Lacy's Woven World Moment


Reading Scoble's Audience of Twittering Assholes on the Sarah Lacy botch of the Zuckerman interview adds a data point--and an interesting one--to something I talked about a few weeks ago in a post entitled Organizing Ourselves. The point of that post was that tools that allow crowds to connect shift the balance and power and that can be a good thing.

The Lacy thing shows the other side--empowered crowds can turn into mobs (I'm using that word loosely here). The technology in use at SXSW allowed the audience to self-organize and take control of the situation. Previously, you might have mentioned to your neighbor that you were bored or you thought a question was stupid. With Twitter, IRC, and other tools a large group of audience members were capable of knowing that others felt the same way they did. They became, in Scoble's words, a audience of assholes.

I think it's important that we ask ourselves how we're using tools. I'm not speaking about some kind of regulation. I'm talking about awareness. Venues like conferences be aware of adjust to this new reality. For one thing, if the audience is going to be twittering and chatting about the speaker in real time, the organizer or session chair better be keyed into their mood. I think it's too much to ask most speakers to be doing that while they're speaking.

Ultimately, this will likely change conferences. Open space style conferences are, I think, better suited to this new power sharing arrangement than traditional conferences because they've turned so much of the conference over to the audience already.

Bonus: Dave Winer has an interview with Scoble on the "trainwreck" at SXSW. Michael Arrington calls the reaction to Lacy's interview a witch burning.