Given I’m stuck in snow-riddled Toronto rather than Austin, Texas, it’s impossible for me to comment on whether Sarah Lacy’s interview with Facebook whiz kid Mark Zuckerberg was actually a “train wreck” or a “disaster”.
From all accounts, it looks like Lacy dropped the ball by trying to be buddy-buddy with Zuckerberg and pandering to his needs rather than what the audience (aka SXSW’s customers) wanted. When you’re involved in the biggest keynote interview at a high-profile conference, the last thing you should do is run left (and, in the process, serve your own needs) when everyone expects you to run right.
What’s particularly fascinating is how quickly the criticism and vitriol started to flow as the interview started to go pear-shaped. While Twitter emerged out of nowhere last year at SXSW as a tool to tell people what was happening, Twitter took centre stage again this year to blare out anti-Lacy pronouncements in real-time.
For all of us not in Austin who were waiting for how Zuckerberg did and, more important, what he said, the reports from the field were fast and furious. Even before bloggers or reporters had time to editorialize on Zuckerberg, Lacy had become the story of SXSW.
In the wake of SXSW-Gate, it is also interesting to see Lacy so unrepentant to the point where it’s difficult to feel any sympathy for the scorn directed her way. From a Twitter post she made – “”Seriously screw all you guys. I did my best to ask a range of things.” to a video interview, Lacy accepts no blame for the wrath of the Twitter-ers. Bad move, Sarah, although she must be enjoying the spotlight and new-found notoriety given she has a book on Silicon Valley and Web 2.0 coming out soon.
At the end of the day, Lacy – and Twitter – have become the biggest stories from SXSW. Wish I had been there to witness this train wreck.
More: Jeff Jarvis has a really insightful post on what Lacy did wrong. He nails it with this paragraph: “Lacy’s biggest mistake was not knowing her audience. Here she had the founder of one of the most innovative, game-changing, and so-far-successful companies of the age — the age that is being created and celebrated by the audience here. But she could not, in the words of one frustrated audience member, ask anything interesting — not to them.”