Wednesday, March 17, 2010

SXSW Interactive: A Wrap-Up

Everything's bigger in Texas, including the fake hair on their airport bathroom mirrors!

Here I sit, coming to you live from BWI Airport near Baltimore, Maryland, with heavy thoughts on my mind. The most pressing, of course, is why on earth this airport doesn't have Kosher Vending machines. After all, the Baltimore/DC Jewish community is massive, and the kosher crowd in Baltimore alone calls for such amenities, right? Alas. I'll pull out my horribly squished PB&J (made in my hotel around 10 p.m. last night) and pray for tastiness. One thing's for sure: I can't wait for a home-cooked meal. And another thing's for sure: Next year, SXSW Interactive better prepare itself for some serious, rocking, Israeli and Jewish folks who will be chowing with a vengeance on kosher food every day of the week. Believe me, the vision is there, the passion is there, the drive is there -- we just have to start planning, and by that, I mean planning starting today. SXSW Interactive is big doins, and you have to represent early. More on the vision later, however. Right now? More on the past four days!

Last night, we ventured to H-E-B, a grocery store in Austin that touts a little kosher grill (something we don't even have in West Hartford). These folks, in addition to having a crapton of kosher goodies (again, more than we have in West Hartford), they have a grill where you can order fries, burgers, chicken wraps, pastrami, and more. It's like an actual restaurant in the grocery store, and there's even seating! What a novel concept, right? So I opted for the Spicy Buffalo Wrap with some Spicy Fries. Stay tuned for a Yelp! review. The coolest thing about eating there, however, was running into some Israeli musicians who also were getting dinner. They sat down with us, and we ate together, talking about SXSW and those darn dairy Wal-Mart bread crumbs (no good for schnitzel, you know). The funniest thing about last night eating there with them, however, were two things they said. One was that my Hebrew accent is French, and the other was that I don't look outright Orthodox with my "Sex and the City" haircut. That made me want to roll on the floor giggling, but I maintained my composure. I'll be honest: No one has EVER told me my haircut is Sex and the City. What do you guys think?

Yes, I was at a party with Ashton Kutcher, Evan Williams (of Twitter fame), and Gary V., and yes I missed the "secret" U2 concert that was played at a local bar (I don't even like U2, sacrilege, I know). I met longtime friend (FINALLY) @caro, and I spent a great deal of time at the @FourSquare party with Dave Weinberg and Leah Jones, among others, sipping mojitos (which some Israeli friends told me actually is pronounced "moCHito" with a chet) and talking aliyah and the height of Mr. Kutcher. I dropped names to get into parties, enjoyed my VIP status and the stack of free t-shirts I picked up, not to mention stickers and pins and free Starbucks VIA coffee mugs and free Skype goodies ... but is that why I went to SXSW Interactive? To get free schwag and party with celebrities at branded parties?

I met folks from Stickybits (software doesn't work on my phone), folks from Grizzly and StumbleUpon. I talked to folks at the Google booth and at Glass, and I even walked past the PayPal station to express my disconcern about my account issues (resulting in free beer). My time at SXSW Interactive was peppered with a mass of THINGS and STUFF and PEOPLE, all selling themselves and their brands. It was a big love fest of tech startups and tech giants. So?

I think it was the moments like those at the H-E-B grill that really stick with me. That and some of the panel moments. I was thinking in the shower the other night that what I learned in the community management session was true: You have to talk to your customers. Even I was saying that, but from the viewpoint of the customer, not the producer. So I realized something: I produce a product every week, and sometimes every day, that consumers -- that's YOU guys -- buy into. I've gotten kind of bad in the past about not responding to comments, and I realized that's bad customer service. I've taken months to respond to emails, that's also bad customer service. So I learned something: I gotta care more! I also came into contact with some amazing people with amazing ideas. We had Microsoft Israel in our Judaism 2.0 panel (check out more on that at, I met a social media god at HP, I listened to Gary V. preach the good word of customer service and building relationships and doing what you love. I met (finally) two rappers who schlepped around SXSW seriously rocking and making their presence known, simply by rapping questions!

Although SXSW Interactive was a flurry of STUFF and THINGS, it was also incredibly powerful in the way that it brought more than 15,000 people into a space and made them interact, whether on the web through Twitter in sessions or face-to-face in core conversations like ours. A lot of people call it a big circle jerk, big dogs like Evan Williams and Gary V. tooting their own horns, but isn't that what we can use as a model? People from nothing turning into something in a thriving world of Social Media and Web 2.0? Aren't they our role models for success in business and e-creation? I think so.

Overall, however, the thing just wore the heck out of me. I didn't go to the closing party last night because I was spent. I felt really old, really lame, and really tired. I don't know how some of these people do it; many of these tech folks are very married and very much parents. I walked away from the entire thing invigorated, excited, and ready to do more. Gary V. says don't quit your job and think you're going to change the world with your tech and social media, but I don't know how every person that listened to him talk couldn't really want to do that.

I know I did. (Thank HaShem I'm a student for life!)

So stay tuned for LOTS of photos, including probably my most favorite panel at SXSW Film, and the only Film one I went to, which included the cast of the NEW MacGruber movie. Seth Meyers showed up (awesome), and I have a picture with him. I'm such a Midwestern girl, unexposed to stars and stardom and celebrity. I'm a sucker for a picture with someone famous and hilarious. Oh, and Val Kilmer? Yikes. He's gone downhill, a lot. The upside? He's hilarious.