SXSW 2008 Recap!


I’m just now finally caught up enough to sit down and write up my quick hit thoughts about SXSWi 2008. The key word for this year was “HUGE“. The crowds, the number of sessions, the keynote debacles, the lines, the number of sit-down meetings, and the quantity of cool things to do and see. Huge.

In no particular order, here’s some thoughts from the event:

Henry Jenkins Rules
For years now I’ve been able to see the brilliance of Henry Jenkins, a researcher and academic focused on fan culture. He’s written several books and has a great blog. Thing is, the content is HARD to get through. Much of it reads more like a research thesis than a great story. Jenkins was on stage for one of the keynotes and was amazing. Seriously, what this guy has to offer us all is incredible, and in his conversational flow, the brainpower poured out. Now if we just convince him to change from text blogging to video blogging….

Jeff Bezos is fun
Yeah, that’s right – I got to meet Jeff Bezos, founder of in person. Nice guy, got me more fired up to buy a Kindle. Bastard.

Video is getting easier
I was surprised and delighted to see how much more accesible video is these days. Between Utterz and the Flip┬á camera and the (relatively) cheap HD camera that Todd and Nikki use for DailyIdea, it’s very cool how much video is being developed. Of course, consuming it is still a pain, if you don’t want to be shackled to your computer.

Green? Not really.
Two canvas bags filled with a massive quantity of paper and plastic goods. In a sign of how much public perception has changed lately about the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mindset, I heard many people talking this year about how these goods were an unnecessary hit on the environment. Last year, I heard this same thought exactly zero times. Either I was hanging with a better crowd this year or it really is on people’s minds like never before.

The Facebook Keynote
I’m going to be writing more up about this soon, but yes, it really was that bad. And honestly, if you didn’t see it in person, you don’t understand the full context of why people were so upset. It’s far too easy to chalk it up to a “boring keynote” and rude audiences.

The backchannel rocketh & Speaking 2.0
I’m amazed at how many people were following along with the backchannel. As a frequent speaker I’m rethinking how I present from this point on, even though I’ve been pretty forward thinking in how I get audiences involved. Seriously, I’m a bit shaken at how much as changed when it comes to audience perception.

Size is teh suck. And it’s fantastic.
I’m not sure yet what I really think about the size of the event. As I understand, attendence this year was around 8000 vs. last year’s 3500. This meant both that there was even more people I wanted to see again or meet for the first time, and that there were more people I feel bad about missing. All in all, I suppose this is a good problem to have.

The biggest downfall for the size, however, was the party lines. The 16bit party had a block and a half long line, while space in back went unfilled. Note to future party sponsors: There’s an unholy amount of SXSW attendees these days …consider that in your venue choices.

Too. Many. Panels.
I believe the count was 13 panels in one particular time slot. Too friggin many. Of course, I say that but I’m excited that I’ll have podcast content for months from those panels that I missed.

iPhone is ubiquitous
OK, maybe not completely, but damn were there a lot of them there. I rarely saw a non-iPhone phone, but that could because those folks were embarrassed of their old busted Blackberries and Razors. Sorry you guys, maybe you can step up to the cool soon enough. Heh.

I’ll never complain about warm weather again.
Last year SXSW was HOT. I bitched about it. This year was cool. Sorry for my big mouth, I won’t let it happen again.

SXSWi is not a “developer’s conference”
Despite what Sarah Lacy says, SXSWi isn’t a conference for or of solely developers. There were 8000 people there, and there was an amazing cross section of marketing people, business leaders, creatives, strategists, writers, and yes, programmers.

More cookies, fewer mousepads
The kind souls at CD Baby always show up trade shows with their Otis Spunkmeyer cookie oven, baking up cookie goodness for days. Here I am writing about them, talking about how cool they were to meet and talk to about their services. I know I ended up with a bunch of pens, but I can’t for the life of me remember who gave them too me, considering I left them in the hotel room.

2009 & Speaking 2.0
I had proclaimed this the year of Jake Not Speaking, and turned out to be on two different panels. I’ll make no such proclaimation for next year. I’m fired up to start speaking, and really generate (and help to generate) some amazing content. Where most people see the discussion about the Facebook debacle as something scary to speakers, I’ve view it as a challenge, a contest to see who can evolve their speaking tactics and content to meet the needs of a Speaking 2.0 world.

I remember when I say “The Day After Tomorrow”, I walked out of the theater amped up and dying to prove that I could rise to the occasion of fighting the elements and surviving an instant ice apocalypse. I have that same feeling now about speaking gigs, and I’m amped to further prove and improve my speaking. Watch out SXSW 2009, I’m coming for you!


For information about my Community Consulting, Training and Speaker services, or to find out more about Dinner5, my unique community for community builders, contact me today.

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