[I had written a better, longer version of this but then WordPress barfed on it. Enjoy the shoddy, hastily retyped version.]
This week, more details came out about the TechCrunch extortion scandal (too boring and non-eventful to link to). The extortee Sam Odio emailed Jason Calacanis explaining that he was the one involved. Jason forwarded the email to someone whose style I find so distasteful that I don’t even want to mention let alone link to them. The backlash against Mr Distasteful and Jason Calacanis was fast and furious – the comments “Calacanis does not seem worth trusting based on this.” and “When did Calacanis ever seem to be worth trusting? He’ll do anything to get attention.” became two of the top 25 highest voted comments on Hacker News, ever. Lots of people just don’t like Jason Calacanis.
This seems wierd to me. I’ve never heard anyone say “I know Jason Calacanis personally and I don’t like him” or “I’ve worked with Jason Calacanis and he’s horrible.” Ever since Jason expressed an interest in GeekStack, I’ve asked people I know how it was working with him, and it has been overwhelmingly positive. For example, last week I emailed him asking for a lawyer recommendation, and he emailed me back within 2 hours with an introduction. I’ve written before about why I think it’s useful for tech entrepreneurs to listen to Jason Calacanis. It’s only people that know of him that hate him (I’m sure there are people that know him and dislike him, I’ve just never heard them speak up).
The short story of what happened is:
- TC reporter asks for a MacBook Air in exchange for coverage
- Sam (founder of Divvyshot) hems and haws about it, flustered by the direct extortion
- Story breaks with limited details
- Jason writes about it
- Sam writes an email to Jason confessing his role in it
- Jason forwards an email to Mr Distasteful
- Mr Distasteful threatens to expose Sam
- Sam comes clean, tells story
- Everyone piles on Jason for forwarding the email
Jason added some details on Hacker News
- He gets 400-500 emails a day
- This email was not clearly marked as confidential
- He didn’t know what Mr Distasteful was going to do with it
Sounds like a simple misunderstanding that we can all learn lessons from:
- When you want something to be confidential, put CONFIDENTIAL in the subject and first line
- When emailing a busy person, have useful subject, short body, and clear ask at the end
- If something seems “hot”, think twice about who you tell about it
Jason and Sam both made some faux pas here, but they’ll both survive. And despite this, Jason does tons to help entrepreneurs. TechCrunch50 has sped lots of great companies on their way to success, TWiST has taught lots of entrepreneurs and helped others directly (yours truly included), and Open Angel Forum has connected 10 (soon to be dozens) of startups with the best angels in the business. This is in addition to the small throwaway things that he does in private, like helping me find a lawyer. This is all in addition to his day job.
What does this have to do with Robot Cars? Just like the preconceived distrust people have for Jason keeps them from seeing the good he does, the distrust people have for technology that takes power away from humans will prevent us from using robot cars. Even if they perform 100x safer per mile, every accident will bring headlines like “2 More Die Due To Robotic Failure”. Fear will keep a net beneficial technology that saves lives from being adopted. Ok, it was a stretch of a point to make, but it was a really fun headline to write.
Good thing Jason has thicker skin than the robots!