Can’t we all just be friends?

Mike posted his thoughts about the TechCrunch UK debacle. Suffice to say, he is not impressed with either Mike Arrington’s or Sam Sethi‘s handling of the whole affair. Basically what happened is that Sethi published a post on TechCrunch UK about the recent Le Web 3 event and about some comments Sethi made about Loic LeMeur’s involvement in that event. Shel Israel has listed some of the "lowlights" that gave rise to the furor:

I’ve been skirting on the edges of the Le Web controversy. To be honest, it was only in the last hour that I scanned through the nearly 2000 posts regarding what happened there. For those of you, who like me, missed the actual train collision, here are a few of the highlights, or perhaps they are better called lowlights.

  • Loic LeMeur, Le Web 3 producer attracts approximately 1000 people to attend, making this among the largest tech conferences ever held. Most people shelled out 600 euros, plus hotel and airfare for the privilege of hearing wisdom from a roster of speakers they thought would be relevant to them. A couple of them attended the event on my personal recommendation. Let me note here that I consider Loic a friend. He was very helpful to Robert and me in the writing of Naked Conversations. He educated me to what was happening in Europe and opened doors for me that have been most valuable.
  • Somehow, and I assume at a time close to the start of the event, Loic got Israeli Nobel Laureate Shimon Peres and a couple of French presidential candidates to either agree to–or offer to–speak. I have no inside knowledge of what happened, but my guess is that there was a surprise and Loic had to make a quick call. he had to decide fast and being passionate about a great many things including politics, Loic decided to take the gamble that these speakers would be well received particularly if they said the word "internet" a couple of times.
  • Loic’s gamble failed. Blog reports on the event are overwhelmingly negative. Among those who gave a solidly negative report was Sam Sethi, recently appointed by Michael Arrington to head up the neophyte TechCrunch UK & Ireland. Note: mike is a friend. He sponsored a TechCrunch party for Robert and me that was among the best personal experiences I’ve ever had.
  • There is rumor (again I have no inside information) that Sam and Mike are already at odds after Arrington failed to show up for the London launch party f the new Crunch publication, sending neither apology nor explanation to the 150 or so attendees at that event. But then there’s the other part. TechCrunch is a sponsor of the conference and Loic and Arrington have an historic friendship.
  • Loic and Arrington are both known to have tempers. I cannot fault them for this. I’ve been known to have one myself. Loic displays his by posting a comment on Sam Sethi’s negative conference review, calling Sam an asshole.
  • Arrington then fires Sam and takes down the offending post.

If you want greater details, just go to Technorati and search the leweb3 tag. It goes on and on and on. Also, I think Ian Delaney, who I previously and incorrectly chided for complaining about the conference,has been doing a superior job of calmly reporting it, here.

The whole story has erupted into a virtual firestorm on a number of sites. Arrington published his side of the story to CrunchNotes and was heavily criticised for publicising what I imagine started out as private communications over email. Of course Arrington’s implication that Sethi walked off with $17 000 from TechCrunch’s coffers only inflamed matters.

Paul Walsh has a particularly apt comment on CrunchNotes which, I think expresses, a number of opinions quite well:

Wow Mike, you just don’t give up. How can you put this to bed by dragging all of this up again and then adding more wild accusations, we had all forgotten about it.
I’m not going to spend the guts of my time going into every nook and cranny, so I’ll keep it brief well, I could write a book on this, so this is brief¦
Firstly, I think it’s unethical to publish email conversations between you and a colleague irrespective of the ill feeling you have for them. As a matter of interest, do you think your other colleagues can now trust confidential conversations they have with you in the future? How will they know that their email conversations with you won’t to be badly misrepresented on the Web for the world to see?
Why don’t you address Mike Butcher’s open letter addressed to you? – Mike resigned his position at TC due to being locked out without notice. As if taking care of his sick wife who has cancer isn’t difficult enough to deal with¦ Dude, you need to review the entire situation, join hands with Loic and apologise to the world for this ill feeling. I personally felt very saddened the night it all happened probably because I knew how dirty it would get. Alternatively, you could stop talking about it and move on like the rest of us.
I have personally witnessed Sam being interviewed by French journalists over the phone and he has been nothing short of professional and diplomatic throughout no bad comments towards you or Loic. The insults appear to be one-way, which has put you in the same boat as Loic; up the creek and without a paddle. In fact, I think everyone’s forgotten about the conference as you’re now attracting all the attention.
Sam didn’t even bad mouth you on his departure post on TechCrunch, which you subsequently deleted. Have you got a specially designed keyboard with a delete key taking up 50% of real estate?
I’m not writing as Sam’s friend’, in fact, I’m very independent I feel quite passionate about this situation because of your demonstrably bad interpersonal skills and blatant attempt to tarnish the reputation of someone who has held a torch for you and your brand.
Sam’s second post which you continue to highlight, was in response to Loic’s insult. Sam’s post was not written after Loic’s apology. Also, Loic didn’t apologise until after you deleted his insulting comment (as a personal friend).
Sam forwarded these emails to me in the strictest confidence after he was fired. I have not shown them to anyone, nor will I (you have my word on that also). So, if you’re going to publish quotes for all to see in the hope that it will clear your name and tarnish someone else’s, I suggest you do so accurately because your post doesn’t reflect the actual conversation that I’ve got in my inbox.
Removing one word from a sentence can change its meaning; you seem to be deleting sentences which is unprofessional.
> That tells me that this was all planned long ago, and Sam took this opportunity to create incredible buzz for himself. At my expense. At Loic’s expense.
This is a new personal opinion that you are now expressing how is this supposed to put things to bed? You are now starting to fling new mud with your wild accusations. I truly believe that you will do yourself more damage with this continued approach. I’d rather you didn’t as TechCrunch has meant so much to so many. I personally loved the brand and the respect you commanded within the community. But you’re now using it as your personal audience.

I see that Sethi has also pitched in with his thoughts and I don’t think that really helps matters. The problem is that when one side publicises his views on a very popular blog, your silence basically amounts to acquiescence. What is really sad is to see how this one sequence of events has really spun out of control. Mike Butcher was caught in the middle of this dispute and has since resigned as the co-editor of TechCrunch UK. He makes his views pretty clear in his open letter to Arrington (Paul Walsh referred to it in his comment). I think this debate has reached the point where it is really a flame war with Arrington taking much of the heat. I don’t think anything can really be done now but to let the whole die a natural death.

Two comments about this event and blogging in general are apt at a time like this:

  • Mena Trott was interviewed by the Times Online recently about blogging and civility and reported the following:

Trott has an interesting golden rule that she would like to see bloggers adopt. "If you aren’t going to say something directly to someone’s face, than don’t use online as an opportunity to say it," she says. "It is this sense of bravery that people get when they are anonymous that gives the blogosphere a bad reputation.

  • Mike Stopforth summed the whole thing up when he said they are all acting like children. I agree.

The problem is that events like these really reveal the negative potential of blogging. Just as a blog can spread constructive news far and wide, it can also act as a pretty effective channel for purely inflammatory content. That doesn’t make blogs good or bad, it just emphasises their power and as Peter Parker’s uncle Ben once said, "with great power comes great responsibility".

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2 responses to “Can’t we all just be friends?

  1. The Internet Explorer team has avatar

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  2. […] I came across this ad on Vecosys (Sam Sethi’s new gig) and it is really funny.  It is vaguely reminiscent of the Bill Gates/Steve Balmer Da Da Da ad (anyone know where to find a decent resolution version?): […]

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