SXSW 2008: Revenge of the nerds

Everyone kept asking for a take on the Sarah Lacy-Mark Zuckerberg keynote interview run awry at South by Southwest in Austin last week. Having weighed in on the subject in Fortune.com, I might as well offer my thoughts.

 My main thought was: I felt sorry for Sarah Lacy. Sure, I thought she could have done things differently, and I generally prefer a much more subdued style of interviewing. But the criticism was over the top and out of proportion to what happened. In addition, she had a notoriously tough subject on stage, one who was heavily coached as well as not particularly forthcoming.

I do also think the interview raised some age-old questions about the journalist-source relationship. Lacy was apparently Zuckerberg’s hand-picked choice, and she has become something of his Boswell. They clearly had some rapport on stage. That’s great for her, as a lot of journalists would love to have that kind of access. But it also comes with a price, as it’s in her interest to maintain that relationship, which sometimes can affect the tone of the questioning.

The geeks in the audience thought this would de-rail Lacy’s career. I don’t see it. She’s immensely talented, and I anticipate that her book coming out on Web 2.0 figures will be a great read and will sell well. And hey: A little controversy never really hurts. No publicity is bad, right?

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