Planning for SXSW 2010

Good grief! It’s still over 8 months away and yet the time is drawing near for the Panel Picker to launch for SXSW 2010.  Since I first went three years ago, I wanted to create panels that would be interesting for people and to talk about things for which I personally feel passion. The second year, I was on the How to Rawk After SXSW panel, and the third I was on a panel with a lovely group of people talking about Developing Super Senses: Tools to Know Your Users. For 2010, I picked another subject I’m interested in: online communities.

While I work for a search engine, in my years at I’ve also worked closely with the MindSpark group – looking at how you cultivate community for places like Zwinky. We’ve interviewed groups of friends, talked to people for one on one interviews and done quantitative fieldwork to understand the nature of social networks and how people view their interactions in these spaces. I’ve also spent a lot of time in various online communities and watched them grow in importance in my life, linking me to many people who are my dear and close friends.

However, the downside to this is that some of these communities I’ve joined and nurtured have fallen by the wayside for various reasons. So when the time came to develop a panel proposal for SXSW 2010, this was topic that sprang to mind.  Below is the excerpt from what I’ve submitted to the panel picker for consideration.

Title of panel or presentation
The Community is Dead Long Live the Community

50 word description of this panel / presentation
Online communities typically thrive or decay, but sometimes the entire platform for social interaction is shut down abruptly. Look at Pownce, Dodgeball, or Yahoo!360. How do you keep the community alive when this happens? Should you do so? How do you manage this change? Case studies from the crypt.

10 questions that will be answered in this panel / presentation

  1. What types of communities have shut down?
  2. Why do communities shut down?
  3. What are the types of shutdown?
  4. What do you owe the user? Legally? Ethically?
  5. What do you do with the content the user generated?
  6. What are some ways to migrate user content to other sites?
  7. How do you communicate the impending transition with the user?
  8. Is it something to even care about?
  9. Case studies where the transition has been poorly handled/well handled
  10. Creating a community that is self-perpetuating


I’ve got a short list of people I’m working to be a part of this panel — some folks I’d like to appear are proposing their own panels, but I’ve approached folks who run ARGs (limited communities – destined to expire), sites who have shut down, while getting help sourcing a lawyer to speak on IP issues, among others. Would love to hear from you too – if you think there’s someone really great out there that should be a part of this discussion. My true aim here is to serve as the moderator and ask interesting questions about how we form, maintain, transition and evolve communities.

Extra Special Thanks

I’m also eternally grateful to the following folks for their input on this panel as the idea evolved: Ernie Hsiung, Dr. Keely Kolmes, Jason Schultz, Kevin Smokler, Natalie Villalobos, and Ariel Waldman. I would know none of you if it weren’t for the Internet and the community around it.

Waiting to Vote?

Voting won’t be live for a few more weeks, will post a reminder then.