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Texas: where everything – including festivals – is bigger

Texas: where everything – including festivals – is bigger

I'm heading to Texas this afternoon to attend the annual South by Southwest festival (written SXSW for the cognoscenti but called SouthBy by the hipster kids).

Ben KepesSXSW is a mass extravaganza of technology, film and music. Or at least that's what the blurb says.

In reality it's a chance for 50,000 generally young and generally hip (apart from the technology folks who are generally young and generally geeky but in a cool kind of a way) folks to converge on Austin, Texas where they (if precedent is anything to go by) will ignore all of the conference sessions, not rise before 11am each day, and party through the night at one of the hundreds of events that Austin puts on.

Last year, as an example of the madness that ensues, I along with a few other Kiwi attendees, was bussed from the Hilton Convention Center to one of Austin's legendary BBQ joints, Salt Lick. There we drank, ate fantastic BBQ, and waited for the buses to take us back into the city. The sponsor of that little soiree was MapQuest.

Now I confess that I've never in my life used MapQuest and, if I wasn¹t the geek that I am, wouldn't even know what they do. The soiree wouldn¹t have helped either; most vendors at SXSW realise it's totally uncool to actually mention your product or service, ­ instead relying on some kind of osmosis for marketing gain.

Previous years have seen the emergence of different 'break-out' products at SXSW. One year it was Twitter, another FourSquare, while this year the pundits are suggesting that a new host of applications that tell you who is nearby will be the breakout products.

Tthere is much debate as to whether it will be Glancee (actually I'm not sure how many es they have in their name, but I know it's more than the
usual spelling) or Highlight (again, they could be called Highrise or Highjack; ­ it's hard to tell with these cool new startups).

In a fit of hipster inclusion I even installed Glancee on my phone (Highlight, it seems, is only for the REALLY cool kids with iPhones, not the quasi-cool kids with Android devices). Sitting at home in rural North Canterbury I was less than surprised that actually no one from my 'social circle' was near by. Of course the fact that my wife, my two children and my menagerie of chicken, sheep and cattle were within earshot doesn't count in Hipsterville. The only social circle that really matters is the one you've never actually met but which you swap strange acronyms with ­ – LOL, FTW, FML (and whatever lighthouses have to do with technology I'll never know).

Anyway ­ enough of that. ­ I'm actually kind of looking forward to SXSW. The parties are always great, it really is a melting pot of creative and technology folks and, despite it being in Texas (not one of my favourite states in the US), at least it's in Austin, a really cool city.

I'll be reporting back in and will be sure to update y'all on just how transformational it is for me to have push notifications informing me about all the folks around me.