The Name Controversy
A complete explanation of this, from the person whose blog and radio show they tried to steal the name from, can be found here. Brendan also responds nicely to the bizarrely disingenuous "About Our Name" section of the OSM website, which has been changed multiple times, usually without acknowledgment. (Hmmm, multiple unacknowledged and disingenuously worded corrections which themselves contain inaccuracies. OSM is starting to remind me of some other "SM". Can't quite put my finger on it, hmmm . . .). He responds to the first stealth edit here and to the next one here. Now the note stands with a correction (really a correction of a correction of a correction or something by this point I think) that seems to finally jibe with Brendan Greeley at the real Open Source Media's version of events, but doesn't deal with the central question at all, that is the brand confusion issue, nicely explained by Jeff Jarvis here. Jeff also does a good job picking apart the ridiculously pompous and self-important tone of the disingenuous "About our Name" post:
The goal of our enterprise is to bring gravitas and legitimacy to the blogosphere
Oh, gag me with a mitre.
I don’t think that blogs need to have legitimacy laid upon them … and who died and made you the legitimizer?
And gravitas? Good God, big, old media has an oversupply of that. That’s what got them in such trouble. And that’s what we’re running away from.
Previously, I was merely amused and confused by whatever-we-should-call whatever-it-is. Now I’m cringing as I await the sound of trains crashing.
The latest wrinkle in the story is that Roger and Brendan are going to talk sometime this week. Do you think Roger'll turn on the charm like he did with Ann Althouse? (see bottom of that particular post). That certainly worked out well! Seriously what's disturbing about this name thing is that it means that at a minimum they've never heard of Open Source Media, a fairly well-known weblog and radio show. Unforgivable for someone trying to do what they're trying to do. On top of that, it means that they didn't do a basic search to see if anyone in the same field had the same name, a basic first step when starting up any new business which even I knew about as little as I know about business. And that's from interpreting the facts in the best possible light. More sinisterly, maybe they knew full well that the name was already being used and they thought that they could somehow use the power of the conservative blogosphere to bully their way into stealing it. I'd believe anything after what we've seen these last few days.
In a hilarious bit of high-concept punditry blogger Don Surber has renamed his blog Open Source Media.
The Luke Ford Controversy
Not enough has been said about this part of the story. Matt Welch summarizes the episode concisely. Luke Ford, exasperating as he can be, is an American original and a good writer who would have definitely helped the site greatly. Casting him aside at the last minute, however, was not unforgivable in and of itself, just unprofessional and rude. What's more troubling is thinking of what must have lead to the decision to do so. As Welch writes "I just hope that Pajamas acted as it did because it somehow didn't realize that Luke was still writing about porn, which if true would just mean that they were remiss in not conducting basic due diligence, and that they have a prudish take on what is acceptable. Any other explanation I can think of (and I'll post 'em as I get 'em) suggests something considerably worse."
Some good speculation on the "considerably worse" can be found here. Cathy Seipp admits in this National Review Online column that Ford was dropped "at the insistence of the porn-hating main Pajamas investor." So, this all begs the question who is this double super-secret main investor who seems to really call the shots?
The Best Account Yet of the Party and of the Launch Generally
I've been meaning to link to this. It's simply one of the best pieces of writing I've seen on the internet in months and one of the best blog posts I've ever seen. It's really a read-the-whole-thing situation with this, but I can't resist excerpting a large portion of it here and, forgive me, bolding the parts I most agree with. I've never seen anyone so deftly puncture the pomposity of blogs, bloggers, and of OSM. It's from Jim Lowne, a photojournalist and writer and friend of Tim Blair:
Apart from Blair and the ever-lovely Cathy Seipp, I didn’t know a face in the room. But people seemed friendly and introduced themselves as they tried to get closer and speak with Blair, or better yet, have a picture taken with him.
“Are you a blogger?” I was asked repeatedly.
“Well, I have a blog…” I would answer.
At about this point, Blair would jump in and introduce me as photographer and tell highly exaggerated stories about me shooting wars and covering September 11th. It was here that I started to get a different read on some of the people gathered in the function room. The internet is this incredible thing that allows access to an amazing flow of information from all over the planet. But a blog is really about everyone’s own little world. And some of these folks truly lived in their own little worlds.
Blair was making up stories about me in Bosnia and then said something about covering 9-11.
“So, you went right from the war in Bosnia to 9-11?” asked one woman. The woman next to her also eagerly awaited my answer.
I just looked at them and said not exactly. There was a six year gap between events. In all fairness, why should they know or care about the Balkan wars from 10 years ago? I was there, so it is matters to me, but I can’t fault anyone for a lack of knowledge about it.
The women, both 40ish and well-dressed, seemed nice and reasonably intelligent but disturbingly disconnected from the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. It was as if they had mentioned a class in college they once took and had some authority on the subject. I mean, did anyone actually “go to 9-11”?
The September 11 attacks quickly became the meat of the conversation. But these nice folks didn’t mention the horror or death or the survivors or the wounding of a city or brave firefighters or fatherless children. They didn’t even offer a personal tale of the day. There were no “I remember exactly what I was doing when I heard” stories.
The talk went straight to the media coverage. One woman made comments about how the flow of information about it all slowed dramatically in the weeks shortly after the attacks. Why did “they” stop showing certain pictures from that day, another asked. A mainstream media conspiracy was afoot, it seemed to them. It was clear to me that none of them have ever worked in the news business.
I believe many of these people have come up with the information equivalent of the biggest mistake in dirty politics. As we know in politics, it’s not the alleged crime but the cover-up that takes you down. To some of these bloggers, it is not the story that matters but the coverage. And they want to use the coverage to take down whatever news outlet doesn’t fit in their world.
Not long into the 9-11 conversation, Blair mercifully suggested we retreat to the overpriced bar in the hotel lobby so I could finally get a drink and a fresh conversation. He went up to the bar to refill his wine glass and took my martini order while I waited in a little drinking area. There I met two gentlemen who were still buzzing on the possibilities of Open Source Media, and some wine I would guess, too.
One gent was a tall, quiet Dutchman who flew down for the OSM launch from his home in Vancouver. The other guy said he was a professor at a university in Boston. Since I knew absolutely nothing about OSM or any of these people, I decided to do something a decent reporter would do; if I opened my mouth it was only to sip my drink or to ask a question.
I asked the Boston guy if he was a blogger. It seems like the right question with this crowd.
“I’m thinking about it,” he said.
“What would you blog about if you had a blog,” I then asked.
“It's clear in my mind but I can’t put it into words,” he said after an incredibly long pause.
Thankfully, he was wise enough to put off his blog launch until he figured out the words part. But he had no shortage of words verbally. Boston guy praised former New York Times reporter Judith Miller who spoke at an OSM event earlier in the afternoon. He said he could understand her hesitation to start a career in blogging after leaving the Times. I asked him what the risk was for her.
“She wouldn’t have the protection, the layers, the editors to shield her from criticism,” he said. “It would be just her putting her words out there for everyone to pounce on.”
“She could turn off the comments section on her blog,” I offered.
“She would really be making herself vulnerable.”
“Well, most reporters have thick skins to begin with,” I said
“Yes, there is a think skin, but this would put her reputation at stake,” Boston guy said.
“Didn’t she do that when she fucked up?” I asked
The whole Miller thing went flat, so I asked him about what Open Source Media was going to do or be.
“It is going to take on the mainstream media.”
“Like a wire service?” I asked.
“No, not exactly.”
“How exactly will it work?”
He really didn’t have an answer. Actually, the few people I spoke with didn’t seem to have any clear or detailed answers of what exactly OSM was going to be or do. But Boston guy sure did know it was going to be bad for the mainstream media, especially the New York Times.
“There was no mainstream media coverage of the French Intifada for the first five days.”
The what? At first I thought he had a speech problem or too much wine but then realized he meant the rioting in France. I hadn’t caught that term. Clever, I thought. And Boston guy was clearly proud about being clever enough to use a clever term.
“You mean to tell me that there wasn’t a wire service there at the start?”
“Well, the New York Times didn’t report about it for the first five days.”
This could have been true. I didn’t know since I hadn’t been following the story that closely. It sounded like classic rioting with all the classic reasons for rioting. It was horrible but wasn’t directly affecting my life, as I was working very hard to get a guy elected governor of New Jersey. People riot for a reason, things burn and then change comes for better or worse. The long-term effects and the French government’s plan and policies are the interesting stories down the road.
In any event, I tried to explain to Boston guy why it wasn’t exactly a massive international story the first night of rioting. A local story at best, perhaps a national story in France. The story only got legs as it dragged out night after night.
“Bloggers were all over it the first night,” he said.
“That’s great,” I said and meant it. “I am sure they had some great first person accounts to share.”
“No, they reported it the first night!”
“They were all over the French Intifada.”
“Sorry, I didn’t see any of that,” I apologized.
“It took the New York Times five days.”
Nothing I could say would change Boston guy’s mind that there was some media conspiracy being led by the New York Times. Even worse, Blair still hadn’t delivered my martini.
The conversation went around in circles with me asking about how OSM could do it better and what exactly was wrong with the Times. Finally my drink arrived but any enjoyment was short lived.
“You are of the second millennium,” Boston guy spat at me, in French no less.
“Excuse me, but you don’t know anything about me.”
“I can tell by your reactions.”
“You are presumptuous and insulting,” I replied.
He didn’t care. I did not get it or agree with his gospel, as far as he was concerned, so I was ignorant. The New York Times and the mainstream media are both evil. That was it. That was all that mattered to him. And when he gets his blog that’s what he will write about, everyone who disagrees be damned.
Before harsher words or fists flew, I downed the martini and grabbed Blair for a smoke outside.
Fuming, I bitched to Blair about the self-important clown while pulling on a Marlboro. Blair told me to forget about it. The guy probably had too much wine. Whatever, he wasn’t worth the energy. Besides the beautiful Filipino woman who asked for a light was far more worthy of attention.
Blair and I talked much nonsense with the beauty as we smoked. He said we were in business together.
“What kind of business?” she asked.
“Big business,” he lied.
“Oh, I like big,” she smiled.
I don’t think Blair caught that and I let it pass but I was a little concerned when he invited the beauty to join us for a drink. One Gray Goose Sea Breeze with a splash of orange for her, and I moved to scotch.
“So, would you like to come back to my hotel?” she quietly asked me as we stood in a group of bloggers.
I was trying to think of a polite way to say I don’t have that kind of money. So, I smiled at her dumbly instead and sipped my drink.
In this new group of people around us at the bar was a blogger woman who lived on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and her investment banker husband. She said she likes to blog about art and literature, things that move her, some things that don’t. She was very sweet and excited about meeting all these other bloggers.
I asked her husband about blogging and he hadn’t a clue but was happy his wife was so thrilled with it. Since he was an investment banker, I asked what he thought of OSM as a business. He said he wasn’t hopeful, and it reminded him of the internet bubble. It was hard to disagree.
Soon Blair and I were chatting with the beauty again.
“So what do you do?” he asked her.
“Anything,” she smiled
“No, I mean how do your earn money?”
“I believe she already answered that question,” I piped in.
She just smiled, still looking for a ride back to her hotel, and for the first time ever I saw Tim Blair speechless.
Once he was able to talk again, Blair and I went outside once more for a smoke. The bloggers faded away from the bar and the beauty thanked us for the drink and said good night. I watched her walk away up Lexington alone and realized she was the only person I had meet at the Open Source Media after-party who was truly open and who had a solid business plan.
(Emphasis Mine.) And I think that's all that really needs to be said.