Friday, March 14, 2008

Dang you John Lennon. Dang you, Sarah Lacy. Dang you, Tom Parish. Cough.

When I was in elementary school, one of the teachers at my school (I think it was Miss McCourt) had her kids singing along to the John Lennon song "Power To The People." If you don't recall the song, it was a mental shift from his previous songs "Revolution" and "Revolution #1," which were a little more ambivalent about the subject of revolution.

Today, the phrase "power to the people" is understood to refer to the ability of people to make their own decisions without having to go through authorities. In other words, a democracy rather than a republic.

Global Neighborhoods used the term "power to the people" to refer to a feeling that SXSW ended up being controlled by the attendees, rather than the planners. We are then referred to Jeremiah Owyang's post, which cites four examples of alleged attendee empowerment.

The first one has been commented about all over the web, but I haven't really commented on it yet because (1) I wasn't there, (2) I haven't seen the video, (3) I'm not necessarily sure that I buy the popular interpretation, and (4) different sources give a different last name for one of the participants. Owyang gives the correct name - I think.

The first and foremost example was the interview of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg by Sarah Lacy....Sarah Lacy was un-prepared to interview the young CEO, displaced the focus, and a uprising happened online and in person from the audience. They vocalized their discontent on Meebo (a chat room provided by the conference organizers), and expressed themselves using Twitter (a mobile social network and chat room), and even took charge by taking control of the questions, and then spilling it over to hundreds of blogs. Sadly, for Sarah’s reputation has been marred as an interviewer by the extensive coverage of blogs and even mainstream media. As a result, the audience took charge, revolted in discontent and hijacked the interview, later, Mark Zuckerberg held a make-up discussion off site. It’s very clear the audience took charge.

It should be noted that there are dissenting views. Mike Lewis:

I actually think the interview was ok. Lacy’s attitude and casualness allowed Zuckerberg to relax a bit and speak more freely than he typically does. Sure it was unusual, but it was effective. I honestly believe that is what her intent and it worked. We did get a more candid Zuckerberg than usual

But let's assume that Mike Lewis was deranged and that the interview truly was bad, and that the audience took over. What does this say about the audience? Plenty, according to Michael Rubin:

Many in the crowd didn't get the kind of conversation or answers they wanted, so instead of doing the normal thing -- walking out or talking about it afterward -- they decided to treat the venue like it was their living room and heckle. Instead of calling out this behavior as rude, many well-respected A-list bloggers are praising it and identifying it as a new kind of model for moderated panel discussions.

Rubin goes on to link to another example of SXSW behavior that he didn't like:

At today’s SXSW 5 p.m. panel, Social Marketing Strategies Metrics, Where Are They?, most of us in the crowd felt like the moderator’s questions were geared toward an elementary audience and answers from panelists were vague and philosophical not exactly quantitative answers for a discussion about metrics.

Attendees flocked to the official Meebo Livechat page and Twitter to vent their frustration. What they found there was lots of likeminded people coming to the same conclusion. Finally, after 30 minutes and still no sign of talking about measurable results, someone did speak up. His comment basically said many of those in the room were dissatisfied with the panelists and discussion so far, but he was quickly dismissed by the moderator, “I have a couple questions left, then we’ll get to your questions. We have 30 minutes left.”

Because of the formal backchannel on Meebo, participants were able to vet their feelings (often angst) at being disrespected. You don’t disrepect geeks, people. A panel on metrics not addressing metrics was indeed depressing.

So what happened next?

At one point, avenger (I think Henry Copeland) wrote, “ok, i’m taking off my sweater,” and he threw it, hitting me.

Then he wrote, “ok, all together now… let’s raise our hands on the count of …. three,” and people really did raise their hands all across the room. The reporter from the local Austin newspaper looked shocked.

Then it got out of hand, something the folks over at the Social Network Coups panel probably could have seen coming. Suddenly literally l/10th of the room started coughing intermittently…for the rest of the panel.

It was an amazing collaboration by a group given the tools, like-mindedness and opportunity.

Amazing. Here's another account:

The panel hardly touched on strategy and spoke around, not to the topic of metrics. It almost appeared as if some of the panelists had the answers on how to measure, but was unwilling to share.

About 10 minutes into the discussion I jumped onto Meebo. Within another 20 minutes we had about 50 people in the room planning a revolt on instant messaging.

The group planned a synchronized hand raising and mob cough. With about 50 people coughing at the same time from all over the room, it was clear who was in control of the discussion. One of us stood up midway and approached the audience mic and started asking questions, much to the dismay of Tom Parish, who was running the panel. "We have 30 minutes left before questions", he shot us down.

All sorts of dares were put out there, including stripping. I smelled someone's feet and knew this had gone too far.

Let's see what Owyang said about it.

The speakers in the Social Marketing Strategies Metrics, Where Are They? panel, were victim to a revolution in their own session. Although I wasn’t present, I heard that the audience disagreed with the content, statements, and stance of this conservative panel and directly challenged them.

Did you catch how Owyang described the panel? Heck, Alexis Kouros sued someone for calling him a conservative.

And to think that this panel showed so much promise. Here's what Tom Parish wrote on February 6:

I’m going to moderate a panel at SXSW 2008 on the topic of social marketing strategies and the related controversal topic of metrics.

The title for the Session is Social Marketing Strategies: Metrics, Where Are They?

I have the following talented and experienced people on the panel:

Brian Magierski - Chief Development Officer, BSG Alliance Corporation

Michael Smith - Executive Director, E-Business at USAA

Ynema Mangum - Executive Producer and Host for BMC Software’s TalkBMC Community

Rohit Bhargava - Senior Vice President, Digital Strategy & Marketing Olgivy Public Relations

Why are CMOs so scared of social media and social networking? Let’s look at the success of vendors and businesses who have employed these new systems to explore their lessons learned and discover how to leverage social media maketing strategies that will increase business growth for small-, medium- and enterprise-scale businesses.

Attendees will learn …

- What social media marketing strategies are working

- How to define metrics for social media marketing strategies and talk with your CMO

- Why you should be thinking about social media and social networking-based marketing strategies for business growth

Instead, attendees learned something very different.

[mrontemp business] | [mrontemp politics] | [mrontemp technology] | [mrontemp tags]

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