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Getting the Most from SXSW 2006

March 6, 2006
See me speak at SXSW 2006

Spring Break for Geeks is on again in beautiful Austin, Texas. Take some 3000+ web developer and designer types, put them all together in a conference center and watch in amazement.

I had a blast last year, and suspect this year will be just as much fun. Here’s a few things that I’ve picked up about SXSW and conferences in general that may be of use to you:

  1. You will not see every session that you want to see. Accept it now – its just the way it is, so be prepared.
  2. There is always some other place you could be. Don’t worry about that – whether it is a session or a party somewhere – you are still soaking in it. If you worry about it, you won’t be having a good time where you are.
  3. Take one nugget from every session. Ages ago I decided that I was going to make sure that no matter what the session, conference, or presentation was, I would always take at least one nugget away from every session I ever attended. It doesn’t matter if it is a quote, an idea, a way of presenting something, a way of not presenting something, or even a new technique for explaining something to others – there is value in everything if you look for it.
  4. Drink plenty of water. And be sure to use the facilities when you can – you don’t know when your next opportunity will be.
  5. Be prepared for cold. Yes, we’ll be in Texas. Yes, its hot. And, yes, when the sun goes down, it gets colder.
  6. Gents – wear a cup Scratch that… just stay away from Andy Clarke’s knees.
  7. If you can’t be 100% sure about whether or not you know someone’s blog, just don’t say anything. I’m serious. Even if you know you read something at someone’s blog a few weeks before, save yourself the embarrassment of saying something like: “Oh, yeah, you have that website"¦ with that thing"¦ wasn't there a big thing there recently"¦? I'm sure there was"¦ a thing"¦” Again – even if you know you were at the person’s site. You risk looking and feeling like an ass. I got an award for that last year.

OK, I think that’s it for now… If you’re going, and you’re a reader here, let me know and we’ll be sure to meet up. If you’re a lurker here and will be attending, then let me hear about it- the more the merrier!

Oh – almost forgot – I will be speaking at SXSW this year: I’m on the panel Web 2.1: Making Web 2.0 Accessible alongside these fine folk:

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22 Responses

Comment by Tomas Caspers — Mar 06 2006 @ 2:20 pm

Now that’s one panel I am not going to miss for sure

Comment by Jeff Smith — Mar 06 2006 @ 2:21 pm

Another year of SXSW, another year of me not attending. I guess I’ll have to live the experience again this year through the plethora of blog entries and podcasts. *sigh*

Comment by Justin — Mar 06 2006 @ 2:37 pm

Looking forward to the Web 2.1 panel and can’t wait to see the smackdown delivered to you by Mr. Croft, the soulless referrer.

Comment by Craig C. — Mar 06 2006 @ 3:09 pm

The Dragon rides again!

Comment by Steve Ganz — Mar 06 2006 @ 6:19 pm

See you there, Derek! I am really looking forward to the panel.

Comment by Yvonne Adams — Mar 06 2006 @ 6:20 pm

I’m looking forward to it!

An addendum to #5 – if your hotel is a hike, you might want to be prepared for a sprinkling of rain. It’s not likely (forecast is for showers the 15th right now), but if you’re sure it won’t rain, it most certainly will.

Last year was clear, but 2 years ago, Molly and I first met by discussing the effects of humidity on the hair of our respective desert-living heads.

Comment by topfunky — Mar 06 2006 @ 7:02 pm

I’ll be there and hope to see your panel. Sounds practical!

Comment by Ben Buchanan — Mar 06 2006 @ 8:47 pm

Wish I could be there, have a blast! Let me know what major sporting event you blag your way into at this one ;)

Comment by Michael Grosch — Mar 07 2006 @ 1:31 am

as a first-timer (concerning sxsw) i really appreciate your tips and look forward to the web 2.1 panel. see you there. cheers from germany

Comment by Trey Piepmeier — Mar 07 2006 @ 2:12 am

I’ll be there. I hadn’t heard of you last year when we met, but I was honest about it! Now I know you’re a web superstar. See you soon.

Comment by Richard Rutter — Mar 07 2006 @ 3:24 am

See you there! By the way, I’ve still got that SimpleBits t-shirt you were trying to fend off the cold with – I’m definitely bringing some sweaters this year.

Comment by Robert Nyman — Mar 07 2006 @ 4:01 am

Be prepared for cold

Yeah, right…

With about -17 Celsius/1 F right now in Sweden, I don’t really think I’ll be that cold (at least not according to’s prediction) . :-)

Comment by Derek Featherstone — Mar 07 2006 @ 8:00 am

With about -17 Celsius/1 F right now in Sweden, I don't really think I'll be that cold

You would think that, yes. Last year it was hot during the days – its when you’re walking home at night from the bars or after parties that it gets cold. So, when I say be prepared for cold, I don’t mean Swedish cold or Canadian cold, I mean Austin cold – which means you tend not to be prepared for it because you figure it will be warm. It will be warm when you leave the hotel, but bring a light jacket anyway when you go out at night.

Comment by Patrick Haney — Mar 07 2006 @ 10:11 am

This is my first SXSW and I’m looking forward to it. I put your panel on my calendar, so hopefully I’ll see you there.

And what exactly are we talking about when you say “cold?” I’m from Buffalo, now living in Boston, so I suspect our ideas of “cold” are a bit different.

Comment by Michael Grosch — Mar 07 2006 @ 10:17 am

from the weather forecast i assume that the lows will be somewhere between 50 and 60 degree fahrenheit. it’ll be quite a change when i travel on to alaska (with lows between -10 and 0) after sxsw.

Comment by Yvonne Adams — Mar 07 2006 @ 10:29 am

I think what Derek is getting at about the cold is that you’ll need to be wearing t-shirts all day, so many people think that they won’t be a bit cool at night.

Jacket doesn’t means down parka or anything, more like a light twill jacket or windbreaker.

People come to Santa Fe all the time without jackets, thinking that it’s hot in the desert. Well, it can be (though we’re not Phoenix or Vegas, we start complaining about heat at 90). What gets you is the 35 F degree drop when it gets dark.

OTOH, Austin isn’t at 7000′ altitude. The drop is only 20-25 F degrees. Hmmm…

Okay, the truth. Even if you’re from northern climes, they put something in the Shiner that temporarily thins your blood so you become a wuss. Since I can get Shiner at home, I think I’d better start training right now. Altitude training for alcohol. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

Comment by Derek Featherstone — Mar 07 2006 @ 10:40 am

And what exactly are we talking about when you say "cold?" I'm from Buffalo, now living in Boston, so I suspect our ideas of "cold" are a bit different.

Well, Patrick – I’m here in Ottawa, Canada, so I suspect our ideas of cold aren’t all that different (though I’m not sure what winter is like in Boston).

Yvonne hit the nail on the head – you’ll be warm during the day, and it can get quite cold during the evenings. For the record – up here in Ottawa, we’ve had winter cold hovering around minus 20-something Celsius for a good portion of the winter. That kind of cold doesn’t bother me because it is very easy to prepare oneself.

Being a hardy Canadian and used to cold winters, I thought I wouldn’t have any issues in Austin last year, went to Bruce Sterling’s closing party wearing a short-sleeved shirt, and ended up regretting not bringing my jacket when we ended up waiting what seemed to be an hour for cabs. I’m guessing it was in the low forties that night, and it was most unpleasant, and I wish I’d had a jacket. Hence my advice :)

Comment by Stuart — Mar 08 2006 @ 3:03 pm

Hey Derek I look forward to witnessing your bar-tricks first hand. See you out there.

Comment by paul haine — Mar 08 2006 @ 6:06 pm

“I got an award for that last year.”

heh heh heh heh :)

Comment by Dave S. — Mar 10 2006 @ 3:10 am

“Canadian cold”? I don’t get it.

Oh wait. East coast. Riiiiight.

Comment by Nathan Smith — Mar 15 2006 @ 7:25 pm

Derek: I had a great time losing to you in billiards. We’ll have to do it again next year, except I’ll actually be good by then (hopefully)!

Comment by Anton — Mar 15 2006 @ 7:39 pm

Yeah, hey Derek – really nice finally meeting you! Will definately meet you again, I’m sure.