With an estimated 12,000 attendees, this year's South by Southwest Interactive drew its biggest crowd to date. But for many "old guard" techies, bigger did not mean better. They complained of stifling crowds, stolen laptops and insufficient focus on emerging technologies. Has SXSWi lost its soul?
- The VIP Access Ruined Everything, writes Nick Douglas at SF Weekly: "Tiered access cuts crowds apart and hurts people's chances of making meaningful interactions. The fence eventually shuts out more and more of us. Ashton Kutcher showed up at the Foursquare party, and the VIP balcony got so crowded that Foursquare's CEO couldn't get his own staff in. Contrast that to B.J. Novak's quiet appearance on the same balcony last year, when Ricky Van Veen oversaw a modest little CollegeHumor party."
- Too Many Glad-Handing Nobodies, sneers Read Write Web's Jolie O'Dell: "People I’ve never heard of are referring to themselves as Twitter celebrities and generally making me ill. The real 'celebrities' are dodging and evading these shallow douchebags, showing up at and slipping away from one official party after another to convene in a more refined, unofficial setting – only to find swarms of douchebags showing up an hour or so after the location is made known. Call me a snob, but the only decent events I’ve been to had insanely good crowd control mechanisms in place."
- Too Much Partying, says a rather dour Jeremy Pepper. As a public relations consultant, he's disgusted by the "spring break" mentality of SXSW. "I keep hearing the same thing about SXSWi... It's a week long party...it's great networking... I rarely hear 'it's a great event for my company/agency to reach the right people for product A, B or C'. It's always about the drinking," he moans. "I don't do SXSWi. I just can't justify it. And most businesses - once they get over the shiny social media blindness - won't be able to justify partying for partying's sake either."