I had a wonderful time at South By Southwest Interactive.
There was an unusually high concentration of people I know virtually or
have spoken with by phone, but had never actually met before in
person. It was an incredibly fertile environment. And kudos
to Hugh Forrest, Jon Lebkowsky, and the other organizers for giving
significant attention to open spectrum and other topics that aren’t yet
Despite all this, I was disappointed by two things at the
conference. The first was the odd hostility of the venue to the
freewheeling, interpersonal networking that should be the hallmark of a
conference like this. There was the bizarre prohibition on
using power outlets (later rescinded), and a large number of volunteers
in every hallway whose job was to prevent you from walking into another
part of the conference. That’s right, the “interactive” people
weren’t allowed to talk with the “film” people. It often wasn’t
obvious which rooms were in which territory, and at one point I
couldn’t get to the speaker green room because it was on the wrong side
of the line.
SXSW has complicated multi-tiered registration rates, and evidently the
goal was to prevent people from getting more than they paid for.
Still, there’s a little thing happening called “convergence.”
It’s odd for a tech-savvy festival about film, music, and interactive
communication to be erecting barriers between people.
My other disappointment was that most of the sessions just weren’t that
exciting. The panel discussions didn’t always do justice to the
people involved, and many of the topics felt a bit stale or cliched
(aka, How to Make Money with Blogs). Maybe I’m just jaded, or too
far ahead of the mainstream. There were some great sessions,
including the keynote by two of the organizers of MoveOn, and I had two
leave half-way through the four-day event. I just expected more,
given the reputation of the event and the people who were there.
Anyway, I hope to be back next year. And I left with a bunch of ideas for cool things to do at Supernova.