This is the first year in the last four that I have not attended the South by Southwest Interactive Conference and Film Festival, which is going on in Austin, Texas right now. It’s killing me to not be there — particularly because I had a free gold badge if I’d been able to go (I wrote the cover story for SXSWorld Magazine’s November issue). So I’ve been vicariously getting my South-by on via social media. Apparently, I’m not alone.
According to the NYTimes, plenty of folks are spending some time in virtual Austin this week, following Twitter hash tags and the cumulative flotsam of the SXSW social media universe. I’ve been chiming in to give restaurant suggestions (advice I’m happy to say my Vermont tweeps have followed) and to urge attendees not to miss Bruce Sterling’s annual closing-day barn-burner of a talk.
The Times also reports that the ironically bad cell coverage (hilariously caused by the sudden influx of iPhones onto the AT&T network in Austin — O’ carrier exclusivity, what hath thou wrought?) along with the over-use of Twitter has been a boon to start-up social networking apps trying to make a splash at the conference. . .
PeopleBrowsr, an online dashboard that tracks updates across multiple social networks, released a custom version of its service for SXSW. The tailored app combs updates and messages from a bevy of social networking sites like Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and Seesmic and folds them all into one handy Web page. The service also shows where your friends are tweeting from on Google Maps.
PepsicoZeitgeist, a collaboration between the soft drink company and the third-party Twitter applications Twistori and Twennis, is a visualization tool that is lifting messages from Twitter and displaying them in different views, such as by popularity and geographical location. The streams are displayed on large, flat-screen monitors around the Austin Convention Center, but the various visualizations can be viewed online also.
For South by Southwesters with cellphone service, location-based mobile applications BrightKite and Foursquare came in handy as a quick way to eyeball local bars and restaurants where other attendees had migrated.
I was at SXSW two years ago when Twitter launched and I was (like most people when they first hear about Twitter) initially dismissive. Now it’s part of my daily life. What will be the next web app to change the world? Chances are, it’s in Austin this week. I wish I was there too.