Panel proposals you missed on the SXSW Panel Picker


As there are 2,221 proposals on the “Panel Picker” for next March’s South by Southwest Interactive Festival, perhaps you’ve missed these:

We Just Saw Robert Scoble: A panel of SXSW attendees who just saw Robert Scoble share their thoughts on seeing Robert Scoble.

SXSW Was Better Before You Started Coming: A panel of people who have attended at least one previous SXSW complain about how this year’s SXSW has gotten too big.

The Elephant in the Room: Zoo-keepers from the Austin Zoo bring an elephant into the room.

Malcolm Gladwell’s hair: University of Minnesota Graduate School of Hair Design students discuss the findings of a new national survey.

Zapping Zappos: Zappos employees display how customer centric they are by allowing people in the audience to taser them.

Square or Round? Presentation experts discuss the best shape for Power Point bullet points.

Hacking the Panel Picker: New strategies for gaming the SXSW panel selection process.

That’s why I’m up here and you’re down there: A panel of tech experts ask for comments from the audience and after each comment scream, “That’s why I’m up here and you’re down there.”

You Just Don’t Get it: Panel of AP executives discuss why they should get a cut of SXSW registration fees.

What happened to Steve Jobs’ old liver? A panel of Apple rumor bloggers and securities analysts discuss what they’ve heard from supply chain partners in China.

SrexSW: The real reason to attend chaotic mass gatherings


SXSW is like Twitter. Chaotic, confusing and hard to get because everyone explains it by how they use or experience it — and everyone uses and experiences it differently.

I’ve come to the “interactive” part of SXSW for five years and, frankly, I’ve grown more and more confused and conflicted about it each year.

For some recession-defying reason, the “festival” has reportedly grown 30% this year (however, I understand the much larger music-festival is down a little). Because of its sheer size, the event is incomprehensible to someone like me who believes that “small is the new (and old) big.” I’ve heard different numbers, but there has to be well over 10,000 people attending, although today (Monday), the crowds have thinned.

Because of its massive size, there is little chance of you “just running into” someone you want to see. So those little chats you want to have with people don’t take place unless you formally set a time and place. It’s sort of like “play dates” replacing “going outside to play.” It took two days for Doc Searls and me to get together for breakfast we’ve enjoyed here before. And there are several people with whom I visit who I haven’t even seen beyond their tweets on Twitter. Indeed, I think a couple of them aren’t actually here, but pretending to be by re-tweeting what others are writing.

On the other hand, SXSW is like Twitter in that you can, indeed, parse down a coherent conversation if you give up on trying to hear everything and see everyone. As good as the panels are, a gathering like this is more about community than content. It’s more about conversations than presentations. It’s more about sharing than note-taking.

There are two words that have “buzzed” around some panels I’ve attended: serendipity and curation. Both words refer to those things which are needed to improve certain types of experiences related to media — online and off.

I’ve used both words for several years in discussing what I believe are key ingredients to any media experience, and, frankly, to a meaningful life. We want some people (both “professionals” and “amateurs with passion”) to curate wisdom for us and share with us knowledge and beauty and insight. Yet we also want to be surprised by the knowledge we discover on our own or from those we’ve never known before.

There’s enough of both at SXSW to make it worth the investment in time, money and hassle I’ve made to come to Austin.

Maybe I’ll never “get” SXSW. But that’s okay, because I’m a bit like that about life, as well. And, bottomline: “it” is too big for any one person to get on their own.

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SrexSW: The Twitter of SXSW 2009 is Twitter


Now this is hilarious.

Daniel Terdiman at CNET wrote that Twitter users attending South by Southwest Interactive are complaining of the overload and noise caused by everyone who is attending the event using the “hastage sxsw” (#swsx) on anything they “tweet” on Twitter.

(I’m using the #sxsw tag on my Twitter quips that can be found at — or @r.)

SXSW attendees complaining about Twitter reminds me of the appearance of Louis CK on Conan where he mocks the way people will complain about anything — even the most amazing things.

As SXSW is credited with being the event where Twitter first “went viral” two years ago, it’s especially ironic to read that people attending the event are using the clichéd complaint everyone has the first moment they sign on: Do I really care that people are in an elevator? Do I really care where people are going to breakfast? etc.

Terdiman suggests that maybe the Twitter “problem” will be solved by one of the bazillion third-party services or applications or movements that want to be this year’s “Twitter of SXSWi” (which means being the “it girl” Twitter was in 2007). Of course, last year, Twitter was the Twitter of SXSW, when it was used to create a back-channel for attendees to revolt against a self-absorbed individual conducting an interview with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

And to the disappointment of a parade of this-year’s-Twitter-wannabes, including a company that has a person dressed up as a banana who throws dollar bills off a balcony, Twitter will likely be the Twitter of 2009 SXSWi, as well. Maybe it will be the year when Twitter started to be fixed. And I don’t mean “fixed” by creating the 5,000th startup launched to solve every problem, real or imagined, with Twitter. I mean fixed in a way that only @ev and friends can do.

Or maybe not. Maybe it will be just another year where we get to complain about Twitter while we evangelize its adoption.

As I’ve written before, I use and like Twitter. But I hate hearing about Twitter; like this morning, when I was flipping around the hotel channel selections, and came across Karl Rove giving a how to use Twitter tutorial on Fox News.

I can say with absolute certainty that in two years, whatever that banana is promoting by throwing dollar bills off a balcony will not go so main stream that Karl Rove will be giving lessons on how to use it via the Fox News Channel.

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SrexSW: Greetings from Austin


For the past five years, I’ve spent a Saturday-Monday in early March here, attending the South by Southwest Festival, or as it is affectionally written on Twitter and tagged on Flickr, SXSW or SxSW. I think the really cool people type it SxSW, however, I like the more blockish SXSW.

If you talk to someone from Austin, they call the festival “South By,” as in, “Are you going to South by?” Or, as in, “I’m from Austin and I try to leave town during South-by.”

I’m probably the only person from Nashville who has been to five South-bys but has never attended a concert or musical performance. That makes me a lot like most people from Austin, it seems.

Lots of Nashville “music people” come to Austin for the big and famous “music festival” part. I looked on the “social network” of people attending South-by today and there were maybe a couple hundred people from Nashville who all seemed to be with record labels or artist agencies or lawyers. Lots and lots of lawyers. I could understand why record label people and agents would be here. I didn’t know that lawyers scouted emerging talent, however. You gotta start learning how to sue early if you’re going to be in the music business, it seems.

I come before the music part. I come to the Interactive part of SXSW, the technology part — the geek-fest part.

Typically, I post real-time notes from panels I attend at SXSW. But this year, I’ve decided to do fewer posts, but more “color commentary.”

Unfortunately, I have no idea what color commentary actually means.

So I’m just going to wing it and see what happens.

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Not another ‘digg’ at Sarah Lacy, merely a ‘how-not-to’ suggestion

Sorry if this appears like I’m continuing to pick on her, but this Sarah Lacy interview with the Digg guys is a good demo of how NOT to talk over someone you are interviewing — on-stage, on-video or on-audio. Perhaps you can do so while conducting an interview for something you are writing (I’d practice avoiding it there, also), but (and this is something I’ve learned from radio reporters) when you are interviewing for “broadcast” (or podcast) never say “yes” or “uh-huh” or “right” or anything while someone is answering a question.

Why? Lots of reasons, some technical and others are just common sense.

Saying, “right” sounds like you are approving what they are saying — and that’s okay if it’s two tech people involved in a conversation, but not if it’s a “reporter” interviewing a “subject.” Don’t keep saying “uh-huh” as if you are the arbitrator of whether or not what they are saying is correct, or not.

But the most important reason not to talk over someone else, however is this: It will make you very popular with the person who is editing your video or audio. He or she will thank you for being such a pro.