SXSW iPhone

With March only a few months away, I’m already all atingle for South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi), the annual creative geekfest in Austin, Texas. As a high-proof cocktail of tech talks, late-night parties, design inspiration, and live music, SXSWi lights up all my creative and professional synapses. I’ve attended before, but the tingle is especially tingly this time because I’ll be on the other side of the podium.

This week, I learned that SXSWi is trying something new for 2010: workshops. Each workshop will present three hours of deep, detailed content on a focused topic. The time will be divided into three one-hour sessions, each presented by one or two dazzling designers or clever coders. I’m especially excited about the workshop on iPhone apps — not least because I’ve been invited to organize it, or “curate.” More on that in a sec.

SXSWi’s program has always blended concentrated tech talks with free-wheeling panel discussions. In recent years, though, organizers have encouraged more speakers to tackle the former — the concentrated, nitty-gritty approach — since it delivers lots more learning for the audience than moderated chit-chat. A one-hour talk ups the ante for presenters, of course, since it requires lots more preparation and brainwork. But hey, it’s those big brains that draw people to SXSW in the first place (and OK, sure sure, the enormous quantities of beer and barbecue).

The workshops take this approach one step further by delivering not just one, not just two, but wow! three hours of rich, advanced content from people who know the topic inside out. The three sessions will complement each other, one leading naturally into the next, with the goal of arming attendees with a mountain of ideas and techniques to inspire them in their work. Workshop rooms will seat 200, and I bet we’ll see ’em full.

I’m beyond flattered that I’ve been asked to curate the SXSWi “iPhone apps” workshop. That theme is already too broad to tackle on its own, and over the next few days I’ll whittle that topic down to something more focused. From there, my job as curator is to cull through over 2300 proposed talks to choose three sessions, in consultation with SXSWi staff, to suit that refined topic.

This is still evolving, but at the moment I expect to focus the workshop on interface design and user experience for iPhone apps, an area where techniques and best practices are still evolving. (See this choice interview with Tweetie’s Loren Brichter, for example, for just a taste of how developers are exploring the proper use of touch gestures in apps.) I have a hunch that some version of my own proposed talk, “Best iPhone Apps: Ingredients for Apps that Delight,” will play a role. We’ll see. (And hey, if you voted for my talk, thanks!)

I’m just getting started, so iPhone developers and designers, please do chime in. Drop me a line or leave a comment here about the technical topics that sing to you, particularly those that address design and user experience. See you in Austin!

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