SXSWi buckling under the pressure?

Seminar rooms were filling up and the line to get a badge stretched across two floors of the Austin Convention Center. Is it time to do some reorganizing?

This is about one-fifteenth of the line to get a SXSW badge. Andrew Mager/CBS Interactive

AUSTIN, Texas--OK, there has got to be a better way to do this.

I arrived at the Austin Convention Center 45 minutes before the start of a talk on Friday afternoon that I was hoping to catch, "The Ecosystem of News" led by founder Steven Johnson. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough time: the line-waiting time was clocking in at around an hour.

By the time I made it over to the room where Johnson's talk was being held, the room was full and no one else was being allowed in. There was no simulcast. (Luckily, my colleague Daniel Terdiman was there to see what Johnson had to say.)

The conference that's arguably the biggest must-attend for the digitally edgy has a check-in process that was painfully analog; I've been to plenty of big tech-industry trade shows and I've never waited for that long in line. Granted, with the number of concerts and film screenings that are part of the two other South by Southwest extravaganzas (SXSW Music and SXSW Film) are a big draw, and SXSW is consequently more likely to have to deal with people making counterfeit badges and sneaking into events than, say, the Web 2.0 Expo. And to be fair, SXSW Film attendees were waiting in the same line as those for SXSWi.

But still. You don't want the biggest topic of conversation at Day 1's after-parties to be the fact that it took an hour just to check in. Here's my suggestion for SXSWi 2010: Have a contest to revolutionize the conference check-in process. It's going to be especially crucial if SXSWi continues to grow. There are so many creative minds that come to this event every year; there would certainly be some interesting ideas.

For the winner, give away a jet pack or something. Those will exist in a year, right?

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