SXSW Finito

My final day round up before I walk the streets until it is time for my flight🙂

Final session count: 22

See the full list here. It ended up being a real mix of government, civic tech, entertainment and a little bit random. The biggest disappointment was Harry Knowles – I’ve loved Ain’t It Cool News since I discovered the web but the session was poor. Sunday morning had my two favourite talks back to back. Storytelling with New Screens had absolutely nothing to do with my work but I found it fascinating and it was a well practiced panel with lots of interesting insights. The Community panel was great fun with a cast that seemed genuinely happy to be there (they are actors!) and some very funny interplay.

The thing I learned from the various Government/civic tech sessions I attended was that everybody in this space has very similar issues and we could all probably do with collaborating more. The federal vs State vs City thing seems to add an additional layer of complexity in the US but all the struggles reported on were familiar. It was a pity how lost these sessions seemed in the bigger picture of the event though – helping Code for America or the USDS fix things should be more important than the latest flash in the pan startup (Meerkat!) in my opinion anyway.


Celebrities spotted: 13 (at least)

Hulk Hogan, Robert Duval, Christian Slater, Jessica Alba, Steven Moffat (who I said hello to thinking I recognised him as a local gov person!), RZA, the entire cast of Community (apart from Abed), Alex Garland (an angry, angry man) and Geoff Barrow.

Screenings attended: 2

I saw the premieres of iZombie, from Rob Thomas the creator of Veronica Mars and thus already a legend in my eyes, and Mr. Robot. Both are TV shows that are about the start (I think iZombie did last night.) It is an interesting experience watching a show meant for TV on a huge screen with a few hundred strangers!

Final Food Truck visits: 9

Chi’Lantro was far and away the best of all of these but the late night BBQ I had on a couple of occasions was also pretty amazing.


Freebies obtained: 2

A measly haul but as I have zero room to take anything home in my luggage probably not a bad thing. I got a Mr Robot hoodie (thats a little small!) and a Ghostery toy. The exhibition/trade show was very odd. I had never heard of 90% of the companies there and the ones I dd know seemed out of place mainly. The UK trade stand was really small and strait-laced – seemed out of step.

Final thoughts:

Austin seems like an amazing city and I can’t fault the organisers for running a very slick – not to mention huge – conference. The volunteer army were brilliant and always helpful and the food has been spectacular! I’m glad I came and have enjoyed the vast majority of the sessions I’ve been to. That said I would never come again. I found the whole vibe of the event pretty alien to me and my beliefs about digital. I pretty much gave up having conversations with strangers as each and every time the lack of common ground was evident really early (with the exception of the great people I met already committed to gov/civic tech).

Connecting with Jeff, the Presidential Innovation Fellow at the US Census Bureau, was definitely a highlight and from a pure professional point of view probably makes up for all the other dud conversations🙂 Thanks to Rebecca from Data.gov for making that happen. Hopefully I’ll also have the opportunity to introduce some Wikipedia/Wikimedia associates to the EU Council staff I met so that will be another win.