Why SXSW Sucks
UPDATE: I wrote this in 2010 as a ReadWriteWeb employee. It’s now 2011, I write for Mashable, and my opinion of SXSWi remains largely unchanged.
I am thrilled that many Mashable staffers are going to SXSW and that the company is hosting a 2-day “house” at Buffalo Billiards; but I’m equally happy that the company has allowed me to stay home and mind the shop this year.
While I’ve missed seeing my non-SF friends who have traveled to Austin, I’ve had many more news opportunities in San Francisco, not least of which was getting to observe and report from Facebook’s Hacker Cup yesterday. Lots of luck and happiness to you in Austin; hope to see you in the Bay Area soon!
“Too many people, not enough tech.”
I tweeted that earlier today from Austin, Texas. Last year, I had a wonderful time meeting up with my friends at SXSWi. This year, I have almost had a wonderful time meeting up with my friends but have spent most of my time trying to avoid being harassed, maligned, groped, ogled and threatened by the masses of people – I’m hearing 40% more than last year – who are holding badges. This show isn’t fun, and I won’t be coming back.
How sad that such a wonderful thing has gone so wrong.
My greatest concern at the outset was the relative lack of truly technical content. I haven’t even seen that many startups here this year, and even fewer developers. And non-technical people aren’t here to learn; they’re here for self-congratulation and mutual masturbation. People I’ve never heard of are referring to themselves as Twitter celebrities and generally making me ill. The real “celebrities” are dodging and evading these shallow douchebags, showing up at and slipping away from one official party after another to convene in a more refined, unofficial setting – only to find swarms of douchebags showing up an hour or so after the location is made known. Call me a snob, but the only decent events I’ve been to had insanely good crowd control mechanisms in place.
Walking and skating around the city over the past few nights, I began to see more of the problem. Generally, one feels a sense of camaraderie with one’s fellow badge holders. This week and last weekend, my fellow badge holders have been far from courteous. They behaved like dogs, both to me and to Austinites, who were even less appreciative of such behavior than I. Several people have had gadgets (my netbook and another well-known dude‘s cameras) stolen, and my poor old car was the victim of a hit-and-run in the convention center parking garage. These aren’t the kind of things that hapen among a group of professionally respectful peers.
It pains me that I haven’t found bloggable content yet. It pains me that I can’t get close enough to my friends for more than a few minutes at a time. It truly pains me that my women friends and I are no longer safe to walk down the streets in Austin when South By is going on. And the worst part is that I see the city – the people who live here year round – suffering from the negligence and disrespect of abusive persons.
We all deserve to have fewer people and more and better technology. How can this be achieved without creating inappropriately prohibitive pricing? TED has the veneer of intellectual elitism, but I’m sure the rich douchebags who can afford to attend are just as douchey as the broke-ass douchebags who douche up SXSW.
Can we have profitable conferences that are still beneficial? And what do we do when our favorite conference jumps the shark? What city will we invade next, and how long will we be welcome there? Is invite-only, à la Kinnernet, the way to go?