This year's South-by-Southwest Interactive seems to have reached a kind of critical mass, with lots of smart and opinionated people converging around a rapidly changing industry, creating the kind of excitement that used to be found at CES or (way back) Comdex.
Forget about Business Week reporter Sarah Lacy's awkward on-stage interview of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, which has been amply detailed (although watching them might have been akin to the uncomfortable pleasure of watching a fight at a hockey game). I really wish I'd seen the panel discussion on ad-supported music. According to a posting on PaidContent.org, it degenerated into a shouting match, with a Capitol records exec saying he needed more Internet promotion like he needed a root canal without anesthetic, RCRD LBL founder Peter Rojas dissing iTunes as irrelevant, and audience members yelling that Rojas doesn't respect intellectual property. (RCRD LBL is essentially a music blog with free music provided by bands as a promotional tool.)
There was also a presentation by Apple engineering manager Michael Lopp (aka Rands in Repose, he of the greatest guide to Vegas ever blogged), in which he discussed the company's unique approach to design--think painstaking mockups and brainstorming, both of which are taken seriously rather than treated as afterthoughts or mere team-building exercises.