Monday, May 09, 2005

On Disrespectful Disagreement

I had all kinds of thoughts driving home from Nashville yesterday of things to blog about today. Discussing Dave Winer was not among them. Unfortunately, Winer has written about me, Glenn has blogged that the session was contentious, and the only video is a short clip of Winer criticizing me. I feel like I need to make the point that the contentiousness that Glenn mentioned had nothing to do with me, there were a whole series of moments far angrier than my encounter with Winer, and the few accounts already on the web don't fully capture how ridiculous the whole session was.

Les Jones gives a pretty good flavor. Paul Chaney does a good job describing how we were all wondering what exactly Winer was trying to do.

This should have been a really easy discussion to lead. The room was full of opinionated bloggers who had direct experience with a lack of civility on the web. A moderator needed only to get the discussion started (Winer's stated goal of discovering shared values would have been fine) and then focus on the typical moderator responsibilities: make sure everyone gets a chance to speak up, keep the discussion from getting too far off on a tangent, and step in if things get heated between participants.

Unfortunately, we got a confused, disjointed mess that quickly ran off the track. As others have noted, he got into a ridiculous exchange with John Cox that got really heated and went on and on and on to the point that people in the room began to get really uncomfortable. At that point, someone wondered if Dave was trying to conduct some kind of encounter group. As others have noted, his treatment of Robin Burk was totally out of line. He was rude quite often. About a third of the way through, he took a deep breath, slowed everything down and mentioned we still had another hour to go. I was actually feeling sympathy for him at this point. It occurred to me that perhaps he was taking medications that he had forgotten to bring with him on this trip.

At some point, John Jay Hooker came in and made a few points. When Winer interrupted and cut him off the way he had others, Hooker (a lawyer in his 70s dressed in a 3 piece suit) was really offended. Hooker got red in the face, raised his voice and angrily demanded that he be allowed to finish his point.

Even Glenn Reynolds found it necessary to make a point (nicely) of how rude Winer was. I had been cut off by Winer in the middle of making a point about how much of an effort some of the most successful bloggers (e.g. Glenn, Power Line, etc.) make to keep things civil. After bouncing off a couple of other people, Winer turned to Reynolds and asked him what he was interested in. Glenn replied that he was interested in hearing me have a chance to make the rest of my point.

It wasn't too long after that Winer got in a snit over something and declared that he was going to sit down. The discussion continued without him and improved considerably. Glenn left shortly after Dave's "take my ball and go home" routine.

Finally, as the session wound down, Dave got back up and took over. He was speaking about the common ground we all share and decided to use, as an example, the fact that we all agree that the economy is bad. Talk about clueless! I just wanted to roll my eyes, throw up my hands in surrender and have this "train wreck" come to a quick and merciful end. Or call BS on him. Perhaps I should have just walked out. Instead, I controlled the urge and simply chuckled silently to myself while thinking that this poor fool was beyond help. After an hour and a half of childish immaturity, constant rudeness and general incompetence in leading the discussion, he capped it all off by asserting that on the economy, one of the key hot botton issues of the recent election, everyone agreed with his liberal view. It was just too much.

Winer reacted to me as if I had laughed aloud or ridiculed him or somehow made a point of making my disagreement obvious to others. That simply isn't true.

After it was over, I was amazed at how many people came up to me over the rest of the afternoon to tell me that Winer's rant was really uncalled for. One of the better known bloggers said not to worry if I had been laughing because he was laughing, too!


Blogger Tom said...

It was mentioned to me by someone else that they had been laughing in the room at the time, so perhaps that was the same person. Thanks for your writeup - didn't get to meet with you personally, but now I can drop in on ya here on your blog.

10:35 AM, May 09, 2005  
Blogger Anonymous said...

Dave's clearly got issues and this is coming from me, a person that isn't a conservative by any means. I'm disappointed that a lot of liberals rely on histerics and emotion to make their points because it debases their opinions and really defeats their ability to win the war of ideas in public. Something that I've admired about conservatives/Republicans is that they are *often* able to put coherent arguments together. As long as liberals like Dave continue to "lead the charge", liberals will not get a plurality of support.
As a financial professional, Dave's comment that the economy is in bad shape is ludicrous. What a dork.

2:12 PM, May 09, 2005  
Blogger Ol' BC said...

This is just another example of the present state in which we exist. Conservatives tend to propose things. You may agree or disagree with all or part of the proposals. Liberals tend to whine and disagree with anything proposed by a conservative (or moderate for that matter) even if their side had proposed it earlier. The liberals seem to be starved for ideas and are trying to sustain themselves by crying "no" louder and louder.

2:59 PM, May 09, 2005  
Blogger Dale said...

Actually Stan, there were lots of looks of utter amazement that you could use the words "Fantastic shape" about this economy. For every economist who says anything remotely like that, there's 10 who flatly refute that. Deficit? Dollar? Not even "accounting" in the budget for Iraq expenses foreseen? I whispered to somebody next to me, "I wanted to laugh at that but didn't" and they nodded in agreement. Your own post here perhaps indicates that Dave might have read your non-verbal communication correctly (even though I wish he had just let it go....but on the other hand, it was relevant to that conversation: how we condescend, on both sides of the aisle -- not that this was Dave's intent. He just got VERY pissed, and yeah, over the line as well. Maybe you let his view of the economy block you from wanting to pursue any kind of "cooling the jets" from both sides of that encounter: maybe explaining to Dave that you meant no disrespect --- but I even have a hint here that you did; and expressed in your "certainty" that this is an obvious fact" so that anyone who says otherwsie is "Clueless"). Correctly not in his own response, but what he sensed coming from you. And on that score, you failed there , too. I enjoyed a lot of what you had to say in other sessions, Stan. I wish both of you had handled that differently.

YOu're right , other things got even more heated, and I couldn't really hear what the other guy was saying, but it looks like both sides kind of veered off the chosen path there, too. I could see the red face. I could feel embarassment for both Dave and the other guy.

But I just can't help but wonder about the things you expressed here (apparently to your own audience, since you stated it as if everybody would assume that "Dave was clueless" about the economy. Very rarrely do things head in a positive direction after that; after we conclude that the other person is "beyond help" and a "poor fool".

I do quite badly quite often when I am confronted, and so I found that even in the places where Dave maybe didn't control himself the way he himself might well have preferred, I found it instructive and felt I learned from it (not that I'm giving Dave credit for that--- I do in part, but the group gets most of that credit)

3:33 PM, May 09, 2005  
Blogger Dale said...

Actually, I should not have started out with "Actually" in my previous comment, sinjce that smacks of the same kind of "predisposition" to "knowing the facts" as I hold under criticism in that comment. So, just wanted you to know this was not meant to be "No, you're wrong and here's the way it was". It's kind of like when Dave said, I need to preface what I say with "in my humble opinion". Maybe that's a good rule of thumb (even when we KNOW we're right :)

3:36 PM, May 09, 2005  
Blogger Tom said...

Stan, I posted this over at Classical Values , , and just wanted you to see it.
I was sitting immediately in front of Stan and I could not hear him laughing. I personally was amused at Dave's comment about the economy, because it was so stereotypical of the liberal talking points. I was unnerved when I looked up from live blogging the event to see Dave staring in my direction and flaming. I was relieved when it was Stan with whom he was mad at. The person next to me had the same reaction thinking he was blasting them.

I have been reading Dave for a number of years and he has always been notoriously thin skinned. I even asked him why he was leading this session with this topic when it so ill suited him. We had an interesting discussion that was saved by the commonality of being born in New York and living in the South.

I think if Dave had given a talk over about the history and opportunities in blogging, he would be roundly hailed today as a visionary. However, that is not the case.


It was a pleasure meeting you at the conference. Red and I will be frequent readers of this site.

Tom from

4:11 PM, May 09, 2005  
Blogger Rob Huddleston said...

Stan -

Sounds like I missed a good time in Nashville...



5:34 PM, May 10, 2005  
Blogger Stomaphagus said...

Dave's tragic flaw is that the harder he tries to create light, the more heat he creates instead. His software is good, his behavior is bad. Whatever.

1:57 PM, May 11, 2005  
Blogger mcdtracy said...

Using the short video clip as input, I'd say you handled yourself well under the circumstances. Chuckling is allowed... I'd encourage it if I was stupid enough to try moderating and preaching in the same session.

Dave Winer's behavioral issues are not political in the slightest. He is easily triggered by any opposition and using him as a moderator is a questionable call...
("can I finish my point?"... re-stating the same point I madebefore I was so rudely countered). Even in the blog format he attacks someone who riles his demons using personal tactics.
When he is called on it he simply removes the offending text if the wind blows too hot.

As a long time Winer watcher I find his behavior alternately altruistic and abusive. There's a concept started by a Winer combatant called the Winer Number:

1. Dave Winer has Winer Number 0.
2. If you have been personally abused by Dave Winer, your Winer Number is 1.
3. If you have been abused by someone who has been abused by Dave Winer, your Winer Number is 2.

Multiple abuses are turned into a fraction with 1 in the numerator and the Winer number of abuses in the denominator (1/WN) .. leading to constant abuse converging towards
zero but never arriving there.

I interpret that to mean that experience with Dave tells you to just shrug it off and move on.
Bad behavior is still rampant and
even the top bloggers fail frequently to without significant flaws.

Let me conclude my indicating that Dave Winer has made some contributions to technology that have made the Internet function in ways no one ever considered and he has show great generosity to people he has favored to the tune of thousands of dollars in services
and system support. He is not a bad person but is flawed and not stable enough for political discourse, IMHO.

I am only saddened by the fact that
few seem to call Dave on his erruptions of bad conduct and they enable him to continue in the same mode. His dance card is full of invitations to public events and he's destined to raise more ruckuss.

3:09 PM, May 11, 2005  

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