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Weblog Entry

SXSW 2004

March 13, 2004

To spare those not here this year, I’ll contain my entire SXSW experience in this post and just keep updating it. Chronological, with the most recent events up top. I expect it to get lengthy and full of photos, so you’ll have to pardon the cut, but I’m sure you know what to do.

I feel so blog.


Officially back at work. Pictures are forthcoming, if and when I ever get time to figure out how to format them. This will be the last update to this post in lieu of those.

A list of people I met. Many are doing it, so what’s one more? If you’re not on here and I had a conversation with you, whoops! Let me know.


Well, technically I’m writing this on Thursday due to a long plane ride and being far too tired to think about writing on the plane.

Tuesday evening saw a bunch of people gather at the bar in the lobby of the Hilton, then break up into groups as we headed to a Mexican restaurant called ‘Gueros’ en masse. Being a local Texas boy, Matt had his car and drove us there, and later to Bruce Sterling’s SXSW closer party.

Plenty of highlights from the evening. Cliched by now, but there’s a brand new mirror shot somewhere out there… (my own were blocked by a fuzzy hat, sadly) I met Cory, only because he thought I was Ev (who I suspect I bear a passing resemblance too, if [as it was] it’s dark, and if [as I was] I’m wearing a Blogger T-shirt). Jay is the guy to hang around when the beer runs out. When you leave your iBook in someone else’s hotel room, make sure they don’t leave the party before you…

Yesterday was a travelling day. Coffee with Molly in the morning, shared a cab to the airport (and ended up stiffing the driver of my earlier cab by 5 bucks due to circumstances beyond my conrol, though he was very gracious about it. That’s Texas hospitality for you, what a treat).

Combining cab rides and airport waiting, it took about 8 hours to get back. That would have been far worse if not for a cheerful and helpful United employee in Austin. Instead of being routed through Chicago again, she stuck me on a trip passing through Denver. Despite the one hour delay on the last leg of that trip, I still arrived in Vancouver 2 hours before scheduled landing time of the original plan, and from the sounds of it, at least 3 additional hours more than I would have been delayed going through Chicago.

So I’m back, and it’s good to be home. But it was so great to be in Austin. SXSW isn’t a conference, it’s a party. That’s what it felt like; moving from one party to another every day for four days.

Wandering down the street and meeting up with a group of people heading in one direction, taking off with them for a few hours and meeting yet another group heading in another direction, and hopping from event to event the whole time is really a wild experience. When you pack that many people who know or are aware of each other into such a confined space of a few city blocks, there’s really no choice but to have one hell of a time.

I’d love to know how this year’s SXSW compared to past years, if any veterans want to share their thoughts. If this wasn’t one of the best ever, I’ve been missing out big time.


2:10pm—It’s starting to wind down. A few have left already, and we’re in the final stages of the panels. (sitting in Jonathan Abrams’ keynote at the moment)

Last night were the parties. The Death of WebMonkey party kicked off the night, which segued nicely into the Blogger party, which I left to grab some food with the OK/Cancel guys, who are even funnier in real life. Moved on to a continuation of the WebMonkey party in another venue, and ended the night way too late.

WaSP meetup this morning bright and early thanks to Ian’s way-too-early flight out, where I got a killer shot of Simon’s prolific Exposé use. To be posted later, along with plenty of other photos (no way to concentrate on processing those at the moment, which explains the lack so far.)


4:19pm—The panel is done! Load off my mind, though thanks to my excellent fellow panelists it was very well received. When talking to a crowd, my tendency is to digress a little too much; the notes format I used today was perfect for me, even though I wasn’t convinced ahead of time it would work. In fact, my notes ended up being a mini-essay, so the chances of them showing up on here some time over the course of the next few days is rather good.

Update on the past few days — awards ceremony led into the Fray Cafe, and I’m pretty darned sorry I missed that. Preparation for the panel trumped it unfortunately.

Bright and early the four of us panelists wandered over to Chris and Dan’s hotel for a quick head-to-head last minute discussion and a bite, over to the conference centre to speak, and when 10am rolled around it was all us. If anyone took notes, let me know and I’ll link ‘em up. Otherwise expect the afore-mentioned follow up in due time.

Stuck around for Tantek, Eric, Doug, Brian Alvey and Kimberly Blessing. “CSS Design: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” went very well, and I ended up with a plethora of notes that, also, will be posted in due time. Somebody please tell me the Top Ten Rejected Panel Names is online somewhere!

Lunch with Molly, Eric, and Chris at a great ol’ Texas BBQ house. Coffee in the Hilton after, as mentioned below. Off to an interview at the moment, then the Death of WebMonkey party. Onwards!

2:47pm—Downtime. The last 24 hours have been very much a blur. But in a good way, of course.

Somewhat of a summary, while I have the chance. Where did we leave off… after the moblog panel if I recall? So I tried to sit in on the ‘Monetizing the Blogosphere’ panel by the crew, but ended up ducking out to prepare.

The cafe in the Hilton is proving quite the CSS geek hangout; met Tantek and Eric here on Saturday, been back three or four times since, and now we’re hanging around in a post-panel lull. We being Chris, Doug, Dan, Eric and I.

So the awards, you say? Yeah, about that. Wow. I’m not sure what can be said, I’m still a bit shocked. I walked home with Best of Show? What? Really? Me?

Surreal. Very surreal. I’m sure my acceptance speech was glib, but it was unexpected and unprepared so I’ll take this moment to thank God, my parents, the Academy, and Jill from makeup. Very honoured, very touched.

I won Best Canadian Weblog at the Bloggies too. Very cool! Carole Guevin had to grab my arm and usher me into the trade show area to issue an acceptance speech since I wasn’t even around at the time; whoops!

I guess if a tech weblog like this one can win best in the country, that says something about the country itself eh? (gratuitous eh. Topical humour…)


9:40pm—Should be out celebrating, but self-imposed confinment to the hotel so I can Get The Damn Panel Finished before tomorrow morning has effectively clipped those wings.

Celebrating why? Because the Zen Garden took Best Developer’s Resource! And BEST OF SHOW! Pinch me.

Tonight, we work. Tomorrow, we drink like men.

4:53pm—Rendezvous is a very cool thing.

Caught one panel on Moblogging this morning. Not that it wasn’t interesting stuff, but I managed to tune out and get some work done. Tried for a second one, but ditched it in favour of working on the panel presentation.

More highlights of the day so far: lunch with Ian and Ethan, grabbing Jamba Juice with Dan, discussing CSS ripoffs with Doug, and now a moment of peace.

SXSW Awards are tonight, followed by the Fray Cafe immediately afterward. I’m really looking forward to the latter. More later this evening.

11:35am—In Moblog Nation: You Can Take It With You until 12:30pm. Catch me on Rendezvous or email me if you want to get lunch then.

9:50am—Sitting in the hotel madly preparing what I should have been madly preparing at least a week ago. In the meantime, I forgot to post the notes from Veen’s panel! There were three speakers and a moderator, but I found Veen himself most absorbing. This is only a fragment, but you get the idea. No surprises here, all good stuff.

  • early web, as told to designers:
  • new mindset
  • forget typography, you can make it, you know, bold and italic. that’s about it.
  • images are pretty crap (low compression/color)
  • take a square, 800x600, that’s your screen. maybe
  • veen doesn’t care about the bad designers anymore, doesn’t work with them
  • old designers shaken out by the crash, new designers are making it now
  • “Must be great Jeff, that you can do that” says the skeptic, wistfully
  • business case: good design accessibility standards
  • he works from wireframe, with designer, to bring it to browser
  • designer: “we won’t be able to get that menu to float, with good semantics”
  • designer: “we’re going to need captions for tables and images, you write them or I?”
  • this is being spoken *by visual designers*?!
  • they know/expect how differently they look different OS’es and browsers
  • know about degradability (some joke about Netscape, missed it…)
  • Taking things for granted that are very good things, very web-spirited
  • Simple markup, easier to maintain, less cost to serve, work cross-platform
  • work better in Google, more accessible for everyone on the web
  • easy to make a business case for this
  • doesn’t care about accessibiltiy, cares about good design
  • when good design is practiced like a craft, accessibility just comes out of it
  • case studies: wired news, stop design
  • question: what browsers? NN4? showed Wired with upgrade notice, that’s a good way around it
  •, showed skip nav link, tried opening in JAWS, no luck (network error)
  • (DS: pronouncing WCAG as “wuh-kag” is really awkward)
  • veen: — shown in NN4, some tables for layout
  • how do you get from an old-school huge enterprise site, to where you need to be
  • veen: most complete redesigns are disasters (disruptive to users, not on time)
  • all for incremental design unless it’s so bad you have to start from scratch
  • chisholm: prioritize; start from the top, most important issues, then pick off low-hanging fruit

12:30am—I tried. I honestly did. When you’re the only one with an iBook whipped out amongst a group of 11 people or more, you just can’t get much writing done.

Back at the hotel and finally have a chance to write up all this. There’s absolutely no way I can even summarize today, let alone the experiences. For my own future record, here’s a rough and skin-deep order: registration, wandering 6th alone, running into Bausch and Haughey, having breakfast at the Mexican greasy spoon, wandering to Kick, seeing familiar faces, wandering to the café in the Hilton and meeting the faces behind the names that I’ve been talking to for ages. I owe Ethan an Americano. Having lunch, discussing Atkins, hosting, and secret projects. Quick jaunt to the hotel to pick up le iBook. Mad dash back to catch Veen’s panel. IM’ing Ethan from two rows back. Meeting Molly. Getting on Anil’s case about MT3.0. Getting answers! Getting drinks and appies with a lot of now-familar names and faces. Meeting even more at the combined css-discuss/WaSP/webdesign-l/whatever meetup. Moving to the SXSW welcoming party. I’m sorry, but the dancing girls and the Spanish accents and the serious thundering passion of what was supposed to be a cheeseball opening act made my night. Still laughing. Wandering to the Omni. No one there. Took the chance to catch up, but only for a bit; Nick Finck and the Clip ‘N Seal guy and I ended up finishing the evening over Chinese food. Back in hotel.

Here’s just a big old list of some of the other cool people I’ve met so far, because it’s impossible to keep track of when and how, and it probably won’t matter at the end of the weekend anyway. The people are important, not the details.

Jeff Veen, Molly Holzschlag, Nick Finck, D. Keith Robinson, Anil Dash, Ian Lloyd, Josh Williams, Carole Guevin, Brian Alvey, Jason Calacanis, Michael Schimdt, Adam Greenfield, Nick Finck, Simon Willison, Sam Ruby, Leonard Lin, James Craig, Christopher Schmitt, uh, and a whole lot more. <link rel=”met”> indeed.

Everyone is exactly as I imagined them. I have another 3 days here with these great people. Wow. Best $185,000CDN I ever spent.


3:30pm—Made it. At the panel, random chance had me sit down beside, straight from Aus, Ian Lloyd. What luck!

3:05pm—Running, running to catch Veen’s panel. More soon. Things are finally starting to go right.

3:00pm—Recovered finally. Still on west coast time, so getting up at 10am here was early for me, but I’m falling behind. Ran to the conference center, spent about 10 minutes standing around feeling completely lost. Info booth? Thank you, tell me what the hell I’m doing please.

Got it sorted after false starts and confusion (as if there’s any other way). Grabbed a badge, so the next challenge was breakfast. Running on steam at this point, hadn’t had a meal in 20 hours. Wandered 6th St/Ave., wasn’t feeling the love.

Bumped into Matt Haughey and Paul Bausch, found a greasy spoon Mexican eatery and got fed. Problem solved. I owe Matt a meal. (“Canadian money is no good here?” Who knew!?)

Wandered down to the Kick game. Baseball with a big ass rubber ball I guess? Never really figured it out. Matt Mullenweg and Ethan Marcotte and I took off and met up with the CSS crew madly constructing their panels, of which I should have been a part due to my complete lack of preparation but wasn’t due to my leaving the iBook back at the hotel. Saw Doug Bowman again, and met for the first time Eric Meyer, Tantek Çelik, Christopher Schmitt and Anitra Pavka. Had lunch with ‘em all.


2:00am, Austin—Here. Checked in. Going to bed. Adjusted for time, that makes 17 hours and a single meal all day. Does not bode well for attitude tomorrow.

On the bright side, ran into some other folk attending and even managed to score a ride from the airport. Thanks Andrew and Allison!

5:00pm, Chicago—For future reference: entirely inadequate amount of tray space for an iBook when the person in front of you reclines.

In Chicago. Waiting for layover. Catching up. No wireless. Nothing much to do. Another update on the ground in Austin.

You can’t possibly imagine what I’d give for a Vancouver Airport restroom right about now. Not that they’re that clean, but…

9:15am, Vancouver—I cleared customs. That’s a good sign. I’m typing offline in the US Departures terminal in Vancouver at the moment. Wireless is available, but it’s not free, and I’m already paying the company (Telus) for some of my residential services. Thanks, but no thanks.

The trip takes me to Chicago this afternoon, where I change planes for Austin after a three hour layover. Which means the entire day is shot. There weren’t many better options, either — when your choices are Chicago, Atlanta, or Seattle and Denver for layovers, you take what you can get.

James Craig says it’s going to rain all weekend. I live in Vancouver, the Seattle of Canada. This isn’t going to be a problem.

So far I’ve spent the past hour catching up on my news feeds and email. My new (old) find for this week: NetNewsWire. I finally bit the bullet and picked up a real aggregator, instead of relying on the notification service. It served me well, but I won’t be going back. The upshot to all this has been that I grabbed my feeds this morning before I left, and have enjoyed reading all of you offline. Cheap thrills.

My long-standing problem with newsreaders has been synchronization; when you work on two computers, keeping track of what you’ve read over what you haven’t makes it too much of a pain. When you’re primarily using only a single system, problem solved. There are server-side aggregators that take care of that, but I never bothered.

Off to get some real work done. Another update in Chicago.