SXSW Twitter Madness


Originally uploaded by andrewfeinberg

All weekend I’ve been on Twitter, calmly watching the tweets come in. Everyone’s at South by Southwest and microblogging, liveblogging, and old-fashioned blogging the hell out of it. To keep better track of it all, I downloaded and installed the twhirl client to see whether I liked it better than twitteriffic. (Thanks to @hrheingold for the suggestion!)

So as the day went on and I kept the twhirl window open I began to notice a fast and furious set of tweets started coming through mid-afternoon. Everyone was talking about this keynote/interview thing with Mark Zuckerberg, the Man Behind Facebook. The gist of it is that Zuckerberg was interviewed by a woman named Sarah Lacy, whose recent claim to fame is a Newsweek cover piece on Kevin Rose, the Man Behind Digg.com. Oh, and she has a new book. Apparently she mentioned that a few times (?) during the SXSW interview with Zuckerberg.

What’s interesting about this story is two things. First, that the audience made the interview truly interactive by expressing groans and disapproval of Lacy’s questions for Zuckerberg, which apparently even he commented on. The second is that it seems that EVERYONE in the room was Twittering it live. Within minutes after the interview was over there were dozens of blog posts, transcripts, photos, videos, and comments on the entire event. But during the event, the tweets were flying. Lacy of course responded with her own tweet, but the damage had been done.

This is backchannel at its height, I think. Live events like this are changing, from local comments on Nintendo DSes during GDC 2006 to David Weinberger’s ever-present IRC chats at social media events, the trend is toward quiet audience interaction and critique. I thought that backchannel discussions had remained quiet, almost hidden heckles, but today’s turn of events seems to say otherwise. When you have a room full of social media users witnessing something they don’t like, all of them with phones ready for texting, it can be less than a second of time before your reputation is made sour.

It’s one of those interesting cultural trends in social media that I’ll be curious to keep an eye on (though I realize it’s been around for five years or so–?). I’ve only had about half a dozen formal backchannel experiences myself and about the same number of informal ones, all of them at events you’d expect (technology-themed lectures, conferences, meetings, etc.). I encourage my students to use IM in my class, too. I have a lot of reasons for doing so, but mostly it’s because I want to give them plenty of experiences to embed themselves in the intersections of technology and literacy.

Everything around this culture is changing. And FAST.

4 responses to “SXSW Twitter Madness

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