[Just a warning – this post is me unloading and unburdening. I’m writing this section here after I’ve finished and looked over the 2000+ word screed I’ve produced and realized that the reason I wrote the piece became a beard for me ranting about pro-blogger inside baseball. You may be bored by this, or you may be intrigued, depending on how much you care about rumors, dirt, and crap related to tech blogging.]
I was just commenting today to Michelle Greer in an IM gripe-session about how irritating it is that being a tech blogger involves so much human drama.
Michelle and I occasionally engage in these gripe sessions – less often now that she works for Rackspace – but certainly quite often when she was a freelancer. Having been a freelancer for many years and still often dealing with clients, it’s important to have your confessional booth where you can gripe about all the irritating things that make professional freelancing so hard (or whatever it else professionally that sucks). As they say in most businesses, this job would be great if it weren’t for the customers.
I do hate the drama that comes with being a blogger though.
To further clarify – I hate the drama that comes with being a professional content producer. I don’t know if it’s particularly unique to the tech sector. I do know that I’ve been writing my thoughts down on the web since sometime around the mid-90s, and the drama and schoolyard antics I’ve encountered blogging really only ratcheted up to day-to-day stressful levels since shortly before I started at Mashable, when I decided to go pro.
I might not even hit the publish button on this post, because to make my point I’m going to have to break “rule one” of Fight Club Blogging Club: Don’t speak ill of Mike Arrington.
Mike Arrington hasn’t been the source of every problem I’ve had as a professional content producer. When I started focusing on audio-podcasting as a source of income, I had a major run-in with Todd Cochrane of TechPodcast, who owed me a pretty big sum of money, but paid long after I had quit working with him (something like six months later). The stuff that really has turned whatever hair is left on my head grey has usually been Mike Arrington related (and yes, my hairline is receding, what remains is slowly turning grey, and I’m 31).
Who is Mike Arrington? What is this Pale He Casts Over the Blogosphere?
The first time I got a “talking to” at Mashable by Pete was when I was doing the Rizwords podcast. I think I was two weeks into the job, and Pete happened to be listening to the show. Art and I went off on some silly Mike Arrington editorial, as someone who reads him regularly is want to do. Pete advised me that I shouldn’t bring up his name in public forums again. He didn’t really explain why at the time, but it was made pretty clear later on down the road that there was some rivalry between Pete and Mike. The reality, as presented by the respective blogs, was similar to Marvel and DC universes – they were quite obviously talking about the same things, but as far as they were concerned, they lived in alternative universes.
When Pete came to America for the first time, he had some sit-downs with folks from the other various big named blogs in the Valley. Incidentally, I think this was the week of, or week before, Pete snuck into a Techcrunch party with Kevin Rose as his “plus one” and Heather Harde had him thrown out of the building. Between meetings with folks from VentureBeat, ReadWriteWeb, GigaOM, and some folks from Techcrunch who met without Mike’s knowledge with Pete, it was pretty clear that no one in the blogophere hated Mashable except Mike.
At Techcrunch, opinion seemed pretty clearly divided. There were those that just smiled and nodded when Mike went off about how horrible the people he hated were, and then there were those at the company that agreed with him that Mashable was utter crap, copy bloggers, and no talent ass-clowns. They looked down on Mashable as some sort of (and I’m quoting from memory here) “lower form of journalism.”
It’s so ingrained in my mind now, this stupid dramatic crap, that I can’t remember what it was like to write about companies and products I liked without checking my email records to see if they’re somehow in bed with Mike Arrington, and whether or not Mike has told them not to speak to me or folks who work for me.
Mike Takes Food Out of My Babies’ Mouths
I’m getting into grey territory here again – I don’t think I’ll name names, but I’ll say that at least twice over the last year or two, I or the company that employs me has lost paying clients due to Mike Arrington and his ridiculous grudges. I’ll say that again: Mike Arrington has taken money out of my hands that could have been used to feed my family and keep a roof over my head.
[Edit: There was a longer story here – I’ve since removed it at the request of one of the individuals involved. This is the third time in history I’ve ever done that, so don’t start asking me to do this routinely. –mrh]
This Situation Isn’t a Unique Snowflake
This crap goes on all the time. The stuff I’ve ranted about above are just a few examples of the real middle school cafeteria drama (which, unfortunately, has real world side-effects).
It appears, as I’ve read tonight, that the Apple world is evolving into it’s own little blogging ecosystem of it’s own. As a die-hard PC guy, I have to choke back a little bit of whatever that was in the back of my throat whenever I think of that sad fact. I look at the wave after wave of pointless and ultimately false Apple rumor getting attention now-a-days, and it reminds me of the Steve Rubel-style koolaide bubble Web 2.0 was experiencing back in 2006.
I look around at the blogosphere that’s evolving around me and I barely recognize it.
That’s why I’m surprised (at least part of me is surprised) to see this guy John Gruber (from Daring Fireball, the one with the star in it’s RSS posts titles). Keep in mind that I only reluctantly read Apple news, my only exposu
re to John Gruber has been mostly from Frederic Lardinois and Louis Gray sharing them out in Google Reader. Generally, I remember him as the guy who blamed AT&T for the App Store censorship of Google (“trust me,” he said), when it turned out to be Apple all along (or a combination of blame all around).
It’s why I never noticed that he, for some reason, disallows comments on his blog. How someone can go this long and create so many waves as he has while pulling a Seth Godin is both bizarre and somehow admirable.
It’s also unsurprising that someone that has a legendarily bad habit of saying things that aren’t true (and saying said things in such an abrasive manner as he does) would fall victim to someone setting up a mirror of his site that allows comments:
Gruber has explained that he dislikes comments because they distract from his all-important voice. This is exactly the kind of egotistical statement that makes him unpopular with many people, especially other writers, but a must-read pundit.
But Gruber is about to get comments, whether he likes it or not.
The team behind MacHeist has just launched DaringFireballWithComments.net– a website that mirrors Gruber’s site with, you guessed it, comments.
“It’s good timing since he was gloating over his lack of comments today,” said John Casasanta, the brains behind the project, “and we’re gonna allow anonymous comments. It should be a shitstorm.”
“I never called someone a douchebag so many times in my life,” said Casasanta.
Lots of people have called Gruber a douchebag, and a lot worse. Gruber may be influential, but he’s widely reviled for the very personal nature of his attacks — and the inability of critics to answer his charges, often because of the lack of a comments system.
Casasanta noted that DaringFireballWithComments.com pulls in Gruber’s writing by RSS and serves the site’s ads, so Gruber shouldn’t lose any income — and may gain some.
Gruber didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Is this guy turning into the Mike Arrington of the Apple blogosphere? There’s a fine line between being a cynical ass on the Interwebs (something I’ve been called several times), and being one that uses his position of “power” to routinely inflict pain on others.
Is that what Gruber’s turning into for you Apple folks? I’m not looking to start a fight, I’m legitimately asking here. The guy who wrote this post I’ve referenced seems to think so, particularly if you read through the comments:
@Reese, I do have a problem with Gruber. He’s attacked me personally (http://daringfireball.net/2008/03/kahney_jackass), calling me a “fucking jackass” (the original headline). This piece is presented as a point-by-point deconstruction — rational and level-headed — but it’s an unbalanced rant. What comes across most clearly is his irrational need to defend Apple at all costs. Plus, I think, a measure of jealousy that it wasn’t him who was asked to write a Wired cover story about Apple.
But it’s not just me. He’s attacked a lot of people I know and like — and always, always it is unnecessarily harsh.
He calls out reporters for making mistakes (which comes with the territory, no one is omnipotent). Some deserve it, of course, but others don’t: Brian Lam at Gizmodo and Brian Chen at Wired for example.
This was easy when he was a pure pundit, passing judgment on others. But now that he’s acting more like a reporter, publishing details of unannounced products and the like, he is also starting to make get things wrong.
Take his infamous “trust me” comment about AT&T nixing the Google Voice app from the App Store. Nothing of the sort, as Apple later revelaed. (http://daringfireball.net/2009/08/google_voice_story_wrong).
Or his widely-cited Ninjawords story (http://daringfireball.net/2009/08/ninjawords), which accused Apple of censoring the dictionary app because it contained curse words. Except Apple didn’t censor it — as Phil Schiller quickly explained. Gruber didn’t even contact the app’s devs.
If anyone else had been such a sloppy reporter, failing to contact the principles for confirmation or comment — he’d be all over them. Instead, these episodes raised his profile to even greater heights.
Don’t get me wrong — that’s fine. I don’t begrudge him his success. Reporting has changed. It’s incremental, and he’s proven very successful at that style of information dissemination. And he’s smart, a good writer and he knows his shit.
But I still hate his guts for being such a world-class dick.
Is he just another jerk like me (albeit one that’s, quite obviously, wrong more than I am)? Or is this the start of another guy who isn’t above abusing his position of trust to get ahead in business and attention?
Gruber attacked Cassantra’s wildly successful MacHeist when it first launched, only to praise it later when MacHeist started running paid-advertising on his site. (All Gruber’s posts on MacHeist — good and bad – are here).
I, for one, hope he’s just like me – a guy with a big mouth likes getting occasional attention, and isn’t looking to abuse his bully pulpit. The last thing I need in my line of work (seeing as I’m now being forced, by market conditions, into paying more attention to the Apple world) is a new crop of idiot bloggers trying to vie for imaginary slices of power in the kiddie pool.
I want to go back to the days where I could say what I want about whomever (or whatever) I want without ridiculous amounts of drama and rolodex-checking involved.
I just want to have fun with this stuff.