Wednesday, March 10, 2010

SXSW: South By South Wasted?

Confession: I have been on the fence about going back to SXSW this year. Hearing it referred to as SXSpringBreak this afternoon didn't help much. Obviously, it doesn't bolster the matrimonial bliss to have Hubby think I am heading to some hedonistic romp to get crazy naked least not without him. But, more importantly, it makes me question the value proposition that I am sacrificing several days of Danger time for.

Last year was a magical experience. I was on the cusp of a new endeavor and surrounded by a bunch of rabble rousing idealists who felt we were making a difference and leaving our mark. I was also naive and admittedly easy impressed by shiny objects. The past 12 months have taught me some hard lessons in looking past the smoke and mirrors to critically assess the BS hidden beneath some big red bows. And, I am savvy enough to know that I can download recycled presentations from conference circuit keynotes on Slideshare without any travel expenses or hefty entrance fee. I might not get a chance to shake hands with Twitterati. My loss.

Don't get me wrong. I am honored to be a part of the New Orleans tech crew taking the city by storm. And my ego is through the roof at being part of a SXSW panel. Not to mention, my schedule is double and triple booked with panels that I am excited to see. Where I look forward to learning something, multiple new things that I can bring back to enhance FSC. Which brings me to the question- Is SXSW still the place to learn from the best of the best?

I've seen some pretty stellar things happening at small grassroots conferences across the country- Big Omaha, Social South and even my little baby TribeCon. Conference that are low on glitz but big on substance. Low on corporate sponsors but big on community. Low on douchebaggery and big on authenticity.

It's no big secret that I kind of like sticking it to the man and rallying for the little guy. Maybe I am just being jaded. It wouldn't be the first time. I promise not to judge or make assumptions based purely on what could just be a successful growth model. I am hoping to have an incredible and magical experience. In fact, I am betting a lost weekend with my favorite people on it. Not a trifling wager.

What do you think? What are some of the reasons you are or aren't going to SXSW?

PS. Be forewarned, Mr. "un-popular in high school and making up for it on Twitter" douchebag person, what happens at SXSW does not in fact stay at SXSW. It perpetuates a swarmy and silly misrepresentation that discredits the merit of the conference. And if you ruin SXSW for me, and for the hundreds of others who are hoping for more than networking with the beautiful people, I will be angry.


Chris B. said...

Hey Tiff,

I always love the fact that you look through the smoke and mirrors and question the status quo. I know others might read this and think "How dare you question SXSW", I think it raises some good points.

I can honestly say for me I can't give an answer because it will be my first time. For a newcomer it's totally different. It's all about the first time having that experience. I think some people go to SXSW as their spring break to geek out with their beak out. Some good just for networking/self-promo and others good to see if there is anything new to learn.

But in any situation I think it's always good to ask yourself is there something you can gain from this experience.

Enough of my rambling, I'm just happy that your on the panel with me and happy that my first SXSW will be spend with you all.

Aaron Hockley said...

I've never been to SXSW, but being of the creative persuasion and attempting to grow a website/business that's a hybrid of the creative and social media industries, I feel like I needed to be there this year... so this will be my first year.

If one believes they need to go where the conversations are happening, well, a lot of them happen at SXSW, and it's a lot easier to build relationships (and continue ones that have started online) in person.

Tiffany Starnes said...

Aaron- Great point about being where the conversations are happening. Good call.

Boudy- I am so excited to have new blood like you to keep me in check when I get all whiny and cynical. And "geek out with their beak out" is my mantra for the weekend!

I also got some good advice from a smart fella last night to remember that it's about what you are willing to contribute.