Little big man

Michael Arrington loses it in the comments on his own blog, attacking his friend Dave Winer, Rafat Ali, and me. This all seems to spring from his odd, fetishistic hate of The New York Times.

The Times introduced a simple little feature allowing/encouraging readers to recommend stories on Digg, Facebook, and Newsvine. It’s not terribly new; Gothamist has a similar feature letting people add links to or Yahoo. I claim no credit for the feature but I do like it and I did suggest it a few months ago; I’m sure I was not alone. (Disclosures: I’ve been consulting for at the Times Company and The Times Company invested in Daylife, where I am a partner, and where Arrington and Winer also invested.)

A writer on Arrington’s TechCrunch reported the addition of the Times feature under a headline with curiously uncalled-for snarkiness: “New York Times Surrenders To Social News.” In the comments, many TechCrunch readers respectfully called them on the attitude. Winer did likewise. That awoke Arrington from his bear’s hibernation and he growled:

Dave, I’m wondering out loud if your support for the NYT stems primarily from their support for RSS and their occasional links to you. As an occasional (but always unlinked-to) source of breaking news to the NYT, our respect for them doesn’t go quite so far. They are in the middle of a war for their life, and they are doing just about everything wrong.

And then:

Sure. RSS is important. But the NYT is an ethically bankrupt institution. I have first hand evidence, being trashed by them at a conference (which was subsequently mischaracterized), but there are other examples, too:

You, Jarvis and Rafat Ali are sucking up to them to further your own agendas. I don’t think that’s a good idea in the long run. In the case of Jarvis and Ali, this loyalty has resulted in outright fabrications.

Fabrications? Them’s fighting words, big fella. But I have the DVD and plenty of reliable witnesses to Arrington’s meltown and effort to bully The New York Times, which ended with The Times demanding and getting a sheepish apology from him. As I said here, bullies always back down.

At Arrington’s site, Winer tried to get the discussion back to a civilized track:


I don’t think this deserves a response other than I doubt it’s true about Jarvis and Rafat, and I know it’s not true about me.

Back off dude, you’re in over your head.

But Dave failed. Arrington continued: “Wow. You are completely lost Dave.”

I would have said all this over at Arrington’s site, but he then cut off the comments, even though they hadn’t turned nasty — except from Arrington himself. Bullies can be wusses, too.

: See also Matthew Ingram’s post and Valleywag’s coverage of the latest Arrington meltown here and here. I’m glad Denton et al drew my attention to Arrington’s snitfit. I wouldn’t have noticed it otherwise. I stopped reading TechCrunch long ago. My loss, missing scoops like “Talkster Launches Presence-Based Service For The Enterprise” and “Jott to Convert Cell Phone Calls to Text” and “Add Text Bubbles To Videos” and “Wordie Is Like Flickr Without The Photos” and “Web App Provides Virtual Fitness Support.” Web 2.0 is so, well, 1.0.

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  • Hasan Jafri

    Convergence in the news business is morphing into a culture war. On one side are talksters and bloggers who pioneered the medium. On the other are geriatric but — to their credit — athletic fogies like The New York Times who are trying to catch up with the pack. The problem is they lost the race a long time ago.
    I think you (Jarvis and Rafat) are getting dirt thrown at you because you’re in the middle mediating. Your calling is noble, but the NYT truly is a tired racehorse. The age of race-cars is here, and Sulzberger et al are still learning farrier science. That’s no reason to diss YOU GUYS though. It’s okay to like old hosses, and – hey – they’re still kickin. ‘Sorta..

  • Arrington has now shut down the comments on that post. After more sparring with Winer. I can’t understand what he’s so upset about. I mean, I tried to read between the lines, but I don’t get it. And “ethically bankrupt” seems a bit extreme to me. I agree that newspapers are doing lots of stuff wrong — and even in the face of knowing they’re doing it wrong, they continue in the same vein. In other words, I’m not saying the Times is perfect. But something touched a nerve in Arrington in that thread, and it’s something that’s not transparent.

  • Hmmm… I detect that distinct scent of Legend In Their Own Mind. Love that stuff! Hope I get a big ‘ole bottle of it in my stocking this year.

  • “Ethically bankrupt” is too euphemistic for me.

    Jeff does occasionally complain about the NYT but only about minutiae.

    The Times discredits itself all on its own.

  • Jeff- there’s also the old east coast vs. west coast odor about this, which I remember very well from the Silicon Alley days. It’s still there: the idea that old eastern institutions can’t possibly “get it” like new west coast start-ups. Kind of silly for a guy whose business is based on coverage of geographically neutral web services!

  • Whenever TechCrunch has come up in conversations with co-workers – I’d tell them to check you out here, or PaidContent, or Dave Winer, or Shelley Powers, or Matthew Ingram or GigaOm, or PressThink, or MicroPersuasion.

    Because with those choices – why put up with the editorial policy of a site that ‘looks’ to be something closer to a Red Herring or Business 2.0 when in reality it is nothing more then a circle-jerk.

    Then they umm.. tell me I’m jealous.

    I mean – how DARE you disagree with the great king maker “Michael Arrington”.

  • Wow. I read TechCrunch through rss at Google Reader (it’s one of the default feeds if you pick the Technology Feeds package), but I never click over to read the comments (and although I thought the post in question was overly snarky, I just hit space and went to the next post on the list).

    As someone who does find the content (even including the links to sites like Wordie) valuable, but wouldn’t mind something not written by folks who snark at the Times crossword, what sites are better for covering the same area?

  • GigaOm, PaidContent, Mashable, and Read/WriteWeb cover much of the same territory and I think collectively, are far more compelling.

  • Excellent list, Karl. I would also add unmediated ( because it will catch anything you might have missed.

  • Let’s ask this question: Who would the world miss more — Michael Arrington or the New York Times? Of course, the answer is a no-brainer.

  • unmediated is great. Should have mentioned them.

    And from a social-media-tech perspective – it’s a great example of a topically focussed aggregator driven by RSS. One of the earlier ones if I recall.

  • JMW

    This should be on
    slow news day?

  • When I read that the was incorporating social linking tools – I thought ‘cool’ but then I saw they omitted from their offerings and thought ‘not so cool.’

    The omission of is very conspicuous. Could it be a Yahoo! conflict of interest?

    There must be a conspiracy theory at play with the choice to exclude from there links – maybe Arrington has the scoop . . .????!

    Seriously, now. That the NYT is doing this (and please spare us the chest-beating huzzahs) will mean its now ‘OK’ for other papers to do the same. Long is the tradition that a lesser paper won’t show some initiative until the NYT does it first.

    Newspapers have been painfully slow to realizing the positive network effects of link love and allowing comments on ALL their content.
    Now they still have about a thousand or two too many links on their home page but it is refreshing to see some leadership at that is allowing the newsroom to engage conversations and communities.

  • Shame on you Jeff. You are twisting the facts ever so slightly to play to your audience. You are in the position of thanking a publication like valleywag for supporting you. All of this will come back to bite you.

    What you don’t know about, or care about, is the fact that you were a mentor of mine and until that very day of ONA told me that you loved TechCrucnh. I often came to you for advice. Then the conference happens, and you attack me. What actually happened wasn’t juicy enough, so you changed the facts substantially. People tell me that of course you were going to pick the Times when I picked a fight with them, since you rely on them for a paycheck. Ok, fair enough. But you should not have re-created the facts for dramatic effect.

    My entire point at the conference was that the times is either making writing decisions based on who’s hanging out with them at the country club, or they are negligent. The implication was that they are negligent. Stupid. Dumb. But the Times guy says the times would never engage in taking a fee for a story, implying in my mind that he’s agreeing with the negligence side of the argument.

    And that could have been that. But you and Staci (who wasn’t even in the room) rewrote history to say that I accused the times of taking payments, they demanded evidence and I backed down. And I’m a bully. Yeah, I’m a bully.

    The entire event was scripted to screw me over. The organizers asked me to be super controversial, that the audience would love it. I walked into an ambush. As a mentor, you should have helped me through it. Instead you trashed me, and you lied.

  • T

    I just deleted TechCrunch from my bookmarks. Your post made me realize I hadn’t read anything interesting on that site for months.

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  • Thanks, Karl and Mindy — I was familiar with PaidContent and Mashable, but not the other ones.

  • TechCrunch has never been about technology, it’s just a tip sheet for the VC racetrack.

  • Person at the ONA Conference

    Ummmm, Staci Kramer *was* in the room, and yes, you did say those things, Mike.

  • Thanks, “person.” As I noted at the time, I missed the first part of the session but was there for much of it and spoke near the end. The post is still up for anyone who wants to follow up on what I actually wrote:

  • I have frequently had my problems with TechCrunch — it relies too much on rumors and whispers that often don’t pan out. I distinctly recall my BS meter ringing when Arrington reported on talks of Murdoch buying Digg.

    from his comment above it sounds like Arrington vs. the Times et. al goes back a bit.

    Too bad — it seems like an admission right there that he has a chip about the Times and it changed the way he covered the social bookmarking addition they made.

  • Anonymous

    Oh yeah, I completely forgot about Mike’s grudge on the Times.

  • Hi Jeff,

    It is sad to see Mr. Arrington seemingly self-destruct in the comments he left on Dec 11th on that Dec 10th NYT Techcrunch post. And then shutting down the comments on that post. Plus his claims/comments here in this post which Staci has corrected.

    I am sure Mr. Arrington will likely to continue to make lots of money. But to me, his credibility has been somewhat damaged by all these. It seems to show the darker side of Mr. Arrington brightly and clearly here.

    On a personal note, I love to take my jabs at NYT too. I guess I will just need to be more careful on my claims if I want to be taken seriously someday.


  • Looks like this post is trying to ride on the coat tails of TechCrunch to me. Mr. Arrington did not “lose it” he was correct in his comments and opinions and Dave missed it completely.

  • Nerd fights. I just love them.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love nerds too.

  • A far more profound question is being overlooked: What’s wrong with covering Wordie? (And Adam, thanks for sticking up for us, sort of.)

    Joke, though I do wonder why we keep getting knocked. Wordie may not be easily categorizable, but it has a lot more traffic than many of my fancy consulting clients, and Wordie members have a rabid love for it. It makes me think that, beneath all the hyperbole, there’s a paucity of imagination in a lot of tech circles. Something looks different, can’t be easily pigeonholed? Dismiss it, and lemming on to the next video sharing site, or whatever else the flavor of the month is.

  • All this infighting among media bloggers seem no different than TV personalities fighting with each other or worse making news by interviewing each other. This is getting silly.

  • TV personalities usually don’t fight with each other.

    There is an opinion cartel and they attack their enemies; that’s about it.

    Hell will freeze over before the NYT criticizes CNN, Time criticizes Newsweek, or Dateline criticizes 20/20.

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  • Arrogance does not suit a startup guy like Arrington. Only 1 .25 years in the blog business and you see him berating veterans.

    MediaVidea has writtetn a detailed post on the ethics of Arrington and blog netwrok owners.

  • Karl, I hope one day, my site will make it to your list :)

    I have so many thoughts and comments on all of this crap… and to sum it up – we could have built 10 web apps by now had all this energy been put to good.

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  • Okay, I’m jumping into this late, but: Don’t we some opinions from bloggers on their topics? I didn’t see that much of a slant in Arrington’s post. It seems that Winer jumped on him (too much) about Arrington’s views.

    Regardless, the name-calling and assumptions on both/all parts was off base. We want opinions, but we also need to have a thick skin. (I’d like to a post about the need for a thick skin, by my blog is temporarily down ;( .)