Never talk to strangers? F@&!% that, this is #SXSW

I’ve got my mophie charged, my most com­fort­able walk­ing shoes bro­ken in, my hotel was booked last August. My live blog­ging book­marks are all assem­bled on the Mac­book, the sched­ul­ing app is on the iPad and I’m shar­ing my cal­en­dar with folks on the site. Got a stack of busi­ness cards for the 1870s retro crowd and Bump, Ever­note Hel­lo, Sonar, and High­light load­ed on the iPhone. I’m putting exclu­sive air­play and heavy rota­tion on Do512’s Bands-that-will-be-there playlist. I haven’t yet cut back my sched­ule to the real­is­tic but what are plane flights for?

I’m ready for the marathon learn­ing cir­cus and cre­ative geek-out which is South by South­west (SXSW) in Austin, Tex­as.

I’ve been going since 2006, and watched the con­fer­ence sprawl out. It used to fit in the Austin Con­ven­tion Cen­tre. Now Austin itself is bare­ly big enough to con­tain it. I’m not a back­wards look­ing “Good old days” kin­da guy, though I do miss being able to just rock up next to Jason Kot­tke and share a chat because he’s sit­ting on the floor in the hall suck­ing pow­er into his lap­top. The­se days, the crowds are so large that most of the digi­rat­ti hang out in the VIP and pan­elist lounges. 

But there’s some­thing of the old South­by that I refuse to sur­ren­der to the forces of Big­ger Bet­ter Faster More, and con­tin­ue to fight for. Too few peo­ple make time for the induc­tion and ori­en­ta­tion ses­sion and miss a key mes­sage: slough off the social pro­hi­bi­tions on talk­ing to peo­ple. Don’t hang with your known pos­se — you can learn from them any time. Talk to peo­ple in the queues (there will be lots of those), quiz them on what they’ve seen, ask their favorite pan­el, pry, con­nect. By right of your badge, you have per­mis­sion to talk to any­one you damn please, and you grant that per­mis­sion to all who are there. It’s more pow­er­ful than being audi­ence cat­tle, no mat­ter how great that keynote may be. How the hive mind process­es new think­ing, churns over ideas, gnaws at things and pon­tif­i­cates over 5 dol­lar Cap­pu­ci­nos is what South­by is REALLY about. 

One of my col­leagues will be attend­ing for the first time this year, and along with the stan­dard advice - it’s a marathon, not a sprint! Don’t miss the Bacon Bloody Mary at Franks’! (Not with PETA col­leagues, how­ev­er) Bring a pow­er strip to share! – I rec­om­mend­ed The SXSW New­bie Mee­tup with Sweet John Muel­bauer. Even if you’re an old hand, in fact ESPECIALLY if you’re an old hand, go and share the gospel of talk to strangers. 

It’s part of what (still) makes SXSW a com­mu­ni­ty rather than just a con­fer­ence.

2 thoughts on “Never talk to strangers? F@&!% that, this is #SXSW

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.