I am back from SXSW with a brand-new flu, but I don't care. Austin, Texas now firmly holds a place in my top five list of U.S. cities. (Sorry, Ithaca.) The SXSW interactive conference, while great fun, really was an alien cultural experience for me. I tend to think I am more entrenched in the Internet and online technology than most of my close friends, but at SXSW I sincerely felt like a retarded child who had been given a digital watch for his birthday. I can barely txt on my phone, yet everyone around me was using their mobile phones and TREOs to receive RSS feeds, as GPS devices, for local dining and entertainment listings. I saw someone tap his Pocket PC a few times, and make it dispense a stick of JuicyFruit gum.
While in Austin I took some notes and aggregated them in a story for The Morning News, where you can now read my (incomplete) coverage of SXSW Interactive 2007.
(Later...) The article has been up for about half a day now, and I've seen a few people have linked to it, which is nice, but it's also made me feel kind of lousy. That's because most of the posts linking to it have headlines like, "Todd Levin gives SXSW a SMACKDOWN!" and "Todd Levin Shits All Over SXSW." Others have called the article "snarkolicious." (groan)
I guess I tend to write through the lens of humor and it was natural for me, an outsider, to (try to) see the unusual, the funny, or the self-conscious weak spots ripe for parody. In retrospect, I feel like in my desire to write a funny overview of the festival, I did it a bit of a disservice. I neglected to mention all of the incredibly open-hearted, funny, cool, and ridiculously smart people who took me out, let me borrow their cars, allowed me to tell a dirty story at the Fray Café, and for whom SXSW is a really meaningful way to re-connect with old friends or network with new ones. I realize that sounds like a cop-out now, and I can't take the article down—and I certainly wouldn't renounce what I'd written, because all of those observations are honest, even if some of them are a bit cheap and lazy. ("We get it. SXSW Interactive has a reputation for being a bit nerdy.") I just regret that my words represent an unfortunately incomplete picture of the festival which, regardless of its cultural relevance to me, was still truly a great social gathering. So there.
[Update: Through the magic of Internet publishing, I was able to make another pass at my SXSW article for TMN. It was a relief to have just a little more time to sort out my impressions of the conference. I think the new edit is a bit more representative of what was happening both inside and outside of my head. I guess I can't control whether someone will find it snarkriffic™, but that's OK. Also, is it okay to write OK as "okay?" I think I prefer this spelling. It's folksier.]