There's one aspect of SxSW that I didn't discuss in my previous entry: the reason why I went to only a few parties. Most nights I was back in my hotel around 11:00. That's not really sociable, is it? Unfortunately I was unable to attend most parties BECAUSE OF THE FUCKING NOISE.
I'm wondering if it would be at all possible to just turn off the LOUD BACKGROUND MUSIC at conference parties.
Put a few hundred geeks together in a small space, give them beer, laptops, an Internet connection, and interesting presentations or projects to discuss, and they'll produce a fair amount of decibels. That's fine; it's what supposed to happen.
Unfortunately, all bar owners seem to think that we really appreciate THIS EXTREMELY LOUD, BAD MUSIC BLARING ON AND ON because (apparently) we don't have any conversation to make. Several panelists complained about having a sore throat because they had to shout all the time to make themselves heard OVER THE DRONING BACKGROUND MUSIC that nobody's really interested in, anyway.
Now I have this slight hearing impediment that I think is called cocktail party deafness. It's nothing really serious, and usually my ears work fine. Except, unfortunately, when there's THIS LOUD BACKGROUND NOISE to contend with. If that's the case, I can't make out about 50% of what somebody's saying to me, and I have to guess what the subject of the conversation is. Usually this gets quite stressful after a while, and I quit the party.
When I go to a CONCERT I can't really talk to anyone because I can't hear them well enough. That's fine; I come there for the music anyway, and by now my friends are used to it.
But I go to conference parties to talk and listen to other people. When, in addition to the conversation, there's also this BACKGROUND NOISE GOING ON ALL THE TIME I just can't make out what people are saying to me. That's annoying.
The single party at which I was able to talk to people was the Great British Booze-up. Although the venue proprietor deemed LOUD BACKGROUND MUSIC an essential part of the experience, we were all in the back yard where the NOISE just dispersed into the air, and conversations were actually possible.
Most other parties, though, were inside, and this made conversation quite impossible for me. That's sad, in a way, because I'm sure I missed quite a few interesting talks and discussions. On the other hand, even if I had been at the party I would've missed the talks and discussions anyway because I couldn't have made them out.
Fortunately the idea of doing away with the BACKGROUND DRONE is getting some support. Andy Budd brought it up first, and when I talked to her on Wednesday Ms. Jen said she, too, was going to take steps to counter this problem.
I assume I'm speaking for them too when I ask conference organisers if it's possible to do something about this problem? Would it be a huge culture shock if there were simply no music at all during post-conference parties? Would that offend someone? Would leaving out the DRONING BACKGROUND NOISE make organising these parties more expensive? I, for one, would welcome it with open arms because it would mean I could actually go to parties.
I’m speaking at the following conferences:
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