A Reflection on SxSW 2011

March 16, 2011

So this past weekend I went to SxSW as part of my new role as Director of Enterprise Services for EllisLab (Makers of ExpressionEngine). This was the second time I have traveled to Austin for SxSW. Last year was a blast so I had a motto for this year: "pace yourself". There is plenty of opportunity to go crazy during the festival and I was determined to not crash and burn too quickly. I think I can attribute this motto to having an extremely productive week.

Les Camacho and I arrived on Thursday night and made our way to the hotel. Tired but hungry we decided to eat at the Mexican joint next door. This is where I learned that Les loves good tequila. So if you are wanting a feature or bug fixed in EE and want to bribe him perhaps a bottle Riazul Repasado or Don Julio 1942 or similar will do the trick.

On Friday night we went out to meet the EECMS folks at Red 7. Another chance to get together with users of ExpressionEngine and have some fun. We met the guys from We Are Paper Tiger as well as share some drinks with Simon Collison, Robert Earhardt, Andrew Milne of BV02, Kelly Packer, Jeremy Gimbal and others. I had never heard of the guys from We are Paper Tiger (Marc, Jason and Aaron) before so I think it was really cool that they got the group a place to meet. Apparently they used to run a record label out of New York City and 2 years ago started building websites. Their work is really good.

I also met with Andrew from BV02 out of Ottowa. I have to say that I have seen some of their work and it is amazing. They created the website for the Ottowan Transit system (Transpo). I had lunch with him on Monday and we talked about how he is going to be using EE as a pathway for GPS information coming in from the buses and trains. Pretty amazing stuff. He is plugged in up there and I would definitely like to see him getting in on the Enterprise stuff that we are putting together at EllisLab.

On Saturday I had lunch with We Are Paper Tiger and Jeremy. It was pretty awesome. Good discussion about their business and how they went from a record label to a design studio. Apparently they used to throw parties/concerts at SxSW so this year was a bit more lax for them without that responsibility. We also ran into the Leslies at the impromptu Apple store near the Convention Center that was set up with the sole purpose of providing iPads to those at the conference. Hilarious that Apple had to do this but smart as there was a line everyday

On Sunday I had lunch with Todd Garland from Buy Sell Ads. Todd is a former Hubspot employee that got an idea while working there and has boot-strapped his current endeavor to awesome results. He is a really really nice guy.

Mid day was spent at the Hilton working on a special project with Greg Aker and Pascal Kriete for the ExpressionEngine community. More info soon.

Later that night (Sunday) Les, Greg, Leslie and I had dinner together. Afterwards Leslie and I walked over to my favorite coffee shop, Halcyon. We started drinking with the We Are Paper Tiger folks. Unfortunately I was drinking Insomniacs with Aaron. I seem to have lost my desire to ever have a cup of coffee ever. ever. again. Ugh. Also that was 3 days ago and I think I am still dehydrated from the 8 or so shots of espresso I had that night in the mixed drinks. They don't call it the Insomniac for nothin folks.

I spent Monday walking to Mellow Johnnys. I love this place. Adam Wiggall showed it to me last year and I promise that every year that I attend I will make the trek to Mellow. Such an awesome bike shop. Full of history and drool worthy gear.

Monday night was the Happy Cog Hosting party. It was a pretty cool crowd. I found myself talking with Jason Santa Maria out on the back deck. He was super friendly, and more importantly he is a fan of ExpressionEngine. I also talked to Matt Harris a developer from twitter and his wife Cindy Li who does some awesome work at Yahoo for IM and Yahoo Mail. It wasn't till I got back to a computer to look her up that I realized that I have admired her work before. Got a chance to talk with Zeldman for a couple of minutes as well. I definitely had a blast!

After the Happy Cog Hosting Party we went to dinner with Aaron and Kelly Gustafson (SUPER NICE COUPLE!!), Jenn Lukas, Les, Leslie and Greg. Aaron has a resume to impress. He is a member of the Web Standards Project, Technical Editor on A List Apart and most importantly a huge fan of ExpressionEngine. And Jenn Lukas is a fabulously knowledgeable and utterly genuine front end developer from Happy Cog. I enjoyed getting to know all three of them.

All in all the mood at SxSW was a positive one. Pretty much everyone I talked with asked me what EllisLab was planning for Enterprise Services. I see a blog post going out possibly this week that should at least hint as to what we are thinking. But notice that once again I did not really mention sessions? Yeah. SxSW is all about the people.