I've been skirting on the edges of the Le Web controversy. To be honest, it was only in the last hour that I scanned through the nearly 2000 posts regarding what happened there. For those of you, who like me, missed the actual train collision, here are a few of the highlights, or perhaps they are better called lowlights.
- Loic LeMeur, Le Web 3 producer attracts approximately 1000 people to attend, making this among the largest tech conferences ever held. Most people shelled out 600 euros, plus hotel and airfare for the privilege of hearing wisdom from a roster of speakers they thought would be relevant to them. A couple of them attended the event on my personal recommendation. Let me note here that I consider Loic a friend. He was very helpful to Robert and me in the writing of Naked Conversations. He educated me to what was happening in Europe and opened doors for me that have been most valuable.
- Somehow, and I assume at a time close to the start of the event, Loic got Israeli Nobel Laureate Shimon Peres and a couple of French presidential candidates to either agree to--or offer to--speak. I have no inside knowledge of what happened, but my guess is that there was a surprise and Loic had to make a quick call. he had to decide fast and being passionate about a great many things including politics, Loic decided to take the gamble that these speakers would be well received particularly if they said the word "internet" a couple of times.
- Loic's gamble failed. Blog reports on the event are overwhelmingly negative. Among those who gave a solidly negative report was Sam Sethi, recently appointed by Michael Arrington to head up the neophyte TechCrunch UK & Ireland. Note: mike is a friend. He sponsored a TechCrunch party for Robert and me that was among the best personal experiences I've ever had.
- There is rumor (again I have no inside information) that Sam and Mike are already at odds after Arrington failed to show up for the London launch party f the new Crunch publication, sending neither apology nor explanation to the 150 or so attendees at that event. But then there's the other part. TechCrunch is a sponsor of the conference and Loic and Arrington have an historic friendship.
- Loic and Arrington are both known to have tempers. I cannot fault them for this. I've been known to have one myself. Loic displays his by posting a comment on Sam Sethi's negative conference review, calling Sam an asshole.
- Arrington then fires Sam and takes down the offending post.
If you want greater details, just go to Technorati and search the leweb3 tag. It goes on and on and on. Also, I think Ian Delaney, who I previously and incorrectly chided for complaining about the conference,has been doing a superior job of calmly reporting it, here.
Now, as I said a few paragraphs ago, I consider Loic and Mike to be my friends. I appreciate what they have done for me and I am a bit fearful of joining the fray, when I was 6,000 miles away at the time the events occurred.
But I think, in this case, both made serious errors. Let me explain.
Loic promised one thing and provided another. People paid retal for a certain promised experience and they did not get it. Loic also asked speakers to come and speak at a particular time and for a specified length. The attendees came with expectations. The speakers made preparations. Soe did research and prepared PowerPoint. I read that at least one had expected to speak for 30 minutes and he got cut to 3 minutes. The result is that both attendees and speakers feel insulted by Loic's action and he would be wise to apologize. He also should have learned by events that occurred a year ago at Les Blogs, that it is very unwise to to call an attendee an asshole.
I think Michael Arrington's error was far greater and I am truly disappointed to read of his actions. Anyone, who has ever worked for the news media, online or off; anyone who has taken a basic journalism or media and society course knows that there is a hard walled separation between advertisers and reporters. publishers have been wincing at what reporters have written and said about advertisers for centuries and that is essential to the credibility of the news media. This situation is a bit different. TechCrunch was the advertiser, not the publisher. The point remains the same. If Mike wants us to believe what we read in his increasing bevy of publications, then he should act in a way that lets observers believe that editorial analysis is not being shaped by the publication's financial interests.
As for Sam Sethi, I don't know him, never met him and in fact, I don't believe I ever read him until today. What I read today was pretty much in keeping with what was written elsewhere. My guess is when the dust settles from all this, he will emerge as a winner.
To Loic and Michael, I simply give the advice, we blogging advocates keep harping on. Listen to your customers. Listen very carefully and understand that whatever power and influence you have comes from them.