SXSW Interactive = awesome

sxsw2009iaJacob and I just returned from my first-ever and Jacob’s second South By Southwest Interactive (SXSWi).  Most people know about SXSW’s amazing music portion, its independent film festival, and all of the parties associated with both.  Admittedly, those were the only pieces of the festival that I’d ever known about.  Well, let me tell you, if you think the music and film portion is fun, you’d agree with me: the interactive is AWESOME.  Not only did we get to see some amazing speakers, but we got to soak up the energy of Austin while we were there – it was teeming with ideas, music, films, and of course, excellent social events to connect us all.

We went to several panels over the 3 days we were there, all of which were informative, exciting, and thought-provoking.  Topics ranged from “Tips for Making Ideas Happen” to “Open Source Disability Tech” to Keynotes from the likes of Nate Silver, James Powderly, Chris Anderson and Guy Kawasaki.

Most exciting for me was participating on a panel titled “Regional Whuffie Building: Attracting Innovation to your City.”  I got to sit alongside four of my excellent coworking colleagues to discuss how coworking spaces around the country are helping to attract innovations and innovators in their cities.  The panel was organized and moderated by Tony Bacigalupo of New Work City in NYC, and also included Matthew Wettergreen of Caroline Collective, Geoff DiMasi of Independents Hall in Philadephia, and Julie Duryea of souk in Portland.  The five of us were able to quickly connect the ideas of Whuffie, coworking, and innovation, then move along to some examples of how we are working toward building centers of innovation (aka coworking spaces and the projects that are launched from them) in our own cities. (If you’re interested in what Whuffie is, please check out the variety of info Tara Hunt has put out on the subject – her slideshow from SXSW lives here.).

Discussing coworking at BarCamp Austin, happening in conjunction with SXSWi.

Discussing coworking at BarCamp Austin, happening in conjunction with SXSWi.

If there is one thing I can draw out from participating on this panel, it is that coworking spaces and the people who use them are officially on to something.  Work as we know it and as we have been doing it for years (centuries really) is changing for the good, and coworking spaces are a wonderful example of that.  There is so much beauty in idea of coworking:

  • Individual workers get to work along side other smart, motivated folks and therefore be more productive.
  • Ideas are generated faster and more wholly than when individuals sit in their private offices or homes.  Interesting things happen more often and faster when you put interesting people together. It’s the concept Tara Hunt and Chris Messina at Citizen Space coined “accelerated serendipity.” It might sound woo-woo, but if you’ve ever seen it happen, it’s incredible.
  • The noticeable effect that by working next to folks who you don’t work with or for can actually make your work better.
  • The local-nature of each space and how they reflect the cities they are in, the neighborhoods they are in, and the individuals who work in them.  Add to that the benefit (in most spaces) of being able to walk, bike, or bus to work – it really beats having to drive through horrifyingly bad traffic every day.

Whatever your reason for coming to a coworking space (or for even thinking to join one), let me tell you this right now: You’re a part of something big.  It is clear that all around us the nature of business is changing.  And alongside that change we as communities (of workers, of neighbors, or of businesses) need to change and adapt the way we work together to be more successful.  Coworking is just one example of how the shape of work is shifting, and shifting for the better.

So rock on, fellow coworkers, and I look forward to seeing more of you in Austin next year.

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