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SXSW 2014 No. 3: AGLIFF Brunch, Drupal Drop In and more

Michael Barnes
mbarnes@statesman.com

SXSW 3.1: It’s more than a brunch. It’s a community. The AGLIFF Brunch brightens every SXSW for me. Sure, some of the gay bars throw welcome parties for the tourists during SX, but they are usually late at night. A light brunch instead means at least some earnest talking, not just looking around. This year it took place at the hearty Iron Bear at Colorado and Eighth streets. Right away, I ran into party planner, press rep and man forever about town Neil Diaz. (No, Neil, I have no secret magic word for accessing the Lady Gaga set. If I did, you’d be the first. Promise.) Spent more time with energetic AGLIFF director Aaron Yeats, who seems successful uniting the old and new guards in the gay and lesbian film community. We agree that it’s about more than just movies, or a festival, but rather AGLIFF is a singular way of defining community here in Austin. (The bearded man deserves a profile!)

SXSW 3.2: What’s a Drupal? I hoped to learn more at the Drupal Drop-In. Apparently, everybody at Maggie Mae’s already knew that it’s a an open-source content management platform. For the non-savvy like me, Drupal might as well be a character in “The Hobbit.” The band was loud and the inner room clammy, but, as always, I met fascinating folks. In this case, Ron Shimshock and Stephanie Brail from the Shimshock Group, a strategic technology consultancy based here in Austin. Turns out, the friendliest faces in a SXSW crowd of strangers are often from Austin. They explained how their outfit helps businesses with their customers. They even helped handle the traumatic transitions for the paired Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. Glad I wasn’t around for that drama. Our newspaper has seen its share of ups and downs in a evolving industry, but that dynamic duo was a consulting challenge to say the least. (Fascinated by their business!)

SXSW 3.3: The cool mist turned to drizzle, then slid into insistent rain. Saturday afternoon, the streets were still the place to be. Dropped in on the Congress Avenue Royal Blue Grocery, where owner George Scariano Jr. talked about how his busy urban shops were never a sure thing. (Profile!) Then down to the Convention Center, where festers retreated from the weather, making it seem like the world’s coolest airport terminal. There, ran into Victoria Cumberbatch, now of the University of Texas and various think-tanky group, always insightful, especially on getting twentysomethings off their couches and into service. The Austin Chronicle’s Wayne Allan Brenner flustered me — that’s his speciality — by saying I had praised one of his shirts years ago and it became his all-time favorite. Love this guy. Then I chatted with Leslie Silver of Anthony Barnum Public Relations and Amanda Blong of the Longhorn Network (which I glorified extravagantly). After that, off to Whole Foods Market for what I thought would be TechMunch, where I would be conducting a quick workshop about pitching, but had the date wrong. No matter, because parked on the Whole Foods lot was the Downton Abbey Tea Trailer, with Austinites dressed up as servants and masters serving iced tea. (Could have used the hot variety on this British Isles day.)