The Scoble Train Derails

I like Robert Scoble alot. I wish I knew him better. I’ve met the guy at a variety of industry events and he’s a very personable guy. Disarmingly so. His contagious laugh is sure to put everyone at ease. And he really has a firm handle on social marketing. Just ask him about “starfish marketing” (I don’t know if thats what he calls it, but it fits) – an approach to marketing that involves promotion across social networks.

So don’t get me wrong, I really, really respect the guy as a thinker and as an early adopter.

However, I think he lost his Valium at Gnomedex. Since Gnomedex, I’ve been, well, uncomfortable with him. He’s been way over the top obnoxious and critical. It’s unlike him, in my opinion. Let’s look at a timeline:

  • Aug 9, 2007 – Chuck Olsen floats rumor of Scoble leaving PodTech on Twitter. Andrew Baron jumps on the story (unconfirmed, later retracted)
  • Aug 13, 2007 – Scoble takes a week off after some depression. Cites rumor-mongerors about PodTech departure
  • Aug 16, 2007 – PodTech CEO John Furrier steps down. The COO, James McCormick, replaces him. Scoble is passed over. To be fair, I don’t know if Scoble would even want a CEO job. Doesn’t seem to be “him”.
  • Aug 22, 2007 – Exchange over Twitter between Chris Pirillo and Scoble. Scoble smacks Pirillo by saying Gnomedex was a mediocre event that didn’t have TED-quality speakers (one of many Tweets that night). But, it also doesn’t have a TED-like pricetag. Chris is already on the defensive due to events transpiring in and at Gnomedex and in the back channels. Scoble piles on the man who he stood with at his wedding as Best Man just a few months ago. This doesn’t communicate objectivity in criticizing a colleague, it demonstrates “ass-like” tendencies.
  • Aug 27, 2007 – Scoble acknowledges the backlash he is receiving in a flippant sort of way.
  • Aug 29, 2007 – Today. For good measure, I throw in one of his articles where Scoble continues his “nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I think I’ll go eat worms” routine.

Now remember, I like Scoble. I don’t want to see him trashed, nor do I want to see his professional impulses damaged. But if I were Scoble, I’d be stepping back and wondering if I were doing something that was alienating his supporters. It seems like there is a general swing in opinion that is not in his favor and he can take the “everyone else is wrong” approach, or he can re-jig his gears and tweak whatever it is that he is doing wrong. If I have to guess, he’s talking too much and listening to little. Ego will kill.

Excellent Idea, Jason!

For as much crap as I’ve given Jason Calacanis over the years – ramped up most recently over “the Winer incident” at Gnomedex (I won’t link because I don’t want to focus on it and because this post is supposed to be positive), I have to give him my endorsement on his latest Mahalo idea – a Mahalo Ombudsman.

An Ombudsman is an intermediate go between, often used in the military as an ambassador from the military to the families of military members. In the Mahalo context, an Ombudsman would be someone who has a significant following in the tech/media blogging world and would monitor Mahalo’s search pages for neutrality as well as answer questions for the community.

Personally, the latter should be handled by the company as a whole. Jason should answer community questions. That aside, I can live with an Ombudsman doing it.

I’ve said of Mahalo that it would not work because Jason has a personality that has already polarized much of the blogosphere. The reality is that stepping out of the spotlight and allowing an Ombudsman have the spotlight would do wonders for disassociating him from the service which I still think is necessary. If folks see Calacanis in Mahalo, bad things will happen. But if folks see Mahalo as another tool to effectively search, research and find resources then the product is a winner.

This is a fantastic first step.

As critical as I have been to Jason (I resent that the one time I met him in person, I was an ass too!), the man is smart and I believe he recognizes the problem at hand and is sincere about addressing perceptions (or misperceptions, if you will).

I’m still not convinced about Mahalo, but if an Ombudsman were to be in place, I would be willing to give the benefit of the doubt. Hell, if I had the following that guys that he wants had – like Scoble or Jeff Jarvis, I might take it as an opportunity to look for my next job. Fortunately for b5media, I don’t have that following. :-)