After getting lost in the cavernous Conference Center and desperately seeking help from one of the SXSW volunteers in order to find the inconveniently located Room C (thank you so much Natalie Shanks), I attended my first panel of the day, “User Generated Content,” with speakers Dean Mccall, founder of IdeaGin, Stephen Newman CEO of Mouth Watering Media, Todd Morrey of Mosso, Wes Wilson President of IncSpring and Chris Tolles, CEO of Topix.

The two highlights from this panel were Morrey's ragging on the actual term “user generated content,” likening it to “snuggling up to your signifigant other and asking for intercourse” and the fact that Topix CEO Tolles brought up the the #Skittles campaign, discussing how he tested the limits of social media and microcommunities by putting in cursewords re: #Skittles on his Twitter page, “It was a great campaign but an example of how users suck; once they realized you could curse, the whole thing went to sh*#.”

Another hot topic at the user gen panel (and any panel for that matter) was the ubiquity of Twitter. The fact that P Diddy went on the Ellen DeGeneres show to talk about Twitter was so omnipresent this morning at SXSW that a DDoS of the site might have the impact to shut down the conference entirely, or at least the parts that determine coordination: “Twitter what it was back then is different from what it is right now – we are just at the beginning.”

And speaking of beginning, since this is's first SXSW we decided to sit in on what one attendee referred to as the “Virgin Panel.” Apparently the n00b quotient SXSW is higher than you think because the room was packed (I had to whisper that I knew someone to get in). Panelist Glenda Bautista from Agendacide, Baratunde Thurston from The Onion, John Styn from Digital Explorer, Zadi Diaz from EPIC FU, and blogger Ernie Hsiung provided us all with tips on how to make this the most off the hook SxSWi ever.

(L-R) Panelists Thurston, Hsiung, Bautista, Styn and Diaz; Credit: Erin Broadley

(L-R) Panelists Thurston, Hsiung, Bautista, Styn and Diaz; Credit: Erin Broadley

According to panelist Bautista, one of the crucial elements to enjoying your time at the festival is to not be afraid to get beyond your computer; this is “IRL time so make the most of it.” As speaker Thurston also echoed that SXSW is like a “3D Twitter” so get out there and say hi to everyone you know. Case in point – as I was blogging, Web designer Michelle Childs (who I had never met before but connected with me on Twitter) direct messaged me: “Just wanted to say hi… Sitting behind u.” I turned around and there she was, all smiles! I asked her if she would watch my laptop so I could take photos. I came back and it was still there; trust is key in social media.

As Bautista pointed out, everything at SXSW is being constantly documented – one could get blisters on their fingers pointing out all the various aggregation sites for all the mediated events, or as Bautista put it, “What happens at SXSW, stays on Flicker.”

The most useful tips gleaned from the panel were “always carry a sharpie,” stop by the trade show and/or marketing panels for free food, and try to do something interactive (like blog?) in the lines. Another great tip brought up during the panel, and something my stepmom emphasized as I was packing my bag for Austin; “Wash your hands as much as possible” because with all the hand shaking and typing and tweeting at the UN of tech panels, germs spread faster than hashtags in our fair city of Austin.

Packed room for Rawk tips; Credit: Erin Broadley

Packed room for Rawk tips; Credit: Erin Broadley

My personal most favorite piece of advice from the panel was the insight that there are many people from the tech world that are considered rock stars (weblebrities) in this niche environment, but are unrecognized anywhere else – so attendees shouldn't be afraid to go up to them and say hi.

Links to useful materials brought up at the panel: All you ever needed to know about running SXSW, including cab numbers and where the cupcakes are at. Official

sxsw2009.sched: Event schedule

southbysouthwestbaby: Tips and guidelines

UpcomingSXSW: For the more old-school contingent

We'll keep you posted on where we end up and get immediate updates on Twitter at @alexiatsotsis and @laweekly.

Also, check out Village Voice Media's SXSW Festival site for more coverage.

LA Weekly