It makes sense that I heard the idea on a Fasten ride home from SXSW. I had been talking to the driver, and she started telling me about the app she wants to build. It’s similar to LinkedIn, but puts all your relationships in context. It helps you recall who you met, where you met them, and the circumstances. Do you know so-and-so from SXSW? CES? Dinner? Who introduced you?

This conversation, this idea for an app, it occurred to me, is exactly why SXSW exists.

SXSW is hard to distill. Its music, film, and interactive festivals draw a diverse group, and the conference sessions in everything from design to VR to journalism to marketing offer a little something for everyone.

But you know what SXSW is really about?


Not gadgets. Not concerts. Not film screenings. Not even BBQ.

It’s about the random conversations after panel events, on the trade show floor, at the bar, and even on Fasten rides home.

We meet people and make connections so randomly, and sometimes the part that’s missing is where did we meet and why? That context, that pure human element of meeting and conversing and striking up relationships is missing from most apps and services today.

And in some respects, it’s just as important as the technology.

In that spirit, here are five people, in addition to the many Fasten drivers I spoke with, who left an impression at SXSW.

Steven Daly of PRI, Katherine Griwert of Frontline, and Natalie Dudas-Thomas of Point Taken

These speakers on the “What the GIF?!” panel showed how everyone’s favorite internet medium can advance storytelling in a variety of ways. At 30 years old, the GIF is more spry than ever. Some forms to try included:

  • 10-second narratives
  • replaying a memorable moment
  • visualizing data
  • explaining a process
  • a silent soundbite

Of course where you share it is just as important as what you share. The panelists noted that Tumblr’s comic strip format differs considerably from an Instagram story, posting on Facebook can be challenging, and including GIFs in emails is an often overlooked opportunity that can drive higher click-through rates.

Shailesh Prakash, CTO of the Washington Post

Data, automation, and other technology is changing the way the media crafts stories. Shailesh Prakash opened up the hood on the Washington Post’s back-end technology to show us the site’s automated future and how they know which stories will be big just half an hour after they go live.

Harry McCracken of Fast Company

Harry sat on a panel speaking about the competition among publishers, social platforms, and influencers. Each option offers different advantages for telling stories and reaching your target audiences.

There’s another tech show called Collision, but there’s just as much colliding at SXSW. The journalists we heard from on panels, the random people who approached us at an event, the founder of a startup, the people of Austin, even the driver of our ride home all make this show the unique movement it is.

SXSW is the perfect event in the perfect city for culture, food, and creativity. But don’t forget the people. Until next year, keep Austin weird, y’all.