SXSW helps you embrace your inner geek.

Written by | March 20, 2014 | Posted in News & Culture

With 5,000+ events over two weeks the SXSW experience is different for everyone who goes. It’s common to see analysis of what the festival was, or wasn’t, any given year. I’ve attended SXSW 10 times and learned (1) something new to explore and (2) something about myself every trip. It’s enough to keep me going back year after year. Before I went to Austin, I wrote an article about SXSW and how Cuberis looks to SXSW for inspiration.

Those of you who follow Cuberis on Twitter saw a little bit of what I was experiencing while at the festival:

SXSW has grown tremendously in the years I’ve attended. It has gotten so big it helps you embrace your inner geek – no matter what that may be. Here I share a few thoughts on my geeky, noteworthy experiences of SXSW 2014.

Exploring your inner geek.

SXSW is a playground of exploration. Because it’s so huge, it’s been many years since you could say the “20XX SXSW was all about ___,” like you could in the past, though many people still try to do so.

For me, SXSW 2014 was all about science, but it could have just as easily been about sports for you.


Yep, you read that right. There were 989 search results for ‘content marketing’ in the 5,000 events at SXSW 2014.

Of course there were scads of sessions on hot topics like content marketing, but I found many of the best sessions explore things you wouldn’t expect to go together, like the intersection of food and technology. The diversified programming allows you to create a completely tailored, inspirational and unique experience.

2014 themes:

  • Art, Science and Inspiration (this is where I spent most of my time)
  • Comedy
  • Community and Activism
  • Content and Distribution
  • Design and Development
  • Digital Domain
  • Education
  • Entrepreneurialism and Business
  • Entertainment and Immersion
  • Film Festivals
  • Food
  • Global Impact and Policy
  • Health and Business
  • Intelligent Future
  • Social and Privacy
  • Social and Relationships
  • Startup Village
  • SXsports (new category this year)
  • SXSW Gaming and Create
  • Work and Career
  • WTF and Beyond (this is where you get into the truly mind-blowing stuff)

The maker definition evolves.

Makers, makers, makers. WTF are makers?

Traditionally “maker” has referred to the technologists in the DIY culture. For example:

Makers like this homegrown droner have always been at SXSW, but this year I started to see something different. The maker moniker was also being use to refer to people who are building cool technology-based businesses – and not all of them were technologists.

I think SXSW is helping to expand the maker definition. This helps us evolve our job titles. Your title isn’t as important as what you, and your team, are making. I think this session is a great example of a panel that pushed the definition of makers. There is a graphic recording which helps give a visual overview of the topic (below) and I found a brief overview of the session.


Graphic recording of The Future of Making session at SXSW. Courtesy of @CJDelling.

SXSW is an advocate for graphic recording. I recommend looking at the official graphic recording for this makers session, and all sessions.

Turning business contacts into friends.

Through the years I’ve serendipitously run into people from various aspects of my life at SXSW. If you have similar interests within the digital world (or beyond) you’ll end up running into those same people other over and over at SXSW. This year, I ran into Rebecca Lieb, one of my co-panelists from the Internet Summit, and got to spend some time talking to her.

I now understand her interests a lot better now that we’ve spent time learning and relaxing together. Knowing Rebecca helped me score a pass to the CMO Clubhouse.


Conference recaps.

There are quite a few recaps out there that you may find interesting to read:

The SXSW 2014: Report from Austin by HUGE. HUGE does a great job summarizing some of the trends they observed and out them in context. The summary includes:

  • Privacy insecurity.
  • The rise of anonymous social networks.
  • Beyond the smartphone: wearable and embeddable = mobile everywhere.
  • Digital marketers embrace maker values.
  • Next UX.

Top 10 Trends to Emerge from SXSW 2014. Jonathan Hall summarized the Top 10 Trends to Emerge from SXSW 2014 for the Huffington Post. His summary includes:

  • Privacy
  • We Are All Makers
  • Dawn of the Brands
  • Mobile is Dead, Long Live Mobile
  • The Rise of the Robots
  • Create Experience Ecosystems
  • Ever-Increasing Personalization
  • Everything is Connected
  • Gaming Comes of Age
  • Get Ready for the Collaborative Economy

CNN on SXSW. CNN wrote about 5 things we learned at SXSW Interactive. The summary includes:

  • No new Twitter…and that’s OK
  • A crossroads for privacy
  • Gadets galore
  • Wearable tech
  • Foreign flavor

This should give you a good idea of SXSW 2014. I hope we get to go together next year. I know I’ll be there and I’ll be spending time geeking out in Art, Science and Inspiration and WTF and Beyond. See you there?