My Photo


« The Future of Social Networks (Charlene Li, Forrester Research, @ GSP West) | Main | TechCrunch: Your SXSW Twitter-Embedded Reporter: "Here's what i think..." »

Sunday, March 09, 2008


martin english

Hi Dave,
You migh twant to have a look at the downloadSquad view of the interview at

Money Quote:
"Suffice to say, the most apt description of the entire hour long interview of nothingness (we learned that Facebook will be launching in French, everything else was a rehash of every interview or article about Zuckerberg and/or Facebook written in the last year) was b5media's Aaron Brazell's heckle, upon the first mention of advertising, "Beacon sucks." (Full disclosure: I told Brazell I would pay him $20 if he yelled that out)"

David Spark

I wasn't there, but I can see geeks attacking her like vultures. It's in their DNA to complain.

But I had a different take on it for Sarah and anyone else in a situation where they lose control. I used to be a stand up comic and had to deal with tons of very difficult crowds. So I wrote this post.

How to deal with rough crowds: A stand-up comic's advice for Sarah Lacy

martin english

Apart friom the childish fonts and language ... (i'd send my boys to their room for that NFF phrase) ....

Considering that it was an FB planned and prepared PR exercise, one has to wonder whether this outrage of yours was the intended outcome.

PS re the Geek Cred BS..... I can spell antidisestablishmentarialism in the snow.

Rick Snow

Comparing MZ to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates is a wee bit of a stretch, dontcha think? Zuck is the new Shawn Fanning until he proves otherwise. That's not a knock either -- SF is/was a smart geek too. But let's just not crown Zuck yet. He was who we thought he was!


@ dm

If you had any degree of professionalism, you wouldn't
have just posted your resume on your own blog comments.

SL did a poor job. I don't care what your style is.
If the audience (in general, not the sxsw drunks) gains, understands, and benefits from the dialog you produce with the interviewee, you've done it well.

She was emotionally unprepared for this, because she allowed an established rapport to eclipse her primary responsibility.

She's young, on stage with one the most iconic figures in the world this year.
It's understandable.
But sounding like it's a career ending crime against geek humanity is worse.

What you've said above is 'pure geeks only in geekdom'.

And that's why geekdom sucks.
You've got the most socially inept people in the world acting more obsessed with transistors* than interested in other human beings.

You need a mix.

*Yes that was what we call a pun.
There were geeks decades ago.
It was called a job.
The did not see English Majors as Kryptonite.

You were playing with mom's computer at 3.

I was learning from Dad and Uncle who Programmed Whirlwind (before they were blessed with Fortran)

So what?


your post mcclure is that of a total idiot! That you even strained to make a point in technicolour is further proof.

dave mcclure

@morris: you are so completely clueless on the money thing it's really quite funny.

i follow the money? maybe if i was trying to get a job at Facebook, not teaching a class at stanford for little/no pay or advising startups for no money and/or common stock.

zuck doesn't pay me a damn thing to write what i think, and at best the only FB connection is that they're one of several sponsors for tech conferences that i help O'Reilly run.

if you think that's following the money, then you're welcome to the opinion you've formed by shoving your head very far up your own ass.

i live in Silicon Valley and do the things i do because i respect & appreciate tech entrepreneurs -- both larger-than-life AND small -- and the sacrifices they make to try and take a business from dream to reality. i've got the best damn job in the whole world: helping startups.


mcclure, you are a geek cheerleader, but you are not a geek. maybe you were a geek when you were 17, but today you are part of the money obsessed culture of silicon valley that has a hard on for craptastic garbage like funwall. george got it perfectly. there is nothing wrong with any of you guys, you are all businessmen, but quit trying to claim this stupid geek cred you don't have. you follow the money, hence why you think zuckerberg is a deity.

lacy's problem is that she is fundamentally retarded. someone should have had the sxsw guys call up mark cuban and have him bring in dan rather for this interview. THAT would have been an EPIC WIN.

Susan Bratton

This has nothing to do with being a geek or a girl and everything to do with being professional. Here's my take:

The Sarah Lacy Fiasco – The Bratton Perspective.

Sarah Lacy – Here’s How to FIX Your Reputation

How to Conduct A Live On-Stage Interview

SXSW vs. TED – The Value of Preparation and Maturity

dave mcclure

oh puh-leez george.

my geek cred, fwiw:
* started screwing around w/ TRASH-80 in 3rd grade
* wrote a payroll program for my mom's company @ age 14
* didn't graduate from high school
* graduated from JHU w/ BS in Engr / Applied Math
* first job out of school was developing DB apps
* 2nd job was doing DB optimization / SQL programming
* 3rd job was writing windows apps / SQL back-end, consulting for MSFT / Intel
* started an internet / ecom consulting co in '95, acquired in '98
* ran the PayPal Developer Network program at PayPal/eBay from 2001-2004
* been helping O'Reilly run geek confs/events since 2005

you're correct some geeks are happy just twiddling & incrementally improving the world bit by bit, but certainly there are many who hope to make lasting change that makes the world a better place. examples: Milken, Gates, Omidyar, Yang, Brin/Page, etc.

Woz & Bill Joy were certainly geeks, and Mcnealy ain't. but curiously, Khosla is/was, so was Ellison (at least at the start), and most certainly Zuckerberg is a geek.

get your facts straight, and you might have a more compelling argument. or not.


You know who else isn't a geek? Dave McClure.

I've known geeks. Geeks are friends of mine. You sir, are no geek.

If you think facebook is "cool shit that changes the world" you aren't a geek. In fact, in my experience a small subset of geeks cares about making things that change the world. The rest or more interested in printing the weather forecast on their toast or trying to connect an etch-a-sketch to a PDP-1.

Further, Dave's geekdar seems broken. Zukerberg: not a geek (in a frat, owns to many hoodies). Woz?: Geek. Bill Joy?: geek. Scott McNealy? Not geek. Is this making sense to you?

Rhea Drysdale

I missed SXSW in-person this year, but the coverage has been phenomenal. Thanks for the analysis of the keynote. This really gets to the heart of it! I completely agree, how are you supposed to conduct an interview if you aren't intimately familiar with the subject matter? More importantly, the interview isn't for the interviewer's sake, it's for the benefit of the audience and needs to be catered as such. I feel bad for all parties involved. The real blame should go to whoever put them on stage together.


The weird fonts are intentional? I don't get the idea of intentionally degrading the communication of ideas within the context of a blog. I thought communication was the point. People might tolerate the weird typography, but I'd stop short of trying to cast that vice as a virtue.


I agree with your assessment that a more geek-centric interviewer would have been a plus. Robert Scoble, Leo Laporte, or any number of other people with decent communication skills could have handled this quite well. Come to think of it, Doug Kaye or Phil Windley would have been even better, given that both of those guys understand web development at a pretty deep level.

In the age of audio and video podcasting, are qualified interviewers that hard to find? - Tim



Sarah's not a geek - I think you might have hit the nail on the head. She's obviously a hard worker to do what she's done, but she really did not do a good job today.

Michael Bayer

Possibly repeating what's been said a few times above...but to emphasize it: a good interviewer will make an interview work. S/he will be well prepared with a long list of questions in case the interview takes an unintended turn or reaches an awkward moment. S/he will turn an uncomfortable silence into a transition point to something else, perhaps coming back the issue in a different way if it's important, perhaps leaving it alone. And very importantly, s/he will know the audience and what they want to know.

The well known interviewers of our time aren't successful because they are or aren't geeks or sports figures or politicians...they are the ones who know their subject and their audience and are able to make a connection between them. This was a complete failure on that measure.

Ian Betteridge

"He might just turn into Bill Gates. that guy's a geek too, but he seems like he turned out ok"

Have you been to a Bill Gates keynote? :)

dave mcclure

@stilgherrian: i have to disagree, yet agree: you're correct it IS about building rapport. and for some folks who understand geek culture & technology, they can establish that rapport without understanding what the hell they're talking about.

but for most folks, it DOES actually take a subject matter expert to discuss the topic knowledgeably. to your example: it probably wouldn't be very enlightening for someone unfamiliar with neurology to interview a neurologist about brain surgery.

that's why most sports networks hire ex-athletes & ex-coaches to do the play-by-play: because they've been there & understand the finer points of play. same for other news shows where they bring on a former subject matter expert to talk about a serious issue.

not to say that a non-geek couldn't do a decent job, but it is certainly harder.


Yep, Mark Evans has it right there. The interviewer should never be part of the story -- and I can say that after a couple decades as an interviewer.

It's not about being a geek, it's about building rapport. Otherwise every media outlet would need a geek reporter to interview geeks, a doctor reporter to interview doctors, a serial killer to interview the serial killers...


And what exactly is Sarah's "stature?'' Other than act flirty with everyone to try to insinuate herself into the Web 2.0 crowd that she so clearly adores, what has she done journalistically? Sad that Valleywag can't even get its licks in because she's part of their in crowd. So they try to nail the "pro'' press for attacking her. Feh!

dave mcclure

@richieC/fonzarelli: you folks who don't get my ransom-note kidnapper font choices, you obviously have never read my blog before. it's intentional. deal with it.

@mark evans / sean stoner: you folks are missing the point. it's possible other folks than sarah would have effed up too (tho not NEARLY anything like what we saw), but regardless a GEEK would never have been emphasizing those type of questions.

the REASON that so many interviewers have a tough time asking mark questions is because 1) they don't understand the technology enough to ask thoughtful questions, and 2) they keep trying to get him to reveal something he doesn't want to.

altho a geek might still try for #2, they'd at least know enough about FB to ask relevant questions that mark would engage with & discuss at length.

the fact that sarah had no idea about what the technology is about is why the rest of her job "is so tough".

but it's not so tough if you know the right questions to ask.

Charles Adler

I'm sure I'm just adding more noise to the fire here, but perhaps the volume here will to the 7 or 8 others you mention above that were also shocked at todays interview.

Ultimately it was a bad match up. But to one other commenter's note above, I think Charlie Rose would have been a horrible selection honestly. He's a great interviewer, but I think whoever interviews Mark needs to have more pace & patience. He's a fairly nervous guy who's been under a ton of scrutiny for his awkardness.

And to that point, I can think of one possible outcome from today was that I think in general the crowd was definitely in support of hearing something interesting from Mark. And perhaps, with a different pairing, this likely could have happened. The "Geek" commentary you give Dave is likely pretty spot on, but ultimately it's essential that an interviewer puts an interviewee at ease. Flirting, while lightly jabbing and undercutting, like we saw today, was definitely not the way to do that.

Oh, and I believe I distinctly remember Mark stating to Lacy "You have to ask me a question". Essentially she rambled, without leading to a question he could answer. It was very flat.

Too bad.

Anny Randel

Lacy's problem with the crowd at SXSW was not that she's not a geek, nor that she's female (although the hair twirling was a bit weird...). The problem was that she is a poor interviewer. I started actively listening for one OPEN question about 15 minutes into the interview, and did not hear a single question from that point on which left Zuckerberg anything to say but "Yes, Sarah, I do agree with your presumption of what I'm thinking" or "No, Sarah, I am not aligned with the words you just tried to put into my mouth". I thought Zuckerberg did an admirable job of trying to actually provide his own answers to some Lacy's closed questions, but she responded by interrupting him and didn't really appear to be listening to what he actually said.

I also think Zuckerberg did a fine job of politely suggesting (subtly at first, then more directly later) that she ask him a question, but she never took the hint. The audience, however, did take the hint and was very pissed off by the time took a more direct approach. At his suggestion that she actually ask him a question if she wanted him to answer, the crowd erupted in applause (some standing) because most of us were terribly frustrated and had been for the duration of the "interview." Frankly, I wanted to hear Zuckerberg tell us about Facebook. Instead, we heard Lacy telling Zuckerberg what she thought he should say.

I think the other issue that made the crowd turn so ugly was that most of the people there have a lot of respect for Mark Zuckerberg, and Lacy was really quite disrespectful, condescending and inattentive to him during the interview. She interrupted him constantly, she told a story about him being so nervous that he sweated profusely, and she referred to an executive he's hired as the "token grown up" at Facebook. I thought that was a pretty in your face insult to Zuckerberg, but maybe I'm just sensitive. But so was the crowd. So there you go.


Yipes. This sounds really bad. I do feel for the gal but at the same time it's fundamental that the role of the moderator is to make sure that his/her ability to extract information and make the exchange insightful, provocative, fascinating is absolutely, first and foremost, for the benefit of the attendees. I agree with you, Dave, that those who selected this moderator erred in understanding what their audience would care about and then tapping someone to fill the role that was not a good fit. However, as a moderator, she could have done a far better job to prepare; it's just a shame that this thing disintegrated to the degree that it did. Ouch.


I just find her... irrelevant... in the, well, 'geek context'. She was completely out of place and element. She's far more 'good morning america' than 'digg nation'. Why she was the one on stage for this keynote is beyond me. And as a woman I have to say this is not a gender issue. This wouldn't have happened if Veronica Belmont, or Molly Wood or even bloody Xeni had been up there. Lacy was just plain 'bad at it' and, I have to say, this is par for the course for what I've seen of her work.

Even Fake Steve gets it:

Arthur Fonzarelli

Echoing Richie Cunnigham above, what's with the weird-ass fonts and colors? Totally unnecessary, and detracts from the read.

And despite how bad Lacy sucked at the interview, she was the best I've ever had--and I've had plenty. Fit, tight, and *oh* *so* *dirty*!

Steve Harbula

This was exactly as described -- an absolute train wreck to watch. Sarah may have had both a challenging subject and audience. But cutting Mark off, making long, rambling statements instead of asking pertinent questions, constantly interjecting her knowledge of Mark and Facebook into the conversation and being overly familiar with things like her giggling and hair-twirling were mostly at fault for this disaster.

Sean Stoner

I tend to agree with Mark above. For example, I think Charlie Rose would have given an excellent interview.

Mark Evans


I think you're off the mark in suggesting the Zuckerberg interview went pear-shaped because Lacy isn't a geek. Sure, it helps to be able to talk the talk but being a good interviewer means, among other things, being able to get a sense of how to handle your subject AND ask the questions that the audience wants you to ask. From all accounts, Lacy blew it because she mismanaged the interview by trying to make herself part of the story when the audience didn't want that. That was her crucial mistake.

Richie Cunnigham

Hey what's with all the colors, fonts, bolds & sizes? Your post looks my 5 year old's finger paintings.


wow. this was a fun one to observe happening in real time on twitter/growl - while working today. i feel bad for sarah - poor girl.


Thought he was more lucid than on previous occassions... He did well despite her efforts! Note that he wrapped the interview up himself - she just left in embarrassed silence.

The comments to this entry are closed.