SXSW Recap (4 of 4): Back to Austin

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This post originally appeared on Viget’s Inspire blog.

For me, SXSW in recent years has been a mixed bag of emotions and takeaways. Having attended the conference seven times since 2005, I’ve watched the event morph from a self-described “Spring Break for Geeks” to a “Field Day for Startups and Social Media Marketers.”

While there are far better-focused conferences and events for web design and development, SXSW remains a valuable, general-interest conference for pretty much anyone working on the Web. I’ve long since gotten over being upset by the change and instead look to SXSW as an opportunity to reconnect with far-flung friends and colleagues as well as an excellent chance to expand my mind in areas often tangential to my day-to-day here at Viget.

Best panels

Browser Wars V

Arun, for the fifth year in a row, brought together representatives from every major browser vendor (excepting the perenially-absent Apple, of course) and peppered each of them with hard-hitting questions. Year after year, this panel is one of my favorites and the fifth edition didn’t disappoint. The most controversial topic under discussion this year is the growing “problem” of vendor prefixes. This issue alone could merit an entire session. Give this one a listen when you have the chance!

Get Excited and Make Things with Science founder Ariel Waldman moderated this three-person panel covering a wide range of science-related geeky awesomeness. Jeremy Keith showed off some of his favorite space-related hacks, including ISS Notify, a lamp that lights up when the International Space Station is currently overhead. As an amateur space-geek, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It reminded me that not all hacking takes place inside a computer or on the Web, but that publicly-available online data can be used to create real-world “things.”

Stuff You Should Know Podcast

I’m a huge fan of the Stuff You Should Know podcast, so this one was pure fun. Josh and Chuck recorded the “How Comic Books Work” episode in front of a small audience at the Driskill Hotel. If you don’t listen to Stuff You Should Know, it’s informative and highly entertaining. Give it a listen!

Best food

Salt Lick, bar none. It’s a bit of a drive north or south of downtown, but the barbecue is worth the trip. It was the first in what I’m calling the Austin BBQ Hat Trick: Salt Lick, Iron Works, and Stubb’s.

Post-conference goals

Stay positive and energized about our industry. Like Blair said, we work in an awe-inspiring medium. Use your skills for good (whatever that may mean to you or those around you).

Go forth and make awesomeness.