When SXSW 2012 registration opened a few days ago (July 30th), I was asked, “Does SXSW ever sell out?”. My answer was, “No, but the hotels do”.
The first year I attended SXSWi I decided to go at the last minute. The biggest challenge was finding a hotel room even remotely close to the Convention Center. I ended up at the La Quinta Inn Oltorf (1603 East Oltorf Street) which was about 2.5 miles from the convention center. While I had an incredible amount of fun, my week involved a lot of late night cab rides and I missed any sort of morning panels. After that I vowed never to stay that far away again. It’s like camping in the outer streets of Black Rock City when all the action is on the Esplanade
I heard rumors a few days ago that hotels near the Austin Convention Center were already sold out for the Interactive portion of SXSW. Today I checked on SXSW’s Hotel Availability page and sure enough everything close to the ACC is sold out for the Interactive portion of SXSW. If you’re going for just music, most hotels are still available, but for SXSWi the closest hotel available through the SXSW Housing Desk is “La Quinta – South”, 3.9 miles from the Convention Center. I imagine it won’t be long before all those rooms are gone too.
The highly coveted hotels are anything within walking distance of the Austin Convention Center. The Hilton is probably the most sought after place to crash with it’s proximity and tendency for late night lobby parties like the Revolving Door Party and the Backstroke Competition. Other popular hotels are the Courtyard Mariott/Residence Inn, the Driskell, and the W Hotel. Ever year I’ve found myself visiting friends or hitting the bar at these hotels.
If you’re like me, your first thought is probably, “Why not just book a room for 2014 right now?” The problem is SXSW blocks off rooms in all the nearby hotels and then only provides them to SXSW badge holders. There are two ways to get a badge, you either buy one or you’re given one for presenting a panel. In order to book a hotel room in one of the blocks that SXSW has held, you are required to have a badge. But this causes another problem, registration (for badges and hotels) opens well before panels are accepted. For SXSW 2012 I didn’t know whether my panel was accepted until December. There are hotel rooms held for presenters, but there is the risk that your panel is not accepted, and then you’re stuck in December and everything is sold out. Not a risk I’m willing to take.
SXSW Interactive is getting bigger and bigger every year. In 2010 (the first year Interactive was bigger than Music) there were 12-13,000 attendees. The next year, 2011, an estimated 20,000 people invaded Austin for the Interactive festival. Despite the rain this year, that number jumped up to 25,000 people. If this trend continues, we may see over 30,000 people this year and more people sharing beds out of necessity rather than a result of drunken hook-ups after the company party.
A time-lapse video of the 2012 San Francisco Marathon as it ran through the Mission somewhere between miles 20 and 21. Thousands of people sprinted, jogged, shuffled, and walked down Guerrero St over the course of 4 hours. The video above starts with the first runner, Nathan Krah, who went on to win the entire race with a average mile of 5:36. A few more people trickle in behind him, but it’s not for awhile until you start seeing the crowds. At one point the course was diverted to a different street periodically in order to thin the crowds a bit, which is why you’ll see pulsing waves of people. Heather and I woke up early not only to catch this video, but also to cheer on our friend, Eric Bond, who ran all 26.2 miles at a still impressive 10:32 minute mile.
Want to play Simon with fire, watch well-dressed performers twirl fire, or hear the crackle of a Tesla coil but are stuck on the East Coast? Well if you’re anywhere near Pittsburgh you should go check out Pyrotopia on April 27th and 28th. It’s not often that the east coast gets a fire art festival. and to top it off this one is free and open to the public and is family-friendly.
(via Laughing Squid)
This past weekend the Lost Horizon Night Market came to West Oakland. Tucked away in an alleyway next to a concrete mill, trucks opened up to the in-the-know public and created new and different experiences for everyone that attended. For those that aren’t familiar, the idea of the Lost Horizon Night Market originated in New York, but a San Francisco version has since been opened. In short, a number of customized box trucks (usually around 20) all gather in a predetermined location on a chosen evening. Some trucks serve food, others put on a show, but they all provide experiences of some sort to the patrons of the night. For both of the San Francisco Lost Horizon Night Markets I have been a proprietor rather than a participant, teaming up with Nelz, Matt, and others to run the Mission Impossible truck.
When we first started throwing around ideas for a truck for the Market, it was agreed that we wanted something low-effort but high-impact: something that wouldn’t take us hours and hours of work, but would still provide for a unique and fun experience for people. Inspired by the spy caper movies, we decided we would create a “laser field” that would protect “confectionery devices”, aka cupcakes. People would have to manuever their way through the lasers in order to rescue a cupcake. If they tripped a laser, they would be eliminated by the robot sentries. The lasers were actually orange strings with bells on them and the robot sentries were people hidden in the darkness with fully automatic Nerf rifles. Throw in a smoke machine and a black light to make the “lasers” glow and we were basically done.
The first time we ran the truck we quickly gained a line and spent most of the night trying to get people through the line and the experience. Additionally we didn’t really perfect our “pitch” since we had spent most of the time putting the truck together: painting wood, building guard booths, stringing bells, etc.
We decided that our goal this time was to not have a line. How to accomplish this? We would provide people with a task, some sort of small hurdle that they would have to complete before they even got a chance to get in the truck. Several ideas were tossed around about what sort of tasks we could ask people to do. I was very interested in making people interact with other people at the Market. I’m not sure who came up with the idea, but somehow a friend who was helping with another truck became our point person for these tasks. Since we had experience with Santa’s Little Secret Service, we were easily able to get into Secret Service mode, donning suits, earpieces, dark sunglasses, and a serious attitude. When people asked what our truck was about, my pitch went something like this (with a serious and straight face mind you):
“We’re guarding some highly unstable confectionery devices and we’re looking for people with the experience and dedication to help defuse these devices. However due to the inherent danger in this mission we need to make sure you’re up to the task. You will need to seek out the Man in the Mask. He will provide you with additional information.”
Most people would instantly understand and go off hunting for the Man in the Mask, who we had given a handful of silver marbles and carte blanche to give people whatever missions he wanted. To be honest, I don’t even know half of the stories Evan, our man in the mask, told people. All I know is that if someone showed up with a “high density spherical memory storage device” (aka a silver marble) and a good story about what they had to do to get here, we’d let them into the truck to try to get their cupcake.
Over the course of the night things got more and more complex as more people got pulled into the shadowy ruse. Evan would tell people to go find another person and ask them for a task. At first these other people didn’t even realize they were part of the Mission Impossible truck, but were quick to send the person on some sort of mission. People would return to our truck anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or two later after running around the Night Market, following detours left and right.
One group of 6 people returned with a dream stolen from the Dream Library truck. I quickly called all the other agents for our truck and escorted the group to the semi next to us, which just happened to be “The Jail”. We announced to the warden that they were charged with stealing dreams and needed to be locked up for their crimes. The group was put behind bars, and I ran off to the Dream Library to return the stolen dream. Upon my return to our truck I discovered that the group had broken out of jail and rushed our truck all at once! So many rules, shattered.
Another group, actually friends of a friend, were told at the very beginning of the night that they would want to experience our truck and they should get started on the mission early. At the end of the night they finally returned, with stories of being sent around to a number of different people, continuously wondering when it would all end and they would get into this mystery truck. I fessed up to them and told them that in all honesty none of the people involved with the Mission Impossible truck had a full picture of what was going on. In turn they told me stories of people stealing their marble, sending them to other truck to steal other objects, and getting pointed to one person after another for their next mission, and just a general state of confusion over the course of the night. As the market was coming to a close, we finally let them into the truck to run the laser course and get their cupcakes as they had surely earned them even if they had lost their marble.
Despite our efforts, at one point in the night we ended up with a line of about 4 groups deep. I had to make up something quick to stall. I explained to one group that there had been a serious laser malfunction and that they would need to find a red lighter, as red is the only wavelength of color that could successfully be used to repair the lasers. They rushed off into the darkness on the hunt. I turned to another couple, also ready to get in the truck. I told them that we needed a clean handkerchief. I don’t remember the reasoning behind the need for this object, but after a bit of arguing they too ran off into the night in pursuit. They returned with one of them wearing the bandana over her face. She told me that on their way back, she had started giving people tasks to do in order to get into the truck too! So much chaos, so much confusion, so much fun.
For the next Night Market, we won’t be doing the Mission Impossible truck again. It’s been done, perfected, and it’s time to move onto something new. However it was a great experience in just how much fun it can be to spark people’s excitement and provide a sense of adventure. A huge thanks to Nelz, Matt, Rochelle, Evan, and everyone else that helped make things interesting.
This was my third year at SXSW and I feel like I’ve really gotten the hang of it. Here are my notes from this year accompanied by some photos and videos. (All of my photos and videos are over on Flickr)
Running a Panel: Last year I led the Core Conversation “How To Not Be A Douchebag at SXSW” with Violet Blue and John Adams. This year I resubmitted the idea and SXSW decided it should be a panel. So along with John Adams, Scott Beale of Laughing Squid, and Amber Osborne (aka Miss Destructo) we taught a packed room of mostly first-timers how they can avoid being a douchebag at SXSW. Overall it received a very positive reception, and I didn’t see too many people sneaking out of the “at capacity” room.
Attending Panels: Once again I didn’t make it to too many panels this year. I’ll be honest, part of the reason was the late nights out with old and new friends. Getting up and out of the hotel before noon was a bit difficult most days. The time zone change and the Daylight Saving change didn’t help. As such I missed quite a few early morning panels that I really wish I could have made it too. One other hurdle for making it to panels was that they were so spread out. I didn’t attend any panels that weren’t in the Convention Center or the Hilton. I understand the want to have more panels available to the steadily growing SXSW Interactive crowd, but I was sad to miss a number of friends’ panels just because they were scattered or double-booked. I quickly stopped even bothering to look at venues other than ACC/Hilton when I wanted to go to one. I don’t have a solution, this is just my experience and the similar sentiments I heard from others.
Hotel: My first time at SXSW I stayed at La Quinta Inn Oltorf because I decided to go at the last minute and all the other hotels were booked. That was terrible, don’t do that. Last year and this year I split a room with friends (@violetblue, @dotben and @ekai) at the Hilton, which was awesome. Splitting the room four ways (two beds and a roll away bed) made the room more affordable as well as more fun. This Hilton is also right next to the Convention Center and also has panels in its own building. Definitely the most convenient place to stay in my opinion and I’ve never had any problems with service or accommodations there.
Badge: I got a Gold badge again this year because I was a panelist. Last year’s Gold badge came in handy because I got a chance to attend the screening of Objectified. This year however I didn’t make it to any films. With so much to do and so many people to spend time with I didn’t want to wait in line for a movie that may or may not be enjoyable. I wish it was easier/more convenient to see films. If I had to buy a badge, I’d go with an Interactive only badge in the future. We also had several people in our group that didn’t even have a badge and most times that wasn’t a problem except for a couple of SXSW-only parties.
Parties: We went to quite a few parties this year as well as created our own. At the SapientNitro party (at Venue 222) DJ Spider was awesome and we played the Primal Scream Game (get people to give their best primal scream). The ACLU/Google party at Maggie Mae’s was a fun 80’s themed party where Amy was given the challenge of collecting 13 silly straws (she completed it). Five or six of us won free Timbuk2 bags from the WatchDotTV people at the Mashable party at Buffalo Billards and then we caught Eclectic Method. And then there was the Twitter party at Icenhauer’s, which was one of the few parties I actually waited in line for since it was packed and I wanted to see friends inside. It was worth the wait. The gdgt party at Purevolume was kind of a joke, as it was “RSVP only” and after cashing in my +5 RSVP we found out it was basically a trade show. A couple free beers and a free iPhone case and we bailed, but not after taking over a table and attempting to find investors for Spacerack (more on that later). Sadly, I missed out on all the parties at the Seaholm Power Plant which I thought would be a cool venue; next year perhaps.
Shenanigans: Saturday night was Brides of March so I donned my wedding dress and we went pub crawling with a dozen or so beautiful brides. We started at Casino El Camino and hit Beauty Bar, Trophy Room for some bull riding, classed up the Driskill, danced at Oil Can Harry’s, pondered a ride on the RVIP Lounge (it was too crowded for all of us), and finished off at Fado’s with the last few remaining brides. (Afterward we ditched the dresses and headed to Elysium, Austin’s goth club.)
Monday night was the 2nd Annual Revolving Door Party in the Hilton’s revolving door. Matt scored some great party supplies (hats, noisemakers, glowsticks, and even stamps for the door). It was much shorter than last year’s party but was very crowded. While we partied the annual foursquare Hilton lobby backstroke competition went off.
Throughout the week I tried to pitch as many people on my latest startup: Spacerack. Everyone is starting to store their data in the clouds these days, but Spacerack wants to take this one step further. We go above the cloud. That’s right, satellite based storage technology. You can safely store your sensitive data outside any terrestrial jurisdiction. Additionally you can increase the distance between your sensitive data and the magnetic field of the earth, which scientists have discovered is the number one cause for bit rot. We currently have funding from ScoNelz which helped us launch our first two satellites. We’re looking for additional funding to get 5 more satellites up next quarter, and are aiming for a moon base to help with redundancy by Q4 2013. Don’t tell anyone, but our exit strategy is to get acquired by Rackspace. Rackspace Spacerack == $$$$
People: I met so many new people and got to spend time with a lot of old friends over the course of SXSW. Now would be the time to list of all of them, but I don’t know where to start and where to end. To all the people that I met and spent time with at SXSW whether it was at a panel, hitting some tech party, bouncing around to random bars, having lunch/dinner together, running around in a wedding dress, late night food adventures, or at a BBQ, thank you for making SXSW an awesome event and one I look forward to returning to next year. In the end it’s all about the people.
Oh hell, here we go: @violetblue, @dotben, @scottbeale, @missdestructo, @netik, @evacide, @nelz9999, @efng, @scottyiseri, @redshoes, @jonathanstray, @compressorfilms, @heathervescent, @ahnie, @jess_stang, @spitfiregrrrl (thx for the book!), @wombatina, @amywhiggins, @danger_ranger, @willpants, @mariangoodell, @netdiva, @calliloopy, @kittenhotep, and more
I moved to San Francisco because of the art scene and the amount of all around fun you can have in this city. I now call SF my home for both me and my business. Unfortunately there is currently a “War on Fun” that is attacking the venues and events in our city. It is slowly chipping away at what makes San Francisco unique.
On Tuesday, February 8th you are invited to make your voice heard and help stop the tearing apart of the essence of San Francisco. From the Facebook event:
Before you say no, read this article.
Call Gavin Newsom and tell him we do not want our clubs and venues raided by the police department, and we seek better solutions to preserve SF Venues, Arts & Culture. Be sure to remind him you are a registered voter in the city of San Francisco.
Telephone: (415) 554-6141
Fax: (415) 554-6160
Many thanks to Debra Walker, candidate for dist 6 Supervisor for this idea, presented at Flux Summit on Jan 21, 2010 at the “What’s Shaking Down SF Venues” panel.
If you’re not sure what to say, metaphorge has a good list of talking points.
image via SFAppeal
SXSW Interactive 2010 is only a few weeks away. If you’re like us, you’re still procrastinating on buying plane tickets to Austin. If that’s the case and you’re flying from either San Francisco or Los Angeles, then you’ll want to book the following flights on Southwest. We’ll all meet up in Las Vegas for the second flight to Austin. If you’re flying in from somewhere else on the west coast, look to hook up with Southwest Flight 718 from Las Vegas.
If you’re flying from San Francisco (SFO->LAS->AUS):
3/11/2010 (Flights 674/718)
Depart 10:00am Arrive 5:25pm
If you’re flying from L.A. (LAX->LAS->AUS):
3/11/2010 (Flights 853/718)
Depart 10:30am Arrive 5:25pm
Southwest has an open seating policy (we all love ‘open’ things, right?) so all the geeks will be able to congregate on the plane, confusing other passengers by speaking in acronyms, websites, and snippets of code. Southwest does have a couple of planes that have WiFi service, but it’s not possible to know whether we’ll be lucky enough to snag one. Maybe we can get some strings pulled…
I think it’s safe to officially say that my proposal for SXSW 2010 has been accepted. “How To Not Be A Douchebag At SXSW” will be a core conversation at this year’s South By Southwest. A huge thanks to everyone that voted in the PanelPicker (apparently we were pretty popular), and of course thanks to SXSW for accepting the idea!
I’m organizing the conversation, but I won’t be educating alone. Violet Blue, John Adams, and several others will be helping lead the conversation. I’m excited that this was chosen to be a core conversation since it means we’ll get to hear the opinions of everyone that attends.
The rough draft of some of the questions you can expect to be answered during our session:
- Who is “that guy” and how do I avoid being him?
- How do I self-promote without being a douchebag?
- What words instantly make me sound like I don’t know what I’m talking about?
- How do I not come off looking like an obnoxious PR flack?
- How do I pitch my product/service/technology?
- How do I handle an open bar?
- How should I ask questions at panels and presentations?
- What is the proper Twitter/Foursquare etiquette at SXSW?
- How can I treat the locals graciously?
- How can I make a connection with someone I’m attracted to and not come across like a marketing dweeb? (i.e. — hooking up, the undouche way)
It’s looking like we’ll be scheduled on Friday, March 12th, so make sure your flights get in the day before because you won’t want to miss this! Not only will you get educated, there will also be a limited number of appropriate stickers and buttons.
December 12th, 2009 – Santa’s Defense Forces (consisting of the 12th Nutcracker Regiment, the 103rd Sleighborne Division, and the Sugar Plum Service) converged on San Francisco, CA. The primary purpose of the mission: to protect Santa during the annual Santacon (aka Santarchy) gathering in SF. Additional orders included protecting other high value individuals such as Jesus and Frank Chu as well as spreading holiday cheer to civilians.
I was part of the embedded press corp and took photos and video of this highly successful mission. You can check out all my photos in the Operation Yule Storm set. I also highly recommend checking out the full mission report for Operation Yule Storm as well as the back-stories for both the 12th Nutcracker Regiment and the Sugar Plum Service.
Some live reporting on the scene during the Castro Dance Party:
And some of my favorite photos:
The Halloween edition of sf0’s “Journey to the End of the Night” had a massive turn out. Well over 600 people showed up to play. There isn’t a final count as we ran out of waivers and maps for everyone and only 600 of those were printed. But regardless of the limitations, the getting kicked out of venues, and other hiccups, everyone had a great time. And I have to point out the best description of the event (via ombwah): At one point whilst ombwah was pouncing on a fleeing rabbit. A police officer asked me.. ” whats this, a Jump into the street and Die game?
Rather than playing in this dangerous game of dodge traffic and chasers, I spent the evening being one of those chasers to dodge and helping out at Checkpoint 3 (yes the one where we got kicked out of the garage). What follows is my proof submitted to sf0 (photos are also up on flickr as usual):
My evening started late as I scrambled to turn a briefcase into a backpack using only climbing rope and a carabiner. Success finally and I jumped on my bike to race down to Justin Herman Plaza, where a small group of eager players was already forming 30 minutes prior to the actual meeting time. I rolled around the corner to meet up with my fellow chasers. We were briefed, tied on pink ribbons, made plans and then disappeared into the night to stake out good places to ambush players.
Dressed in my white slacks, white jacket, and baby blue t-shirt I looked like an old vice squad officer on vacation from Miami. The nondescript black briefcase that looked like it could be either holding drugs, large sums of money, or divorce papers was a nice addition. Inside the briefcase was 2kg of candy, a pink ribbon, and a video camera. The plan was to pop open the briefcase in front of players and watch them scatter. That was the plan at least.
I locked up my bike and started wandering the streets, briefcase in tow. The first few players I encountered didn’t quite get it. I popped the briefcase, asked if they wanted any candy, they said “no thanks” and just continued walking to Checkpoint 1. One player did go for the offer of candy. After asking about any illegal additives, he reached into the briefcase, brushing the pink ribbon aside, grabbed some candy, said “thanks” and continued on to Checkpoint 1. Absolute failure.
I gave up on the briefcase ploy, tied the ribbon around my arm and just started yelling at people. The bus stop on the corner of the block was packed with people, every single one of them keeping an eye on me once my identity was known. There were many looks of confusions, often followed by a quick sprint away from me from other players. It seems that many of them either weren’t listening when the game was explained or didn’t see my chaser ribbon as I stood in the middle of a crosswalk, players streaming by each side of me as I yelled “I could tag every single one of you right now”. Fortunately for them I didn’t have the heart to tag someone only a few blocks from the start of their journey.
After feeling like Moses in a crosswalk, I decided visibility was what I needed. That meant more ribbons that would make it obvious that I was a chaser. After a 15 minute hunt for my misplaced bike, I headed back to the plaza to grab a handful of chaser ribbons from Sam. I affixed them to every part of my body and headed back out into the night.
I spent some time biking north of Market, and west of Checkpoint 5, hoping I’d run into those players that thought they were being sneaky taking a long way around to different checkpoints. Nope, either I was too far ahead of the pack, or they were taking more direct routes. I headed over to Checkpoint 3 to give them a hand.
While dismounting from my bike in the safe zone of Checkpoint 3, I saw a player approaching. I feinted as if I were going to give chase and he scrambled. Carrying my bike, I half-chased him down the block. He screamed “I’m in a safe zone!” to which I yelled back “Then why are you running?!” Light bulb went off, he stopped and I directed him to Checkpoint 3.
Up on the roof of the parking garage I found two agents pulling players aside, whispering questions to them and then zip-tying bells to their ankles and shows. As I attempted to figure out what in the world was going on, the parking garage security guy came up and told us we couldn’t use the 9th floor of the parking garage. Long story made short, security kicked us out and we setup shop on the sidewalk in front of the entrance to the garage. They were cool with this. The one security guy even stood at the doors and helped direct confused players to the line we had going.
Boy was there a line. At on point there were so many players in like that we had to give up asking questions and just started zip-tying ankles, one after another. I have no idea what 30-40 of the players that came through Checkpoint 3 looked like, but I could probably identify them by their footwear. I spent the next couple of hours at Checkpoint 3, watching as friends, familiar faces, and complete strangers came to get their manifests “signed” with a zip tied bell or the occasional sparkly pipe cleaner.
Then it was off to Noisebridge for the after-party where some players had already arrived after traversing the entire course in about 2 hours.