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Five Things to Take Away From This Year’s SXSW

Aaron Kyle Behrens of Ghostland Observatory at A Celebration of Startups during the 2012 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at ACL Live on Mar. 9
Aaron Kyle Behrens of Ghostland Observatory at A Celebration of Startups during the 2012 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at ACL Live on Mar. 9Photograph by Earl/Mcgehee/WireImage/Getty Images

South by Southwest Interactive, which ends today, drew tens of thousands of the social media elite to Austin, Tex. There were torrential rainstorms, highway-snarling traffic jams, and endless lines of attendees collecting conference badges, but that didn’t dampen the party or the enthusiasm for the next new thing. For those who managed to travel smartly and stay dry, there were several lessons to be gleaned from the 20th anniversary of this multidenominational conference, which is quickly becoming an annual gathering place for small startups, big brands, and media and tech insiders.

There’s always something newer than the last new thing. A few years ago, Twitter took SXSW by storm. Then it was such location-sharing services as Foursquare and Gowalla. This year, passive-location apps like Highlight and Glancee were generally understood to be the belles of the ball. These services link to your Facebook accounts, run in the background on your phone, and then alert you when friends or friends of friends are in your close proximity. Highlight got much of the attention, though it only works on the iPhone, so I installed Glancee on my Android Nexus Prime. It’s smartly designed, but amid the frenetic rush of the conference, a little useless. At one point, I noticed an old work friend was two hundred yards away—but didn’t know which direction he was in, and I was running to an appointment anyway. Maybe these tools will be more useful when they can provide more detailed locations? Also, big surprise: Most users of Glancee appear to be men.