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David Lee King

Final Thoughts on SXSWi2008



I had a great time attending my first SXSWi conference! As you can tell from the notes I’ve been posting the past few days, there was a lot to do at this conference. Here are my final thoughts about the conference, the sessions, and why I think everyone reading my blog should attend SXSWi 2009! If you’re interested, here is a video of one day at SXSWi from my videoblog.

First off, for the sessions. The sessions I attended (save two) were really good: on-topic, good speakers, and made me think. Two favorites:

  1. Quit Your Day Job and Vlog – I’m very interested in the topic, so it was cool to see some of the “highly watched” vloggers explain how they started and what they do. And the room was full of “Internet Famous” types, so it was slightly surreal, too. Cool session.
  2. Kathy Sierra’s session – I don’t think Kathy has spoken much this past year (could be wrong about that), so it was great to see and hear one of my personal favorite blog hero types speak – if you’ve ever read her blog posts, that was how she spoke. Very useful stuff, too.

Other sessions I attended covered a wide range of geek-related topics, including blogging, making money on the web, connecting with people, web design, usability and wireframing, community management and gaming.

The keynotes were interesting. Three that stood out for me:

  1. Mark Zuckerberg (the Facebook guy) was just fun to listen to – a 23 year old coder geek with a great idea. Also interesting was watching the audience revolt develop, and then reading about it on twitter the rest of the evening.
  2. Jane McGonigal – evangelist on gaming and how it relates to experience (she called it happiness). Amazing stuff.
  3. Frank Warren, the Post Secret guy – he received a standing ovation. He seemed very into helping people share their stories. He sees his sight as a form of art and as a type of public, yet anonymous, confessional. Amazing session.

Other takeaways before I bug you to attend next year’s conference.

SXSWi attracts a different crowd. Instead of librarians in khakis, SXSWi attracts creatives of all types. Noisy creatives that will let the speaker know if he/she is stinking to high heaven. During the session. Then they’ll already have blogged, twittered, flickr’d, and youtube’d it by the end of the session.

There were at least three major reasons people attended this conference:

  1. To learn stuff in the sessions (that’d be me)
  2. To network – when you met someone, you exchanged cards and told people what you do – in your “real job” and in your “day job.”
  3. To write and video other attendees! http://sxswvideos.com/ The place was literally crawling with video teams, looking for “Internet Famous” people to chat with.

Remember that if you DO attend, you will most likely be flickr’d or video’d somewhere along the way.

The evening parties are fun! It provides a chance to mingle with other attendees in a less hurried, “I have to get to the next session” way. Many of these events have free food (ok, and free booze, too).

Everyone seemed friendly, and everyone I talked to seemed to think it was cool that a library sent people to the conference.

And… pretty much everyone had an iPhone. Seriously.

Now – for us Librarians. You need to attend!

This year, there were somewhere between 10-40 librarians attending (not scientific by any means – just my best guestimate). I think more of you should attend! Why? Let me illustrate what I mean:

  • you can go to computers in libraries and hear a librarian talk about Facebook
  • or, you can attend SXSWi and hear the creator of Facebook talk about Facebook

Both are valuable. It’s great to hear what other libraries are doing with these new tools, and obviously we need to network with each other. But sometimes, it’s also good to hear what the non-library organization is doing… and it’s good to meet the people creating the tools we’re using!

Who should attend? You. If you read my blog, you’re a great candidate for going to this conference. I guarantee you’ll learn something new. Other emerging tech librarian speakers – you know who you are. All the “webish types.” All the “digital strategy/2.0″ types. Give it some thought!

Even better – submit a panel idea!

OK – attending is one thing – speaking is another! Why should you submit a panel idea? We already know a lot of the stuff I heard. Here’s just one example: Jane McGonigal gave a great keynote presentation focused on gaming and how it’s changing real life. But I’ve already heard most of what she said… from librarians!

My point? We already have a good grasp on technology, online community, and content from an information professional point of view. I think SXSWi could really benefit from our knowledge of content, search, and knowledge management. The speakers I saw, for the most part, know a lot about web design and online community. They don’t have a clue about metadata, standards, working with non-digital types in a digital world, and in many cases, even using a service for an organization rather than a personal blog

And hey – we’re considered sexy and cool at the moment, so it’s maybe a good time…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ranti

    Interestingly enough, I met a non-librarian who complained that “librarians are everywhere now.” He is an EDUCAUSE conference regular. Now there are more librarians participating in EDUCAUSE, he said a lot of things are about “information from librarian’s point of view” and less about the stuff he’s more interested in: enterprise-related applications, products for managers, applications for student courses, etc.

  • ranti

    Interestingly enough, I met a non-librarian who complained that “librarians are everywhere now.” He is an EDUCAUSE conference regular. Now there are more librarians participating in EDUCAUSE, he said a lot of things are about “information from librarian’s point of view” and less about the stuff he’s more interested in: enterprise-related applications, products for managers, applications for student courses, etc.

  • http://cecily.info/ Cecily

    I just made the jump into librarianship from a user-centered design/usability career. I’m also a two-time SXSWi attendee. I’ve often thought that SXSWi would be a fantastic conference for any librarians interested in emerging technologies, but now that I actually work in a library, I’m doubly convinced.

    I’m only sorry that the LIS Hoedown wasn’t better organized. Maybe we should’ve worn special librarian hats, or Nancy Pearl t-shirts so we’d be easier to find.

  • http://cecily.info Cecily

    I just made the jump into librarianship from a user-centered design/usability career. I’m also a two-time SXSWi attendee. I’ve often thought that SXSWi would be a fantastic conference for any librarians interested in emerging technologies, but now that I actually work in a library, I’m doubly convinced.

    I’m only sorry that the LIS Hoedown wasn’t better organized. Maybe we should’ve worn special librarian hats, or Nancy Pearl t-shirts so we’d be easier to find.

  • http://mollykleinman.com/ Molly

    I just want to reinforce everything you just said. This was my first SXSWi, and I came away learning a lot more than I expected to. Going in, I kind of had the feeling that I had somehow hoodwinked my library into sending me to this totally fun conference that was not particularly relevant to my job. I was wrong – the library absolutely got its money’s worth. I made some great contacts, met a bunch of librarians (while eating delicious Mexican food!), and learned a lot about organizations and people doing work that will be useful to me in the future. And I was so incredibly inspired that I’ve been hyper-productive ever since I got back. I did wish there had been a more organized way for librarians to meet up, and a library-centric panel would have been awesome, but even without those things this librarian had an incredibly valuable experience.

  • http://mollykleinman.com Molly

    I just want to reinforce everything you just said. This was my first SXSWi, and I came away learning a lot more than I expected to. Going in, I kind of had the feeling that I had somehow hoodwinked my library into sending me to this totally fun conference that was not particularly relevant to my job. I was wrong – the library absolutely got its money’s worth. I made some great contacts, met a bunch of librarians (while eating delicious Mexican food!), and learned a lot about organizations and people doing work that will be useful to me in the future. And I was so incredibly inspired that I’ve been hyper-productive ever since I got back. I did wish there had been a more organized way for librarians to meet up, and a library-centric panel would have been awesome, but even without those things this librarian had an incredibly valuable experience.