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A wake for SXSW blogger who made fest fun

Omar L. Gallaga
ogallaga@statesman.com

Longtime attendees of South by Southwest Interactive were shocked in early January when word spread that Brad Graham had died. Graham, a theater publicist, blogger and writer who was said to have created the term "blogosphere," died in St. Louis at the age of 41.

To SXSW-goers, he was known as the "Break Bread With Brad" guy, a gregarious presence who was doing social media meetups long before Twitter and Facebook made them all the rage. He was also the host of the Web site SXSW Baby, which continues after his passing to post information and tips for the fest.

It will be hard for many to imagine SXSW Interactive without Graham. But organizers of Friday's "Break Bread With Brad" event, 5-8 p.m. at Mohawk (912 Red River St.), will remember him for his fun presence and the good cheer he brought to the proceedings.

Matt Haughey, who created MetaFilter.com and who is helping organize the event, said after the initial shock of the news, he wondered, "What's going to happen in spring when attendees don't get the warm welcome they've gotten over the last 10 years?"

Haughey, who is traveling from his home in Oregon for the fest, was an early blogger along with Graham. "He was the second person I ever met at SXSW in the year 2000, and I had seen him every year since. Back then, there were about 30 bloggers in the world."

SXSW Interactive is full of parties and socializing, but in its early days, the greater emphasis was on panels and programming. Graham helped socialize the fest.

"Early bloggers, including myself, were these introverted nerds who sit at home and write," Haughey says. "(Graham) was a social butterfly and a real organizer type. He was a tremendous social force."

Haughey said he's not sure what will happen at the event today, but there will be a microphone, free Shiner Bock and a lot of memories. "I don't have a great handle on whether this'll be half-remembrance, wake or plain old party for people coming to South by Southwest. He was a happy guy. His events were always fun. We kind of want to make sure this is a happy wake instead of a funeral."

More Friday highlights

Gretchen Rubin, fresh from a New York Times article that credits her for starting a movement with her book "The Happiness Project," reads from her best-seller at 4:30 p.m. on the day stage. Expect a lively discussion on the future of television at "PayTV vs. Internet — The Battle For Your TV" pairs Avner Ronen of Boxee and Mark Cuban of HD Net. 5 p.m., Ballroom D. Read interviews with Rubin and Ronen, plus many more panel previews, at austin360.com/digitalsavant. Stay up to date with SXSW Interactive by following @360sxswi on Twitter.