Top #Fail of #SXSW (and a Couple #unFAIL)

SXSW 2013

It was a fun and productive SXSW for me. For others it saw some heartache and pain. Things that didn’t go right because of a small mistake or trying to game the system lead to failure. Lets take a look at some of those failed at SXSW.

UberX #sxswFAIL

Uberx #fail
Uberx #fail (Photo credit:

There were a lot of ways to get around Austin for free. From Chevy’s “Catch a Chevy”Program to free Pedicabs in the evening. Uber decided to get in the game and offer free Uber car service. Only problem is they didn’t have enough drivers for the service. Even cab companies brought in extra cabbies to work the streets of Austin during this festival.

SideCar #sxswFAIL

If you want to start a car service you have to first go through the city for the OK. SideCar felt they didn’t have to do that because 1. It’s not a cab and 2. regular drivers work for tips only. Well that didn’t fly by Austin as they benched SideCar before they could do anything. SideCar has brought up a lawsuit because of this fail (City of Austin sent a Cease and Desist letter). Its not the first to do this – Philadelphia not only banned the service but also arrested 3 drivers for being unlicensed cabs. Personally I don’t want to pile in someones dirty, smelly car. I wouldn’t want to be a driver simply because someone could bail without even tipping. Sometimes a cab is a better option…

Marvel’s #sxswFAIL

Marvel announced that on Tuesday, March 12, you could download up to 700 comic books from their apps, website and more. Only problem is they didn’t expect the traffic they got. It was enough to crash the servers within the first few minutes of the promotion. ComiXology put out tweets saying they are working on the problem. The service never came back up on the 12th. It’s back up now.

Streaming #FAIL

How is it you come to Austin and your working business model is to stream video to people – with no stable WiFi? One person put their phone on a monopod so they can hold the camera while recording. Another I met in a parking lot for a GA internet radio station. They were going to interview bands for their show – however they had no personal wifi. They are barely getting a signal from a bar 50 yards away. Personally I would never make streaming the primary video. If I cannot record the video then I am not interested. The radio station probably had better luck since it was just audio. Nonetheless, if you plan to stream – bring a LiveU pack or some super powerful Wifi signal with you.

Rain #FAIL

For the second year SXSW interactive saw some pretty steady rain for two days. People piled in the convention center waiting for the rain to subside. While it wasn’t as bad as 2012, it definitely slowed the attendees. What was even more interesting was nobody planned for this one either. Last year someone gave out a limited amount of ponchos. We knew the rain was going to happen, it would have been a great promotion if a company would have handed out free umbrellas or dry socks.

Construction #FAIL

There are a lot of empty storefronts around Austin. Companies rent them out for the week and put together a place for music, displaying their product and more. When done they take all their stuff and the store is back on the market. I got in on Wednesday and watched some of these companies putting together their stores. However, some didn’t get the shops done in time. The Samsung store (for example) had so much interior product, they needed another day to finish. I even heard one storefront did not finish at all.

SXSW Privacy #FAIL

Apparently the SXSW badges had an RFID chip in them. A lot of people speculated it was because they were tracking people. This is not an unusual practice for conferences. CES did it in 2008.

Mostly badges can be read up to 5 meters away – so you could walk into an official SXSW party and be tagged as such. I don’t see this much as a privacy issue – more of an idea what people attended without having someone stand in a doorway scanning badges.

Klout Party #FAIL

Klout was not the only party to fall in this trap. They put together a party outside of downtown Austin. The house party was apparently pretty kickin – for the first 30 minutes. Everyone else who spent the time to drive the 20 minutes found out they were over capacity. What was worse – they ran out of beer!! OK, I think they were lying about the beer thing because not only was the person who said that was actually holding a Dos Equis, but the limo they had to take people back held 4-5 cases of Dos Equis beer in the back.

Unofficial Party #FAIL

I heard of a couple parties that also got shut down because they didn’t not get the proper food and beverage permits. Its sad to hear people spend thousands of dollars for this event only to find out they missed a simple permit. Even bars outside the festival area were charging thousands of dollars for their venue.


Sunburn #sxswfail
Sunburn #sxswfail (Photo credit:

This last fail actually was my own. I got a sunburn on the top of my head Sunday. I put on aloe and carried around sunscreen. I wasn’t outside much Monday but the amount I was brought on a second sunburn. I am not sure when the blister happened but I sure felt it when I scraped my head getting out of the Chevy car on Wed night. Yeah. Sunscreen is important. Especially for someone who shaves their head.

What SXSW Did Right #unFAIL

I would like to highlight a few things that SXSW did right this year. These items helped keep us all sane during the festival and SXSW should see kudos for it.

1. Internet connection – The connection in all SXSW locations was pretty rock solid! There were a couple times I had to upload video of 150 MB or more. Their connection allowed me to do it in under 30 seconds so I could get my posts out.

2. Volunteers – If you saw the SXSW shirt you could walk up and ask them anything. There was always a shirt around – from the convention centers to the streets of Austin. Very helpful

3. Registration – In years past I heard horror stories of lines in registration. I was happy that I got in early – however I passed by the registration booths several times in the week and never saw a line longer than a 5 minute wait. Not sure if that was the same for music. They had that part nailed down.

4. Music – SXSW started SXSWfm – an internet station to listen to the festival. Further, there are several locations to listen to SXSW music – NPR has a top 100 download list

References for Top Fails of SXSW

  1. Catch a Chevy – Chevy offered free rides for SXSW participants
  2. Uber – Alternate to taxi service
  3. SideCar – volunteer service to take people to their destination. They work for tips.
  4. NPR – Top 100 downloads – Downloads of bands at SXSW