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March 16, 2010

SXSW, where geeks feel like rock stars

Posted: 11:30 AM ET

South by Southwest is a BIG event. There are some 17,000 festivalgoers milling about downtown Austin’s convention center this week on their way to back-to-back-to-back conference sessions. With that many people packed in a single (albeit gigantic) building, there’s no dawdling in getting from Point A to Point B.

So when you’re presenting at one of those conference sessions, and you’re expected to be on stage at a certain time, the conference organizers don’t mess around. They give you very explicit instructions, in bold 30-ish-point font, in a special panelist envelope that you pick up with your registration badge.

This was my first panel at SXSW. It was on Sunday at 12:30, and as per the big-print instructions, I showed up in the green room exactly an hour before I was scheduled to speak. I had to walk through some black curtains and show my special “panelist” badge to get in. All of which, to be honest, made me feel kind of like I was about to be on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Except, well, yeah.

My fellow panelists – Pete Cashmore of Mashable, Randi Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jason Rzepka of MTV and Joe Kingsbury of Text 100 – and I found a table waiting for us, literally with our names on it. (Thank you, Randi, for snapping a photo!) We wiled away the next 45 minutes chatting and taking pictures until a nice fellow named Caleb in a SXSW T-shirt came to pick us up.

Caleb led us single-file down a series of outdoor staircases and dank corridors that eventually led to our panel. You know that moment in your favorite 1980s music video when the band walks slo-mo through the dark hall out to the throngs of screaming fans? It felt like that.

The panel discussion itself was fantastic – crowd-sourcing the news,  you can read the notes on Twitter by searching #crowdcontrol – but the moment I’ll etch into my memory is the slo-mo, rock-star trek to the stage.

My head knows it’s all just logistics, but my heart chooses to believe that someone behind the scenes at SXSW is trying to make all us geeks feel like stars.

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Filed under: SXSW Interactive

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Tamooj   March 18th, 2010 1:22 am ET

If by 'geeks" you mean "people who are smarter then you", then you have stumbled over a truth that many people don't yet understand – the 'geeks' you made fun of in high school are running most of today's businesses and government. For far too long it was cool to be dumb or to be just a jock or a sales guy, but to survive in a modern world you have to actually be smart, techno and literate. Having a caveman-centric genome may have been good enough to skimp by into the 1980s, but now it's not only cool to be smart and techie, it's required for success. Go ahead and use terms like 'geek', 'nerd' or 'dork' if that makes your ego feel better, but the only thing it really effects anymore is whether we sign your paychecks.

Jock   March 19th, 2010 1:13 pm ET

Tamooj is clearly a huge GEEK

Quarterback   March 19th, 2010 6:18 pm ET

i agree with Jock...

Florida   March 20th, 2010 1:36 am ET

I don't agree with the first post. "Geek" was used as a term of inclusion; the writer even included herself by referring to "us geeks," so there was no obvious condescension on her part.

I thought that the article was full of exuberance and awe, and there was not a single negative connotation anywhere to be found. In fact, I found the expression of emotions absolutely contagious. Yes, to feel like a rock star for a moment - a great feeling if and when you can get it. It was good that the promoters treated you well; thanks for conveying your impressions so well.

Home-theatre   March 21st, 2010 7:08 am ET

Lila was trying to be funny and with mild sucess.

I think the best is to be a moderate geek, preferbly good both in Mathematics and Football.

Bucktasm   March 21st, 2010 10:07 pm ET

Tamooj probably appreciates the complement. He's right though, the 80's are gone and so is success-through-shysterism. Higher IQ wins out in the process of natural selection over the long term, and watching sports makes you stupid.

Apotheosis   March 22nd, 2010 5:27 pm ET

Perhaps Tamooj endured significant verbal confrontations with the word "Geek". He (or she) read the story with a negative meaning although that was not the intent of this blog. As others have stated, it was the word Geek was used as a term of inclusion and perhaps even endearment. Although, Tamooj was clear to present his animosity towards the word Geek.

A word only has meaning that one puts into it.

bob   March 24th, 2010 4:16 am ET

I think mooj means "affects" not "effects". Where's my check.

neonkitty   March 25th, 2010 3:18 am ET

Now now now... not everyone thinks geeks are just loser dudes who are now having their revenge! I am the tech dummy of the universe and a creative genius ( over 10K songs, 900 fantasy worlds and counting... next project is my 1001 stories ). I admire geeks and wish I had a fraction of their tech know-how! And geeks aren't the only ones who took a beating in high school - so did those of us who are artistic "freaks." But the entertainment industry is run by business suits while the "freaks" are screwed over ( bait and switch of the few "stars" at the top do not count ). The tech industry, otoh, is run by geeks and the rank and file get a better return for their efforts. What I would like to see is the geek and freak alliance - sort of a Silicon Bohemia, if you will.
So to the person who felt insulted by the term geek, it is often spoken as an endearment and with admiration, including by some of us who are waving our freak flag high.

Ilan Ben Menachem   March 25th, 2010 3:22 pm ET

I think the best is to be a moderate geek, preferbly good both in Mathematics and Football.

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