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Les Blogs: Me + Mena

(Health Warning: this is a rant)

Mena Trott (co-founder and president of Six Apart) gave, in my opinion, a badly toned and way-off-base speech at the Les Blogs conference in which she requested for more civility in the blogosphere. She appealed to bloggers to be kinder in their commenting, and think about the feelings of the person they are communicating with.

I found it very jarring on many levels. For a start, this was a European blogging conference – and one of the underlying challenges I took away from it was how we mediate the different cultural approaches to blogging across the different European countries. And that’s before you factor in the various different American cultures too (there were more Americans at this conference than anyone other than the French!).

How people comment and how people relate to one another on the blogosphere is a cultural issue – and it seemed strange for Mena to be advocating what sounded like a very ‘West-Coast America’ approach to a conference of Europeans. Europeans are, if anything, known for their frank exchanges during conversation – certainly more than the Americans.

It was also unfortunate that the examples Mena gave mainly concentrated on a post by Jeremy Zawodny (another Californian). Her examples also seemed to be indicating factual inaccuracies rather than matters of “civility”.

But overall I just found the presentation to be simply ill judged for the audience she was addressing. Sure, it might be a positive aspiration for everyone to be “nicer”, but surely that’s not an issue for the blogosphere? Surely if people don’t relate to each other in a nice way all the time, that’s a matter for society in general?

I certainly didn’t think it had any place at a blogging conference. Even more so when you consider blogging is still a niche and is being driven into the mainstream by the very type of people who are opinionated and want to get the conversation and debate started – and opinionated views aren’t always “nice” to one the parties being discussed. Asking bloggers to water down what they are saying – and how they say it – seems very counter-productive.

It’s is my understanding that Mena has come under for some criticism on the blogosphere – both professional and person. Professional stuff, such as picking over business decisions she/Six Apart has made seems fair game to me – that’s business. Even more so you choose to take a figure-head role in a company pioneering, by definition, a highly opinionated market. If you don’t like it, step down, take yourself out of the limelight, etc.

However, I understand that there have been a number of personal comments written about Mena too. I’m not aware of what’s been written, so it’s difficult for me to comment on that – but what I would say is that people writing nasty personal things about each other in every medium – it’s case in point for why this is a matter for society, not specifically the blogosphere. People have written some pretty awful comments about me – and you just have to roll with the punches.

I would say that at times it did sound like she was speaking from a very emotional and personal position – clearly upset by what has been said about her. However, she was introduced as “Mena Trott – president of Six Apart” and as such I felt it just wasn’t appropriate to ‘make it personal’ within the environment and context she was addressing.

Whilst all of this was going on, we were making our thoughts known on the conference backchannel (like we did for every session, good or bad). From what others were saying it was clear her speech was getting a lot of other people’s backs up too, not just mine. I wrote several times that I found elements of the speech patronising – especially when the idea was floated about a suggested “terms and conditions” for commenting.

During the backchannel conversation I did finally loose my cool and describe what she was saying as “bullshit” – which I concede is a strong word to have used. However, this was a backchannel environment and as such I feel it went up to, but didn’t cross the line, of what you can reasonably expect from “backchannel discourse”. I also want to reemphasise that that the tone and content of Mena’s speech was so unbelievably way off what was appropriate given the nature of the audience. This sentiment has been backed up by others someone even described it as “startlingly naïve” during a post-session chat about it.

However, my “bullshit” comment hadn’t gone unnoticed, as the backchannel was also being projected onto the screens at the front of the auditorium. Clearly this was the straw the broke the camel’s back, and Mena highlighted my comment. Shel Israel came to her defense and demanded for “dotBen to stand up and show yourself” [clairification: Mena asked me to stand up, Shel voiced his support]

And being the no-shit kinda guy I am, I did. In front of 400 influential bloggers and opinion formers I stood up

What followed was a brief but frank discourse between Mena at the lectern and me, with a radio mic, at the back of the hall.

At this point my thoughts were as follows:

  • I was shocked and angry that I was singled out from a group of many users on the backchannel who were all saying the same thing
  • I was also shocked that Mena had just done the self same thing she was telling everyone else not to do. She had called me an ‘asshole’, and I understand from others possibly even a ‘fucking asshole’ [update: she just called me an ‘asshole’ and used the F word at me separately].
  • Intentionally or unintentionally, events were unfolding here to make me look like a fall guy – and my immediate instinct was to fight back.

    However airing our ‘dirty laundry in public’ would have done neither of us any good. Although I was angry that someone was trying to make me look foolish, my integrity told me not to do the self same thing back to her. Defending myself would ultimately mean attacking back, and I didn’t want to want Mena look a fool in return. Aside from this conference speech, I have a lot of respect for she and Ben Trott have done with Six Apart.

I did immediately respond by saying that I felt her speech was patronising – because I felt (and still feel) it was. That was the response to the direct question of why I wrote what I wrote. However I did my best to diffuse the situation by suggesting that this wasn’t the best place to do this, and that we take our disagreement ‘offline’.

Shel voiced his opinion that maybe there should be a show of hands to see who else agreed with me, to which there was a general groan of “no”, that that was a bad idea. I’m glad there wasn’t as I know that the room was very divided on whether her speech was appropriate or not. Either way, one of us would have gone away looking silly, and I didn’t want that for either of us.

Mena and I had a very productive conversation, the details of which will remain private between ourselves. I’m pleased to say though that it ended with a smile, a hand shake and we even went outside to both cool down and reflect on things.

During the rest of the conference many people – from individual bloggers through to representatives of blue-chip companies – came up to me to support what I did. Thanks to all of you who did – it meant a lot to me.

As I said before, I have a lot of respect for Mena and her husband and co-founder Ben with what they have done with Six Apart. And I’m not writing that as some crappy “bullshit” (for want of a better word) to brown nose, etc – I do have integrity even if I was accused otherwise.

I really didn’t want to write this blog post, as my take on it all is that Mena and I have patched up our differences and this is all water under the bridge. I’ve moved on

However I’ve read a couple of posts circulating on the blogosphere that have wildly inaccurate accounts of what happened – even by people who introduce their post by saying that they weren’t actually at the conference. I know that most people will take these kinds of posts for what they are – second hand accounts.

However, the fact that my reputation was put on the line – and continues to – has meant that I feel it appropriate to write up at least my take on the days events.

Nevertheless, I guess I won’t be getting a discount on a MovableType licence in the future!

comment are closed on this post due to the high volume of comment spam it receives. If you would like to make a comment, two years after this occurred mind, please send it to me directly

Published in Thoughts and Rants


  1. Mailing list discussion: internet or not at the next Mind Camp?

    Those on the Seattle Mind Camp mailing list (should be all prior attendees) there’s a somewhat active discussion currently happening about whether having an internet connection at the event is more disruptive than it’s worth. While I&#8217…

  2. […] Drama bores me these days, but I feel the need to say something about Ben Metcalfe dogging Mena Trott in public, then getting shy about it and claiming he was acting out of ‘compassion’. (I first read about this via David Tebbutt’s Register account of the incident, which makes Metcalfe’s actions seem more positive than Metcalfe’s own account does. For the record, here’s the speech that Metcalfe found so objectionable.) Here’s what I wrote at Metcalfe’s blog: I wasn’t present for Mena’s speech, and while I can imagine I probably would have at least rolled my eyes and cringed for her: Even if I totally agreed with what she said – and not having been there, I don’t know if I would or wouldn’t – I would have known it would go down like a lead balloon at Les Blogs. […]

  3. DM DM

    Mena Trott handled herself badly but at least she had the grace to talk things through with Ben afterwards. Dave Winer does himself no credit at all by posting a lot of inane swearing and petty personal abuse. “Limp wristed”? Grow up!
    So Winer’s from New York. So what? I thought Ben’s point was that the internet is populated by users of many cultural perspectives. Or did Winer think that just meant cultural perspectives inside America?
    If you’re going to invite users to make comments on a speech as it’s delivered, projecting the comments as a backdrop during that speech, then you’d better be prepared to tolerate the odd strong opinion.
    Ben’s comment referred to the content of the speech. Unlike Winer and Mena Trott, he did not resort to name-calling.
    There are a few PR lessons to be learned from this small fiasco.
    Among them:
    Learn the meaning of irony.
    Learn to handle dissent without creating a drama.
    Bullying those who speak their minds does not make you clever or tough.
    I bet Mena Trott’s already figured all that out. I wonder if Winer ever will…

  4. […] Ah the Western (read: Californian) mentality. . . “Be nice you asshole!!” At the Les Bogs conference in Paris the air was rife with bitter hypocrisy. I can’t even begin to form an opinoin about this but if you have the time, read both accounts of the events. It’s a full days worth of irony packed into two blog entries. Mena’s Story Ben’s Story Posted by: John on Dec 08, 05 | 1:33 pm| Profile [0] comments (0 views) |  E-mail This Article To A Friend […]

  5. It’s a little sad to see bloggers being so self-serious sometimes. We’ve seen comments before that the blogosphere is little more than an extension of the school playground – it seems the meme continues to be reinforced.

  6. Given that most people rank public speaking as worse than having a root canal (and only just slightly better than dying), the projected backchannel takes an already painful thing and makes it… *worse*. I have nothing but empathy for Mena, although I think she handled it quite badly.

    Dave said:
    “IMHO, it’s about damn time people start saying what they feel, instead of skirting around issues and not saying what they really mean, in fear of upsetting someone. Sod that! You can have respect for people, AND passionately disagree with them.”

    I agree with the idea — I just don’t agree with the *when* and *how* that passionate disagreement should take place. To interrupt with your pronouncement *before* the person has even finished talking, without the entire context, is probably not respectful, and is certainly premature.

    Why not wait until the person has *finished*? Or if you believe it JUST CAN’T WAIT and needs to be addressed RIGHT THEN — whatever happened to raising your hand, walking to the microphone, or just standing up and asking your question or raising your point?

    Put yourself in Mena’s place — or in any situation where you’re trying to communicate something and someone cuts you off before you’re even done. How many times have we said to someone, “Will you at *least* hear me out before you jump on it?”

    It’s certainly appropriate for Ben to call bullshit if that’s his opinion (and I agree with Liz, there’s a world of difference between bullshit and *asshole*), but who was served by his doing it in this particular way?

    (Although it did lead to *this* discussion about it… which IS good ; )

  7. @ Kathy Sierra

    :nods in agreement with what you are saying with regards to interupting people to pass judgement on an incomplete opinion:

    However, as I understand it (and please, correct me here if I am wrong), there was an open discussion during the speech in an IRC channel, where more than one person was making comments about said speech (and not actually verbally interupting the speaker).

    Mena would have been much wiser (and would have perhaps stood to a lot less criticism) to NOTE the comment made by dotBen, and perhaps refer to it upon completion of said speech. Mena’s decision to stop mid-flow (again, correct me if I’m wrong) was a bad one. The only mistake I see here, was by the speaker, allowing herself to be seemingly so incensed by someone elses critique, and in turn making an arse of herself :shrug:

    A public speaker who can’t take criticism of the speeches they make… tsk. Maybe just having a bad day 😉 I love the irony of this story 😀

  8. Adam S. Adam S.

    This post is insipid. 1,500 words (!) spent talking around the fact that the author behaved badly and can’t admit it.

    By far the silliest argument put forth is the notion that Mena’s call for civility is rooted in “West Coast American” culture, with the implicit accusation that Mena was engaging in a form of cultural imperialism.

    Even if we accept for the moment the notion that there exists such a thing as monolithic California culture (a highly dubious proposition), it is absurd to suggest that this very same culture permeates corporate Silicon Valley.

    Likewise, typing “bullshit” on a giant screen while someone is trying to give a speech isn’t evidence of a frank, freewheeling European debating style. It’s the behavior of a thoughtless heckler with a tomato in his hand and keyboard to hide behind.

    No one — least of all Mena — is trying to take your precious opinions away from you. So how about not wrapping yourself in the mantle of the blogosphere, and just admitting publicly that you were an asshole?

  9. I didn’t go to the event, blabla, I just stumbled on this whole “bullshit” vs “asshole” thing. So maybe my two cents are only worth one. Anyway…

    I’m a Californian who’s lived in Europe a lot, and I think Ben is on to something about the cultural differences, with certain parts of San Francisco society having a very different idea of how people “should” interact, and of what constitutes a “healthy” community, than most Europeans. But it should also be said that there’s often very strong disagreement right here in SF on that subject.

    Looking at it from the outside, I get the impression Ben handled himself well enough under the circumstances, and I would strongly second his notion that the president of a very high-profile, venture-backed company, especially as the conference sponsor, is way out of line insulting someone in the audience.

    Doing the live backchannel projection is a bit gutsy, but if you’re advertising it as “back channel” I think you should expect that people are going to be less measured, more freewheeling, less polite than they would be if they stood up to ask a question. (Yes, even in Europe you’re expected to ask your questions politely, though the questions may be a whole lot tougher than we’re used to in California.)

    Finally, reading this comment thread, I’m struck by what a bastard this guy Winer seems to be.


  10. Mena’s speech included comments about how she was scared of the backchannel and wanted to talk about it as an example of bad behavior: “I started to get incredibly nervous about appearing on this stage today. … The main reason I was scared and I’m still scared, is that IRC backchannel. … I’ve seen people make comments on these channels that they would never say to somebody’s face.”

    So she provided a backchannel, lamented the backchannel, and someone at the Six Apart-organized effort displayed the backchannel.

    That’s one weird keynote.

  11. memer memer

    “So she provided a backchannel, lamented the backchannel, and someone at the Six Apart-organized effort displayed the backchannel.”

    From the video slice it seemed like the b/c was up for a while (if not during the whole speech). The timing of this would make a difference to me (Ben’d be just a little less of a jerk).

    Does anyone know how long the b/c was onscreen before Mena spotted Ben’s “remark?”

  12. memer memer

    p.s. did the BBC pay for his ticket?

  13. […] I have enjoyed the kerfuffle de Paris, where Mena Trott and Ben Metcalf squared off in front of 3-400 people ostensibly over blogging civility. Mena called for more; Ben thought the concept an inappropriate topic for a speech to international bloggers. […]

  14. Stef Stef

    I’m just disappointed that, just after Ben stood up, no-one jumped to his defence and shouted, “No, *I* am dotBen!” I reckon a Spartacus-style joke would’ve perhaps broken the tension a bit 😉

  15. Paul Paul

    memer: p.s. did the BBC pay for his ticket?

    I think this is a missed point. Was Ben at the conference representing the BBC or himself? There is a big difference between the two and the “bullshit” comment coming from “Ben the person” is different than coming from “Ben with BBC hat on”. Since Jem Stone was “next” to Ben you’d have to assume the last.

  16. Les Blogs 2.0 days 2

    Man! That was a day… I didn’ know when I asked on my day 1 review “Let’s see if we can do better tomorrow…” that we’d have such an event. I didn’t blog earlier because I wanted to write only after a day or two t…

  17. Well I wasn’t there at Les Blogs (boo hoo), but I’ve seen Mena speak before (at the National Technology Conference for nonprofits) and I think “startlingly naïve” is putting it kindly. Her talk (which I live-blogged) was mostly useless, with a little bit of bullshit thrown in for flavor. And her use of technology and presenting style were dismal.

    While I really appreciate the work that she does at MoveableType, and I even get the good point she was trying to make about improving the discourse on blogs, perhaps Mena should recognize that she is not an appropriate or effective spokesmodel for American bloggers. Or maybe it’s all the people who keeping her to talk that need to realize this. Who’s going to write the memo…?

  18. TYPO: I meant to say “who keep paying her to talk…”

  19. I’ve posted more of my thoughts here.

    Hopefully, this post does a good job of getting across some of the points I was trying to make in my talk, and in the private discussion I had with you.

  20. Brian Brian

    I agree with Rogers. The weird keynote atmosphere is amplified by everybody having laptops open. Ditch the backchannel, close the laptops, and give the speaker your damn attention. You can do the masturbatory wifi wank after giving due respect.

  21. Johnsk Johnsk

    Speaking as a Englishman living in Germany, it is true that we Europeans spend less time kissing each other’s arses than Americans seem to do (if your TV shows and politicians can be believed), but I do believe that we are also much more polite. I agree entirely with Mina’s suggestion that the verbal violence of (some) commenting needs to be toned down, but I would place this in the service of the civil society and common good rather than encouraging possible bloggers to join the fun.

    “Bullshit” and “asshole” are abuse, not criticism.

    The real problem with the abusive big-guns style of commenting is that it doesn’t work (except as intimidation, but perhaps that’s your real purpose?) Tell somebody that he is an asshole, that his work is bullshit, and you guarantee that he will (a) stop listening, and (b) reply in kind. Tell somebody that “this is wrong because X,Y,Z” and you might just change his mind.

    Try it some time, it works quite well.

  22. […] Given that Trott is on record as letting loose all manner of profanity on Metcalfe, I find her meet-cute “Can’t we all just get along?” nonsense incongruous with her message, particularly when she specifically singled out Metcalfe and urged him to stand up, a clear attempt to humiliate him that, in this case, failed completely. (Fortunately, it appears that the two had a conversation sometime after the panel to clear the waters. Likely most reports chronicling this scrape will omit this fact.) […]

  23. pooptart pooptart

    The blogosphere is just like highschool, only more juvenile and annoying.

  24. Talk about a tempest in a teacup.

  25. Pretty interesting catching up on this…I just feel that when Mena was giving a presentation of civility while blogging, she should have been more civil rather than calling you an asshole in front of the peope…Practice before you preach..And I interpret ‘thats bullshit’ as in the other person doesnt agree with my perspective..which is normal..’that’s bullshit’ isnt supposed to be a personal derogatory remark..And even if she interpreted it as a personal remark..she should have handled it in a more dignified manner..Also, the entire notion of ‘being civil while blogging’ doesnt make sense to me..Why in the world would I be civil if the blog is supposed to contain my personal rants / ramblings. If I dont like something, I am just going to be pretty straight about it and blogs just offer me the best way to put forth my opinion. If you bring the notion of civility into blogging, it impurifies the very reason that have made blogs so popular. — freedom of expression.

  26. I think what Mena was trying to say is that you can disagree with someone, and register your disagreement in a blunt, forward manner – but you can still convey respect for the other person.

    That said, I don’t think Mena’s response to you by calling you an asshole and saying “what the fuck?” onstage was terribly appropriate or respectful. But as human beings, we’ve all had those moments when we’ve been too overcome with one emotion or another to practice what we preach.

    But by and large, I think her point still stands. In the blogosphere – as in life – we should try to register our disagreements respectfully. I see it as an essential part of communication to show some basic respect for your opponent from one human being to another. It’s also important to frame arguments courteously and avoid personal attacks.

    I take your point about cultural differences in levels of bluntness – but if my experience serves me correctly, those two rules translate almost universally. From reading Mena’s speech, I think that was her point.

  27. Anti Anti

    Frankly, both parties look foolish. Call it a push. They still don’t even register a blip on the Winer asshole-meter.

  28. Dave Winer: A Weiner? A Winner? You Decide.

    Dave Winer, who I read often and agree with a good chunk of the time, is acting pretty shady with his latest post, Hmm, not so sure about that. In order to write a post about the ill-conceived notion of

  29. Robert McGonegal Robert McGonegal

    If there wasn’t a “backchannel” would you have shouted your remark at the speaker? Either way your reaction sounds incredibly juvenile.

  30. Rob Rob

    Some dickhead passing themselves off as Dave Winer has been busy here. Whoever they are, if they, or MT, or anybody else, can get this upset over a few comments made in heated discussion, well fuck you.

    Discussion about the differences of opinion – fine, but get over the insulting bit already.

    Fuck you very much.

  31. I went from being a Ben-ite to a Mena-ite and back again over the course of this thread. In the end neither was right. The interesting thing here (and I didn’t hear the speech so maybe I’m just reiterating what Mena said there), is accountability and the permanence of everything we say in the blogosphere. Regrets? I’ve had a few, and they are out there in black and white on the internet, forever. Mix in a little Long Tail and what do you have? Ben and Mena will have this story recirculated every time they have some other story to write about. It will detract from their ability to make informed comment. Ben is now Ben ‘Bullshit’ Metcalfe, and Mena ‘You’re an asshole!’ Trott.
    Now we, as individuals might begin to understand why stars and people in the public eye get upset when there are stories written about their private lives.
    I’m all for freedom of the press, but let’s be responsible and allow for the fact that all of this stuff is out here for good, searchable and will always come up whenever a related event happens. In an offline conversation, our words are lost on the wind (hey Google!), but online…our 15 minutes of fame comes round again and again

  32. Having now read Mena’s speech, as posted on her site, I can’t help wondering what Ben’s on! I didn’t see much in there that demanded people to be nice to each other, just to consider the posts more and avoid inaccuracies and personal attacks.
    Basically, ‘be careful what you say, it may come back to bite you, or the target, in ways you never intended, or that you will regret later’. I don’t see much west-coast PC namby-pamby liberal stuff in that.
    Ben, your justification for why you didn’t like Mena’s talk is bullshit, you just didn’t get it!

  33. Ben,

    I’ve said enough on the main issue, but there’s a little sidebar of yours that I also truly resent. Les Blogs, it seemed to me was an International blogging conference with representatives from four continents. You somehow seem to resent Americans, specifically Californians in your commentary, and that shows another myopic side to your world views.

  34. Ruth Ruth

    Post Deleted

    (From Ben: This person left a number of unacceptable personal attacks on members of the SixApart team, and so I have deleted the contents of this post)

  35. On Blogging…

    Blogging is a strange beast. I was on ScriptingNews yesterday, reading Dave Winer’s spot-on post about Google web clips. Frankly, it surprised me that it was a new feature to him, as I’ve had it displayed above my Gmail client

  36. Ben Ben


    It is disapointing to read your comment, particuarlly as I have no dislike or resentment for Americans whatsoever. Obviously that has not come out in what I have written, and I respect that this is the conclusion you have come to based on what has been presented to you.

    Clearly what I have written has not accurately represented my true position, which is where the disapointment comes in.

    I even hold a North American passport myself (ok it’s Canadian, maybe that doesn’t help my argument!). The point is I really don’t dislike the American people what so ever (I don’t particuarlly like the current American govmenment at the moment – but then that’s a view shared by many people inside the USA too).

    Your point:

    Les Blogs, it seemed to me was an International blogging conference with representatives from four continents.

    is very interesting. I don’t believe I attended an international blogging conference. I belived I attended a European blogging conference.

    I think the issue here, and also from what I have written in my blog post, is that American culture and European culture is very different — but then you don’t need me to tell you that. I don’t think the word, ‘bullshit’ for example (seeing as that much of what this is all really about) is a particularly strong word in conversation – not in the UK anyway.

    If I go to the US – for business or for a holiday – I know I have to tone down what I say, and act different. Likewise when I recently went to Shanghai I equally had to be mindful of what I was saying. Uttering the line “isn’t it a shame they don’t have democracy here” in China can get you into hot water.

    My only point on this whole matter is that I (and I think most others too) expected Americans to adjust a little to being in Europe — we all were in Paris after all. Adjust in terms of the critisism they might have recieved (and we all receive critisism after all) and adjust the tone and content of their presentations.

    I don’t think anyone would expect notable bloggers/blogging figures to arrive in China and present a speech on the benefits of open and unrestricted dialogue on the Chinese blogosphere. Likewise, albeit on a slightly subtler note, I don’t think anyone expected Mena to give the presentation she did — which I don’t doubt may have been a lot more warmly received in the US than it was here in Europe.

    So Shel – I’m sorry that you think I have a problem with Americans. I’m not a bigoted a Brit who knows nothing better. I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to travel around the world and what I have learnt is that we are all quite different and sometimes you have do adapt to where you all. And that goes for all of us.

    I really don’t know what I can do to demonstrate otherwise but if there is something, please let me know.

    Best regards,

  37. […] Ich wußte gar nicht worauf Adam Curry da anspielte im letzten DSC als der Les Blogs erwähnte – aber um die Umwege der Blogbar kam ich schließlich zum Eintrag, den Adam kommentierte. Und mein Gott, das sollte man sich bitteschön gefälligst konzentriert durchlesen auch wenns ein langes Posting ist. […]

  38. […] If there had taken some big announcements or ideas to away from the Les Blogs conference, than this whole thing between Mena and I would have never been the focus of people’s attention. So, I’ve decided to suggest some talking points that I would have like to have seen at the conference (and perhaps at the next one). […]

  39. Ben, not really pointed at you (only), but seeing all this Les Blogs thing between you an MT blown in the blogosphere to the proportion of an intergalactic war, and given that even most blogger don’t even know about all this, doesn’t it seem that some people are taking themselves much too seriously…? 😉

  40. C C

    Ben, with great respect, you are a total and utter fucking asshole. It’s people like you that keep grabbing as much as they can without giving back that’s making our society the dumb and vicious place its becoming, and the sooner you grow up the sooner the world will become a better place.

    If you can’t do that, I’d like to see you and people who behave like you cracked down on and made to suffer for the damage you cause in society. You might think it’s a joke, a bit of a laugh, but it’s not. People who behave like you are causing real damage. The sooner scum like you are dealt with, the better.

    Are you shocked by the viciousness of this, or are you just going to laugh it off? I’d like to think you’re shocked and that, maybe, a little spark of fear is lit in the deeper recesses of your mind, because it sure as hell doesn’t understand love and consideration for other people.

  41. Ben Ben

    C: Wow – are you on any medication at the moment?

    I’m glad you got that off your chest anyway. No, I’m not “fearful”.

  42. […] Sue Thomas of the Writing and the Digital Life weblog brought my attention to a row that broke out a few days ago between Mena Trott (co-founder of a major weblog software developer) and Ben Metcalfe, leader of the BBC’s developer network. Mena was arguing that bloggers should be more civil in comments to other people’s blogs while Ben argued honesty was more important. This is an argument that will never be resolved because both sides seem to be trying to make rules applicable to all webloggers when all the evidence (including my research to date) seems to be showing that webloggers are performing a wide range of practices, each with their own appropriate norms and values. […]

  43. bugaboo4you bugaboo4you

    Follow this storyline….

    suddenly all were amazed to see that she had created a

    “mini mena”


  44. Im shocked I missed this.

    That was totally unprofessional of her to bring it up in a crowd of people who were paying to see a confrence.

    Glad it ended on a smile though.

  45. Rikard Rikard

    I guess there was nothing serious to discuss at this conference then and it was just some profile raising venture for six-apart. Lecturing people on how they should be nice about things and then launching an invective starting with “You a**hole” (which seems to have degenerated to lynch mob status with the proposed vote) is a sure sign of the wrong person being in the job (Mena). This head in the clouds type thinking should be replaced with “how do we actually keep the six apart service online” 🙂
    I hate all this “SHOULD” do this and that. It’s for the insecure. the bloggers will, like life, do what they will. Far more productive to harness what actually occurs. Patronising – yes, sounded like a school teacher addressing a class from all accounts. Better discussing things like why should we bloggers in the UK may have to declare we have a computer to the BBC for licence purposes as some have proposed. “Bullshit” is far removed from “a**hole”. Honesty is better than trying to think of nice things to say about utter twaddle. (IMHO)

  46. JWR JWR

    The speech was given by a corperate executive. You’re either never been employed in the real-world, or very corperately innocent if you went into the presentation expecting anythign less than a pandering, patronizing highly prepared, pie-in-the-sky, completely out of touch with reality type of show.

    You reacted appropriately, but come on, how could you expect anything less from a pointy-haired-boss?

  47. […] Within 10 minutes I had moved from one blog to another, uncovering the gist of what her quote actually referenced. In the end, I found myself watching a 3 minute-long clip of Mena Trott and Ben Metcalfe going at it at Les Blogs conference in Paris. This somewhat common interaction in the midst of a conference (speaker and attendee getting worked up in debate) was different because it came into being due to the backchannel IRC conversation being presented behind Mena, which led her to call Ben out of the audience to back up his off-comment. […]

  48. […] After doing my own hyperlink chasing through Tara and Ben’s posts, I stumbled across the fact that Dave was apparently present for watched the event on vidcast afterwards and left his comments on Ben’s squash-attempting post about "the incident." So if Dave was at the event, and participated by having discourse with Ben on his post about the incident, why the fuck didn’t he attribute a more contextual quote to Tara? […]

  49. You don’t have to apologise to anyone for describing Mena Trott’s speech as bullshit.

    You are entitled to your opinion. People can decide for themselves whether or not they are with your sentiments.

    I do agree with you.

    I’d compare Mena Trott to King Canute, trying to turn back the tide.

    For me, the Internet represents a place where freedom of expression must always take first priority.

    I loathe web sites which censor postings which contain profanity. It’s petty.

    There are people who are offended by profanity. I am not one of them. I enjoy profanity. I find it refreshing when people do not constrain themselves to be artificially polite. I detest artificial civility and politeness. I find it fake, and I hate fake above all things.

    There are people who deride profanity, who belittle it and the people who use it. They see profanity as one big negative. They criticise it in many ways, often preferring to call it boring, trite and cliched.

    I dismiss that objection. It is groundless. No matter how I choose to communicate, I’m going to use cliches. Every sentence I’ve written (in this comment) is a cliche. We have no choice but to string cliche upon cliche together when we construct our prose.

    There is no substitute for profanity. Profanity represents the strongest method for venting our extreme emotions. And we all need to vent those emotions in order to feel satisfied that we have expressed our frustrations as clearly as possible.

    When it came time for Mena to express her strong emotions, she found the best way to do that was to use profanity herself.

    I’d like to see mainstream society make its peace with profanity and accept its usage in all media.

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