During my time at the interactive portion of SXSW, I was looking for great technical panels on practical ways to improve my technical skills. While I found a bunch of panels that addressed some interesting issues, I don’t think I saw any server side code the entire time I was there. There were a number of great CSS and HTML5 talks, but aside from the PHP workshop that was listed at the wrong time in the booklet, I found no practical talks for backend developers.
Over the past couple years, it seems like there has definitely been a shift in how sxsw views technical talks. Two years ago, there were developers presenting great content on how to structure APIs, write great PHP, and develop iPhone / Android Apps. This year, the php workshop had the incorrect time printed in the booklet. The technical talks this year seemed be designed for the nontechnical. The discussions around scaling included big names quoting scaling statistics that are sure to be taken out of context and read as homily by technical managers everywhere. The Android Developer meetup was almost completely devoid of Android devs, just sharks looking for them, myself included. The panel on the death of the RDBMS painted a rosy picture of what databases could be, but did not include a mention of a single technology that fit the presenter’s pipe dream.
The ubiquitousness of the term social media at SXSW leaves me with one conclusion. SXSW has changed from a gathering that was about people doing cool stuff to a group of people talking about stuff they think is cool right now. There has been a lot of discussion on conversation, but not much conversation on how to create things worth talking about.