SXSW Recap (1 of 4): New Tools

This year’s SXSW was the first for Dan and Blair, and the umpteenth for Jason and me. Everyone had a good time, met interesting people, and enjoyed (too much) great food. Over the next week or so, we'll be posting a few notes and takeaways from the conference. Here are mine:

Best panels:
State of Browser Dev Tools had a very high “whoa, I had no idea” factor. Opera and Chrome in particular are creating some really fantastic in-browser resources for devs, with great new tools for JS and CSS profiling. There are even some upcoming cross-device tools that let you debug phone JS from your desktop. If the talk deck ends up online, I'll add them to this post.

Andy Hume made a great case for self-imposed constraints in CSS for Grown Ups (some good notes here), arguing that the power CSS provides demands a structured approach like OOCSS or SMACSS. He took it even further, suggesting a JS classing alternative to media queries, which weirded me out just enough to make me want to try it on my next project.

The Future15 talks were pretty fun this year; lots of quick, unpolished ideas compacted into little microtalks. Especially enjoyed talks about group improvisation, “multiplayer work”, and near-future tools for brain/computer interfaces.

Best new stuff:
I’d never really thought about WebGL (the technology behind and a good chunk of Mr. Doob's portfolio) as something I could actually do before — it seemed like a tool only understandable by 3D wizards and game devs. The WebGL panel changed my mind, though, and I definitely want to play around with it this year.

Best food:
Frank. Stop reading this article and go read that menu. Done? Welcome back.

Post-conference goals:
Start messing around with WebGL, subscribe to the the CSS WG mailing list, get a consumer-grade EEG to play around with.

Off-schedule highlights:
As a beginning birder, I enjoyed the chance to ID birds in a new city on my own. Picked up swan goose, pie-billed grebe, muscovy duck, and cliff swallow for my life list. Did not see any caracaras, which was a disappointment...maybe next year.

Doug Avery

Posted in Article Category: #Design & Content