She wrote this about music but it works for the whole festival, especially since I’ve attended each year since 2007 and have wistfully watched it evolve:
Every year, this conference gets larger and larger, leaving attendees to pick increasingly specific paths around its girth … Earlier in the week, I said the Interactive portion of the conference was like the Internet, only in person. But then so is the Music part: vast, increasingly centerless, a little daunting, and bound to send you home feeling like you only got a pinhole view of something you wish you could see in its entirety. And also with ads on banners everywhere — just cheaper, dirtier, stickier ones than last week.
I think it’s “cool” to complain about the bigness of SXSW in the same way Austinites say that Austin “used to be cool” the moment they got there, but has been going downhill ever since. It IS too big, but so is everything in Texas, including my high school graduating class (nearly 2,000). Everyone seemed to come out okay in the end.