Tossing in the Foo Camp Towel

OK, it was a mistake to use the words Dave Winer in a post critical of the invitation-only nature of Foo Camp.  I agreed with the following line in Dave’s open letter: “There are a lot of people pissed at O’Reilly, every time you do another exclusive event, more people are getting angry,” so I used it as a starting point for my argument.

And maybe I’m wrong to criticize invitation-only conferences.  Maybe.  Some of the counter-points I have read make sense to me.  Others, less so.  So while I am not convinced my criticism is unjustified, I’m no longer convinced it is justified either.  When you don’t know, it’s time to be quiet.

Additionally, whether there is any validity to my criticism of a closed event is irrelevant to the current discussion, in the face of my larger mistake of using as an implied example a self-described ornery dude who has, partly through his own actions, become a lightning rod where some issues are concerned.

While I continue to believe that there are two sides to most stories, and that in Dave’s case, even his valid points are often drowned out by personality issues, I’m tossing in the towel on this one (I will confess to growing weary of defending Dave when he gives me so little help).  The blogosphere is conversational, and to be truly conversational you have to listen well enough to appreciate when you have taken the losing side in a debate.

I don’t think most of us know the whole story about the Winer/O’Reilly conflict.  But I have read enough to conclude that, at a minimum, Dave threw a lot of bombs at Tim. To effect change, sometimes you have to work partially within the system.  The wrong and the right often become irrelevant when fighting becomes the prime directive.

The beauty of the blogosphere is that people from all over the world, with all sorts of experiences and information can discuss, teach and inform- and sometimes tell you that you’re wrong.  Even when you lose the point, it’s still a fun game.

In the meantime, I’ll shut up and take my medicine.

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Thinking More About Foo Camp

Rogers (via a comment and this post) and Stowe disagree with me about Foo Camp.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am deeply anti-gatekeeper and highly interested in inclusion for all in the blogosphere. Some tease me that I am talking my position, and that’s both fair and funny. But my position has been generally consistent regardless of my position on blogger’s hill.

Having said that for the record, Rogers and Stowe make some good points that I want to address.

My comment this morning was not intended to be a defense of Dave Winer specifically as much as a denunciation of cliques and exclusionary tactics that I honestly believe are better suited for kindergarten playgrounds than a medium populated by right-thinking adults. But Rogers’ explanation and Tim’s prior explanation make sense to me- at least with respect to Dave. I’m sure Dave would tell a different version of the story, but thus far I have not been able to get Dave’s side of the story beyond what he posted in the open letter that kick-started this conversation.

I would point out, however, that you can exclude a troublemaker without making your party an invitation only event. The exclusivity issue and the Dave issue are connected, but distinguishable.

Nevertheless, Stowe makes a good point:

“But, candidly, I don’t get it. Why can’t we have closed meetings? Can’t a company like O’Reilly invite a bunch of people to get together and talk about issues that are important to the company’s future business? Does everything they do have to be open to the public, just because they are influential?”

My answer is yes they can, as long as they don’t embrace, directly or indirectly, the implied flag of importance and exclusion that some attendees will proudly fly. To put it in another context, I am perfectly fine with the fact that rich people belong to exclusive country clubs, at least until they wave that fact in my face over and over. At that point the value of the club is not that they are in it, but that I am not.

When a Foo Camp invitation becomes the Black American Express Card of the blogosphere, then something is amiss and needs to be fixed. The card members don’t see it as a problem and so the criticisms have to begin from without. Can that sound like sour grapes? Absolutely. Is it? Probably yes in some cases and no in others.

The other, perhaps unavoidable, problem is once you decide that only certain people get invited based on subjective criteria, someone has to (or more often, gets to) decide who’s in and who’s out. It’s another example of the “who decides who decides” dilemma that I have written about. With the privilege of deciding comes both the responsibility to decide fairly and the opportunity to not.

The question becomes, given the theoretically open nature of the blogosphere and the potential for misuse, is it wise or even acceptable to continue to have exclusive conferences, or should the conferences be open to the public, with the adoption of rules to prevent disruption.

Stated another way, is it better to throw out the bathwater with the baby in the name of a cry-less experience for the lucky invitees, or is it better to address the baby and the bathwater separately?

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Let’s All Grow Up and Play Nice, Shall We?

Rogers Cadenhead and Paul Kedrofsky aren’t buying what Dave Winer is selling.

catboxingI have mildly defended Dave here a few times when I thought he was getting ganged up on and I have also said many times that he often makes it hard to defend him. Just yesterday, I mentioned how happy I am that Dave is focusing on Blackberry applications, simply because we need to close the media gap between the otherwise lovable Blackberry and every other phone on the market. I don’t know Paul from Adam (though I note that he refers to himself as Dr. in his bio, so please think of me as either Lawyer Newsome, Mr. Newsome or Cool Rocking Daddy, take your pick, for the duration of this post). While I don’t know Rogers, he seems like an allright guy and I have read his blog for some time. In other words, I don’t really have a dog in this fight, and I really, really don’t care who invented the internet or who invented news wires or news rivers or news papers.

Rather, I will make three points about getting along in the blogosphere:

First, whether Dave is right or wrong, he is sometimes his own worst enemy. When he writes something like this:

“Over in another part of the tech blogosphere they’re having a discussion about blogs that make big money. I still think Scripting News has the record there, by a wide margin. Last year we did $2.3 million in revenue. Expenses? One salary (mine) and about $1000 per month in server costs. A few thousand for contract programming. Pre-tax profit? Millions.”

That doesn’t just sound like bragging- there’s no other way to interpret it. It’s a “look at me, I’m not getting enough attention” sort of thing. One of the basic rules of human interaction is that someone who keeps grabbing your collar and telling you over and over how smart or how successful they are is bound to lose the argument. Let it go. If you’re smart and successful (which from my perspective Dave seems to be), people will figure it out. If they don’t want to admit it, it’s usually because they think you’ve been unkind, arrogant or a braggart. A pugilistic personality will grab the spotlight from personal achievement every time.

Second, why write in condescending riddles like this:

I don’t share this space with hitch-hikers. I use my blog for my own ideas. They make good money. No point diluting what I have to say.

I can see more arrogance and I can tell Dave’s mad at someone, but I have no idea who. All that a reader who doesn’t follow the story like Jane Goodall follows chimps can glean from that paragraph is contempt. For crying out loud man, just say what it is you want to say. Who are you dumping on? Everyone? No one? Just tell us. At least then there is the possibility that someone might agree with you.

And finally, all this fighting over who invented what and all these little smart boy nerd-of-the-week clubs that pop up here and there in the blogosphere make the blogosphere look more like a nursery room than a place where intelligent grown-ups engage in distributed conversations about grown-up stuff.

Everybody needs to grow up, take a long look in the mirror and stop believing their own bullshit.

Is anybody with me?

Rumble in the Jungle 2.0

catboxingNow that Lee Gomes has taken the WBS (World Blogging Slugfest) belt away from Chris Anderson in convincing fashion (it’s really not about whether the book moved up the top seller list) we have another heavyweight bout brewing.

Mike Arrington, fresh from his all too brief stint as the blog rage eradicator, and having turned in his badge to rejoin the Gillmor Gang (hopefully with Nick Carr) at the behest of the most enraged of all bloggers (more on that below), takes on Nick Douglas of Valleywag fame over some emails Nick Douglas allegedly sent around inquiring if Mike is an investor in some startups, presumably to see if Mike has any secret investments in the companies he writes about.

I don’t know Mike, and I have been critical in the past of what I perceived at the time as a rock star attitude. But I have read enough of his posts to be very surprised if he invested in a company and then wrote about it without disclosing the investment. For one thing, Mike strikes me as an honest guy who, at least most of the time, can still remember what life was like before TechCrunch. I also know that Mike is an attorney – and I know that for him to do something like that would put his law license at risk. Whether he needs it to make a living or not, he probably isn’t keen on having it publicly jerked away from him.

So I would put the odds of Mike investing in a company and then writing about it without disclosing that fact at about zero.

And I suspect that Nick Douglas knows this as well. Which means that he either wrote these emails just to stir the pot a little (one of the many things to love about Valleywag is that it occasionally makes great fun of the so-called blogging elite) or for some other reason.

It’s the possibility of another reason that I find interesting.

Mike believes that Nick may be taking some preemptive shots in the face of greater competition from the TechCrunch family of blogs. Mike seems pretty angry about the whole thing and even tosses out the L-word (libel).

But there could be more to it. Nick told me tonight that Steve Gillmor called him and “advised” him to stop writing about Mike. Nick tells me that when he told Steve he was going to continue to look into these TechCrunch issues, Steve got huffy and ended the conversation by telling Nick he wouldn’t talk to him anymore.

Note to Mike: As stated, I don’t believe for a second that you secretly invested in any companies. But you can certainly find a better ambassador than your once and future podcast mate, Steve Gillmor.

This could get very interesting.

Update: Nick posts some thoughts at Valleywag.

And the Patches Make the Goodbye Harder Still

What do Dave Winer and the Army have in common?

Based on this post from Rogers Cadenhead, they’re both easy to join, tough to live with and a hassle to get free from.

Oh, and they both seem to have a lot of money to support their wars.

Unlike the Army, however, Dave likes Yusuf Islam.

As I’ve said before, I have no idea who’s right and who’s wrong in the OPML dispute, but I too like Cat Stevens. Father and Son being my favorite Cat song.

Bott vs Cringely and My Lawyer Newsome Story

I have a confession to make.

I’ve never watched much public television. Yes, I like Austin City Limits. And yes, I love PBS’s children’s shows, which my kids used to watch a lot before they learned about Sponge Bob and Scooby-Doo. But other than the mysteries that used to come on on Thursday nights, which I quit watching when that guy who played such an excellent Sherlock Holmes died, I have watched very little public television.

So I’d never heard of Robert X. Cringely until a few months ago. Apparently he’s a tech writer for PBS. While I’m in confession mode, I didn’t even realize there was one PBS. I thought PBS was a name for the various public television stations around the country who produce those great kids shows and other stuff favored by hybrid drivers and vegetarians.

But I digress.

Ed Bott came out swinging yesterday over an article Cringely wrote that touched on computer security.

It seems that Cringely mischaracterized some comments made by Mike Danseglio, program manager for the Security Solutions group at Microsoft, at the InfoSec World conference. World conference. Why not Universe conference? I know, why not Conference that Encompasses all of Time and Space? World conference. World Series. My old neighbor World B. Free. Names are the tattoos of the needle averse crowd.

Without going into a bunch of detail, Cringely quoted Danseglio as saying that the best way for companies and governments to deal with malware and spyware infestations is to put in place automated processes to wipe clean hard drives and reinstall operating systems and applications periodically.

What?

Has this guy ever even been inside a big corporate office? Does he have any idea how hard that would be to implement? It would require first and foremost a way to backup everything on every computer on the network. And here’s a news flash. Many if not most big companies store emails and documents on central servers. What they do not do is back up the hard drives of every local computer regularly, if at all.

You can’t rely on the desktop users to know how not to open an email from a stranger that says “I Love You,” so you certainly can’t expect them to know to or how to back up their hard drives. You also can’t explain to them why all of their locally stored data disappears every couple of weeks or months.

In sum, that is an unworkable solution for many companies.

To make matters worse, but much more interesting, Ed busts on Cringely for mischaracterizing what Danseglio said. Ed says, and based on what I read at the eWeek article I’d have to agree, that Danseglio said only that a hard drive wipe and reinstall is a last resort against a deeply infected machine. He also said that prevention was the best approach. From the eWeek article:

“The easy way to deal with this is to think about prevention. Preventing an infection is far easier than cleaning up,” he said, urging enterprise administrators to block known bad content using firewalls and proxy filtering and to ensure security software regularly scans for infections.

Ed smacks Cringely around pretty good and concludes:

If it says Cringely, you know it’s wrong.

I also didn’t know that Robert X. Cringely wasn’t this cat’s real name until I read Ed’s post. Why, exactly, does a tech writer for PBS need to pull a Marion Morrison and create a stage name? I am highly suspicious of anyone who isn’t a John Wayne-equivalent who uses an alias. A handle, like The Internet Guy, The Sports Guy or whatnot is fine because nobody believes that’s a given name. But using another name is just too Dragnet for me.

Also, I get really hacked when someone introduces themselves to me using their middle initial. “Hello, I’m Harcourt P. Livingston,” usually results in me going half caveman and half Cher by thumping my chest and saying “Kent” a couple of times.

Some people have like five names. I once met a guy who had five names and was the IVth. We didn’t hang out much.

All of this reminds me of something that happened many years ago in my wife’s hometown. We had been to her parents’ church and were standing around talking outside after the service. Some guy walks up to me and puts out his hand (now remember, this was a social setting) and says “Hello, I am Dr. So-and-so.” I shook his hand and said “Pleased to meet you, I’m lawyer Newsome.”

As I knew he would be, he was offended. My point was made.

Names. You have to love ’em.

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.