Mob Rule

I know, I know: you likely can’t take one more analysis of the Mark Zuckerberg/Sarah Lacy debacle. But as tempers have calmed and more thoughtful analysis beyond “she sucked” emerges, I must add my two cents. As someone who was sitting smack in the middle of the audience and experienced the vibe, I disagree with those who are now calling it a witch hunt and an overreaction by an unsympathetic audience. The packed-to-the-gills ballroom sat on their hands and kept their mouth shut for the majority of the Q&A. But as time ticked by and Lacy continued to cut off his answers, plug her upcoming book, and relate personal stories that weren’t of interest to the crowd (his profuse sweating in their first interview, for example), the murmuring and discomfort became palpable. Frankly, I was embarrassed for her. It was like watching a tanking Saturday Night Live sketch that has gone on far too long.

From what I know of Lacy, she’s a sharp reporter – BusinessWeek isn’t in the habit of hiring dimbullbs. But she was off her game in this interview and didn’t ask the questions this developer audience wanted to hear. The attendees unhappy with the interview weren’t in “the back of the room,” as TechCrunch surmises. They were everywhere and were of all shapes and sizes. Three people on all sides of me – none of which were developers – got up and left before the kerfuffle kicked in, uncomfortable and fed up with a highly anticipated keynote that went south.

We can all agree that Zuckerberg is a tough interview. But the audience wasn’t displeased with the answers he was giving; they were displeased with Lacy’s unprofessional and weirdly personal interview style. Jeff Jarvis hit the nail on the head; she should’ve researched her audience more. And Brian Solis (linked above) makes a good point that SXSW organizers should take part of the blame. It seems that the audience was misread at several junctures. In the end though, the only question that needs to be answered is whether Lacy did her job as a reporter and interviewer. Turning an entire ballroom of excited attendees into a torch-wielding mob is an answer in itself.



  1. matt said

    first off… “watching a tanking Saturday Night Live sketch that has gone on far too long” … you couldn’t have summed it up better. I loved reading your first paragraph.

    Secondly, I really only care about reading what people who were there have to say… people like yourself (regardless of how overdone it has become in less than 24 hours), so thanks for writing up your take anyway… the future “opinion” of this situation will be an amalgam of all the bloggers, like yourself, who sounded off on the topic. Mike Arrington just wanted to go against the grain and not look like he was taking further shots at Lacy, IMHO. Maybe he should have kept his article to himself and left this story to the people who’s opinions actually matter on the topic… i.e. The Audience. (And I do love me some techCrunch, don’t get me wrong.)

    also… i’m going away from this blog post with a new favorite word: “dimbullbs”


  2. carlacthompson said

    It’s good to hear this, Matt, so thanks. I knew I was late in weighing in but had to for two reasons: too many voices who weren’t there chiming in (or were in the overflow and not able to gauge the crowd vibe) and too much venom flowing, with the basic issue getting lost.

  3. […] Media, SXSW Earlier today, my business partner Mike Sigal and I had a robust discussion about Carla’s post on the Sarah Lacy kerfuffle at SXSW on Sunday. Neither defending nor attacking Lacy, Mike asked […]

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