SXSW 2011 Highlights

In an eleventh-hour decision, I cashed in some American AAdvantage miles and caught a flight to Austin for spring break — or more specifically, the 25th annual South by Southwest Conference. With all of the networking opportunities, free food, drink, music and friends – some of whom i only see once a year or so – i’m glad i took advantage and visited the great city of Austin. It was a whirlwind four days but the photos and video below provide some flavor.

See my photos from past years at SXSW

The trip began with an amazing takeoff directly into the fading sun over the Pacific. This would be the last time the sun set before Daylight Savings time kicked in. Got in to Austin and met up with Jory, provider of a fine crash pad for the duration of my stay. Then began a serious of meetups, events, and parties: All Hat III, which was a priceless opportunity to visit with many of the folks I most admire in the interactive space who happen to share a passion and commitment to do-gooding.

Here’s a photo Geoff Livingston took of his partners at Zoetica Media. I was standing right next to them. No really. You won’t see me in any of my photos posted here (and I’m not sure who hijacked my camera and interviewed Jonathan Grubb of RVIPLounge – see at bottom). But as always happens, the aftermath of SXSW will carry on to Facebook and Twitter and into another season of opportunity and new connections.

I created a truly ridiculous agenda of all things I RSVP’d for or intended to go to. It’s included at the bottom of this post to give you a taste of just how extensively big corporations and smaller startups catered to SXSW Interactive attendees this year.

Among the highlights was the CNN Grill, which took over a restaurant two blocks from the convention center and turned it into a CNN Disneyland with free food and drink service throughout the afternoon and late night for industry folk and others lucky enough to have a pass.

That’s Percy von Lipinski in the video above. I was seated at his table on my first visit to #CNNGrill soon after he was presented with an award for CNN iReporter Original Reporting Award and naturally, had to stick my flip cam in his face.

I did not have a SXSW Interactive badge this year as I had in the past since I failed to apply as press by the deadline. I thought, maybe I could take a year off (ha!). But the other special badges, VIP treatment, and access I was offered for taking such menial steps as RSVP-ing via Eventbrite more than made up for it.

CNN — they must be made of money — ensured that everyone would be happy with their grill (at other times known as MAX’s Wine Dive). Everything on the prepared-to-order menu (food and drink) was gratis and there was WiFi and two power strips at every table. But even the service and hosts were gracious — imported from NYC via Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group — and there were live performances throughout the day. I showed up at the perfect time (according to my particular tastes) and caught a 40 minute or so acoustic set from Wisconsin-based awesomeband Locksley, and then a set from The Civil Wars (see video above), who barely managed to get away from me and onto the next before I could – natch – stick my flip cam in their faces. The CNN Grill was apparently first conceived for the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver. But man, what good buzz they built by hosting the mad swarms of geeks and mediaites at SXSW.

Video from the RVIPLounge below. I recommend checking out this one as well — from the inside (same night).

Click “show earlier events” and scroll up to view my March 13-17 agenda. Click on any event to expand details

That’s all I’ve got time for now with extra special thanks for making things happen to theMIX agency, SMC, Wine Library product and crew, The Force Agency (of which I’m now a card-carrying part of), Gowalla & Foursquare (I adore both equally but in comparison to the SXSW deluge of use checking in now feels relatively pointless), Nicole and all the great Summit Series rockers at dinner at Lambert’s. And as always, thank you Google for helping me to never get lost and for Android. Now I’m getting sentimental. Where’s my award already?

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