I had such a great time at my first SXSWi. The four days of the festival were very intense but excellent at the same time as the whole event was wall to wall with panels and parties.
You can see all of the notes I made on the various panels I attended so I won't go into them all here but I will just say a bit about the panels that I enjoyed the most. Andy Clarke and Andy Budd's presentation "How to Be A Web Design Superhero" was a really light-hearted look at what is needed to be a 'superhero' in web development. For me it was the ideal tone for the second panel of the day.
The next presentation that really stood out was "Holistic Web Design: Finding the Creative Balance in Multi-Disciplined Teams" with Jason Santa Maria, Eris Stassi, Garett Dimon, Carl Sieber and Shaun Inman. They took an existing site (Plazes.com) and put all of the main pages of the site through a total reworking. What was good about this was you could see from the presentation that this wasn't just a quick visual overhaul but the work led to serious benefits to the user in terms of how easily they could use the new version of the site and the perceived value of the site improved dramatically. You can view the demo of the site at Carl Sieber's site or the original version at Plazes.com.
Another panel that I really enjoyed was "Designing the Next Generation of Web Apps". A common theme that came from the panel was that rapid iteration in development is a good way of being able to move new ideas faster through to production. These methods bypass some of the longer processes traditionally used in web development but allow apps to improve more quickly. Jeffrey Veen was great as the moderator and it was good to see him talk after enjoying the podcast of his presentation at Web Essentials.
The People and the evening events
It's no doubt been said before but it's the people that make SXSWi. This year I met so many cool people and it has been really great to have a chance to get to know all of the people I met that play their own part within the web development community. Clearly there's no need to go through the names of everyone I met but there are particular people I'd like to point out.
First off it was great how things worked out with Chris Mills, my roommate as we hit it off straight away and I'm sure everyone who met Chris will agree he's a top bloke.
As always it was great to meet up with fellow Brits. I spent a couple of the panels hanging out with Steve Marshall and David "fatty"Thompson. Unfortunately the Wi-Fi was on the blink so it wasn't possible to do much in the way of collaborative note-taking with SubEthaEdit, hence the need to furiously type my own notes for once :-).
On Saturday (if memory serves) I ended up heading over to the Iron Gate Barbecue for lunch. Now the Iron Gate isn't the best place for pisco-vegetarians (That means a fake vegetarian that eats fish) as there was only a choice of meat, meat or meat. Fortunately Matthew Olliphant went before me and managed to source a baked potato with soured cream which did the job. I had a good time there discussing with Fatty, Steve, Ian, and Drew about code editors and Mac stuff.
On Saturday night I had a cool time at the Iron Cactus. Saturday was the first chance I had to hang out with Robert Nyman and Daniel and we had a hilarious time as Robert has the sickest (in the nicest way possible) sense of humour. After Robert and Daniel left I spent some time upstairs with Gareth Knight and the Australian contingent drinking 'Red Snappers' until the place closed.
Sunday night was more craziness. First Robert, Daniel, Chris and I went to the SXSW web awards where 9rules picked up an award for the best community site. Mike Rundle invited everyone onto the stage and although both Robert and myself were right at the back of the room we decided to go for it. Just as I got there everyone started to make their way off stage so I pretty much stepped on and stepped off in the same moment. In any case it was great that 9rules won. After the Web awards there was an aftershow party at the Club de Ville and after spending a while queuing up for a beer the night got more and more wacky as time went on which included both Jon Hicks and Jason Santa Maria dancing with each other as well as Tantek throwing some shapes on the riser.
I have to thank Carl Camera, Shane Shepherd, Robert Nyman and Daniel who graciously let me crash their meal out at a steak house before the bowling night on Monday. It was a tight squeeze in Carl's Mustang but we made it! After the meal we went to the bowling and althought I didn't end up playing it was good to play a little table football and meet up with Scrivs who was taking it fairly easy after having been ill with step throat. After that I ended up at the Sidebar with Robert Daniel and Shane. We hooked up with Dave and after Daniel and Shane headed back to the hotels, myself Dave and Robert went to a little blues bar called Nuno's to soak up some authentic Texan blues. It was actually quite nice to be able to take a step back from all of the other socialising and have a couple of beers listening to some pretty tasty blues.
The last night out was a pretty viking night out as it goes. First off Chris Robert, Daniel, Shane and Dave Schroeder headed down Congress to get some Mexican food. We met Carl there and enjoyed a fully bown Tex-Mex meal. One of the funniest things that happened was when Dave mentioned within earshot of the waitress that it was Robert's brithday for a joke. As she overheard she brought Robert an icecream with a candle in it. As it wasn't actually Robert's birthday Chris and the rest of us polished off Robert's ice-cream without him barely getting any of it!
We then headed on to the Media Temple sponsored closing party where we had a absolutely awesome time. I ended up drinking a few black Russians and I had a great laugh with everyone. It was a great way to end the festival with several new friends and in excellent company. The night was complete when someone who shall remain nameless needed to be carried back to the hotel after being accosted by a couple of Texan ladies who wanted to see if he was ok! The perfect end to a perfect evening.
To everyone I met it was a pleasure I look forward to seeing you all again in due course. To those I didn't get a chance to meet at SXSW then there is always @media or next year!
The way home
I was a bit ill on Tuesday night and I'm not sure if that was due to the a bit of a stomach upset from the black russians or just generally being exhausted. In any case I felt really dizzy all day. I waited around with Craig at the hotel and the airport (thanks for that!) until I caught a flight to Atlanta at 1800. Not being the most seasoned traveller when I got to Atlanta I thought I needed to get my bag as I had to do on the way out. I went to get it and ended up coming up the wrong side of security! I then had to go back through security and run to the other end of the airport to make the flight. This on top of feeling a bit squiffy really didn't help. Needless to say I made the flight but it was a manic end to the journey. Now I'm back home I've been able to relax and take some time out with my daughter and my fiance Sandra which was really great and now I'm home, it's good to be back!