Some Advice for SXSWi 2011 (For SXSW, for Austin, for Attendees and for Venues)

Having ridden this pony before I can see SXSW is becoming a horse of a different color.  This year the newcomer to the Interactive, Music and Film festivals became the 300-pound gorilla, with an estimated 15,000 SXSWi (Interactive) attendees.

The rapid growth in the Interactive Festival demands some changes from SXSW.

(I started this post before I saw this one, by Jolie O’Dell – but I agree also with most of what she says.)

I’ll take each area individually.


This is no longer a little conference.  It is one of the major “tech” conferences in the world now – and while well run and well managed, there is always room for improvement.  SXSWi could start by defining what “interactive” means to them today and who the target market is.  Interactive could certainly include the “Social Media Gurus” that others have complained have taken over the stage.  Interactive could also refer to the proliferation of real-time data exchange applications that now exist and the real geeks that are building off of them.  Like apps built on the Twitter API, etc.  I don’t think it can be both.  Perhaps you need to add another block.

Let me pay an extra ten dollars and have my badge and shit mailed to me – the cattle-chutes are untenable.

And for the love of what makes sense – get the city to close East 4th Street between Red River and Neches, at least.  The Hilton is “Convention Center Two” even for those not staying there and the number of people trying to cross 4th to get to the convention center, along with the bikes, bike-cabs, and autos is just begging for trouble/gridlock.

Austin  –

See above on the street closure.  GET MORE CABS OUT LATE AT NIGHT/EARLY IN THE MORNING.  Borrow some from San Antonio if you must.  But the cabs are all focused on what seems to be a ten block area downtown.

Attendees –

Know what you are getting in for – don’t carry huge backpacks around with you – you block sidewalks and hallways.  Austin is a walking city – plan to walk!  Travel light. Don’t have your own mini-convention in the middle of hallways and crosswalks.  You are NOT that important – move to the side!

Stop spitting on the street, pissing in the bushes, throwing your trash anywhere you damn well please and otherwise acting like a moronic twelve year old with a doting mother.  Be a decent human being (even if just for a few days).

Remember the people who live in Austin were there before you, and will be there after you.  Respect them and their property.  I saw three arrests in Austin this past week.  I probably saw two dozen more that should have been arrests.  And I am not talking minor things, or even drug related things – I mean property damage, assaults and basic ass-hat-isms.

Venues (bars) –

Please learn to say “NO”.  You do NOT need to get everyone in every event drunk.  Really.  Tell them they have had enough – BEFORE you send them out into the streets to get into trouble.  I can’t believe how much over-serving of alcohol I saw.  People who could not stand or walk were getting served.  I know the party sponsor is paying for the booze – but the venue is responsible for serving.  Act responsibly.

Don’t pretend you hold 500 people when only 300 can fit. (Oh – this should also be under the notes for the City of Austin – re-examine your “maximum occupancy” codes – they are fucked up).

Oh – and at least have SOME plan for rain.  Like mats you can put on slippery spots where stairs meet wet concrete.  An dwhile you are at it – spray some of that adhesive grip stuff on your staircases.  You make a fortune during SXSWi – spend a little of it preventing that one lawsuit that will reverse your fortunes.

Venues (Hotels) –

Our hotels cost a LOT during SXSW – and honestly, my hotel is my sanctuary.  I would prefer that my hotel limited admission to the hotel bar and restaurant to hotel guests and their guests.  Yep – sorry, but I said that out loud, and I mean it.  Not being able to get breakfast in my own hotel because it is full of people from other hotels sucks.  Why pay so much to stay in downtown Austin if I don’t have any advantages?

There are more, and I could go on – but I’ll see what if anything you do with this simple list.

I would love to “Keep Austin Weird” – but you also need to “Keep SXSW Useful” and “Keep SXSW Safe”.


  1. On the “educational” front of SXSWi… the most important thing for the organizers to do is understand what hashtags are and how people use them in Twitter. Anyone who attended an SXSWi panel knows that a hashtag like #alittlehelpfrommyfriends is completely useless when trying to live-tweet the event. In other words, media and tech people need to be planning the media and tech part of the conference.

    Second most important is to display on the screens at every panel every speaker/panelists’ names and Twitter handles.

    Third, they really need a better screening process for panelists and presenters. Some of them were outstanding and others just plain horrific, like they’d never spoken in front of an audience before.

    Fourth, the iPhone app for the conference has to SIGNIFICANTLY improve. It was truly impossible to use to organize event planning and know what the events truly were about. I just can’t believe that at a media/tech conference the iPhone app was so terrible.

  2. One description I hear, spring break from 30-somethings and 40-somethings. Too crowded and too rude.
    What were some of the good points out of the event? Any interesting new concepts? Startups? People?

  3. paul Claessen says:

    Jeepers, Rob, YOU’re in a bitchy mood!

    Hangover? 😉

  4. Another thought – if the street I mentioned was blocked off they could add a bunch of extra people that deliver FOOD set up on that block. I would totally buy a turkey drumstick or some cotton candy during SXSWi if I could. Or a hot-dog at midnight.

  5. Mr. La Gesse,
    Very well said. BTW, I noticed that there were a lot more women here for the interactive part. That’s an awesome thing, not just for horny men, but the fact that these women weren’t there as eye candy. They were contributing to the discussion.

  6. Oh – I forgot to mention the people with umbrellas move like they are driving and texting. Please remember that you have a large wet object above your head that often has pointy pieces of metal sticking out of it – often ot others eye-level 🙂

    OK – I feel better. Really.


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