Posts about sxsw

Help

Help me with my South by Southwest proposal. I’m not sure what to submit as I’m working on a few things these days. What do you think of these possibilities:

* How to live the very public life.
* A portrait of Gutenberg as the first technology entrepreneur.
* Honey, we shrunk the economy: how technology leads not to growth but to efficiency and an exploration of the many profound implicaitons.
* News isn’t what you think it is. So what is it?
* Entrepreneurial journalism is not an oxymoron.

I need to decide and get one written on the plane back home. Or not…

UPDATE: This is what I’m planning to submit to SXSW today. Thanks, all, for your help. I will do things on the other topics. I sensed more interest in this and think it’s probably the most appropriate at this stage for SXSW (not to mention that my book will be out).

How to share smartly

Don’t let publicness be thrust upon you. Grab it. Embrace it. Enjoy it. In this session, we will examine the benefits – and limits – of sharing. After a brief excursion through history – when publicness was privilege and privacy was privation – we will catalog the benefits of publicness and discuss the idea that sharing is social and secrecy can be antisocial. Yes, privacy is necessary and needs protection. And not everything about you is worth sharing – because, let’s be honest, most of life is banal and boring. But there are many good reasons to share: out of generosity, to exercise power, to make connections, to act as an example to closed companies and governments. We will share the secrets to sharing smartly. We will imagine a more open world. Everyone should come prepared to share.

Kvelling

The real reason I went to SXSW was to accompany my son and webmaster, Jake, as his aide and chauffeur. I was along for the ride. When Henry Copeland invited me to join his panel, I hesitated and then he pulled an unfair move: He told me that I should bring Jake and if I didn’t, I would be a really bad dad. Henry was right. So off to SXSW we went. Watching Jake in his element was, of course, the highlight of the weekend. People knew him from his Facebook programming. And he got to meet and hear some of his idols, the rock stars of the creation generation: Kevin Rose, Matt Mullenweg, Mark Zuckerberg, Ev Williams, Gary Vaynerchuk, Andrew Baron, Jim Louderback, and more folks from Twitter, Pownce, Digg, Revision3. And Robert Scoble, too. And they were all wonderfully gracious to us. He had fun. I was proud.

One of the highlights was Sarah Meyers’ interview with Jake for Pop17, in which she got another of her many scoops, this one about the sale of his Facebook app:

And here are father and son, resplendent in convention badges (thanks to Tony Pierce):

sxswjarvises.jpg

We ate out with my teammates from Daylife and with Lionel Menchaca from Dell; we had the good sense not to get into the line for the Google party; we saw a few premiere movies; we got t-shirts and schwag. A perfect weekend, I’d say.

The last Lacy/Zuckerberg post

OK, that’s likely a lie. But I just got back to New York and belatedly watched the Aust360 video of Sarah Lacy after The Event. Once again, she’s emblematic of bigger problems in our craft: She refuses to hear the feedback she got. Worse, she doesn’t seek it out. This is one of those moment when I see a mirror — a mirror of my own past — and realize how blogging has changed me. Like her, back in the day, I hated getting letters from readers (probably because many were scrawled in crayon, covering sheets of paper with writing at 0, 90, 180, and 270 degrees, and spotted with drool). But with blogs, I had to learn to deal with feedback, criticism, and correction and then I learned the benefit of seeking it out. We hear none of that from Lacy, only the belief that she knows her job and we don’t:

: LATER: Note that unlike his BW colleague, Jon Fine is asking his audience for advice and questions before his panel.

The amazing Gary Vee

I’ve been remiss not blogging about the amazing Gary Vaynerchuk, wine vlogger. I’ve been dining out on him for a year. Every time I discuss online people’s video with Big Media Companies, including Big Networks, I show them Gary’s show. It’s a Memorex moment. From the first second, he blasts them back with personality. And then he blasts them with information and excitement about wine. Now this is what TV should be.

Gary’s on a panel on making money from this vlogging thing at SXSW with Omid Astari from CAA, Nicole Lapin from CNN iReporter, Damon Berger from Revision3, and Brad King of TheDudeMan.net.

He is filled with enthusiastic advice. He says life is a DNA game: You know whether you’re meant to be a star or not. After building up his family’s wine store — where I shop all too often; it’s my store — he was bored and wanted to make online video. He thought of making sports but decided he wouldn’t be taking over ESPN, so he did what he knows and loves and that helps because he has to work damned hard at it.

He’s fascinating because he understands the internet and lives it. The other night, he used it — and 17 cases of shipped-in wine — to create his own flash party, which became the talk of Twitter. He says that even if he is bought up by agents and media (the man from CAA is booking Gary for festivals and he has a book coming out and there are more secrets), he’ll always make WineLibrary.tv. He says he spends 4-5 hours a day socializing and understanding the social web. He even understands platform thing: “My goal is to make everyone around me make trillions of dollars.”

Asked whether he wants a TV show he said yes but he wants it his way, he wants to be on after Entourage and be obnoxious. He says that after being on Conan, Ellen, local news, big print, the biggest impact he has seen is from being in the back of cabs. He wants to be the biggest show over urinals.

The panel as a whole gives great advice to the room about how to make their own stuff and lives. But Gary’s the model. Great panel.

Zuckerberg interview: What went wrong

I want to get video of the uncomfortable keynote with Mark Zuckerberg and Business Week’s Sarah Lacy at SXSW today so I can use it as an object lesson in my journalism classes about how not do conduct an interview. My lecture:

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. Zuckerberg is a man of few words who doesn’t speak often and so there was a great opportunity to find out what this audience wanted to know.

How could Lacy have known that? By asking the audience. If I were up there, I’d have blogged a week before asking SXSWers what I should discuss with Zuckerberg. And if things still went sour with my own questions, I’d have opened up the discussion to the floor with the simple question: What do you want to know?

Next was the way she treated Zuckerberg. I have no doubt that she likes and respects him and that she was trying to put him at ease because he has been shy and nervous in such settings. But she condescended to him, talking about his age too much and about his flop-sweat when she first met him. In a magazine story for people who don’t know this man and what he has done, that might come off as quaint (it’s a magazine kind of observation — a way to show off, frankly). But, again, Lacy didn’t know her audience and by diminishing Zuckerberg it only seemed to insult him and this crowd. The equivalent would be interviewing Bill Gates at an industry conference and calling him weird who fidgets too much and has bad hair, like everyone in the room.

Worse, in her effort to charm Zuckerberg, Lacy came off like Mrs. Robinson. That was embarrassing for her and us.

She pulled some basic mistakes in interviewing. She interrupted him. The first minute of the conversation, he wanted to talk about people using Facebook to organize against Colombian guerrillas — a fascinating story — and she didn’t let him finish, trying to show that she already knew this. The real mistake was that she wasn’t listening.

Another good indication that she didn’t understand that her role was to let him have his say was when she announced that Facebook was opening in French tonight. That’s what he was going to say.

She rambled on to the point that Zuckerberg had to suggest that she ask a question. Definitely not a good sign in an interview.

She was inserting herself too much into the hour. The audience didn’t care a bit about her — or the book she plugged a few times (said a tweet: ‘Can we short her book?’). They were here for him.

When she tried to get tough with Zuckerberg, it came off as clumsy: “Come on, it’s not worth $15 billion.” And this once again shows that she wasn’t aware of the audience. They didn’t care about a business story. They wanted stories about technology and society. When the audience finally got to ask the questions and got tough on Zuckerberg themselves, they pressed him on why he doesn’t have a decent search on Facebook messaging — to which he agreed and vowed to fix it. In this crowd, that’s news.

When it became obvious that the audience was hostile to her — cheering Zuckergerg when he told her to ask a question — she acted hurt, as if this hour was about her. Worse, she told us how tough her job was. It wasn’t tough. It was a privilege and she was blowing it. And at the end, when she said that people should send her an email telling her what went wrong, she was so 1994; she didn’t understand that the people in the crowd were already coalescing in Twitter and blogs into an instant consensus. Oh, if only there’d been a back-channel chat projected on the screen beside her. Then, she could have seen.

After it was over, Lacy did go to Twitter and left this message: “in my book, getting mark to publicly admit to the yahoo deal, address beacon, and give news on changes in the platform and france equals successful interview”

Still, she wasn’t listening. Now, instead of asking Zuckerberg questions, she should again have been asking the audience. Instead she was telling them, NYTimes-like, what the story really was, not the one they saw.

At the end of it all, I have no doubt that Lacy is an experienced and talented journalist, that she respects Zuckerberg, that she was trying to put him at ease, and that she was going after the stories she found interesting. But that’s the essence of her problem: She didn’t stand back and remind herself that her job was to enable a conversation not with her but with the crowd about what they found interesting. And when she failed at that, the audience could tell her, in Twitter, blog posts, hoots from the audience, and even cartoons:

: Here‘s Rex Hammock on the train wreck. News.com’s narrative. Here’s one clip of the fateful talk.

SXSW: Zuckerberg on stage

Mark Zuckerberg arrives on the stage at SXSW and faces a cheering crowd. He looks out and gives them a grin he can’t contain; there’s a bit of ‘wow’ in it. That’s what I like about Mark: He’s out front. Who wouldn’t grin at a cheering crowd.

He says that one of the first things that people did when Facebook was released in Spanish was organize to revolt against the guerrilla armies in Colombia.

Sarah Lacy of Business Week is interviewing him. She asks him about Facebook and terrorism. Mark says he heard a story a few months ago “that’s absolutely unbelievable.” He says that less than hatred, terrorism comes from a lack of connectedness, a lack of empathy. Facebook, he says, has a relatively large public in Lebanon. He heard about students there who maintained connections with people who’ve gone elsewhere in the world and it broadened their horizons. “It’s really profound, right?” Now I know some might skewer this: Facebook solves terrorism. But he has a point. The internet is about connections. Society is held together by connections. They are related. “What we are doing as a mission is a very important thing,” Mark says. “Helping people communicate.”

Next he talks about an organization that is trying to copy the techniques of the NRA and bring the sort of attention it gets to poverty. He’s talking about larger missions now. He asks: “Why does there need to be a big organization to channel people’s voices.” The internet should give them that ability. “There needs to be a solid base for people to communicate, not top down, but bottom up.” That will be built around applications like the ones created by people in this room, he says, and Facebook is one of them.

Lacy says that Web 1.0 companies may have grown bigger than Web 2.0 companies but the latter will have more impact on society. Well, I’d say that Facebook has the potential to do both.

His announcement for the conference is that Facebook is launching in French tonight, a month after Spanish and a week after German.

He says that Facebook is working on a universal need: connecting people who want to communicate. He says that someday everyone on the world will be using these tools. “It may not be Facebook.”

He leads with the mission and then says that Facebook chose to be a company to meet that mission and to make money he turns to advertising and that turns to Beacon. “When we announced that, we probably got a bit ahead of ourselves,” he says.

Beacon. “WTF?” says Lacy. She asks him what he wanted to communicate.

Beacon, he explains, “isn’t even a part of the ad team, it’s part of the platform team.” Rather than being a big site, he argues, social efforts will be a collection of social services, including things Facebook doesn’t build. Thus the platform. “What we were trying to do with Beacon is just take the first step in enabling people to take actions elsewhere in the web and share that with their friends back on Facebook.” And it’s tied to the ad system. If he’d explained and launched it in that order, he probably would have been better off. But I agree that endorsement is a basic activity that can be aided.

Lacy asks whether in Beacon and Newsfeed, there is some inherent conflict between where Facebook is going and privacy. Zuckerberg says he needs to give people complete control of their information. “All the mistakes we made are because we didn’t give people enough control.”

I have long said that the issue isn’t privacy. It’s control. That’s the case not just for Facebook but for the internet and our new very public life. People need and want to be public but they must control how public they are.

Zuckerberg says that “at Facebook, we believe that people are basically good.” He says he’s shifting from a set of rules to a trust-based system. “In one way, it’s setting less rules….. I actually think it’s more laissez faire, we’re making less rules ourselves.”

Lacy: “So according to Forbes, you’re the youngest billionnaire ever on their list.” Zuckerberg: “We’re just not focused on things like that.” Lacy says she loves Facebook “but, come on, it’s not worth $15 billion.” He repeats that he’s not focused on that. “It’s all the themes we’re talking about today, helping people communicate more efficiently, building the platform….” She asks whether the valuation sets too-high expectations. He says “the high expectations are tough but it adds a lot of positive things.” He adds: Revenue and profit “are a trailing indicator of the value that you’re building.”

It’s business.

But it’s also mission. He repeats that he wants to build a platform to change the way people communicate. “How many times do you get to do that? Zero or one.”

Two numbers: The company just passed 500 employees. But it has 200,000 developers. That is the new model of a business as a platform. WWGD? Paraphrase: We believe that the way to build our goals is not to build all these applications ourselves but to build a platform where other people can build applications and businesses, he says.

Asked whether Google is pissed that he has information that isn’t out in the searchosphere. He says that there are different kinds of information and some of it is private and semiprivate.

He’s asked twice about the limitations of messaging — how we can’t search and such. Yes, it’s ironic: He wants to help us communicate better but now we are asking for more functionality and access. Zuckerberg says the original idea was to make it simple. But he agrees that he needs to work on it.

Lacy — who wrote a book soon out that’s in great measure about Facebook — talks about Zuckerberg’s personality and says that after talking to him on the phone, where he’s blunt, she expected a “ballsy teenager.” She found someone who was so nervous his T-shirt was sweaty. He said very little and she told him finally that all she wanted him to do was say more than two words. That’s hard, Mark said. He really is shy. “Three words,” Sarah said. “Yeah,” he replies. Mark has changed at these public events; he is more relaxed and not so laconic as he was (a shyness that was too often interpreted as ego, I think). Lacy gets a bit cloying, making jokes about him being 5 when thing were going on and treating him a bit like a mother. But he’s also comfortable with her and the audience.

Twitter talk is negative, especially on Lacy.

The crowd’s frustration finally comes out at the end when Zuckerberg tells Lacy, who goes on and on about him writing in Moleskines, that she should ask a question. He gets an ovation. She goes off on some odd rant about how he burns them and when he says he doesn’t and that she’s making that up (he’s saying it nicely) someone in the audience tells her to ask something interesting. She gets pouty saying that we don’t know how tough her job is. Jeesh. Someone at a microphone mocks her and she gets sensitive. She says someone should send her a message telling her what she did wrong. All she has to do is read the blogs.

The chatter in Twitter wonders who’d do a better job interviewing him. I’ve done that. It’s like interviewing no one else because he is direct and doesn’t wrap his thoughts in corporate cant. But I’d rather interview him than most business executives I’ve ever met. It’s a fascinating trip into the mind of someone who thinks in new ways.

Because it’s funny

After tonight’s world premiere of Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, a woman in the audience asked why they involved George Bush. Someone else in the audience answered for the stars and creators on stage:

“Because it’s funny.”

Thank goodness we haven’t lost our sense of humor about even him.

harold and kumar premiere at sxsw

I liked the movie. It always helps to watch in a premiere audience, where they’ll applaud even the gaffer’s credit. But the thing’s funny and the political overtones aren’t heavy-handed.

Shot at SXSW

The speaker’s-eye view from my panel:

speaker's eye view at sxsw

A small bit of the line to get into the Google party. Nevermind.

sxsw google party line