Reflections on South by South West

by Andy Mayer
Posted on 01 May 2013
read time: 4 minutes

It's over a month now since Team Yoomee returned from South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas. We all had an amazing time. Here's a whistle stop tour of what we got up to.

Our "standard" day kicked off with a healthy American breakfast of waffles, doughnuts or sausage and egg. While breakfasting we browsed the online programme for the day, trying to come up with a schedule. And so to the shuttle bus from our hotel to the city centre. We might go to a talk all together, or not see each other till coffee, lunch time or even beer o'clock.

At the end of each afternoon, we’d usually meet up at an outdoor bar, discuss what we’d got up to during the day and decide what we were going to do for food and during the evening. And then we'd hit the town!

Well, I mustn't exaggerate, but Austin was certainly buzzing that week. Bands played in themain street till the early hours. There were sponsored parties with long queues to get in. Restaurants and bars teemed with people sporting SXSW lanyards. And a good time was had by all!

SXSW is overwhelmingly large; there are literally hundreds of talks, workshops, meet ups and panel discussions to choose from every day. Some are presented by industry leading experts from the likes of Google, Tumblr and Evernote; others by those on the wilder fringes of the internet. A case in point, was an “interesting” talk I attended by a man who was measuring and recording as many parts of his life as possible – his posture, sleep patterns, exercise, and so the list went on. He didn't seem to have any reason for doing this, it was just possible, so he did it.

There was so much going on, we were literally spoilt for choice with every session. There were some inspirational talks – Astro Teller, Google’s Head of Moonshots, talked about their work on experimental projects, which may never succeed, but if they do could have a huge impact. He covered a whole spectrum of projects from those just getting off the ground through those getting close to market, including Google Glass and the driverless car. Talking of Google Glass, we did spot a man queueing for a party wearing a pair. Strangely, given they have a built in camera, he was asking people not to take photos.

There were some interesting talks – I went to one about artists, software developers and engineers producing interactive art pieces together. The panel members talked about customising hardware and software to do things they were never intended to do. The software engineer acknowledged how useful this process had been for his company in adding new features and making the software easier to use.

There were some funny talks – Matthew Inman, who writes and illustrates The Oatmeal, a humourous cartoon site – spoke about his accidental shift from frustrated web developer to satisfied comic drawer, business owner and manager and also his involvement in crowd funding.

And there were lots of fascinating people. As well as a whole lot of professional networking, there was plenty of idle chatter and making of new friends. And on top of the large talks, there were smaller, friendly areas for relaxing and recuperating.

One of the overall themes that emerged for me was that all the successful people talking have a passion for what they do. They’d set up something they were interested in, generally without thinking about how it could be funded or supported, and because of their enthusiasm and drive it had worked out. Also, they didn’t let setbacks end their adventure; they just picked themselves up, looked for lessons to learn and carried on.

It was an amazing week. I really appreciated the time we got to spend together as a team. I feel I know my colleagues much better and have a deeper working relationship with each of them as a result. Ideas we came back with will undoubtedly feed into our own work and provide inspiration for projects we're involved in.

I'd like to end with a quote from the aforementioned Astro Teller which sums up the theme of the festival, and also reflects why Yoomee’s a great organisation to be part of:

We all want to work on something that matters . . . in the presence of people we truly respect.

For pictures and tweets of our week, take a look at our social stream at

Related links
Yoomee at SXSW on Flickr

Posted on 01 May 2013 - By Andy Mayer
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