Plausible Deniability Just Doesn’t Cut It Mr Arrington

I actually don’t care about the facts in the current drama over Michael Arrington not attending 2 sessions where he was scheduled to speak, possibly because he didn’t agree in person to speak.

Plausible deniability is the term given to the creation of loose and informal chains of command in governments and other large organizations. In the case that assassinations, false flag or black ops or any other illegal or otherwise disreputable and unpopular activities become public, high-ranking officials may deny any connection to or awareness of such act, or the agents used to carry out such act.

In politics and espionage, deniability refers to the ability of a “powerful player” or actor to avoid “blowback” by secretly arranging for an action to be taken on their behalf by a third party—ostensibly unconnected with the major player.

More generally, “plausible deniability” can also apply to any act that leaves little or no evidence of wrongdoing or abuse. Examples of this are the use of electricity or pain-compliance holds as a means of torture or punishment, leaving little or no tangible signs that the abuse ever took place.

I can understand Om Malik’s reason for not attending, a bad back – nice, clear, understandable, totally excusable.

There is some doubt over Michael Arrington’s claims, for instance Wendy says she posted after confirmation with the organisers.

Michael Arrington’s specific words

I never agreed to attend the conference.

I would really appreciate it if the organizers of Blogworld would post something clearing this up.

Jim Kukral wrote

You forgot to come? At least lie to us, lol.

Digging Into The Facts

There was a little bit of a storm in a teacup just a month ago over a bit of clumsy email marketing, which also involved Techcrunch writer Duncan Riley.

Within that there was some telling evidence to this situation, at least in my mind.

This is what Duncan Riley wrote in an email to Rick Calvert that appears in a blog post on the Blogworld Expo blog (Emphasis is mine)

Sent: Tuesday, October 16, 2007 1:01 AM

Subject: Re: Come Join Us at the World’s Largest Blogging Conference

I know Michael is speaking, I write for TechCrunch. I’m not sure whether to take this as spam or not, particularly given that I’ve already discussed with the organizers the rumor that I wasn’t invited due to a sponsor. In fact the face that you’ve pulled out a random post on my personal blog makes this sound a lot like spam.

Best of luck with it.

So Duncan acknowledges that Michael Arrington is attending, and qualifies that statement by implying he know that because he is a staff writer for Techcrunch, not because of any misleading advertising material.

There is contrary evidence, Michael declining in the Facebook group but I must admit I do that almost as an automatic thing myself, often after the event. People can always change their mind.

My reading of the facts is there might have been some communication mistakes, these things happen, but with people inside Michael’s own Techcrunch organisation thinking he was attending less than a month before the event, the communication problems are certainly on both sides.

What Really Matters

I said at the start the facts don’t matter at all, but if I was attending, and even as an observer halfway around the world, I can’t believe even a comedy of errors could be maintained for so long without Michael Arrington stepping up and saying he was not attending before the event.

Even Andy Beal, who has his finger on the pulse all the time didn’t know Michael wasn’t going to be at the keynote until he didn’t appear on stage.

Michael Chose His Words Very Carefully

In the run up to Blogworld Expo, Techcrunch were gaining a lot of links and exposure, it would be impossible for anyone with any hint of reputation management and online knowledge to not notice appearing in blog posts for months before the event on an almost daily basis.

But the “I didn’t confirm” was allowed to continue, because it benefited Techcrunch, even up to the time Michael was due to appear on stage for the first time.

Now the truth is out, even more links, links are valuable, and in public relations, there is no such thing as bad press.

The Rumour Industry

Techcrunch is head of the tech industry rumour mill, and as such prints a lot of stories that may or may not be true, and sometimes they get told the information is incorrect, and sometimes misleading information is allowed to persist, because it is good for stock prices.
A good example of that in recent times is the Google Phone, which turned out to be an open operating system for mobile phone manufacturers.

I can understand the need to be the first with the big scoop, the speculation, the increased readership that drives advertising dollars.

But should those reporting use plausible deniability and let it run across the blogosphere knowing that it is totally untrue, but it is good for marketing?

If you are a product manufacturer or service provider, there is a strategic benefit to keep users or competitors in doubt… sometimes. It is not just a marketing thing to leak rumours, and the press and bloggers eat up the morsels anyway.

For a blogger or press outlet to allow news to continue to be written about them knowing it is misleading or false leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

For me, this is a thing of trust. I have lost trust in much of what Techcrunch writes, in just the same way people would lose trust of bloggers writing paid posts without some form of disclosure.

I mention paid posts for a reason, I would have loved as a blog reader to see people’s thoughts of the New Media Fundraising presentation.
That was to include David Cohen, Brad Feld, Dan Rua, and…. Michael Arrington. Dan is an investor in Izea/PayPerPost and has had multiple exchanges with Michael Arrington over PayPerPost, not just ethically, but also the financial stability of the company gaining B round investment from the same group of investors.
David Cohen, just the day before the presentation still thought Michael was attending.

I haven’t seen any reports from the session, so it is possible it didn’t even happen, or the “clash of the investors” was made less attractive.

Plausible deniability just doesn’t cut it Mr Arrington

Michael Arrington Updates

Michael Arrington has updated his post to reflect on additional attacks, and also he has managed to have a chat with Rick the organizer.

It is well worth reading, though I can now see how this happens.

From what I can see

Michael gets far too much email – only reads 10% of it. He should create a more private email for friends, and then get a PA handle the rest.
Michael doesn’t do any reputation management and states that he doesn’t read all the negative commentary – again that could be outsourced

Michael did however state in his update that:-

My response to them was “I’m attending an event this week?”

Thus he was aware before the event that he was expected to be speaking, and knew he wasn’t.

This whole issue could have been cleared up before the event and should have been.

Final Update

Rick has posted the BlogWorld Expo side of the story on their blog.

It seems to me there was a lot more communication than was suggested in the initial Crunchnotes post by Michael Arrington, and to be honest it seems that there was more than even currently included on Crunchnotes after a number of updates.

In Mike’s final update he suggests he should have claimed he had the flu, or similar.

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  1. says

    Aha! That Duncan dude and Michael Assrington ring a bell. They posted the most unreliable news about the local ads companies from my country. I dissed Techcrunch in my blog already. And since I am a nobody, I wonder what makes Techcrunch looks like? LOL.

  2. says

    Plausible deniability is one thing — but to think that this was premeditated as a rationale to drive up traffic? As in, he was never planning to come, but did this as a stunt to increase controversy and therefore links?

    I’m not sure if I buy that. This is Techcrunch, not John Chow (all due respect to JC). I don’t think Mike cares nor wants nor needs the links in this way.

    Otherwise, good break down of the events. I suspect we’ll see more evidence from both sides before the weekend is over.

    • says

      If you follow some of the links Tony, especially for the second panel, you will see blogs from the investment community that are certainly followed by Techcrunch like a hawk.

      Michael’s name was being associated with the conference constantly, it would be impossible to not notice it unless you were on an internet free desert island, and that doesn’t seem to be the case.

      I am sure more will play out, but there has been a whole month of opportunity to set the record straight.

      Sure Michael cares about links, his subscriber count was almost static for 3 weeks, and Boing Boing on Technorati Top100 is only 33 links behind.

      There is a high chance that traffic on the domain is fairly static, though that is now being diverted to Crunchbase.

      I am not suggesting he was never planning to come, or never contemplated and pencilled it in on his schedule.
      The exact words Michael said was he never confirmed it, not that he never discussed it.

  3. says

    Frankly I don’t buy his excuse for a second, especially after the BlogWorld founders casually recapped the phone conversation they had with him the day BEFORE he was supposed to speak.

    Honestly, I see it quite simply – the blogosphere has supported Michael and we have propelled him to the top of the charts with our links. And he doesn’t seem to think that his commitments to us are worth honoring.

    I’m really not “pissed” – just really shocked that one of us would to that to our own community.

    *Extremely disappointed.*

  4. says

    Very good analysis of the issues. I totally agree with you. Mike writes, ‘the event organizers had it all wrong’ and then continues, ‘i read 10% of my email’ and when asked by Rick if he’ll do the show says, ‘I said sure, if we can work out the details.’

  5. says

    Andy – We did a brief on the drama earlier today. Perhaps we are all adding to TechCrunch’s bottom line. One thing is for sure … They all added to Justines !

    In any event … adding you to our blogroll, in less, of course … I forget ?

    Charlie Anzman
    SEO and Tech Daily

  6. says

    Wait a minute… MA has a staff of writers … heck, he’s even hired a CEO for his blog and yet… he hasn’t bothered to hire a PA!! (Hint: When you’re only able to read 10% of your email… it’s time for a PA or a VA… and a new “private” email address!)

    I know they say that there’s no such thing as bad press… but this could very well be the exception to the rule.

  7. says

    Actually Andy
    Michael never once told me he was going: the BlogWorldExpo people told me he was going and it was in this context as part of a long conversation which is not included in your quote. It’s entirely unfair to quote what I’ve written out of its full context to use it in one that its doesn’t apply to.

    As for TechCrunch gaining from exposure, you’ll have to forgive me but if it wasn’t for this current debate, the spam I received and my personal (now resolved I’d note) issue with Rick Calvert I would never had known the event was on. I’m really struggling to recall anything at all I’ve read about it in my 300 odd feeds I read every day, until of course this point on Michael’s attendance. Please put a little bit more perspective on this: most of BlogWorldExpo’s audience isn’t TechCrunch’s main audience, and it’s not even on the radar on my reading list. I can’t speak for Michael but I know that he reads a lot less than I do because he’s a lot more time poor: simply he wouldn’t have known about the use of his name prior to this…heck, aside from me being told by someone involved in the expo that Michael was speaking I wouldn’t have known, and I certainly had zero idea that it was some sort of major keynote etc.

    End of the day if Michael said he’d see what he could do, and it wasn’t resolved that’s not a confirmation. There’s even a Facebook invite decline prior to the event with Michaels name on it.

    If anything there’s been a communications breakdown that leads to the organization of this event, nothing more: how hard would it have been to ring the week before to confirm attendance for example? If it was my conference I would have :-)

    • says

      Duncan I think if Michael hadn’t been so ambiguous in his first post on the subject, and preferably he had posted before the event in some way (or the organisers) things would have played out differently.
      I would think half the exhibitors have appeared on Techcrunch in the past or their competitors, and a chunk of them are past or potential advertisers.

      Mikes initial message, if it had been the whole story, would suggest that even his likeness was used without permission.

      It is pretty much water under the bridge now… Ricks post cleared up a lot of what happened, though I don’t agree he should take 100% of the blame.

  8. says

    I think Mike is a straight shooter. It doesn’t resonate with me that he had some sort of motive in manipulation here.

    If the blogosphere is looking for drama/conspiracy, then perhaps consider the benefit Rick/BlogWorld received by *announcing* Arrington’s presence — surely that alone drove many other speakers, exhibitors and attendees.

  9. says

    You naughty bloggers lol. Mike Arrington is a good guy. Leave him alone!

    He did not forget. He was to busy interviewing senator McCain. Of course I am disappointed in the interview, I would love to hear what senator thinks of Pornotube. I hope Mike gets a chance to interview all of them. So one more time, please leave Mike alone.


  10. says

    Let me just add that while (as you pointed out) I was expecting Mike to be there, that this was just based on the agenda posted for blog world, not from any direct communication from mike.