Lauren Goode

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The Essential SXSW Tech Tool Kit

Hey, over here! Yeah, you — the person who’s pretending to respond to work emails while trolling the Internet today for anything related to “Apple” and “iPad.”

There’s something else happening this week: SXSW Interactive, where techies gather to share ideas and drink and flick their barbecue-sauced fingers over their smartphones as they rave about the next big app that’s going to connect them to the person … standing right next to them.

AllThingsD will be there in full force, as my colleague Liz Gannes wrote. And it’s a good thing she did, because SXSW travel planning tends to be so haphazard that it’s hard to know if you’re going or not until it’s in writing. For ourselves, and for others who are heading down to Austin, we’ve put together the Essential SXSW Tech Toolkit for the five days of the festival.

RSVP to All Your Parties With One App
At this point, whether you’re going to SXSW or not, you’ve probably received a hundred or so party invites, and have painstakingly responded to them one by one. On the off chance that you still need to RSVP, there’s an app for that. WillCall, nicely profiled on TheNextWeb, is a last-minute-ticket-purchasing app that’s letting techies RSVP to 50 SXSW parties in a few clicks. WillCall’s standard mobile app runs on iPhone and Android devices, but for SXSW RSVPs, users will have to log in to this Web app through Facebook Connect.

You’ve RSVPed. Should You Bother Waiting in Line?
Now that you’ve responded to all those party invites, how do you determine which ones are worth waiting in line for? Localmind, a Quora-for-Foursquare app that lets users pose live questions to people in various locations, is working with a mobile karaoke lounge called (RV)IP to give real-time information to app users about what’s happening in downtown Austin. Localmind users will be shown all of the parties and events going on, and will be able to send questions to people at the events to get the scoop on what’s going on inside the party. (During the afternoon, the kararoke RV transforms into a mini spa, offering free massages, treats, and maybe most importantly, phone charges. What more do a bunch of overworked geeks need?)

The Official SXSW Mobile App
Okay, parties aside: We’re in Austin for work. And that means navigating the maze of venues, panels and pop-up stands. Womzit, a recently-launched “word of mouth” iPhone app that lets users make a recommendation by snapping a photo, rating the object or place, and sharing it with friends, is powering the official app of the conference, called SXSW GO. SXSW GO lets users browse panel schedules and speakers, search for venues, view full maps, and offers various social options, including the ability to post photos, share via Twitter and Facebook, and check out conference attendee profiles. The app is available for iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7.

Because You Can Never Have Too Many Photo Apps
Pixable is like a Pinterest for Twitter and Instagram, only you log on through Facebook Connect. (I know, my head hurts, too.) Here’s what you need to know: During SXSW, Pixable will be showcasing shared Twitter and Instagram photos in a real-time updated stream, provided that the photo posts are tagged with #SXSW. In order to access the feed, log into Pixable and select the Hashtags dropdown in the upper right-hand corner. The app is available on the Web, on iPhone and on Android phones. Pixable will also be showing off its SXSW photo feed at the FEED House, a 20,000 square foot art space in downtown Austin that’s being transformed into an interactive experience by Twitter and Samsung.

Get in (Rain) Gear
Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but it’s supposed to rain in Austin this weekend. Before you leave your sleeping quarters to hightail it or hail a pedicab to the Convention Center, check your smartphone’s weather app. And pack an umbrella, just to be on the safe side. Opportunistic tech start-ups, now’s your chance to put your stamp on a range of wet-weather gear. You’re welcome.

How to Get Around Town
Peer-to-peer services are all the rage: You can use Airbnb to rent out your apartment, TaskRabbit to outsource your chores, ParkatmyHouse to share your driveway, and Done to do it all for a good cause. Since getting around SXSW can be challenging, why not rent someone else’s car? Getaround helps people “un-idle” their cars by offering an online marketplace for them to rent them out. After launching last month in Portland, Ore., it’s now bringing its services to Austin, just in time for SXSW. Rental fees start as low as $3 an hour — though the typical compact car costs about $45 a day — and each rental is insured for up to $1 million.

What About the Local Mobile Social Craze?
What about Highlight, you ask? Or Sonar, or Glancee, or Kismet, or NTRO? Some of those mobile social discovery services have already been pretty hyped-up. We’ve got them on our radar, as well, and are going to take some time to evaluate how the apps work, both in a crowded tech space and IRL (that’s Internet speak for “in real life”), to see which ones stand out from the pack.

What we’re really interested in are the next next big mobile social discovery check-in apps, ones that would invite us to parties that haven’t been planned yet, allow us to check in to bars that haven’t been built yet, or connect us with people that don’t exist yet. Like Foursquare, only … Futuresquare. You read it here first.

(Feature photo courtesy of Flickr/DHGatsby)

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work