Mar 27, 2009
So we made our way down to Austin, TX a couple of weeks ago for the annual geek-fest we all know and love, called South By Southwest. Yes I do know that SXSW is more well known for the film and music festivals, but we're not cool enough for those yet. "Interactive", as they call it is a fantastic time for bonding over brews, seeing some web design superstars and learning some stuff in the process.
Most of all, I've found SXSW to be an incredible source of inspiration. This was the 4th straight year I went to the festival, and we come home overflowing with ideas and motivation to take on the world wide web each time.
Many of the panels have now been posted on the SXSW website, and if you did not have the opportunity to be there, here are 5 recommendations (in no particular order) that are definitely worth checking out:
1. Opening Remarks: Tony Hsieh
If you know us, we're BIG fans of Zappos and all the great things they are doing in the business of customer service. We even made a trip to Vegas in January just to get a tour of their offices, and it was one of the more valuable business experiences of my life.
Tony (Zappos CEO) made a big splash at SXSW last year, and was brought in for one of the keynotes this year, so he could talk about culture, service and marketing.
2. Even Faster Web Sites
Steve Souders (Google) is one smart dude, and he is one of the foremost experts when it comes to the need for SPEED on the web. He created a great Firebug extension called YSlow while at Yahoo!, and in this panel takes a deeper dive into advanced techniques that can make your website(s) faster.
I found the panel to be incredibly informative and useful. I learned more at this one than any others. Be on the lookout for the 2nd edition of his book, High Performance Web Sites (O'Reilly) this summer.
3. From Freelance to Agency: Start Small, Stay Small
This panel had some very different, yet well-respected folks on it that have companies providing web services. It was moderated by who many consider the godfather of web standards, Jeffrey Zeldman of Happy Cog. Members of the panel talk about making the switch to freelance, hiring, firing, benefits of staying small and more. This is a must-listen podcast if you are thinking about doing your own thing, or if you run a small agency like we do.
4. Oooh, That's Clever! (Unnatural Experiments in Web Design)
Paul Annett is a designer (and hobbyist magician) for a shop based in the UK called Clearleft, who does absolutely brilliant work. His presentation was well researched, well delivered, entertaining and absolutely inspiring. Anyone interested in design for the web simply must watch this presentation, and it makes sense to see the slides he has also.
5. Gary Vaynerchuk
I'm sure this panel had a name, but all you need to know is that the one and only Gary Vaynerchuk took the stage at SXSW for over an hour, and it was memorable to say the least. Gary works his butt off and KNOWS social media unlike anyone else.
He is one of the loudest, most fired up people you will ever meet, and it's all real. Best of all, he knows what he's talking about, and especially knows wine. Watch his keynote and you will definitely want to go conquer the world like he is doing right now. Be advised, the language is pretty heavy. He's from Jersey.