Monday, March 10, 2008

Sarah Lacy Speaks About The Debacle

I have not yet had a chance to prepare my thoughts on the Zuckerberg keynote, but I couldn't resist getting this posted. Sarah Lacy makes so many inaccurate comments here. She incorrectly categorizes SXSW as a "developer conference," when it is attended by a diverse, intelligent, and insightful audience that includes designers, journalists, students, educators, executives, professionals, enthusiasts, and yes, developers. So, her first mistake was not knowing her audience. And, SXSW has had some very high profile speakers in the past including Jimmy Wales, Craig Newmark, Lawrence Lessig, and Will Wright. Henry Jenkins and Steven Johnson aren't exactly nobodies. None of these people discussed APIs, and I find the majority of SXSW panels to cover broad strategic insights.

Perhaps Lacy's heard of a Mr. Dan Rather...he was interviewed by female publisher Jane Hamsher last year. And while that interview was slightly off the mark for the SXSW audience, no one blamed the interviewer. Not to mention that SXSW hosts the top musical acts and film celebrities every year, so they have some experience with dealing with those of high profile.

Lacy is in a damage-control mode in this video. When SXSW releases the video of the actual interview, see for yourself. I became irritated with her style from the beginning. She talked about herself too much. She giggled and twirled her hair. She made silly insider comments about their previous interactions. She interrupted him on multiple occasions, just when he was getting into interesting territory. Eventually, you could see she was annoying him, with his short answers of "Sure" and a pause, before giving a more thoughtful response. I was hoping throughout that she would become self-aware at some point and dial it back a notch, but she never did. A quiet backlash was brewing, and the crowd erupted when first an audience member ("ask something interesting") and ultimately Zuckerberg ("you have to ask questions") articulated the mass frustration.

And, in terms of the gender implications of her participation in the industry, it is unprofessional and amateurish behavior like this that makes it harder for women who are trying to do good work and be taken seriously. Yes, there is room for fun and even flirtation, but this was way over the top and inappropriate for the venue.

I have to say, I admire her false sense of confidence. She blames the audience for not getting it, she blames SXSW for being too amateurish to handle a speaker of Zuckerberg's caliber, and she makes us feel sorry for her because "it's the price of being high profile, unfortunately." never occurs to her to admit that she did a bad interview?

Before this, I probably would have considered reading her book, that is yet unreleased. But, having this insight into the author, I doubt I'll pick it up. The irony, however, is that this ineptitude will probably garner her more attention and result in better sales.

If this debacle hinders SXSW's ability to secure high profile speakers in the future, it is Lacy's fault, not that of an audience that was merely excited to hear from someone they respected and revered so highly.


Shane said...

I read about this debacle on the wired's blog last night. I was hoping I didn't have to wait until class to get you insight. Thx - Shane

Jon Zmikly said...

Wow, even in the video she blames others for her shortcomings "the sad thing is, a core group of people in the back got so angry that they probably ruined SXSW for getting people that high profile again." THEY ruined SXSW?? Are you sure?

theresafore said...

What makes this so sad is that the focus has moved to Lacy instead of Mark. When we were waiting for him to come into the room, everyone was dancing, taking pictures of the crowd and getting really excited just to listen to him speak. Then she kept forcing the conversation into the financial realm and that's not what we all wanted to hear and definitely not what Mark wanted to talk about. He ended up having to repeat himself so much that a lot of the one hour we had with the man was wasted because of her. I'm not sure what "news" she was trying to break, but she sacrificed her audience on a wild goose chase.

Fazia Rizvi said...

"I made the mistake of coming to a developer's conference."

Hoo-boy. So she was slummin' with the geeks? Wow. Talk about someone who doesn't "get" SXSW. What a culture-clash.

Jordan Viator said...

"Perhaps Lacy's heard of a Mr. Dan Rather..." I think it's funny she regards herself so highly, because I for one had never heard of her before yesterday.

And Theresa's comment is so true - the interview, keynote and entire event was supposed to be about Zuckerberg, not her. This high point for SXSW, getting MZ to come and speak, has now turned into TMZ-style gossip on blogs and Twitter.

In the midst of all the Lacy gossip, I'd like to point out that Mark did a great job of presenting himself, addressing the audience and speaking well. In the past, he's been scrutinized for poor public performance, and I didn't think that was the case this time. Even after Lacy scooped the Facebook France announcement before Mark could do so publicly, he was calm, cool and collected. Props to you Mr. CEO.

Michael Trice said...

Lacy's self-importance astounds me. Dan Rather and Michael Eisner have been to this conference. And people will continue to come because the conference and what happens here is bigger than any one person, especially a writer who lacks the old-school journalistic integrity needed to put your ego aside to get the story.

Michael Trice said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Trice said...

I also like 'People like Mark don't talk API.'

Really? Cause I'm pretty sure Steve Jobs talks design and Mark Cuban talks free throw percentages. What bs.

Cherie said...

Who recruited Sarah Lacy to interview him in the first place? I blame whoever that may be for this ruined interview with one of the most interesting persons at SxSW. Someone should have noticed her selfishness and immaturity by just talking to her. This post interview video is priceless. She really shows her true colors when she drops an f bomb and denounces the entire SxSW interactive festival.

For the record, if I were there I would have been one of the first ones boo-ing her off the stage! ;)