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Dave Winer and Jason Calacanis face off

There’s nothing like a blog spat to start a Sunday, and Dave Winer’s yelling at Jason Calacanis in the middle of his Gnomedex presentation has certainly kicked off a good one.

To summarise, Jason gave a presentation about Mahalo, his human-powered search engine which, he hopes, will ultimately compete with Google. Dave was attending, and started interrupting the presentation, yelling from the back that this was “conference spam”.

Dave then posted on his blog that Mahalo was “not my cup of tea” because it wasn’t a platform – instead, it was a product which Jason and his investors can make money on. Jason responded, quite mildly in my view, addressing Dave’s issues and talking about his future plans for an API and content licensing. Dave claimed that this post was “mostly personal”, and, according to Jason, then went on in a face-to-face discussion to inform him they were no longer friends:

“I’m sad, but somewhat relieved, that Dave told me our friendship is over. He informed me of this in his third berating session of me in 24 hours, this time at the end of lunch. I’m not interested in having someone berate me like this, and I’m certainly not interested in having him berate people at the TechCrunch20 conference. If I made a mistake yesterday and was too promotional for the tone of the event I’m sorry as I explained above (right now i’ve have ~40 folks tell me I did a great job, and two including Dave say it was too promotional). Good luck to you Dave, it was nice spending time with you over the past couple of years.”

The whole thing seems remarkable in many ways, because Jason – a man not noted for suffering fools gladly – remains calm and reasonable throughout the discourse. His fundamental point is completely reasonable:

“However, my point about Dave’s approach to yelling at people in the middle of their presentations (which is an ongoing trend) and talking about your products being “spam” remain the same. Yell at someone while they are presenting–even if you disagree with them–is not cool. We had a spirited Q&A session that was very productive. That is the time for such behavior.”

I’ve noticed this kind of childish behaviour – yelling at people in presentations, a lack of courtesy, and organising “pile-ons” – amongst the tech community (lord knows, I’ve been guilt of it too). I’m not surprised at Dave, but I think Jason is to be commended on how he’s handled himself here. To lose a friendship over a disagreement is sad, for both parties. Hopefully Dave will change his mind at some point in the future.

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