The One Thing I’d Love To See At SXSW Next Year
I finally got a chance to see what all the SXSW fuss was about, and I’m sold. I returned from Austin with a packed notebook full of ideas and tools to explore, great new relationships with industry peers, and plenty of hilarious memories with colleagues.
I’m already looking forward to next year. If I had to nitpick, there’s just one thing I’d love to see more of: debate.
Don’t get me wrong, I was impressed by the variety of session formats to choose from, including traditional keynotes, book readings, workshops and panel discussions. For me, the panel discussions were the most rewarding, especially when the panelists took a stand and challenged each other, leaving it up to us in the audience to form our own opinion.
Such was the case in the fascinating discussion titled, “The Curators and the Curated,” which dealt with the complex relationship between publishers of original content and influential curators. David Carr of the New York Times, the only one on stage representing traditional publishing, began by quipping semi-sarcastically, “I’m so glad you’re all here to repackage and repurpose me… and strip out all the ads which, by the way, is how I make my living.” That got plenty of laughs, and set the tone for a lively exchange that was passionate, hilarious and even a little heated at times.
I left that session wanting more. While I am all for letting such a lively discussion happen naturally, I’d also love to see the SXSW organizers take it a step further by experimenting with a new format: a proper debate, led by a moderator that adheres to a traditional format. The issues worth debating are endless, including privacy concerns in social & mobile media; the right way to measure social ROI; or whether or not RSS, blogging, the web, or the latest meme-of-the-month really is dead.
Imagine Malcolm Gladwell and Clay Shirky squaring off in front of a packed room over the role of social media in revolution, such as last year’s Arab Spring. They begin with opening statements, then address each other directly, take questions from the audience and finish with a closing argument. The audience then decides the winner by voting via an app or an SMS voting platform.