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Digitial back channels rawk SXSW Interactive festival

Facebooklacy_3Recently I attended the South by Southwest Interactive festival, and have come away with one over-arching theme:

Digital back channels can be extremely disruptive to any organization. Even a conference that celebrates disruptive technology.

I saw this happen in person at the Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg keynote interview on Sunday. During the discussion, the crowd became increasingly unruly, feeling that the right questions weren't being asked of Zuckerberg, while criticizing the moderator's particular interview style.

This was all occurring via digital back channels like Twitter (an SMS-based social network) and Meebo (collective online chat), accessed via mobile devices and laptops. The frustration spilled over when Mark Zuckerberg finally told the interviewer, Sarah Lacy, to actually "ask questions."

It was at this moment that the crowd's dissatisfaction exploded into a vocal revolt, resulting in wild, enthusiastic cheers. The group then turned on Lacy, drowning her out and shouting random questions that they wanted answered, immediately. It was digitally-driven mob rule!

While this was a relatively small example of disruptive technology, I feel it's a microcosm of what is happening all over the web: The peer-to-peer crowds have wrestled away control from large, traditional organizations in business, media and politics. This can take many forms: becoming famous via YouTube without any Hollywood agents or studios. Music downloads. Companies freaking out because somebody is posting negative comments about their product on a blog.

Technological disruption has been going on since the invention of the printing press. It's up to organizations to prepare for this, and learn how to respond.

Meanwhile, conference organizers must learn from this incident, and adjust their expectations for what attendees require out of a panel or keynote.

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Comments

This is a perfect example of web 2.0 in action. We are all part of the conversation these days and that includes all interactions. The internet allows information to circle the globe at the speed of light and keeps us all on our toes.

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