What's Your Legacy?

Back in December, the blogging world was struck dumb when Marc Orchant passed away suddenly due to a heart attack. I don’t want to rehash all the details as you can find them elsewhere. Sufficed to say, many tears were shed over his passing.

Time heals all wounds, right? No, not quite.

Today, GigaOm announced the “acquisition” of mobile gadget site jkOnTheRun. To me, an interesting subplot was the post that James Kendrick from jkOnTheRun wrote mourning the fact that Marc was not present to enjoy the excitement of the acquisition. This in turn spurred this FriendFeed conversation.

  • Steve Rubel shared an item on Google Reader – I miss Marc Orchant
  • Aaron Brazell, Andrew Baron, Jason Calacanis, James Hull, paul mooney, Peter Dawson, David Risley, Dave Martin, matt hollingsworth and Dan Liebke liked this
  • I miss Marc too and his writings – Steve Rubel
  • me three. – Robert Scoble
  • Same here. – James Hull
  • Today is dedicated to Marc. He helped get me my first paid blogging gig and now our blog is part of Om’s network. Thanks Marc. – Kevin C. Tofel
  • me 2 – Peter Dawson
  • He would have been proud – James Tenniswood
  • @Kevin he is smiling today. – Steve Rubel
  • Steve, I think you’re right. I hope he knows the profound influence he had on so many people. I’m humbled to call him a friend. – Kevin C. Tofel
  • I miss him too! I was talking about him at dinner tonight. Gnomedex is coming up and I was thinking how great it was to see him last year at the event. I was so lucky to spend time with him. – Betsy Weber
  • Now you know why Marc has a big thumbs-up wherever he might be. :) – James Kendrick
  • yeah…. me too. i think about him when Gnomedex, CES and DEMO conferences roll around. He was a true gentleman and a scholar. still have him on my skype….. every now and then i think of sending him a note. – Jason Calacanis
  • Me too. :( Gnomedex was the last time I ever saw Marc. – Aaron Brazell
  • Aaron: you were the last person he tweeted as well… as I’m sure you know. – Jason Calacanis
  • I remember, Jason… :( – Aaron Brazell
  • I had the good fortune to work with Marc’s daughter Rebecca at PR Newswire. Rebecca and I set at adjacent desks and she was very helpful to me. I never had the good fortune to meet Marc but truly enjoyed working with Rebecca. It’s nice to know that this man who resided in the place I now live is so well remembered. – James
  • Me too. Marc was always a ray of light, always uplifting. Made you feel good about the human race. – Cameron Reilly

Of course, I was the last person Marc ever tweeted when I was in the midst of trying to quit smoking.
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To this day, I think about Marc and this conversation brought everything flooding back. I more than occasionally wonder how Sue, his wife, is doing and have often thought about looking her up and giving her a call. But, then I think it still might be too soon. I don’t know.

What struck me about this friendfeed conversation is the word “legacy”. Marc had a legacy and it has carried over past his death. Legacy is the effect you have on people when you are gone. Legacy is the weight of your presence when you are not present.

Marc’s legacy lives on as he has positively changed so many lives and those lives remember.

Right now, the conversation in the technology blogging sphere is about relevance. It is hitting a moment where survival of the fittest is kicking into gear. Currently, everyone is fighting over the Techmeme scraps dropped from the plates of a few. Who can get the most pageviews? Who can track into top positions? It’s all very short sighted.

Value is created when you are able to positively affect the lives of those around you. Maybe talking about Seagate drives is not quite as sexy as adopting children in Africa, but it changes the way that a technology manager invests money.

Discussing African American history with a historian, as we will do on Saturday evening has the potential to affect real lives. Talking about how to be like Julia Allison does not.

Legacy is the mark you leave on a society when you are blessed to no longer be a part of it. Marc left his legacy. I hope to leave mine. What are you doing to leave a mark?

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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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The Elite 100

100 might just be the most elite number in the world. Why is it the most elite number in the world? Well, there are 100 U.S. Senators, quite arguably the 100 Most powerful men and women in the world. There are Fortune 500 companies, but more important in the pecking order are the Fortune 100 companies. Searching Google for top 100 will net you a variety of listings of top 100s in every concievable area.

The latest ‘Top 100′ came today with Techmeme identifying it’s leaderboard where the top Techmeme headline contributors are listed for the past 30 days. This leaderboard will shift, of course, as the thirty day window shifts, but I find it odd, and frankly, mildly disturbing that this list has come out.

It’s not that this is a walled garden that disturbs me. It has long been known that Techmeme tracks whomever it wants. It’s not even that I can’t see some members of this list receiving enough readership to make this list. I mean, the Sydney Morning Herald who was on this list earlier in the day, is certainly a respectable publication – but top 100 on Techmeme?

My distaste in this list really goes back to something that I’ve asked people occasionally and no one seems to have an answer for. Just how does one get on Techmeme?

With Digg, we know that users can submit links and the story will either be Dugg, and rise in popularity, or it will be buried. With Stumble Upon, we know that stories that are “Stumbled” are then shared with other users that fit a certain inclination and demographic based on preferences. With each of these massive traffic drivers, there is a calculable investment that needs to be made to achieve success. There are deliverables. There are certainly things that have to be done to get to the point. These services, like them or not, provide interactive value to the user.

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 “comment link” on that headline.

I don’t say that as someone who is bitter. On the contrary, I understand that this is how things work and Mike Arrington covering the story is a much bigger deal in terms of exposure than I. My big concern here is in transparency and consistency. There is no consistency in how Techmeme seems to work and there is nothing that gives any technology writer insight into how their stories might end up listed.

Interestingly, there are sponsored links. So there actually is a way to get listed in Techmeme if that is the route you want to take to get there. Otherwise, Gabe Rivera, how exactly did those top 100 elite folks get their positions? Google has a closed algorithm, but at least there is some market evidence as to how stuff works with PR and SERPs. There does not seem to be anything that can be pointed to for Techmeme and I just have to wonder – how exaclty does this whole thing work? Or is it just a closed circle? Inquiring minds need to know.

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