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SXSWi Highlights and Lessons for Newcomers

South by Southwest (SXSW) is a set of interactive, film and music festivals and conferences that take place  in Austin, Texas, each year during spring break. This year, I was lucky enough to attend the interactive portion for the first time!

Archana got it right with the “it smells like nerd in here” title. From March 13 to 17, I was almost always surrounded by Web developers, programmers, bloggers, you name it. So what would I, a simple journalism major who just so happens to blog and have very little programming experience, be doing at such as place?

Well, my boyfriend is the real computer nerd, which is awesome, and we are immersed in Internet culture.  We’re both proud Web site owners, and our lives are pretty much always online. We don’t even watch regular TV anymore! Instead, we usually turn to tech-friendly places like Revision3 to entertain us. Anywho, here are some highlights:

Finally settled in Thursday and received my badge. Note my LONGHORN CONFIDENTIAL picture. A SXSW interactive badge typically costs about $375 if you buy it early. It seems pricey, but believe me, it’s worth it (tons of free stuff and a networking experience like no other). The badge price chart is online.

Saw Brian Brushwood’s panel on social engineering (tricky ways to score free drinks). If you haven’t heard of Brian before, he hosts an awesome show called Scam School that can teach you how to eat fire, among other things!

Attended the “Pastries and Pasties” (aka Cupcake contest + Burlesque dancers) event on Friday night. Tons of free amazing cupcakes, good live music and burlesque dancers to entertain you. This was also my first time in an Austin bar, believe it or not.

Played in the “Lego Pit” on the first floor of the Austin Convention Center. It’s actually a lot bigger than it looks in this picture.

Watched a live DIGGNATION at Stubb’s Saturday night. Again, another great show that discusses the hottest stories on the social news Web site, Digg. It’s hosted by Kevin Rose (founder of and Alex Albrecht. We got pictures/autographs from both!

Here’s us with Alex. :-)

Attended Web awards, hosted by Adobe. Tons of free food, it was ridiculous.

A woman drew free carictatures of people at the SXSW Trade Show’s Block Party. FOR FREE. She did such an amazing job with mine. And yes, I am wearing a Watchmen T-shirt.

I attended an Indian-themed party hosted by Rackspace. It was easily the best put-together party all week. Tons of amazing food/desserts, drinks, henna, hookah and bellydancers. All for free (’cept the bellydancers, heh).

I thought the woman who did my henna did a pretty awesome job in the 8-9 minutes she had with me. I requested a simple design just because I felt sorry for her!

Met and got an autograph from Ben Huh, the CEO of I Can Has Cheezburger?, the site responsible for those adorable LOLCat images you see everywhere on the Internet. The title of this panel was, “UR Blog Sux and Print is Dead.”

On the last evening, we met up with a couple friends to see a live taping of the Totally Rad Show at Malverde in the Warehouse District. The show’s format is similar to Diggnation, only these three guys discuss the latest in movies, video games and television. I watch it just about every week.

All in all, my SXSWi experience was definitely amazing. I’d recommend it to anyone, even if you’re not particularly interested in Web, film or music. Here are just a few things I’d like to clear up about the festival, for those of you who are new to Austin and probably have never heard of it before.

#1 - You do not have to buy an expensive badge to attend SXSW. The music portion has tons of free shows, you can buy a film pass for less money, and attend some of the non-official parties. There are plenty of affordable ways to enjoy the festival, though I would definitely recommend getting a badge.

#2 - Why having a badge is awesome: free swag bag, entrance into exclusive panels (many of which give you more free stuff), ridiculous amount of free food and booze, entrance into parties that have even more free stuff, access to really nice lounges with more free stuff.

The free stuff practically pays for your registration fee. I must’ve received seven or eight free T-shirts, a stuffed animal, bags, gift certificate, non-alcoholic drinks, ice cream, meals, candy, stickers/buttons galore, etc.

#3 – SXSW, especially the interactive and film portions, are attended by people who are out of college and in their careers. That means alcohol is everywhere. If you’re under 21, it might not be as enjoyable. This could pose a problem. I’m 20 this year, so I wasn’t able to go to a few parties, including the one Google was hosting.  But that’s OK–I came to SXSW to learn and have fun, which I did. And there’s always next year!

If anyone has additional questions about SXSW or anything else, don’t hesitate to e-mail me at

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March 27, 2009 | | Comments are closed for this post

4 Comments to SXSWi Highlights and Lessons for Newcomers

Eva, the festival sounds amazing! In all my years of living in Austin, I never had the opportunity to go– glad to hear you were able to take advantage :)

March 27, 2009
— Isis

Thanks, Isis! Yes, amazing but pricey… at least it was worth it.

March 27, 2009

Do you have a personal journal of the experience?

May 16, 2009
— Colton Cullen

I do have a personal journal, but this is the only entry I did on it. However, I did tweet pretty frequently throughout that week. Follow me!

May 18, 2009
— Eva
photo of Eva