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My Top Ten SxSW Interactive 2012 Moments: Panels, Parties & Everything in Between

South by Southwest can be an overwhelming experience, because there is so much happening at all times. During the day, there are numerous panels happening each hour on varying topics like social media, marketing, journalism, data visualization and more. There are also daytime events like the foursquare court, blogger lounges, and Today Show “Munchie Mobile” food trucks. At night, the sheer amount of networking events and parties is unfathomable. Somehow, I’ve narrowed down my favorite moments from SxSW Interactive 2012 to ten (although there are many more that come to mind). I’ve separated it into panel moments & just pure South by randomness that I experienced with our motley crew of  iSchool NEXIS travelers.

Top 5 Panels

Bravo's Andy Cohen hosting SxSW Panel
Bravo's Andy Cohen hosting SxSW Panel

1. Top Chef: How Transmedia is Changing TV: I’ve already given rave reviews to this panel in my Information Space post about Social TV, but I have to mention it again. Watch What Happens Live host Andy Cohen and other Bravo Networks executives did a great job of keeping this panel engaging and interesting. While I left feeling a lot more knowledgeable about the importance of interactive content in television programming, I also had a genuinely good time listening to the panelists play “Plead the Fifith” and crack jokes about their work.

2. The Curators and the Curated: This panel was about the relationship between those who curate content on the web, and those who create original content. The panelists included one of my personal journalism idols, New York Times columnist David Carr (who makes an appearance again later in this list), as well as other representatives from Flipboard, Brain Pickings, Longform, and Percolate. The panel discussed questions about the difference between curation and aggregation, how to properly curate and attribute sources of information, and what makes up a “curator’s code”. I live-tweeted the whole panel using the hashtag #sxcuration, and you can see some of those tweets below. After leaving the conversation, I actually felt like I had had a breakthrough of sorts. As a student of journalism, social media and information, I was so thrilled to be a small part of what the panelists were discussing.

Official SxSW Placecards for "Star Trek and Social Media"
Official SxSW Placecards for "Star Trek and Social Media"

3. Star Trek and Social Media: iSchool Professor Anthony Rotolo presented at South by about his course, Star Trek and the Information Age (also called #Trekclass). He discussed how social media is utilized in his college courses, as well as other topics true trekkies love- like “Is Twitter the Borg? Will social media help solve our global challenges? Who’s the better captain, Kirk or Picard?”. The audience loved it, and many of the participants tweeted using the official hashtag #sxtrekclass. There were even NASA employees there, including  iSchool alum Sean Herron! It was such a cool moment to see one of our professors presenting (and rocking it) at SxSW.

4. Turntable.fm: The Future of Music is Social: I was excited to see this panel, because we utilize Turntable in #rotoloclass, the iSchool social media class. When the panel began, Turntable co-founder Billy Chasen came out dressed as an avatar from the website (check out the picture below). He also shared some impressive stats about how many songs have been played on the service, what the most popular songs are, and which song is the most “lamed“.  However, the most exciting part of the panel came with the official announcement that Turntable has reached deals with all four major record labels to license their songs for the service.

5. Potterize it! Sharing the Magic of Fan Culture: This was one of my most anticipated panels going into SxSW, because I’m a serious Harry Potter fan. The purpose of the panel was to discuss how fandoms of different books, movies and TV shows have found a place to connect and share content online, and how they are an example of some of the strongest online communities. Before the panel began, I actually went up to panelist Andrew Sims (formerly of Mugglenet.com, now at Hypable.com) just to let him know how much I enjoy the work that he does. He couldn’t have been more open to discussing Harry Potter and his current website, Hypable, which is also focused on fandoms. That’s one of the best things about SxSw- if you see someone you admire, you’re able to introduce yourself and have a conversation; I found that almost all of the panelists and attendees at South by are thrilled to talk about their interests and projects.

One of the other really cool things about Potterize was that it included panelist Lisa Bunker, who is a Social Media Librarian! I also introduced myself to her after the panel and talked with her about librarianship at the iSchool, and we exchanged business cards. I’m hoping to connect with her to do a profile for Information Space in the future!

Top 5 Parties, Events, and Other Moments

1. American Express Sync Jay-Z Concert: I had seen a few tweets and blog posts about American Express doing a major social media push at South by Southwest this year before the conference had even began. Similar to their partnership with foursquare, American Express Sync teamed up with Twitter to save their customer’s money using hashtags. The Amex Sync team had a booth in the Austin Convention Center where cardholders could sync their cards to their Twitter accounts and receive two tickets to a Jay-Z concert! Our NEXIS team scored 6 tickets with our various Amex cards and got to see the show, which was an incredible experience that I didn’t expect to have at South by Interactive.

Jay-Z Performing at SxSW Amex Sync Concert
Jay-Z Performing at SxSW Amex Sync Concert

2. Dancing with David Carr and Dennis Crowley at the foursquare Party: foursquare has had a large presence at SxSW since lauching there in 2009. Our iSchool group attended the foursquare party at the Cedar Street Courtyard, and after an hour or two I caught sight of New York Times columnist David Carr, who I had seen on the curation panel earlier. I was too intimidated to walk up and introduce myself, but eventually I ended up dancing right next to him on the dance floor. It was awesome.

Just when I thought life couldn’t get any more awesome, I also got to dance with foursquare co-founder (and SU alum) Dennis Crowley. Here’s a photo from Dennis’  Tumblr account of him and David Carr at the SxSW foursquare party:

David Carr and Dennis Crowley, SxSW foursquare party. Source: http://dpstyles.tumblr.com
David Carr and Dennis Crowley, SxSW foursquare party. Source: http://dpstyles.tumblr.com

3. Today Show Munchie Mobile, Tom Colicchio, and Goats: Throughout South by, the Today Show did a really cool promotion with their Munchie Mobile food truck. After attending the Top Chef panel, I was walking to get some lunch and came across the Munchie Mobile and Anthony Quintano, NBC News Senior Community Manager. I was excited to bump into him, because we’ve been following each other on Twitter for a while now. We talked for a bit, and then he mentioned that Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio was going to stop by to be interviewed and try some of the Munchie Mobile treats. I stuck around to watch the interview, and then continued to lunch with Kelly Lux and a few other members of our team. Somehow, I ended up bumping back into Tom Colicchio and two goats only a few minutes later. This picture was one of my favorite things about SxSW:

Tom Colicchio,  Kelly Lux, and Goats. Does it get better?
Tom Colicchio, Kelly Lux, and Goats. Does it get better?

4. Crowd surfing with Skype: The Skype team hosted an event called “Eat. Drink. Be Human with Skype”. They transformed a large parking lot into a concert and lounge area, with food, drinks and live music. They also had a group of 15 to 20 people whose entire job, as far as I could tell, was to lift people in the air and celebrate. I didn’t question this. The result is below.

Skype-surfing at South by Southwest
Skype-surfing at South by Southwest

5.  Piercings on 6th street: One of the first days that we were in Austin, our group stopped into Affinity Tattoo and Piercing. While no one opted for a tattoo, three of us did decide to get piercings (two of us got something in our ears, one got a nose ring). You know what they say, when in Austin…

What were some of your favorite moments at SxSW Interactive 2012? Share with us in the comments!