The SXSW Web Awards: What’s the Point?

I was embarrassed for our industry last night. Maybe it was because I hadn’t dressed up pretty or researched Ze Frank, the emcee, in advance. I wasn’t pre-psyched-up when I walked into the room, and that, surely, had something to do with my attitude. So with that disclaimer in place, let me now announce my obnoxious opinion: The SXSW 10th Annual Web Awards sucked.

Here’s the thing. There were more new cool websites created in the last year than you, or me, or any self-respecting techie had a chance to check out. Moreover, we’re in such a super-saturated atmosphere of self-promoting competition that even if we did check them out, chances are we didn’t get too involved with them. They were made for the public, the teens, the families, the businessfolk, the non-techies. Not for us. Well, okay, a few were made for us. Twitter, for example. And we cheered for those. Sort of. More accurately, we laughed at them and at ourselves, because let’s face it, this industry is pretty absurd. And if nothing else, that was the point that was made last night.

Ze Frank was funny — I’ll give him that. But he was also sarcastic and negative, and he had to remind us to clap. Repeatedly. It was obvious that he didn’t know who most of the finalists were, and he found numerous ways to make fun of our geek culture… but the pathetic part was that he was right on. By the lack of applause and enthusiasm in the room, you knew that most of us didn’t know who most of the finalists were, either; we were providing great material for his industry-deprecating comments. A quick two-line mission statement of each finalist would have gotten us involved in the competitive aspect, but instead we were just given names (see my NameDropping 2.0 post… I’ve got lots more to say on this issue).

To top it off, the whole thing felt entirely arbitrary. We heard nothing about the qualifications of the judges (except that they purportedly “have no friends”) or what criteria the winners were chosen on. No one talked about the process, the purpose, or the point.

We’re not Hollywood. We don’t have a cohesive industry that viscerally experiences the breadth of our colleagues creations. We’re not glamourous; we’re geeks. We get excited about what’s been built for us, and we like to talk about how we’re changing the world. Panel discussions inspire us and parties connect us, but hollywoood-style awards just make us look lame.

I appreciate the gesture — we’re banning together as an industry and putting forth our standards for excellence by recognizing our successful members. This goal is important, and I’m not knocking it. But let’s embrace our culture and develop an awards ceremony that works for us. One in which we can be positive and excited — not one in which we realize how amazingly pathetic we look in direct comparison to the Oscars.

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3 Responses to “The SXSW Web Awards: What’s the Point?”

  1. etn Says:

    i wasnt too much a fan either. let it all out…
    http://www.thumbwarz.com – currently SXSW is the topic of the day.

    love the post!

  2. Watch The Oscars Online Says:

    Watch The Oscars Online…

    Watch The Oscars Online…

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