So Long, SXSW

Our last Texas moments were spent gathered around huge mounds of cornflake-crusted fried chicken and spicy fried potato wedges. It felt fitting, leaving a place we didn’t want to forget, to have a meal that was certain to stay with us for awhile.

We were joined by the New York Public Library’s Carrie Bickner and Happy Cog-gers Jeffrey Zeldman (pictured) and Jason Santa Maria. Bickner blushed when everyone reported the great feedback from her panel “Digital Preservation and Blogs.”. Santa Maria passed out screened and hand-cut cards, impressive for someone you’d think does a lot more Command-Xs than actual cutting. Zeldman called out the classic rock titles playing in the restaurant, bemoaned the reality of a Chef-less “South Park” and wondered aloud if Milton Glaser would let him use his studio for the next An Event Apart. Sounds great to us.

We’re not interactive designers. Honestly, we didn’t understand some of what these people were saying, especially when they spoke in streams of acronyms. But this was one of the most enlightening, engaging gatherings we had ever attended. Why does the SXSW Interactive Festival work so well? Perhaps it’s just that. It’s a “festival.” It’s not a conference. It’s a place to celebrate and share, to learn, perhaps, but really, to showcase what you’ve been up to for the past year. In the similar spirit of the film festival and the music festival slowly infiltrating Austin as we drifted away, SXSWi is a place to proudly step out from behind the computer and say, “See?”

And maybe that’s the other thing. Web- and tech-based disciplines are such an isolated pursuit. Dark rooms and bright screens. And the web itself is a very social place–almost too social, you wonder, as you look around when they ask how many people have blogs and every single person in the room raises their hand. But watching so many of these designers’ blogs go silent for these four days was a true testament to how ready, willing and capable these people were to show and tell.

But we still wanted an expert’s opinion. So we asked Zeldman. “These people are doing,” he said. We couldn’t agree more.