Hold ’em like they do in Texas

Author: Andy Hartwell

When anyone goes on a trip for more than a few days, it’s customary upon return, to say things like “this time last week…” Well, this time last week, Andy and I were busy packing for our flight back to Blighty.


Photo by Robbie Beak

And where were we? South by South West, of course! Along with a contingent from the West Midlands, Andy and I repped Substrakt at the SXSW Interactive festival in Austin, attending panels and keynotes, making great new contacts and of course attending the many parties that help make SXSW the legendary event it is.

Ryan Carson, in the most recent Think Vitamin Radio podcast, described the panel-based content at SXSW as “stupid”, suggesting that, at least some panels are cobbled together at the last minute. Now naturally this has nothing to do with Carsonified (the company for which Think Vitamin is a popular blog) organising potentially competing events ūüėČ But in fairness, Ryan isn’t that far off the mark in some cases. Some panels, like the Accessibility for the Visually Impaired talk that I attended, was pretty poorly put together and presented by Creative Director Genevieve Wilkins, but was redeemed in part by Michael Cooper of the W3C. The HTML5 panel Andy and I sat in on also felt woefully mistitled and had only one redeeming speaker, the refreshingly sensible Emily Lewis.

Sunday’s keynote by Christopher Poole of 4chan also fell flat, and also entertaining, Bruce Sterling’s closing speech was a tad bizarre. However what many of the people I spoke to thought to be a valuable presentation (which to my mind should have been a keynote), was Gary Vaynerchuk’s. Feulled with energy, fierce rhetoric and a mouth that would make a sailor blush, his talk on the “thank you economy” (which, by complete coincidence also forms the title of his latest book) was engaging, fun, and peppered with more than a few sensible and applicable ideas. We also checked out some useful presentations on geotemporal visualisation, personal data in the cloud, product design and more.

The Trade Show shone some light on a few UK and US startups like DAD and Twonky, which both provide media streaming for the home, and Solvate, a website that matches freelancers with potential clients (think Jobplot US, but not as cool ;)). The parties also brought new faces and new business cards to exchange, but any attempt at listing the people I shook hands with would end in me inevitably missing someone out.

I would however like to thank everyone from the West Mids who flew out with us, shared a house with us or joined us at periodic moments, for making my and Andy’s first SX a massive blast.

And if you want to see some of the notes and images we gathered, they’re still available on our Substrakt @ SxSWi blog.