How to Wawk SXSW
For noobs, SXSW Interactive can feel like the first day at a new high school. The five-day event is thick with primordial webs of friendships, rivalries, and social strata which, to the new comer, are as simultaneously palpable and inscrutable as the lunch room hierarchies of yore.
Rest assured however, that by the time you—like me—reach your fifth year of attendance, SXSW will still seem like high school. In a good way.
In high school, we spent about 80% of our time trying to get somewhere: the awesomest party, biggest kegger, coolest concert….whatever. About 90% of the time wherever we were trying to get to ended up being lame, and 10% of the time it fulfilled our expectations. So we were spending 98% of our time hunting an elusive 2% of the experiences and places. In my senior year of high school, though, I started to recognize that the trying to get somewhere was almost always more fun than actually arriving anywhere. Driving around, goofing off, getting into risky situations, and seeing things along the way, that was the point. Sure, that 2% was still out there, but 80% of the time I could enjoy myself anyway.
At SXSW, you will spend 80% of your time trying to get to the next lecture, the next party, to meet people for dinner, or unloading your schwag bag. 90% of the time you’ll arrive only to find that the lecturer didn’t prepare, that the party is too crowded, or that you didn’t get a Nutella sample. So the key to SXSW is to enjoy getting to wherever you need to go—and then leaving to go somewhere else. SXSW is about going, not about arriving.
Knowing this will give you the freedom to enjoy the halls, lines, and sidewalks where you’ll spend most of your time. I would guess that 75% of the people at SXSW are going somewhere at any moment, so that means you have a 60% chance of meeting any given person as long as you haven’t arrived. Once you’ve arrived somewhere, your chances drop precipitously to only 5%, so it follows that the more time you spend going or leaving the more likely it is you’ll meet someone.
In fact, whether by design or conditioning, this is how the most experienced SXSW attendees behave. If you follow the Twitter feeds of long-time SXSWers like Veen, Zeldman, or Jenville, you’ll notice that most of the time they’re going somewhere, arriving somewhere, leaving somewhere, or wishing they were somewhere else, but almost never at somewhere. That’s because where it’s at at SXSW is nowhere in particular.
With this in mind, then, here are some places I can recommend you try to go:
- Wells Fargo Bank, 111 Congress Ave
The various routes between the Convention Center and the Wells Fargo on Congress go past lost of other places where people go. Savvy SXSWers take money with them so as to eliminate the time consuming process of an ATM transaction.
- Gingerman, 304 W 4th St
Know for its large selection of beers, capacious back yard, awkward layout, and long lines, the Gingerman is a favorite hangout of SXSWerati. On arrival, you’ll have a dizzying array of other places to go: inside, to the bathroom, to the back yard, over there next to Malcolm Gladwell, back inside.
- The Salt Lick BBQ, 18001 FM 1826, Driftwood, TX
Serving the best BBQ near Austin, the Salt Lick is located inconveniently 40 minutes from the Convention Center. While it’s true that once you arrive at the Salt Lick it becomes difficult to go anywhere else, getting to the Salt Lick and then getting back tends to be arduous and awkward—not least because data service is spotty in Driftwood, making it hard to decide where else to go.
- Bike Hugger Urban Ride
Devised with SXSW in mind, the Bike Hugger urban ride on Saturday doesn’t have any destination at all. By eliminating the problem of trying to get somewhere, the ride can go anywhere yet never be hindered by the problem of arriving.
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