Warc is currently at the South by Southwest Interactive conference-cum-festival in Austin, Texas. This event has become one of the biggest dates in the interactive industry's calendar - so marketers need to take note of the key themes being discussed.

Over the next few days, our writer, Hamish McKenzie, will be filing some of the most interesting insights and examples for marketers. Here's a scene-setter from the conference floor:

We’ve reached the end of day two at South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive, and so far the mega-conference in Austin, Texas, has been defined by two things: rain and queues. Neither has so far failed to quash the enthusiasm or the sheer number of attendees.

SXSW, the world’s interactive community has apparently decided, is too important to miss. That’s why every venue into which its nodes have spread – a huge downtown convention centre, every inner-city hotel, tents pitched on parking lots – is stuffed with lanyard-wearing geek squads. Overall, this is a male-dominated event. I count about 10 men for every woman.

Last year, SXSW Interactive attracted more than 19,000 registrants, overtaking the SXSW Music conference (and festival) as the most popular and lucrative branch of this huge event. There were more than 49,000 registrants across Interactive, Music and Film, contributing more than US$167 million to the Austin community.

Some folks waited two hours in line just to collect their passes yesterday. For one modestly promoted solo presentation about Lego’s use of innovation today (watch out for a piece on this on Warc), a queue started forming at the InterContinental hotel 45 minutes beforehand and went down the stairs, out the lobby doors, and onto the sidewalk. Many of the liner-uppers were turned away at the door.

SXSW means a lot of different things to different people, but it can basically be understood as a place for thought-leaders in the interactive industry – which is interpreted broadly – to gather and share ideas. This year it’s divided into silos covering start-ups, business, marketing, the future of work, journalism and online content, and saving the world (or something to that effect).

Big trends for 2012? Re-making the international economy; gamification of everything; the impact of big data; and the proliferation of community-based technology.

The first keynote came from writer-comedian Baratunde Thurston of The Onion. On Monday, Al Gore is going to have a chat with Napster co-founder (and Facebook part-owner) Sean Parker, immortality maven Ray ‘Singularity’ Kurzweil will talk about expanding our intelligence, and math genius Stephen Wolfram will explain how computation is going to define the future.

Stay tuned to the Warc conference reports page for the key insights for the marketing industry.