SXSW PanelPicker or PanelPimping?

Many of us knew that today was the beginning of SXSW Interactive’s voting process for the conference’s panel submissions. The PanelPicker, as it’s called, shows all submitted panel ideas and allows you to vote and comment on your favorites and which ones you would like to see at the event next year. It’s a great way to crowdsource and choose which ideas you would find most beneficial – but with that comes a downside, as it was prevalent with Christopher Penn‘s tweet this morning:


From what I’ve heard from Chris and several others today, the downfall has been panelists promoting their submissions through Tweets and DMs, asking for votes and trying to garner as much response as possible, while trying to beat out the other 2,215 submissions (keep in mind, voting accounts for 30% of the decision process.)

Have I received requests today? Yup. But mainly from people who I consider good friends and whose opinion and knowledge I respect and trust. Do I have a panel and have I promoted it? Yes – Bryan Person and I have a submission, but actually haven’t mentioned it until now. Regardless, in the end it’s ultimately up to us and which submissions we find relevant and most important.

PanelPicker or the highway?

Pimping out online voting systems is a reality within social media and the online world as a whole that we’ve unfortunately become accustomed to (remember the Shorty Awards?) I understand Chris’ feelings, especially when it comes from individuals you don’t have a relationship with. But are we making a bigger issue than there really is, or is there a better way SXSW and potential panelists could get the community involved instead of this voting system?

I’m always open to discussion and hearing how this process could be made more efficient. Have at it, I’m all ears.

Update: Ran across a great post by Len Kendall that promotes a handful of non-SM panels (with background info) but also his own, in a non-pimping sort of way. Kudos, Len.

17 comments On SXSW PanelPicker or PanelPimping?

  • I’m thinking of a moratorium on “pimping” your own panel. Want to talk up somebody else’s? Awesome. Otherwise, let the wisdom of the masses run its course.

  • Very valid points above. A few thoughts:

    1. I definitely did reach out to my network regarding the SXSW panel I submitted, however I generally did not ask for votes. I would ask for comments/feedback on my idea. If the person leaving that info wanted to vote positively/negatively they could. I think that by asking for this larger and more difficult commitment, you find the people who are truly interested in your topic. (I think I did reach the right people based on the responses:

    2. I think the crowdvoting process has a simpler purpose: filter out the garbage. No matter how much pimping people do, if their panel is bad, it will generally get more thumb downs than others. If anything the people who are pimping too much (because their topic is subpar) will hurt themselves more.

    3. The process needs to be made more difficult. Simply voting up and down is just too easy and encourages people to want to pimp their panel. If the process required more (giving a 100 word summary of why, leaving more data, etc) I think we would see more quality choices.

  • We should apply the first rule of awesome to SXSW panels. If it’s good enough, others will pimp it for you. Pimping it yourself makes it seems like it’s not worthy. Make it awesome and others will vote and become evangelists of your panel!

  • Eric,

    I think that’s the way it should be done…but it isn’t realistic.

    If you don’t pimp your panel, you’ll lose to someone who does.

    Not sure if there is a better way. Perhaps it would be better for SXSW to allow users to post up areas that they’d like to see covered. They would then choose the people to speak on the topics that were chosen by the users.

    Not sure if there is a better way, but I’m going to have to agree with Chris here and say that this doesn’t work. I was asked by a few people today as well. I ended up voting and commenting on one that I actually loved, and though it was from someone I trusted, my vote had nothing to do with that person. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works for most others.


  • Sonny,
    From SxSW’s perspective, all that panel and presentation pimping is good — as in good exposure for #PanelPicker or @SXSW or even #SXSW.

    As with anything, moderation is called for. I tweeted a couple times today and was fortunate to have two or three people RT my Ts.

    The point about making your proposal awesome enough so you don’t have to pimp it is valid — to a point. If you’re already known, yes people will look for you. If you’re not, like me, some pimping is needed to get initial exposure. And, yes, I’ll be doing a blog post about my proposal asking people to review and, if they like it, give it a thumbs up.

    But, I won’t be tweeting it repeatedly (just every couple days).

    It’s all part of the process and, if done in moderation, is fine. Unlike other contests, I am glad that the final SXSW program of 300 come down predominantly to the the SXSW Staff (30%) and a panel of judges (40%). So, even if a proposal doesn’t get a lot of popular vote, AND it’s high enough quality, quality will still win out.

  • @Len – you’re one of those friends I mentioned and I definitely agree with the way you went about telling your community about your panel submission. Leaving a comment vs. just thumbing it up is great and might be nice to see it as something required, in order to vote for a submission. Great suggestions, Len.

    @Mike – appreciate your perspective and understand there are differences if it’s a panel submitted by someone well-known vs. someone who isn’t. Having an actual plan to talk about and explain the panel – the why, what, who – like you and Len have noted, is seemingly the best route for panelists to go without looking like you’re schilling for votes.

    There are definitely several dynamics involved here for both parties and am comfortable to say that the strategy the panelist utilizes to promote & explain their panel is more important than how SXSW conducts this process.

  • It’s definitely a tough one. I’m part of a panel submission that includes the likes of Stacey Monk, Max Gladwell, Global Patriot, John Haydon and others – it’s a huge social media for global change discussion that has received some early interest.

    Yet do I want to “spam” my friends and connections? Not really. I’d love their support, but how do I garner it? Private emails? A blog post? Some judicious tweets? All of the above? None?

    I’m not sure. Damn you SxSW! 😉

  • Interesting, Sonny. I haven’t gotten a single “pimp my vote” DM, email, phone call, or carrier pigeon. So I’ve been finding interesting panels through blog posts and comments like this one.

  • As a busy person without my own panel submission to worry about, I find the whole SXSW PanelPicker process overwhelming. I’d like to support respected friends, but the large number of promotional messages starts to feel like a lot of noise. I see Chris feels similarly. I would love it if someone blogged a PanelPicker “voting guide” or “cheat sheet” with recommendations (hint, hint!).

  • @Danny – it is interesting to see what everyone is doing to promote their own panels and actually updated this post with what Len did – he promoted several non-SM related panels and then plugged his own – all with sufficient background information and not just a ‘vote me up!’ I think that’s effective and I also feel emails directly to your close connections is a great way as well. All examples that have come from the smart people here, so don’t give me credit =)

    @Peter – I’m honestly surprised at that, but it’s great to hear that you’ve seen more blog posts getting deep into respective panel submissions than one-shot DMs. Appreciate you stopping by.

    Great thoughts here everybody and plenty of examples of how one doesn’t have to ‘pimp’ out their panel to have it effectively reach their community!

  • I’m so pimp that I don’t need to have a SXSW panel AND I’m still getting pimped out.

  • You know Sonny, I have not attended this conference yet and I am considering it. I also submitted a panel idea because of what I’ve heard about it and all of the tweets I saw coming out of it. But the more I attend conferences that are geared toward other industries, the better impact I am able to have, so it seems. There are so many industries dying for the knowledge that many of us possess and while it is certainly important that we learn from one another, it is also important that we teach the basics to those who don’t get it and want to. I think I will focus my efforts more on that direction. This is just way too much drama for me, for a conference.
    Angela Connor

  • Thanks for writing about this topic, Sonny. As someone who isn’t planning on going I really don’t have any interest in what the prospective panels are. A bunch of folks that I respect, like and follow are asking for votes and it’s a bit annoying. I’m not going to vote for any panels since I won’t be in attendance but it sure feels like they’re asking me to so it ends up feeling like one big popularity contest.

    This points to an issue with the fire hose that is the real-time web in my opinion: the more populated it gets the more difficult it will become to not get drowned by irrelevant content even if you carefully select the people you follow. It would be awesome if in whatever app you use to view tweets a filter could be set up to catch noise. In this example I would love for Seesmic Desktop to catch all tweets in my stream containing “SXSW” and “panel” and just completely hide them from me.

    Hopefully I don’t sound too negative. SXSW sounds like an awesome event and I’d love to go it’s just not feasible for me. There seems to be a glut of smart people who will potentially be on panels which is a great “problem” to have for the conference and extremely beneficial for the attendees. Best of luck to all of you who are in the panel pool.

  • @turbobrown – depending on the panelist(s), it can become a popularity contest but since this post and a bit more time for panelists to talk about their submissions, the more I’ve seen detailed blog posts talking about not only their panels but other panels they’re interested in. It’s a sharp contrast to other experiences, but it shows that many people do get it and that there needs to be some sort of value along with the ‘vote for me please’.

    And funny you mention the filtering point, you can do so in Tweetdeck!

  • Wow. I have not seen a single DM asking me to pimp or vote for a panel either.
    Just some blog posts and tweets or RTs.

    And I’ve been happy to see those: I did not have the time or inclination to search for all my friends in the 2000+ proposals in the PanelPicker, so seeing their self-promotional efforts (none of which was over the top) was actually more helpful than annoying.

    Is it possible that Mr. Penn (who I admittedly don’t know) has some very self-promotional friends? I mean “SXSW” didn’t seem to ever make it into twitter’s “Trending Topics” list this week.

    I also think Mike D’s point is well-taken: the “pimping” is a phenomenal (not to mention free) way for SXSW to create buzz with potential conference goers and to make people aware of the type of content they’re offering. It gives the panelists a chance to feel they have some control over their fate and attendees to feel they have some control over the content.

    Feels like win/win all around.

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