Kevin Cheng  

SxSW 2005: Partying Like it’s 1995

March 18th, 2005 by Kevin Cheng :: see related comic

This year’s South by Southwest Interactive was a bit of a different experience from last year. Last year was our first year at SxSW-i and was unique because we participated as nominees of the Web Awards but that was not all that was different.

Panels I attended included: How to Hot-Wire the Creative Process, How to Make Big Things Happen with Small Teams, The New New Economy: Is 2005 the New 1997?, Open Source Marketing: The New Unwieldy / Unlimited Product Publicity, Startupland: A How-to Guide to Starting Your Own Company, How to Make $$$ With Online Ads and Taking Your Act on the Road with Mobile Technology

Many people say that SxSW is just a big party and not really much of a conference. Those looking for real conferences look towards ACM-CHI or perhaps UPA, right? Well, I’m here to tell you that, yes, SxSW is indeed a party. A mad, mad, circus where you might feel like you accidentally became a rock star because people actually get you. No wait, not get … they grok you and you’re meeting people you’ve only corresponded with in 0’s and 1’s up to that point, face to face.

Allow me to demonstrate:
Me: “Matt, this is Andrei. Andrei, Matt.”
Matt: “Hi”
Andrei: “Hi”
All: “…”
Me: “blackbeltjones, design by fire” (that’s right, you can click on things I say when you talk to me in person)
Andrei: “Ohhhh yeah, cool”
Matt: “Yeah I know you! (then to me) You wanker, don’t call me blackbeltjones. It’s a stupid name.”

Andrei Cracks a Joke

No wonder Blogger distributed “Hello, My Blog Is” stickers. Sounds ultra-geeky doesn’t it? Yet as narrow of a field this may seem, this conference boasted an incredible range of people in skills, and to an extent, even gender (although it’s not there yet).

Remember that panel I attended about the New New Economy? Lane started it because he kept was noticing an increase of activity in the South Park, SF area. Well, there’s something to it because this year, I walked away with sparks flying out. Ideas couldn’t be jotted down fast enough and the energy carried me such that 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night seemed more than enough.

Say Cheese

So Zeldman’s opening wasn’t inspiring but that just means even visionaries don’t always have something to say. If he always had something on hand to rock my world, I don’t think my world could take it. We should invite him when he does have something instead of doing it for the sake of his name … but I bet he thought of a few more things after hanging out for a few days. Malcolm Gladwell? Great story-teller, great presenter, and like all of that calibre, can take an hour to make less than a handful of points and we won’t mind. Bruce Sterling’s party? Disappointing but then Sterling doesn’t even live in Austin anymore. And for reasons only known to many, Ben Brown is worth mentioning.


SxSW is known for its parties because these parties are some of the best places in the year to network. I reconnected with all the people I’ve been reading for the last year, and found a few more people I need to be reading. One guy, I met him for the first time after first corresponding with him 9 years ago on the Hi5 Babble list. This year, however, the quality of the panels has gone up (thanks, Hugh and staff!), the people are more thoughtful and the parties, for the most part, even better.

It's All About  the Network, Baby

Next year, we’re going to see if we can become funny enough to talk about Humor on the Web.

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4 Responses to “SxSW 2005: Partying Like it’s 1995”
Confused in colorado wrote:

I like how one of the pictures of a panel is backed by a sponsorship drape that includes Miller Lite. It truly must be a party conference for it to be sponsored by a major beer manufacturer.

(Should have been coors though, but I am biased.)

Nick Finck wrote:

We won’t mention how said sponsor plugs were worked into the Web Awards this year, but I am sure those who took the shots got a lot more than just beer.. yet not one spitted it out once they felt the burn. Shocking.

Molly E. Holzschlag wrote:

Great write up Kevin! I totally agree with you on all counts, including Zeldman’s keynote. It lacked luster - and I don’t mean Jonas ;-) The best moment was when he invited Matt on stage, that was way cool. I did see Zeldman speak a few months ago at Web Design World Boston, and he was more in stride. I honestly think he was just having an off day and didn’t really have much focus to the content.

Gladwell was a high point for me, never having read his books. The comic is awesome this week too.

I really, really hope that you and Tom can do a panel next year. It will be terrific, I’m sure!

Matthew Oliphant wrote:

Oh come on! The American Legion building (the location of Bruce’s “hepcat” party) was barely, slightly nicer than what you have depicted in the comic.

Wood paneling rocks!

OK/Cancel is a comic strip collaboration co-written and co-illustrated by Kevin Cheng and Tom Chi. Our subject matter focuses on interfaces, good and bad and the people behind the industry of building interfaces - usability specialists, interaction designers, human-computer interaction (HCI) experts, industrial designers, etc. (Who Links Here) ?