I’m back from Austin and while I definitely have enough catchup work to keep me busy, I thought I’d post a quick review since it was my first time at the conference.

First, I finally got to meet a lot of people in person that I’ve known for years… Patrick O’Keefe, Chrispian Burks, Jeremy Wright, Aaron Brazell, Stephan Segraves and more. It was great hanging out with you guys.

This was my first trip to Austin and my first SXSW conference. I had a great time, and wish I could have stayed for the whole week, but we stayed only for the Interactive portion. I learned one thing almost immediately — SXSW has two worlds — the panels and conference during the day and the parties and networking events at night. I’ll give a brief review of each.

The SXSW Conference and Expo

All of the panels and discussions were between 30 minutes and 1 hour long. It seemed like in many of the discussions we were really just getting started and it was over. In a way, this is good because it gets you thinking about a subject and asking yourself questions, and leaves you to finish on your own. Hopefully you go back with some unanswered questions and continue the discussion online and with colleagues back home.

The layout of the convention center made it difficult to get from one room to another. Several times we just could not physically make it to another panel in time because it required walking clear across the convention center (which was big).

The trade show itself was a bit smaller than I expected. Since it is an Interactive, Film and Music conference I expected to see a fairly large trade show, maybe divided into sections for each. The exhibitors had fairly small booths and were giving out schwag like t-shirts, pins, stickers, etc. I saw companies like O’Reilly, Opera, Mapquest, Google, and Yahoo. A few people I expected to see but didn’t: Mozilla/Firefox, Microsoft, Apple.

Overall it was very organized and the panels discussed interesting topics related to our industry. I learned a good bit and enjoyed bumping into interesting people on the show floor.

The Parties and Networking Events

I was fortunate to know a good number of people going to Austin for SXSW, many whom I have never met in person. Several of us got together Friday night to meet and have dinner, and had some discussions on industry topics and generally just hang out.

Every night after that it seems there was a party or networking event planned that seemed interesting. There were a few blog-specific events that I enjoyed in particular, including the Chitika/ProBlogger Beer Bus and the b5media Blog Network Camp. I learned a lot about blogging and met some great people.

I realized quickly that the sessions and panels are great but they just spark your creativity and get your wheels turning. It’s the Austin night life that really makes SXSW what it is. I had a great time at SXSW and can’t wait for next year.