There’s journalists. There’s bloggers. And then there’s people like MG Siegler and Michael Arrington.
Sometimes I wonder whether certain tech bloggers even care about delivering relevant and accurate technology news to their readers. Sometimes I wonder if I’m back in high school. Either way, I’m grabbing some popcorn and enjoying the show.
When Dan Lyons called TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington a “hired gun” and a “click whore” yesterday in a blog post titled “Welcome to the Silicon Cesspool,” shit hit the fan—but not for the first time. See, the tech blogging space is like a college where, most of the time, its students work diligently, but also where, some of the time, unruly food fights ensue in the cafeteria. This is made worse by the problem that those throwing the food are at the top of the chain, so no one is around to stop the childish tantrums. Worse yet, these guys just don’t know when to stop.
There was a time when settling personal disputes was best left to in-person meetings out of the public eye. “Fuck that,” the Internet said one day, and suddenly it became okay for supposedly professional journalistic types to air their dirty laundry and launch spitballs at each other without consequence. Well, it never actually became okay, but the Internet enabled people to do it anyway and pretend it was.
So, yesterday, Dan Lyons appeared to be fed up with the likes of Michael Arrington and his faithful lapdog, MG Siegler, who fled TechCrunch to help Mike with his CrunchFund after Mike got canned from the company he created. With both of them out of the tech blogging scene, they’re suddenly ragging on tech bloggers for sucking—when only a year ago they were indulging in the very same habits, perhaps more shamelessly than anyone. One understands, then, when Dan delves into a 2,500-word impassioned rant over how CrunchFund is less of an angel fund and more of a, “give us money to be our friends, otherwise face our influential wrath” mafia. He leverages the recent example of Nick Bilton and Path.
But there is so much more to this story than one or two or three blog posts; you need at least a couple of seasons of The Real Tech Bloggers of Silicon Valley to capture all the drama. Last season, the main plot would have been the fiasco of Aol taking over TechCrunch, where its staff started blogging about how maybe they would quit, or maybe they wouldn’t, and why TechCrunch is the same, or why it’s doomed… hold on, none of that is really tech news. Furthermore, no one really cares about a dispensable tech blogger leaving a website—he’ll likely just go write for another, similar one. Do you see teenagers at McDonald’s standing up on the counters and yelling to their customers, “I might quit and join Burger King because of our new manager! Give me attention!” Didn’t think so.
One noteworthy example is Paul Carr, who famously resigned via a blog post, which means he must be incredibly important and TechCrunch must be a Facebook wall, except both are untrue (although the latter can be a blurry line). But even more comical, the editor-in-chief of the publication then “accepted” his resignation via a blog post too—and, very maturely (not), said that “at any other publication, Paul would have been fired long ago.” Really makes you want to work there, eh? Sadly, absolutely nothing mentioned publicly needed to be mentioned publicly throughout that dramatic debacle. But the lust for fame—good or bad—and the potential for pageviews tend to overpower good judgement sometimes (read: all too often).
Currently, this season stars MG Siegler, Mike Arrington, and everyone else they pull into their goon-like theatrics—most recently Dan Lyons and Nick Bilton. MG, who has built a giant swath of illusional credibility by writing garbage for reputable publications and constantly flexing his ego muscles to the world, runs a personal blog called Paris Lemon, where he blogs about tech and insults inferior beings in juvenile manners. Unable to attack Dan over real issues, MG likes to dub him “too old” and say that he “simply does not matter anymore.” Says who? MG, of course. And does MG matter? Yes. Why? Because he says so, of course! Sadly, even after several years of writing for multiple publications, he struggles to grasp basic punctuation, such as keeping periods inside quotations. MG says that Dan “could never do what we do,” which is probably true only because Dan’s head isn’t the size of a football field and because his skills lean toward authentic journalism rather than writing whatever, whenever, however, wherever, and calling it content. When MG says “I actually care about technology [and] love startups,” you have to wonder if he could say that in the mirror without laughing. What he loves is the sound of his own voice—technology is just where he found a few others willing to listen. Alas, a perfect main character for Real Tech Bloggers.
Michael Arrington, meanwhile, is the heavy-hitting founder of TC and now the founder of CF, and all the while a genuine dick. Don’t take it from me; he’s basically said it himself. He knows it—in fact, everyone knows it. That’s how he became an influencer. Lots of people respect the influential prick types. But Mike’s approach can be a little grating because he pushes a perception that he always takes the high road: his Twitter bio reads “be excellent to each other,” a mantra he seldom follows, and he somehow keeps a straight face while calling real journalists such as Nick “not very noble” for rightly criticizing Path while he trashes anyone or anything he wants freely. He’s the perfect companion to MG: a one-two punch duo that stick together no matter how unbelievably deep in shit they’re swimming. A good cop and bad cop to the public eye, they can both hit below the belt behind the scenes while convincing most that they’re always right. The original story, if anyone remembers, was about Path secretly uploading users’ contact lists without permission. Days later, the limelight has shifted completely to blogging celebrities. How perfect for Path, who escapes largely unscathed, thanks to the villainously heroic efforts of its best investor, CrunchFund. Crude, but clever—perfect for reality television.
Next season will likely see a recurring role from PandoDaily, which is built by a team of TC outcasts and is already beginning to run diary-esque pieces while preposterously attempting to be a “real media company” (note: raising a few dollars from your big-pocketed friends does not make your online megaphone a legitimate media business).
Will there be a Canadian edition of Real Tech Bloggers soon? We might be too polite, unfortunately. Besides, Techvibes for one has no personality, according to Startup North. Then again, that’s easy for a hobby blog to say, as those tend to be more sizzle than steak. At real media companies, personality comes second to news, insight, and analysis of—wait for it—the tech space that our—wait for it—readers actually want to read about. If people wanted to read about blogger celebs telling the world that someone “was my friend until 5 mins ago,” they’d check out their teenage daughter’s Facebook wall or read gossipy glossies like TechCrunch. Yet, somehow, this shitstorm has now become so big, covering the drama is actually starting to seem like real tech news.
In the words of Michael Arrington, “we’re better than this.” Ah, if only.