Bad Taste

Carr

“The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.” — John Dewey (1859 – 1952)

I’m doing what Paul Carr probably should have done: venting my thoughts on the latest episode of the TechCrunch / AOL mess on my personal blog rather than (ab)using TechCrunch’s platform and audience to get as much attention as possible.

And attention he got plenty alright.

My colleague MG Siegler hits the nail on the head: Carr’s public resignation from TechCrunch, on TechCrunch, was an ill-timed, sleazy move. Please note that I say that with the utmost respect for Carr, who I think is a phenomenal writer/author and whom I personally have no problem with whatsoever. Keep this in mind.

You won’t often catch me saying this about anything that gets published on TechCrunch, but that post should have absolutely gone on his personal blog / website, or perhaps those words should have been written only in his mind. I’ve thought about it all day, and my opinion is that it was not the right thing for him to do.

Even without considering how it could damage Erick or TechCrunch as a whole, it somehow still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

He’s been an amazing contributor to the site, but let me be clear on this: TechCrunch does not need Paul Carr to thrive (I wish him godspeed, though).

As Carr himself noted, his role at the blog wasn’t his “real job” or main source of income, so it’s undoubtedly an easier decision for him to make than the rest of the staff, myself included. I suspect Carr has wanted to leave TechCrunch for a while now, and I simply don’t understand why he needed to depart this particular, undignified way.

Clearly, Carr has an ax to grind with Erick, but whether he is right or wrong – for the record, I still don’t know shit, and it’s not for lack of trying to learn – that was definitely not a classy thing to do. I can only hope he realizes that some day.

I’m sure Carr also knew that nailing Erick to the cross in such a visible way would result in a lot of hand-wringing and schadenfreude over at our competitors’ offices, as well as with certain observers. He fed the trolls with his eyes wide open, in other words.

As I wrote earlier this week, I have a great professional relationship with Erick Schonfeld, and as far as I’m concerned, he has what it takes to be a worthy editor for TechCrunch. I’ll leave in the middle if Erick’s response to Carr’s post was inappropriate, as Siegler calls it, because I don’t know what I would have done if I were in his shoes last night.

Then again, I don’t know much about anything that has happened, at this point.

But more about that later.

Another thing I wanted to add:

Siegler writes that AOL hasn’t yet reached out to him about this whole mess. What a shocker. I have been working for AOL for nearly 12 months now and I’ve never – not once – heard from anyone at AOL apart from some HR staffers to get my contract switched over (which took them 9 months, yes months, but that’s a different story for another day).

AOL clearly doesn’t care about TechCrunch and the people that have built it as much as they probably should, but that’s just one of the struggling Internet giant’s many, many issues.

One of these days, I’ll write about TechCrunch’s comparatively few, yet still major issues.

(Photo credit goes to Richard Moross at Flickr)

The Problem With TechCrunch

Which brings me to TechCrunch’s big problem, as I perceive it.

What bugs me most about working at TechCrunch specifically, and what I think is its single biggest problem, is the lack of internal communication within the company. If TechCrunch ever had but a single flaw, that is it. And I’ve tried to tell Mike, Erick and Heather. Several times.

Excuse me if I offend anyone, but TechCrunch is decidely not a team effort. It’s a bunch of loosely joint, awesome bloggers doing some really good reporting on the tech space from different spaces, and with varying personal interests.

But I’ve worked for TechCrunch for nearly 3 years now, albeit remotely, and I can’t say there’s much actual collaboration going on behind the scenes from what I can see. That goes for editorial output, strategy, website development and other things (i.e. the site’s redesign). More often than not, it feels like everyone’s kind of working on his own thing most of the time.

I’m not a fan of meetings, over-the-top editorial guidelines and ridiculous policies either, but some internal communication from time and time could certainly remove a ton of daily and general friction.

That’s just the way it is, and it’s quite amazing that TechCrunch still manages to kick so much ass despite in spite of this issue. Of course, perhaps it’s thanks to this combination of individuals doing their own thing that we’ve gotten so incredibly good at this game, although I don’t see how a little more ‘working together’ would do any harm.

Donald Trump once wrote: “Show me someone without an ego, and I’ll show you a loser.” I hope he’s not right, but I fear he may be when it comes to professional tech reporting.

You know those internal memos from a company’s management that always seem to find their way into reporters’ hands? Well, in this case, I wish I’d gotten a few such memos in the past two weeks (and before that), preferably before they inevitably leaked.

I had to read other publications to learn TechCrunch was being acquired by AOL; that Michael Arrington was starting a venture fund; how AOL, AOL Ventures and Arianna Huffington felt about that; that Mike was eventually fired from TechCrunch/AOL, that Mike is starting a new blog, and that he had some issues with what Erick wrote in his post announcing the TC Disrupt SF 2011 finalists.

My phone is always on, I check email pretty much around the clock, and I’m always on Yammer (the software tool that should be our team communication and collaboration enabler but often doesn’t work, or isn’t properly used internally) and Skype when I’m online. You have to wonder why I still don’t know what happened behind the scenes, and resulted in Mike and Paul departing the company. It would have been so easy to inform me (and the rest of the team) by now.

Even if things get cleared up for me eventually, either through personal conversations with Mike, Erick and Heather or by them making public statements, it all leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

When your powers that be decide that you’re not supposed to get any information before it gets published elsewhere, it makes you feel almost negligible, certainly not ‘part of a team’ and not important enough to be kept in the loop. Intentional or not, that’s how I feel sometimes.

The kind of feelings you don’t want people to have at a company that’s going through a rough phase. I’m not saying that this will eventually be the TechCrunch’s downfall, but it’s a problem that needs to be fixed if we want to maintain our leading position.

(For the record, I’m not going anywhere. I love TechCrunch.)

 

Twitter bug may result in a lot of new followers for @false

A JS bug in Twitter’s code redirects visitors to user @false.

Here’s how it works:

1) Go to search.twitter.com but make sure you’re logged out of Twitter

2) Enter a search query (example: 42)

42

3) You should land on the ‘Most relevant’ tab. Click on ‘All Tweets’ instead.

4) Now click on ‘Tweets with links’ and see what happens.

422

False

(Bug discovered by Mallikarjun Reddy and sent to Twitter)

Thank you, Michael @Arrington

Unpaid

Almost a year ago, TechCrunch, the phenomenal technology business news blog I’ve been writing for almost three years now, was acquired by AOL. Fast forward to today, and Michael Arrington (who I assume you know as the founder of TechCrunch) has “decided” to move on and leave the blog to focus on his brand new venture capital fund, the awfully named CrunchFund.

Obviously, if you’ve been reading tech and media blogs and news sites in the past few weeks (all hail Techmeme), you’ll know that a whole lot has happened at TechCrunch and AOL, with protagonists Tim Armstrong, Arianna Huffington and Arrington almost continually in the spotlights for various reasons.

Chances are you know more than or at least as much as I do, in fact. Unfortunately, what I’ve always found TechCrunch to be one of its few but major flaws, internal communication, or rather the lack thereof, is still very much a problem today.

In essence, I still don’t know what went down exactly, and I can only hope to learn at some point. I happen to think TechCrunch kind of owes me that much. It’s extremely frustrating knowing a lot of insidery stuff about the companies we cover, as well as what goes on at other blogs, but to not have a clue what goes on at your employer. Especially when some ‘quality’ reporters seem hell-bent on mischaracterizing the situation and the people involved – you know who you are, you “fair, balanced and ethical” journalists. Bah.

I feel like I have a lot more to say about this, and many stories to share about the three years I’ve spent writing for TechCrunch, but I’m keeping all that for future days.

I also didn’t feel much like posting about it on TechCrunch during the whole ordeal.

First, I’d like to congratulate Erick Schonfeld for his new position as editor-in-chief of TechCrunch. He’s always been my editor-in-chief anyway, so I doubt anything will change now or in the near future, but I just wanted to say I’m very glad to see him taking the full reins instead of leaving in the midst of uncalled-for drama.

Make no mistake: the man is a class act.

Second, I would like to tell Mike Arrington once and for all that I’m extremely grateful for giving me a chance to write for TechCrunch, a blog I have long been an enormous fan of, to this day, and for teaching me a lot (consciously and subconsciously).

Fuck the haters. Mike is an extraordinary person with a great sense of humor, and even though we’ve never really interacted all that much over the years (mostly because I only bother him when it’s really necessary, and vice versa, and because I live in a completely different timezone, on a different continent), I admire what he’s built and how he built it. I’m in awe of him for how he changed the game and for his ability to keep focus.

There is much people can learn from him, and while I have my doubts that starting a VC fund was the best decision for him to make, I’m sure he’ll do well and teach many people how the world works with his no-bullshit style along the way.

Fuck you, whoever screwed him in the past two weeks, too. My hope is Mike starts a new blog (perhaps as an ‘unpaid blogger’, which is sort of how he started out with TechCrunch) or writes a book some day to call out the people who’ve stabbed him in the back once and for all. If only so I would know what went down as well. 🙂

A lot of people say nobody needs to feel sorry for Mike, since he’s made a lot of money with TechCrunch, its conference business and the AOL acquisition and should have known what was coming, but these people do not understand what it’s like to build something and then have it taken away by others. They also clearly don’t know Mike, who is definitely a more emotional human being than most people give him credit for.

I like telling people how I remember getting hired, but I’ve never actually blogged about it, so here goes:

I was one of the writers that got severely burned in the Blognation debacle back in 2007, and after that I wanted nothing to do with the tech blogging scene anymore, instead doing some consulting for companies who wanted to learn more about social media, as well as some startups.

Somehow, the writing bug in me at some point made me ask the guys who ran The Next Web, then a relatively unknown tech blog but now easily one of the best in the business, if I could blog for them a bit. I remember I actually wanted to do it for free but ended up asking something like 250 euros per month just to cover some expenses.

So I enjoy myself, break some stories (I’ve always been more reliant on speed than ‘working sources’ but this has worked for me tremendously well, and it still does) and finally tease Arrington – who I got to know, ironically, because of the whole Blognation drama – in a Skype chat that he’s getting slow and that there will be a day where he’ll be forced to hire me.

One day, not too long after, that’s exactly what he does. He says something like “dude, stop breaking stories on TNW and come blog for us instead, ok?”.

The next day, I received a username and password for WordPress, our CMS, and I remember asking for an editorial guideline of some sort. His response was something to the effect of “dude, just blog”. So I did, hehe.

Erick ended up really teaching me the ropes, but it was Mike who gave me a shot. I only learned later, from Erick, that they were actively looking for a writer in Europe to keep the blog alive when the writers in the United States were asleep. I had no idea.

I never had to really apply for the job, or send in some test articles or anything. For all I know, it was a spontaneous decision on their and my part, it all went down extremely fast, and from day one I enjoyed a tremendous amount of freedom and independence with regards to editorial.

So thank you, Michael Arrington, for taking me on and letting me be part of the ride.

TechCrunch will still rock and continue to embarrass the older, ‘more established’ publications and the reporters who actually believe they are more ethical than you are – on a daily basis. But TechCrunch will never, ever be the same again without you.

(Picture courtesy of Flickr user Kevin Krejci)