An Insider's Guide to SXSW 2012

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For four days, SXSW is the capital of the Web. - Bruce Sterling

I’ve attended conferences and trade shows all around the world, but SXSW in Austin is my favorite by far. Considering I have never stepped foot on the actual show floor, some might find it funny I would say that. For me, SXSW is all about the people, experiences, music, and food outside the convention center.

As a lover of all things mobile, I’m most excited to see which application leaves the show with the most buzz. When startups from the Bay Area and New York converge on downtown Austin, it creates a unique test bed for mobile applications that has been a good leading indicator of which companies and trends will succeed in the coming year.

Last year the big thing was group messaging as apps like Beluga and GroupMe saw the highest usage. Beluga went on to be acquired by Facebook, GroupMe became part of Skype, and then Apple and Google added group messaging features to their own services iMessage and Google+.

Looking at this year’s show, I think apps based around people discovery will become the talk of SXSW. It’s easy to use location apps such as Foursquare to find out which locations and parties are trending, but it can still be a challenge to connect with all the interesting people at these events.

This new wave of social discovery apps answers the question, “I’m here now, who do I talk to?”

A growing number of startups are focused on this space, but the one I have my eye on is Glancee. I recently started using their Android app and it’s a fun way to discover and connect with new people that share common friends and similar interests. The app has been available on iPhone and Android since last year, but it hasn’t seen wide adoption yet.

Part of the problem is that the service needs more users for it to become really useful, but SXSW should solve that. Glancee and another competitor called Highlight are seeing good usage among early adopters in Silicon Valley and I expect installs to pick up this month in Austin.

When it comes to other mobile applications that will come in handy during SXSW, here are my top picks for each category:

  • Find something good to eat:

    Foodspotting (Android, Blackberry, iPhone, Windows Phone)

  • Easily exchange contact info with the people you meet: Hashable (iPhone, Android)
  • Group message with your friends: Google+ (iPhone, Android)
  • Manage the events you attend: EventBrite (iPhone, Android)
  • Explore what’s trending around you: Foursquare (Android, Blackberry, iPhone, Windows Phone)
  • See a band you like at the show? See who you know that likes them – or what other who like them listen to with TastemakerX which debuts at SXSW this year (iPhone)

To keep up with the latest parties and music events be sure to follow SXSW Party List on Facebook and Twitter. And don't forget to check out the SAY Media panel On the Internet Everyone Knows You're a Dog – and RSVP for the SAY Party featuring Quiet Life, Wallpaper. and Cults.

Taylor Wimberley is the editor-in-chief of Android and Me and a SAY Media partner.