I’ve spent the last couple of days at an excellent astronomy conference in Austin Texas, called South by High Redshift, or SXHZ. I’m learning a lot and, hopefully, my talk in half an hour will be a useful contribution.
But this is going to be the last conference with this title, because the South By Southwest – SXSW – festival doesn’t like the astronomers using something that looks a bit like their name. Yes – essentially they’re complaining about wordplay!
This meeting is an academic conference. Nobody is making money, or intending to, and the wordplay actually helps spread knowledge of the SXSW festival – I didn’t know much about it until I heard about SXHZ. I also didn’t know that SXSW includes some science events and has hosted a NASA stand for the last few years.
The festival’s attitude to the SXHZ name, though, means that I’m now going to associate SXSW with idiotic, funless pettiness and money-grabbing paranoia. I suspect it also means that SXSW will find it harder to get local astronomers to contribute to its science events. I know I’d be disinclined to help people who had fired lawyers’ nastygrams at my colleagues.
So well played SXSW. You’ve besmirched your reputation to no useful result, and damaged the goodwill you’ve earned with both the Austin and international astronomical community.