me with the opportunity to meet people face-to-face who I had only known from Twitter or IM, to talk to some of the leading thinkers in interactive and social networking, and simply to just introduce myself to some of the juggernauts from our industry. The event was about community and openness, in both its content and its culture. Practically every session came back to the concept of community. How to manage it. How to participate in it. How to grow it. Community and the increasingly social nature of the Web we use today were always present, whether directly or as subtext. Everything is about community.
And so was the event itself. This marked the largest—reportedly a 50 percent increase in attendance over 2007—gathering of the leading thinkers and builders in the interactive community. Meeting face-to-face. And spending time, in person, as a community. Being social, as it were.
Openness was there, too. How to share the data we gather. How to control and manage the data that belongs to us. How to become as nonproprietary as possible. How to open systems that exist in an ecosystem of open systems.
And that openness pervades the social interactions of the event, as well. Everyone was open to discussion, regardless of their role. A-listers and up-and-comers sharing their experiences. Brilliant new talents learning from the people who actually created the technologies. Practically everyone was approachable and outgoing.
And that community and openness combined to make this a one-of-a-kind event. A place that felt like a homecoming. Or even home. A place where, for one short period in time, you’re with incredibly like-minded individuals discussing the things about which you are passionate. Arguing for better ways to do things. And learning how to do things differently.
And that atmosphere creates a sort of cautious optimism. An optimism that manifested itself in ballroom after ballroom filled-to-capacity. Ballrooms filled with folks convinced—dead sure—that they, too, were soon to have the scalability issues of Digg, Flickr, Media Temple, StumbleUpon, and WordPress. An optimism that was echoed by Henry Jenkins, who sees brilliant things for today’s youth. An optimism that will continue to fuel these creative minds until we all get the chance to meet again.
But, it’s also a very jam-packed week. Every time I sat down to write a piece, I was struck by how I didn’t quite have a complete picture yet. Or how there was another session that deserved my attention. Or how there was someone with whom I could have a very meaningful discussion.
So my plans for running commentary on the event fell by the wayside in favor of my own learning and growth.
Looking back, I was foolish to think I could even begin to capture the event. And for every cool thing I had the chance to experience, I feel as if I missed ten others.
But, there’s always next year. And I remain cautiously optimistic until the next one.
*Rick Turoczy has been involved in using the Web for marketing communications for more than 10 years. He currently writes the Silicon Florist, a blog covering under-the-RADAR startups, blogs, and events in Portland, Oregon, and the surrounding area. He is most easily reached as turoczy on Twitter.*

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