Dolphin Jumping @ SXSW
They call it jumping the shark when a TV show reaches the end of its prime.
I’m not sure what they call a conference that does the same, but assuming I can co-opt the saying for events, methinks SXSW Interactive may be closer to the shark’s teeth than ever.
I first attended SXSW Interactive in 2000, while I was living in NYC. I had a speaking engagement on one of the panel discussions, and it was literally weeks before signs emerged that the dot com bubble was going to start to burst.
Headhunters were everywhere, jobs were abundant (particularly for developers), the parties were crazy. This, of course, was only weeks before the infamous Barron’s article appeared that announced all the dot com startups were running out of money.
It was a heady time, but little did we know the headwinds we were about to face.
Of course, this was at the dawn of what we were soon going to call “social media.” The authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto were in attendance, and explained to us all how the network was a conversation and that the world was about to change, but mostly nobody listened.
This was well before Friendster, or Myspace, or LinkedIn, or Facebook, or Twitter. We were still using Listservs and email distribution. Social was what we did on happy hour Friday night…and at all the SXSW parties.
Flash forward to 2013. Social media is an industry. And 27,000+ people invade Austin every March looking for….a job? Insights? A drunkfest?
I’m not looking for a job. I’m definitely looking for insights. The drunkfest we’ll have to wait and see…but logistics matter.
I’ve talked to two people this morning already, one a close colleague, another a complete stranger from Philly, who complained they had travelled to an offsite location from the Austin Convention Center to attend a session, but the sessions were already filled, and the line to get back via the shuttle was 30-40 people long and it was raining.
UPS explains it all when they talk about “logistics.” All this virtual convening in a physical space is fantastic, but only if the physical space can facilitate the virtual conversation.
Despite having distributed and automated the registration and badge pickup process this year — that alone is a huge step forward — the fact that the venues can’t accommodate the interested attendees suggests that SXSW Interactive 2013 could be the beginning of its end.
I’ll reserve my complete judgment until we get a little further into the conference.
But if SXSW Interactive hasn’t completely jumped the shark, I think I definitely saw at least a few dolphins swimming around down there in Town Lake…and they looked hungry.