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Pre-SXSW Overload

Tomorrow I get on a plane and make my way to SXSW Interactive for the first time. I decided last year that I really wanted to attend a big conference like this at least once, and that this would be the year. I’m ridiculously excited about geeking out for a week in a much warmer climate than Milwaukee offers in March, but I’m also a bit hesitant. (Not that I’m going to cancel my trip, even if I could at this point.)

Mike Davidson wrote a post yesterday on the decline of SXSW that meshes pretty well with what I’ve heard from other attendees. Brief excerpt:

…there are 45 THINGS GOING ON during many slots. That is not an exaggeration. 45 panels. Here are the problems this causes:

  1. The whopping 1006 panels makes trying to plan your schedule an absolute, fucking nightmare. It’s painful. […]
  2. With 45 panels per time slot, you’re going to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 to 15 panels in each timeslot that you would have liked to attend but can’t. This creates an annoying feeling in you that you are missing more good stuff than you are actually seeing. It’s a terrible incarnation of The Paradox of Choice.
  3. Because there are now an astounding 1822 speakers at this conference, the chances of them sucking royally are even higher than they were before. I remember thinking to myself in 2005 that about 25% of the speakers were great, 25% were good, and most of the rest were just so-so. With each passing year, those numbers have shifted steadily downward. […]

I can definitely attest to this. Not only are there an absurd number of panels being presented at any given time, a vast majority of them seem to be cookie cutter versions of each other. Social media this, marketing budgets are going social that, you too can be a rockstar ninja startup. Not that there’s any shortage of ways to arrange your schedule. The official schedule of course lives at SXSW.com, but you could use sched.org, Lanyrd, sitby.us and so on. None of them sync with each other (actually sitby.us lets you import your calendar from the SXSW site).

Planning out a rough list of what panels I want to see when has been a disaster. Just about every time slot has at least five different panels I’d like to sit in on, but of course I can only do one at a time and they’re scattered throughout the city. And as Mike notes, there’s no guarantee that any of them will be actually informative and entertaining (I can hope for at least one out of two, right?).

So as excited as I am for this thing, I think this will be not only my first year there but likely my last. We’ll see how I feel in a week.