Co.Design

SXSW Suggestion #1: Write It Down

[There are so many ways that SXSW could change the way we think, operate, and organize around big ideas, exciting new tools, important issues, and as a community of smart, passionate people.  There are so many ways that SXSW is already disrupting the ways that we think about how technology can be utilized, creativity should be applied, what communications can achieve – but that mostly/only happens on site, during the event, and the momentum behind so many potentially exciting things is lost when everyone flies back home to the rest of their lives. I want to see SXSW get to that next level – and I have four quick ideas that I think can help.  This is #1.]

SXSW Suggestion #1: Write It Down. 

SXSW is awash in content.  There are hundreds of panel discussions, book readings and brainstorms – and most of them are recorded and shared, for free, by SXSW.   Many of the presentations that were delivered as a part of these sessions have been posted on Slideshare.  And the media and blog coverage, along with twitter commentary offered by those in attendance, provides a broad overview of what was discussed during the week in Austin.  But coverage isn’t enough – in fact it often misses an important point or glosses over a key detail due to limitations in space or the need to post something and move on.  Presentations lack specifics, and most of the really talented presenters fill their slides with images, not words, so its tough to figure out what they were saying after the fact.

SXSW needs a written component.  More words! The organizers should require every speaker, panelist and discussion leader to share a big idea or publish their recommendations in an essay or blog post.  A written transcript of each piece of the program should be created and made available along with the other formats.  Participants should be challenged to answer questions or brainstorm solutions to complex challenges – by writing something on a note card and sticking it to a wall wherever everyone can see -- and the submissions should be collected and shared for all to consider.  And as a condition of your attendance and participation at SXSW, people should be required to submit their ideas and forward-looking thoughts – new, original concepts and content based on what they took away from the programs they attended, not just feedback/ratings on their impression of the quality of the presentation.

Yes, there is a lot of content created around SXSW – but like so many other forums today, much of what is shared tells us what happened at the event, not why its important or how the information can be applied.  Posts are tagged differently, articles are filed separately, and those who create coverage move on to the next topic almost immediately, making it nearly impossible to track down everything down, or determine what is most important to read.

By creating a more comprehensive written record of, and complement to, the discussions and presentations served up during SXSW, the organizers could create a truly valuable resources that could be used by anyone, and everyone, to advance the discussion that started in Austin and apply the insights and lessons learned to everything going forward.

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