On TechCrunch rumors, the madness of the masses, and my own COIs.

One full episode after joining the Gillmor Gang it seems I’ve caused a massive brouhaha. [Note: The Gillmor Gang is a rambling, brilliant, stream of consciousness podcast that looks at the Web 2.0 world. ]

In part II of the “Argonauts Gang” show I talk about TechCrunch, a very well-done blog that reviews Web 2.0 software. I mention that at a party someone came up to me–and some others at E3–and said that you could buy a review on TechCrunch and that Michael Arrington who owns TechCrunch writes about companies he consults for.

I said “no way,” the person said “yes way.”

On the postcast (the discussion starts at minute 21:30) I say “Someone told me you could buy a post on his site–is that true?” and quickly follow up with “That can’t possibly be true right?”

I was shocked when I heard the accusation of TechCrunch I brought it up more to debunk it then any other reason.

Mike has done a post attacking me for bringing up the rumor–which seems to be going around (and around) in various forms for a long time now–on his blog. I tried to respond over there in his comments but it seems that he limits the length of comments.

So, I’m responding to Mike here.

Mike,

I certainly didn’t bring up the rumor for some nefarious reason. I really don’t consider Weblogs, Inc. and TechCrunch competitors. How do you see us as competitors? We only have one blog that would be in any way competitive with TechCrunch and that’s DownloadSquad: which is < 1% of WIN’s traffic and <.1% of our revenue. Note: We don’t really do the b2b thing any more. The small amount of b2b stuff we do at WIN at this point is for fun and for the diversity of our network (and in some cases things are grandfathered in). We’re more about the big categories now (autoblog, joystiq, tvsquad, cinematical, luxist, etc).

Now, in the podcast when I say “the appearance of impropriety is impropriety” I was referring to the *problem* of conflicts and *NOT* saying you were guilty. I’m sorry you took it that way. I am, in fact, making a very similar point that you are making in your post: in our world–the blog world–you’re guilty if it even *looks* like you *might* be guilty.

That’s a bad thing.

The users of social news sites like DIGG run up salacious stories to their first position without ever knowing if they are correct–it’s the madness of the mobs (as opposed to the wisdom of the crowds). It’s the con to the pro of social news. If you want to uncover good stuff quicker than anyone, you’re going to promote false stuff just as fast sometimes. You win and lose the battle with your speed in the DIGG/Delicious world.

Of course, the corrections never make it to the top of the list. So, the guilty remain guilty to those who scan the headlines.

TechMeme has been filled with Tim O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 trademark fiasco for days. Will it be filled with him doing the right thing when he gets back from vacation (assuming that he will do the right thing and fall on the sword)? Probably not. So, Tim will now have the blackeye of being a bully for the rest of his career. Does he deserve the reputation the headlines have given him? I don’t know, you tell me.

We have this huge pile on effect happening here and it’s the manifestation of “the appearance of impropriety” statement I made on the show. Blogs and social news sites like TechMeme and DIGG are the places where this “appearance of…” phenomenon gels. It never gelled anywhere before. This was previously the domain of rumors at cocktail parties–now it’s the front page.

Things have changed–as lot.

Now, in terms of my conflict with reviewing AOL products the way I handle it is that a) I make sure everyone knows I’m an employee and b) I spank bad AOL products on a regular basis (check my previous rips on AIM and our AOLSearch product–trust me, I didn’t win anyone over with those posts).

The way I keep my authenticity is by being up front that I work for AOL and by talking about the good and bad.

In terms of AIMPages I think it is great when compared to MySpace. It is amazing that it has Flickr, YouTube and Delicious integration day one. Maybe not amazing for a Web 2.0 company, and maybe not the best technology on the planet, but for a big portal to have a Flickr Module in an Alpaha product is HUGE. You don’t see an AIM or MySpace module built into My.Yahoo or Start.com do you?

Mike: You can run your blog however you see fit. However, it *seems* that your success with the blog *combined* with your success as a highly-priced consultant (is that true?) has lead folks to connect the dots between the two.

If I was you I would just be super clear that these are my three current clients and my seven older clients on your site. I did a *huge* disclosure statement for my Sundance coverage a couple of years ago an got a ton of kudos for it.

Anyway, I love your stuff and I didn’t bring it up to slam you… I bring things up on the show that people are talking about. If someone tells you a rumor about me I’d love to know what it is and correct it–by all means bring it up on the next show!

Bottom line: you should be thanking me for bringing up the rumor so you can clear the air about it. Also, keep in mind I assumed you were *not* guilty and said that in my opening statement. I am, in fact, on your side.

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