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Friday, January 25, 2008

Michael Arrington - Talking (Too) Tough At Times - By Alex Hammer

See also:
Four previous Industry Leaders of Tech 2.0 stories on Michael Arrington

Michael Arrington - Talking (Too) Tough At Times - By Alex Hammer

They say that you can't argue with success, and the growth of TechCrunch is impressive.

But the site is still, relatively speaking, a newer kid on the block (I'm newer still I do realize).

Often it is true that it can take (as one variation of the saying goes) "a lifetime of work to become an overnight sensation".

Q: So what was the straw breaking the back to my view of Arrington being perhaps too tough in his words at times leading me to write this post?
(Disclosure: Arrington is a Facebook friend and I have no complaints at all in regard to how he has treated me personally)
A: This TechCrunch post yesterday by Arrington:
Scoble Sells Out
which takes Scoble to task for changing his stance on accepting advertising on his blog.

I'm not disagreeing with Michael (Arrington: "This isn’t the first time Scoble has run into issues around financial conflicts of interest") in regard to scrutiny of Scoble. I am, however, noting the title etc. of Michael's post given the obvious fact that TechCruch's rise has been marked by advertising (Michael does note in the post: In 2005, when we first put ads on TechCrunch...").

More importantly, the Scoble post is, for me, just a very very mild example in an Arrington trend. Specifically, while I do in fact pride Arrington for calling them as he sees them (as I believe that this provides the type of valuable information upon which TechCrunch readers have grown accustomed), Arrington, in my view, tends to carry this at times a couple of steps too far, waxing vitriolic against those he feels miss the mark. Consider a few recent possible examples:

1) Wikia Search Is A Complete Letdown.

"it may be one of the biggest disappointments I’ve had the displeasure of reviewing....Absolutely no one is going to use this to search the web, until (and if) it is greatly improved....Wikia search would be a disappointment even without the massive hype we’ve had to endure. And taking that hype into account, this product is an inexcusable waste of time."

I do not claim to be a search expert, but I do know that Jimmy Wales is an industry icon (and perhaps even more well known than Arrington). If it is true as Arrington details that Wales' initial search efforts are lacking, I still wouldn't bet against Wales' search product necessarily - on the truism that the best predictor of future success is past success - in regard to the long run. Also, just as an interesting note, by my quick count Arrington has six comments in the comments section and Wales has 3, so perhaps some nerves were struck, I don't know. Wales does what seems to be the smart move when you're on another person's turf, he proceeds gently and after putting forward a few points relents.

2) Michael Arrington - The Fact And Fiction Of Sam Sethi - Crunchnotes

Industry Leaders of Tech 2.0 provided this excerpt from Michael's long Crunchnotes piece:
The Fact And Fiction Of Sam Sethi

""So Sam Sethi, former TechCrunch UK editor, announced the closing of his Blognation blog network today. He lays 100% of the blame for the failure on me personally....

Sam is, in my opinion, a classic confidence man....

At the time it served Sam to say he was fired to get people to sympathize with him. Later, he says he quit, which is actually the truth....

But Sam made some very dumb decisions in the early days of Blognation. First, he booted the guy that actually came up with the idea, Lee Wilkins. It was probably not legal, but Wilkins, who lives in Romania, had little legal recourse. But Wilkins did tell potential Blognation investors what Sam had done, prompting Sam to lose his cool and threaten to kill him. I found out about this fairly quickly back in the Spring of 2007, but didn’t post on it....

Second, Sam said from the start that he had venture funding even though he didn’t. This was even written on the About page of Blognation....

In those intervening months Sam and some of his editors continued to take shots at TechCrunch....

Sam claims that my posting of that term sheet killed the financing, and blognation. That’s just not true. What is much more likely is that the term sheet was a fake created by Sam...

In his final post, Sam forgets to thank his editors who worked for free, or express any regret for lying to them during the entire process. I hope that some day Sam fixes that and tells the real story of Blognation."

Here's an excerpt from Sethi's version:

Here’s to You Mr(s) Arrington, Goodbye and Good Luck Startups (Sam Sethi)

"For the last 6 months Arrington has threatened to publish, private and confidential emails that were sent to him, knowing it would create fear uncertainty and doubt (FUD) around blognation within the angel/VC community, whether the content was factual or not! The merest whif of litigation whether true or not caused our the potential investors to run for the hills back in July.

Arrington had made it very clear that he would withhold this information from the public domain but like the Sword of Damocles he would use this information at the right time. From that point on (yet with hindsight I deeply regret) I decided to keep up the pretense that blognation had closed funding to put Arrington off the scent and to prevent him publishing, in order to buy just enough time to raise new funding.

Sadly someone in blognation sent Arrington an internal email which he decided to publish along with the previously damaging part of the now four month old email thread between Lee Wilkins and I. This spooked the new VC and further delayed the funding process. Knowing that Arrington would love nothing better than to hear news of editors leaving blognation, I chose not to tell the editors the funding was once again delayed. That was wrong and I should have been honest with the team."

There's no way for me, unknowledgeable about the specifics, to even attempt to separate fact from fiction here. But it does seem a little messy (not that life or business may never become messy at points).

3) Hey Facebook, WTF? Stay Away From TechCrunchers (December 6 2007)

"Congratulations to Ben, who will be missed but will do well in his new job (and, I hope, give us internal access to Facebook’s admin system ).

But I am not happy at all with Facebook about this. Stay the hell away from our employees, Facebook, and fill your employment quotas elsewhere. Anyone else, and I declare war.

On a completely unrelated note, if anyone has a lead on a highly negative Facebook story, send it our way. Unfounded rumors and pure speculation are encouraged. Jerks. (Update: this is exactly the kind of stuff I’m looking for)"

I'm sorry, but I really believe that there is no excuse (that I can think of, fill me in if you see one) for Arrington to speak in this manner. Not that it is a compliment for a company of Facebook's stature to be hiring one's employees, but seeking to recruit another company's employees is nothing new (I'm not making a moral judgment in either direction). Arrington is a lawyer and I am not, so in my opinion if he ever feels (and I'm not saying that he does, only making the general statement) that there is anything illegal that ever goes on he should take legal remedy if he so chooses.

Not a tirade with the questionable content above.

Followed on January 11 by

Facebook - Why Not Let Sleeping Dogs Lie?

(I'm not sure what else, pro or con in regard to Facebook Michael may have written in the interim). Two events, as we all know, do not indicate a trend, but it is interesting (I find it so).

4) Shannon Terry Is Pissed Off, Threatens Lawsuit Against TechCrunch

In which Arrington posts on TechCrunch legal correspondence received (I've heard of others doing that, so maybe that is becoming more of a response tactic or journalistic approach, I don't know).

Back to Robert Scoble. Scoble seemed to have been, until now, overall an Arrington favorite(almost as much as Arrington's associate (if that is the best word) Jason Calacanis - disclosure regarding Jason: who goes after me (I like comment #2, no one I know, underneath Calacanis post).

I'm newer to this circle, so I'm open, as I would be anyway, to the observations of those who have seen a few more revolutions in this space.

I'm not jealous of Michael Arrington. Perhaps not to his level, but I have also done well (I wouldn't expect that TechCrunch would have covered my company, it's still much too small).

I like TechCrunch. TechCrunch and Techmeme are my go-to technology sites (the TechCrunch feed is prominently on this site) for industry news.

I'm happy for Michael Arrington in regard to his success, and I hope that it continues.

I'd just like to see him bring it down an octave.

My personal philosophy is (for whatever it's worth) "Don't look for trouble, don't run from trouble". And never be a bully, because there is always a bigger bully out there somewhere.

Michael Arrington, it seems safe to say, is a highly intelligent individual. He has more resources than I do and if he decided that he wanted to take me on for writing this I'd likely be the proverbial "dead meat". But sometimes, if he and others agree, there is more power in picking one's battles carefully. They don't suffer from dilution that way.

A final saying of which we're all aware, "Discretion is the greater part of valor".

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