Stacy Higginbotham from GigaOm gets things rolling with 10 Austin Startups you should meet at SXSW.? Notably, she avoided the obvious in Gowalla and listed out a few that folks outside of Austin might not have heard of or made contact with.? There are certainly other interesting startups in Austin, but she managed to call out a couple of my favorites (Whurleyvision, Appozite, and OtherInbox).
There are a mind-numbing number of panels, just for the interactive portion of SXSW. I'm going to attend some of the sessions this year and I'm still trying to figure out how to narrow it down. Its definitely a time to feel fortunate to live in Austin to have this kind of opportunity to see what's going on in the world of music, movies, and "interactive" (this year, by the way, the focus seems to have turned toward mobile platforms... whereas interactive used to be more focused on blogging).
UPDATE: of course, as I soon as I posted this I found an article I'd been saving to read that should have been included:
Austin Startup's "Tech Tips for N00bs to Survive SXSW".? It gives some classic advice about double checking the locations of your events before assuming they are all co-located.? SXSW uses *all* of Austin for its events - especially for the music festival.? I recall one year that they reported using 300 music venues in Austin for one festival.? The article also includes great links to sites with more information on SXSW, and who to follow on twitter to keep up with the latest and greatest.
The best advice: bring earplugs.