What? What’s that you say? It’s only August 2011, so what on earth am I doing talking about an event that doesn’t take place until March of 2012?
Simple. It’s SXSW – the annual rodeo of all things digital, social, film and music. It feels a bit like Christmas in that every year the maelstrom starts up just … a bit … earlier … and this year was no exception. It was May when I started hearing early rumblings and by June the word that content submissions were DUE by July 15 began to circulate. Yes, by July 2011 you had to submit your proposed session content for an event that would take place nearly a full year later. Forget about being newsy – think evergreen, think big picture and most of all, be creative.
As someone who’s attended SXSW for quite a few years (pretty sure that I qualify as an “old timer”), I have watched in equal parts delight and frustration as this geek gathering exploded in size, lurching perilously in recent years towards jump the shark status. A major marker of this has come right around this time of year with an almost nauseating display of “me-me-me” attitudes as people pimp, preen and otherwise excessively promote their sessions. It was a necessary evil, of course, since a large part of the decision process around what sessions are chosen for SXSW are done through the crowdsourced experience of the SXSW PanelPicker; and when you have several thousand sessions sitting in that panel picker, it takes a pretty big bullhorn to ensure you get the votes for your session to rise to the top.
Or does it?
I’ve been pleased this year to see, or rather to not see, such excessive crowing across social media. Oh sure, I’ve seen plenty of folks promote their sessions, but the tenor this year seems to be almost, dare I say, mature. Perhaps it’s because SXSW is growing up. Perhaps it’s because those who attend & participate are. More likely I think it’s due to thoughtful voices, like that of CC Chapman, who have made a point to educate and inform people about the best practices for SXSW and help guide neophytes towards behavior that ultimately serves the overall SXSW community far better.
And that’s what this whole thing is about. Community. Hugh Forrest and his amazing team at SXSW spend considerable time towards creating this event and ensuring that what comes to pass when tens of thousands of us descend on Austin for barbecue, cowboy boots and to immerse in all things creative, feels like the biggest block party comprised of all the folks you like.
With all that … and considering that I did get a few requests from folks to tweet about their sessions, I’ve opted to collect some sessions that definitely snared a thumbs up in my book. If you haven’t voted already, get on over there and vote for ‘em too.
Oh, and an important thing to remember … sessions aren’t judged solely by the number of votes they get, it’s also about the conversation and commentary that is posted with the session. So don’t just toss the thumbs up, take a moment and offer your thoughts on why that session would be a great addition to the SXSW roster!
Happy voting, and see y’all in Austin!
Shut Up and Breathe: A Disconnection Love Story - Self serving? Maybe, but would be remiss if I didn’t include my own session here.
The End of Business as Usual – It wouldn’t be SXSW without some thoughtful insights from Brian Solis. This year, though, very exciting because the topic will be his new book!
How to Get Consumers Addicted to Your Content – While on the topic of addiction, here’s a great session by Tara-Nicholle Nelson of Sutherland Gold (generally I eschew promoting sessions by PR people, but I get a feeling this one will be good).
The Power of Visual Storytelling - I’m a sucker for storytelling and have only good things to say about CC Chapman … so…
Power to the People: Rebuilding the Mobile Web - Ami Ben David, Co-Founder of DoAT intends to tackle a pretty hefty topic and will be joined by Tim Draper of Draper Fisher Jurvetson. If you’ve never heard Tim speak … it’s worth it.*
Start-up Genomics: Maximize Success and Avoid Death - I don’t like panels, but when one is proposed that has both Shervin Pishevar AND Jacob Mullins, I’m hard pressed to say no. Moderator Ashley Brown is pretty badass too.
QR Codes and NFC: When Digital and Physical Collide – Again, not a panel fan but Antony Macgregor Day is about as sassy and charming as they come and I have no doubt he’ll keep this lively.
Adding Value as a Non-Technical, Non-Talent, Ass Clown – now I’m not sure what exactly an ass clown is, and am pretty sure that Matt Van Horn is not one … well, he’s a clown but definitely not an ass. If there’s anyone who knows biz dev & relationships it’s this guy.
Social Commerce, Not Taking off Like Farmville - Again, a panel … I know. I really don’t like them, but this topic is hot and the panelists are amazing, including the fabulous Tara Hunt!
Tech Superwomen – Mentors and Mentees FTW - Okay so I should qualify my panel comment – if the panel is uniquely orchestrated (lots of diversity, many women etc…) AND the participants rock AND the topic is amazing … well then it’s okay … kind of like THIS session. Though I have to admit I would prefer not seeing women specific sessions**, in the case of mentorship I think some focus is worthwhile. Oh and Ekaterina Walter is on it, and she rocks.
How to Find and Keep the Average Mom for Your Site - I admit it. I don’t like mommy oriented sessions, as a rule. However, Lucretia Pruitt is a smart, sassy badass … perhaps she can change my mind.
Social Implications of Big Data - So I met Silona Bonewald at SXSW several years ago and was duly impressed with her smarts. Considering the importance of data and information as our world gets increasingly digitized, this has to be a good one.
Women Founding Tech Start-ups: How to Succeed -
Is Your Business Ready for the Online Video Revolution - What do you get when you put together Jim Long of NBC News, Patrick Starzan of Funny or Die a few other folks and get it all moderated by Melissa Pierce? Feisty fireworks, me thinks.
Disruptive Tech – When It Builds Strong Business – I think the title pretty much says it all, and
Branded Content: We’re All Publishers Now - A panel on a very important topic that I hope will be addressed seriously and considering who’s on board, including the fabulous Amy Vernon, I’m sure it will be!
How to Lose Co-Founders and Alienate Start-ups - Nice play on the “making friends and influencing people” statement. One of my favorite rabblerousers, Rachel Sklar is listed and Seth Blank is no slouch either
Drunks in Public: Going Sober Online & Off - though I personally have a rather strong disagreement about the premise of this session, part of me thinks that with Jolie O’Dell and Paul Carr there will be at the very least great entertainment value from the discussion and perhaps at least one person may come to an important realization as they listen in.
Developer Relations for Dummies - This is about as perfect a type of discussion for SXSW as I can imagine. The “old” SXSW that is. The one that focused on the folks who really built stuff.
Like This: Secrets of the Top Branded Fan Pages – So if you build it, they don’t necessarily come; and even if they do come, they don’t necessarily stay. So how to raise your brand above the noise? Sounds like this session might help with that.
#BlameDrewsCancer – Still Blaming Two Years Later - as if this session needs any explanation for why it should be chosen!
*Disclosure – I work with DoAT as an Evangelist and driving Strategic Relationships for the company.
**It’s worth noting that of all the geek gatherings – Blogworld Expo, Digital Hollywood, any of the 140 Conferences etc… – SXSW has made some truly remarkable strides in changing the ratio on the gender front.