on life, ambitions, and dreams

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 chart

According 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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16 Responses

  1. Having been at SXSW for the past 5 years and spoken there a couple of times, I’ve seen how hard it is for people to get selected and I understand the “please vote for me” methodology. But the problem is that people are shotgunning the approach. Instead of that, spend the year running up to the voting selection, creating and nuturing relationships with people who will help you out when the time comes. When it comes simply point them in the direction of your panel, dont beg, plead or even ask for their vote, just tell them what you are hoping to speak about. Personally I’d like to see SXSW do more of the heavy lifting, especially for the money that they are asking attendees to pay – which has increased 60% in two years! I’d like to see them stream the presentations that are submitted, into maybe “Headliners”, “Presented before”, “First timers” that way you at least have some sense of who you are voting for. And the first timers get a chance to stand out from the crowd.

    1. That’s actually a really good point about separating out the speakers between headliners, have spoken before, and newbies. I’m a newbie, and they do ask on the application if you’ve spoken before, so I can’t imagine that’d be a hard function to code…plus it would be nice to have more opportunities to differentiate myself and stand out from the crowd.

      1.  I am also a panel hopefull and a new one at that. It just seems so overwelming. I simply dont understand the scale. Do you need a million votes to make the cut off? 1,000? How many people are voting? I must admit I am also begging folks to vote through twitter but really have no idea how else to go about it. I am working on a blog post that will go up this weekend that will do exactly what Simon suggested. Presenting a current issue and explaining why our topic is relevant. Good luck to you Laura!

        1. They purposely don’t release how many votes your panel receives so it’s not a popularity contest…so I have no idea what the actual weight is of each vote (and comment for that matter).

          I agree about Simon and your points — write a blog post and explain why your panel is timely. Great idea and probably something I should do myself 🙂

          Good luck to you too, Nicole! I did some digging and found your panel and tossed you a thumbs up!

  2. Having been at SXSW for the past 5 years and spoken there a couple of times, I’ve seen how hard it is for people to get selected and I understand the “please vote for me” methodology. But the problem is that people are shotgunning the approach. Instead of that, spend the year running up to the voting selection, creating and nuturing relationships with people who will help you out when the time comes. When it comes simply point them in the direction of your panel, dont beg, plead or even ask for their vote, just tell them what you are hoping to speak about. Personally I’d like to see SXSW do more of the heavy lifting, especially for the money that they are asking attendees to pay – which has increased 60% in two years! I’d like to see them stream the presentations that are submitted, into maybe “Headliners”, “Presented before”, “First timers” that way you at least have some sense of who you are voting for. And the first timers get a chance to stand out from the crowd.

    1. That’s actually a really good point about separating out the speakers between headliners, have spoken before, and newbies. I’m a newbie, and they do ask on the application if you’ve spoken before, so I can’t imagine that’d be a hard function to code…plus it would be nice to have more opportunities to differentiate myself and stand out from the crowd.

      1.  I am also a panel hopefull and a new one at that. It just seems so overwelming. I simply dont understand the scale. Do you need a million votes to make the cut off? 1,000? How many people are voting? I must admit I am also begging folks to vote through twitter but really have no idea how else to go about it. I am working on a blog post that will go up this weekend that will do exactly what Simon suggested. Presenting a current issue and explaining why our topic is relevant. Good luck to you Laura!

        1. They purposely don’t release how many votes your panel receives so it’s not a popularity contest…so I have no idea what the actual weight is of each vote (and comment for that matter).

          I agree about Simon and your points — write a blog post and explain why your panel is timely. Great idea and probably something I should do myself 🙂

          Good luck to you too, Nicole! I did some digging and found your panel and tossed you a thumbs up!

  3. So well-put, Laura! One thing I have to say, though, is that there’s no winning here. If they didn’t give us a vote in the process, we’d hate it. Now that they do, and it’s only 30% of the vote, we hate begging for votes. We hate that we don’t know how the votes count or how many people voted for our sessions! (Full disclosure: I also submitted a session, and yes, I did ask for votes…)

    Having attended the last two SXSW Interactives, is that a majority of the sessions are not that good. And that is what makes me stand back and say “huh?” Is it the voting that hurts the quality, or what? I’d love to see some sort of rating system that rate’s last year’s presenters, according to those who attended their sessions the past year.

    And while I’m at it, I found the process of combing through the hundreds of submissions overwhelming, even by track. The 149 Greater Good submissions all sounds great, but I definitely could have used some good lenses through which to assess their value. And yes, voted for yours 🙂

    Thanks for highlighting some of the issues I’ve felt about the process. You hit many of them on the head. 

    1. Hey, thank you, Debra, for sharing your “no win” points, I hadn’t thought about it that way. Though, in a previous lifetime I helped plan a festival and there will always be attendees who are super critical about the programming and how ‘they can do it better,’ – whether it’s the actually planning or the talks.

      2011 was my first time attending SXSW and there were a few panels that I walked out on with the same, “huh?” feeling, which is why I decided to submit one myself. There was some sort of rating or feedback system in place, though I never provided any and I have no idea if the SXSW organizers actually review the feedback and consider it for the future or not.

      P.S. Thanks for the vote!

  4. So well-put, Laura! One thing I have to say, though, is that there’s no winning here. If they didn’t give us a vote in the process, we’d hate it. Now that they do, and it’s only 30% of the vote, we hate begging for votes. We hate that we don’t know how the votes count or how many people voted for our sessions! (Full disclosure: I also submitted a session, and yes, I did ask for votes…)

    Having attended the last two SXSW Interactives, is that a majority of the sessions are not that good. And that is what makes me stand back and say “huh?” Is it the voting that hurts the quality, or what? I’d love to see some sort of rating system that rate’s last year’s presenters, according to those who attended their sessions the past year.

    And while I’m at it, I found the process of combing through the hundreds of submissions overwhelming, even by track. The 149 Greater Good submissions all sounds great, but I definitely could have used some good lenses through which to assess their value. And yes, voted for yours 🙂

    Thanks for highlighting some of the issues I’ve felt about the process. You hit many of them on the head. 

    1. Hey, thank you, Debra, for sharing your “no win” points, I hadn’t thought about it that way. Though, in a previous lifetime I helped plan a festival and there will always be attendees who are super critical about the programming and how ‘they can do it better,’ – whether it’s the actually planning or the talks.

      2011 was my first time attending SXSW and there were a few panels that I walked out on with the same, “huh?” feeling, which is why I decided to submit one myself. There was some sort of rating or feedback system in place, though I never provided any and I have no idea if the SXSW organizers actually review the feedback and consider it for the future or not.

      P.S. Thanks for the vote!

  5. Whoa. I really had no idea on the odds. We have two people at Brown Paper Tickets pitching (TRULY EXCELLENT) panels. We asked people to vote. I thought the pubic votes would count for much more. 

    Plus also… why I haven’t I met you before. You’re kind of amazing. Plus should be in my Seattle circles. 

    1. I used to plan a massive event, so I understand why they’re looking for community input and the danger in letting the community decide. It’s a tricky like to walk on, that’s for sure!

      Good luck on your two panels making it through! All we have to do is sit and wait until mid-December, right?

      And I have no idea why we haven’t met before either 🙂

  6. Whoa. I really had no idea on the odds. We have two people at Brown Paper Tickets pitching (TRULY EXCELLENT) panels. We asked people to vote. I thought the pubic votes would count for much more. 

    Plus also… why I haven’t I met you before. You’re kind of amazing. Plus should be in my Seattle circles. 

    1. I used to plan a massive event, so I understand why they’re looking for community input and the danger in letting the community decide. It’s a tricky like to walk on, that’s for sure!

      Good luck on your two panels making it through! All we have to do is sit and wait until mid-December, right?

      And I have no idea why we haven’t met before either 🙂

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