So here's an article in spiked-IT criticizing my blogging about Six Apart/MT before investing. Actually, it is criticizing the fact that people aren't criticizing me. I've been giving this some more thought and I am very open to feedback, but I think the criticism is misguided. I am following a very transparent formula. I blog about what excites me and if it is possible for me to invest in it, I do. It would be stupid, but the other strategy would be to not write about anything I'm thinking of investing in. This might be more journalistically pure, but then my blog would not reflect my actual feelings and actions and would be misleading. I would be leaving the best stuff out. If you want to understand my investment focus, just read my blog! If I sound excited about a new company or technology please ASSUME I'm trying to figure out a way to invest in it.

This blog is where I am trying to be as sincere as possible and honest about my feelings. I am not trying to mislead anyone. Trying to cover my ass too much is probably just as dishonest as deliberately misleading people.

26 Comments

Ahem.

You are a wicked, wicked man, and the bane of civilized investing. You are hereby sentenced to watch Wall Street sixteen times, especially the whole Gordon Gecko "greed is good" speech, before blogging again. Shame, shame shame.

You are now officially criticized. Please return to your normal blogging/investing practice.

And don't let the bastards grind you down.

I think it's good that you're trying to be as open and transparent about this as you can, but I wouldn't beat yourself up about it. Better to blog something you're enthusiastic about -- and then invest in it later after your enthusiasm has grown even more -- than to only blog things that you've already invested in.

It's not like you're hyping stocks you intend to unload in order to drive up their price.

All I know is that I still trust you, and I'll continue to read you with the same eye and mind I did before. At the same time, I think your enthusiasm for and belief in SixApart means that you're a better investor in the company and project... you'd dig SixApart regardless of whether you were invested in it.

I do not read you with a jaundiced eye.

You're doing it right. I read that article too, and it was (apparently) critical of me too (at least the email with the link said it was). I couldn't figure out what they're saying I did wrong. I sent back an email with that comment. Got no response. I suggest not giving flow to idiots like this. If they use a German term they made up to describe you, something weird is going on.

Actually, I think that your behavior reflects high integrity.

1- wow this is exciting. blog, lunch, blog.
2- hmmm ... maybe invest ... silence
3- arranging investment ... silence
4- invest ... blog, with disclosure of investment

The key issue in journalistic integrity is revealing when you have a stake in something. If I look at this four-step process, everyone always knows where you stand on it. First, you're a blogger; not a journalist. You're not selling news to people with the warrant that you have investigated and represent its objectivity. Rather, what people like to read is your personal view.

And, even if you were a journalist, it's like saying that once a journalist writes on a company, they cannot buy that company's stock some number of months later.

And, finally, if blogging is your deep nefarious plot, you're doing it wrong. If you blog on the item before you invest, you're raising it's price. (E.g. you're letting the market know about this interesting opportunity, raising publicity.) You should eliminate step #1, then do #4 not revealing your investment. (I hope that this helps your critics understand how these things would work, if their concerns were true.)


Yes, indeed. Shame on you as a VC for not having realized that every one of you opinions, viewpoints
and investigations openly discussed in your personal blog should have been throughly commitee-
vetted to certify their objectivity and correctness, guaranteed e.g. by the principal's absolute non-
involvement in the spaces discussed, and wrapped in layers of disclaimers.

You are an embarassment to your fellow members of the Community of Objective and Disconnected
Commenters (TM), whose glorious representatives include journalists and security analysts.

Please ensure that your interest and enthusiasm for a product or service never again evolves over
time into the bizarre notion that it might actually be a sensible investment target. Who do you think
you are?
;-)

If what Mr Thompson is really concerned with is "Unaccountable concentrations of power" he needs to look further into the blogging phenomena. Much like Mr. Olowski at The Guardian, he seems to have a specific axe to grind against this latest development in the online world, no doubt in part because it hits close to home for him as a journalist. Personally, I think blogs help break down concentrations of power and increase accounability since things are transparent and anyone can play. The openness of the whole situation makes manipulation pretty damn hard.

As for his allusions to impropriety in your blogging/investing pattern, well... It's something to watch, but the pattern of blog, blog, blog, buy is ethically bulletproof. What would be impropriatous would be if you owned something and did a little blog, blog, blog, sell. Replace "blog" with "pump out artificially inflated revenue reports" you have what many US executives do with their stock holdings, to the detriment of the economy as a whole.

It's going to remain a sticky question, for you or any other blogger with real world financial or political clout. Personally I think it's a win for all parties: interconnecting people across barriers of culture and class tends to create higher value social networks and promote true creativity and entrepreneurialism. Still, power abuses can and will occur. I'm fairly confident that when they do they'll be recognized as such.

This really sounds like another pussy-aching "I'm not part of the clique, and I feel threatened" article.

What I want to know is where is the official defintion for how a VC should act? Is there a guild that sets standards for this stuff? Why do people feel the need to nail people who try something different up on the cross?

The same thing goes for criticism against Google. Tons of people complain about an excellent AND free resource, and accuse Google of all kinds of whacky things. Where is it written that a search engine needs to please everyone while providing a FREE service?

Its time to get a grip Bill Thompson & Andrew Orlowski. If you feel threatened, then play like Dan Gillmor and embrace the new trend. Otherwise shut up and get out of the way!

Joi - I tend to agree that you've certainly made adequate disclosure at the appropriate time regarding interest and subsequent investment in SixApart.

That said, I do think Thompson raises a valid point... blogs pose new questions about what's truly personal speech vs. what's journalism or even commerical speech. This issue is a little clouded particularly when it comes to high-profile blogs (call them "A-list", "celebrity", or whatever you'd like). For instance, given that thousands of folks read Joi's blog every day (and all of us are aware of this), does that make him a de facto "media" outlet? Now that Neoteny has an equity investment and board seat in SixApart, to the extent Joi made product claims about TypePad on this blog, would that be commercial speech?

I think the answer to both is probably not, and a lot of folks might say "who cares?" or "why is it releveant?" to both. But looking past the particular slant of the article, I for one think there are questions posed which are worth discussion. In other environments were fact & commentary are disseminated, like journalism or equity research, guidelines have become fairly clearly defined over time (though ethics debates still continue in both areas). When an NBC News reporter discusses a GE affiliate, they disclose GE's sole ownership in the network. When a Goldman analyst puts out a report on Company X, he or she must disclose not only investment banking, advisory, or market-making related to that company, they must also disclose *potential* relationships which the firm is pursuing. At least to me, such guidelines are less clearly established in the blogsphere, so I think debating the matter can only be healthy.

You're doing the right thing, with integrity. Don't worry, and don't even bother to post disclaimers.

What we're seeing is simply a few people who are afraid of openness, honesty, and everything *emergent*, such as popularity and democracy and self-organization. It is a frightening thought to some that people might actually figure out themselves what they like, based on open discussion. A lot of pundits will be out of a job if what they say suddenly has to be weighed against their own merit, rather than be taken at face value.

Stick to your guns mate. Blogging is expressing your personal views. If someone doesn't like what you write they can just move on. You don't owe them anything.

Do you really care? Just take a look at this guy.

He looks like he rolled off a bakery truck.

BTW, here's something that's got to become a hit to invest in...

As a French journalist *and* blogger, I would say that Spiked-IT's piece makes sense to me, even if it's hard to admit.

When you intend to create so-called counter-powers, it often leads to new powers. A-star bloggers *are* powerful. That's not something we should fear or fight against, that's something we must know and keep in our minds.

Another thing that could concern us, as observers of the media/info/web/blogo-sphere, is the "Links Dictatorship". Today a popular blog is a blog which has many incoming links from other blogs. That's probably the first time ever that popularity is mesured that way, without considering "audience", "readers" or "visitors", but links. It changes many things, I think.

And BTW Dave, I have the feeling that this "B-word" is far more French than German...

The transparency of your method is the real "integrity measuring stick".

Personally, I don't think you should take this kind of criticism for more than it is, just another view. Ask yourself, Is the issue he raises really that big of a deal in the investing world as it stands now. Just recently I started reading your blog, but I think to change how you operate now could diminish your own integrity.

I didn't read the critique but it sounds pretty silly on the face of it.

If blog's are so insignificant by their numbers, why to british rags taunt them with sophistic refutations? This isn't about you Joi, its a desperate attempt to drive traffic.

We have been down this path before.

But there is a bigger issue of institutional vs. individual speech that keeps falsely distorting character.

Cyril : "blogeoisie" sounds French yes, but i think they talk about "berblogger" that indeed sounds German, not French. (Ou alors Strasbourg ! )

Dave : i think the guy understood that you said that journalism should only be "direct reporting of events", when you in fact stated that it was what -they are doing all the time-.
He understood the oppositive of what you said. Funny.

"Yet the blogeoisie and their acolytes dismiss 'journalism' and those who practice it, arguing that the direct reporting of events is the only thing needed. As Dave Winer says: 'The typical news article consists of quotes from interviews and a little bit of connective stuff and some facts, or whatever. Mostly it's quotes from people. If I can get the quotes with no middleman in between - what exactly did CNN add to all the pictures?'"

Well, I think Winer is being a *little* disingenuous here. We're not human RSS aggregators, after all, and there will probably always be *some* need for an interventive human agency to help data become information become knowledge.

But I agree that the established, credentialled media are doing a shitty job of it, and I think the simple fact of having a great many more options to choose from is in itself the Good Thing about blog-journalism.

There's also no pretense at objectivity or disinterestedness, and as may of y'all have pointed out, I'd rather assemble my reality from a college of frankly advocating viewpoints than slip beneath the waves of a consensually "objective" totality.

For everyone who doesn't want to make such an effort, there will always be USA TODAY.

"collage," dammit.

I dont personally find a conflict about you writing about a company you may or may not invest in. Is this not a personal page? Are you an investment advisor? Am I not responsible for my own actions? I dont ask you to tell me how to spend my money. I read this site to see if you have something to say which interests me, which at times you do so I come back and read again.

However. "Blogging about blogging" is little more than a big circle jerk IMSHO. It bores me. I dont even like using the word "blog" to begin with. This stuff is not something new and radical. Lots of people have been expressing their opinions on personal pages since the mid 90's and others have used guest book scripts to reply since then as well.

I'm going to go sit on the couch and play with the cat until this all passes or until I dont feel grumpy any more.

JY: You're probably right for the "ubber" stuff. And BTW, someone has just told me that "bourgeoisie", even if it's a French word, has German roots. Damned. So Dave beware, you have been "germanized" twice :)

JY, quoting Dave: Yes, but the "middleman" has also the *obligation* to put quotes in his/her article, which is not the case for bloggers. That's the big (really big) question about neutrality vs commitment, facts vs comments and so... Not that simple

Chris: "Blogging about blogging" is not boring to me (not more than "writing about litterature" is)... But I do agree, totally, definitely, to the idea that "blogs" are not that new. And I hope your cat is doing well.

As the man who rolled off a bakery truck (and I've had a haircut since then) I'd just like to say that, whatever criticisms I may have of Joi's behaviour he has at least been honest about what he's doing: the point I wanted to make was that his fellow bloggers did *not* see it as problematic, did *not* raise it as a potential ethical dilemma and did *not* do any of the things which even the most fresh-faced junior reporter would have seen as vital. That's because they are not doing journalism. And not doing journalism is just fine *as long as they don't pretend to be*.

I like blogs, I like blogging. If I had more time in my life I'd keep an online journal, link to my friends and find a better photo for my home page. But I don't - doesn't mean I'm afraid of the phenomenon, which I think opens up wonderful new opportunities. I just think that some acknowledgement of difference is useful. And I don't like unaccountable concentrations of power :-)

This guy can't even figure out how many years ETCON has been on for (two, not three). His "journalism" apparently precludes inline links in favor of frigging *footnotes* (what is this, a filing to the Chairman of the FCC or a web-page?).

His points are groundless and one-sided and axe-grinding. His criticisms lack substance.

His attack on you, Joi, betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the use and purpose of a blog. Many of us (ahem) use our blogs as a personal Memex. We post the things that interest us because they encourage discussion of those things (which in turn informs us better). We post these things because it encourages others to tell us about related things. When it comes time to make decisions or produce other "work product" from the inspiration, we turn back to our public, personal Memex and get the details, which have, by dint of laying around in public for some time, accumulated more context and information.

If you can figure out what's going to be in Warren Ellis's next comic book by reading Die Puny Humans, if you can figure out what's going to be in Bruce Sterling's next novel by reading Schism Matrix, if you can figure out what the BBCi's next project is going to be by reading Blackbelt Jones -- why should it surprise us that we can find out what Joi's going to invest in by reading joi.ito.com?

Bill:

*as long as they don't pretend to be*

I don't know of many bloggers who pretend to be journalists. With the exception of the new "indie jounalism" coming from people who already have a journalistic background (e.g. Chris Albritton's Back to Iraq) the closest I can think of are some pleasure-seeking travelbloggers and people who blog about the technology they know and love.

Otherwise, I don't see anyone who pretends to be doing "journalism," in any professional sense. The most I see bloggers represent themselves as is commentators and finders of interesting things.

And bloggers are ultra-accountable. Far moreso than your average news organization at any rate. All that needs to happen is for people to stop linking to them and they dissappear.

Whoop. Here I am, linking like a rank amateur:

Chris Albritton's Back to Iraq

Much better. Must be more careful with HTML code after turkey sandwitches.

Bill, thanks for dropping in. I appreciate it. Most of the others have commented on the "issues". I would like to agree that "unaccountable concentrations of power :-)" is bad. I think with power comes increased responsibility to be accountable. I'm continuously trying to think of new ways to be accountable. One important way is to have criticism and dialog with the critics. I wish more of my critics would "drop in" like you.

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