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Dear SXSW PanelPicker Haters

haters gonna hate meme

This week the 2012 SXSW PanelPicker went live and the chaos of shameless self-promotion began.

The goal – for people who submitted panels – is to throw your panel to the masses and increase your 1 out of 3,155 chance of your SXSW Interactive panel actually getting selected for the main programming at the festival. And the goal, for all of those who didn’t submit a panel, is to chime in on the programming and have a voice in what they’ll pay money to go see in March.

Full disclosure – I submitted a panel to SXSW 2012 (the best one ever, of course!).

Haters gonna hate

Throughout the week there have been a number very open conversations online about how much people hate the entire SXSW process. And I’m talking hate in the deep down, I’m-gonna-unfollow-you, kind of hate. This whole panel picking process is a popularity contest. And how pathetic and obnoxious it is that people are asking others to vote and retweet the ask to vote for their panel? How horrible is it that SXSW is asking people to promote their festival when the majority of these people won’t even get chosen to speak?

It is sad, and I get where those haters are coming from.

On the one hand, festival organizers who ask their community to make a decision about their programming is a cop-out. (Isn’t that their job?) But, let’s be real here, how many other organizations ask us to do the exact same side-show ask-for-votes thing? How many times has popularity been the deciding factor between if you get something or not?

Things like the chance to win a charitable grant, industry awards, a job, and even (cringe) an internship.

Vote-for-me campaigns are everywhere and it’s all about tapping your network in the right kind of way in order to get them your friends to do what you want – vote and share that they voted for you, a lot.

Don’t hate the player, hate the game

SXSW panelpicker pie chartAccording to SXSW, this whole voting exercise only carries 30% of the weight for whether a panel is a go or a no-go. Here’s the history on the PanelPicker and why SXSW is letting the community (oh, hey, that’d be you and me) have a voice in the programming:

Over the years, many of the most compelling panels and presentations for the SXSW Interactive Festival have come directly from our community. This process was formalized in 2007 with the launch of the PanelPicker, an innovative online tool developed to enhance community participation in SXSW. The PanelPicker enables the community in two ways. First, it offers the community the opportunity to suggest programming ideas. Second, it allows the community the power to review, comment and vote for those ideas they most want to see become a part of the event.

SXSW is a “community-driven event.” As a member of this community, don’t you want to have a voice in the kind of panels and talks that get primary real estate on the stages in March? Don’t you want to help decide what talks are innovative and worth your time and the dollars you spend for your badge?

Don’t you want to say after that panel that sucks in March, “Well, I didn’t vote for him!”?

So, will you vote for my panel?

Vote for my SXSW idea 2012

I wouldn’t do this post justice if I didn’t ask for you to vote for my panel – Change Makers: How Nonprofits Create Change Online.  Here’s the description:

Through social media, nonprofits can launch a movement, create buzz around a cause, and build a community. But how do you make sure that members of your community aren’t slactivists who “like” your organization but don’t do anything to help you reach your mission? How do you convert those social “do-gooders” into helping you create change? Join us as we discuss how three organizations have figured out how to ignite their communities and leverage their online platforms to create change through volunteerism at VolunteerMatch, crowdsourced fundraising at GiveForward, and small-scale donations at Jolkona. Come ready to interact, discuss, and figure out how to convert your supporters into active change agents for good.

This panel will include Frank Barry of Blackbaud, Robert Rosenthal of VolunteerMatch, Cate Conroy of GiveForward, and yours truly of Jolkona. The idea of this panel is to show how you can turn social media awareness into action get your fans and followers to do something online. We will feature real-world examples of how we do leverage our online platforms to create change.

This panel in the “Greater Good” tract with 149 other submissions.

What do you think about vote-for-me campaigns?

For obvious reasons I cannot take a neutral stance on this subject. So if you are involved or not involved in the madness that is the 2012 SXSW PanelPicker, have participated in a “vote for me to win ______” contest or not, what do you think about crowdsourcing for conference programming or awards?

Is asking the community to vote a good idea or a bad idea?  Is it a smart programming choice by the organizers or are they just asking us to do their work for them?

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