My Top 10 Moments Of SXSW 2015 (Austin, TX, USA)

Feeling has come back to my feet and another SXSW has come and gone. Unfortunately for me, it was likely my last one (for a long while at least). Armed with my Interactive Badge (which I earned as a perk for volunteering 50 hours of my time), I looked to conquer as much as I could of the interactive portion of the conference. There were many highs, along with a few lows, but here are my top 10 moments from the recently concluded South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference.

Honorable mention: M.I.A. buses
You can forget about parking downtown during the festival (pro-tip!) and many were counting on CapMetro’s extended bus services to take them back home or to their cars at the end of the night. I was at the stop on 3rd & Lavaca and a fellow bus rider looked at everyone and said “I’ve been standing here for almost two hours and there hasn’t been a bus”. The amount of curse words in my head was building up quick. I flipped open the Uber app, 4.1x surge. Curse word. Flipped open the Lyft app, 150% tip. Curse word. After some scrambling, I was able to split a regular cab with another stranded passenger and made it back to my car for a far more reasonable amount. The customer complaints division heard from me a few days later about the whole fiasco and I got a complimentary 7 day pass (which I’ll probably never use) for my troubles.

Honorable mention: Meeting Folks
One of the festival’s tag lines is “Every March the world comes to Austin” and I had a blast speaking to everyone who was in Austin from both near and far. It was fun speaking to locals and internationals who were experiencing Sx for the first time. The advice I offered to all of them was to brace themselves for the madness that was the festival. As I walked around downtown, the abundance of different languages being spoken by all the attendees was music to my ears and I had a lot to share about Austin to anyone who would listen, and a lot to learn from other attendees about the part of the world they arrived from.

10. Skipping SXSW Music
The music portion is of the festival is when the whole thing reaches a fitting dramatic climax. The never ending lines and over capacity venues last year turned me off to it completely and I wanted to stay as far away from it as possible this time around. In the end, I’m glad I did and my feet will be forever thankful for my decision. A tip of the hat that to everyone who braved the elements and saw their favorite artists, you, sir/madam, are a better person that I am.

9. Meeting Lee Abbamonte
Tripit (my favorite travel mobile app) hosted a meet a greet with the man who currently holds the distinction of being the youngest American to have travelled to all the countries in the world. Of course I had to meet this this cat - I had a lot of questions for him! I was at the lounge earlier in the morning eating brunch and spoke to a few folks seated at the table I was in and I proclaimed to everyone how excited I was to meet the man who traveled to all the countries in the world and a gentleman to my immediate right said “Yeah, that guy is kinda cool”. A few minutes later, a host from Tripit welcomed us all and introduced everyone to Lee, who in fact was the gentleman to my right! What a humble brag! Ha, talk about an interesting introduction. Later that afternoon, I came back for the meet and greet and was regaled with Lee’s stories of being shot at in Libya, entering North Korea and conquering the South Pole. He was a staunch advocate of travel and because of that, we can be friends!

You can follow Lee's adventures at leeabbamonte.com

You can follow Lee's adventures at leeabbamonte.com

8. Watching the first episode of the new season of "Community"
The crowd pleasing sitcom “Community” has had an up and down run, playing musical chairs with being on hiatus and on the air several times over the course of its 5 seasons. Yahoo recently acquired the rights to the series and exclusively premiered the first episode at their space on 4th & Brazos. The audience was treated to the entire cast (minus Donald Glover, Chevy Chase and Yvette Nicole Brown) and the creator Dan Harmon being present to christen the new relationship with their web overlords. The first episode was funny and well written but I found it difficult to follow after never keeping up with the show after season 3. Also, there was something off with the new character dynamic and it was clear that I missed Troy (Donald Glover), Pearce (Chevy Chase) and Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown). Right after the premiere, the space turned into a dance party dubbed as the "Greendale Community College Prom”. I didn’t end up staying, but I hope it was a kick ass time!

7. Samsung Galaxy VR
The Samsung Studio located on 2nd & Trinity was a beautiful space showcasing the latest and greatest from Samsung. I stood in line for over an hour to preview their VR headset powered by Oculus tying in with the release of the movie "Insurgent" along with 2 other VR demonstrations, a snowboarding demo, and the other of the 40th Anniversary of Saturday Night Live. The marquee one was the Insurgent demo by far and had the staff buzzing about the "4D" experience. I was strapped in and got my first hand look with the new wave of the future immersed in a 3D environment where I could look around, witness characters dissolving in and out while environments collapsed around me. The heralded 4th dimension was a fan blowing timed air blasts at me. Lame. All in all, I was a little underwhelmed by the whole experience and believe it is still a gimmick. The practical, everyday applications of this technology was something I couldn’t wrap my head around, but who knows, I might be pleasantly surprised in the next 3-5 years. 

6. Ignite SXSW
I’ve been to an Ignite event only once before and was excited to find out that one was scheduled for SXSW! After thinking about it one night, I couldn’t think of a good reason why I shouldn’t be one of the presenters. The very next morning, I submitted my topic “How To Get A Plane Ticket Around The World For Free (or close to nothing)” and it got chosen! At the event itself, I went 6th out of 14 presenters and was a little thrown off by a semi-restless bar audience. After a sweaty (now I know how Mark Zuckberg felt) 5 minutes, I said my thank you and walked off to a cheering crowd! The organizers of the event promised to share recordings of each speech and when I get my hands on my recording, I will post it here! 

5. The World Fair
I saw a panel titled "American Food 2.0: United to Feed the Planet” and knew instantly that this was something I needed to attend. My hunch was validated when I saw a preview of what America’s pavilion will look like at this year’s Worlds Fair in Milan. Hold up, back up, the World Fair?? Apparently, it still happens every 5 years and this year’s theme is all about Food! I will be in Barcelona around this time and will most definitely taking a flight to Milan for a couple of days to witness this world food showcase!

Image courtesy of Washington Post

Image courtesy of Washington Post

4. David Chang sit down
David Chang, the maestro behind the expanding Momofuku restaurant group, had a really candid conversation regarding the state of the restaurant industry that I really enjoyed witnessing. The title of the panel was "The Future Role of Tech in Dining and Food” and he played both sides, being a proponent and opponent of technology in restaurants. On the one hand, he is yearning for a technological solution to ordering, something far superior to today’s frontrunner Seamless, and on the other he claimed that the next best restaurant will be the one where internet is disallowed. This will encourage the element of surprise and most importantly, creative freedoms for the chef to make mistakes. He also set the restaurant scene ablaze when he revealed he’ll be opening a new restaurant called “Fuku”, where there is only going to be a single healthy and unhealthy option centering around fried chicken sandwiches. Whether fried chicken sandwiches is healthy or unhealthy is up to you.

Image courtesy of First We Feast

Image courtesy of First We Feast

3. Trade Show
After a taste of the trade show last year, I was eager to explore every inch of it this year. Explore I did, twice over I believe. There was some crazy gadgetry and innovations from all over the world - robots from Japan, startups from Singapore, slick iDevice stands from the US and much more. The trade show was quite a hot bed of activity and is something every SXSW attendee can't afford to miss. I walked away with a custom Olloclip for my soon to be purchased iPhone 6 Plus, improving its overall photo shooting capabilities!

2. BBQ Science
GE wanted to take the already astronomically high standard of BBQ in Austin a notch higher by building a super smoker armed with sensors to aid in the laborious cooking of delicious smoked meats. This was a wild experiment as cooking with such technology has never been attempted before. Nevertheless, the smoked meat that came out of the super smoker was consumed voraciously to high praise (mine included). This space also hosted a tasting of brisket inspired ice cream from Spun and panels with smoked meat greats like Aaron Franklin, along with a brain wave reading of yourself while you consumed BBQ. All in the name of science, right?

1. Meeting Tim Ferriss at his book signing
After a long morning of interesting panels, I was exploring the 4th floor of the Austin Convention Center when I thought I recognized the author doing the book signing I was walking past. I stopped in my tracks and inched closer, and there he was, Mr. Four Hour Work Week himself, Tim Ferriss! As a huge fan, I needed a reason to talk to him. Was it kosher for me to stand in line and not have a book of his to sign? Interestingly enough, I am currently re-reading Four Hour Work Week and was a little peeved I didn't have it with me for him to sign. In haste, I rushed over to the bookstore, conveniently located next to the book signing, and bought a copy of the behemoth of a book "The Four Hour Body" and took my place in line. Everyone in line buzzed about their favorite moments from his podcast and other books. This signing was clearly running long and he was committed to signing the book of everyone who stood in line. Tim was also taking time to have a brief conversation with everyone which prompted my fellow line mates and I to hotly debate what we were going to say to him. Finally, I made it to the front of the line and told him how big of a fan I am and really enjoyed his recent interviews with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Justin from the Glitch Mob. We wrapped it up with a picture and him spelling my name wrong when he signed my book. I’m not mad in any way mad and it was fantastic meeting him!

Damn, this book is heavy which is why I wanted the Kindle version all along!

Damn, this book is heavy which is why I wanted the Kindle version all along!

Till we meet again, SXSW!