Walking into the Austin Convention Center for the annual South by Southwest Interactive conference is a bit like going to an Apple store in the mall on Christmas Eve. Crowds of amply-deviced individuals excitedly huddle in groups to demonstrate their latest whiz-bang applications and features; there’s a nervous energy that feels like everyone is constantly trying to get somewhere else; and there’s a clear sense that everyone wants to get their hands on the newest gadgets and programs. Pronto!
Converted into a giant playground for a large group of crazy smart, if slightly awkward interactive developers, marketers and technology enthusiasts, the center serves as the epicenter of the four the day conference, which since 1999, has preceded the now-legendary music festival of the same name.
As the rookie from Seattle, this kind of thing would normally send me screaming for a good book. I’m in tech by default, and though I’ve grown to love the passion and boundless optimism that surrounds this industry, I still occasionally get my “sticky bits” mixed up with my “RFID codes.”
But here’s the thing: unlike other technology forums, at SXSWi it doesn’t seem to matter. Each panel I attended – one each on Augmented Reality, Gamification, Digital Content, and Accessible Mobile Applications – offered new, interesting information for both wannabes like me and true tech nerds.
And isn’t that the point?
Technology only has the power to change the world if we use those sticky bits to create “tasty bits” – useful services and applications that solve problems, enrich lives and connect people.
It’s this balance of impressiveness and usefulness that makes SXSWi unique, and it’s this balance that saw now-pervasive applications like Twitter (2007) and Foursquare (2009) debut here.
With three more days of presentations, discussion and interaction, it’s anybody’s guess what tasty bits are still in store this year.