Despite raging chest congestion during the first few days, I spent the better part of five days in and out of SXSW soaking it all in.  Let me tell you, the show has come a long way since I first attended it 8 years ago.  The show was to some extent an afterthought… or perhaps a warmup for the Music & Film festivals.  But the show is truly a top tier, must-attend event now.  I'm thrilled about it because at least once per year, I don't have to travel to meet the best people the industry has to offer.

A few negatives:  I thought the quality of the panels & presentations was all over the map.  I attended several panel discussions that were fantastic & very well run, and I attended others that were a complete disaster because the panelists perhaps knew less about the subject matter than the attendees.  I won't name names here, but suffice it to say that next year I will target panels with high-quality people rather than high-quality descriptions.

Another issue for me in particular was the difficulty involved in finding people.  SXSW had a great interactive Twitter-esque chat client, but it didn't work as advertised.  In fact, I think it stopped working altogether on the first morning of the show.  Through the Twitter-esque part of the SXSW site, I targeted 40+ people who I needed to meet while there, but had an unexpectedly hard time finding them.  I managed to meet some at parties, some on the trade show floor, and others in panel discussions.  I stalked a few others when I knew what panel they'd attend.  But overall, finding people was a much greater chore than I would have expected for a modern, hyperconnected Web 2.0 event.  Yet despite it all, I made a lot of great connections and considered the event to be a great success.

Robert Scoble believes that SXSW Interactive 2009 will be remembered for the explosion of SMS & location-based applications.  I think he's mostly correct with that assessment although I think we are perhaps in the very earliest phases.  I'm really glad about it as I think that we're at the cusp of the next mini-boom in Tech around these technologies.  Most of the infrastructure necessary for location-based advertising and location-based services is in its infancy.  It will be an exciting few years.

SXSW has become a major event that you can't miss now.  I hope to see you there next year.