I just got back from SXSW Interactive 2008. It was a great experience and I had a lot of fun. It was great to hang out with friends and meet new people. That was really the main part of the conference for me. I arrived in Austin on Thursday evening, March 6 and left Wednesday morning, March 12. So, I was in town for about a week. It was my first time at the conference and my first time in Austin, in addition to the most west I’ve ever been in my life. What follows is a community minded recap of my participation at the conference. However, if you’d like to read about everything else I did, please check out my personal blog.

The first and only panel that I attended was Edit Me! How Gamers are Adopting the Wiki Way on March 7. I wanted to hit this panel because, besides being community related, my good friends April Burba (of NCsoft) and Jake McKee were on it. I attended and it was a solid panel. I spoke with Jake briefly before and after (he was focused and busy) and April a bit afterward.

She invited me to a drink at Champions later that day. While there, I met other people from NCsoft (the company April works for) and also the other panelists that were on the Edit Me! panel – Angie Shelton of Wikia Gaming and George Pribul of WoWiki. Doug Kennedy, Marketing Manager for Wikia Gaming was also there. And I’m forgetting the names of the other people, unfortunately. But, it was cool to hang out with some community minded people and, especially, to get a chance to talk more with April.

March 8 was my brother Sean’s 19th birthday and it was the first time I’ve ever missed his birthday, so that was a little odd. I had wanted to attend the Managing Communities That Work panel – another one with Jake – but I got there late and it was packed. So, that wasn’t in the cards.

Later that evening, while at the Google Party at Lightbar, I met my friend Lee LeFever and his wife, Sachi, of Common Craft. I’ve known Lee for years now and it was great to finally get a chance to meet him in person. We had lunch on Monday. I also met Monica Yoo as she was seated right next to me. She’s working on a college based Craig’s List type of thing.

On March 9, I rode on the Chitika (represented by Ryan Travis). Basically, it was 3 hours on a bus with about 39 other people. Among them, Chrispian Burks, Brandon Eley, Stephan Segraves, Alex Harris, Mike Rohde, Jeremy Wright, Wendy Piersall, Chad Randall, Rhea, Laura Coulter, Christina Jones, Tris Hussey, Erica Douglass and others. It was a cool event with a lot of talk about blogging and making money.

On March 10, I was going to try to get to a core conversation called “Your Blog Is A Niche Community”, but I ended up skipping that and just walking around a bit. I ended up meeting Douglas Sarine – yes, the ninja from Ask A Ninja, which was awesome. After lunch with Lee, I headed to a core conversation called “Community & Loyalty: Gamers to Flamers, Lurkers to Workers.”

This was presented by Rebecca Newton of Mind Candy (and Moshi Monsters) and Jennifer McChesney Puckett of the Walt Disney Internet Group. It was an interesting conversation. I had spoken to Ms. Newton before through the e-mint group for community managers, so it was nice to say hi and introduce myself. I also met Michael Smith, CEO of Mind Candy as well as Michael Liskin, a social media consultant and Izzy Neis of Six Degrees Games.

After the conversation broke, it was time to meet up with Brandon, Chris and Steve to head over to Blog Network Camp, an event organized by b5media, of which Jeremy is the CEO.

It was at Cantina Loredo and was attended by probably 40-60 people. It was paid for by sponsors that made presentations during the three hour long event. They were Lijit, PicApp and outbrain. All three services were interesting and, potentially, I may make use of them on the iFroggy Network. Besides that, there were talks by b5media and 451 Press and a lot of networking. As I sat down, I realized that I was sitting directly across from Lisa Sabin-Wilson, author of WordPress for Dummies. I remembered that she was slated to speak right before me on Tuesday. Funny coincidence!

The people that were there, in addition to Ms. Sabin-Wilson, myself, Chris, Brandon and Steve Shickles, included Jeremy, Darren, Tris, Rick Calvert from Blog World Expo, Maya Bar from PicScout, Brian Layman from b5media, Scott Goldblatt from Sportnet, Wendy Piersall, Jim Turner, Christina Jones, Chad Randall, Arieanna Schweber, Jason Bean and many others. It was a great event: thanks again to b5media for setting it up.

Tuesday was the day of my reading. For the second time of the trip, I woke up feeling like total garbage. Hoping, again, that wasn’t sick… again, I wasn’t. I got myself over to the day stage, where I would be speaking, a bit after 10 and checked in. On the way over, I shared a cab with Matt Cohen of ChoiceShirts. I caught the very end of Susannah Gardner’s reading for Blogging for Dummies, but forgot to say hello. (Argh). I then watched Lisa’s reading and it went well. Afterward, I went and set up my laptop on stage, for the slides, and got set up with the microphone.

Right around 11:00, I began my talk, titled “Creating a Positive Enviroment on Your Forums”. I talked about a number of ways that you can do that, from your members, to your staff, to you as the administrator. I had the talk down to about 13 and 1/2 minutes, but it took me about 15, a sign that I spoke slowly and breathed, which was my main objective. It was my first time speaking on stage – ever – and I simply wanted to get the words out, to speak slowly, to look people in the eye and to breathe. I think I was able to do that. After speaking, I took a question (but forgot to repeat it before answering… doh!) and my time was up.

I went off stage and met 5-7 people who wanted to introduce themselves or ask a question. It was great. Two of them were Laura Alter and John Vars of Dogster and Catster. Christina Jones, Lisa, Steve, Chris and Brandon were all in attendence – thank you to everyone who showed up. A few people told me that it went really well, for which I was grateful. I was nervous going in, but once I got started… I knew where I was going and it went fine. Chris had my camcorder and recorded the entire thing – I hope to get that video online at some point in the not too distant future.

The reading following me was for Lead Generation on the Web by Thomas Myer. I hung around with the guys and watched the presentation, which was good. Afterward, Chris, Brandon and myself stuck around to talk with Thomas. We ended up heading out to lunch with him, after picking up a copy of his book. It was great to talk and, as luck would have it, after talking for a while we discovered that we both had the same literary agent. Small world!

I had to be back at the conference center to tape a video interview with Grant for Download Squad. We talked a bit about the book and community management. I stubled a little, but it was fun. Thanks again to Grant and his camera person for talking with me.

And that was pretty much the end of the conference from a community and book perspective. Really, the biggest part it all for me was hanging out with friends and having a great time, joking around. I joke by nature, but there was so much fun had. Hanging out with Chris, Brandon, Stephan, Lee, Jeremy, Jake and others was an absolute blast. Right along with the fun was a ton of networking and promotion of the book and myself. SXSWi 2008 was awesome. The cost was still huge for me, but I’m definitely looking forward to going again next year and I return home motivated to make more money, so that I am able to come back. Maybe I can get on a panel. Any ideas? :)