SXSW Recap: Weekend Winners and Losers

Over the past three days, the world of Interactive has unapologetically descended on Austin, Texas. I say “unapologetically” because the cast of characters here to learn, pitch, network, pitch, collaborate, and pitch has to be one of the most awesomely aggressive, beautifully shameless collections of individuals I’ve ever witnessed. As someone with very little to contribute to the tech portion of this festival, my role as “Southby participant” has rapidly decreased in importance, and in exchange, the past three days have felt like a marathon episode of Planet Earth.

I don’t think I’ve ever been such a spy-like sketchball in my entire life. I’m serious; over the past three days I have enlisted some of the most classic creeper moves just to get a taste for what’s hot and what’s not in the streets of Interactive. You know:

The one where you sit at someone else’s table where a semi-private conversation is taking place, throw on your headphones and nod your head to Nelly, but there is no music playing.

The one where you stand in line for an event right behind two guys having an intense conversation, throw on your headphones and nod your head to Nelly, but there is no music playing.

The one where you stay at the bars all night, alone, and as the late-night stream of people all walk back to the hotel district, you join the crowd but first throw on your headphones and nod your head to Nelly. Oh, and there is no music playing.

This has proven to be a highly exhausting task. Leading into the festival, I thought these first few days would be my time to relax, enjoy the weather, calmly set up interviews, eat BBQ, and organize my iCal before the too-cool-for-school music crowd showed up. Couldn’t have been more wrong. Despite the fact that the first sunshine presented itself 66 hours into my trip, there is nothing “calm,” “relaxing,” “organized,” or “BBQ” about observing and trying to keep up with individuals of Interactive.

Speaking of the music crowd, these past three days have shown me something I never expected to witness. No one (and I mean that in the least hyperbolic way possible) rolls deeper than the employees of a start-up. No one. It’s unbelievable. I referenced the music crowd because I have long thought of “crews” as a rapper’s entourage or maybe America’s Best Dance Crew. No longer will I think like that, because the image of 10-12 adults in matching shirts walking almost in formation around the Austin Convention Center committing acts of “I’m putting my poster/sticker over your poster/sticker” terrorism will forever be seared in my brain. It’s been like three days of watching the final scene in Drumline/Stomp the Yard/Step Up 2, minus the dancing (so far) but plus the two-minute sales pitch.

Unfortunately, today marks the beginning of the end for Interactive. As I type, start-up gangs are making their final pushes, but are beginning to get overshadowed by the film and early-bird music crowds that are starting to file in. While the latter two sections are more my specialty, I wish they’d hold off a little longer so I could have a few more days, alone, with Interactive. I had no idea I was going to feel like this. From the ability to rise at 9 a.m. and prepare for panels to staying out late, dancing like each party could be the last party of their lives, I never want this confusing ride to end.

It’s like that moment in high school when you’re an athlete and you find out that all the super-drama kids who you assumed weren’t as cool have actually been making out with people since fourth grade. And upon learning that, you want to be just like them. That pretty much sums up all of my feelings on SXSW Interactive. I’m very sad to see you go.


Winners:

1. Chevy: For giving out free rides in the Downtown Austin area, which has made them a road-rage target of many a Yellow Cab and pedicab.

2. The DJ at the Foursquare party: For knowing that there is no better transition than “Poison” into “MotownPhilly.”

3. Foursquare: For hiring a DJ that knows that there is no better transition than “Poison” into “MotownPhilly.”

4. Google: For showing everyone that even the sticker game is theirs. (Also, the “converting a non-glow-in-the-dark house into a glow-in-the-dark house” game is also theirs.)

5. The guy with the waterproof iPad case: For pitching his product, the waterproof iPad case, in the rain while standing in line to get into a bar.

Losers:

1. People that don’t read weather reports and only brought tank tops and jorts when they really needed Duck boots and a North Face.

2. The app Ban.jo: For allowing random strangers to alert me that I am near them, without my permission. I hope you fold tomorrow. Or yesterday.

3. The app Kullect: For continuing the destructive legacy of changing perfectly good words that start with a “C” to disgusting, irresponsible words that start with a “K” (still not as bad as “Kiddie Kollege,” but that’s because there’s nothing worse than a preschool that teaches kids that there are no rules).

4. The Austin Health Code: For allowing establishments to sell me jalapeno poppers at 3 a.m. without even asking if I had my Tums with me.

5. Bing: Just give up.

Filed Under: Google, Sxsw, We Went there

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Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

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