Tag Archives: Jason Calacanis

Aaron Brazell

Web 2.0 Representation in the Obama Administration

We are not 4 full days into the Obama transition period and already three web executives have made theoir way into the mix in some kind of advisory role. Yesterday, we covered the naming of Julius Genachowski of Launchbox Digital and Sonal Shah of Google.org to the transition team. Today, the New York Times points out that Google CEO Eric Schmidt has been named to his economic advisory board.

This got me thinking about what a Web 2.0 Administration would look like. In considering roles within the new administration, I’m suggesting possibilities based on their personal reputation within the web space with a favoring for people that own or run their own companies.

Chris Brogan is the ultimate diplomat and community guy, so he should be considered for Secretary of State. Louis Gray is my candidate for Ambassador to the United Nations. Oh and Tom from MySpace needs to be an Ambassador or something because he’s everyones friend.

Jason Calacanis is a master businessman, having been the CEO or an executive in companies such as Weblogs Inc., AOL and now Mahalo. As such, I am naming him as Secretary of Commerce.

Mike Arrington is not a practicing attorney, but it is his background. He is a no-bullshit kind of guy not hesitating to name companies to the dead pool if he thinks they have no chance and propping up companies who he believes does have a chance. Because of the nature of the FBI, and the Department of Justice, Mike seems like a good fit as the Attorney General.

Gary Vaynerchuk, as the ultimate communicator, is qualified and should be President Obama’s Press Secretary.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs seems to be the only CEO of a publicly traded company (AAPL) who seems to be doing okay in the economic downturn. Sure, he might want to redistribute iPods, and ensure the Star Spangled Banner is the top pick in the iTunes Music Store for 4 years, but he should be the Secretary of the Treasury.

Lightning rod video and puppet blogger, Loren Feldman, has no issue going after “enemies of America” (or anyone else) and as such, he gets my designation for Secretary of Defense.

Knowledge blogger, Dave Taylor, has built up a wealth of intelligence regarding a variety of topics. I nominate him as the Director of Central Intelligence.

Graham Hill of Treehugger is the notable nominee for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk as Administrator of NASA.

Julia Allison should definitely be a White House intern.

What do you think? Who else should be in the cabinet?

Added: Melanie Notkin has been nominated, and I concur, in comments below as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Her site is using Web 2.0 to enlighten and inform aunts, families and the general population.

Aaron Brazell

Thoughts on Jason Calacanis and Walking Away From It All

Jason Calacanis, a colleague in blogging with whom I very much respect, announced last week his retirement from blogging. Many others around the way snickered and assumed it was a joke. I never thought it was a joke – mainly because I could sympathize with his sentiments.

In his “retirement speech”, an overly dramatic event that certainly added to the speculation of a practical joke, he says:

This was an extremely difficult decision, and I haven’t made it lightly. After five years I’m not sure I know any other way of being but the blog, but at some point you have to hang it up. I know that I had made the right decision for me and my family. I am very proud of the success that we have had in blogging and I leave the game with few regrets.

He later goes on to make the statement, “Blogging is dead.”

While I certainly disagree with the latter statement, I can sympathize with the feeling. I think every day that I get up, I go through the same routine in addition to the rest of my responsibilities:

  1. Ok, what’s on my mind today? (Note I’m not asking what’s in the news today)
  2. How does what’s on my mind affect my audience
  3. What were yesterdays stats?
  4. Are my ads making money for me?
  5. Any posts pending review from one of the other editors?
  6. Ok, anyone talking about me? (Looking at Google Reader)
  7. Big story breaking now… does it apply?

Honestly, when there’s things happening in all of those points of thought, then it gets extremely tiring. Not to mention the bitchmemes that pop up on FriendFeed and Twitter that boil my blood. Then the question is, do I respond or censor myself for the sake of my business?

I have long been an antagonist of Jason’s. I hope he knows it has always been good natured, from my perspective, and not the “hating” of which he refers. I think he does.

There comes a time when an early adopter (and Jason was an early adopter of blogging) bows out to early adopt elsewhere. From my perspective, not a day goes by where I don’t think about an exit strategy. Should I sell? Should I play for an acquisition? Should I just mothball the thing, leave the archives, and start over?

Obviously, I’ve done none of this though I have attempted a sale on the site before. Something tells me I’d be a whole lot more successful with such an attempt should I try it again, but I have a job to do for awhile longer at least and so I keep plugging away (Hope you like the content!).

So Jason, thanks for being an inspiration to many. You’re still around – you only quit blogging, not social media altogether. So we’ll certainly continue to rub shoulders. See ya around the tubes!

Aaron Brazell

The Internet is Not a Free Speech Zone

It would seem that people, by and large, think that the internet is a free speech zone. We have blogs, these are our personal spaces and we can do whatever the hell we want.

In case you missed the memo, this is not the case.

Sure, you might not go to jail (actually, this increasingly becomes possible) but as bad, if not worse, is the possibility of destroying relationships because of your actions on the internet.

It’s not a free speech zone.

A few days ago, Loic Lemeur, the founder of Seesmic and someone who I have yet to meet in person, put out a very impassioned video calling Kosso (who is my friend and the developer of Phreadz) to task for disseminating private conversation.

I find this video very honest and transparent. Loic apologizes for direct comments that may have been inappropriate. From Kosso’s standpoint, he explains in a very coherent way why the whole thing is very awkward:

Now, if you’ve made it this far and watched the videos, you can understand that the politics of the web is a very delicate thing. It’s easy for people to get twisted up, but there’s always two sides to every conversation.

A few months ago, Loren Feldman started a series of parody videos mocking Shel Israel’s videos at FastCompany.tv. Quite a number of people took offense to these videos and that particular conversation got downright nasty. What some people don’t understand is that the internet is not a free speech zone and, if Loren wanted to, he could destroy their lives, businesses, client relationships, etc.

Does that make Loren a bad guy? No, I hardly think so. I personally think that Loren is one of the nicest and most honest guys on the internet. But I know he could destroy me.

That in itself doesn’t keep me from stepping into that fray, but it’s a healthy respect valve.

So to everyone I have bitten harshly in this internet world, accept my apologies. There have been a lot of them, but to name a few: Tyme White, Mike Rundle, Kris Smith, John Havens, David Krug, Robert Scoble, Mike Arrington, Jason Calacanis and others.

Life’s too short.

Aaron Brazell

Jason Calacanis Goes Techcrunch50-wild on uStream

Jason Calacanis, CEO of Mahalo and cofounder of the Techcrunch50 (formerly Techcrunch40) event where startup companies are given an opportunity to pitch their ideas and potentially get funded, lashed out at rival DEMO that offers a similar venue but at the cost of $18,000 for companies accepted into the program.

I regret not catching all of the rant, and he didn’t record it, but I think it’s notable to share his message with the DEMO folks (and you). The DEMO model is a travesty for any company that is not already well connected and can afford $18k. It is the ultimate in class warfare and does not give legitimate opportunity for great ideas to rise to the top and be funded.

Aaron Brazell

Ebb and Flow; Blogging During a Conference; Bits and Pieces

During conferences, I think it makes the most sense to blog in a format that Jason Calacanis made “special”. Stream of consciousness blogging. In other words, during conferences, I don’t have the time to fully develop thoughts like I would normally do to post usual content here. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot going through my head. In fact, it’s at times like this that my mind is on overdrive thinking about everything and fully baking none of it. Introducing stream of consciousness blogging where one entry might have three or four varying topics. I probably only do this once a day if that much. Here goes.

Writing Well

It’s been alarming to me recently how many blogs I’ve been visiting, in the DC area and elsewhere, which seem to be completely disjointed in terms of thought process. They are written with poor grammar, horrendous typos, etc. Though I’m known for bad typos when “ad hoccing” my writing – and known for equally bad grammar at some times – I really do like to see well thought out writing. If it only took you two minutes to write a post, it’s probably noticeable. Copy and paste? Clean up your formatting. Close your HTML tags. Do what you have to to dress the article up. It’s your professional image on the line. For more copywriting tips, visit my colleague and friend, Brian Clark for more information overload on writing good copy than you could ever dream of.

Austin, SXSW

This is my second year. Word to the virgins (erm, SXSW virgins), bring a second pair of comfortable shoes and a few extra changes of clothes. Last year we had monsoon like conditions and it soaked my only pair of shoes. Be prepared. There’s lots of walking. In a similar vein, don’t frustrate yourself by thinking you can even attempt to go to every cool party. Go to what you can. RSVP for everything (/me ducks from the party organizers) and then only go to what you can. Don’t kill yourself, you’ll regret it at the end of the week and feel like a failure. Just have fun. As JCal says, the best networking happens somewhere after 11pm over the most expensive Scotch around – or something.

If Simon uses an Adjective Beginning with G, you should Listen

Someone mentioned jokingly that there should be a drinking game where you take a shot every time American Idol judge Simon Cowell uses an adjective beginning with G – Ghastly, Grotesque, etc. Yes, yes, I’m making an Idol reference. Sue me. When someone criticizes your company, your business model, your methods – take what you can and leave the rest. Take the criticism and learn from it. If they are just looking to deep six your company, they are probably finding another way to do it. No need to be the super hero and pretend you’ve got it all figured out. Nobody does. Take the criticism and improve with it.

I’m out. Plane’s about to board.

Aaron Brazell

Techmeme is not Brilliant

Jason Calancanis says “Techmeme is Brilliant“, (bolded on his site for emphasis, I guess – or SEO juice, who really knows). I disagree, but then again, it’s not hard to disagree with someone who claims to have the final, authoritative and officially official definition of Web 3.0.

I really think his definition, while well written and sufficiently non-abrasive, is wrong on it’s face. In his defense of Techmeme, the company that attempts to aggregate “the buzz” in the technology blogspace, into a synopsis that is able to be fit on a single page, Jason states that:

TechMeme’s imperfection is just a magnifacantion of our own imperfections.


In the real world some folks get too much attention relative to their ideas, while others with great ideas sometimes get marginalized. The marginalization could be based on them not being popular, their inability to communicate, or any number of reasons–fair and unfair.

<snip >

On TechMeme anyone with a great idea can take the top of the homepage. What the haters don’t realize (or like to forget for their own self-serving, self-loathing reasons) is that before Techmeme the only folks with a voice in technology were those with a print publication for the most part.


How anyone could hate on a open system like TechMeme is beyond me. Does the leaderboard change the dynamic? Sure… it’s not a good thing to get folks obsessed with moving up the list

Alright, so Jason has stated his case. Techmeme is not really all that brilliant though. It is not consistent, it does not evaluate story merit effectively, and it is not in the least bit open.


Consistency is important in any service that really wants to be seen as authoritative. Arguably, just about all the services that have come about during the period of the semantic web (Web 2.0, mind you) have had basic transparent principles around them. More companies use blogs. More people use Twitter. Folks have become voyeurs using uStream.tvor Kyte.tv.

With Techmeme, there is no transparency. No one is really sure what is happening behind the scenes. No one really understands how stories make it or don’t. No one really knows what weight is calculated into determining authority – not even a little hint. Breaking news from TechCrunch doesn’t make Techmeme while a long tail blogger might get that desirable headline. How does Techmeme work? Why can’t we see how it works? how is buzz determined? Who generates buzz?

Story Evaluation

I alluded to the problem in my post title The Elite 100.

Techmeme does not, as far as I know. There is no way to provide stories for consideration and in fact, selection of stories for headlines is seemingly arbitrary. For instance, my review of FeedBurner some time ago was picked up by Techmeme but another FeedBurner story – the one about Google Reader reporting its stats to FeedBurner – was a huge story everywhere. I was one of only four people who had early access to this story and I broke it before TechCrunch – but TechCrunch got the love. I didn’t get a “œcomment link” on that headline.

From an outside perspective, Techmeme seems wrong. It seems to give arbitrary weight to sources and stories. Without questioning the integrity of Gabe Rivera, Techmeme’s editor, I have to say that the whole thing smells of nepotism. The same elite sources are tapped regularly and sure the argument can be made for authoritative bias. That’s fine if that’s what it is. I expect the New York Times to have a story on Techmeme. They are the New York Times. They are “all the news that’s fit to print” yet the playing field in the internet age has leveled and in so many ways, Techmeme seems to be missing that.

Techmeme is not an Open Platform

I don’t quite understand why Jason calls Techmeme open. In fact, it is not open. Sure, it is theoretically possible to be listed in Techmeme. Sure anyone who is listed could have their moment in the spotlight. However, as alluded to earlier, there is no transparency in the process. There is no way to suggest a story be listed. There is no way to vote a story up or down as in Digg or as in Jason’s previous iteration of Netscape.

If someone can convince me that Techmeme is in fact open in some kind of way that is standards acceptable, then by all means”¦ convince me.

Otherwise, until then, my opinion remains that Techmeme is not in fact brilliant and is in fact a closed system based on arbitrary opinions of a few (if that many) select people. Sorry, Jason.

Aaron Brazell

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. :-)

Aaron Brazell

If Everyone is Doing it, Is it Really Cool Anymore?

If a tree falls on a mime in the middle of the woods and nobody hears the mime scream (mouth wide open with no audible sound), does anyone care? I speak of blogging about blogging and I speak to myself as well.

In my opinion, the market is way oversaturated when it comes to blogging news. There’s Blog Herald, and the Blogging Times and 901am. Not to mention The Blog Columnist. There’s writing good copy for blogs, making money from blogs, and more. I even write about making WordPress do crazy things. Continue reading