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.