SXSWi ’08: Julia Allison on Facebook Keynote Debacle: ‘They Were Just Mismatched Communicators’

‘Gossip’ panelists, from left: TMZ’s Alan Citron, Valleywag’s Owen Thomas, moderator Heather Gold, Star editor-at-large Julia Allison, Shaila Dewan of The New York Times, and Twitter’s Evan Williams.

In a SXSWi panel in Austin dubbed, fittingly, ‘Gossip,’ blogger/online schadenfreude supplier Julia Allison leapt to defend journalist Sarah Lacy just after the former BusinessWeeker’s trainwreck interview with keynote speaker-cum-Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg that was the talk of SXSWi on Sunday.

During a Sunday SXSWi panel on ‘Gossip,’ its poster child and panelist Julia Allison gets her highly personal blog perused in real time by inquisitive attendees.

“Sarah’s very intelligent,” Allison told the crowd heatedly when talk turned to Lacy’s flop of an interview with Zuckerberg a mere 30 minutes prior. What was Allison’s take on the downfall of an interviewer who’s written a book on Zuckerberg? “[Lacy and Zuckerberg] were just mismatched communicators.” The booing audience apparently did not agree. “Well, I wouldn’t necessarily have done the sweating through his shirt anecdote,” Allison qualified to the boisterous room of 100+ attendees, in the talk that devolved from her making relatively reasoned statements to whining, cutting people off, and cursing.

In a rare moment of contribution (psych!), Robert Scoble took to the mike to point out that Lacy was “having a bad day.” Unfortunately for her and thousands of her wired brethren, Lacy’s bad day took place in the most-anticipated portion of this acutely social conference where if you don’t have between two and five devices in hand on which you’re chronicling your every response to being here to the wider Web world, you’ve probably just been mugged.

In response to Allison’s descent from exclamation to whining (“Facebook is a tool for gossip!” the highly personal blogger with 181 pictures there opined), moderator Heather Gold tried to get the answers from Allison to questions we ourselves have tried to figure out many times over: “What is it you’re interested in doing in the world. Are you a journalist? What is it that you do?”

We didn’t quite come to clarity on that one (sadly, neither did Allison, who admitted: “I’m not going to lie — I have a real problem with what I do”) but Anil Dash addressed the room with a pointed response to its condemnation of the online gossip-industrial complex: “We keep talking about this ‘they’ that is responsible [for gossip]. You have to think about what we do. We are the thing we are saying is the problem.”

Gawker’s Nick Douglas followed shortly thereafter to comment in Allison’s defense: “Julia really has tried a lot,” he said, referencing her tendency to explain all the fraught incidents and interactions she’s chronicled in her blogs. “What she hasn’t tried is not talking about herself,” to which Allison hollered an interruption. Of the lone guy defending her. “I fucking stopped! I don’t have a Twitter. I DO NOT have a Twitter!”

As of this post, that is. Developing…

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