Triumph of the Wilcox: SXSW's Director of Technology Prepares for Battle
SXSW's Director of Technology prepares for battle
"This year we're planning on using about 12 miles of ethernet cable as we build out the networks to support the event," says Scott Wilcox, SXSW's director of technology, after a swig of beer at the Dog & Duck Pub. This brewski and brief hometown interview is one of Wilcox's last moments of relaxation before the annual media maelstrom begins for those on the inside.
"I'll be working straight through," says Wilcox, "from February 25 to about March 20. That's a bit of a marathon, and I try to deal with it with, ah, pacing and smart time-management. And a sense of humor." And, don't forget: with 12 miles of ethernet cable. Which is for what, exactly?
"We build a variety of different things," says Wilcox. "We go into all the locations where SXSW activities will be taking place – the Austin Convention Center, the Hilton, Palmer Auditorium, the Omni, the Stephen F. Austin, the AT&T Conference Center, all these places – and we bring in a variety of bandwidth through different vendors, using methodologies that range from copper to fiber to microwave, and we build out these elaborate show networks to support all the attendees coming to SXSW."
And that's only part of what's done to make sure every networked thing functions smoothly for the approximately 300,000 festivalgoers descending on the city over the course of 10 days.
"We have multiple teams of people," says Wilcox, "different people who specialize in different areas, ranging from social media to video streaming to database operations, networking and routing, mobile, mobile apps. Kirk O'Brien leads our IT and tech production and Pro Media areas ... and there's Melissa Golding, who heads our digital-content area, which includes social media and everything we publish on sxsw.com and our other websites. And there's Justin Bankston, who heads up our software division, and he's in charge of all the custom applications we're running – currently 25 custom applications that help us run the event, either for attendees or for internal use, comprising thousands and thousands of lines of custom code."
This is where, over a beer at a crowded local, a man might make a joke about clusterfuck algorithms or the technological strategies required for herding cats.
"It's all about creating the best event," says Wilcox simply. "And the best technology is technology that gets out of the way and allows people to do the things they would normally do."
For a longer version of this interview with Wilcox, see "Meanwhile, Inside the Wired-Out Infrastructure of SXSW …," March 1.
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