Wish I was in Austin: Saturday @ SXSW Interactive
Saturday started cold and overcast, the standard issue of tshirts or oxfords were hidden by coats and sport coats. We opened the day with Alex Hillman's core conversation "Working Alone Sucks: Join the Coworking Revolution." Finances seem to invade many of the conversations at SXSW this year; coworking related questions were how to get a coworking space started. Several financial models were discussed, using the community to fund, providing a cash infusion from your own pocket, and then there's the "Sugar Daddy" model that Gangplank in Phoenix uses. Someone called the room a bunch of "communists" for working so hard towards collective success and someone else posited the reason that coworking spaces have become so popular lately is that "we want to effect change as fast as possible, we have‚ a timeline for this..." Next we headed over to BarcampAustin4, the unconference that runs parallel to SXSW every year. Barcamp is a playground for geeks and is as much about sharing information as it is about drooling over all the coolest tools, tips and tricks. This year, Giovanni Galucci and William "Whurley" Hurley put it together in less than a week but you couldn't tell (although‚ Giovanni mentioned that when they got into the vacant club to clean it one week before it "...smelled like dead people"). The space itself was a humongous and recently vacant club with bright spot lights spaced around the location providing just enough light to see your computer screen and shadows of your neighbor, giving the club a feel like an unearthed tomb that is still being excavated. Judging from the amount information being discovered and discussed, this wasn't far from the truth.
Geeks were greeted at the entrance with free badges showcasing the common armadillo theme and a place to put your twitter and information. Fake plastic grills and cheap silver bling was handed out for mouths, fingers and necks, matching this year's‚ "gangsta" theme. Graffiti writers came in early to paint a backdrop for people's photos. Bins of Red Bull and Sweet Leaf Tea were spaced out in cubby holes and all around the space. In one corner, all you can eat burritos and vodka, in another, airbrush tattoos and free tshirts, in another a custom airbrusher was painting shoes for interested shoe festishists. The center of the room was a pit of sorts with a presentation screen and two cages that should have been filled with writhing dancers. Instead, a geek with a microphone called out for colors and adjectives for Startup Company Improv where a crowd of people make up names and a backstory for an imaginary Web 2.0 company. A board on one wall listed times and all the scheduled presentations and conversations for the day. People were armed with all manners or gadgets, cameras, gear, and smiles. At 6PM a fake gang fight was staged with freestyle rappers and a nerdcore rapper. All manner of geeks were milling around including Josh Holmes of Microsoft who was almost attacked by a wayward robot at last year's Barcamp (video). Read on for details on the Razorfish party and Chicago's karaoke representation from David Armano and Stacy Jill... Back at the convention center we saw Lawrence Lessig get called the L-dog just before he said "Voters are looking for authenticity over perfection or the perception of perfection." The TechSet Blogger lounge was full of Twitterati like Steph Agresta, Erica O'Grady, Chris Brogan, Brian Solis, Jeff Pulver and Tara Hunt. Near happy hour we bounced to the Texas Film Commission party and Chicago's own Razorfish party at The Madison. Razorfish was packed and featured a Microsoft Surface demo with geeks crowded around the unholy glow of the "big ass table." We then raced to the Trimpin premiere only to find that the film had already started but that we were just in time for the premiere party. The room was full of musical toys created by the oddball German composer Gerhard Trimpin. The best was an Alexander Calder like mobile of clogs that played a rhythmic percussive piece when a quarter was inserted in a connected box. A coin operated phonograph "played" Philip Glass' 4:33 of silence when you put in another quarter. As the premiere party started, Trimpin himself set in motion a polyphonic piece on toy pianos, increasing in tempo until all the keys were seemingly hit at once. Morgan Spurlock was on hand for the party, apparently he's working on a documentary about The Simpsons.
We finished the night with Cogaoke at Red Scoot Inn, arguably ground central for the influx of East Side parties when years ago Giorgio Angelini demonstrated the fertility of Austin's East Side with his Eastside Scootenannys. The night started with a large man with interesting facial hair and red face paint and a guy who could have been Castro, 50 years ago with a red beard singing "Time of my Life." The contest included an American Idol like voting board and the top 20 contestants who made it through the online voting prelims. First up was someone doing a terrible rendition of Kanye's Stronger who possibly had never heard the song. The rest of the night demonstrated that, without naming any names, there are levels of underpreparedness and overpreparedness that can ruin your karaoke performance. Representing Chicago was David Armano of Critical Mass and later Stacy Jill doing the Time Warp Again. We also had Beastie Boys from Alex Hillman doing all three Brooklyn accents and a girl dressed like a cowboy singing about her friendly little cat. The grand prize, a lifetime of free hosting, was won by New Work City's Tony Bacigalupo whose rendition of 'Come Sail Away' with inflatable guitar had the audience screaming along.