SXSW, Blog Errors Fixed and Plastered with ADS

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Since Friday I’ve been at the South by Southwest (SXSW) digital conference in Austin, TX. A large group of people from work attended. Some were lucky enough to stay the week for the music and film festivals; I had to go back.

The flights into Denver and Austin were full of turbulence. The descent to the latter airport was especially full of cold sweat as the plane was visibly knocked around.

On the first afternoon, I met up with my father who was in town for an unrelated business reason. He timed his arrival to follow me into the hotel elevator like a fedora-wearing private eye. My mother arrived a few hours later, and we drove so the South Congress area for a pretty good Tex-Mex dinner. The meal consisted of three salsas, queso, chips, dual enchiladas (with rice and beans) and a margarita encrusted with scrumptious salt. My parents crashed in the hotel room that night. It was a Double Tree smoker’s suite, so you know that the accommodations were high-caliber* and spacious. In the morning, we had a light breakfast of mom-made banana bread and coffee while watching the pigeons and grackles on the balcony. The visit was too short, but it made me feel like I was home again.

I expected SXSW to be a sea of nerds, and pictured myself skipping around the convention center snapping portraits of the acned, bucktoothed and obese. Wrong. The attendees were more like the love children of comic book fans, programmers and hipsters. You could tell that many were smart, sociable, and possessing slightly rebellious attitudes. Not too rebellious or idealistic though, the $450 entry cost weeded those dreamers out. Readers of WIRED and users of Macs would feel at home. Most worked at companies of similar purpose and ridiculously vague, webby names like Teknet, MacroTrend, Zoomr, SocialAppz, Facebook, Folding Meadows, Paradigm Online, OmniFocus, FloosiBOOBS, Sabre Worlds, Graphimatix Courthouse, OpenDocs, Second Wife, etc. The internet gold rush is at version 2.0! Everybody’s a winner until it crashes again!

The conference began on a sour note due to a pointless presentation called “Design is in the Details.” It was moderated by some slick haired douchebag who was grossly unqualified to be an expert in design. But besides that, his presentation was uninteresting, wandering, and not to topic. At least ten minutes were spent with him describing food photos from some restaurant in Chicago and what he had in his backpack. Another ten minutes were spent showing examples of websites he had made for colleges while bullshitting about the creative process. It wasn’t that the sites were bad, they were just generic as hell. Plus, every “R” he pronounced as an “L.” He was the kind of designer who likes to look at design ploblems with flesh eyes befole diving in a tlying to solve them. Oh god.

About half of the presentations I attended during the conference had varyingly levels of pointlessness. Fortunately, all of the major keynotes were great. Of particular interest was the train wreck interview of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg by Newsweek writer Sarah Lacy. I got there late, so I had to sit in a side room’s simulcast. The interview started fine, though Zukerberg is no great speaker. But quickly things got awkward as Sarah became more flirtatious and self promoting in her questioning. The audience got raucous and had a few back and forth exchanges with the the interviewer that seemed very juvenile. We had different expectations for the event, asking the probing questions regarding privacy, valuation, and company details that Sarah seems fine to giggle past. There are plenty of posts on the internet with full details of how the event derailed. It was certainly memorable.

Most of the other presentations I listened to with half an ear and a computer on my lap. Free WIFI was provided, so even less interesting ones had the web as a distraction. On the weekend, a gaming area was set up for computer vendors and LAN tournaments. I killed time playing Team Fortress 2 and UT3 on highend computers. It was sad on Monday without the arcade.

Outside of event I mostly dined and hung out at the hotel. Much of group went out to sponsored parties, but I’m not much of a party animal, sponsored or not. I’d much rather sit in a room playing guitar, eating a snack, watching TV, and working on the computer. It’s a lame, comfortable feeling of being at home.

Here are a few photos from the trip taken on my fancy pants camera:

Crystal blue, but outrageously turbulent skies above the Austin airport.

Man on the street.

Parents.

Grackles watching for hawks from the railing of the hotel balcony.

Blocks dumped on the floor for people to play with.

V. waiting in the registration line.

Master Chief grabbing a stuffed dog for a photo op.

Gamers during a Counter-Strike Source tournament.

Speaker.

Hotel lobby.

Duck bobbing at sunset in the river.

Sunset at the river that the duck was bobbing in.

Attendees.

The abandoned hall the day after a bridal show.

Planners planning in the fading light of a Chili Restaurant.

A lame rip-off the the Chrysler Building.

Tree pods, tree pods, how many do I see? Three pods, or more pods, sitting on a tree.

Gas meter.

Animal in the gallows of a truck serving free icecream.

Capitol building.

I’m proud to announce that this goddamn blog’s formatting error in Camino and Firefox is fixed. The error manifested when too many images somehow jacked the rendering of the bottom of the page, making everything invisible. I couldn’t figure it out for a few months, but it ended up being just some issues in my style sheets. If the blog still looks weird, refresh your browser to cache the new css. Additionally, while I was messing with the templates I added text ads between posts as another experiment in monetizing my site. Hopefully, they aren’t too annoying. If you like, feel free to click a link and send some change my way. Just don’t click them too much.

*The Double Tree Hotel was likely a nice hotel in the 80s, but it doesn’t age well. The service was great, but the price was high, the style outdated, and the rooms a little sketchy. My suite was huge, with a full kitchen. Its generic, institutional feeling was heightened by weird fixtures, crazy patterned furniture and a fridge that had trouble closing. I highly recommend this hotel chain for all your lodging needs.

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