Some people come for the panels and others come for the unprecedented opportunity to party with fellow nerds, but I come to SXSW to have my head and heart split open.
This year didn't disappoint. To the contrary, it was easily the best South-by conference yet. Not just because I got to reconnect with now-longtime friends, or to meet-live-and-in-person so many wonderful people I've known only online thus far, or because those people proved to be exactly as I expected them to be in real life, but because I spent the entire time being myself, and feel like at this point, it would be almost impossible not to be.
Don't get me wrong: "hard" opportunities abound in Austin for that five-day stretch (as I assume they must for film and music types during their respective stretches). I'm sure there were deals being sealed right, left, top, bottom, in- and (Buffalo-gals-go-around-the-)out side. Having danced this waltz thrice so far, though, I can tell you that the real beauty in all that stuff coalescing in one small slice of space and time is the unprecedented opportunity it offers towards leaps in growth. At least, for hard-working introverts of a nerdly nature.
Consider that most of us introverted nerds work at our own stations, in front of our own computers, on our own stuff, alone. It takes real effort to mesh with other nerds, when that's even possible locally. Yes, there are co-working spaces, great ones like BLANKSPACES here in L.A. and Office Nomads up in Seattle. (I saw Co-chief Nomad Jacob Sayles again in Austin, which was fun and random.) Yes, there are great groups like Biznik (come to the L.A.-flavored events I'm hosting, if you're around!) and KERNSPIRACY (ditto on Spencer Cross's events, if you're a designer and around) who encourage real-live mixing and mingling, and yes, great stuff comes out of it. There's something about that once-yearly thing though...maybe it's nothing more than scarcity, but really, so much good stuff flows in those four or five short days, it's pretty amazing.*
I've been catapulted forward by stuff where there was no human participation at all, too, and plenty more of it where the human contribution happened without any intention or awareness on their part. These are epiphanies and they're a whole nuther story. Several stories, in fact, which one human at SXSW this year told me in no uncertain terms that I need to start telling. (More on that later.)
What I got from being around Gretchen and Pam and the endless, delicious onslaught of excellent person after excellent person in the flesh was juice. The energy to keep me going, the alchemy that happens when ideas connect with encouragement.
I have so many things to tell you, I could burst. But I will tell them slowly, and with a lot of napping in between.
SXSW giveth, and SXSW most definitely taketh away...
*Liz Strauss's SOBCon ("School for Bloggers!") ran a close second for overall meetup-happiness last year; I had quality time with a host of Internet-made-real and just randomly awesome people. If you're a blogger wanting some camaraderie and encouragement around your blogging, you should check out this year's event. Plus Chicago in May = totally awesome!