It pays to mull things over
Monday, October 22, 2007 by Dave Winer.
I was over at Loic Le Meur's house in San Francisco yesterday having lunch with his family and friends. We were all drinking wine (very good wine of course), enjoying the view, and talking about this and that, when the subject turned to Mike Arrington. Loic said that Mike told him that we used to be best friends. I couldn't figure out what that meant, because our friendship was the business kind of friendship not the personal kind. What does it mean to be best friends in that way? And how does that relate to having a blog? It never occurred to me that friendship meant that (here's the epiphany) that I would only say positive things about Mike's business. It didn't occur to me until I heard Loic's side of a blog-fight that I saw happen from a distance, with Sam Sethi, Mike and Loic.
When Mike was starting TechCrunch, I pointed to his blog all the time, with glowing praise, because I was truly impressed with what he was doing and because I wanted to encourage other people to do it too. I wanted people to write about technology products based on how they used them, not based on alliances, investment, posturing of execs, the crappy stuff that means almost nothing to users, and imho is just a substitute for actually understanding the technology. Mike was approaching products the way I felt they should be approached. Hence the praise.
Fact is, my opinion of Mike, as a person, hasn't changed much in the last couple of years. He has a personal charm and charisma that not everyone finds appealing, but I do. I like hanging out with the guy.
However, that doesn't mean that if my opinion of TechCrunch, his business, isn't uniformly positive (and of course these days it is actually fairly negative) that I will withhold it. But it's also part of Mike's way of dealing with people that he sees criticism as betrayal. I just don't see it that way. I've had the shit kicked out of me so many times, and as a programmer I understand that criticism is necessary to perfect a user interface, even to get the damned thing working, that even when it hurts, I have to push the hurt aside and listen to what people are saying, and try to respond to it. Professionalism demands it.
Anyway, one of the reasons I want to write this now is that I've written about Loic's business here a couple of times in very positive terms. I don't want anyone, esp Loic, to assume that this will always be so. If they get in the way of other creative people, or otherwise act as a poor example of entrepreneurship in technology, of course I will write about it, and will say what I think. I would expect Loic and people at his company to take what I write to heart, and consider it. My feelings won't be hurt if they don't do what I say. (People almost never do.)
Same as when I said Facebook sucks. Or when I criticize Techmeme. This isn't in any way meant to reflect on the quality of the people at Facebook (some of whom I know to be outstanding people of high principle) or Gabe Rivera who I know to be a very smart and competent and honorable person. It's possible to critcize someone's work and still admire the person. My epiphany is that a lot of people who thought were my friend, didn't understand this very basic thing about me.
8/17/07: Friendship and blogging.