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"Nerd alert" in Austin: SXSW Interactive searches for the Web's next big thing

Greetings from Austin! Over the next few days, I’m going to take you deep into what some would call ‘The Woodstock of Interactive Media’ – SXSW Interactive.

I’m sure some of you are saying to yourselves, "SXSW Interactive? What the heck is that? I thought SXSW was all about music."

It was.

SXSW was created in 1987 to fill the Austin bars left empty by University of Texas students who bolted town for spring break. In 1994, an interactive and film portion were added to the schedule. All three have since grown to worldwide acclaim.

Are you still a relative newcomer to Twitter? It broke here three years ago. It just took a little while until Oprah heard about it.

Today through Tuesday, parts of Austin will be overrun by nerds of all shapes and sizes. Arriving from all over the world, they will try to absorb as many cutting-edge ideas as they can. Although they speak their own language and dress in T-shirts with diagrams of the caffeine molecule, they pose no threat to our way of life. For the next five days, the future inventors of tools like Twitter and Facebook are here to find the next big thing, network with other geeks and maybe even hook up — all the while trying to out ironic each other.

I’m pretty excited about some of the panels and speakers this year. Depending on your level of interest in all things web, SXSWi has crafted a great lineup to suit everyone’s needs. There’s stuff for the uber-geeks, stuff for the geek at heart, stuff for Mad Men fans and even stuff for fans of old adult film stars.

Below are just some of the interesting panels that SXSWi 2010 has to offer

Danah Boyd’s Opening Remarks: Privacy and Publicity

Sound Unbound with DJ Spooky

Big Brother in Your Brain: Neuroscience & Marketing

Nina Hartley: Porn Star, Sex Educator, Social Networker (I’m not sure who she is (wink) but heck of a title if you ask me)

Rules of BrandFiction from Twittering MadMen(@BettyDraper and @Roger_Sterling!!)

Jaron Lanier Presentation

A conference of this magnitude wouldn’t be complete without some really big parties. With companies like Facebook, Digg and Mozilla, makers of the Firefox browser, in town you know there are going to be some cool things happening.

Diggnation is taking over Stubbs Saturday night with a live performance from the NYC band The Walkmen. Sunday it's all about the Houston/California connection with the Kirtsy/Alltop party at Allen's Boots, co-sponsored by CultureMap. Later that night, PBS is also hosting a party at the Austin City Limits Studios. Monday brings another Houston/Culture Map party – Houston@SXSW.

I’m pretty excited about this one, It will be a chance to hang out with all my Houston geeks. After that is the Do512.com party featuring Mike Relm. Of course these are just a small sample of the bashes going on, you can find the official SXSW parties here.

The great thing about SXSWi is the wealth of content to soak up while you’re here. As soon as you arrive in Austin, the schedule you spent hours creating to fill your time gets thrown out the window. That amazing panel you just had to get to doesn’t seem nearly as important as the conversation you're having with a complete stranger or leaving early to watch the spectacle that is Dorkbot.

The point is, if you think you’re missing something, you aren’t. This conference is a share-and-share-alike environment. It's nerds talking to nerds in their own element. No one makes fun of them and they all understand each other. They are here to learn and use that knowledge to build the next big thing.

Sure, we might look funny and wear shirts with inside jokes on them but as Bill Gates once said "Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one."

Follow Jason McElweenie on Twitter @deneyterrio.

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