In 2007, we found ourselves in dire need of a more formalized structure to receive panel ideas from the creative community that attends the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival each March in Austin, Texas. Inspired by the passionate design community and crowd-sourced business model of threadless.com, we developed the SXSW PanelPicker. This collaboration platform allows anyone to share a panel idea they want to see discussed at the SXSW Interactive, Music, and Film conferences. Anyone from the online community can then vote and comment on the various proposals (2900+ for the 2011 event) to construct conference programming in conjunction with SXSW Advisory Board and staff feedback. To understand why an organization would want to give this kind of autonomy to its community, you must realize how significantly the landscape of engagement has changed.
There has been a paradigm shift in the expectations of clients and consumers. They no longer want to simply buy your product or service; they expect to be an integral part of its development. They expect to be participants. And like any successful relationship, there is more value to be gained from a collaborative approach for all parties involved. When you let your community design the experience they desire, they are much more invested in your product, service, or event. In exchange for an increased level of access and ownership, they will become your most ardent supporters and marketers. And more importantly, a process of co-creation will lead to a much more successful result.
One of the more valuable qualities of the PanelPicker is its role as industry zeitgeist. Offering a unique lens to the landscape, it's a great data set to explore issues and topics the community sees as emerging. While we continue to see a lot of interest in appropriate social media adoption and strategies for business, some of the more intriguing trends to emerge from the PanelPicker this year deal with the evolution of location-based services, mobile application development, and augmented reality in advertising. To address some of these trends and ideas, we have scheduled a number of innovators to give a daily keynote address during SXSW Interactive this year:
Seth Priebatsch is the Chief Ninja of the Boston-based startup SCVNGR, a company he began after dropping out of Princeton University. At SXSW 2011, Priebatsch will talk about the idea of making life more exciting by adding a game layer on top of the world (likened to the social network layer that defined the previous decade).
Christopher "moot" Poole is the founder of 4chan.org, a simple image-based bulletin board, which has grown from a niche site targeting anime fans to one of the most influential communities on the Internet. Recently Poole started a project called Canvas, working on new and better ways for people to hang out and collaborate online.
Felicia Day is widely known for her work in Web video, and co-starred in Joss Whedon's Internet musical "Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog," which was voted the Best TV of 2008 by Time, Entertainment Weekly, and People. She also can be seen in the Web series "The Guild," which she created, writes, and stars in.
Blake Mycoskie is the founder and Chief Shoe-Giver of TOMS Shoes. He created TOMS Shoes with a simple promise: to give a pair of new shoes to children in need with every pair sold. The TOMS One for One movement harnesses the power of consumers to make positive social change and has become the hallmark of the social enterprise, now taught in universities around the world.
Bruce Sterling is a science-fiction writer and Internet critic, internationally recognized as a cyberspace theorist. His writings have been very influential in the cyberpunk movement in literature.
From revolutionary platforms to progressive business models to disruptive ideas, these thought leaders are engaging their communities in unique ways and showcasing how technology can be used to create positive change in the world. They looked into the future of their respective industries with the help of the communities they serve. I can't wait to hear the dialogue they spark at SXSW 2011.
For over 10 years, Shawn O'Keefe has been at the forefront of emerging technologies as a producer of the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival. He often speaks at events such as TEDxBoulder, Ignite Austin, MTO Summit, The Austin Forum, and WebVisions. When not working on SXSW or freelancing as a digital consultant, he likes to play music and race his bicycle around the block.
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