The best metaphor for the downfall of the Internet economy isn't a burst bubble or a popped balloon. It's a decapitated pig's head with its eyeballs still lolling in their lifeless sockets.
An actual head of a swine shared the stage at the "Roast the Net" event on the second day of the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, hosted by Heather Gold with Web wags Justin Hall and writer Thomas Scoville.
While daytime panels pondered serious, grim topics like "Does Content Still Matter?" at the roast performers excoriated the excesses and idiocies of the dot-com boom and bust, while audience members shared their strange-but-true horror stories about working in the trenches of the teetering Net economy.
At least one performer wasn't above French-kissing the hog's cold lips to get a reaction from the crowd.
Scoville deftly mutilated Dr. Seuss with his rendition of "Pink Slips and Ham." And the Pets.com Sock Puppet took questions from the audience: "Do you belong to a support group for other failed dot-com mascots?" Answer: "No, because William Shatner is just impossible, a total diva."
One audience member confessed that she lost her job when her company installed filtering software to "protect" employees from inappropriate sites. When she pointed out to the CEO that the software blocked the Black Entertainment Television site, but not the KKK site, he fired her on the grounds that she wasn't a "team player."
The humor ran pretty dark -- what with the pig corpse -- but the South by Southwest crowd, which embodied the early do-it-yourself spirit that flourished on the Web before the big money poured in, kept things in perspective.
Heather Gold drew cheers when she announced: "Dot-coms are dead! Long live the Internet!"