SXSW suckup, 2012 edition

It seems wrong to be thinking about next year’s SXSW conference when I’ve only just started digesting the inevitability of CES 2013. But the annual routine of picking panels for next March’s gathering in Austin is already upon us, with voting opening on Monday for SXSW Interactive and running through Aug. 31.

Last year, I had the luxury of being asked to join panels other people had organized, one of which made the cut and yielded a great discussion about the SOPA and PIPA debate. My pitch for this year, “How Traditional Media Got/Get Tech Policy Wrong,” started with a great insight from that conversation: Bad tech-policy coverage in traditional media sources yields poor Congressional understanding of these issues.

So in this follow-up, I want to get into the history of this subpar coverage and the reasons for it, based on what I’ve seen in the reporting of others and my own faults. If you think that’s an interesting topic, please vote for my panel. (That requires a free registration, but I can attest that the SXSW organizers aren’t spammy.) Internet votes count for “about 30% of the decision-making process,” with SXSW’s board and staff making up the rest.

But don’t just vote for my panel: The SXSW PanelPicker site features 3,117 proposals in all for just the Interactive segment of the conference.

I spent several hours earlier this week browsing through all those entries, employing such scientific methods as looking at their titles (how I made many of my last-minute attendance decisions in March) and searching for friends. After the jump, you can read about the ones I know I’ll be voting for, grouped under categories I made up for this post. I can’t promise that I’ll actually attend all of these between March 8 and 12, but I will at least feel slightly wistful about missing some of them.

Updated 8/21 to add another handful of picks and re-arrange the panels listed under each category to suggest where each ranks on my must-attend list.

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The SXSW suckup

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.