Recently, in the sxsw category…

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.

While some people seem to have been disappointed by this year’s panels at SXSWi (see those opinions here, there, and a followup here), I felt most of the panels/lectures I attended were excellent. Of course, with this much content, not all of the sessions are going to be winners, but from what I attended I thought only two of them were poorly done.

A few general notes about the conference:

  • Whenever I attended a session on the third floor I felt like I was being punished for something. That area was difficult to get to, the rooms were too small, and the wifi was terrible. If there’s not enough space for all the sessions in the main conference area, then it’s probably time to start holding Film and Interactive separately.

  • Panelists need to learn how to keep a tighter rein on audience questions. Many were self-serving and/or way too long.

  • I’m only so-so on the 25-minute “power” sessions. Of the ones I attended, most would have been better stretched out to an hour. They pretty much eliminate the possibility of questions, which (aside from the problem I mentioned before) are one of the best parts of SXSWi.

What follows is a list of the panels I attended, and some brief thoughts on each. I’ve linked to podcasts and other supporting material, where available. More of the rest should be available as podcasts at SXSW soon.

Continue reading “SXSW 2007: The Panels”…

Going to a conference like SXSW is always a tricky decision for a small business like us. It’s a lot of expenses and a lot of downtime for a small shop, particularly one that just went fully full-time.

But we did decide to go, and it was totally worth it. Matt has a good recap that describes the experience well. I will add that there was a definite feeling of renewed energy there — amazing things are happening in our industry right now, good things, and everyone is excited to be a part of it. It seemed like everyone there was working on something, and you couldn’t help but look around and wonder which of the people sitting next to you was working in the thing that everyone will be all a-Twitter about at next year’s SXSW.

I’ll have more details about the conference this week, but I wanted to get down my overall impression first. Suffice it to say, we came home exhausted, inspired, and even further behind. :-) I’m already looking forward to next year.