A Canadian in Texas: South by, So Far…

‘A Canadian in Texas’ is a series of posts leading up to, during, and post South by Southwest. South by Southwest (#SXSW) is an annual conference held inAustin, Texas. I will be attending SXSW Interactive which has attracted a strong following among web creators and entrepreneurs. Its focus on emerging technology has earned the festival a reputation as a breeding ground for new ideas and creative technologies. According to festival co-organizer Louis Black, SXSW Interactive “has probably been the biggest of its kind in the world” since 2007.

What a busy (and soaking wet) few days this has been! I arrived in Austin, Texas on Thursday – and everything has been a whirlwind since then. It was a total of 9 hours flying to get here from Ottawa, and it was my first time on a plane (I actually had to take 3 flights). It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and Continental (United?) Airlines were great support!

So, when I booked this trip in January there were no hotels left available in the downtown area. I had a choice between the super pricey Hilton and Super8 Austin University/Downtown. I chose Super 8 because it was close, and relatively inexpensive for my 6 day adventure. I must say I absolutely made the right choice – the people at this hotel are fantastic and accommodating (even when I disable my room key 12 times because I had it near my iPhone in my purse).

Now… On to the good stuff. Registration was a breeze for me because I went to get my badge at 9AM Friday morning before the rush. From what I saw on Twitter, by mid-day the wait was around 2 hours so I’m insanely happy that I chose to go early.

The first session I went to was Vic Gundotra and Guy Kawasaki’s Fireside chat discussing Google+. In the past, I have been very critical of G+ and Google’s intentions with the social network. In my honest opinion, I felt as though it was a television commercial for G+ and why we should all drink the kool-aid. Vic discussed the ‘metrics’ behind the social network – 50 million daily active users, when asked by Guy why G+ seemed like a ghost town at times. The problem with this metric is that it does not mean that 50 million people participate in the social network, just that 50m people were signed in on a daily basis (this happens when you sign into your Gmail, YouTube, Search, etc. as long as you have registered for a G+ account). Another big revelation at this session was Vic’s announcement that Google did not plan on opening up their API to developers any time soon – because they don’t want to “screw over developers”.

I found the worst part of this session to be Vic taking numerous low-blows at Facebook. While talking about the fact that Facebook serves ads in your social activities on the network (specifically, photo albums), Vic noted that G+ had no intention on doing this because they “hold themselves to a higher standard”. To be honest, I don’t think it was necessary to point out what you don’t like about Facebook – because the reality is that it doesn’t change the minds of the Facebook users (ex: “I hate that FB shows ads in photo albums”). No one really cares, it’s like Blackberry’s insistence of Flash on the PlayBook. Yawn.

My FAVORITE session so far had to be today’s “Y Rappers R Better Marketers Than U” presented by Bill Pauls & John McHale. Not only were there some interesting discussions happening in that session, but the boys made some very good points. The basis of this session is that Rappers, in general, have some of the best marketing out there – and brands as a whole can learn a lot from them. Everything from creating a persona, staying true (or as they called it “legit”) to your brand, expanding your audience, name-checking, mastering social media, and of course, innovation were covered in this session. A true darling of SXSW.

So that was some highlights from the last two days – today mostly consisted of waiting… waiting for cabs, waiting to be seated for lunch, and waiting for more cabs.

Stay tuned for more!




  1. Walter Schwabe (@fusedlogic) · March 10, 2012

    Hey Marissa, hello from another Canadian in Texas. I’ve had a little different experience that I blogged about today, but most of it has been great so far…http://www.fusedlogic.com/r-and-r-limousine-and-bus-transportation-disaster-at-sxsw-2012-5765/

    Glad you’re having fun…see you online or in a session maybe…

    • Marissa Gagnier · March 10, 2012

      Wow, I just read that… What an awful experience! Transportation as a whole here in Austin right now is a horrible experience. I got soaked to the bone today while waiting for cabs.

      On a happier note, glad to see another Canadian – there haven’t been many! Hopefully we can connect in a true Canadian way sometime this weekend/next week.

      Thanks for commenting Walter!


  2. Iain Robson · March 11, 2012

    Sounds like it has been a great visit so far. I agree with the Vic Gundotra and Guy Kawasaki talk was a push for more people to Google +. I liked how Guy pushed about the API, which in my opinion would change Google+ for the better.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t get to watch the “Y Rappers R Better Marketers Than U” online but some of the reactions were really positive.

    How are you going to use what you have learned to improve Corel’s image or brand? ( if that is the ultimate reason why you went)

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