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[liberationtech] My SXSW exposé in the Washington Post!

John Adams jna at
Fri Mar 15 11:21:10 PDT 2013

On Fri, Mar 15, 2013 at 1:08 PM, Shava Nerad <shava23 at> wrote:

Technically, that's a different conference -- SXSW/I is a separate event
> that doesn't even run the same dates, last time I went (though they
> overlapped).

It is all the same conference, That's why I have a platinum badge that
gives me access to all three parts of the same conference. They have always

> It means you get to go to the films and music and run your trip longer. ;)

No access to music unless you've paid for music or platinum badges, but

> However, SXSW/I isn't just douchebaggery.  It just includes a great deal
> of it.

Go re-read what you just wrote.

> You get pretty much what you want out of it.  The past attendees vote in
> whatever panels they want to be presented, so it's a popularity contest in
> social media every year.

You're discussing the panelpicker process which doesn't work that way.
Sure, there is outside voting, but extreme levels of oversight from SXSW
itself.  Please see

> Every year it gets more gamy and gamified.  But there is essentially a big
> marketing conference, a game industry conference, and a smaller public
> interest internet conference at the same venue -- with the disclaimer I
> haven't been for ages but I've watched the reports.

Somewhat, it doesn't exactly work as you've described, though. There is a
single, SXSW conference. The interactive portion takes place mostly at the
Austin Convention center, the Game industry conference takes place at a
different venue (Palmer Events Center), and the so-called public interest
panels and talks take place at the ACC and other hotels nearby depending on
the panel and available space.

> It's cool to go and it's cool to say it's completely past it's prime and
> useless to go.  It seems to me that anyone who went could make their own
> conference for any agenda they arrived with.  Then you balance that against
> how you feel about the Minority Report marketing feels to you and so on --
> but frankly, although for those who are in the nonprofit world this may
> feel excessive, to those in the commercial world this is normal to relaxed.
>  If this is a window into how the other half lives maybe we should get out
> of the ivory tower more often?

There's much in this paragraph that comes of as tin-foil hat levels of
paranoia, but I won't address them. Instead, I often wonder if non-profits
used more metrics and got their business acumen together if more things
would get done. There is so much reliance on hearsay and gut instinct that
everything comes across as poorly planned.

There's also the overwhelming reliance to assume that any sort of tracking
is 100% evil. You'd complain if people who didn't pay took your (paid) seat
at that EFF panel you wanted to go watch as well.

The level of fraud that happens at SXSW used to be very high -- they had to
incorporate RFID into badges and QR codes and a database to ensure people
weren't stealing $1500 badges. I don't agree entirely with the technologies
used but I do agree with people not being able to forge the badges.

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