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SXSW Zuckerberg Keynote

Howdy y’all.

You may’ve heard about the Zuckerberg keynote at SXSW (that’s pronounced, “South by southwest”) before - it’s all over the tech news media (a google search yields 18,500 hits).

Basically, Zuckerberg, the man at the helm of a company valued at $15 Billion dollars; the youngest billionare ever, was brought in to do an interview as the keynote for South By South West. The interview was supposed to be “informal”, apparently, and it basically all went to shit.

The consensus seems to be that the interviewer (“Sarah Lacy”, a journalist for Business Week) either didn’t prepare or didn’t realize what the issues are that she should be dealing with. By the end, she’d retreated to the role of moderator, as people from the audience asked questions (which was apparently NOT a planned part of the event)

Some quotes:

Its grand finale of the interview came right after one person in the audience, probably angry as hell about Lacy’s behavior, told her to “say something interesting” to which she replied, “you don’t understand how hard my job is.” Well, I tell you what, maybe you have mistaken your career path.

Through the grapevine, Zuckerberg said he’d only do the interview if it was with Sarah Lacy. But she clearly knows him well and that made for quite a strange interview. Lacy has a tendency for rambling, generalised questions that don’t draw out the conversation-shy Zuckerberg, who has a tendency for single-line answers.

“Other than rough interviews,” an audience member asked Zuckerberg during a short Q&A; session at the end of the keynote, “what are some of the biggest challenges Facebook faces?”

“Has this been a rough interview?” Lacy asked Zuckerberg.

“I wasn’t asking you, I was asking Mark,” the audience member said.

That last quote was from what is probably the best article about the event, located here, but it’s also the longest.

Here’s an edited portion of the interview; it should give you a taste of what all went on. If you want the satirized transcript, it’s short and available here. From all I’ve read, it seems to capture “what people actually heard” really well.

If you’ve seen the video, you know that she was sitting very bizarrely in her chair, sort of a lounging position. I’d be up there like Zuckerberg, leaning forward almost all the time. For the curious, I checked out some of the Flickr photos of the event. It doesn’t look like you can actually see up her skirt (hey… I was curious - she’s wearing a skirt and lounging in a chair that faces the audience).

The interviewer had this to say about the event on her Twitter feed, after the event:

“Seriously screw all you guys. I did my best to ask a range of things”

You know, I don’t care who you are. You had a group of people who were insanely interested and excited about this event (there were actually people dancing in the aisles as Zuckerberg came out). It was YOU, interviewer, who lost the audience. YOU failed to communicate effectively what it is that these people wanted to hear. Any failure on that is on you.

Someone interviewed her afterwards:

You almost want to feel sorry for her, but I think she put a whole lot of negativity on the audience. She also seems to talk an awful lot for Zuckerberg (which is exactly what people had a problem with DURING the interview… but I digress…).

“The whole audience was with us for 45 minutes, then they just turned on us” - that’s not at all what I’m getting from all the articles I’ve read. Every one I’ve read mentioned that, almost from the beginning, people had problems with her interview style. It was just that, near the end, people were desperate enough to actually heckle her.

Then she goes on about how the audience was sexist.

I’m so happy that her Amazon score is high. I’m glad that her books will sell.

She gets rambley and confusing near the end of the interview, but I managed to catch “mainstream press wants you to break news” - ultimately, that might be her problem. You’re not there to break news, you’re not at a press conference, he’s a keynote speaker for an event. He’s there, ultimately, for the people going to the event. He’s heading a $15 billion dollar company, if he wants to break news, he’ll do it whenever and wherever he pleases.

NOTE: Here’s the entire interview in full video. It’s about an hour long. I haven’t yet watched it; I’ll post my thoughts if/when I do. I’d especially be interested in people’s comments who’ve watched the video - is all this hubub legitimate? Was the interviewer really stepping on Zuckerberg’s toes?

EDIT: I flipped to the end, check out 51 minutes in.

Zuckerberg - “You made that up!”

Then the interviewer goes looking for someone who can back her up. Awesome. I think when someone says you made something up, about something that they do, you apologize and move on.