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AUSTIN, Texas – Last year this time I ran into my predecessor, Charlie Schick, as he was leaving Nokia House for SXSW ’09. I was envious (a polite way of saying “jealous”) as I’ve been drooling over this festival for the past several years. But here I am just a year later, with all the other hipster too-cool-for-school 20 and 30-somethings. All enjoying what many have called “the best festival in the world”…and I’m beginning to agree.

For those who don’t know, SXSW (South by Southwest) is a nine day long festival of music, film, and multimedia. The first half is multimedia, second half is music, wihle both halves have film. You stumble around downtown Austin attending thousands of seminars, presentations, panels, films, and concerts – and in the evening there’s an equal amount of parties to crash.

I’ve had the unique opportunity over the years to attend many mobile and tech confrences like CES, CeBit, MWC/3GSM etc.. and I’ve noticed a steady decline in these events. Maybe it’s the economy, or maybe I’m just getting jaded. I know it’s a cliche to say “It was better back in my day!”, but something definitely reigns true.

SXSW on the otherhand is one the rise, and I can see why: It combines multiple industries, not just one. You’ll see celebrities walking around. You might get beat up if caught wearing a suit. Patrons are more well-rounded rather than industry specific. There’s more young people. It’s spread across multiple venues rather than one giant civic center. There’s a postiive vibe, remnant of a rock concert, beaming from each person in attendance.

What do you think? Are the traditional conferences becoming tired? Are festivals like SXSW the wave of the future? Or am I just getting old?

Image credit: Phillie Casablanca