It was either a stroke of genius or a moment of weakness that prompted SXSW’s Interactive Panel Picker. The website works by crowdsourcing potential panels that attendees (or, wishful attendees) want to see.
Since the Web 2.0 community is all about being interactive and promoting conversation, this appears to be the perfect solution to picking from a number of abstracts. On the other hand, the choices are a bit overwhelming with over 1,250 panels to sort through (including everything from successful foodblogging to fashion, and social media for nonprofits to moms who are technology geeks). Maybe it was simply too much to sift through for the SXSW Advisory Board and staff.
One of the drawbacks of the panel picker is that it has the potential to turn into a popularity contest. Users who have large social networks and “A-list” status can draw more attention and votes to their panel. People who may have a stellar idea but do not have a large social network to recruit votes from could be left out in the cold. The good news is, only 30% of the decision is placed directly in the hands of the consumer.
Not only that, but it can be a bit off-putting to see 100+ blog posts begging for votes. It almost makes people feel guilty for not voting, or, for not voting for their friends and colleagues. Some questions that come to mind: are people voting for content, or voting for their friends? And in the end, does good content drive "popularity", or can someone be popular without providing meaningful and relevant content? Building relationships is important and an integral part of social networks, but is the panel picker diverting attendees from looking at the big picture?
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype, and it’s definitely an honor to be chosen to speak at SXSW. However, how much impact can you really make within the echochamber?