This morning Michael Arrington, the iconic figure for TechCrunch, announced he was taking a leave of absence. The straw that broke this blogger-camel’s back was being spat on yesterday at a conference in Europe. Michael also revealed that he and his family had recently received death threats and were forced into hiding while paying $2,000/day for private security. WTF? What is wrong with some people?
I have written many posts illuminating my stark contrast of opinion when it comes to Arrington’s perspective regarding PR people and the PR industry as a whole. At times I find his opinion slanderous and highly discriminatory and his tone usually wreaks of disrespect. I think judging an entire group of people based on the actions of a few to be unacceptable and never leads to anything positive. However, Arrington is entitled to his opinion without having his life threatened. Despite our differences, my heart goes out to Michael, his family and his employees. The only people who deserve to be on the receiving end of a death threat are the ones who have molested children or done something as repulsive.
While I love Web 2.0 and all the power it brings to individuals’ voices, there is a dark side that often overshadows its greatness. In the physical world, you often learn of a nutbag’s level of craziness after he/she has committed some type of violent crime. The very “after-the-fact” nature of traditional media limits the visibility into this underbelly of society. However, the blogosphere brings it out for all to see. The hatred and outright rage spewed in many people’s responses to blog posts can be incredibly alarming. I often think “WTF is wrong with these people?” Their comments are not in response to posts on rape, murder or other violent crimes where one could understand such venom. We’re talking about comments in response to a post about an internet start-up. Even more frightening than the hostile response is that it is not one fruit loop with one response, it is an army of imbalanced people terrorizing the world through their keyboards.
The harsh reality is that this situation is not going to get better. What can we do? I think it is important to do less lurking in the blogosphere. It’s important for people to comment on posts and share their thoughtful, non-threatening perspectives. Nothing could be safer because the blogosphere allows for anonymity if one so desires. More posts from reasonable people would dilute the vitriol that often dominates a thread.
What do you think?
There has been a firestorm of blogosphere/media chatter around the January 20th announcement of Steve Jobs’ leave of absence. The net/net of the fury is linked to Jobs’ ongoing denial that he had any health problems, followed by what appeared to be an abrupt leave of absence. In the 10 days since the announcement, there has been a tsunami of coverage, most of which is centered on outrage and rumors of a cover up. From Dan Lyons unleashing a wrath on punk’d CNBC reporter (which I believed was well deserved) to Fred Wilson’s announcement that he dumped his Apple shares, almost without exception, Apple (AAPL) PR peeps are being blamed (along with Jobs himself) for keeping Jobs’ health issues a secret.
I’m here with a big pin in my hand charged with popping a bubble of delusion. So here I go…the army of Apple PR managers making $60,000 +/- a year had no freaky deaky idea of the truth regarding Jobs’ health. Does anyone actually believe that Steve Jobs really confided about the true nature of his health challenges to a bunch of PR employees 5+ layers deep in his company? Do people think there was a meeting at Apple led by Jobs with the entire Apple PR staff in attendance where he said something like, “Hey guys, I’m really sick but I don’t want anyone to know, so I would like you to lie on my behalf. Are ya with me?!” Seriously, it’s time to take the PR gum off everyone’s shoes and get a grip. It is rumored that Jobs’ inner circle of friends had no idea of his dire health situation. It’s laughable to think the PR people were privy to this info, yet they are repeatedly being thrown under the bus.
What I don’t know is if Apple’s top PR dog knew the truth and then knowingly instructed his team to lie. Lyons indicated something to that effect in his CNBC interview. If true then that would be a tragedy for the entire PR industry. For it is the action of one or a few that often drives the perception for an entire group. For example, it is this “guilty by association” perspective that has unfairly positioned good-hearted Muslims in a negative light. It’s just unfair and quite frankly sad.
For the record, I think Dan Lyons is a God. He tells it like it is and thrives on weeding out the bullshit. He has also been an outspoken supporter of PR people, as illustrated in his contribution to my Put The Turd On The Table Interview in March of 2008. Fred Wilson is also someone I admire immensely. I remember trying to raise a round of funding through his firm Flatiron — right before the internet bubble burst — when I was at Toysmart.com. Wilson was the consummate professional always communicating in a respectful manner. If anything, Wilson should know the guilty by association challenge all too well as VCs often get run over by the same bus as the PR industry. In both cases, I don’t think Lyons or Wilson were trying to harm innocent PR professionals, but I think general comments only adds to the pigpile that already exists. To be clear, I am as guilty of making general statements about a professional group as anyone. I have accused VCs as “eating their young” and I need to think about this as I move forward.
What’s the lesson here? Don’t judge an entire group of people by the actions of a handful of idiots. The world would be a better place.
Have you ever been thrown under the bus for the actions of one reckless dope?
Although moving at glacial speed, the fog is slowly lifting from many Web 2.0 naysayers and they are finally acquiescing that this “blogosphere thing” is not going away. These people were like smokers who insisted smoking was fine as they hacked up a lung leaving a spray of spit in your face. My experience is that many of these people had achieved business success in a day when there was no such thing as the blogosphere, memos were sent around in yellow envelopes and dinosaurs roamed the earth. Their previous success is their biggest liability in today’s Web 2.0 world, because their over-inflated egos have blinded their ability to recognize that what worked yesterday won’t necessarily work today because the world has changed.
Up until recently, if my agency suggested this Web 2.0 naysayer write a blog as part of his or her company’s overall PR strategy, we would usually hear an arrogant chuckle followed by something like “over my dead body.” More recently, however, we have seen a shift. We now hear “ok, but someone else can write it” or even worse “ok, but you guys can write it.” Ummmm…homey don’t think so. Having someone else write your blog is called ghost blogging and as far as I’m concerned it’s as wrong as faking you have cancer so people will send you money. Why? Because it is deceitful and at it’s very core sits a big, fat, hairy lie.
“Ghost writing” is something that has been going on in the traditional publishing world since the day those naysayers were able to smoke in their offices. Nobody really cared. Ghost blogging is a completely different thing. In a Web 2.0 world the single most important attribute is authenticity. Through a blog, a blogger’s perspective, personality, tone and voice needs needs to emerge. This cannot happen through a ghost blogger. And having someone else blog for you is like having someone dress up like you to go work in an orphanage for a photo opp while you vacation in the Amalfi coast. It just wreaks of artificial scum and is a scam waiting to be exposed….and exposed it will be. If the blogosphere smells a rat, they will shoot is for all the world to read. Even traditional media know better. Two years ago, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann mocked Congressman Tom Delay for ghost blogging and the blogosphere spread the story like wildfire.
As PR and marketing peeps, we need to stand united as Web 2.0 Ghostbusters and never support a ghost blogging strategy. I can tell in a nanosecond if a prospect is someone I want to work with based on how they respond to push back on ghost blogging. I believe my personal reputation, my agency’s reputation, and the PR industry’s reputation would be at risk if I were to ever knowingly promote a ghost blog.
What are your thoughts on ghosts in the blogosphere?
Well, it finally happened. I lost my Mac virginity. Sure I had fooled around before, but I never went all the way. It started with innocent encounters with friends with benefits (Macs). Sometimes it was a bit awkward, as I fumbled my way through unfamiliar territory. I touched the wrong things and was embarrassed at how little I knew. Although I found it playful and gratifying, let’s face it, I was just using them for my own self-gratification and always went home to my current relationship, PC. I wasn’t ready to commit and always looked for an excuse. I had been with PC for decades, although being on the receiving end of many viruses made me feel like something was going on behind my back. Even though for years friends told me PC wasn’t right for me, I ignored them.
And then it finally happened. I had an epiphany and in a Freudian move dropped PC (literally) at the Dallas airport and never looked back. I hooked up with Mac as soon as I got back to Boston and now I wonder why I waited so long. Mac and I do it multiple times a day and truth be told, Mac satisfies me in ways PC never did. I’m doing things now I would have been uncomfortable to even think about doing with PC. Yup, one of them involves the use of video.
It’s like I never knew love before now. I walk around all day thinking about doing it. And let me tell you, I have done it all over my house — kitchen table, desk, floor, outside – not just the bedroom. Mac has no problem keeping up with my insatiable appetite. Sometimes I like to be doing lots of things at once and Mac just goes with it, never stopping to ask for approval like PC always did.
I had always heard “once you go Mac, you never go back.” And now I know why.
When did you lose your Mac virginity?