It seems that the big news out of Gnomedex last week was the “drama” that played out around Jason Calacanis’ presentation. The basic context is this: Jason took the stage to talk about spam content creeping into search results. This is clearly a topic that Jason is passionate about — so much so that he’s created a company that he hopes will tackle the problem through a new kind of editorially-influenced search engine. As he spoke, it became clear that his talk was going to segue right into a discussion of how his company could solve this problem.
Generally the presentations at Gnomedex aren’t about particular products or companies. There are exceptions to be sure (for example, this year the CEO of JibJab gave one of the more interesting talks, which was almost entirely about his company). I don’t have a strongly held point of view on this subject; for my part I just want the presentations to be interesting. If that means talking about your company so be it.
So, as Jason gets going, he’s talking about spam (“unwanted commercial pitches”) showing up everywhere, especially in search, and it occurs to someone in the back of the room that if he’s going to segue right into Mahalo, then the talk is sort of “conference spam.” That struck some as funny and ironic. There was some mumbling and giggling from the back of the room. Jason noticed, paused, hesitated, something — and Dave Winer said “You’re doing it now! You’re spamming us!”
This is what I thought at the time: that’s kinda funny. Maybe a tiny bit obnoxious to yell it out, but Jason’s pitch was a tad ironic. I think I chuckled a bit. Then I went right back to listening — with some interest frankly — to what Jason had to say. We use subject matter experts at Pandora to classify music, so there are some parallels with Mahalo and I wanted to hear more.
I would never have thought about it again.
And then the blogosphere picked it up. The first accounts I read sounded like “HUGE BLOWUP AT GNOMEDEX!!!” Strange, I thought — my experience of the event was quite different: it was a non-event for me.
Could it be that we wanted to invent a little drama to attach to what was really a pretty sedate little conference? That maybe, just maybe, the entire thing wasn’t about what Dave said at all? Given that very real possiblility, it doesn’t seem right for Dave to be at the epicenter of an invented conroversy, with lots of old stories of ancient feuds and perceived injustices being dredged up. When I saw Dave at BarCampBlock on Saturday, I told him as much. He mentioned it on ScriptingNews today so I thought I’d say a bit more about my perspective on what happened.