South by Southwest Travel Diary, Entry 1

sxsw interactive

The South by Southwest (SxSW) conference may have started off as a music festival – and it still is; if you want to see up-and-coming bands before anyone else hears about them, this is the place – but it’s grown to include the film and interactive sections. I’ve been told that nowadays, the Interactive part of the conference is larger than Music and Film.

It was at SxSW that Twitter and later, Foursquare, exploded onto the scene, when A-list bloggers started making use of it to find each other and locate the happening parties. I’ve seen some of the best and most inspiring presentations at SxSW, from Kathy Sierra talking about creating apps so great that your users become passionate about them to the creator of the Post Secret talking about building a site that tugs at your heartstrings to Ben Huh explaining how I Can Haz Cheezburger got started, and handing out cheeseburgers to everyone in the audience at the end of the session. I watched the entertaining but cringeworthy keynote with Sarah Lacy interviewing Mark Zuckerburg during which they weren’t clicking. I’ve had amazing between-sessions conversations with developers, designers and “suits” about their projects, technologies that they were excited about and the industry in general. And yes, I may have attended a party of two.

yyz - ordWhile there’s a lot that you can learn online, there’s a reason the expression “you had to be there” exists. For all the world-shrinking tech that lets us send words, sounds, pictures and videos over great distances and lets us attend meetings just with a headset and webcam, there’s still no substitute for gathering together to tell stories, share ideas and even team up. That’s why we go to great expense to hold events like TechDays and AlignIT as well as smaller gatherings like hackathons and Coffee and Codes. As the “agilistas” will tell you, developing software is as much about talking to people as it is about talking to machines.

That’s one of the reasons I’m at South by Southwest for the next seven days. I’m there to catch up with some of the brightest lights in the world of interactive tech, hear what they have to say, pick their brains and share this knowledge with you. I’ll be filing reports from the conference, taking notes, pictures and video, so you can see what’s going on.

Whenever I can, I’ll also be sharing Canadian developers’ stories. SxSW is one of the big tech conferences, so many Canadian developers and startups make it a point to come here every year to make sure they’re on top of what’s going on in the industry, as well as to be seen and heard. If you have the time and the funds, I recommend coming down to SxSW and experiencing the sessions, the collective brainpower, the vibe, and yes, the partying. All work and no play makes you a dull developer, after all.

Finally, I’m here to help the Internet Explorer team promote the very-soon-to-be-final IE9. Here’s a browser that we can proudly say gives the best of both worlds: it’s as compliant as our very own nitpicky legal department (no more coding to quirks!) and thanks to hardware acceleration, it runs like snakes on ice. I’ll be checking in with the IE9 team, helping out at the Austin JavaScript Party on Sunday and talking to developers about the troika of HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript and how IE9 supports it.

Keep an eye on this blog for my reports from South by Southwest! I promise you’ll be informed and entertained.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.