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Image Image This Friday the city of Austin gears up for the beginning of the SXSW Interactive Conference.

Before I talk about the Interactive conference, a quick briefing on SXSW. So what's the big deal about SXSW? As mentioned in a previous article in The Victoria Advocate,  SXSW is a "10-day festival runs from March 7 to 16 and is expected to attract almost 20,000 people, according to the SXSW Web site.The festival is divided into three sections -music, film and interactive."

Talking specifically about the Interactive Conference now, this event is known for highlighting innovations in technology and putting the spotlight on  the next "killer app." Past stars of the Interactive conference include Blogger and Twitter.  (I've been using Twitter for a while now, but am really bad about updating it, as you may be able to tell by the pic above).

The scuttlebutt around this year's breakout app is all about Meebo, an in-browser instant messenger, which coincedently is also the official sponsor for SXSW's live chat feature. Only time will tell if it lives up to the challenge as the next cool kid on the interactive block.

This year's big draws will be panels related to gaming, and will include presentations from Virtual Worlds creators and one of the creators behind the Guitar Hero series. All of this will be featured in The Screenburn Arcade, an event that includes tournaments and is free and open to the public. (You can find The Screenburn Arcade on the first floor of the Austin Convention Center, from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.)

Presenting this year's keynote address is none other than Mr. Facebook himself,  Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.

If I were able to attend SXSW (no I'm not bitter that I can't go, really, I'm not) I'll be interested to see what information comes from these panels:

Beyond the Blogosphere: How Online Talent is Being Developed Offline
Transforming Hospital Systems: The Digital Future of Healthcare
Textbooks of the Future: Free & Collaborative!
Managing the Media Blur

I'll say the same thing I said last year (and the year before), maybe I'll make it to the next one. (tears And...scene).

For those interested in attending this year's festival click here for registration info:

SXSW Registration Information


If you are in Austin and don't feel like plunking down the cash to pay for the festival, here is a link to free events at SXSW:

Free SXSW events

Or if you are like me, and wish you could attend (not bitter!), you can live vicariously through the updates on this unofficial SXSW blog:

SXSW Baby!

*If you do make it out to SXSW, be sure to pay special attention to the SXSW Checklist, which contains handy links to mobile links, venue maps and a list of wifi hotspots in Austin.