Your guide to SxSW Interactive 2009

During the second week of March each year, there is a mass pilgrimage of geeks from the San Francisco bay area to the heart of Texas. Not for BBQ, not for a sun tan, but for probably the best interactive web conference in the history of the world.
Written by Andrew Mager, Inactive

During the second week of March each year, there is a mass pilgrimage of geeks from the San Francisco bay area to the heart of Texas. Not for BBQ, not for a sun tan, but for probably the best interactive web conference in the history of the world.

Photo by laughingsquid

Welcome to SxSW Interactive 2009. ZDNet is sending me on my first field trip, and I am really excited to bring all the coverage to you. This post will be my guide, and yours, to this lone-star shindig.

Two resources that will be my main guides to the conference:

  • Sched's social calendar - Listing 482 panels, 444 films, and 138 parties, Sched does an awesome job of aggregating a bunch of events for a conference. You can pick and choose which talks you want to attend, and print out the calendar or send it to your iCal or iPhone. A very good resource.
  • Scott Beale's Twitter feed - LaughingSquid is a great resource for anything relating to technology and culture. Scott will be attending and you better believe he will be updating Twitter. In fact, to find out about his super secret party, you will probably have to read his Twitter. More on that later.

If you are at the conference, be sure to stop by the blogger lounge on the third floor of the Convention Center. Windows Mobile will be sponsoring it.

Panels to watch

  • Friday at 5:00 p.m. - Social Engineering: Scam Your Way Into Anything (Brian Brushwood, Scam School). This session will give you all insider tips to use social engineering, the art of manipulating people into divulging information, to make friends and influence people. The panel will present tricks on how to scam your way into ANYTHING, whether it's a business meeting or a hot-ticket event.
  • Saturday at 11:30 a.m. - Change v2 (Lawrence Lessig, Stanford Law) - Obama has awoken a once in a century passion for reform. What will it take to make it work? What would "work" mean?
  • Saturday at 11:30 a.m. - The Search for a More Social Web (Dave Morin, Facebook) - The Web is not just about information; its about people. In this presentation, Facebook's Dave Morin will discuss the industry's efforts to move toward a more social Web, and how openness can create a better experience for users sharing and connecting across the Web.
  • Saturday at 3:30 p.m. - Feed Me: Bite Sized Info for a Hungry Internet (Eric Eldon, Paul Buchheit, David Sacks, more) - In our fast-paced, information overload society, users are consuming shorter and more frequent content in the form of blogs, feeds and status messages. This panel will look at the social trends, as well as the technologies that makes feed-based communication possible. Led by Ari Steinberg, an engineering manager at Facebook who focuses on the development of News Feed.
  • Photo by laughingsquid
  • Saturday at 3:30 p.m. - 149 Ways to Supercharge your Blog with Credibility - John Gruber (DaringFireball.net) and Merlin Mann (43Folders.com) discuss the current state of blogging as a medium for creative expression, weighing the opportunities and challenges of building a thoughtful online presence in a world where everybody owns a printing press. They'll consider the ascendance of Digg-friendly "problogs" and debate the subtler pleasures of careful writing that reaches smaller, but potentially less "profitable" audiences.
  • Saturday at 5:00 p.m. - Buzz Out Loud Live Taping (CNET TV) - Buzz Out Loud is CNET's premiere daily podcast hosted by Natali Del Conte, Tom Merritt, and Jason Howell. They cover all the tech news with their own and their audience's takes on what it all means, often with hilarity ensuing. They'll cover the top SXSW stories with special guests. If you want to understand what's happening in the tech world, especially at SXSW, you need to listen to Buzz Out Loud.
  • Saturday at 5:00 p.m. - Designing the Future New York Times (NY Times folks) - What will the nation's newspaper of record look like in the coming years? Learn about the continuing efforts of old media to reinvent its look, its feel and its mission.
  • Sunday at 10:00 a.m. - Version Control: No More Save-As (Matt Mullenweg, Wordpress) - No longer something just big companies do, version control can be just as useful for small teams and even one-man bands. This panel will discuss what tools are available, differing approaches to controversial topics like branching, and whether to use hosted or in-house.
  • Monday at 10:00 a.m. - Beyond Aggregation (Marshall Kirkpatrick, Gabe Rivera) - RSS aggregation has reduced the massive ocean of Web content into something more manageable, but we are still left overloaded with information and manual searching. This panel will explore new avenues for finding the Web's best content, and how this more intelligent Web will affect major media companies, online publishers and consumers.
  • Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. - Cloud Computing: Defending the Undefinable (Folks from Google, Microsoft, and the CTO from Amazon) - The brave new world of cloud computing is radically changing how we build web applications. What is a platform, what is a service, and how will the future of web applications be built? More importantly, how do these various clouds compare, and what do the differences mean? Are they ready for your world-rockin' startup? In this panel, we'll get nerdy with technical details, you'll yell at us, and we'll argue why your app should already be in the cloud.

Parties to watch

  • Thursday at 8:00 p.m. - The Calm Before the SxSW Storm hosted by Laughing Squid. Get ready for the weekend with a low-key drinkup at The Ginger Man.
  • Saturday at 6:30 p.m. - It's the return of the biggest party at SXSWi - the second annual Bigg Digg Shindigg, Now with 100% More Diggnation!

    Come join Revision3 & Digg for an evening of revelry, music & mayhem at the world famous Stubbs BBQ. We're featuring a live Diggnation, great music from acclaimed band Republic Tigers, DJ Mancub (Space Cowboys) spinning tunes late into the night, and more to be announced.

  • Friday at 8:00 p.m. - TechSet and Windows Mobile host a party at the Belmont Lounge. More info here.
  • Sunday at 1:30 p.m. - Wordpress BBQ - Come chat up some folks behind your favorite blogging platform at Austin's very first coworking space, Conjunctured! There will be some tasty BBQ, beverages and cupcakes served up for you party people! This event is open to the public, so no need for a SXSW badge to join the fun!
  • Photo by laughingsquid
  • Sunday at 9:30 p.m. - Facebook friends.get Party - Do you develop, design or dance like a superstar? Facebook is hosting a party with live entertainment for our developers and partners. Stay up-to-date on all the SXSW activities at http://www.facebook.com/sxsw.
  • Sunday at 10 p.m. - Google Reader/Blogger Party - Official Google Party. Bring an SXSW Interactive Badge, or find one of us or the Blogger team at the conference for an invitation. We'll be donning some schwag, so keep an eye out.
  • Monday at 4:00 p.m. - Wired Happy Hour - Don't miss this special free event! Please join us for drinks, hors d'oeuvres and trivia at Moonshine - right outside the Austin Convention Center. iPod touch giveaways courtesy of Wired. Must Be 21+ to attend.
  • Monday at 7:00 p.m. - Microsoft Phizzpop Design Challenge. Julia Allison and Meghan Asha will be judging the finalists from 5 major cities. Location: Pangaea, 409 Colorado Street, Austin, TX 78701.
  • Monday at unknown! - LaughingSquid 32-bit Party - This is a secret party, but I guarantee I'll cover it. Keep your eyes on Scott Beale's Twitter feed.

Starting this Friday, I will be there covering everything I can. Stay tuned to this blog and please leave me comments in the talkback if you want me to report on something specifically.

I will be checking my CBS email address all weekend, so send me a shout there too if you want.

Also, follow @sxswparty if you will be at the event to find out the best places to hang out at night.

Follow my schedule here.

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