Over­flow at­ten­dees at pan­els can’t get in when in­side au­di­ence leaves.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Omar L. Gal­laga ogal­laga@states­

It’s cer­tainly not a new prob­lem at South by South­west: for as long as there have been lots of peo­ple at­tend­ing the con­fer­ence, par­tic­u­larly the In­ter­ac­tive por­tion, there have been full pan­els and grum­bling peo­ple wait­ing out­side with hopes of get­ting in. (For high-pro­file speak­ers and key­notes there’s typ­i­cally a spillover room or a screen out­side for peo­ple to watch a video feed.)

This year, how­ever, there have been a few changes to how seat­ing for pan­els is han­dled and it might be af­fect­ing whether at-ca­pac­ity pan­els are re­ally full or not.

When a panel is filled, for in­stance, vol­un­teers con­trol the flow of who goes in and out. For a panel such as Sun­day’s Bob Odenkirk in­ter­view with Fred Ar­misen, no one was be­ing al­lowed to en­ter the room, even as at­ten­dees in­side were leav­ing the dis­cus­sion, pre­sum­ably leav­ing empty seats in­side.

Those who didn’t get in watched a video feed out­side of the panel, but were not given any hope that they’d get in later, a change from years past.

SXSW or­ga­niz­ers say fire codes are be­hind a new pol­icy to not al­low peo­ple to come back into a panel af­ter they leave, es­pe­cially if there’s a line. Fire codes are also be­hind the new rule that at­ten­dees can no longer stand in the back or sit

along the aisles (which can be use­ful when you have a dead lap­top that needs charg­ing).

Hugh For­rest, SXSW’s di­rec­tor of pro­gram­ming, said on Sun­day that the loss of the one-person-in/one-per­son­out panel pol­icy is not set in stone. He said if vol­un­teers no­tice a large clump of peo­ple are ex­it­ing a panel, they have the dis­cre­tion to al­low those still in line to get in. But he said that the goal this year was to avoid the dis­trac­tions and dis­rup­tions that can be caused by peo­ple com­ing in dur­ing the mid­dle of a panel.

An­other is­sue that seems to be plagu­ing SXSW this year: video feed prob­lems for some of its largest pre­sen­ta­tions. The feed to a spillover room re­port­edly cut out dur­ing for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den’s talk, as it did dur­ing key­note Jennifer Doudna’s pre­sen­ta­tion and a key­note from Cory Richards.

Ja­cobs on fash­ion

Also Monday, famed fash­ion de­signer Marc Ja­cobs made an ap­pear­ance at South by South­west to talk about so­cial me­dia’s im­pact on the fash­ion world.

In a twist, Ja­cobs — who started a pop­u­lar In­sta­gram ac­count two years ago — jok­ingly called him­self a tech “Lud­dite.”

“Email is about the best I can do,” he said. “A Google search I am good at.”

He refers to the In­sta­gram al­go­rithms as “com­puter gods who de­cide what I like.” And at one point, when asked where he got his news from, he called the no­ti­fi­ca­tion alerts you get on your phone “pop-up thin­gies,” to the great amuse­ment of the tech-savvy au­di­ence.

Ja­cobs was in­ter­viewed on stage Monday by Vogue mag­a­zine’s cre­ative di­rec­tor, Sally Singer.

His anti-tech out­look was a con­trast to most of the fash­ion-ori­ented pan­els at SXSW, which fo­cused on top­ics like wear­able tech and the emer­gence of so­cial me­dia in­flu­encers. Ja­cobs is a “pen­cil and pa­per” guy, he read­ily ad­mits.

“My per­sonal In­sta­gram I don’t think of as a mar­ket­ing tool,” Ja­cobs said. “It’s prob­a­bly a lit­tle bit more about my ego than it is about mar­ket­ing. I’m not sure post­ing a pic­ture of my­self gen­er­ates dol­lars. Maybe it makes me, to a cer­tain group of peo­ple, more ac­ces­si­ble.”

Ja­cobs talked about re­spond­ing to de­lighted fans on In­sta­gram, send­ing them hel­los and kiss emo­jis.

“You are not just a brand,” Ja­cobs said. “You are an ac­tual hu­man be­ing who puts their pants on one leg at a time.”


A packed crowd awaits the ar­rival of for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den on Sun­day at the Austin Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, where he later told a South by South­west panel about his Bi­den Cancer Ini­tia­tive. SXSW of­fi­cials said fire codes have changed rules about seat­ing at fes­ti­val events.


Fash­ion de­signer Marc Ja­cobs speaks Monday with Vogue mag­a­zine’s Sally Singer in an in­ter­view at South by South­west.

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