SXSW 2007: The Parties

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I know it’s been about a month since SXSW, but I already had this mostly written up, so I wanted to go ahead and post it.

When Angela and I went to SXSW four years ago, we went to very few of the after hours events. I think we went to the web awards long enough to eat, then left. This year we made it to a lot more events, and it was a lot of fun.

The web awards, in particular, were awesome. Ze Frank put on a great show, and I’ve figured out how we can make the Academy Awards shorter. A lot of people think they should stop airing a bunch of the smaller awards and focus on the big awards. I disagree — they should drop the big awards and only televise the technical awards. Geeks give the shortest speeches.

Monday night we made it to several events, including Drinks with Lifehacker and the PayPal Showdown. Now, I Twittered about this, but I think it’s worth expanding on. PayPal required reservations to come to their party. When we got there we saw a white stretch limo with the PayPal logo on the side. We also saw a long line — people with reservations. The only people that were getting right in were those that worked at an eBay company or knew someone who did. When we did get inside (thanks to a little confusion by the door man) it was loud and crowded. What was most interesting, though, was that PayPal was not picking up the bar tab.

Now, compare that to the Drinks with Lifehacker. There was no limo out front, and it was held at a much smaller club (though with a decent size outdoor patio). It was also loud and crowded, but not so much that you couldn’t hold a conversation. No reservations were required — in fact, they weren’t even checking badges, so anybody in Austin could have come in. Most importantly, it was an open bar. I’m sure Gawker Media is doing fine, but they’re no PayPal, yet they were still able to afford liberal libations for a large crowd for three hours.

Were we wrong to expect an open bar at PayPal’s party? I don’t think so — if they’re not picking up the tab, then it’s not really their party. It’s just another club, and PayPal happens to be there. It seems like if you’re going to make people wait to get in, and park your freakin’ limo out front, you can spring for a few drinks. I think these two parties show the difference between inviting people to celebrate your success and inviting people to thank them for it.