SXSW 2012 wrap-up: Too Much

After concluding another blur of a sxsw and nursing a sore throat (par for the course), a few overall notes on this year’s annual gathering in Austin:

WAY too much of the same content in the cirriculum

Don’t know if it is the normalizing factor of people voting on panels for years, or just the byproduct of opening every venue possible to house panels, but the content was just OK. Well, the content I got to see what just OK. Too often, after trekking across downtown austin, I’d find out that a talk (or an entire venue) was full. The problem is, now that you’re at the full omni or intercontinental, by the time you’d get to your second venue of choice, that one’s also probably full if you get there in time at all.

Too many marginal panels

Outside of our Own Kevin Hartman’s insightful look at the London riots through cultural contexts, and maybe the panel on mixed-reality gaming, there was no stand out speaker or presentation for me. Not only that, but running around town also made me miss all of the great panels my friends were on. Typically I don’t make a point going to those, as I usually just try to catch up with all my favorite folks personally, but this year the scale and sprawl of it all made either impossible.

Music Tuesday?

Every last day at sxswi, you have that wednesday getaway day where you scrape yourself up, slide onto a plane, and see all the fresh troops walking out of the airport ready for music. This year music started a day early, with a few showcases starting Tuesday. Huge mistake. SXSW Monday and Tuesday are typically the best days of the conference. Like Florida, the snowbirds head back sunday night and Monday, leaving a nice empty austin for the rest of us grinding out the few last days of the conference. With music starting tuesday, it meant that Austin was even more crowded with people and beer / grip trucks. With many of the public lots taken over by massive outdoor branded structures, parking this year was a nightmare that took hours out of the experience.

See you next year!

Even with all the logistical and content pain, sxsw is still the single best place to meet many of the smartest people in the industry, and getting a feel for what’s coming down the technology pipe over the next year. I just hope they sell fewer badges, and condense theĀ curriculumĀ to the confines of the convention center. If not, really embrace the way music week goes, and have sponsors buy out bars, with presentations all day on that theme. But this inbetween can’t keep going without something breaking.



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  • Ross Mclean

    Here’s the solution. One of these years, SXSW will move into the digital/social/mobile space and do this. And it will be way better.

    • mleis

      Still haven’t seen a better plan for fixing it than that one.

  • Dave Clark

    I was just thinking “I distinctly remember having almost all the same gripes last year. That’s when Ross Mclean and I started discussing how SXSW should sell fewer badges, have a more streamlined and high quality curriculum, and offer digital access to those who couldn’t get a badge.”

    Then I saw Ross’ already posted his blog entry.