Everett Toews

Helping you shave narwhals

South By Slash West

23 Mar 2014

Simply put, SXSW 2014 was awesome. This year I had a workshop titled Cloud Portability with Multi-Cloud Toolkits accepted. With that came a Gold badge and full access to SXSW Interactive. It’s a pass to insight into the tech industry and I tried to make full use of it.

  1. Friday TechBreakfast
  2. Sunday Workshop and IEEE Party
  3. Monday MythBuster and Booth
  4. Tuesday Panic, Portlandia, and Women in Tech
  5. Wednesday Slashathon

Friday TechBreakfast

It always helps to start SXSW off with a breakfast burrito. I represented Rackspace and spoke at a morning meetup of the TechBreakfast. The TechBreakfast is a “show and tell” format event where up to five different technologists will demo their technologies from a wide range of industries over breakfast.

Sunday Workshop and IEEE Party

Sunday was the day of the workshop. The intent of the workshop is to give developers hands-on experience making their applications portable across different cloud providers using a multi-cloud toolkit. The benefit is avoiding lock-in to a particular provider by easing the transition from one cloud to another.

The entire workshop is online and you can see the presentation and code by running through these slides. There are multi-cloud toolkits in Java (Apache jclouds), Node.js (pkgcloud), Python (Apache libcloud), and Ruby (Fog). When you get to a slide that let’s you choose which toolkit to use, simply click on your toolkit of choice and follow those particular instructions.

I was able to choose 3 co-presenters and was thankful to have Dana Bauer, Ken Perkins, and Kyle Rames with me during the workshop. We were also able to select some hands-on helpers for the workshop and we’d like to thank Anne Gentle, Jim Salinas, and Egle Sigler for their assistance.

Here’s a great shot of Kyle presenting his section of the workshop.

After all was said and done, I headed out for some SXSW fun with my wife. Eventually we wound up at the IEEE Technology for Humanity party. Having zero expectations going in, we were surprised by just how much fun it was. It was entirely due to Two Bit Circus providing the good times. Here’s a 12 second video of me dive rolling through lasers.

Monday MythBuster and Booth

On Monday I made sure to catch the keynote by MythBuster Adam Savage. I really appreciated one of his main messages about the inclusion of art in science and technology. Many people don’t understand the creative aspects of engineering and computer science and it’s great to have a champion like Adam bringing these ideas to the forefront. I especially liked his use of the acronym STEAM, science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics.

I also spent a good portion of the day working the Rackspace booth at the SXSW tradeshow. The tradeshow floor is huge and many people from all walks of life are traveling by. My preference is to talk to other developers at these kinds of events but how to find those needles in the haystack?

By doing my job. I connected my laptop to a booth screen and just started doing my job. Reviewing pull requests on GitHub, running DevStack, and a little bit of coding. This got the attention of probably a dozen or so developers throughout the day, they would wander on over, and we would have a good conversation. Hopefully I was able to impart a bit of my knowledge and I learned a few things too.

Tuesday Panic, Portlandia, and Women in Tech

First I caught the session Kernel Panic by Adam Buxton on a whim and I was really glad I did. It was the hilarious tour of the contents of one man’s laptop. YouTube comments, health records, David Bowie, family videos, and everything else. Nothing was sacred. It’s difficult to summarize but highly recommended.

My wife and I are both fans of Portlandia so when I saw that Fred and Carrie were doing a panel, I had to attend. The Q&A was bookended by clips from the upcoming season. They had a lot of funny and interesting answers to the audience’s questions. Everything from music to gentrification was discussed. Afterwards I just had to get my Portlandia Activity Book signed. It was also great to learn that Carrie was a big fan of Kids in the Hall. :D

In the evening I headed over to the Austin Women in Tech meetup at the Bat Bar on 6th. This was a great event, sponsored by Rackspace and the OpenStack Foundation, celebrating and encouraging women in the tech industry in Austin. I’m fortunate to work with many skilled women at Rackspace and to be able to support these kinds of initiatives.

Wednesday Slashathon

This was probably the most work and most fun for me during SXSW. Slashathon was a 12 hour long hackathon put on by the legendary Slash. The goal of the hackathon was to produce apps that would help musicians engage their audience. Me and Anne Gentle from Rackspace were representing Rackspace and I gave a demo during the hackathon kickoff. Our prizes were a Rackspace mountain bike for the top rated app hosted on Rackspace and 1 year in the Rackspace Startup Program for the winning app.

Originally I had intended to just be a resource for other developers during the day and to get some regular work done. Anne wouldn’t have it. She convinced me to execute on her idea for a timeline that showed the past, present, and future of a musicians tour dates.

We know APIs and infrastructure but we needed hackers who were better at the frontend user interface. Luckily one of the Slashathon organizers, Jedidiah, connected us with Diago Fujiwara and Kevin Davis from the Harvard Business Review. These guys were frontend specialists looking for something to hack on and liked the idea.

Ultimately we built groupieology.com as a way for fans to follow their favourite artists across time and space during concert tours. We only got as far as searching for artists, mapping their tour dates, and hosting the whole thing on Rackspace before Anne, Daigo, and Kevin had to leave early. That gave me time to work up a decent script to pitch to the judges during the demos.

At 7:00 pm Slash, Bram Cohen, and Robert Scoble showed up to judge the applications built during the day. I’ve been speaking in public for a while now and am mostly over my nerves but I don’t mind telling you I was nervous when I got up in front of Slash. I’ve been listening to his music my whole life and wanted to make a good impression…or at least not come off like a meathead. I did my best and hopefully represented our team well. Here’s a shot of me explaining Groupieology to the judges and its potential to connect fans and artists.

At the end of the day we didn’t place but I got to pitch an app to Slash. So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.

We did, however, get to give away the Rackspace mountain bike to Fletcher Richman from PivotDesk. And the 1 year in the Rackspace Startup Program and $24,000 in free to hosting went to the Slashathon winners with their SlashTV app.


Many thanks to everyone I worked with, talked to, or shared a beer with during SXSW. It was a great time and I can’t wait until next year!