SXSW halfway

Well, I've survived the first half of South by Southwest. I have been to a lot of great sessions and met quite a few even more phenomenal people. I just managed to find a spare, albeit wobbly table, so I decided to break out my laptop and mouse (I can't stand touchpads). I'll attempt to briefly summarize some of my more favorite panels, discussions and experiences thus far…

Bluffing in DOM Scripting

Jeremy Keith did a great job with this lecture. He has such an easy to listen to and conversational teaching style. He described speccifying elements of the DOM and changing their various aspects as "getters and setters." This is so true. If you want to change every paragraph element in a document, you simply type out p{} in CSS, or document.getElementsByTagName("p") in JavaScript. While the concepts covered were pretty basic, he made a good point. JavaScript, while more verbose, is perhaps more human readable and closer to actual English. He emphasized that one needn't feel intimidated.

Creating Passionate Users

Kathy Sierra was amazing in this presentation. She basically did a crash course in covering the psychology of marketing. She emphasized getting past the "crap filter" of the brain's chemistry, to create an enhanced user experience. By doing so, she contends that the next time a user is reminded of a similarly pleasant feeling, they will think of your product or website. She gave a great example of Red Bull sponsoring musical DJ training, even though it has nothing to do with their highly caffinated soft drink. By creating a mental association between themselves and a certain niche genre of music, they basically portray it as the beverage of choice in a club / rave environment.

Holistic Web Design

This was a great presentation, with several web developer / design geniuses: Eris Stassi, Jason Santa Maria, Carl Seiber, Shaun Inman and Garrett Dimon. They covered the re-design process followed for Plazes, a new community / friend mapping website that uses the Google Maps API. They showed everything from the original functional requirements written by Eris, to Jason's initial design sketches, all the way through the implimentation of some custom Ajax magic by Shaun. Even just through their playful banter throughout the forum, you could tell that there was a near perfect cohesion and mutual respect between those involved.

Design Eye for the List Guy

This was a very entertaining session. Not unlike the panel on holistic design, several well known people from the web world came together in order to re-design and re-brand a popular website. Much like their original session, they turned their attention this time to Craigslist. It was done by several masters of their craft: Paul Nixon, Cameron Moll, Ryan Sims, Keith Robinson and Andrei Herasimchuk remotely via Apple iChat. After it was all said and done, the page went from all text and no images (32k) to a really slick new layout with CSS and only one image, for a total weight of 34k. It was also interesting, because Craig himself was in the audience watching it all, after which he went up and responded to all of their various suggestions.

What I've learned… Throughout this whole conference, I have become progressively more relaxed and at ease around guys that I was previously intimidated by. Aside from the knowledge I have soaked up these past few days, the one singular thing I have realized is that we are all just regular people. I have been humbled having conversations with some of my web-dev heroes, and have also been flattered by those same people telling me they love my work too. I feel so fortunate / blessed to have been able to share laughs and meals with some of the most talented people in the web industry.