Two years ago, an easy-to-underestimate technology tornado was let loose from a stage at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas: Twitter. Suddenly there was a way for anyone with a cellphone to tell the world what they were seeing, doing or thinking. Since then, Twitter has become one of the fastest and most comprehensive sources of news in the world, at least 140 character sparks of news.

This year at SXSW, AOL is going to try a slightly different format that we hope will be as quick and easy for people to create yet more satisfying to read.

We call this the 140/140 Close-Up, a three part bundle of information:
  • ·A 140 tight word description of one moment, event or idea. (For SXSW, that means the most transcendent song of the set, the most improbable costume on the street, the most outrageous ruckus at the party, or the most inspirational comment at the panel discussion.)
  • One photograph that captures the drama or humor of the moment. A cellphone photo is fine.
  • And a witty 140 character headline that will be sent out on Twitter with a link to the post and photo. (Sticklers will note that there are really about 120 characters for your headline to leave room for the link and hashtag.)

Anyone in Austin over the next week can contribute these 140/140 Close-Ups through Seed.com, our platform for hiring the world to help us make the most amazing Web sites. We'll pay you $10 for every item we publish. When did Twitter ever buy you anything? (If you're interested, see the instructions below.)

Post on your phone

Not by accident, this assignment is tailor-made for our nifty new Seed Mobile application. That's right, anyone with an iPhone, BlackBerry or Android phone can download an application that will let you claim any Seed assignment, write articles, and attach a cellphone picture right on your handset.

Of course, you can write your Close-Ups on a computer too. Stop by the Seed Lounge in the Fourth Street lobby of the Austin convention center to use our computers and Wi-Fi. (Even if you're not going to spend your precious moments at SXSW writing, come by anyway to meet the Seed team and AOL's editors. We'll also tell you about a bunch of cool events we're holding throughout the festival.)

Read on premier sites

The other great advantage of writing through Seed is that you are not tweeting into the wilderness. The 140/140 posts will appear along with the great SXSW coverage on AOL's very popular network of sites. Our experienced editors are weeding out the duplicate and off-topic submissions, so readers will get the most lively and comprehensive coverage anywhere.

All the posts about the Interactive side of the festival will be on DownloadSquad, which covers all sorts of Internet and software tools and ideas. The SXSW film festival will be covered on Cinematical, our site for the passionate movie lover. And, of course, the music items will be on Spinner, AOL's indie, rock and beyond site. Spinner has also been the home of our other exciting SXSW project: using Seed writers to interview as many of the nearly 2,000 bands playing in the music festival as possible. They are amazing. Take a look here:http://www.spinner.com/tag/sxswseed.

Be a rock-and-roll detective.

But there are a few bands that our very intrepid Seed reporters have not yet tracked down. And that brings us to a few more assignments we've got for SXSW attendees this week: We're looking for a few people to track down the remaining and (politely) try to interview the ones that got away. If a childhood watching Miami Vice made you always want to be a rock-and-roll detective, we've got a job for you.

On the other hand, if you've got a little Diane Arbus inside trying to get out, take a look at the set of slightly warped projects from Urlesque, AOL's guide to the culture, humor and deep strangeness of the Worldwide Web. It wants pictures of the oddest laptop stickers, the most anti-social geeks and more.

Here is everything you need to know to write and take pictures about SXSW for AOL and where to read all of our coverage, from both Seed contributors and the best team of professional music, movie and Web journalists around. If you're in Austin, I hope to meet you. If not, we've got a lot of ways you can follow the action besides a pile of Tweets.

Covering SXSW for Seed
Sign up: If you're not already registered for Seed, go to Seed.com. Registration takes less than a minute, but you'll need to check your e-mail to verify your log in.
Pick your project: Once you log into Seed.com, select "Special Events" from the dropdown menu in the "Recommended Assignments" section. You'll see the complete list of projects related to SXSW. Click on them to read more and press "Claim This" if you want to write it.
Go mobile: If you've got a smartphone, download the mobile app at Seed.com/mobile.
One trick: You can start a post on your phone and then finish it on a Web connected computer. But you can't use your phone to work on something you started on the Web.

Following SXSW
AOL has the most comprehensive coverage of SXSW anywhere, brought to you by dozens of journalists and hundreds of seed contributors. Read it here:

Interactive:
Download Squad SXSX Interactive coverage: www.downloadsquad.com/sxsw
Download Squad Twitter feed: twitter.com/downloadsquad

Movies:
Cinematical SXSW film coverage: www.cinematical.com/category/sxsw/
Cinematical Twitter Feed: twitter.com/cinematical

Music:
Full AOL Music SXSW coverage: music.aol.com/sxsw/
Spinner's SXSW coverage including 140/140 posts: spinner.com/sxsw
Spinner Twitter feed: twitter.com/spinnersxsw
Band directory with interviews: music.aol.com/artist/genre/sxsw/a

Urlesque:
Urlesque's "The people of SXSW: on Tumblr: http://peopleofsxsw.tumblr.com
Urlesque's Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/urlesque