The 2008 SXSW Interactive Festival provided a full range of high and low experiences. In the wake of Twitter’s huge success in March in Austin a year earlier, the event experienced significant growth. Henry Jenkins of the MIT Media Lab kicked off SXSW in a scholarly way via his standout on-stage conversation with best-selling author Steven Johnson. Ben Huh of Cheezburger delighted attendees when he ordered hundreds of sandwiches to his mid-afternoon session.
For many people, however, the enduring memory of the 2008 event was the Monday keynote featuring a bright young leader from social media’s hottest new destination. As witnessed by hundreds of registrants on-site (and reported around the world in the hours and days thereafter), this keynote veered far off-course. Many attendees left midway through this session, frustrated by what they perceived as the lack of substance in the on-stage discussion.
A day later, all this negativity magically disappeared via the amazing Tuesday keynote presentation from Frank Warren of PostSecret. Delivering an emotional talk about the liberating power of confession, Warren provided a vision of community that came off as much more powerful than what had been presented just 24 hours previously. Indeed, midway through his Tuesday keynote, he had moved many in the audience to tears with his heart-felt stories of amassing volumes and volumes and volumes of long-lost secrets.
But the real highlight of Warren’s keynote — and perhaps the most poignant moment of the entire 2008 SXSW Interactive Festival — came in the short Q&A portion of his talk. For the first question, a somewhat nervous young man from New York was called onto the stage. After taking the hand-held microphone from Warren, he wasted no time in remarking: “Wow, there’s a lot of you out there. My name is Anthony Armendariz and I have a question that is a little more personal and may be a little bit off-topic. My question is . . . Natalie, will you marry me?”
Click here to watch the two-minute video of Anthony’s incredible on-stage marriage proposal and to re-live the touching scene that helped heal a SXSW house divided.
We are happy to report that Anthony and Natalie eventually re-located from New York to Austin, where they now run a husband-and-wife mobile design studio called funsize. The amazing story of their on-stage antics from 2008 serves as strong evidence to what we often say about March in Austin. SXSW Interactive helps to provide a powerful platform to establish connections that are career-enhancing and (in many cases) life-changing.
Finally, celebrate all things February 14 by browsing the special Valentine’s Day Edition of SXSW session recommendations.