Pick Your Pleasure in Panels

Hugh Forrest and his tireless team over at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival are soliciting community feedback on programming for their next annual conference (09-13 March 2007, for early planners out there). There are one-hundred and seventy-three panel proposals in twenty-three categories up for consideration, and tons of them look fantastic. The challenge is to pick just ten of the proposals that appeal to you most, and submit them to the main pool — all of this is done through their Web-based Panel Proposal Picker .

Of course, I hope that four of your top choices happen to be the ones that I proposed. For quick reference, here’s a quick rundown of those ideas.

2006, The Year in Web Design

Description: “How does the recent history of Web design fit into the larger history of the craft, and where is it going? This panel will try to sum up the design zeitgeist by looking at 2006’s developments in creativity, technology and the world around us. We’ll look at the past twelve months in new launches and redesigns, and spot the innovations, trends and cliches that have defined the year. ”

I’m really excited about this one, as I think it can really fill a gap in how we talk about creativity on the Web. I’ve been capturing screen shots and taking notes all year long about what’s happening in design online, and plan to spend the session deciphering some high-level trends from all of activity.

Grids Are Good, and How to Design with Them

Description: As online information gets more complex and Web design gets more powerful, we’re increasingly turning to the rules of traditional design to help shape our online experiences. This is a how-to panel on how to apply grid-based logic to Web layouts for maximum impact.

It’s no surprise that my good friend and arch-rival in grid evangelism, Mark Boulton has proposed a similar panel concept; I hope we haven’t inadvertently splintered the vote for this subject matter, because I think either one would make for a great panel. Anyway, Mark is welcome in mine, and I bet he’d have me as water boy, at least, for his.

Users vs. Editors: Future Trends in Online News

Description: “As the major news aggregators continue the battle to become the most ‘meta,’ a more subtle blurring between original and aggregated news is taking place among the major news sites. Organizations like The New York Times, producers of staple news content, are increasingly seen making forays into aggregation — while aggregators like Netscape are seen making forays into editorial control. Can the two types of news content live harmoniously together under one roof?”

Premium Communities

Description: “Is the concept of community contradictory to paid content? Or can the creation of paid membership communities create more stimulating dialogs amongst these self-selecting participants? Using the high profile “bet” of TimesSelect as a jumping off point, this panel will explore the conversations between the Times and its readers, and amongst its subscribers.”

These last two are based on ideas from some of my colleagues at the Times, and they’re designed as opportunities to engage in dialogue on the continually shifting climate for online news and news consumption. I’ve encouraged a lot of folks at NYTimes.com to try and attend South by Southwest this year, because I think there’s a much to be gained for us through exposure to the people and ideas that only South by Southwest can bring together. And, hopefully, we’ll be able to give something back, too.

Now go vote!

  1. I chose 2 of yours this morning when I voted (This Year in Web Design, and the one concerning Grids). I too noticed that Mark Boulton had a similiar panel but I also voted for his in hopes one of them will make it.

  2. “There are one-hundred and seventy-three panel proposals…”

    Those aren’t “proposals”, those are Hugh’s friends being solicited by Hugh. It’s the same fucking crop of 1999 blog rockstars and watered down web 2.0 crap as every year. SXSW should be cut down to a two-track, two-day event and it would be twice as good.

  3. I chose all of yours, and would have even if I didn’t think you were a badass. Great topic choices.

    And if you’re looking for panelists, I’d love to be part of your online news and communities ones (especially since we have mostly taken the free route — maybe we could have a fist fight on stage?). 🙂

  4. Phhb: You’ve got a strong point of view and I respect it. But I have to say I think it really undermines that position when you, first, use profanity, and second, use a fake name and a fake email address when submitting your content.

    I’m sorely tempted to delete your comment, but since it doesn’t directly insult anyone (well, Hugh is ostensibly the target, but I think he can take it in this instance), I think it’s probably more productive to leave it here to represent the position and, more importantly, to point out the cowardly manner in which it was delivered.

    If you were just blowing off steam, I can appreciate that — we all need to do that once in a while, and you’re more than welcome to do that here. But I’ll have infinitely more respect for you if you can find the courage to stand behind your argument with your real name.

  5. I saw those two days ago and voted for the last two since those are issues I’ve been involved with ever since we got Gapers Block running.

    A while ago, I started to find discussions about design not as intriguing as they once were opting instead to find that my tastes had skewed towards community building and more social interaction issues and how we relate.

    I actually recently spoke on part as a panel here in Chicago for the Community Media Workshop for your third proposal which is incidentally the same dead on subject we had here though we had us, vs. the Tribune and Sun Times.

  6. I like the idea of being able to vote fot the panels we want to see. I can see how someone might get upset with the fact its a lot of the same people evangelizing about CSS, web standards, design, etc. but I also think you can’t beat that horse enough.

    I worked for companies that simply don’t get it as long as you yourself present the idea to them but when someone else show’s them the advantages of doing something a better way its like they heard the gospel for the first time. I suppose you are “never a prophet in your own land”.

    I’m a huge supporter of most of these panels and I think it helps to realize there are more of us out there and are real people doing real work.

  7. @Ron

    I know that there are plenty of companies out there that don’t get it and don’t take kindly to internals giving them ideas (They want to hear it from the “expert” or consultant) but don’t you think that those are the same people and companies that are probably not going to show up at SXSW?

    If the panels continue to be the same people beating the same horse (whether dead or not) shouldn’t the focus be on one of two things:

    # Getting new people to come to SXSW (this brings up that whole thing about _what_ new people and how to appeal to CEOs, COOs, CIOs, et. al.)
    # Settling on having the same people show up but deciding that they already know these topics and so new ways of getting topics and panels together should be considered.

    I wonder if that last point makes sense. Gah. What I wouldn’t do for some grammar skills. And there we go: “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: Grammar for the web set.” (A topic I think would _actually help out…help me anyway.)

  8. I signed up for the other Grid design session before replacing it with yours farther down the list. I would be interested in seeing both as a combined super session however maybe it should be suggested to the powers that be so you dont split the votes. Once again your grid post when the redesign launched was one of the most thorough explanations of how a grid transformed into the finished site and brought a clear hierarchy of focus to design. I look forward to either/both/together but would be dissapointed to not hear you speak on it.

  9. Walker: You are right most of those people won’t attend SXSW, but I’m a firm believer that maybe someone “they” know might come and is better capable of preaching the good news.

    I do agree there needs to be a variety of panels but talking about design and functionality never are old topics.

    For the most part I’m fairly a newbie to CSS and Standards and I like to think I can still learn something by hearing another panel on it.

  10. I had a pretty good time at last year’s SXSW, and Khoi’s panel was one of the most memorable. 2006 was miles better than 2005, and it’s still the cheapest industry of the year.

    But, what *is* the method for submitting proposals to SXSW? As far as I know, the process really IS Hugh choosing among people he already knows. On the SXSW site, the smallest possible link is there–a mailto “Hugh” in a tiny paragraph–but it’s clearly not a conference that’s genuinely open; there’s no big “Call for participation.”

    It *is* pretty obvious that there’s a set of people who can suggest any pet idea to Hugh and be given a slot, regardless of whether the person’s a good speaker or moderator, or whether they’ve come up with a compelling topic. Maybe “decadent” is the word I’m looking for, in the truest sense: SXSW feels incredibly self-congratulatory and clubby, just a bunch of bloggers that happen to be in one place at one time.

    I’ll admit I don’t know what I want out of SXSW, but it’s not another half-assed Kottke/Dooce fireside chat, and it’s not more demonstrations of Ajax. I do think that having the same person running the event year after year after year has painted it into a corner that it desperately needs to break out of. I’m not sure this voting method will really produce anything all that different. Given a one paragraph description, people are almost certainly going to vote for names and topics they already know rather than something surprisingly different.

  11. Andrew, emailing Hugh your idea is pretty much the process. There’s no call for participation, I think, because leaving a wide-open call for entries would result in far more than 173 entries, most of which would be reframings of ideas already proposed (something the current list suffers from as it is) or spam and other noise.

    While I’m sure star worship contributes at least partially to people’s choices, I personally am more interested in the content than the star power of a panel proposal.

    One complaint I have about the panel-picker (not that Khoi had anything to do with it): I wanted to use it as a weeder, checking off panels that looked interesting and whittling them down before submission. Instead, when I reached 10 I had to delete one before I could add another. Since the number of choices doesn’t matter until they’re submitted, the picker should’ve allowed more than 10 choices and done a tally on submission, blocking overvotes at that time.

  12. The process for picking panels for SXSW Interactive has changed considerably over the years. Ten years ago, I would come up with almost all of the panel ideas on my own. Beginning about six years ago, we put together a National and a Local Advisory Board– and the input of these two Advisory Boards played a large role in the panel process. In recent years, we have been very active in terms of encouraging people with panel ideas to e-mail these ideas directly to us. These calls for panel ideas have been posted on the SXSW website, in SXSW listserves and in materials given to registrants when they attend SXSW. Asking and receiving more community input has been a big factor in our growth — in the last few years, the bulk of programming at the event has come from people who have e-mailed us their ideas (actually, this is how Khoi become involved in SXSW). For 2007, we have accelerated this process by launching an online interface for the community to vote on submitted panel ideas. We regret that earlier versions of this interface may not have been completely clear in stating that we also want to receive your panel ideas; the interface has now been amended accordingly. To be clear, if you e-mail me (hugh@sxsw.com), I will send you the format guidelines. Please hurry, deadline is August 31. Again, the more diverse ideas we can get from diverse people throughout the community, the better the event becomes for all concerned.

  13. Am I just missing something, or did none of your panels make it to round two? That sucks. They were all such great ideas. And I see that Mark’s grid one didn’t make it, either.

    What a f’ing bummer.

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