TR1CK has been going down to sxsw since 2010 when we were nominated for their web awards in the entertainment category for a nice little flash site when those were also still cool. 2010 was phenomenal. As a designer, it was the first time I'd seen so many mediums, devices, ideas, concepts intermingled. Location based apps were launching, and SX was the perfect place to test it out. There were delightfully interactive and weird parties that still felt intimate.
In 2011 more app launches. Apps for messaging, apps for networking, hell, even apps for specific shit like making your SXSW experience easier. The event had become a fine wine, the perfect mixture of learning and networking.
2012, not as much happened. It had begun to be a place where it's okay to put your brand on a pedestal. It's the place to treat the tech minds of the world to a good time if you're Pepsi, or CNN, or whoever you happen to be. No huge launches, no big mind blowing surprises. Also, years of companies like happy cog being huge mainstays, putting on fun events started to feel forced, so they even stopped. Parties started to obviously look like they cost LOTS and lots of money. Even local businesses had started to change to accommodate these excessively huge, overcrowded events.
You could say it's because SXSW got corporate, it turned into a spring break for jaded programmers and creatives. But really, the days of having a physical event or pedestal to launch your product are over. You can launch your product on any given day and, relative to 3 years ago, get a reasonable amount of PR behind it. Apps built specifically for launching products have been built, networks and services have been created to fund and promote, and even the stores the sell the products have systems to elevate the success of the products. So a physical place to launch something doesn't make as much sense anymore. That used to be a big part of what SXSW was about.
Not so much these days. But that doesn't mean it's uncool. It means it's something else. It's no longer the incubator or the launch playground for an app or a service. It's a networking and collaboration event. If the pure technological aspect of SXSWi has receded a bit, the amount of people willing to speak and collaborate with has exploded. People come to have conversations. They talk about the apps that have launched throughout the year, they compare notes on the uses of them, they talk about how they could be improved, and they have a few beers while doing it.
SXSW is now less about the iconic Twitters, 4SQs, Gowallas, or Facebooks, and more about the people who use them and the people who are responsible for building them.. How exciting is it that you could talk to the guy who created your favorite app at a party with relative ease? How cool is it that you can share a beer and talk about how awesome it was to work with X company?
Where there was the perception of roadblocks before, when launching products, there are now hundreds of opportunities that don't require an event to get to market. If people are looking to have their minds blown over new ideas and services, go check out a little thing called the the APP store, or do a quick search on twitter. But if you want to actually have some meaningful conversations past 140 characters or a like on Dribbble, meet up with someone. Have a beer. Get a taco. Or go to SXSW.