Twittering and Digging in Action at SXSWi

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote talk at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) won’t be remembered because of Facebook. His hour-long interview gave precious little insight into the current workings or future plans of the social-networking site. Instead, it revealed quite a lot about Twitter and Digg.

How so? Journalist Sarah Lacy’s interview style was widely reviled by the audience. Occasional heckling turned into real-time commentary on Twitter. As Leslie Poston at TECH.BLORGE describes it:

About halfway through the interview, my own Twitter screen lit up like a switchboard with comments that grew increasingly more combative, detailing what many were calling Sarah Lacy’s colossal “fail” of this important hour of people’s time.

Sensing that she was losing her audience, Lacy turned the questions over them, saying

Let’s go with the Digg model and let them have mob rule.

Not having been there myself, I don’t think it’s up to me to pass any judgments on the events. However, I do think what happened at SXSWi is emblematic of how digital technologies have changed our interactions. What Lacy called “mob rule” can be put more positively as crowdsourcing, which if Wikipedia and open-source software are any indicator, is an astonishingly effective way of getting things done on the Internet. Rather than empowering the little guy, the Internet empowers the crowds of little guys. The wisdom (or lack thereof according to some) of crowds has been a hot topic in many discussions. It is interesting to ponder the implications that this has for Digital Natives growing up in a world of crowdsourcing. Does it challenge authority? Does it add to the the pressure to conform and stifle minority dissenting voices? In any case, it certainly made an impact at SXSWi.

Note: Since I mentioned Twitter, here’s a shout out to our twitterfeed too. Most of it is blog action, but it’s another easy way to follow us!

-Sarah Zhang