Ben Huh is the founder of the Cheezburger Network, home to wildly popular Internet meme sites including LOLcats, FAILblog, and I Can Haz Cheezburger. His goal is to make the world happy for five minutes a day. Huh attended South by Southwest Interactive in Austin this week and below shares his takeaways from the annual hotspot with EW:
In just a few years, South by Southwest Interactive has grown from the scrawny, geeky, younger brother of the SXSW festival family to the largest Internet conference on earth — boasting every possible promotional stunt, giveaway, costume, and business model. In my first year of attendance in 2007, the entire conference occurred in the Austin Convention Center. Now, some conference locations require a transfer between multiple methods of transport (say, a pedicab and a shuttle bus).
I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of friends in the tech world who have complained and resolutely sworn they wouldn’t be back, and last year was no exception. Yet here we are. Voices ragged from trying to have a conversation at loud parties, belt lines stretched from too much amazing Texas BBQ, and shoes ruined from waiting in too many queues with the inebriated and uncoordinated.
So why do we keep going back? Simple logic. First, technology that connects people creates more demand for actual face-to-face interaction. Second, Austin in March is warmer and more fun than most other places in March. Third, (most) of what people do at SXSWi still falls under business expense — so at best, it’s free, at worst, it’s tax deductible. When was the last time you turned down a free five-day fete of beer, BBQ, and technology?
Maybe the early adopters will slowly start skipping SXSWi, but the show will go on. So far, it still rocks.
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