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SXSW: Let The Panel Picking Begin!

It might be just about the last thing on your mind, but if you haven’t started planning for next year’s South By Southwest Interactive festival down in Austin, Texas, then now’s the time. Why’s that? The 2011 SXSW Panel Picker, the festival’s interactive, crowd-sourced method for choosing the conference’s panels, has opened today and will be accepting entries until early July.

The Panel Picker was first used to help select panels for the interactive conference in 2007 and was joined for the first time last year by the music and film conferences, which, according to the company’s press release, resulted in more than 2,800 submissions.

Here’s how it works:

PanelPicker™ is a two-step online system. Step One encourages the community to submit proposals for programming at SXSW through the PanelPicker™ interface at http://panelpicker.sxsw.com beginning Tuesday, June 15, 2010 through Friday, July 9, 2010. Additional information including categories, presentation formats, and the new user-generated tags feature built in to PanelPicker™ can be found at http://sxsw.com/panelpicker_faq. Step Two allows the community to browse all of these ideas — and rate which of these proposals they think are the best fit for the March 2011 event. Community voting begins Monday, August 9, 2010 and will continue through Friday, August 27, 2010.

While some could be heard grumbling at last year’s SXSWi that the panel picker was at fault for outdated panels, SXSW argues in its FAQ that this method gives attendees time to pre-plan what panels they’ll attend each year. The Panel Picker is also not responsible for choosing 100% of the conference’s content, as several slots are left open until January or February to allow for late-breaking developments.

Anyone with access to the Internet can participate in the Panel Picker and public votes account for 30% of the decision-making process, with 30% going to staff votes and 40% to the SXSW advisory board, which is comprised of “experienced industry professionals whose advice and insights about programming and other event-related issues are trusted by the SXSW staff,” according to the FAQ.

While the new “user-generated tags” feature is simply a way to help better categorize panels (and not a way to deal with some of the ridiculous hashtags we saw last year), the festival is planning on having a way for panel creators to have input on their session’s hashtag once the title is finalized in the second step of the voting process.

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