At the beginning of the summer, I unsubscribed from Andy Baio’s Waxy.org, one of my favorite all-time blogs, because he linked twice to a blog which continues to push at times lame, and other times outrageous, ageism (scroll down to May 16th) aimed at Senator McCain.

It’s been four months since Baio linked the site twice (the second time defending ageism as a tactic against McCain), and since Senator McCain nominated Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate last month, I thought I’d pop in on Baio’s site, Waxy.org, and see if the liberal (and thus supposedly tolerant) Baio had decided sexism might be an acceptable tact against Governor Palin.

Gratefully, my non-scientific search of Baio’s blog archives, as well as his Links Archive, turns up not a single mention of Palin, suggesting Baio feels ageism is acceptable but sexism is not.

To test my suspicions, I dug through Baio’s Link archives since the ageism began, looking at June, July, August and September (as of 9/15), for any mention of the word “McCain”. I found 9 links total, one of which took aim at McCain’s age, this time with an entirely unfunny and decidedly lame joke (perhaps worse, it was a link to Daily Kos).

I am disappointed that somebody as smart and as respected as Andy thinks its appropriate- not to mention funny- to attack a person based on their age. I hope Andy can recognize that thoughtful people can disagree on why the person they support is better suited to the job of President, without resorting to any -ism, no matter how fashionable it might be.

UPDATE: Please see the comments for two thoughtful responses to my post, including one from Waxy.org’s Andy Baio.

Copeland challenges Calacanis: $10k for blogosphere’s true money leader

Well-known and outspoken entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, founder of blog network Weblogs, Inc (now a part of AOL), has walked into a potential mea culpa by publicly challenging Blogads, one of the blog world’s earliest franchises.

On technology blog Valleywag, Mr. Calacanis was asked about rumors he was planning to compete against Blogads, arguably the largest blog advertising network. Here’s what he had to say:

Q. So, poor Henry Copeland [of Blogads]. You’re finally coming after him.

A. That’s like Michael Jordan going after a 12-year old in a game of 1-on-1.

Subtle, right? But instead of letting Mr. Calacanis’ snide (yet typically boastful) remark fade, as it initially appeared it would (“Jason…makes me smile”, went Mr. Copeland’s first post), today Mr. Copeland posed an interesting challenge on the Blogads weblog, proposing a $10,000 wager on which network– his Blogads, or Weblogs, Inc– earned more money for its bloggers last year:

“…Let’s talk about the key performance metric. Does Jason want to put his big money where his bigger mouth is? I’ll wager $10,000 that in 2006 Blogads earned more for bloggers than did WIN. After all, blogger earnings is the true measure of a blog business, right?

What kind of odds would Michael Jordan give a twelve-year-old in a game of 1-on-1? A million to 1? Maybe 10,000 to 1… with the MJ blindfolded and his shoes tied together?

Well, this twelve-year-old would be happy with 10 to 1 odds, Jason’s $100K to my $10K. If those odds make Jason queazy, I’d be happy to discuss something gentler.

Jason apparently got $25 million from AOL and is the Michael Jordan of blog businesses, so he’s got the cash to toss on the table. Does he have the guts?”

Blogads owns much well-deserved respect within the blogosphere, so I’m a bit surprised to see them coming out swinging like this, particularly considering Mr. Calancanis’ fairly well-known reputation as a person who enjoys self-promotion, stunts, and often uses braggadocio in his personal writings. Frankly, I don’t see what Blogads could gain from this wager– as Mr. Copeland writes in his post, his network is a clear winner in terms of customer feedback; and with AOL’s recent jettisoning of several of the lower-trafficked Weblogs, Inc titles, it seems a bit like a bit of an off comparison to pit Blogads distributed network of ad carriers against the now-streamlined Weblogs, Inc. network of blogs.

Considering all that– plus the fact that Blogads is likely to win the wager by a large margin– I expect Mr. Calacanis to either ingnore this come-on completely, or else shoot back with some variety of mis-direction, changing of the terms, or some other similar stunt.

As Paul Giamatti once said in an interview (and I’m paraphrasing), “It’s not the competition. It’s the challenge.”

UPDATE: In a comment on this post, Mr. Calacanis calls this a “silly bet”.

As blogging comes of age, growing pains persist

A few comments on the latest political/blog scandal. First, some background. This time around, liberal blogger Amanda Marcotte, recently hired to run presidential candidate John Edwards’ campaign blog, is being criticized for a variety of blog posts she’s written at her personal site, Pandagon.

As to be expected, liberal bloggers are rising to her defense, while conservatives are, without calling for her removal (and I count threeone who think she should stay), commenting on the issue and re-publishing her thoughts on issues from Hurricane Katrina to the Catholic church.

What was said?

So that we’re clear on some of those comments, and please note that the following contain graphic language that may not be suitable for all ages, here are some of Ms. Marcotte’s writings, as re-published at ABC News blog Pushback:

ON THE CATHOLIC TEACHINGS ON BIRTH CONTROL:

Last year, Marcotte blasted the Catholic Church’s position on birth control: “Q: What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit? A: You’d have to justify your misogyny with another ancient mythology.” (Side note: Would there be a different reaction if John Edwards “blogmaster” had insulted Islam to this degree? Is it “okay” to trash Catholicism–but not Islam?)

ON THE DUKE RAPE CASE:

“I had to listen to how the poor, dear lacrosse players at Duke are being persecuted just because they held someone down and f***** her against her will–not rape, of course, because the charges have been thrown out. Can’t a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it? So unfair.”

ON REPUBLICAN VOTERS:

“Voters who are motivated by misogyny, homophobia, and racism aren’t going to leave a racist, misogynist, homophobic party for one that is all those things but just less so.”

Clearly, these are not simply liberal opinions expressed with power or wit. Rather, they’re pretty disturbing, irrational comments that I would sincerely hope do not represent the general tone of the Edwards– or any other– campaign for president.

So…should she be fired?

But do these comments– as disturbing as they are– mean Ms. Marcotte should be fired?

With respect to the issue of a political campaign firing a blogger for controversial things he or she has written in the past, I don’t think a precedent should be set that any blogger should be fired for simply publishing any controversial thoughts- in fact, this should be obvious, that tends to be one of the reasons they’re hired in the first place.

However, to me that’s not the real issue here. The real issue is not that Ms. Marcotte published some controversial ideas, as some of the liberal bloggers on this case would have us believe. Rather, the issue to me is whether or not the particular things she’s said are in line with how the Edwards campaign wishes to portray itself.

If Ms. Marcotte’s published writings are not in line with the beliefs of the Edwards campaign, I think there can only be two reasonable courses of action going forward:

1) The Edwards campaign should immediately fire Ms. Marcotte and apologize for the decision to hire somebody whose writings are outside of the scope of rational political discourse.

2) OR, the Edwards campaign should immediately release a statement roughly along the lines of this:

It has recently come to our attention that Amanda Marcotte, a blogger we tapped to manage the John Edwards campaign blog, has published a number of comments on a personal blog that millions of Americans may find in poor taste.

While we do not agree with or condone Ms. Marcotte’s previous comments, we did not hire her based on them either. We will continue to welcome Ms. Marcotte as a member of the John Edwards campaign team, with the mutual understanding that she regrets offending people and plans to speak positively about political issues on the Edwards campaign website going forward.

Either way, this should happen soon, and decisively, and the campaign should then immediately announce some kind of “free beer for all Americans” program or something equally as earth-shattering.

That’s not the end of this issue though. Far from it.

The argument for failed hires- and for moving on.

A few bloggers have made the point that the Edwards team should have done a more thorough vetting of Ms. Marcotte’s blog and other public writings before bringing her on and placing themselves in the middle of such a difficult situation. Fair (and obvious) enough! But now at least one blogger is arguing that the campaign should live with their bad hire and carry on.

What?!!

Anybody who has even been remotely involved in the managing of a company or organization that aims to be successful has to understand that making the wrong hire does happen. You don’t want it to, but it will happen from time to time. And when you realize you’ve made a mistake, the best thing you can do is cut ties with the scandal as quickly and as completely as possible. Nothing short of that makes any sense for the ongoing success of your organization.

In fact, when the scandal becomes too big to manage, a decent person in Ms. Marcotte’s position, particularly if that person professes to support the organization in question (as Ms. Marcotte has expressed support for Edwards’ campaign), should take the responsibility and immediately recuse him or herself from that difficult position. That’s called honor, and it’s rare.

Mis-direction and revenge

Something else beyond Ms. Marcotte’s comments really bothers me here, and that is the way in which many liberal bloggers have chosen to defend Ms. Marcotte.

Without addressing her comments directly, Glenn Greenwald chose to talk about the rude comments of a conservative blogger.

Without addressing her comments directly, Daily Kos diarist Kagro X suggested that other Democratic candidates circle the wagons around Edwards.

Without addressing her comments directly, Shakespeare’s Sister blogger Waveflux commented on one of Ms. Marcotte’s critics.

And most disturbing of all in my opinion are the comments from Chris Bowers, writer at the popular liberal blog MyDD. Short of addressing the particulars of Ms. Marcotte’s comments– should we then assume he supports them?–Bowers instead launches a pretty bold threat directly at the Edwards campaign:

I have a pretty vicious rant and an important action alert lined up, but I am waiting to hear from the Edwards camp about the fate of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan before doing anything…But like I said, I am waiting before letting loose.

Bowers goes on to reference a straw poll at liberal blog DailyKos, commenting that “Either way, [Edwards] won’t be tied with Barack Obama in Dailykos straw polls anymore. It will be hard in one direction or the other” (emphasis mine).

In a later post, Bowers continue to actively threaten the Edwards camp, writing that “If someone is willing to stand with us, that should mean something big, and should not go unrewarded.”

Bowers’ message here is loud and clear: We don’t care what she said, whether or not it’s offensive, or any effect it might have on “our” candidate– we only care that one of “our own” is being threatened.

Could Bowers be any more direct? Fire Ms. Marcotte, and he will “let loose” on the Edwards campaign with a “vicious rant” (the same kind that Marcotte writes, I wonder?). However, if Edwards does what Bowers wants, then that “should not go unrewarded”.

These are pretty direct, and audaciously arrogant, threats for a liberal blog to make at a presidential candidate. Particularly when they are accompanied by a deafening lack of comment about exactly what Ms. Marcotte has written and its potential effects on the electorate.

This is a soggy, pathetic affair, and it reflects poorly on the entire blogosphere. Sadly, it will also likely have a negative effect on the prospects of talented, intelligent, and reasonable bloggers being hired by not just political campaigns, but by organizations on the whole.

And like many things, the initial situation was unfortunate. But the cover-up is turning out to be much worse.

UPDATE: Welcome Michelle Malkin readers! Thanks to Michelle for the pointer.

Lance Dutson making history as credentialed blogger

Lance Dutson

Photo: John Patriquin for the Portland Press Herald

Lance Dutson

More great and well-deserved press for my friend Lance Dutson, who will be making history next week as one of the first ever bloggers credentialed to cover a federal court case.

According to the Portland Press Herald, Lance will travel to D.C. next week to cover the trial of former Bush administration official Scooter Libby. The credentials for two bloggers– a rotating stable that will include Dutson and at least three others– were arranged by Media Bloggers Association, for which Lance serves as web developer. MBA president Robert Cox, who brokered the deal, told The Washington Post “The history of where blogging is going to go is not defined. It could go in a very positive direction or it could go in a very negative direction,” Cox said. “We have to do more than just sit on our hands and see what happens.”

This is great news, as anybody who follows the business of blogging can easily recognize. Best of luck to Lance and the other bloggers covering the trial.

Disclosure: Lance is my good friend and podcast co-host. I am former web developer and Board of Directors member for Media Bloggers Association.

2006 Citizen’s Media Sites of the Year

Last year, I named my “2005 Blogs of the Year“, and without even reaching it’s second anniversary, I’ve changed the format of this award. Instead of limiting its scope to blogs, I’m expanding this list to include all types of citizen’s media sites- from blogs to podcasts to video blogs to anything that might be similar to any of those. So here we go…

5. Bloggingheads.tv – Robert Wright, Mickey Kaus & Friends -AND- HotAir – Michelle Malkin / These two unique political video blogs are strange bedfellows for a tie on my list. While Bloggingheads is long, talky, and akin to eavesdropping on policy wonks in the hallways of a political conference, HotAir shines because it is short, sharp, and decidedly in the personality of its host, acerbic political blogger Michelle Malkin. Though they’re different, they’re both my picks for best political videoblogs out there.

4. Rocketboom – Andrew Barron, Joanne Colan (partial), Amanda Congdon (partial) / The intelligence quotient of NPR, the snark of The Daily Show- Rocketboom is an acquired taste that I find occasionally fascinating, occasionally annoying, but always interesting and, without a doubt, the gold standard for video blogs in terms of production value and an overall unique voice.

3. TV Squad – Contributors / From show episodes to industry news to rumors and innuendo, TV Squad is the only, essential, indispensable site for anybody who cares about the TV industry or loves to watch. Updated frequently, but never too much, they’re fun yet blissfully unsnarky.

2. Instapundit – Glenn Reynolds -AND- The Glenn and Helen Show – Glenn Reynolds & Dr. Helen Smith / Yet again, the most prolific, and bereft, thinker on the web is #2 on my list. The best blog of all time is now complimented nicely by the addition of an excellent podcast, The Glenn and Helen Show. Reynolds and his wife, Dr. Helen Smith, are a relaxed, witty duo behind the microphones, and their A-list guests and wide range of timely topics are some of my favorite

1. Maine Web Report – Lance Dutson / Yes, Lance is my friend and co-host on Maine Impact, our podcast on Maine issues. But those things have nothing to do with my decision to name Lance’s Maine Web Report my citizen’s media site of the year. Beginning with his pointed, relentless coverage of Maine’s Department of Tourism back in the early winter, through the travails of the lawsuit filed against him, and continuing on through his freedom of access requests and reports, as well as his coverage of a myriad of other issues affecting the people of Maine, Lance put the bite back into Maine media and showed by example truly how deeply the explosion of citizen’s media can effect the status quo.

Maine’s blogging community has no room for anonymous comments

It may not be well known to the rest of the country, but here in Maine, we have a reputation for sticking together and helping our fellow citizens out. It troubles me, then, to see a fellow resident- and web developer- apparently harassing another Maine web developer.

I’m talking here about Rob Landry, owner of the Portland-based Pemaquid Communications, and his recent comments to and about Lance Dutson, the Maine blogger who just two weeks ago faced a multi-million-dollar lawsuit from Maine Office of Tourism contractor Warren Kremer Paino.

While Rob is certainly entitled to his opinion, I’m sure he’d agree there are more respectful and intelligent ways of expressing differing viewpoints- ways that do not involve leaving anonymous comments about a fellow Maine web developer across different blogs.

I believe that habit is wrong on a couple of levels. First, it’s professionally inappropriate to go around trashing another Maine web developer by hiding behind anonymous comments. Secondly, it’s in poor taste- and bad citizenship- as a commenter to intentionally muddy your identity. Obviously, it begs the questions: why hide behind a pseudonymn when making comments? Are you unable to support your own arguments? Or jealous of a fellow web professional? I’m not suggesting these are Rob’s motives- rather, I’m making the point that we can’t be sure, since he’s establishing a track record of obscuring his actions to the point of suspicion.

Maybe we should give Rob a pass. After all, by his own admission, he’s a newcomer to the whole world of blogging. I know because back in March, Rob emailed me asking for advice on what blogs are and how to set one up.

Now, I notice that he’s running what appears to be his own blog called foresider and located at http://foresider.com. Though his name appears in the registration info for the domain name, he’s curiously absent from any credit on the website. Rob has even gone so far as to intentionally mischaracterize his relationship to foresider.com, claiming that it’s a blog that he “advertises on.” While that is technically true- a link to his company, Pemaquid Communications appears on the blog- that would of course be an entirely disingenuous statement if he were also to own and publish the blog.

In the interest of fairness I emailed Rob asking for his take on both his questionable comments and his anonymous blog. Sadly, while Rob thanked me for the opportunity to comment, he nonetheless chose to continue his evasive maneuvers.

When I asked him why he left anonymous comments, he replied that he “Didn’t really think much of it,” so we’re in agreement there. Next he stated that he “wanted to add a comment that linked to the Foresider rather than Pemaquid Communications.” But of course, a comment’s link can point to anywhere- a commenter’s name is something entirely different. Again, he’s either woefully unfamiliar of common behavior standards online, or he’s intentionally ducking.

When I asked Rob why Foresider.com is an anonymous blog, he replied that he “[didn’t] understand the question.” He asked me to “elaborate”, so I wrote him a follow-up email and attempted to re-phrase my already direct questions in a more explicit manner. While he replied to my initial email within 12 hours, he has yet to reply to my follow-up. It’s been two days and counting, and given his record to date, I can’t say I expect a clear reply.

Rob, if you were to ask me for further advice, I’d let you know that anonymous blogging without a damn good reason is generally frowned upon in the blogosphere. If you have something to hide, by all means, hide it. I know of a couple of bloggers in Nepal who blogged anonymously for months to avoid imprisonment and murder. Their country’s radio and television lines had all been downed by the government, so in their case anonymity became essential to survival. You can understand then how it frustrates me to observe anonymity used for cowardly purposes.

So if you’re just trying to lay low, you might want to recognize that lurking both in comment sections, and on your very own blog, are two things that don’t exactly place you on the shortlist for the blogosphere citizen of the year award. And they certainly aren’t tactics that will foster a community among the ranks of the few, but growing, community of bloggers in Maine.

Maine blogger sued by Maine Office of Tourism subcontractor

Lance Dutson, the blogger whose ‘Pay-per-gate‘ investigation has uncovered several instances of incompetence by the Maine Office of Tourism and its subcontractors, today announced he has been sued for over a million dollars by Warren Kremer Paino, the Office of Tourism’s advertising agency of record.

This is a devious, frivolous lawsuit, designed to intimidate Dutson into silence, and it should not- and will not- stand. Dutston has decided to stand and fight, and bloggers everywhere should support him by linking to him and publicizing this idiotic abuse of our legal system by the Warren Kremer Paino advertising agency.

Dutson is supported in his fight by an excellent legal team, including the support of Ron Coleman, council for Media Bloggers Association (disclosure: I am on the Board of Directors for the MBA). Coleman and the MBA are a perfect 8-0 in defending lawsuits against bloggers, and I have faith that Dutson’s case will prove to be another victory for bloggers’ rights.

One more thing: Nobody should forget that while the lawsuit has been filed by the Warren Kremer Paino advertising agency, they are involved in this mess as the advertising agency of record for the Maine state Office of Tourism. As a citizen of the state, I fully expect that the Office of Tourism would have something to say in this matter. So, how are they going to respond? Will they come down in favor of the ad agency that is suing one of their citizens for millions of dollars? Or will they stand up for somebody they are supposed to be working on behalf of?

Stay tuned…