South By Web Celeb Fest Is Wearing Thin

South By Southwest Interactive wrapped up on Tuesday, and there’s mixed opinion on the conference’s enduring value.
Jolie O’Dell, who just announced she is leaving her job at Read Write Web, says SXSW sucks and she won’t be going back for more.

This year, I spent most of my time trying to avoid being harassed, maligned, groped, ogled and threatened by the masses of people – I’m hearing 40% more than last year – who are holding badges. This show isn’t fun, and I won’t be coming back.
My greatest concern at the outset was the relative lack of truly technical content. I haven’t even seen that many startups here this year, and even fewer developers. And non-technical people aren’t here to learn; they’re here for self-congratulation and mutual masturbation. People I’ve never heard of are referring to themselves as Twitter celebrities and generally making me ill.

I love it when people speak their minds and say the things that need to be said. SouthBy is a cluster fuck. And when there are too many people in one space, human nature is such that a “rats in a cage” mentality takes hold. Obviously, we’re not at our best in these instances.
Steve Hall of Adrants has an entirely different take on the subject.

But where else can you physically hang with so many people in the marketing/interactive/advertising/social/geek space all at once? Evan Williams. Kevin Rose. Bob Garfield (yes, I include him), Justine Ezarik, David Armano, Brian Solis, Henry Copeland, Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Brogan, Violet Blue, Rick Webb, Ze Frank, Jason Fried, Guy Kawasaki, Pete Cashmore, Marshall Kirkpatrick, Jeremiah Owyang, Benjamin Palmer, Adam Pash, Jeff Pulver, Ian Schafer, Ariel Waldman, Adam Wallace. And, yea, Ashton Kutcher.

In other words, there’s no need to sweat a five day party with A-listers. It’s all good, and Hall’s got photographic evidence of this fact. Lots of it.
But clearly, thousands of people spend thousands of dollars to be in Austin so they can learn to do their jobs better. That is the nature of a conference. The socializing is icing, not the cake.
Jay Baer says “SXSW needs a much better vetting process if it’s going to retain even a modicum of educational value.” And O’Dell mentioned in her post that she was upset she that she couldn’t find any bloggable content. When there’s no there there, SXSW becomes an adult version of Spring Break, and that’s kind of hard to justify to one’s bosses and/or accountant.
For yet another take, here’s what two students from Wharton think:

About David Burn

Fired up to write it down. Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. Chief storyteller at Bonehook, a guide service and bait shop for brands.

  • hugh macleod

    “kind of hard to justify to one’s bosses and/or accountant.”
    Yeah, you could’ve said the same thing about MSFT or Apple circa 1979.
    Dave, really, for shame ;-)

  • http://adpulp.com David Burn

    @Hugh – Somehow I don’t see SXSW in the same camp as the PC, when it comes to cultural transformation. But I am willing to concede that SouthBy is damn good time and a great networking opportunity. However, the last truly great panel I attended there was in 2003.