2013 SXSWi Hotels Sold Out

Filed Under Events, SXSW | 2012-08-05, 12:04

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.

Image composite sources: anneh632 and Taber Andrew Bain


How To Not Be A Douchebag at SXSW Wrap-Up

Filed Under Education, Personal, SXSW | 2010-03-18, 20:06

Image by Scott Beale

The first ever “How To Not Be A Douchebag at SXSW” session went incredibly well! Violet Blue, John Adams, and I led a Core Conversation this year at SXSW Interactive with the hopes that we would raise awareness and help with douchebaggery reduction. We had a full room with mostly newbies, but a few SXSW veterans and even some reformed douchebags showed up. The core conversation was the perfect format and really encouraged discussion and some debate.

You can listen to the talk or download it.

In preparation for this session, I realized that a lot of being a douchebag could be boiled down into three realms:


Douchebags generally act like they are entitled and that the world should stop for them because they are so important. Take a second every now and then to reflect on how you may be acting. Don’t be that self-entitled douchebag arguing with the doorman, “Don’t you know who I am?!” Douchebags also have an “undue sense of accomplishment” that they think entitles them to something even though they’re just riding coattails.


Common sense manners are huge! Please, thank you, don’t cut in line, etc. Oh, and the biggest thing when we’re guests in Austin? TIP! Tip your waitresses, the bar staff, and especially those working open bars. Not only is it nice, you never know when it might come back around and help you out, i.e. quickly getting drinks for that important business client. Treat the volunteers well and thank them for their hard work!


Check your motivation when interacting with people. Are you genuinely interested in them and what they have to say? Or are you just trying to gauge whether or not they are worth your time? According to Google we’ve come up with a new term: “badge surfer”. A badge surfer is someone who is constantly checking people’s badges, even before getting introduced to them to see who they are and what company they work for. It’s fair to check badges later when you may have missed a name or something, but don’t use them as a measurement of whether you should talk to someone.

I think if you keep these three things in mind (EMM), then you can avoid a lot of douchebag behavior at tech conferences like SXSW. But that wasn’t all we covered in the conversation. Some other great points were brought up:

  • Douchebags use terms like expert, guru, ninja to describe themselves and have “MAS
  • Douchebags hand out unsolicited business cards before engaging in the conversation with someone. Respect someone’s approach to business cards. Some people love them, some hate them. Also respect that not everyone wants to instantly hand out their contact info.
  • Douchebags are allergic to transparency
  • Douchebags use their sexuality to sell you a product. (“There’s a thin line between douchebag and booth babe”)
  • Don’t game and cheat on social media. In a douchebag move, Adobe had claimed several mayorships on Foursquare at SXSW.
  • Douchebags lack empathy. Many rules are meant to be broken, but in a way that doesn’t screw anyone over.
  • Know what you’re talking about when trying to pitch your product or service. Admit when you don’t know what someone is talking about.
  • A douchebag act doesn’t instantly make you a douchebag. Make an effort to politely call people on douchebag moves, but respect that some douchebags might be beyond saving.
  • If you’re going to take a picture or video, ask someone first!
  • When asking questions at a panel, don’t pitch your company/service. If you want to promote your own company, do your own panel to share your knowledge.
  • Don’t start off with “This may sound redundant” and don’t monopolize the microphone.
  • Try not to monopolize people’s time after panels. Make a personal connection and pass on your contact info. Email a panelist after the craziness of SXSW to reconnect.
  • It’s acceptable to ask Twitter and friends for invites to parties, but don’t overdo it and spam your followers.
  • Don’t anonymously be negative on the backchannel at sessions. If you see chatter on the backchannel that’s not being addressed, stand up and bring it to the panelist’s attention during questions.
  • Don’t tweet every other sentence at a session. Highlights are good, but constant chatter is useless.
  • Don’t do multiple check-ins at the same place. Don’t connect everything (Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter, Facebook, etc). Duplicate information cross-posted to multiple services is annoying.
  • Don’t tweet at the urinal. Don’t take calls in the stalls.
  • Let people know you might be tweeting at a higher rate than normal while at SXSW. In the past TwitterSnooze was handy but they’re down. It looks like Muuter might be a good solution. Other’s have expressed success using lists.
  • When trying to get a personal introduction or someone to make a blog post about your stuff, overwhelm them with your passion and recognize that you’re asking someone to use their social capital for you.
  • “It’s South By Southwest, not Girls Gone Wild”
  • Be careful when talking with someone you’re trying to make a more personal connection with. If you’re asking for contact info they may think it’s for business.
  • You can’t have a real date at SXSW. There’s too much going on, people have work and networking to do. Try to grab coffee or lunch.
  • When we got done discussing douchebaggery we handed out some buttons and stickers. (Big thanks to Snarky McF for making the buttons!) It was great to do this panel on the first day as we got to see all sorts of impact over the rest of the week via Twitter and blog posts:

    “Finally, I think I understand not only what a douchebag is, but why douche bags flock to the tech and media scene. I am writing from the blogger lounge at South by Southwest (Interactive) 2010, where people laugh at the pin I’m wearing: “Not a douchebag.” Thanks to a pivotal panel I attended the first day of the conference, I am a proud owner of this pin.” (Read Bernice Imei Hsu’s full post: I Am Not THAT Douche Bag (And Other Related Blurts))

    Chris Pirillo:

    @DavidReeves tweeted “You didn’t attend the “How not to be a douchebag” session at #sxsw. Participate in the conversation before you give me a card, a-hole.”

    @KatherineD tweeted “Wow, people at mic in @garyvee presentation can’t seem 2 avoid plugging.They didn’t go 2 the “how not to be a douchebag” panel I guess #sxsw”

    Barry Moltz shared some of the things covered in our session in his post How Not to Be a Douche Bag at a Trade Event

    And even Robert Scoble chose a “douchebag” pin when I gave him the choice:

    image by Rod Begbie

    All in all we had overwhelmingly positive feedback from people and it was brought up several times over the week. I’m considering doing this again next year and would love to hear people’s feedback (both positive and negative) on the session. I know next time I’ll remember to introduce us and what we do (*facepalm*) and will try to keep things more SXSW specific.


    How To Not Be A Douchebag at SXSW – Friday, March 12th, 5pm

    Filed Under Geek, Personal, SXSW | 2010-03-09, 18:28

    Ok, one last warning! Our “core conversation” on How To Not Be A Douchebag at SXSW is only a few days away. Violet Blue, John Adams, and I (along with insight from Ben Metcalfe) have put together what we think will be a a great panel.

    We’re scheduled for Friday, March 12th at 5pm in Courtyard Rio Grande B. Come early to grab a seat as 99 people have already said they’re coming! Official page is over here if you want to add it to your schedule on my.sxsw.com.


    Join us on the SXSW Nerd Bird Flight

    Filed Under Events, Geek, SF Bay Area | 2010-01-28, 13:18

    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…

    Thanks to @dotBen for starting this idea. He’s even got a Google Spreadsheet going with who will be on the plane and some FAQ. Dave McClure has also setup a Plancast.


    SXSW 2010 Proposal Was Accepted!

    Filed Under Events, Personal | 2010-01-19, 13:16

    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.


    How To Not Be A Douchebag at SXSW

    Filed Under Events, Geek | 2009-08-20, 14:19

    Vote for my PanelPicker Idea!

    Last year I had a blast at SXSW Interactive. It was both enjoyable and informative. However I quickly noticed that there are a lot of.. well douchebags at SXSW. It quickly became quite humorous to pick them out in a crowd and discuss what made them douchey. While it was all a lot of snarky fun, I realized that some of these people probably didn’t even realize how douchey they were being! So I decided that this year I should hold a panel to help those in need. The panel is aptly titled “How To Not Be A Douchebag at SXSW”. Here is the the proposal that was submitted:

    Aimed at both first-time and long-time attendees to SXSW Interactive, this biting and humorous, yet useful panel takes a look at the common actions and behaviors to avoid if you don’t want to be described as “doing it wrong.”

    Questions that will be answered:
    Who is “that guy” and how do I avoid being him?
    How do I self-promote without being a douchebag? (i.e — when should I give out my business card?)
    What words instantly make me sound like I don’t know what I’m talking about? (i.e. — what are douchey buzzwords?)
    How do I not come off looking like an obnoxious PR flack?
    How do I pitch my product/service/technology? (i.e. — to schwag or not to schwag?)
    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)

    Joining me on this panel will be the lovely Violet Blue of sex blogger fame and the experienced John Adams from Twitter. There’s a good chance we’ll pick up a fourth member before SXSW so if you’re interested in joining us, let me know. But in the meantime we have to convince SXSW that this is a panel the people want to see! In order to do this we need your votes. If you’ve got a minute, please head over to our proposal on the SXSW Panel PIcker and give us a thumbs up! But hurry, voting ends on September 4th.

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    SXSW 2009: My Reflections

    Filed Under Events | 2009-03-23, 10:10

    My SXSW 2009 Badge

    After a day of rest, sleep, and unpacking, I’m happy to be home in San Francisco after spending the last week in Austin, Texas attending South By Southwest (aka SXSW). It was the most enjoyable week I’ve had in a long time both personally and professionally. So much fun that I didn’t stop to take many photos or blog much about it while it was going on. You can check out the few photos I did take over on Flickr.

    About a month ago I made the decision that I should be attending SXSW. It has been approximately 8 months since I quit my day job and started working for myself. Having the flexibility of being my own boss means I can make these last minute decisions, and I decided I should take advantage of that. Plus SXSW Interactive is directly related to my business of web properties and development. So I booked some cheap flights on Southwest, found one of the few hotel rooms left at La Quinta Inn, and prepared for the trip by scheduling what panels I would see on Sched.

    The week was a mix of panels, wandering around Austin for food, meeting and talking with various people, seeing other people I rarely see in person, and late late nights out on the town. Here are my reflections so far on the trip:

    * Be social. Everyone at SXSW is a human being, they are not some rockstar. (If they act like it, see the below paragraph about douchebags) Be yourself and introduce yourself to everyone you get a chance to. For me personally I liked to introduce myself but not mention what I do for work or what company I work for. When people asked me what I did I would reply with something like “I own and run a couple of web properties, and enjoy doing fire art in the Bay Area”. I didn’t have any flashy new startup to brag about, and didn’t want to connect with people on a business level, but rather a personal level. I think a lot of “Social Media Experts” forget that underneath all the leverage, synergy, and monetization it’s all about connecting with people on a human level. Even if you’re an introvert like me, it’s very easy to met people and have valuable conversations because you will have similar interests with a large majority of people there.

    * The word of the year for SXSW 2009 is “douchebag”. I’m a geek and I make my living off the web, I’ll be the first to admit it. I’ve been a geek my entire life, basically since I got my first computer at the age of 5. SXSWi is a heavily geek conference, however there are also the marketing, PR, and non-tech people floating around too. In addition to that there are people where this is their job, not their passion. It’s pretty easy to pick these people out, and relatively easy to avoid them. I’m actually working on a panel for next year in my head called “How Not to Be A Douchebag at SXSW”. Some initial hints: they refer to themselves as a Social Media Expert, they use the term new media, or they call themselves an entrepreneur. These aren’t instant classifications as I know some wonderful people like this, but they can be warning flags. Find the people you connect with, and then branch out from there. Chances are you’ll avoid the douchebags and have a great time.

    * You don’t need a badge. Because I delayed so long in making my decision to go to SXSW, I had to purchase my badge on site. Here’s more info on my experience with a SXSW badge. I ran into a couple people who were doing the “Nonference” approach to SXSW. Clintus McGintus, a video blogger that I met, was one of these people. He bounced around Austin like it was his job and met just about everyone there. What is a “Nonference”? It’s the unofficial/underground conference happening at the same time as the official one. Throughout the week I saw twitters popping up here and there about unofficial events where people were connecting and having fun. According to Kenyatta the rules of the Nonference are as such: 1. No badge necessary (if you have one, great!). 2. It must be awesome. 3. Tag it #nonference

    * There is value to the panels, talks, and conversations. I’m tempted to not get a badge, but I also feel like I got something out of the panels and talks. I attended a total of 13 panels. Some of these panels were not worth my time, where as others I found interesting and engaging. I paid for a Gold Badge, which was for both Interactive and Film. Unfortunately I only attended one film, the premiere of Objectified. It was a great film, but not worth the $200 upgrade to tack Film onto Interactive. If I were to do this again I would either stay longer and catch more films, or have to cut out panels or partying to catch more films. There were many films I’d like to see, but will have to wait until they come to San Francisco, the Internet, Netflix, etc.

    * Book a room at the Hilton, and book it early. I stayed at La Quinta Inn on Oltorf Rd, which was approximately 2.5 miles away from the Austin Convention Center. Every morning and every evening (aka 3am) I would have to catch a $10 cab ride. I did pay about half the rate of the Hilton (~$100 vs ~$200), but the taxi fares added up and having that commute every day was annoying. The Hilton is literally across the street, has much nicer rooms, and a much more social atmosphere. We spent a significant amount of time in the Hilton bar in the lobby too. If the Hilton is too full, there’s also the Courtyard Mariott and the Residence Inn Mariott just up the block, both perfectly acceptable hotels. They even have grocery delivery from Whole Foods!

    * Be prepared to wait in line. There are thousands of people at SXSW, so it’s only natural that there will be lines for just about everything. Usually the lines move pretty quick, but take the opportunities to have conversations with friends and strangers around you. More specific advice: Pick up your badge on Friday morning, early. The people that came in on Thursday will have either picked up their badge already or stayed out late partying. If you get to the convention center when it opens, the line should be nonexistent. I was 2nd in line to purchase my badge at about 10am. On the topic of lunches and dinners, try to eat at odd times. There were no panels between 12:30 and 2pm and the lunch lines grew large around 1pm. If there’s not a panel you want to see at 11:30, run and grab lunch at noon. You’ll be smiling as you walk past the long line of people waiting to eat. Oh, and sunday brunch at Taverna is not worth it. You’ll fight with locals for a table and may end up waiting 1.5hrs like we did. On the subject of parties, I have to contradict myself. There are a ton of parties at SXSW every evening, and many of the more popular ones will have long lines. Skip the long lines, and super crowded venues and find out where the real party is happening via Twitter, foursquare, friends, etc. Unless of course it’s the Laughing Squid party, then it’s totally worth the wait.

    That all said and done, let me put out my recommendation that yes, you should go to SXSW. It will be a week (or two if you stay for music) of a lot of fun. If you can get your boss to pay for it and you remember to attend a few panels, there’s even more incentive not to miss it.


    SXSW 2009: Getting By Without a Badge

    Filed Under Events, Hacks and Mods | 2009-03-20, 16:06

    SXSW 09 Gold Badge

    Let me start off by saying I bought a badge, a Gold one at that. SXSW got $695 of my company’s money for me to attend. I’m not saying you shouldn’t pay for a badge and try to sneak into SXSW. I’m all for supporting people that make things happen. With that said, here’s my own personal experience/social experiment/security analysis with SXSW and my badge:

    I bought my SXSW badge on-site at the Austin Convention Center. The process was painless, and except for the increased price for not getting it early, it was just as good. I bought a Gold badge so that I could attend both Interactive and Film events. My badge was printed on site, complete with a hologram and a black and white photo of myself. It’s tied to the purchaser and says so in big capital letters.

    When I compared it to my friends’ badges, it was missing one thing, an RFID. Between the four of us we had 1 platinum speaker badge, 1 normal platinum badge, 1 gold speaker badge, and my normal gold badge. Mine was the only one without an RFID. I’m still not sure as to the purpose of the RFID as I never once saw a reader. An article on a previous SXSW indicates badges for attendees would “use an RFID-enabled badge, also encrypted with a unique ID number”. They indicated that this would not be personally identifying information, but the fact that each badge was using a unique ID number means that each one is identifiable. This is just pure speculation, but it’s possible that SXSW could have been using the RFIDs with readers scattered throughout the convention center to track panel attendance. Again, I never saw an RFID reader and I was never scanned by anyone so I’m not sure of its purpose. In fact I hardly ever had to show my badge.

    One of the first talks we attended was Brian Bushwood’s “Social Engineering: Scam Your Way Into Anything or From Anybody”. He touched on many different social engineering tactics and sparked my idea of seeing how far I could get without showing my badge. The results? Surprisingly far.

    In the 5 days that I attended panels, I kept my Gold badge tucked away in my coat pocket or backpack. I was able to walk around the Convention Center freely, use the wireless internet access, buy food, hang out on couches, etc. without any hassle, or even a second look. I was very recognizable and stood out with my bright red hair, so it wasn’t like I was fading into the sea of people. I often passed by 2-3 SXSW volunteers (sometimes only a foot away) who were standing guard at multiple entrances without any comments.

    When it came to attending talks and panels, it was just as easy. I made it to 12 different talks without showing my badge at all. I was finally asked to present it for my 13th and final talk on the last day of SXSWi, I think primarily because I was with a couple of friends who also weren’t wearing their badges at the time.

    How did I do it? Surprisingly easily. Over the couple of days I utilized several techniques to make it past the SXSW volunteers without getting stopped:

    * Wear a coat. The first few days were cold and rainy and I always had a coat on. Most people will assume your badge is under your coat. When the weather warmed up to 80 degrees, this wasn’t so much an option.

    * Bury your head in your iPhone/schedule/something, look like you’re deep in thought. Most people will want to be polite and won’t interrupt you and you can walk right past.

    * Stick with a large group of people, preferably in the middle of them.

    * Avoid eye contact. Don’t engage people that should be checking your badge. You want to get by and have them focus on the next person, literally forgetting about you in seconds.

    * Walk around like you belong there. Granted this was easy for me to do since I had paid for a badge, but anyone with some confidence could do the same. This is probably the most important thing and actually something Brian Bushwood echoed.

    So how many times did I have to show my badge during the week of SXSWi? Only 5 times: Picking up my shwag bag, free drinks/food at the Web Awards Pre-party, seeing the premiere of Objectified, my 13th and final panel, and the official closing party. Four out of those five instances I just flashed a badge that had stickers slipped in, covering up the holograms and most of my name and photo. All of the technical and physical anti-counterfeiting measures that SXSW implemented in their badges were basically rendered useless by the flaws in the social realm.

    As I said before, do not use this information for evil. You should pay for a badge for SXSW, as it is an event that is definitely worth the price. If you do it early it’s quite affordable. I also imagine that this will be more difficult in the future as I informed SXSW employees of my experience in addition to making this post.

    UPDATE: My friend John Adams says that badge checking during the Music portion of SXSW has been much stricter than Interactive.


    SXSW 2009

    Filed Under Geek | 2009-03-12, 22:42

    Obligatory “I’m doing SXSW” post. Find me and say hi if you’re here too!

    It’s my first time and I’ve already learned something valuable: “Don’t get a hotel room far away” Looks like I’ll be racking up the taxi fares as well as the bar tabs this week!

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