Impressions from SXSW

March 14, 2007

This was my first year at SXSWi, and now that I've experienced four solid days of Geekness, I hope to make it an annual appointment on my calendar. I had a great time—and believe it or not, I didn't go to a single party. I went to SXSW for the daytime programming. The evening events sounded fun, but as a mom of two, I couldn't resist the opportunity for a quiet evening. Four nights all to myself? I was in heaven. The Hilton Austin was a perfect choice. Directly across the street from the Conference Center, it was as convenient as you can get. Plus it offered all the little extra services we resort-innundated Phoenicians have grown used to. Having a room nearby contributed a lot to my enjoyment of the conference. Because I'd gone to SXSW with the goal of learning rather than networking, my favorite events were the weightier programs and those that had some bearing on my work at ASU. Tops was Luke Wroblewski's "Design Patterns." Wroblewski is an impressive, articulate speaker who I suspect can make the most complex subjects digestible. His talk on design patterns sparked all sorts of ideas I can't wait to share with my collegues. Other programs I thought were well presented include Mark Boulton and Khoi Vinh's "Grids are Good," which did an excellent job of explaining grids by showing them in action. Although the subject is certainly not new, Jason Santa Maria and Rob Weychert took an interesting approach in their "Field Guide to Design Inspiration," and I left with several ideas to pursue. In "Creating a Kick-Ass In-House Design Team," the panel of Jon Wiley, Lisa Anderson, Irene Au, Edward Garana and Tjeerd Hoek was open and informative about developing and managing great design teams. I was particularly impressed by Lisa Anderson from Intuit, who gave real-world examples backed by solid theory. Of course, Kathy Sierra was funny and thought-provoking as usual. Her keynote speech on making sites and applications more human was fresh and inspiring. A surprise highlight for me came from the panel on "The Future of Online Magazines." Panelists Rufus Griscom, Sean Mills, Ricky Van Veen, Laurel Touby, and Joan Walsh were an out-spoken bunch who didn't mince words and kept the audience entertained with their lively wit. Even without going to any of the social functions, I met a lot of wonderful people at SXSW. You couldn't really help it. Being surrounded by hundreds of people who not only "get" what you are saying but are excited about the same topics is intoxicating. At SXSW everyone was friendly and eager to talk about the ideas flying around. If you want to learn what is happening on the cutting edge of web development—if you want to discuss the latest ideas and meet the people who are creating them, plan on attending SXSWi 2008. And look for me. I'll definitely be there.