SXSW Year 7

2008 was my first year in Austin. The year of the Zuckerberg interview. I knew basically no one in tech. And even fewer people knew me. I had just started working for VentureBeat. My badge, which I had bought before starting the job with VentureBeat, said I worked for ParisLemon.com.

Seven years is not a lot of time in SXSW-years — I know plenty of people who have been going for twice as long as that (and many more who have gone even longer). But it is enough time to have some perspective on the event — at least as it has existed in the “social, local, mobile” (I refuse to use that forced acronym) world. So here are some thoughts having just left SXSW 2014.

The entire thing feels muted. I don’t necessarily mean this in a bad way. It’s not like I’m saying “SXSW sucks!”, I’m just saying it doesn’t feel like it has the same energy that it did even in 2008.

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Felix Salmon on the “high profile” meetings at Davos:

The conclusion one draws from such meetings will not come as any surprise: CEOs are pretty normal people, who have a pretty shallow understanding of most things in the news, and who can often be stupid and/or obscene, especially when drunk. Yes, they have money and power, but that doesn’t make them particularly insightful or admirable. Often, the exact opposite is the case.

Basically the same is true of every other conference in the history of the world. But if you’re going to be disappointed, it’s definitely better to be disappointed in a Swiss chalet.

G.F. for The Economist on the topic of tech conferences:

But what was remarkable throughout the event, even when the bosses of firms like Etsy and Kickstarter spoke, was the near utter lack of insincerity, marketing talk of “effectuating the paradigms” or hyperbole. Instead, speakers spoke straight, even about business matters. The sound of unvarnished truth rang loudly. Hundreds of attendees were no less remarkable a crowd, comprising a wide range of interests, as well as artistic and technical abilities.

I’ve been to a lot of tech conferences, without question the best are the ones where you get “straight talk” as opposed to a marketing pitch on stage. It’s not clear to me why more conference organizers and marketing/pr managers don’t understand this.