If certain tech-savvy friends have been sounding annoyingly needy about a four-letter tech gathering, it’s just the time of year. The annual South by Southwest campaign season has arrived, bringing a flood of hopeful attendees groveling for votes in favor of the panel discussions they’ve proposed for next March’s conference in Austin.
And this year, for the first time, I’ve become part of this circus. I have an entry on SXSW’s PanelPicker site on tech policies that promote or hinder innovation, while my Discovery News colleagues have listed me as a panel member for a proposed discussion about orchestrating a news organization when few of its personnel are in the same room.
I’ve tried not to be too much of a nag with “please vote for my panel” requests on Twitter or Facebook–by the way, please vote for my panel!–but with 3,284 proposals for SXSW Interactive alone, I can’t neglect that angle. As the PanelPicker FAQ explains, Internet voting (anybody online is eligible once they create a free account) “accounts for about 30% of the decision-making process,” with the conference’s advisory board and staff providing the balance of the input.
My understanding is that getting your panel picked provides a nice ego boost and can deliver terrific exposure. It also gets you free admission to SXSW’s Interactive and Film events (a badge for just SXSW Interactive runs $595). And SXSW, while a logistical nightmare, has also served as a launch pad for such startups as Twitter and Foursquare. Further, Austin is an excellent place to eat, drink and hear live music.
(So why haven’t I attended SXSW already? I wish I had a better story, but first I showed a pathetic lack of initiative by not even putting in on my calendar for several years running, and then the Post turned down my travel requests. I should have gone on my own dime this spring–but by the time I realized I might need some SXSW-fueled job networking, I couldn’t find a hotel room much closer than San Antonio and had a schedule conflict anyway.)
I feel reasonably good about my chances. I can’t tell how many people have voted for the two panels involving me, but I’ve been flattered to see the tech-policy proposal get a shout-out from Techdirt blogger Mike Masnick (movie-ad quote from his post: “Rob Pegoraro is always interesting”), while Mediabistro blogger Maurice Cherry judged Discovery’s panel proposal one of the 15 most relevant journalism proposals. And I’m continuing to plug these two panels in places like Facebook’s DC Tech group and, of course, right here.
Voting and comments run through 11:59 p.m. Central Sept. 2–please vote for my panel!–and hopefully things will work out. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of room on my own SXSW ballot beyond the votes I’ve already cast (Kim, Cecilia, Paul, Nate: you’re welcome). And I should start drafting a proposal for SXSW 2013, one I’ve had in my head for a while: a panel in which we’d discuss the finer points of running panels.