Managing Southby

I was somewhat trepidatious about coming to South by Southwest this year. It’s big. Really, really big. It was already quite big last year and it was kind of hard to see everyone so I assumed that this year the problem would be exacerbated.

I have been pleasantly surprised. On the first day alone I met so many friends I was hoping to see over the course of the whole event. This makes me very, very happy. I’m also meeting lots of new people. This too makes me very, very happy. The excellent weather and delicious food of Austin, Texas is also making me very, very happy.

So far I’ve been pretty fortunate in my choice of panels and presentations. I’m generally avoiding HTML/CSS/JavaScript talks and going for material that’s only tangentially related to my work. To that end, I’ve enjoyed presentations on cargo containers, mad science secrets of DARPA and the influence of science fiction on cities.

Finding and managing SxSW presentations can be a chore. The official panel picker is pretty bad—an event site without microformats is just broken. Taylor’s project, Sched, is a much better substitute.

Figuring out which presentations to go to has been a whole lot easier this year. It’s all thanks to Lanyrd, which has a dedicated sub-site just for Southby. Putting a schedule together has been a breeze and getting my calendar into iCal onto my iPod is nice and straightforward. The grid view is particularly handy for making panel choices; a distant location can make or break the decision.

For such a well-thought out and executed service, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Lanyrd has a team of team working on it. But the team behind every single part of Lanyrd is just two people: Simon and Nat. The site would be an impressive achievement anyway but it’s quite amazing when you know that it’s the work of just two people—admittedly two of the most talented and hard-working people I know.

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