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What's Hot at SXSW This Year

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Austin’s South-by-Southwest Festival, commonly referred to as SXSW, started in 1987 as a music festival but slowly became an extravaganza of a film festival, an interactive technology trade show and a jam-packed blue-chip music line-up all rolled up into a 10-day crazy train.

The interactive trade show component of SXSW really established itself as an annual CES 2.0 in 2007, when Twitter made its big splash. Then in 2008, there was the infamous “train wreck” of an interview with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg; and in 2009, the Foursquare roll-out. However, last year’s featured interactive roll-out of a handful of “social discovery” apps was kind of a let-down and overshadowed by the controversy of turning Austin’s homeless population into roving wi-fi hotspots.

So that being said, SXSW from a tech business perspective is a mixed bag. Will 2013 have big Twitter-style early-adopter hype, or will it be more homeless wi-fi hotspots? We're going to bet that we'll see a bit of both.

Here’s a quick sneak peek of what to expect this year from SXSW Interactive’s keynote speakers and some key sessions:

Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla Motors is giving a keynote that promises to be very entertaining. Although SpaceX and Tesla Motors are companies whose products are high-dollar durable goods and not web- or media-related at all, it is hard to know what Musk, the co-founder of PayPal, might talk about, including his epic take-down of the NY Times review of his Tesla Model S.

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Tina Roth Eisenberg, one of our favorite design minds, will be talking about how to turn side projects into success stories. With more than 1.3 million monthly unqiues, Eisenberg’s is one of the top 50 design blogs on the planet and the curator of our Say 100 design channel.

Julie Urman, the CEO of OUYA, the $99 Android-based gaming console, will be interviewed by Joshua Topolsky, editor-in-chief and founder of The Verge. OUYA has the techie gravitas to perhaps float to the top as this year’s SXSW’s big buzz winner.

Matthew Inman of the always awesome The Oatmeal will talk about his creative resolution to a strange internet lawsuit, wherein he used crowdsourcing to raise $200,000 for charity instead of paying a plaintiff $20,000 in damages. He says his talk will be about, “how you can use crowdfunding, comedy, and creativity to combat douchebaggery on the internet.” Yes!

We've got a few great speakers attending too. Doug Grinspan, publisher of mobile at Say Media, will be in conversation with Jeremiah Zinn, executive vice president of digital products at Viacom. They'll explore the shrinking divide between screens (TV, desktop, tablet, mobile), noting how media consumption and commerce habits have changed – and what this addiction means for publishers, advertisers and consumers.

Meanwhile, Jane Pratt of xoJane, Sassy, and Jane fame will deliver a panel called the Secrets of a Publishing Renegade where she'll reveal will reveal why the current print model doesn’t work, the myths traditional media has been feeding you, and the outrageous anecdotes from 25 years in media.

And of course SXSW is also a music festival. This year’s line-up includes Deadmau5, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Virtual 2Pac – and we've got an amazing lineup of hot new indie bands including St. Lucia, The Joy Formidable, Kopecky Family Band, Lord Huron, the Allah-Lahs and Ginger and the Ghost at our rocking SXSW party on Monday March 11. We hope to see you there!

[Photo credit: SXSW on Instagram]

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