SXSWi Wrap-Up: Algorithms Share an Increasingly Crowded Stage with Technology, Privacy

Bitcoin, the currency of the future.

We saw the rain, felt the heat, ate the breakfast tacos, drank the beer.

We pondered.

For a fest that, as SXSWi director Hugh Forrest told us two weeks ago, is trying to limit its attendance, Austin was, and remains, a very busy place in middle March, full of neophytes swizzling beer at hours too early for brunch, grizzled veterans with frowns buried in smartphone screens and a smattering of folks more concerned with their second amendment rights than the encroachment of algorithms.

And there it is, that word: algorithms. The confluence of these equations' power -- to corporations, to individuals' media consumption -- set amidst the raging privacy debate sparked by Edward Snowden nearly a year ago was, without doubt, the topic of most concern to Austin's attendees.

There were plenty of people to talk to -- executives from Pandora, Spotify, and an intriguing, multifaceted billionaire and his rapper friend you may have heard of. There was even a talk with Facebook's Ime Archibong forthcoming on

There were also plenty of -- too many, really -- panels to attend, some more interesting than others. David Carr's chat with Eli Pariser stuck out for its breadth, Google leaders Jared Cohen and Eric Schmidt held forth on privacy, power, and technology, and music data scientist Paul Lamere's explained his pursuits at the Echo Nest.

Futurists wore glowing shirts.

Neil Young introduced his music revolution, while his CEO made a major gaffe.

You could tip in Bitcoin.

The topics shift, the bands come and go, the technology advances and the world gets ever smaller, but the warmth is predictable, the frenetic, fried and sleepy-eyed attendees march on despite the lamentations of their bodies, and Austin still brings us way more to talk to about than a week should be allowed to produce.

Oh, and the great-tailed grackles continue to frighten and fascinate us.