Thoughts on SXSWi 2009 from a First Timer

I just got back from Austin, Texas the other day and I'm still recovering. I was in Austin for the famed South By Southwest Interactive Festival. This was my first time. You can describe it as "where San Franciscans go to meet other San Franciscans" or "spring break for web developers" but either way it was still a wow. I think I put it best in one of my tweets midway through SXSW:

I quickly learned the scale of SXSW. It's huge. So many iPhones in Austin that the 3G network was crippled more or less the entire time. Phone calls failed constantly. When the network did work, there was always Tweetie or Foursquare (the new dodgeball you could say, it was launched during SXSW) open on someone's iPhone.

The next thing about SXSWi - it's nonstop. At times there were in excess of 20 panels going on at the same time. Lots of people relied on and subsequentely Happy Hour to see what was going on. Panels very often had standing room only. That being said, and combined with waking up late, Mike Malone and I didn't get too many panels under our belts.

a typical packed SXSWi panel

Among others I attended Gary Vaynerchuk's amazing keynote. He packed an entire ballroom. If you're not familiar with Gary's work, take a look at his bio page. He is his own business/PR/marketing/branding powerhouse.. and doing a damn good job at it.

Gary Vaynerchuk's must-see keynote

One of Gary's motivational tidbits:

And this bullshit that if you do something you love you'll end up not making as much money as something that you could do otherwise is completely horseshit. The problem is everybody is a sprint runner not a marathon runner. Sure at first it won't make as much money as being a lawyer for 150,000 a year but I promise you my man if you do something you love everyday, you will put in the 18 hours a day you have to to win and then you will kill it and make way more more money because if you live for the weekends and vacations, your shit is broken.

ZDnet did a good job covering Gary's keynote - definitely worth a read if you can't watch the hour-long keynote above.

Gary Vaynerchuk, AJ Vaynerchuk, Kevin Rose and Paul Stamatiou at SXSWi 2009
@garyvee @kevinrose @stammy @ajv

But now I'll get to the real point of SXSW. Networking. It's all about meeting your Internet friends and new friends who love doing the same stuff you do. For the most part, networking at SXSWi was facilitated by parties night after night. Everyone had one — Facebook, Tumblr, TechSet, Media Temple, Digg, PureVolume, Mashable, Gawker, Brightkite, Squarespace — and so on. The nights usually started at 7 and ended up at 3 after hopping around to a couple of parties.

I'll let the pictures do the talking. More in my SXSW 2009 flickr photoset.

Ricky Van Veen and Paul Stamatiou at SXSWi 2009
Ricky Van Van of CollegeHumor and yours truly.
Paul Stamatiou, Jim Louderback, Akshay Dodeja
Paul Stamatiou, Jim Louderback of Revision 3 and Akshay Dodeja
Paul Stamatiou, Dale Adams, Naveed Ashraf, Julia Roy
@stammy @juliaroy @architek1 @atlnav
Pete Cashmore and Paul Stamatiou
@stammy @mashable (Pete Cashmore)

@iheartdzgn @netik @cscotta @justinthiele @stammy @mjmalone @dodeja
The creator of CSS, Håkon Wium Lie
@cscotta @stammy @dodeja @iheartdzgn @justinthiele with the creator of CSS, Håkon Wium Lie
The Media Temple Mansion
The Media Temple Mansion
Media Temple Secret Mansion Party
@justinthiele @dodeja @cscotta @mjmalone @stammy at Media Temple's Secret Mansion Party
Snowflake in Austin, Texas during SXSWi 2009
I have no idea.
Rudy's BBQ Austin
It wouldn't be Texas without Rudy's BBQ
Voxtrot at (mt) SXSWi 09 party
Voxtrot playing at Media Temple's SXSWi 09 closing party
Lights Resolve at PureVolume Party SXSW 2009
Lights Resolve playing at's Party


SXSW Interactive was an amazing experience. For my first time though, it was a bit overwhelming. After Sunday I was indescribably tired from walking all around Austin and being out and about every night prior. I can't imagine the people staying an extra week for the music portion of SXSW.

There are probably a few of you reading this at home and thinking SXSW is just a bunch of nerdy parties strung together night after night. And while that may be part of the picture (and what else would you expect when thousands of Twitterers gather in one city for a week?), SXSW Interactive truly is a valuable experience. I'll see you there next year and you'll see why.

I realize this post does sound kind of fanboyish but damn did I have a good time at SXSW.

I give SXSWi 2009 10 out of 10 Stammys.

What did you think of this year's SXSW? Thinking about going in 2010?

Note: The majority of these pictures were taken with a Canon SD990IS I purchased for SXSW. I've been quite happy with it.