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. :-)