Blog justice

This has become truly ugly. Read through all the posts about Tim O’Reilly listed at the top of techmeme right now, as well as the other posts they link to. Even if you believe that O’Reilly made a mistake in trying to trademark “Web 2.0,” or that he made a mistake in trying to enforce that copyright – and reasonable people can certainly come to either or both of those conclusions – the gang mentality that’s playing out right now has to turn your stomach. What we’re seeing is a mob using reputational blackmail to impose its will on somebody else. Everyone seems to feel a need to put his or her boot in, often yelling out personal insults in the process.

Is this the future?

Mark Twain put it best: “The pitifulest thing out is a mob; that’s what an army is – a mob; they don’t fight with courage that’s born in them, but with courage that’s borrowed from their mass, and from their officers. But a mob without any man at the head of it, is beneath pitifulness.”

UPDATE: Tim O’Reilly offers a measured response, which begins with this paragraph:

I used to bristle when members of the mainstream press wagged their fingers at the unprofessionalism of bloggers. I looked around at all the bloggers who are, to my mind, practicing great journalism, and wrote off the MSM criticism as fear of the new medium. But now I’m not so sure. The flap about the Web 2.0 Conference trademark has shaken my faith in the collective intelligence of the blogosphere. Of all the hundreds of people who commented on this issue, only a few touched base to do a bit of fact checking. The New York Times, by contrast, was all over doing due-diligence. They talked to everyone they could get their hands on before publishing their story.

4 thoughts on “Blog justice

  1. Seth Finkelstein

    Well, on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand …

    I think there’s a certain amount of “Live by the sword, die by the sword” in the reaction. Maybe “Live by the marketing hype, die by the marketing hype” here.

    How are people to affect the actions of the powerful except by protest? What’s the difference between deserved bad publicity for a poor action, and “blackmail”? (my answer would go to the moral judgments involved).

    I think you’re getting just a little bit overly-contrarian here. It’s certainly not a pretty sight, but given O’Reilly’s status and power, it’s not like he’s really being hurt, blog-flaming to the contrary.

  2. Bob Aman

    It is ugly. No other way to put it. The outrage may turn out to be entirely justified or it may not, but right now, it’s little more than kicking the man when he’s down. Wait… the metaphor is failing here, since technically, the man may not even realize he’s being kicked. But still, it’s not cool. At all. People need to give it a rest until Monday when they can get some actually legimate information.

  3. Thomas Otter

    I’m hesitant to add to the cacophony, but anyway..

    1.O’Reilly or whoever it was from his organisation was ill-advised to send the letter.

    2. He may have a case, but that is for the law to decide, not the mob.

    3. Crackpot legal advice from the bloglumaries is a big problem here. “famous” people mixing up simple things like trademark and copyright. Why is it that just because someone knows a lot about technology they think they understand the law. Rants on the evils of IP law without proposing alternatives doesn’t help either

    4. The wikipedia entry on trademark is worse than useless. Please can a law professor or even an article clerk update it with something vaguely representing the law.

    The blogsphere is poorer today. At the risk of being poncy I’ll quote from Julius Caesar, just after Caesar died.

    Brutus said:

    Stoop, Romans, stoop.

    And let us bathe our hands in Caesar’s blood

    Up to the elbows, and besmear our swords;

    Then walk we forth even to the marketplace,

    And, waving our red weapons o’er our heads,

    Let’s all cry out ‘peace, freedom, and liberty!'” (3.1.106-111).

    Casius continued with:

    “How many ages hence Shall this our lofty scene be acted over, In states unborn and accents yet unknown!” (3.1.112-114).

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