SXSWi: Serious fun, with some disasters

March 10, 2008 Filed under: Facebook

So far, the word from Austin has been this: SXSWi is 100% about fun -- but serious fun. Oh, and one big train-wreck. Described as "Spring Break, for Geeks," SXSWi has gained notoriety over the years as a launch-pad for products (last year Twitter was the break-out), an incubator for partnerships (my company, BricaBox, will walk away with several in the works), and week of avoiding hangovers (there at least 3 fully-sponsored parties each night).

Perhaps most emblematic of SXSWi culture has been NYC's own Gary Vaynerchuk, of WinelibraryTV. Gary has been behind some of the biggest parties (see this), been included in some of the most important keynotes (legendary Kathy Sierra brought a clearly humbled Vaynerchuk on stage for her session), and been leading brainstorming sessions with the industry's biggest (sitting on the knoll outside the Convention Center with his friends from Pownce (and Digg) Gary said, "This is how we're going to make Pownce blow up...").

And, out of all the proclamations for "who's this year's Twitter," my guess is that Gary Vaynerchuk himself has blown up (and scaled better) than any other brand or service this year. Seemingly everyone here is wearing a WLTV wristband or sticker, thanks to a posse of fans and followers handing out schwag (led by little brother and protege AJ Vaynerchuk).

In other events here, the "most memorable" award goes to BusinessWeek (and occasional SAI) contributor Sarah Lacy's train-wreck of an interview of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg.

Taking a day to reflect on the disaster, it's clear that the events unfolded as they did due to an unfortunate combination of interview/interviewee styles (Sarah leads and Mark only answers direct questions), the crowd's premeditated impatience with both Lacy and Zuck's styles, and question after question geared towards the wrong audience (SXSWi insiders already know the answer to "So, Mark: Beacon, WTF?"). The ensuing back-and-forth between Lacy and crowd was so uncomfortable many people left the keynote.

Of course, it must be noted that how each of the implicated responded largely sealed the deal for how this interview will go down in history . Zuckerberg planned a "redo" Q&A for Monday, while Lacy laid 100% of the blame on SXSWi attendees -- an act that will clearly not go un-remembered in this community.

In the end, SXSWi has proved itself both enjoyable and eventful. While the week may not be the most productive, it is most definitely THE necessary event for folks in the web-tech world.

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