While plenty of SXSW Interactive attendees were living the good life in four star hotels or nesting outside of downtown Austin, TX in the boondocks, a select group of 15 Web 2.0 warriors took their conference quarters to another level, and stayed at the spectacular Social Media Clubhouse overlooking Lake Austin. Topped off with an infinity pool, and orders of Bloody Mary bites, the Clubhouse made the perfect setting for co-working bliss. Each day during SXSWi, the social media crew livestreamed a recap show featuring hosts Chris Heuer, Amanda Coolong, and Ewan Spence. We caught up with Coolong and got the lowdown on her Clubhouse experience.
LA Weekly: You did a nightly SXSW recap from the clubhouse this past week. What was your favorite part of the experience?
Coolong: The entire experience began on the crazy Social Shuttle karaoke bus to the Clubhouse. I loved watching people's faces when they first saw the house. It was like the scene in Willy Wonka when the kids enter the massive candy room with the chocolate river. Anyway, I'd say the very last TechZulu recap show was my favorite. We shot it in the media lounge of the house, which offered a cozy environment. Everyone was exhausted — my voice was raspy — but there was still a crazy energy among us.
The guest rundown included Billy Jensen of Village Voice Media; Nic Adler of the Roxy; famous porn star and sex educator Nina Hartley; Carianne Higgenbotham of SpaceVidcast; Amanda Stiles of Google Lunar Experience; Scott Lockhart and Kimberly Turner of Regator; Alana Joy for Lunch.com and surprise guest, Michael Schneider of Mobile Roadie who just won a Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator Award. Over 90,000 people were watching the live stream and participating in the chat with us. It was an amazing interactive experience.
LA Weekly: The clubhouse itself was decadent. How would you rate the mansion on a scale of 1-10?
Coolong: A number wouldn't do it justice. Sure, the mansion had direct access to Lake Austin, a boat jetting people to and from downtown, a dedicated media lounge, exercise room overlooking the water, impeccable furnishings like Herman Miller chairs, infinity pool, multiple decks, completely integrated sound system, game room with wet bar, etc., but what makes a house is truly the people who reside in it, and we had an amazing tribe. With the help of our rockstar event planner Maryleigh, co-organizers Chris Heuer and Kristie Wells, and all the residents, the house came to life with shared enthusiasm, camaraderie, teamwork and friendship.
LA Weekly: In addition to the webcast, there were BBQs and other events held there. How important are meetups like those to the SXSW community?
Coolong: As South by Southwest Interactive continues to grow in numbers (this year's attendance was double over last) places like the Social Media Clubhouse will become increasingly valuable for maintaining an environment for deeper conversation, co-working, networking and the like. For example, the featured events at this Clubhouse included The Synaptic Web Summit, Maximum Engagement! Understanding the Social Media Multiplier, a Co-Working Summit, the TechZulu daily recap show, and a musical showcase with KUT Live.
LA Weekly: Will SMC continue to put clubhouses together at future events? And if so, why would you recommend to social media players to get into the house next year?
Coolong: Chris Heuer and Kristie Wells will definitely be hosting Social Media Clubhouses around future events. The house in Austin was actually the third installment of its kind, with similar arrangements previously organized around the Community 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas and LeWeb in Paris. Resident or not, I definitely encourage anyone who wants quality conversation, connections and content to stop on by the next Social Media Clubhouse… wherever it may be. And of course, the entire concept can only come together with great partners, of which we had many.
LA Weekly: Any craziness in the house? Funny daily routines you'd see your housemates display?
Coolong: Well, while some things will certainly remain off the record lest I lose my head, I can tell you tales of casual cabs back to the house in the wee hours of the night, gate-hopping, steamy car windows and random acts of nakedness. Amy Martin and I shared a room, and the window in our bathroom faced the deck so we had to be cognizant of showering before guests starting arriving at the house each day. Oh, and the 'automated' coffee machine was clearly sexist. It would only respond to a man's touch.
LA Weekly: Did you see a lot of collaboration and meeting of the minds take place there?
Coolong: Absolutely. Collaboration is really the overarching concept of the Social Media Clubhouse. It's meant to be a place where Social Media Club members, bloggers, journalists and industry influencers can co-work, share ideas, and produce great content together.
LA Weekly: Was the house a nice escape from the general SXSW shenanigans?
Coolong: Absolutely. It was located in the West Lake Hills neighborhood directly on Lake Austin, about five miles outside of downtown. The mansion itself was nuzzled away from the street, with a winding drive lined by trees that were in full bloom. Even the stars seemed bigger at the house. But don't let that serene description lead you to think the house didn't have its own fair share of shenanigans!