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Dave Winer wades in

Dave Winer says:

It was interesting to watch the interaction betwen Ben Metcalfe and Mena Trott at Les Blogs. Not sure what to make of it. Technorati captures the action pretty well (although it won’t work in the archive). I don’t think he’s so fabulous. When Mena asked him to explain what he said on the back channel he got all offended. Well geez, if you said it, why not stand by it? Seems a little cowardly to me.

I wasn’t offended. I thought it was bizzare for Mena to single me out like that in the middle of the hall seeing as the natural reaction would be to me fight back and make her look silly in return (The creation of the “Mad Max situtation: two men enter, one mans leaves”).

I’m bigger than that, and didn’t want to air our dirty laundry in public. It’s about showing some humility – for both of us.

We had a useful conversation in private afterwards instead, which as I’ve said before ended with a smile and a handshake. That was the way to resolve this – not a cat fight in front of 400 bloggers.

(BTW: why can’t I post a comment on your blog, Dave?)

Published in Thoughts and Rants


  1. Hey Ben, this is about you — not me.

    I still think you’re a coward, and now you’re making excuses for it, and doing the usual coward thing — trying to shift the attention on someone else. If you were the tough guy you said you were, you would have stood up to Mena and said it was bullshit to her face. Or you could have said you’re sorry (and you still could).

    I think the fact that you wouldn’t say it was bullshit when you had the mike means that you regretted saying it in the backchannel, btw. Take a look at it, and stop trashing Californians, I like Californians.

    BTW, Mena used to trash me, in her own way. Now the shoe’s on the other foot and it’s gratifying to see her speaking out for civility.

    And also, I don’t like the fact that you get to decide if my comment makes it on your blog. Another gutless thing you do.

    PS: You can, sometimes, leave comments on my blog. But I had the first comments on a blog, and it was great for a while, but then it turned into a constant cesspool of whining wiener boys. They drowned out the interesting stuff. I decided they could start their own blogs, and they did, and now we have a blogosphere.

  2. this civility conversation is setting new standards for civility. winer is now being impolite.. this is great. 🙂

  3. I really think it was wrong of Mena to single Ben out like she did. There were loads of heckering at the IRC chat, I was there most of the time myself even though – no – I was not in Paris physically.

    This is a very interesting topic in my opinion and transcends this particular incident. Civility on-line is hard to measure – is it wrong for Dave to say that Ben is a coward? I don’t think that’s wrong at all, even though you may agree or disagree with the statement. Ben was one of the more reckless actors on the back-stage, but then again that’s all part of the format, the ecosystem, and I still don’t think there was a reason to single him out. But now it’s out there in the open, and even though Mena and Ben made up (thankfully), the questions remain. We will have these kinds of situations at conferences over and over again. Hopefully with time we will manage to handle these different conversations going on at the same time easier, whether we scale well or not 🙂

  4. Seth Seth

    Winer needs to get out more, live a real life in a real world and Ben you need to be nicer to people (but not winer cos he’s a knob ender)

  5. Nick S Nick S

    They drowned out the interesting stuff. I decided they could start their own blogs, and they did, and now we have a blogosphere.

    Oooh, that’s a classic piece of revisionist history there from Dave ‘I invented the podcast, the blog and the internet’ Winer, a man for whom anything less than ass-kissing adulation is perceived as a mortal insult, and a man who thinks anything he says on his own blog can subsequently be unsaid and confined to the aether by the end of the day.

  6. McD McD

    Ben, In my reading of the events it sounds like you were shamed into “standing up” for your written comments. Standing up proves that you’re not a coward, in my opinion. They way you dealt with what was then a tricky situation proves that you are not an insensitive clod… the opposite, infact. “Nicely done, Emma.”

    Enjoy the new readers who shall return to see if you have any more
    offensive comments to make about the Internet cognisenti… but be careful: if you get enough readership, you become part of the opinionated elite and you’ll have to find a conference topic that isn’t crap. Good luck. Let’s hope there’s an IRC video display so you can see how it’s going over.

    The best way to understand someone is to be them under similar circumstances. Next time… “You be Mena”. Gotta Trott.

  7. Why you ?

    Well, you were just in the right place at the right time, that’s all !

    I’m glad you conducted yourself in a way that didn’t result in more brou-ha-ha, but surely you must realize it’s a good baseline practice one conducts oneself online in such a way that be defended, if singled out.

  8. I think standing up shows you are _not_ a coward.
    And you DID sort it out afterwards in a civil, calm manner.
    I applaud and salute you.
    Just my 2 cents worth.
    I’m nobody important, just one of “them out there.”

  9. Nick S hits the nail on the head. Dave W can dish it out – preferably when he’s got some fauning acolytes around – but he can’t take it. The fact that he can call you a coward for having moderated comments on your blog while not having comments on his at all is typical of combination of hysteria and hypocrisy that characterises half of what he says.

    And that he’s now claiming that the invention of the blogosphere is down to him having comments on his blog is classic Winerism. Dammit Dave, why don’t you just go the whole hog and claim the invention of the internet, the internal combusion engine, and gunpowder is down to you too?

  10. Good call Ben. I know we haven’t met yet, but I’ve never seen you as a coward. I probably would have been right in the backchannel with you slagging it off. If it walks like a duck, smells like a duck and dies like a duck it’s probably a duck.

    Calling you out was likely silly, and swearing at you inappropriate and ironic… Thankfully it worked out. Hopefully you aren’t the worse for wear.

  11. Ben’s no coward.

    He did call bullshit when he stood up. He certainly didn’t need to say sorry. Funny how Winer seems to weigh in when he wasn’t there. I was sitting right next to Ben and he was singled out.

    Call that civil? I think he handled it very well.

    Besides, wow…Ben…you are the ONLY publicity coming out of Les Blogs. LOL.

  12. I touched on the situation as well on my blog (Loic actually happened to comment, but took more reference to the issues regarding sponsorship money in the post).

    I was irritated as well by Mena´s outburst. I had no idea what was going on in the backchannel and what Ben said. But hey – 6A builds tools for free speech and empowering people, right ? So what the f*** ? Why get onto someone like that because “he has a problem with 6A” (and all the other things he seemed to have said that I don´t know about) ??. Opinions are what the blogosphere is made out of and should the president of a company like that not deal with criticism like that differently ?

  13. Dave Winer is an anagram of…hypocrite

  14. Ben, given you are now at the heart of a civil war between two influential blogerbrity types, I don’t think you can call yourself a Z-lister any more. 😉

  15. Sorry Dave, you are totally wrong on this one.
    Ben stood up and took it like a man, to say he is a coward would be fair only if he refused to stand up. Ben did the right thing, Mena on the other hand demonstrated why civility is flawed in the blogosphere by taking the bait and interupting her speech to criticize a legitimate viewpoint.

  16. I understand why Ben reacted as he did… he took is as the handsome man he is 😉

    I can understand why he was puzzled being asked to stand up – in a crowd of 400 people, unprepared…

    he handled the situation the best way possible, with respect, and as a gentleman…

    my dilemma with Les Blogs has also been to be honest or polite..

  17. I’m so glad I don’t go to these silly conferences. The people who try to place themselves at the top of the “blogosphere” seem about as dumb as the “celebrities” which pollute other forms of media, just that the know how to use a Web browser. Let’s keep it real from the trenches where we’re doing proper work rather than engaging in all this navel-gazing meta “bullshit” 🙂

    And Dave has made posts like this for years now. It’s great to see them.

  18. memer memer

    Nick S knows Dave well as do many people. Dave *is* an asshole, and I’d be willing to say it to his face. But I grudgingly admit he’s not wrong about every last thing all the time.

    If this backchannel was not onscreen, I wouldn’t really have a problem with what Ben had to say. But since it was, I thought it an extremely rude thing to say while the person was up on stage talking. Mena’s content, however off-base you think it was, didn’t warrant a comment like that.

    No, you’re not a complete chickenshit as you did stand up and explained yourself further (I know my knees might’ve knocked once or twice). But the “cowardice” Dave speaks of is your sudden change of tone when called out face to face. If you could feel comfortable calling her stuff bullshit on a screen for 400 people to see, why ‘back down’ when she calls you out?

    That’s the thing Mena’s talking about — people go wild on the net b/c they can. If the blogosphere wants to be taken seriously by the 99% of the world’s population who generally, to date, ignore them, insensitivity must be ramped UP in conversation (as opposed to high insta-venom off the top, which then needs to be “calmed down.”).

  19. memer memer

    … an McD (i know you’re in here) get a frickin blog will ya — I miss your bullshit.

  20. Bill Bill

    Let’s start by saying I know neither of these people. However, standing up does not seem to be the action of a coward…

    The fact is it *is* a cultural issue. From my part of the world (slightly east of London) if you invited backchat then cries of bullshit are about the mildest thing you’d get. As for the outraged schoolteacher act…the air would turn blue. The logical thing is not to display the backchannel.

    Anyone who seeks to open a dialogue with the rest of the world is going to have to deal with that. Unless, of course, you expect the rest of the world to adhere to your local social rules. Which isn’t going to happen.

  21. Pid Pid

    Ahh, you guys are too much, this stuff is funny.
    Keep up the good work!

    And Winer, who’d have thought that it would be him that single-handedly proved that Americans *do* have a sense of humour.

    Bravo! Bravo!

  22. […] ???? Six Apart ??????????? Blog Herald ??????? Mena Trott implodes on stage at Les Blogs: calls participant an Asshole after lecturing audience about the importance of civility ???????????????IT????? No.1 ???????????????? Register ??????????????Six Apart chief’s ‘nice’ speech ends in name-calling ?????????????????????? Ben Metcalfe (!) ??????????????????????? Mena ????? Dave Winer ???????????????????????????????Shel Israel ? Mena ??????????????? ???Mena ????????????????????????? SixApart ? Blog ????? […]

  23. Dave Winer is a pansy! I don’t know him but have read his postings & etc etc & he certainly sounds like a “whiner” or “weiner” or any of the many other riffs on his last name.

    This stuff is quite funny 🙂 I would take Ben’s side in this. It’s hardly civil to single out one person out of 400 in a public conference room–though, I could see a certain “performance art” angle to it that would make it valid 🙂

  24. McD McD

    Note to memer: As you know, I love to interact and I’m a convicted “commentarian”. You MISS my bullshit becuase you had to stop blogging. I left regualr deposits on your doorstep when you were active.

    I have four of five blogs spread about but my most regular output is
    in the comment sections of the world’s greatest blogs. There’s an A-List blogger that might consider my “hit and run” approach to contributing to be cowardly… so I’ll defend myslef and point you to my latest experimental bog site: htpp://
    Leave me a brilliant comment… or just write some of your usual stuff.

  25. … my cat’s breath smells of cat food.


  26. […] Mena Trott and Civility David Tebbutt Six Apart chief’s ‘nice’ speech ends in name-calling TheRegister Six Apart going down (Zoli’s blog) Me + Mena Ben Metcalfe (the backchanneler) Intermediated conferences Backchannel is back Burningbird Mena Trott declares civil war Workbench Art Of Debate Lost On Americans Adpulp A Kinder, Gentler Bloghesphere? Stowe Boyd Corante Dave Winer wades in Scribting News Dave Winer HorsePigCow thoughts about the backchannel […]

  27. memer memer

    “Leave me a brilliant comment… or just write some of your usual stuff.”

    hee! apparently, i should’ve put a smiley face at the end my “bullshit.” you know i am your number one fan, McD, and i’m following in your commenty footsteps (tho rather less brilliantly). I’m stuffing your latest blog in my aggregator. If your content is even half as good as your ‘sphere-spanning comments, it’ll be fun.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch…Hm. Seems the tempest has blown over.

  28. Ben, I still don’t think you should have been singled out. If you’re going to speak at a conference and you know there’s backchat you USE it. That’s what I did and I found my bit of the panel great fun, not because what I was saying was all that great but because I was at least having a CONVERSATION about it.

    And Tara chatted me up on it, so there…

  29. […] In school we used to call this the flashing white shoe. Typically someone is getting beaten up and just as the victim is curling up into a little ball, somebody on the edge of the group rushes in for a swift kick when there is no chance of retribution. Sometimes more than once. I still think you’re a coward, and now you’re making excuses for it, […]

  30. McD McD

    Memer: I need to remember to hint at sarcasm as well… I was just pretending to talk smack. I loved your blog but can understand the need to refocus on work occasionally. You made me thing about race and gender is ways that very few bloggers can… I miss the experience and the diversity of your voice.

  31. “You can, sometimes, leave comments on my blog. But I had the first comments on a blog, and it was great for a while, but then it turned into a constant cesspool of whining wiener boys. They drowned out the interesting stuff. I decided they could start their own blogs, and they did, and now we have a blogosphere.”

    Dave … you are mocking here, right?? If not, I think we’ve just caught on to the biggest ego this side of the moon.

  32. bruceyeah bruceyeah

    No. You’re ALL dickheads!

    LOL… I love it. It *is* bullshit to preach about good behaviour in a new medium, because you’re right.. it does come down to universal values. Good on you Ben for standing up and defending yourself so well when put on the spot like that. I thought you clearly explained why it was bullshit when when you had the mic.

  33. bruceyeah bruceyeah

    “I don’t like the fact that you get to decide if my comment makes it on your blog. Another gutless thing you do.”


    “They drowned out the interesting stuff. I decided they could start their own blogs”.

    How hypocritical can you get??

  34. ed ed

    BTW, Mena used to trash me, in her own way.

    As we all know, the first line of the famous horror film “Night of the Living Blogs” is “They’re coming to get you, Winer.”

  35. anonymous anonymous

    Dave Winer seems very cranky these days. He still has a vendetta against Adam Curry & Podshow (which I hope Adam just ignores), is picking a fight here with you, and is going off about Google’s “Web Clips” for it not being called RSS (but no mention of how offensive “Live Bookmarks” are, during discussions about Firefox). Hopefully whatever is infuriting him goes away and he starts posting meaningful stuff again.

    Sorry that this doesn’t completely apply to your post but he doesn’t have comments enabled at Scripting News and he’ll definitely be making a stop here.

    Dave, take a deep breath and relax. Listen to Turkey in the Straw a few times. I love your blog but not these random flamings. I was hoping that ended with Mitch Ratcliffe.

  36. These aren’t flames! Ben was being a coward — posting in the “back channel” and then being upset and angry for being called out. Adam did edit the podcasting entry and is making cash off Winer’s work. And renaming RSS something else is stupid. These are the facts. Winer’s calling a strike a strike, what’s wrong with that?

  37. Henry Thurgoode Henry Thurgoode

    Joe Black: Because Winer is/is being a c*nt that is what’s wrong with it. And I would happily say that to his face.

    The backchannel wasn’t actually on screen until just after Ben had posted his ‘bullshit’ comment, and standing up to defend oneself diplomatically, after being attacked personally, is not the action of a coward. As has been mentioned Ben attacked content, Mena attacked character. There is a difference.

    And, off topic I know, but renaming RSS is a good thing if it gets the profile of it out of the relm of geeks. There is a reason why global companies spend millions on product naming.

  38. Jonathan Marks Jonathan Marks

    I was also in the room and was surprised at the way Mena handled her irritation. I don’t think Ben made a strong argument for his case – but then I think that was pretty impossible since he was singled out – and the context was all wrong. I didn’t think the Backchannel contributed much to the conversation (does it ever) is more of a distraction than anything. But I don’t think Mena’s character assassination achieved what she was intending. The audience was full of customers.

  39. Photar Photar

    I’m new to this whole blogsosphere thing so please bear with me. You have a big projected chat screen up durring a presentation for the purpose of fostering open interactive dynamic presentation experience. Common sence would suggest that if someone had an interesting thought provoking comment or question that it might be addressed directly even by the presenter.

    So, you call bullshit on someone’s presentation while they’re giving it and being singled out is somehow suprising?

    Am I missing something?

  40. flynn flynn

    Single someone out in real life is bad manners and trash talking in IRC isn’t? Come on. Buy yourself some ethics at the next supermarket…

  41. Photar Photar

    # flynn Says:
    Single someone out in real life is bad manners and trash talking in IRC isn’t?

    It wasn’t just IRC, it was IRC to Mena’s face.

  42. Dave
    have a lot of respect for you, even if I do occasionally poke fun, but isn’t this a case of the pot calling the kettle black? Aren’t you really the coward for not allowing commenting on your blog?

  43. What’s particularly ironic about Dave’s comment is that he wrote a big long piece on Scripting News (back when I used to read it) about how he thinks it’s great to call bullshit on people’s opinions. It was a rambling thing about how he could call Scoble’s bullshit out and how that’s what friends do. It also said something about doing them a service. I couldn’t find it via his search, but I remember it distinctly because the one-way-ness of it in practice struck me.

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