SXSWi's Content Picking Process

Scott Francis
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SXSW-interactive fully exposes its process for selecting panels and sessions to attendees. I’m not sure what the genesis of this crowd-sourced way of planning content was, but the effect is remarkable. It starts with nominating ideas.  Then there’s a round of voting. An expert panel also has input to the final outcome.  Amazingly, it scales.  Why does it work? For one, SXSWi (SWSX interactive) is constantly being reinvented.  What at one point was primarily a vehicle for bloggers to gather and share, has morphed into an event that covers a range of topics:
  • Blogging
  • Social media
  • Mobile tech
  • Startups of all stripes
  • Design
  • Freelancers
  • Social issues
  • Raising capital, venture capital, etc.
  • Etc.
The balance of these topics has been shifting over time.  A few years ago there weren’t really any topics on geolocation – but there were a lot of those last year.  There was even a whole day focused on lean startups. This process for selecting sessions and panels is not only a great way to engage with the community – it is a great way to let the conference evolve and adapt with the interests of attendees.  It is impossible to imagine the organizers of SXSWi coming up with several thousand sessions over 5 days. But crowdsourced – it is not only possible to do, the attendees will create the content, give the presentations, mediate the discussions… SXSWi actually has to prune the content, and yet there are still time slots with 150 concurrent sessions. All of this benefit is managed through their panel picking process. SXSWi is being reborn again as we speak, with round 1 of panel picking under way.  You can get a sense for the variety in sessions just from that Austin Startup link – social media, semantic web, women in Tech, elevator pitches.  And that’s a small sampling of the options. Don’t like the sessions from last year?  Nominate and vote for your own for 2012!  I’ve voted, and I’m looking forward to see what makes the cut for next year.