Tag Archives: Valleywag

Cuil. Too cool for words?

Richard MacManus of ReadWriteWeb wrote a post last night about the big coverage of Cuil, thought and/or hoped by many to be the Google killer.

The MacManus post muses about the coverage of the new search engine and the major criticism that followed its debut.  A lot of expectations mismanaged.  So MacManus cites the echo chamber and the hyperbole that stokes it.

But let’s not blame the PR people, people.  Yes, I find much of the language, elitist and cozy, too much to bear.  But somebody’s swallowing it.  And it’s not just the TechCrunches and the Valleywags.  It’s our highly trained, self-proclaimed highly professional mainstream media.

Here are the suggestions I just shared in a comment to MacManus’s post.  Let’s start stripping away the hype.  Ultimately, it’s the best thing for all concerned.

Lots of insightful comments on your interesting post.  This is not a criticism of Cuil, either.  Time will tell.

I do have comments to the press, bloggers, all the new media types “covering” startups, Silicon Valley, tech money:

1  You are part of the echo chamber.  Think before you write.  Choose your words carefully and wisely.

2  Talk with the potential enemies as well as the pals and coterie of the founders and the VCs.

3  Recognize that not everyone tells the truth.

4  If you don’t understand the technology, find someone neutral who does.  Neutral = doesn’t have an ax to grind.

5  In comparing products, rely on your own instincts and that of a true expert to unearth key points of differentiation between products and services.  Don’t just reprint what you’re being fed.

6  Start looking for the real stories of Silicon Valley.  Yes, you’re busy.  But when you take on the responsibility of distilling facts for others, you take on the responsibility to dig.  If you don’t have the work ethic for this role, find something else to do.  We’re sick of the hyperbole.  The real stories of Silicon Valley are not that far beneath the superficial surface on which you skate.

This is coming to you from someone who helps to craft and tell the stories of startups and corporations that are in this for the joy as well as the payoff — and who wouldn’t dream of yanking your chains.  Wake up.

Girl Geeks: Watch out for the profiteers

My morning scan of tech blogs revealed a post on Valleywag about the woman-owned porn company's sponsorship of the upcoming Girl Geek Dinner here in San Francisco.  I'm not surprised that the scampy Gawker property supports the dinner's tacky sponsor.  [side note:  co-sponsor Facebook, where are you?]

I am surprised, however, that Valleywag is letting the porn company founder get away with this gem: "I'm a tech vet, and I used
to be very similar — you want to strip your sexuality and just live in
your brain, and be a talented, smart individual so you can compete in a
male-dominated space. You become sexless — but why can't I be both? Why
can't I be beautiful and sexy and be smart?"

This is specious logic at best, and I think the women of Silicon Valley know it.  Heck, women around the world know it.  At least those who have been in the workforce for a while.

Since when did it become necessary for any woman to demonstrate her femininity by stripping off her clothes in public for pay?  This company may be trying to position itself as an agent for artists [their word for the women on their site], but we all know what they're selling.  And will the so-called artists achieve the same level of profit as the VCs and the founders for permitting themselves to be exploited?

Girl Geek Dinners, you're being used.  Just like the women who are being told that an element of liberation is using your power over your body to expose it for pay.  Go ahead and accept this company's sponsorship and convince yourselves that whatever any woman does as an entrepreneur is OK.  Go ahead and roll down that slippery slope.  You won't like what you find at the bottom.

By the way.  The above quote also made me laugh.  I've been fighting — and winning — the argument that a woman can be beautiful and sexy and smart for years.  I had hoped it would be over by now, by virtue of my own maturity and what I figured would happen in society as well. 

Never in my wildest nightmares did I expect that I would read what I did this morning from a person of my own gender.  But, I guess we have come a long way.  Women now get to live and smirk on the dark side of a free market, too. 

I don't think this is what Susan B Anthony and Eleanor Roosevelt had in mind.

Valleywag’s job

A lot of people complain about Valleywag being a muckraking, patently unfair, inaccurate, just plain mean source of behind-the-scenes technology news.  [Which means people are complaining about a mainstream source of entertainment in the industry, particularly here in northern California.] The site is decried as a parasite that would not exist without the success of visionary entrepreneurs, their investors and the people behind the scenes.

That said, Valleywag’s team would have very little to shovel if it weren’t surrounded by excrement.  It’s Valleywag’s chosen role to sift through the waste and report the dark side of the technology culture.  [Calm down, every industry has one.]  And this actually serves a purpose.  We are inundated with hyperbole at impossibly higher levels of absurdity every day.  If we’re not going to tell the truth, somebody should be trying to uncover it.

It’s said that Valleywag draws some outlandish conclusions at times and deliberately puts things in a bad, if not salacious, light.  But as long as there has been a media, there have been players who’ve taken this role and run with it.  So any company that decides to build awareness via the media must accept that there are all kinds of media and devise a way to deal with them.  Not play them, deal with them.

Of course, the best way to manage one’s image is to operate transparently, admitting that errors in judgment and mistakes are part of the drill.  It’s become clear that the biggest obstacle to transparency is human nature.  You can have the most sophisticated branding, public relations and product marketing armies at your beck and call, but unless the honchos check ugly tendencies such as narcissism, arrogance, nepotism and elitism at the front door each morning, you are sunk.  Because when the foibles hit, and they will, you’re going to need an uncluttered perspective to explain them and convince stakeholders — including all those people who bought your stock — that you’re running a business, not a 24/7 funhouse.  Otherwise, all that bravado is only going to convince one person:  the one looking back at you from the mirror.

Unfortunately for companies in any industry with a lot of resources to throw around, financial success does weird things.  When it’s stratospheric success, the beast becomes really unreasonable. 

So, read one of today’s posts from Valleywag.  It’s a case study in comprehending just how wacky you can become when you have nothing to lose but a job you don’t need anymore and a reputation that you think counts only with your kind, dear.