The best part of SXSW isn't the panels (though there are often excellent presentations). It's the serendipity. The hallway/restaurant/party connections and conversations. The friend-of-a-friend introductions. The silliness and the creativity and the laughter.
I slept late this morning, and made it to the conference in time to bump into Justin Hall, who led me to where Joi was speaking--so I got a chance (after what I think has been nearly 1.5 years) to give him an in-person hug and hello. After that I was hungry, and couldn't find anyone who wanted to eat (even using Dodgeball didn't yield its usual excellent results), so I wandered off to Iron Works BBQ for one last hit of regional food. As I sat down, Lili called out my name--she, Jenny, and Scoble were there, along with Craig Newmark (yes, that Craig), and Cathy Brooks. It was a lovely lunch, with lots of laughter. One lunch like that, and the camaraderie it fosters, is worth the price of the trip to Austin.
This afternoon I'm sitting in the overflow room for the Burnie Burns keynote, getting caught up on email and blog posts and text messages. At 3:30 I've got to decide between games and stories, and then I'll grab my suitcase and try to catch 20 minutes of Bruce Sterling before I head for the airport, and back to my family and bed and kitchen and other comforts of home. As always, I'm glad I was here, but I'm also more than ready to head back home.