Disappointment in Jason Calacanis

August 13th, 2007 | Categories: blogs, marketing, networks, off topic, search, social media, strategy

Jason CalacanisI’m not a big fan of Internet soap operas or gossip in general, although I do find the odd Valleywag headline quite amusing. In any case, there comes a time when a soap opera deals with real issues and real people. On rare occasions, respected individuals cross the line and push the boundaries. Only at this point do I feel the need to participate in the discussion and articulate my views.

This weekend I attended Gnomedex 2007 in Seattle. Friday evening Jason Calacanis stepped onto the stage and began speaking about Internet spam and disorder. His thoughts and insights were valuable and much appreciated. Having said that, he began promoting his new venture, Mahalo, half way through his presentation. This caused quite a stir among the audience, myself including. Gnomedex presentations are meant to spur discussions and conversations around trends, standards, principles, ideas, and concepts - not specific companies. In other words, this wasn’t the right time and/or place to engage in such an act. Dave Winer called it “conference spam”. I would have to agree with him. So did everyone else I spoke with.

With all due respect, this isn’t the first time I have disagreed with the actions of a so-called A-lister. Late last year, Jeff Pulver pulled a similar stunt that really pissed me off and left me questioning his credibility.

Both Jeff and Jason are well-known individuals with remarkable track records. They are admired among many, and regarded as pioneers in their respective fields. That is why it is so befuddling and perplexing when situations like these arise. These guys should know better. Suspect intentions and profit-seeking motives often get the best of everyone. Perhaps it was their turn.

The subsequent series of events from this episode on stage caused quite a stir in the blogosphere. Jason Calacanis was very upset by the backlash, most notably from Dave Winer - although I felt it was deserved. Dave Winer further expressed his views, only to apologize later. Aaron Brazell of Technosailor expressed his frustration with the whole situation, while Loren Feldman brought some humour to the ordeal.

Let me say this: I do not dislike Calacanis. I was actually looking forward to meeting him, even after this on-stage episode. I think that he is a smart guy with some smart things to say. However, he is living in a prominent role and must watch what he says sometimes. In this case, I disagreed with the way he went about presenting and/or promoting Mahalo. In the future, I think he needs to consider the consequences of his actions before acting upon them. Nevertheless, I wish him all the best with Mahalo and his future endeavours.

10 Comments

  1. Aaron Brazell Says:

    I have total respect for the fact that Winer apologized to Jason. As he should of. It actually was a little over the top. The reality is though that everyone was thinking the same thing and Dave, as a user-minded individual, gave voice to those thoughts. Certainly his attack put blood in the water, but all that provies is that people have to realize their own influence. I historically haven’t liked either of these guys much on a professional level. I met Jason briefly and he seemed cool - if not a bit spaced. Winer I gained tons of respect for just today in his apology to Calacanis. Again, not cause his point was wrong, I don’t think, but because he recognized his own power.

  2. Jeff Pulver Says:

    Aidan, the person who “Blew it” was yourself, late last year.

    You posted an attacking blog entry that I choose to ignore until now that was built based on bullshit and lies from someone who choose to jump to conclusions rather than research the facts. If you go back to your so-called “source” I think you will find out that what do you owe me is an apology.

    My game of “Blog-Tag” that was started in December 2006 was created for the purposes stated: http://pulverblog.pulver.com/archives/006087.html

    I hope you realize that you are continuing to propagate a lie with respect to what you accused me of doing last year. Re-check your facts and you may come up with a different conclusion.

    I’m saving a copy of these comments should you not have the courage to admit your guilt.

  3. Aaron Brazell Says:

    Soap opera indeed.

  4. Jason Says:

    Aidan,

    Thanks for taking the time to write this. Let me say, again, I’m sorry if I offended anyone with my presentation. However, I was invited to Gnomedex to speak about what I’m working upon. If i was told no talking about your projects I would not have talked about it. In fact, there is little upside for me to pitching the Gnomedex audience since a) they already know what I’m doing and b) they are so savvy they are not the intended audience for Mahalo.

    If Chris told me to do a pitch withot mentioning Mahalo I certainly would have.

    However, I’ve been doing the same format of presentation for the past 12 years and have done it in front of tens of thousands of people. The format is typically:

    1/3rd: my feelings about the industry
    1/3rd: what i’m working on in relation to those feelings
    1/3rd: charged debate during a Q&A session where I am brutally honest and forthright.

    Dave’s berating me is just not fair. It’s not what you do when someone is presenting. Berating me during the Q&A, on the backchannel, or on your blog? Go for it. While I’m presenting? That’s just rude.

    Every speaker who went onstage after me was shaken by what took place–no one deserves to be beat up like that.

    I think we can all agree that the Gnomedex is an event where talking about a commercial project is a bad idea. Chris has crafted an event where the audience is, well, vicious. That might be fun for the chat room, but I can tell you it’s not fun for speakers. This kind of behavior will just keep people from coming to speak at the event in the future, and certainly people will not take the risk of getting on stage to talk about something their doing that is cool.

    In other words, you can take the backchannel thing too far and I think that happened here.

    Again, sorry if you didn’t like the middle 1/3rd of my presentation. I think the other 2/3rd were pretty good. :-)

    best jason

  5. Aidan Says:

    Jeff,

    I feel no need to apologize when someone of your stature chooses to step beyond the ethical boundaries.

    1. When you launched Network2, you pulled vloggers feeds without publisher content. Your ‘opt out’ basis was essentially a way to steal content. Is it not fair to say you admitted your guilt when you switched to an ‘opt in’ model less than a week later?

    2. If your “5 things” meme was in good fun, why did it so quickly appear on your Wikipedia profile page? Subsequently, why did your page get pulled? I don’t think I’m the only one who noticed self-fulfilling intentions.

    I cannot attest to whether or not you edit your own Wikipedia page, but I find it hard to believe that any editor would add a silly ‘meme’ to anyone’s bio.

    3. Your team at Network2 blatantly spammed forums and message boards in an attempt to gain exposure and drive traffic. I saw the posts and entries with my own eyes - it is pretty hard to argue against.

    In any case, these issues have been resolved. Therefore, I see no need to continue this argument. Your site operates under an ‘opt in’ process, your Wikipedia profile is clean of ‘memes’, and your crew has ceased spamming.

    I am not trying to cause an argument for the sake of arguing. I am simply outlining the facts and providing the necessary supporting evidence. I know that you are a smart man with a brilliant traack record. You have done remarkable things on the web. Nevertheless, I feel that on this occasion you leveraged your power in a irresponsible manner.

    If you want this to turn into a soap opera, then so be it. I’m not so big on that kind publicity. Otherwise, you can add me to Skype or MSN or e-mail me, and we can finish our debate on there.

    I wish you all the best. Good luck with Network2 and other future endeavours.

    Cheers,
    Aidan Henry

  6. Randy Stewart Says:

    Oh boy, now you’ve gone and done it.

    So, we talked about this at Gnomedex and my intial take on it was the old frog and scorpion fable to explain how I felt about Jason’s self promotion. While I thought it was inappropriate, it certainly wasn’t unexpected.

    I think later when Gregg Spiridellis from Jib Jab I got what the real problem with Calcanis’ talk was and Winer even kinda sorta mentioned it. Spiridellis certainly talked about Jib Jab, but what he talked about benefitted us all.

    First, he talked about how difficult and expensive it was to do original content and he actually put numbers toward it. I filed that under the “good to know” category. Second, his demo of the new service was hysterical. The audience benefitted by getting a really good laugh.

    In the end, setting expecations of your talk, giving the audience something they want and entertaining us really differentiated the two talks

    Anyhow, those are my two cents. It was good seeing you again and glad to see you are doing well.

    Cheers,
    Randy Stewart

  7. Aidan Says:

    Jason,

    Your sincerity is appreciated, although I’ve already seen your ‘copy-cut-paste’ response on other blog comment threads. All jokes aside, thanks again for the honest response.

    Cheers,
    Aidan

  8. Aidan Says:

    Randy,

    Thanks for the upbeat comment :) It was nice to see you again as well.

    Cheers,
    Aidan

  9. Scripting News for 8/20/07 « Scripting News Annex Says:

    […] Înteresting, another guy sees it the way I did. “Gnomedex presentations are meant to spur discussions and conversations around trends, standards, principles, ideas, and concepts - not specific companies.” If there are ever content guidelines for Gnomedex, that belongs in it. […]

  10. Dave Winer Says:

    Sorry I didn’t see this earlier — this story is the closest to how I see what happened during the Calacanis talk. There was also a back-channel, and a chatroom discussion. I don’t think I was “berating” Calacanis (look it up, not a very nice thing to do) rather I was trying to explain what other people were saying in the room and on the back-channel, and what I myself felt. I thought the whole thing about spam in Google was really dishonest. If Google has spam, I don’t see it. When I look up stuff there I generally get taken to some useful places (more often these days to Jason’s competitor, Wikipedia). Given the strength of his pitch on the evils of spam I thought it was ironic, even hypocritical, that his pitch itself could easily be seen as spam. While I wouldn’t characterize my interruption as friendly, it certainly wasn’t unusual. THere had been lots of similar interruptions during the day, something Jason couldn’t have known because he was travelling during the morning sessions and missed them (I was following him on Twitter).

    I have to admit I was also peeved at Jason because before he spoke he misquoted me in a material way about my attitude about comments on blogs, something I get a lot of heat for because he and others misquote my position. I am not against them. I never told anyone they should shut off their comments, esp not Jason. I don’t like his style that way, deflecting the heat that way, why?

    I also think you have to be pretty naive to believe that his feelings were really hurt. He boasts frequently how his Brooklyn upbringing made him so tough. In the back channel after he started posting flames about me on his blog, I asked him about this, but he never responded. How could someone so tough be so hurt by something so utterly insignificant. I’m not calling him a liar, but I don’t really believe it’s real emotion. I think we were getting spammed until he realized all this sturm und drang wasn’t serving him, then he decided it was time for me to stop writing about him, without him ever retracting the nasty bits he put on me, on his blog and elsewhere.

    Sure all this BS improved flow and pagerank for me, must have done wonders for him, but I don’t want that kind of boost. That’s why I appreciate how you were handling it here. Wish I had tuned in earlier.

    To Jeff Pulver, shame on you. I can’t believe how you came down on this guy. I had many of the same thoughts about the way you were promoting Network2. The blogosphere is pretty different from other environments, as Jason is learning (his idea of the blogosphere was pretty cloistered until recently, imho). As Doc Searls likes to say, we fact check your ass here. Eventually we figure out what’s going on, even if you try to put flames in the way.

    This comment was not edited, please forgive typos, omissions, outright errors.

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