The technology journalist Kara Swisher likes to call herself Sherlock Homo, but on a spring evening in Austin, where she’d come for the SXSW Interactive conference, she wasn’t following any particular trail of clues. Padding through the crowd on the second floor of Perry’s Steakhouse, where a venture-capital firm and a money-management firm were throwing a party, she’d chatted briefly with Steve Case, founder of AOL, who greeted her with the wary intimacy one might show a pit bull of uncertain loyalty.

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