While following the SXSW activity on Twitter during the event, Michelle Bruno came across a curious tweet that led her to discover a whole SXSW related community interacting near the event without actually registering. In this post she shares what she discovered about this “badgeless” trend and how it could impact events in the future.
It started with a tweet:
“Connect to #Badgeless2012, FBon.fb.me/xrP9zC and the Web bit.ly/AuxLX”
At first, I thought that “Badgeless” might be referring to a technology that allowed event participants to interact with one another without using the square 3 x 4” piece of paper dangling from a string that we refer to as a badge.
Badgeless is an organized movement of individuals who choose not to register (or pay the steep cost for a badge) for the annual nerd fest in Austin, Texas. Instead, its members connect via social media to enjoy the many free (and non-sanctioned) activities that have grown up around the main conference and trade show.
Badgeless participants don’t get to see the Al Gore or Ray Kurzweil keynotes (although some buy a one-day-pass), but they do get a lot of free tacos and beer and each other, which is apparently the main attraction for them. Many of them are SXSWi veterans who have been there, done that. Now, they just want to see their friends. Chris Heuer was selling Badgeless T-shirts to raise money for his Social Media Club nonprofit association.
Although the argument can be made that Badgeless members are entitled to draft off the 26-year success that is SXSW, the practice is discomfiting to people that organize events for a living.
Heuer’s rationale for justifying his Badgeless status is that he contributes to the event in other ways by blogging and promoting it, and because, he tweets, “there is a community of people that exists who are #badgeless2012 already.” Plus, “its truly not against anyone, it’s for and about the alternative, ”and “#WorldHasChanged,” he writes.
For some of the non-conformists, it’s about the money. Some Austin locals simply cannot afford to attend. Others, however, have somehow negotiated their airfare, lodging, food (no one can live on free tacos, can they?), local transport and other amenities, but choose not to buy the badge on principle or as one tweeter on the Badgeless2012 hashtag noted, “just to see what it was like.”
Circumventing the “system” is not new. Anyone remember Woodstock (jokes aside) where eventually the burgeoning crowd just broke the fences down and let themselves into the concert? Traci Browne recently wrote very poignantly aboutsuitcasing at the Exhibitor Show in Las Vegas. And, despite conference organizer attempts to “own” the hotels surrounding their events, outboarding inevitably takes place all the time.
So what can event producers learn from the Badgeless movement at SXSWi?
- For some, walled gardens of information are no longer attractive or worth paying for
- There is a sense of entitlement (good or bad) among some community members that justifies their activities “outside the tent.”
- We are vulnerable because people can and will self-organize if we don’t help organize them
- There are whole groups of folks that aren’t part of our current communities doing interesting things
- If face-to-face interaction is the best offering we have, that isn’t enough.
- Our communities are organizing themselves around ideas because we are too lame to be the idea
Posted with the permission of Michelle Bruno. To read the rest of “Is the SXSW Badgeless Movement a Sign of Things to Come in the Event Industry,” click here.
(Photo by Cristiano_Betta)