As you walk the streets of Austin this week you sense an air of expectation and excitement. Today was no exception. It is very evident that SXSW has become more than a conference, it has become a movement.
My 10 Highs & Lows from Day Five (Tuesday)
1. This morning, thankfully, I was able to get into my carefully chosen session, but for only the second time this week, it was a bust for me. It was titled 3 Secrets to A Killer Elevator Speech, but the panelists chose to let people line up and give their elevator speeches and then critique them. In a setting this large, that plan just did not work, at least for me. It was hard to hear the critiques, and the panelists had decided to mostly just give their version of a better speech for that person. I exited. I later followed the Twitter hashtag but it had nothing, in particular, no one had yet gotten the 3 secrets.
2. It was then time to hustle back to what has turned out to be my favorite room at SXSWi—Ballroom D. I was very excited to hear an interview with Ben Silbermann, co-founder of my newest online obsession Pinterest. You can find more details about the session and presenter HERE and you can follow the Twitter session conversation HERE. I was immediately struck by Ben’s humility and shyness. But one thing he is definitely not shy about is that Pinterest should be beautiful. This conversation was very enlightening for any would-be entrepreneur. While it did contain a lot of cliches, it also has a lot of truth that I’ve seen young creatives overlook time aand time again. One of the most important when asked about his feelings of competitors copying his idea in other countries, he said, “I’m not putting my energy into worrying about clones, I’m putting my energy into making Pinterest the best product possible.” Gold.
3. My SXSWi sidekick for the week, Vince, then texted me the word “kebab.” I knew that could only mean the “Kebabalicious” food trailer on Congress Ave. Yes. The beef and lamb kebab is decadently delicious. And their website is very cool as well. We then sashayed across the street to Cafe Medici for a cortado. Vince remarked that once he has about 30 minutes to chill at Cafe Medici, all seems right in his world for the rest of the day. I concur.
4. Next up was a toss-up. I had previously chosen to attend either Why A Mobile Wallet Isn’t Going to Be Enough or Branded Content: We’re All Publishers Now, but Vince had by this time convinced me to choose the keynote talk in, you guessed it, Ballroom D.
5. The title of the talk scared me: Coding the Next Chapter of American History. I may be referred to often as a Renaissance Man (I prefer to call myself a “jack of all trades”) but coding is definitely not in my wheelhouse. However, I acquiesced, and it was to be a pivotal SXSWi moment for me.
6. Jennifer Pahlka is a Yale graduate. She is tall, attractive, charismatic and fervently dedicated to her cause. And that cause is to reform the government by enlisting programmers and IT persons to update (for half the cost allocated) federal and local software and to create apps to replace incomprehensible documents such as one with hundreds of pages to describe a fire hydrant location. Please note that I am vastly simplifying a layered and brilliant talk. You owe it to yourself to find more details about the session and presenter HERE and to carefully read the Twitter session conversation HERE. She is a force to be reckoned with and I’m glad she is a citizen of the United States!
7. I say Jennifer Pahlka for President!
8. Next up was the session (yep, in Ballroom D) that Vince had been eagerly awaiting the entire week. Digital Debauchery with Anthony Bourdain. I must confess that even though I have been known to watch the Travel Channel a time or two, I have never seen Bourdain’s show No Reservations.
9. I am now a fan.
10. Bourdain had his entire production crew on stage with him, and at last, it was the first truly interactive session in this SXSW world of creativity. They had a dedicated session tweeter, streaming YouTube videos, an occasional Twitter feed, and much more happening all at once. The room was jammed with thousands of people and the fandom was ardent, and I immediately realized why. These guys are uber-creative. Again, you owe it to yourself to read more details about the session and presenters HERE and you can follow the Twitter session conversation HERE. As an added bonus for reading this far, HERE are the incredibly awesome sketch notes by @laurilij
Tomorrow: My Top Ten Takeaways from SXSWi