Later this week, I’m heading to Austin, Tex. for my fifth SXSW Interactive conference — an event which seems to double in size, scope, spectacle and general craziness each year. Thousands of web types, tech nerds and geek wannabes take over the town for five days, spending their daylight hours at panels and presentations and their nights at loud, jam-packed parties. Along the way, there’s just a lot of weirdness going on: This year, I’ve been invited to ride a bus shaped like a giant owl and visit a booth shaped like a giant sweet potato.
And then, after the technology people leave, there are another five days of movies and music. In total, the conference is made up of over 5,000 events, which means that attending even one percent of it would keep you exceptionally busy.
As usual, I plan to spend most of my time…well, pretty much just hanging out and learning from interesting people, which is SXSW’s overarching purpose. I’ll report on some of the sessions I attend here and on Twitter.
I’m also moderating a panel myself, on Sunday, March 10 at 3:30pm in the Austin Hilton’s Salon JK. The subject is Mobile Disruption and the Rise of the Local Web — basically, how the twin trends of mobile apps and Airbnb-style services are changing commerce. I’ll be chatting with Logan Green, CEO and co-founder of ride-sharing services ZimRide and Lyft; Bo Fishback, CEO of local services and goods service Zaarly; and Chi-Hua Chien, a partner at legendary venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byfield.
Several of my TIME compatriots will also be participating in sessions, and the range of their topics indicate how diverse SXSWi is:
Cory Booker: The New Media Politician (Sunday, March 10 at 12:30pm, Long Center, Dell Hall)
TIME.com Assistant Managing Editor Steven James Snyder will interview Cory Booker about his online presence and how it helps him be a better mayor of Newark, N.J.
Global News After the Twitter Revolutions (Sunday, March 10 at 5pm, Austin Convention Center, Room 12AB)
Jim Frederick, Editor of TIME International, will moderate a panel on the intersection of traditional reporting and citizen journalism, with an emphasis on international news.
The Making of a Meme (Monday, March 11 at 3:30pm, Hyatt Regency, Texas Ballroom 1-4)
Our Director of Photography Kira Pollack and longtime contributing photographer Diana Walker will be among those who discuss 2012′s Texts from Hillary meme.
Space Tech After NASA: Boom Times for Innovation? (Tuesday, March 12 at 3:30pm, Omni Downtown, Capitol Ballroom)
TIME Senior Editor and Apollo 13 author Jeffrey Kluger leads a discussion of private enterprise’s growing role in space exploration.
If you’re attending the show — and it’s an experience I heartily recommend, insane crowds, hoopla overload and all — I hope we run into each other.