July 12, 2008

The Company We Keep - Friends and Reputations Online

As blogging and ways to monetize high-traffic content evolve, the pairing off of power bloggers into friends, allies, and business partners becomes more interesting.

The lotto-sized win in the battle for high-power friendships is, as everyone knows, Mike Arrington. To be a FOA (friend of Arrington) is to be anointed into a lucrative Web 2.0 economy.

As I watched the Winer-Scoble-Israel vs. Arrington-Feldman-Calcanis feud this past week, I had some of my own observations about the tricky aspects of navigating blog-related friendships and partnerships.

On one side we had Shel, tormented by puppeteer Feldman, sworn to go after Winer next, who's BFF is Scoble, whose old company fired Feldman.

On the other side we had Feldman, fallen into a potentially great mainstream deal with some non-mainstream (and I would argue some not-so-funny) content coming back from the archives to bite him in the ass, backed by the newly-retired Calcanis whose business interests align with those of Feldman, who spends a whole lot of time at the business/home/Internet-economy of Arrington.

This is the point at which I state: Blogging makes for some strange bedfellows.

The popular M.O. of the A-List guys during a high-profile Internet dust-up is to call on their friends to back them up. This means they ask their friends to call off the dogs or to incite the mob (depending upon which side of the equation they're on), to make a public statement of support or perform a public shunning (depending upon which side of the equation they're on), to absolutely and without question choose sides.

And choosing sides can suck. Because the web is hyperlinked, sides don't always make sense. (I know this is true when I find myself aligned with Dave Winer.)

We are not linear here. We are human and networked. Our relationships are at the same time deep and distant, meaningful and sometimes non-sensical.

But for many, our reputation is important.

By reputation I don't mean, "He's a great guy," or "She's a smart lady." You can have a reputation for being entertaining, obnoxious, brilliant, an asshole, an expert in a particular field, a mom, a dad, a cancer survivor, and most likely you are a rich combination of these characteristics which inform the stories you tell online.

Our archives tell our story not just chronologically, but in relationship to others, among the links in and links out. Asking anyone to read us from front to back before making a judgment as to the kind of person we are is asking a lot. People aren't going to examine all of our posts--they're going to read our front page, the last thing we said, or the thing that someone else points them to--even if that thing is old and we decided it was stupid a long time ago.

That's why emerging tools and technology for compiling and tracking our participation and reputation over time and across social media interest me.

These tools can take the legacy of our contributions and help new readers understand not just our content, but our context. We are more than a single post or video - we are our collected pixels spread out over space and time.

I think these tools will give us new freedom in our friendships, and require less side-taking requirements on behalf of friends who find themselves in compromising positions.

The ability to track our participation and reputation across the net lets us take risks without tossing our entire body of work down the toilet. It gives me the freedom to stand up like a sniper bitch on occasion without compromising my Internet reputation as a "nice lady" (cough) altogether.

I empathize with Feldman's friends for their troubles over the last week even though I think he's a cry-baby for thinking that shock-jock content might not come back to bite him as he sought out mainstream deals.

I support those who spoke out on the important issues around the whole fiasco. I also support those who didn't choose sides or participate in the discussion, even though I think the discussions it spawned were valuable and tremendous and much can be gained by taking part.

But not everyone is required to weigh in, nor should they be. If we were to pick all the issues we care about and try to participate in all of them, we could never keep up. If we were to jump into every debate, every conflict, we could lose our minds. It is up to each of us to decide what conversations are important to us, and I don't assign blame for opting out of those I think are significant.

Taking it back to friendship, this is important to me because:

I WILL NOT make a public statement every time an online friend does or says something stupid, or something I don't agree with.

I WILL NOT LET you infer from my silence that I agree or disagree with them.

I ABSOLUTELY reserve the right to remain friends with my friends - or part ways - without a defending my decision; and what I may say to them in private or public about a particular post or comment is up to ME.

Of course, there are more complexities to the company we keep online. And as time goes on, things make less sense than they ever did. I think this is a good thing, but some days I'm not so sure.

Last week was one of those days.


July 10, 2008

Beyond White Whine

Hank Williams has a great post in which he explores the 2008 definition or racism.

Today, racism’s definition is so circumscribed, that for many it is almost impossible to find a valid use case. For many, it would require calling a black man a nigger or saying, I hate black people, or doing something equivalently overt. Of course, for some, even the use of the word nigger does not warrant the racism label, since black people use it amongst themselves. It’s not fair, defenders say, to give a word to black people that white people can’t use.

Interestingly, for many, it’s also not valid to label language as racist if it not in the form of a statement. It’s a bit like Jeopardy. Any potentially racist language is not racist if you change the form to a question, or in Loren Feldman’s case, a joke. Then you can, apparently, say absolutely anything.
Read it.

Hank gives rich context for his thoughts, life context, which many of Feldman's minions lack. While I'm not sure I agree with Hank that silence = support, I do believe that the social media power brokers actually saying something useful on the topic would be a Good Thing. This is a racially traumatized country, and this industry is no more healthy. They might start with asking Feldman what precisely he intends to do to execute threats like these directed at Lynne D. Johnson:
You are an unethical piece of shit. YOU ARE A LIAR. And you did it on purpose to help fastcompany. Shame on you, I will never stop till I have your job, bank on it. - loren feldman

Tim she is a complete liar. And she will pay, you'll see my friend. - loren feldman
From the man who has proclaimed, "Black People Are Lame," and "Black People Can't Get It Together," I find the righteous indignation over backlash created by a Big Brand not wanting to be associated with a Web 2.0 minstrel act a bit much.

While Feldman obsesses on whether Winer made the call or Scoble made the call, the bottom line is some future enemy would have made the call if one of his past associates hadn't.

In the end, it is how it has always been: you own your own words.


technorati tags:

July 09, 2008

I'm Afraid It's Not Just The Web, Louis.

Louis Gray has a great but sad post about his experience today watching Corvida and Wayne Sutton discuss the Verizon-Feldman debacle in video chat as a chorus of race baiting idiots piled on with comments the likes of which might make your racist Uncle Bob blush.

Technigga-Golddigga Loren Feldman should feel proud tonight. The comments I've seen supporting him on FriendFeed show that he's got a real high-class following for his "comedy" act. Not. The cream of the crop must have shown up for this one, showing what Louis called the Web's racist underbelly.
"While both carried on a strong conversation around the issues of race, bigotry and getting ahead through hard work, their efforts were dwarfed by some of the most hateful, shameful, racist speech I've been exposed to in a very long time. ...as Corvida and Wayne talked about her family's efforts with Verizon, and how black tech bloggers are often stereotyped, with Feldman's video as an example, the Yahoo! Live chat screen filled with filth, with racist words, references to Kentucky Fried Chicken and watermelon, comments on Obama, and discussion of penis sizes."
While I share Louis' anger, I don't share his shock. Sure, there are anonymous racist assholes online who have mouth-in-ass disease because they know they are anonymous and feel the thrill of yelling fire in a crowded theater. Nothing new there.

Then there are others, folks who are The Standard -- quite literally covertly and sometimes unknowingly practicing the subtler and often more damaging form of racism that fucks not just with the mind and heart and drive, but with the wallet--the ultimate take-down/keep-down in America.

And those same people will feign shock when a pastor from the South Side of Chicago spells America A-M-E-R-I-K-K-K-A. Hypocrites.

The threat of changing the makeup of a decidedly white power structure in Washington is bringing out the best in the best of people, and the worst in the worst of people.

It's not just the Web, Louis.

And I fear it's only just begun to get ugly.


July 08, 2008

This One Goes Out to Loren Feldman...

I just Love the Guys (FOFs - friends of feldman) who want to paint Verizon's dropping of Loren Feldman as a free speech issue, as though Verizon has somehow ripped Loren's content off of his own site or blocked our access to it. Puhleeease.

No, not quite Feldminions. It's a brand affinity issue.

You wanted the social media economy, the Arrington economy, with all of its mainstream trappings and mainstream glory and mainstream money? Then take your minstrel act to the mainstream grocery store and see how much meat it gets you.

Mike, you got your friend wires crossed on this one a long time ago.

See Also:

He with Whom I agree*: http://whydoeseverythingsuck.com/2008/07/verizon-dumps-loren-tech-nigga-feldman.html

She with Whom I agree: http://shegeeks.net/i-requested-that-verizon-drop-their-deal-with-1938media/

The Far Less Clued:




(*I would, however, put money on Winer having made a couple of calls. No one is better with that old-school tech weapon called the telephone.)


NOT to be missed: black people are lame, and black people can't get it together.

Hey LIGHTEN UP, right?