Why SXSWi is like visiting Disney World

Posted by Sheila Scarborough on February 28, 2021 at 8:00 pm

A scene from the Clone Wars: SXSWi goodie bags awaiting pickup (Scarborough photo)I’m a parent and a travel writer, so of course I’ve gritted my teeth through “It’s a Small World After All,” stood patiently in long lines to ride Pirates of the Caribbean and scribbled advice for anyone else who wants to tackle the Walt Disney World behemoth.

The similarities are striking between planning an assault on WDW and sorting out the myriad possibilities during next week’s jam-packed South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) tech conference in Austin, Texas.

I’ve always advised prospective Disney visitors that unless they want to spend a lot of money to be really frustrated, they need to do their homework to enjoy the parks. You can’t just give it all over to serendipity; there’s too much going on and too many people all trying to do the same things.

It’s the same with SXSWi, but the lure of connection, learning and good times at conferences is like the search for magical Disney moments, right? Aww, put on your Mouse ears and go with me on this one….

Here’s some Disney advice applied to “South By:”

1. Research. Lay out a game plan. At Disney, know the park layouts (yes, WDW is more than one park) and the rides/shows that you really want to see. At SXSWi, know the event layout for each day of the conference — major keynotes, the panels that you don’t want to miss and evening parties that sound promising. I’m sorry about the gobs of awesome events going on simultaneously, but cloning is not an option.

2. Use FASTPASS. Well, maybe there’s no real SXSWi equivalent to Disney’s scheduling system for the most popular rides, since everyone has the same conference badge, but I’ll call it FASTCHAIR. To state the obvious, unless you like standing at the back of crowded rooms for popular speakers/panels, get there early for a seat where you can see and hear. You did pay a lot of money to do all this, so be in a comfortable position to enjoy it.

3. Block out open time so your head can breathe. At Disney you can crash at your hotel so the kids can play in the hotel pool, but somehow that option isn’t as much fun at SXSWi. Instead, you may want to talk to exhibitors like Creative Commons or Utterz while wandering/schwag-collecting in the Interactive/Film Trade Show + Exhibition, see exhibitor special events or watch the Frag Dolls all-woman gamers team kick some overly-confident behinds during the ScreenBurn gaming fest.

4. Don’t forget to eat. At WDW you can call ahead to (407) WDW-DINE to make lunch and dinner reservations at park restaurants, but many don’t do that and end up standing (with itchy kids) in long, hot lines for food. At SXSWi, there are some small food kiosks and cafes in the Convention Center, great BBQ nearby and plenty of Austin eateries, but I always carry a couple of energy bars and water in case my hunger intersects with a speaker that I don’t want to miss. Be your own food Sherpa.

5. Go to the back of the park first. When the parks open at Disney, many visitors start with rides and attractions at the front of the complex. Instead, go straight back and work your way to the front, to help avoid mobs and find lesser-known gems. At SXSWi, you’ll probably have to “throw some sharp elbows in the paint” at popular panels/keynotes, but speakers are much more accessible at Book Readings, the Adobe Day Stage Cafe (where then-unknown Tim Ferriss of The 4-Hour Workweek spoke last year) or at the live interviews at Studio SX in the Exhibition Hall. Two examples of great stuff at SX Studio 2008: Techsploitation’s Annalee Newitz chats with Lifehacker’s Gina Trapani, and keynoter Henry Jenkins talks to author Daniel Pink about the first business guide done in Japanese manga.

6. Prepare to walk. I’ve seen some really dumb footwear at both WDW and conferences, and I get to sound like your Mom now because I am one. Wear shoes that you can get around in. The Convention Center does have some rooms off in the boonies, and while downtown Austin is fairly compact you will do some walking unless you have unlimited funds for pedicabs or taxis. March weather in Austin can range from 30-80 degrees F. Really.

7. Reserve lodging early. Doh. The most desirable, most convenient lodging at the best prices needs to be reserved early, both at WDW and at SXSWi. It’s a little late for 2008, but if you are pretty sure you’ll be back to South By in 2009, lock down a room now. Even better, amongst all the great people you’ll get to know, nail down an Austinite who will have a spare room/floor space for you next year.

Any big, sprawling venue like Walt Disney World or South by Southwest Interactive holds the promise of amazing experiences or overloaded misery, but a little forethought and planning can help anyone navigate towards the better of the two possibilities.

Final hint: do not miss Bruce Sterling’s yearly end-of-SXSWi rant, even if you’re hung over (or especially if you’re hung over.)

See you in Austin!

More resources:

  • Social media tools like Twitter, Seesmic, live-blogging etc. change how we absorb information at conferences
  • Connie Reece, Robert Scoble, Jeremiah Owyang and others light up the night at An Evening of Conversation Starters on March 10
  • Chow down on where to eat during SXSW 2008, from the helpful SXSW Baby!
  • Need help figuring out where all the parties are? Step right here for the Shiner beer-assisted map
  • SXSWi 2008 coverage in the local indie Austin Chronicle
  • SXSWi events on Upcoming.org, even including a rodeo visit
  • Hey, there’s not enough going on — let’s do BarCampAustin III!
  • SXSW ‘08 Insider’s Guide on ning

Networking and meeting great people:

  • Online networks expand your in-person networks and 5 mindsets to reshape your networking
  • SXSW: How to fit in at a geek conference, from a Texan who knows
  • Austin-based Thom Singer’s 66 tips for better networking
  • Chris Brogan’s ideas for improving your conference meet-ups
  • Join the Twitter village and see all the tweeps coming to Austin on the SXSW Twitter wiki
  • The ultimate guide to networking with bloggers, on ProBlogger

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Category: Social Media, Events, Social Networking, Bloggers, Networking

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A Don’t-Miss Event during SXSWi

Posted by Connie Reece on February 26, 2021 at 9:04 pm

So many online friends will be in Austin for SXSW, and I had planned on being there every day and meeting up with as many of them as possible. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend much of the conference, but there’s one place you can be sure to find me on Monday night — at the Conversation Starters event the Social Media Club of Austin is co-sponsoring. Here’s the scoop:


Federated Media and Dell, along with Bulldog Solutions, The Conversation Group, and Social Media Club Austin, cordially invite you to join us for an evening of “Conversation Starters” at the Iron Cactus on Monday, March 10, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Over drinks and appetizers, you’ll have a chance to share ideas with a number of people who have volunteered to start conversations: Shel Israel, Robert Scoble, Jeremiah Owyang, Charlene Li, Chris Heuer, Mack Collier and Lionel Menchaca, as well as several Federated Media authors.


Space is limited, so please register and print out your confirmation.




Hope to see you there!

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Category: Events, Conversation

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Connie Reece interview on FIR

Posted by Connie Reece on February 18, 2021 at 12:18 pm

I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson for their program, For Immediate Release. As a fan of this popular podcast, I was happy to have the opportunity to talk to them in person, especially when the topic was one of my favorite projects, the Frozen Pea Fund.

The interview is about 30 minutes. Click to listen: FIR interview: Connie Reece, Frozen Pea Fund

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Category: Social Media, Fund-raising, podcasting

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Podversation 01 - Gene Smith and Tweeterboard

Posted by Connie Reece on February 13, 2021 at 1:28 pm

In this interview Connie Reece speaks with Gene Smith, creator of the Tweeterboard, a tool for “conversation analytics” on Twitter. Gene goes on the record about the Tweeterboard algorithm; his intent to measure engagement, not popularity; and how he recommends people use the data provided.

Quick Take-aways:

  • the number of Twitter users tracked as of today is 3,883
  • Tweeterboard continues to add about 10 users per day
  • the algorithm used is the same as the one used for Google Page Rank
  • Halo 3 was the inspiration for the Box Score spread
  • Chris Brogan is #1 on the Tweeterboard today

About Gene Smith
Gene is a consultant specializing in information architecture strategy, social classification like tagging and folksonomies, emergent information architecture and interaction design. He is a principal at nForm User Experience and is also author of Tagging: People-Powered Metadata for the Social Web.

NOTE: RSS readers may need to click through to Blog Talk Radio to listen to the audio file.

Thanks to Twitter friends who suggested questions: @adelemcalear, @chelpixie, @conniecrosby and @digitalmaverick.

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Category: Twitter, Audio, podcasting

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I Am Going to the Par-tay!

Posted by Connie Reece on February 12, 2021 at 3:06 am

That’s right. I am officially a Par-tay girl-or I will be on Wednesday night, when I join host Jonny Goldstein for a video conversation on Jonny’s Par-tay. I’ll be appearing with Susan Reynolds to talk about the Frozen Pea Fund and how online connections can become a vibrant community.

Check out the show info and find out how you can be part of the conversation.

Mark your calendar: Wednesday, February 13, 9:00 pm EST

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Category: Conversation, Video

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Our ooVoo Debut: From Connections to Community

Posted by Connie Reece on February 7, 2021 at 5:25 pm

Susan Reynolds and I have been invited by the folks at crayon and their client, ooVoo, to be part of the upcoming My ooVoo Day With … series of video chats. To launch their beta version with a demonstration of the new service, which allows up to six people to video chat, ooVoo recruited about 20 bloggers/authors/speakers to host informal chat sessions, on a topic of their choosing. In lieu of paying each of the participating hosts, ooVoo will donate $1,500 to charity; most of the hosts have chosen to designate their funds for a cause dear to my heart, the Frozen Pea Fund.

My ooVoo Day

This is a win-win-win-win situation. ooVoo will have several hundred people test-driving their service, readers get to connect with some of their favorite bloggers, who get increased exposure in the marketplace, and a worthy cause gets its first corporate donation.

Susan and I will be hosting several video chat sessions on Sunday, February 10, on the topic From Connections to Community: How Online Relationships Enrich Our Lives.

Each chat session can accommodate four people, and 18 slots were filled the first day. To register, go to My ooVoo Day, download the software (available for Mac users too-only at this link), and then sign up for an open seat.

Every Dot Connects

Here’s a rundown of the times and topics we will be available to talk about:

Session 1 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. EST — Building Connections and Networking Online
(four 15-minute time slots available)
Topics: Finding and Friending; Your Profile Is Your Personal Brand; Cultivating Relationships

Session 2 4:00 to 4:30 p.m. EST — Taking it Face to Face: stories of meetups and tweetups (three 10-minute time slots)

Session 3 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. EST — When Connections Become a Community
(four 15-minute time slots)
Topics: How Online Communities Celebrate, Grieve; How to Talk to Someone About Cancer or Crisis; Give the Present of Your Presence

There’s no set agenda, just some topics to suggest the direction of the conversation. I hope you’ll join us for at least one of our 15-minute sessions.

And don’t stop with just one session or one host. Look at the incredible lineup of guests ooVoo has put together — these are the kind of speakers you would travel to a conference to hear. Now you can get some face-to-face time with them from the convenience of your laptop. All you need is a webcam and a broadband connection.

  • Mitch Joel/Six Pixels of Separation
  • Steve Hall/AdRants
  • Bob Garfield/AdAge & On the Media
  • Joseph Jaffe/JaffeJuice
  • John Wall & Christopher Penn/Marketing Over Coffee
  • iJustine
  • Marshall Kirkpatrick/ReadWriteWeb
  • Irina Slutsky/GeekEntertainment.tv
  • Connie Reece & Susan Reynolds Every Dot Connects / Boobs on Ice
  • Chris Thilk/Movie Marketing Madness
  • Erin Kotecki Vest/Queen of Spain
  • Dave Delaney/Two Boobs and a Baby +
  • Jack Myers & Friends/Media Village
  • David Meerman Scott/The New Rules of Marketing & PR
  • Geoff Livingston/Now Is Gone
  • Allan Cox/Your Inner CEO
  • George Parker/Madscam
  • Scott Sigler
  • Chris Brogan
  • C.C. Chapman
  • Susan Reynolds/Boobs on Ice
  • Laura “Pistachio” Fitton

Sign up now — before all the slots are filled for My ooVoo Day With …

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New events from Every Dot Connects:
Jan. 29 Up to Speed with Sheila
Feb. 17 Consulting with Connie
Feb. 19 High Tech, High Touch with Jennifer