SXSWi 2011: Beyond the experiential. (Photo: Amy Price)
SXSWi, the interactive portion of the annual SXSW conference, ended on Tuesday. Much -- perhaps too much -- was written about the experience of SXSWi and too little about the companies and themes that mattered. It seems most writers who go to Austin turn into culture critics when the world could really use a few sharp trendspotters.
With music and technology interwoven in many ways, it's important to track what happened before the first daytime party started on Wednesday. So here's a quick recap of some of the better SXSWi recaps.
-- GroupMe: Conference Breakout Social App
GroupMe was the breakout social messaging app at SXSWi 2011, according to Twitter volume and sentiment tracked by Pop Agency. In order, GroupMe was followed by Beluga, Kik, Fast Society and Yobongo.
-- SCVNGR Hunted
SCVNGR (pronounced scavenger) was one of the hot apps of the week. SCVNGR was to SXSWi 2011 what Foursquare was to SXSWi 2009 and Twitter was to SXSWi 2007. The Guardian has a good recap on the company and the buzz around the app that is part game and part business location tool. "The goal is to take the level-up game mechanic and implement it in the real world," said founder Seth Priebatsch at a panel. "One problem of the daily deals space is that it creates a local, social deal but doesn't get users to come back. And though there are 500 Groupon knockoffs in the daily deals space, no one is talking about loyalty."
-- SXSWi To Jump Larger Shark in 2012
SXSWi has changed, and people longing for a smaller, more intimate tech conference will have to deal with it, wrote CNET's Carolyn McCarthy. "Barring extreme circumstances or a violent rupturing of the current does-it-or-doesn't-it-exist venture capital bubble, this festival is not going away. In fact, it'll probably be back in 2012 with more big-ticket sponsors following the lead of PepsiCo and General Motors, more social-media start-ups attempting to use SXSWi as a launch pad, and yes, more open-bar parties.
-- West Coast Nerds Best East Coast Nerds
West Coasters Rule. One New Yorker found one place where New York plays second (or third or fourth) fiddle to other cities: SXSWi. Wrote Time's Steven James Snyder, who attended SXSWi for the first time this year, "You want to start something? Hit up the community, and the talent, of San Francisco, Los Angeles or even Austin. But New York? Please. Less bang for more bucks."
-- SXSWi's Freelancer Invasion
Freelancers abound at SXSWi. The interactive portion of the conference has more registered attendees than the music portion. That makes sense - the broad tech industry employs more people than the music industry. And that means more unemployed and underemployed people seeking freelance work (unemployed music folks would probably just network at free daytime shows). At her Pink Slipped blog at Forbes.com, Susannah Breslin writes of being unemployed at SXSWi. At a panel titled "Freelancers: You're Five Products Away from Freedom," for example, Breslin found that a badge is not too expensive for the underemployed. "This session is standing-room only. This is because there are many freelancers, and they all want to know how to make money. The man asks how many people in the audience are developing a product. Many people raise their hands. He asks how many people in the audience are making the money they want to make doing it. Nobody raises their hand."
-- More Fun In the New (Tech) World
Overcrowded but still fun. AdAge's Jim Louderback runs through some of the bigger promotions at SXSWi and the quality of the panels (hit or miss, with one on social TV being particularly popular). "It seemed like twice as many people attended the interactive portion of SXSW this year, swelling the crowd to near 30,000 people," he concluded. "That led to gridlock in downtown Austin, as attendees tried to get from far-flung hotels to the conference and then back to their beds. The show might well be outgrowing the town -- but it's inconceivable that the show would work anywhere else. Lots of attendees opined that the show had jumped the shark, but it seemed just as vibrant, crazy and fun as ever.