It took me a while to get the hang of the SXSW Gold Pass, but it seems the best way to deal with the massive overlap between Film and Interactive is to go to films during the day, and party with the Interactive peeps at night. If there was an important panel, they’ll chat with you about it— most everything else you can catch up on later with the audio podcasts. Also, try to hit the smaller films that you know don’t have distribution, then if you don’t catch some of the bigger films, you’ll know you can at least catch them later when they get a wider release. That said, it is an awful lot of fun to go to the bigger films and hear the Q&A or chat with a director/writer/producer whose work you already enjoy.
This conference is the first thing that made me wish once or twice for MacBook Air. I’d really prefer Andy Ihnatko’s proposed 5×8″ iPhone-like touch tablet, but the Air is as close as it gets right now. This MacBook Pro is just way too big and heavy to cart around all day. I’m also wishing for the holy grail of dSLR that also takes good-looking 1080p24 HD video. Short of HD, though, I was really impressed with the FlipCam. [Rob Sandie](http://www.robertsandie.com/) from [Viddler](http://www.viddler.com/) was carrying one of those around everywhere he went. At a conference where you have to carry your technology all day, pocket-sized and lightweight beats full-featured every time.
I always start out with high hopes of what I’ll be able to carry around with me to get my precious internet and high-quality video and photos, and every time I end up whittling it down to my smart phone (now an iPhone, invaluable this past week) and a small notebook and pen (thanks to [John Gruber](http://daringfireball.net/) for the Coudal [Field Notes](http://fieldnotesbrand.com/)). The only thing I really miss from my Treo is that the iPhone doesn’t do video (yet… I’m sure some clever person with the iPhone SDK will remedy that shortly), but if I could shove a FlipCam in the same pocket, I’d be pretty happy. Give me a FlipCam HD, and I’ll be *really* happy. FlipCam HD merged with a surround sound audio recorder (think Zoom H2) for interviews and location sound, and I’d be in video nerdvana. I bet I could bolt those together somehow.
While you’re there, keep a close eye on the cabs. It seems that several I got into used the opening line “where are you from?” to gauge your ability to tell if you’re being “taken for a ride,” as it were. I even had one guy not turn on the meter and try and charge me $20 for what should have been a $12 trip. Be especially vigilant late at night when it seems the less than honest cabbies may assume you’re drunk and won’t notice.
Goals for Next Year:
– Stay for the whole conference. It’s the only way to see all the films I want to see, plus the music sessions look pretty fun.
– Conduct more interviews.
– Have something to pimp. Not that I advocate chatting anyone and everyone up about your product, but when you run into those internet movers and shakers at a party, have your private beta Moo cards ready to hand out and invite them to try it. Don’t launch your product/service during the glut of stuff launched at the conference, but start creating buzz among the movers and shakers for your public launch a few months afterwards. As fun as it is to be excited about creating new work, it’s even more fun to see people exited about what you’re doing.
– Bring more Moo cards. I ran out quickly. Print up a whole batch with all of your projects on one card. I have three ([personal](http://twitter.com/bobtiki), [business](http://steamermedia.com), [HowTube](http://howtube.com)), and didn’t have one at all for [BeerMediaTech](http://beermediatech.com), which a lot of folks seemed to be interested in when they heard the name. I think next year I’ll be bringing a combined card that has all my stuff on it. It’s way too awkward to slog through multiple card versions from your pocket when you just want to quickly give someone a card.
– Don’t be afraid to hover at the Cool Kids’ Table. You may feel like a wonk and get a few weird looks at first, but once the conversation starts flowing, you’ll wonder why you waited to approach them. Who knows, you might end up at IHOP at 3am with people you really respect and admire.
– Find a way to get cheap first class tickets. Sardine seating + laptop = FAIL
– Have something to work on on the plane, and have it prepped for no internet access. Having downloaded the iPhone SDK before the trip is all well and good, but if you spend most of your flight installing it instead of actually working with it, it can be a bit demoralizing. I thought I had it installed before I left the hotel to come back, but instead I’m writing most of this post on the plane while it installs in the background. D’oh!
– Having a battery-powered USB charger like the [Minty Boost](http://www.ladyada.net/make/mintyboost/) is excellent on long plane flights with your iPod.
Overall, I really enjoyed the conference, even though I was exhausted a good chunk of the time. I got to meet a bunch of great people, saw a bunch of inspiring films, and came back inspired to do something awesome. Totally worth it.