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.

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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.

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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.

<snip>

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.

<snip>

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

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.

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