Doc Cooks a Pancake

Doc Searls posted today a much clearer, first hand version of what I tried to say the other night about those brave souls (be they A-Listers or not) who stood up for Dave Winer in the face of his unpopular (be they justified or not) actions and the blogonslaught that followed.

I’m sure Doc will take even more abuse than I did (via Comments and particularly email), but Doc’s post is example number 1 of someone looking beyond a person’s faults (which Doc admits Dave has) and at the bigger picture.

catboxingI don’t know who’s right or who’s wrong in the OPML mess. I don’t know Rogers Cadenhead, though from reading his blog he seems like a pretty nice fellow. Few would accuse Dave of being a nice fellow. But whatever the story is, it goes way beyond one letter from some lawyer and a couple of blog posts.

The fact that I’d rather hang out with Rogers (and, for the record, I would) does not make him 100% right and Dave 100% wrong. The truth is almost always somewhere in between. That’s for someone with more interest and access than me to determine. But we can’t and shouldn’t digg Rogers to victory just because some of us like him better.

Most of us will never know all the facts. Some of us (myself included) don’t care enough about the matter to try to figure them out.

But let me point out again that there are two sides to every story and to act without considering the other side of the pancake is to act too hastily.

Once the discussion becomes politicalized (and this one was from the first minute) right and wrong too often gets lost in the rush to posture and discredit.

Old Friends and Pancakes

One of the old school, larger than life lawyers I learned from as a young guy trying to make my mark in the legal profession used to begin his opening statement for every trial the same way. He’d talk about the way his grandmother cooked pancakes. First one side and then the other. And that even though the pancake looked ready to eat after the first side was cooked, the pancake wasn’t finished until you’d dealt with both sides.

That is a down-home, connect with the jury way to say that there are two sides to every story.

Of course long before my mentor ever got to the courtroom to deliver that opening statement, he had sized up his client to determine how good and sympathetic a witness he or she would make in front of the jury. Sometimes an unsympathetic witness can make even a case where the facts are favorable a dicey proposition.

It’s easy to march into court, be it of law or public opinion, when you have the facts on your side and a client the jury will love. When one of both of those aren’t the case, things get harder. The stakes go up. And you start to see what the lawyer is made of.

I remember many years ago a good friend of mine did something that while technically appropriate was very unpopular and perhaps a little shortsighted in the context of a business relationship. Consequently, he made a lot of people mad at him. Even people who didn’t know him or the actual facts began criticizing him publicly. A few other guys and I sort of shook our collective heads and lined up in support of him, if not necessarily his actions. We suffered our fair share of abuse as a result. We did it because he was an old and dear friend of ours and supporting him, even when he did something that we might have wished he hadn’t done, was more important than the reactions of his detractors.

I promised to stop writing about Dave Winer. Because even though he looks from afar to be in full self-destruct mode, there are at least two sides to the story and likely many more than that. Additionally, I have some friends who are close to him and I chose to stand down for that reason as well.

So when you see a post like this from Scoble. When you see words of encouragement from Doc. And when you see Nick Bradbury lament the mob mentality, you have to understand only one thing.

These guys see one of their real world friends getting attacked. They are standing up for their friend even though doing so will subject them to some of the same enmity that is being directed at Dave. The easy thing to do would have been to join in the bashing. They made the hard choice to stand by their friend.

I don’t know who’s right or wrong, and neither do most of the people weighing in on the matter. But I respect what Scoble and these other guys are doing. I hope my friends would do the same.

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Why I Will Stop Blogging About Dave Stopping Blogging

I can do it too folks. I haven’t already, in any sense, but I can.

Here are the reasons why I will:

1) It’s too hard trying to figure out what’s really bugging Dave. I’m not sure he even knows exactly. But reading a blog that purports to describe a problem shouldn’t be a puzzle-like experience. Puzzles just compound the problem.

2) Everything doesn’t have to be a line in the sand or olive branch. Can’t we just talk about stuff and if we don’t agree, so what?

3) I like being talked to, not at. Old school web sites were at. The blogosphere is at least to, if not with.

4) Mathew Ingram has already got it covered.

5) I don’t think Dave wants to be a part of the blogging culture. He says he does, but I don’t buy it. I think he’s the farmer and we’re the ants. I don’t mind being an ant as long as I don’t know I’m an ant.

6) He’s a friend of Doc Searls, so under the doctrine of respect transitivity I don’t want to be viewed as overly critical. A friend of someone I respect gets the benefit of the doubt in the real world, and so should it in the blogosphere.

7) I’m sort of paranoid too, so we’re not good for each other.

8) I don’t want to pile on, even if I sort of agree that a lot of us (and I include me in us) tend to take ourselves a bit too seriously, given that most people have never heard of us and most of the ones who have think we’re nerds. I realize that Dave is far more than just some blogger in the vast blogosphere, but, his accomplishments notwithstanding, he is, at least for now, a blogger in the vast blogosphere.

9) Maybe all the erie silence will bring Scoble back to Memeorandum. Reading RSS feeds and reading memetrackers don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

10) And of course, if he quits blogging, there won’t be anything new to try to decipher and write about.

I’ve said it here many times. I read Dave’s blog every day and I enjoy his directness. I’m not trying to pile on or be critical of him as a person in any way. I am talking about the act of walking away, not the person doing the walking.

The blogosphere is a big sandbox, not a classroom. When the teacher wanders onto the playground, the sandbox is still the sandbox. The only question is do you jump in and have fun or walk away shaking your head.

Blogospat II: When Geeks Attack

catboxingSo Dave Winer says there are too many blogospats and calls out Nick Carr for being snarky. I don’t know what snarky means and I’m not interested enough in learning an unnecessary synonym to go look it up, but I don’t think it’s a compliment.

I seem to either wildly disagree or wildly agree with whatever Nick writes, and he may be as smart as his bio. Once again, I’m not interested enough to try to figure it out. I find smartness for smartness sake profoundly boring. But clearly he got under Dave’s skin like an imaginary advisory board.

Dave then goes on to dump on Memeorandum because there are too many stupid people posting there. So Dave is mad at Nick who might be really smart for posting stupid things on a site that used to be the exclusive realm of smart people until all the newbies “arrived (and arrived and arrived and on and on).”

It’s very confusing, but then I’m one of the stupid newbies, so that’s not surprising. But I jumped to Scoble’s defense in yesterday’s blogospat, so I guess Dave needs one of those shirts that says “I’m with Stupid.”

Then Scoble reads Dave’s words of wisdom and decides to take a Memeorandum break in favor of RSS feeds because reading feeds from smart people lets you learn about the Hubble telescope and get smarter.

And then Scoble says smart people in his RSS feeds “could give a f**k about all the traffic.” I need to get to Bloglines quick because I’m feeling stupider by the minute. Fish don’t care about water either, at least until it dries up.

By my count most of the bloggers who wrote about yesterday’s blogospat were solidly on Scoble’s side. I don’t think you can avoid people who use the so called “Dvorak approach” (though proving for the third time in one post that I’m stupid, I like to read John’s stuff). That sort exists in the real world and perhaps in even greater quantities in the remote blogosphere. If you have any sort of a profile, unfair and unfounded criticism comes with the territory. But as long as you believe you’re doing the right thing and as long as you have people (even stupid ones) in your corner, you just ignore all the foolishness.

Smart is like pretty- it is as it does.

I think all this fighting over who knows more about tech, or whose nerd camp is better or whose IQ is only 145 is silly- and I’m a geek. I can’t imagine how it looks to a regular person who happens by.

But look on the bright side. If someone wanted to kick it old school, without being bothered by all these newbies, a few more blogospats ought to do the trick.

In a Word, No

Are we men or are we children- that is this morning’s question.

inawordnoBecause the little blogospats that are popping up all over the blogosphere sound more like my kids fighting over a Polly Pocket than anything resembling reasoned conversation.

Roy Schestowitz, all worked up because Scoble can’t build a computer out of wood and pine sap, comes up with a sentence that would make Andrew Keen proud:

Scoble only understands computers as a user, rarely realising the underlying issues in depth.

Then he spends a couple of paragraphs bashing the crap out of Scoble without a hint of support or reasoned discussion.

Roy, while I did build the computer I’m writing this on (but not with wood and sap), and while I did write software back in the day, I also learned a little about conversation and debate somewhere along the way. And here’s something right out of Persuasion 101: the second you stop talking about the issue and start attacking your opponent, you have lost. Game over.

It’s the oldest trick in the book: I can’t win on the facts so I’ll just call him names. Give me back my Polly Pocket, you meanie!

Once that happens, even if you’re right, you’re still wrong (cue Dave Winer to give me the existentialists’ view on being right).

Of course in this case you’re not right.

Saying that Scoble is not fit to talk about technology is like saying a librarian is not competent to talk about books. Not to mention the fact that if Scoble isn’t fit to talk about tech, then we better go ahead and shut down the blogosphere, because neither are any of the rest of us.

There’s saying something really wrong, and then there’s just wrong.

Otis Redding and Battle Over RSS

But the soft words
That are spoke so gently, yeah
It makes it easier, easier to bear…
-Otis Redding

I’ve been mildly following the great RSS debate, mostly via Mathew Ingram‘s posts. It seems Dave Winer and some other people involved in the development of RSS are fighting. I can’t tell who’s right, but it makes for some interesting reading.

I actually emailed Dave and asked for permission to email him a few short questions, like I do in preparation for many articles here. But he never responded (of course), so I’ll have to try to figure all of this out second hand.

On the one hand, Dave seems to share my skepticism about advisory boards. Put a check in his column.

On the other hand, either the other side is so off in left field that Dave has thrown up his hands or Mathew’s correct when he says Dave needs to take the Otis Redding approach and Try a Little Tenderness. Pending further review, I’m going to have to put a check in the other column for unnecessary fighting.

So the best I can tell, Dave says this Advisory Board doesn’t exist (which clearly it does, but its authority is in question), while the board keeps on doing its thing, taking votes and whatnot.

catboxingI’ve said before that I have no problem with people who are direct and speak their minds, even if it means they tell me I’m wrong about something. But extreme directness works a lot better in a dinner table conversation about current events than it does when you’re trying to get something done as part of a group. Whether that group is an advisory board or a board of directors or the human race, if you want or need people to be invested in the process, you simply can’t yell at them and call them stupid. Even if they deserve it.

I’m not interested enough in this squabble to try to figure out who’s right and who’s wrong.

But I will say this Dave. Sometimes you can be right and still be wrong.

If you’re not careful, the issue will become one about personalities as opposed to issues. Once that happens, all that will matter to the sides is attacking the other and absolutely nothing will get done.

So let’s all sing a little Otis, shall we?

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