Russian Spy’s Connections to Silicon Valley

UPDATE: Anna Chapman’s (one of the Russian Spies taken into custody) Facebook profile has gone private. Pictures and Friends information is no longer publicly available as of Wednesday evening (6/30/2010).

Earlier today, I looked up the Facebook URL for Russia’s hottest spy. I was actually pretty surprised her profile was still up and available… you know given that she was being held by the authorities, probably in some cell in Guantanamo.

So, curious as I am, I started digging around her default public profile. I saw that she had 168 friends. I started digging further.

Her friends seemed to be virtually all men… 83% to be exact. I then started looking at the profiles of some of these friends she had. After only a few clicks, I found that some of her friends had shared friends with me. My attention instantly perked up as I realized that I am 3 degrees of separation away from the Russian spy… or put another way, many of my friends have the same friends as the Russian spy. Okay, kind of quirky and fun for a Wednesday morning.

Background:
Now for those of you who don’t know me, I am a tech entrepreneur and investor in Silicon Valley. Having some success on both fronts has afforded me the opportunity to friend up with a bunch of the movers and shakers in Silicon Valley, Internet entrepreneurs and investors alike. So things started to get interesting as I deployed some sorcery to run through all 168 of Anna Chapman’s friends and determine if we shared mutual friendships.

The Analysis

Here’s where the analysis took me:
- The Russian Spy has mutual friendships with 32 (or 6%) of my friends
(or put another way: 32 of my friends know at least one of the Russians Spy’s friends)
- 12 (or 7%) of the Russian Spy’s friends directly know my friends
- 4 (~1%) of my friends directly know several of the Russian Spy’s friends

The Low Down – naming names

Here’s a list of my FB friends who share friends with the Russian Spy:
- Jimmy Wales – Founder, Wikipedia
- Robert Scoble – Founder, Building 43
- Om Malik – Founder, GigaOm
- Matt Marshall – CEO, VentureBeat
- Loic Lemeur – Founder, CEO Seesmic
- Dave Mcclure – Angel Investor
- Philip Kaplan – Co-founder, Blippy
- David Weekly* – Founder, PBWorks
- Larry Lessig – Board Member EFF, Creative Commons
- Naval Ravikant* – Serial Entrepreneur
- Raj Kapoor – Partner, Mayfield Fund
- David Lee – Partner, SV Angels
- Ed Baker – Founder, CEO Friend.ly
- Paul Bragiel – Founder, CEO of Lefora
- Noah Kagan – Co-founder Gambit
- Kamal Ravikant* – Angel Investor
- Patricia Lassus – Entrepreneur
- Ryan Junee* – Entrepreneur
- Sylvia Battilana – Co-founder, Auctionomics
- Tammy Camp – CEO, ComCorp
- Matt Mireles – Founder, CEO, SpeakerText
- Ben Mendelsohn – President, Interactive Television Alliance
- Beatrice Pang – Founder, Mokini
- Shaukat Shamin – Co-founder Permuto
- Carl Bressler – Investor, Advisor
- Grant Wernick – Entrepreneur
- Erin Turner – Founder, CEO Crave
- Babak Nivi – Co-founder Venturehacks
- Daniel Brusilovsky – Entrepreneur
- Jared Kopf – CEO, Homerun
- Gerd Leonard – CEO of the Futures Agency
- David King – Founder GreenPatch

Disclaimer: All information provided above was publicly available as of Wednesday morning (6/30/2010). If anybody wants me to take their information out I will, but as I don’t believe there is anything personally embarrassing or inherently private, I figured there was no harm in providing this data.
* denotes individual that has multiple friends in common with the Russian Spy

Conclusions:

- I was initially surprised by the number of connections the Russian Spy has into the movers and shakers of Silicon Valley. A deeper look paints a bit more textured story. Basically Anna has (/had ;) ) a handful of friends that are in the periphery of the Russian and American tech scenes. I wouldn’t say that she was a regular in the scene but rather was friends with people who are. Given the sheer number of just my friends the Russian Spy shares connections with, I’m gonna guess that she had several run-ins with a number of top-level Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and executives, and who knows how many of them she may have connected with. Maybe getting the next degree out into the tech world was part of her orders from the Kremlin.. maybe I or my friends would have connected with her at a tech party in the next 6 months… who knows.. :)

- What this whole exercise made clear to me is the extent of deep investigative insights that sit just a few keystrokes away for a criminal or civil investigator. I personally haven’t seen any pitches for companies that sell sophisticated social networking investigative tools to law enforcement, but if they don’t exist, they most certainly will. Maybe I should start or fund one!

- I’ve always been a fan of transparency, and have theorized that the ultra-transparency that social networking tools provide will keep everyone a lot more honest. Criminals and Spies are going to have a very difficult time being engaged members of society without being completely vulnerable and exposed through the tools that being socially engaged require.

- Trust is an interesting thing when extended online. Trusting friends with information often means that your information goes to their friends including sexy Russian spies. And then everything is so public on social networks today and your information is available to any investigative hack (like me) or actual investigator. I just did the equivalent of 3-6 months of investigative work 20 years ago, in about an hour. This is a new world for sure.

- What a fascinating and fun analysis for me to do. I mean, when I was a kid I always wanted to be a spy. The public data gave me the opportunity to do counter-intel on a suspected Russian operative, all from the comforts of my home office!! That’s SERIOUSLY COOL!

Attention Ning Engineers: Less Suck – More RADOOL!

This note is for the uniquely creative, astonishingly productive, remarkably intelligent, extraordinarily adventurous, unnaturally constrained-by-the-bloated-company-mentality Ning engineer…

My INSANELY AWESOME portfolio companies are HIRING!!

Here are my portfolio companies:
Formspring.me
Deviantart
Crowdflower
Blippy
Expensify
Ubercab
Kareo
Flowtown
Sociable

Hit me up – travisk@gmail.com @konatbone !!

Have fun at your pink slip party tonight…and let’s rap about working at a killer startup tomorrow…or the next day ;)

The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth, So Help Your Reputation

Over the weekend, Mike Arrington put up an interesting op-ed on the state of the reputation on the Internet — and Techcrunch then followed up with a fairly negative review of a site ( GetUnvarnished.com) that just launched. The gist of the posts is that these sites will primarily become scaleable defamation platforms, and if Arrington is right, we all need to hope that society learns to disregard indiscretions.

Surely, on today’s Internet, we’re all potential victims of some “wingnut” saying something horrible about us, or some random picture of some indiscretion making it to the Internet and ruining our careers. The problem is that any and all information that ever existed is making it to the Net. Compounding the problem is the existence of the real-time web, its exploding communities of people sharing all of their thoughts and uploading content at will. What we’re quickly finding is that in some regards the Internet acts as a cesspool of information where lies and libel can ruin people’s reputation. And even with regards to legitimate, accurate content about people or entities, the Net is becoming too noisy for the crisp signal that we’re actually looking to get from it.

But what happens when an accurate, high signal-to-noise reputation system for people rolls out? A service designed to take in all the public information about a person, encourage reviews of that person, sift through and moderate each profile toward the most accurate picture of that person (including progressive moderation that has a slight lean toward empathy of the reviewed). The value could be huge. HR departments already check criminal history before hiring, but what if they could get an accurate picture of someone’s reputation in the workplace? What if, before you did a meeting with someone you didn’t know, you had a tool that went far beyond a simple Google search, and had lengthy reviews of that person across all his colleagues, partners, bosses, employees? You knew his weaknesses and strengths, and what to watch out for in a partnership with him.

What would happen is that this hypothetical site would take off. The value it provides its users would be huge, and it would quickly become a *necessary* tool for professionals. But it would only be valuable as long as it can do a great job of providing *accurate* information and reputation scoring. Why? Because a reputation site that has a bad reputation itself is worthless. What long-term value is a site which has a reputation of being an information cesspool?  It gets old, becomes a lame gossip site, and I move on (like the unmoderated financial/stock commenting sites).

Now some of us may hate that all of this information gets out there, that all of these reviews are so easily created, that we are so exposed to the public… that cheating on a wife, or a business colleague no longer can happen in the dark, but hyper-transparency is the world we are increasingly living in and we all better get used to it.  The silver lining is that services pedaling hate, libel, and gossip will be marginalized as forms of entertainment if they’re lucky or will whither altogether. There is simply too much value (and revenue oppty) in accurate reputations for the inaccurate ones to keep up.

The sites/services/platforms in this category that win are those that turn the real-time noise into something valuable.  The services that can provide the most accurate view for the consumers of the reviews–along with some level of empathy and recourse for the reviewed–will win.  All data will be out there, and truth shall ultimately win, because truth is so much more valuable than falsehoods.  Add to that a comfortable place for the reviewed to interject “their side of the story”, and the service becomes the trustworthy truth and accountability platform.

So what about Arrington who says reputation is dead, and that society will change to accept indiscretions? I think what Arrington was really saying was that managing reputation by omission of facts is dead. But I think that reputation is anything but dead, and instead will become more important than ever. With more data and info getting on the net, and as the tools to decipher fact from fiction get better, reputation becomes more accurate, and significantly more valuable. We can, fortunately, breathe a sigh of relief that value is in fact and not in fiction; that hating, and libel and lies get pushed out b/c of their relative paucity of value. But we are fooling ourselves into thinking that indiscretions will be completely forgotten–the best case is that the most common indiscretions get pushed off the indiscretion list. Its just that those of us that are adults right now are carrying an old belief that what happens in the past stays there. That’s a luxury that is about to die and we all better get used to it.

The Killer, Killer Marketing Job

When I invest in a company, I’ll usually get involved in the company well beyond the typical angel investor. So, when Dan Rodrigues, the founder & CEO of Kareo asked me to help bring some thunder to Kareo’s recruiting efforts for an insanely strategic marketing position, I jumped at the chance to step up my recruiting game. We’ve still got to find the Killer Marketer to fill the Killer Marketing Job, but my guess is the job post we came up with below is one of the more creative and progressive you’ll see. What do you think?

[Note: special shoutout to David Barrett, founder/CEO of Expensify for continuing innovations in the creative job post arena].

Killer Job for a Marketing Killer
Profitable, healthcare IT startup looking for a modern day marketing warrior!

Hello candidate. Let us first introduce ourselves. We are Kareo (www.kareo.com) and we’re based in Irvine, California. We build the Healthcare cloud services that power the offices of thousands of small physician practices throughout the U.S. We help doctors get PAID by transforming the complexity of today’s healthcare system to make it simple. Scheduling, billing, and practice management? Check. Electronic connections to thousands of insurance companies? Check. Integrated electronic medical records? Check. The list goes on. Basically, Kareo is at the center of the storm, which is at the center of Obama’s policy agenda and the national debate. Healthcare. A $2.4 TRILLION (yes, that’s with a “T”) industry, representing 17% of the U.S. GDP. Technology is coming to transform and revolutionize this industry and Kareo is positioned to carry the torch for 60% of the approximately 900,000 physicians in the U.S. who practice in small medical offices.

That’s the high level. The details go like this… Kareo, founded in 2005, has finally reached profitability and cash flow positive! We’ve done this through a fierce focus on our customer acquisition funnel, complete dedication to our customers, and disciplined belt-tightening to make ends meet. But now we’re generating cash flow, and that means it’s time to vastly expand our marketing efforts. Running those marketing efforts is the marketing warrior’s job to take. You might call this position a Director of Marketing, but that doesn’t quite do it justice. We’re looking for The Marketing Killer! Based on your experience, we’re budgeting for an annual salary of $120,000- $150,000, and you’ll be entitled to benefits and stock options.. Here’s what the position looks like:

SEM/SEO and customer acquisition basics still apply. Doing them better, smarter, and integrating them with a more creative and expansive marketing effort is where we’re going. Expanding the funnel and tightening acquisition – making lead conversion do things we thought weren’t possible. Turning our industry leading customer satisfaction into a powerful “word-of-mouth” customer referral program and channel will give us leverage. Digging in and doing outreach into the social media realm, becoming visible in the blogosphere, and experimenting with a presence in real-time streams are all part of our agenda. Lighting up our inbound leads with savvy, coordinated email and direct mail campaigns. Refining and polishing our marketing collateral. Turning our under-the-radar media presence into a top-of-mind healthcare industry narrative, inserting us into the national healthcare debate and positioning Kareo as the Healthcare IT pioneer to watch.

This is a strategic position for Kareo… but that doesn’t mean you’re not rolling up your sleeves. Yes, we are embarking on a substantial growth ramp in terms of revenues and in people, but we are still a small startup. That means that you’re growing with us. We want the go-getter, hard working, creative problem solver. You’re as analytical as they come and have actually dreampt of Excel spreadsheets at least once. You bring that data driven decision-making with an experimental and tinkering approach to your work. You iterate constantly, making the funnel bigger and badder and are full of glee when you get the A/B test results back. But you also have a creative side. You know how to motivate and inspire the prospective customer. You work with creative types to make Kareo’s vision a reality. You have an entrepreneurial, empowered mindset, and expect to be accountable, and expect the rewards that come with it. You bring energy to your work and your optimism and enthusiasm are infectious.

This killer job is here for the taking but here’s what it’s going to take from you:
• Provide a link to your LinkedIn profile with an email address (let’s face it, resumes are dead).
• Answer the short-form and essay questions below (this shows us you’re serious).
It’s a lot to ask so what will we do in return? If you complete the application, we guarantee that our CEO will review your application and respond to you directly within 5 days or less.

Killer marketers need-only apply. What are you waiting for? We look forward to hearing from you.

Kareo Killer Marketer Questionnaire

1. How would you rate Kareo’s current SEM and SEO efforts? What might you change or experiment with to improve the performance of our search engine marketing?

2. What’s the single, most important factor in successfully converting online prospects into paying customers? Why? What’s the most overlooked high-impact variable in converting online prospects into paying customers?

3. What is the best way to leverage social media and the blogosphere in order to enhance sales of a small business product? Where does traditional PR fit into this picture?

4. Name a product for the small business market whose marketing you most admire. What do you think is the secret to their marketing success?

5. How do you manage your professional ‘Inbox’? How do you schedule your time at work? What are your secrets for staying productive?

For consideration, please email your LinkedIn profile and questionnaire answers to jobs@kareo.com.

CouchSurfing for the TechCrunch50

Attention all TechCrunch 50 out-of-town Attendees!! The JamPad will be providing free couch-surfing to two (2) TechCrunch50 2009 entrepreneurs during the TC50 rehearsals and the main event. Making your company a success is all about being scrappy. Paying for hotels can crush your cash flow so couch-surfing is the only way to go. The JamPad is the ultimate way to couch-hop in luxury & style and in a creative, entrepreneurial atmosphere. Here’s the FAQ on how to get your free lodging.

Q: What is the JamPad?
A: The JamPad is my San Francisco home. It is a place where entrepreneurs regularly come to hang out, to rap on ideas, to jam with other entrepreneurs, to play Wii Tennis and Gears of War, and to have fantastic healthy gourmet meals made by the JamPad’s in-house chef. Normal open hours for the JamPad are from 10AM to 2AM. We also do BBQ’s, grill seshes, art & wine events, networked Armagetron competitions, coding seshes, you name it.

Q: Did you say FREE LODGING?
A: Yes! For a limited time, the JamPad will be offering free lodging to entrepreneurs in need during the TC50 rehearsals and main event. Planned availability includes: September 1st-3rd, and September 9th-15th (some flexibility around dates). There are two rooms available, rollout in home office and a 2nd master bedroom. High-end accommodations include generous living space, backyard for BBQ, hiking, tennis court, basketball court, amazing views of the city. Meals will be provided for you, with a focus on healthy, tasty cuisine (as well as the occasional pizza delivery and Trader Joe’s meal ;). Entrepreneurial advice and coaching on your TC50 pitch is also available if you so desire (though not a required activity of your stay). Expect many silicon valley entrepreneurs to come in and out during the days and evenings.

Q: Who exactly qualifies for the JamPad FREE LODGING?
A: Qualified applicants must be legitimate founders of any TC50 2009 demopit or presenting company.

Q: Is this first-come-first-served?
A:
Absolutely not! The JamPad is my house for God’s sake. There will be a brief vetting interview in order to determine who we award the FREE LODGING to. Best chances are to those who 1) have a GREAT idea 2) are generally optimistic, hard-core entrepreneurs, 3) bring a lot of passion and creativity to their work and their life, 4) are fun to hang and have a beer with, and 5) do not have serious legal troubles (bad credit scores excluded ;))

Q: And who exactly are you?
A:
My name is Travis Kalanick. Here’s my crunchbase page. I have been a pretty hard core entrepreneur, and definitely one of the scrappiest. In everything I do, especially my companies, I’m all about creativity, passion, perseverance, and fun. My last company worked out and now I advise and invest in the most amazing companies and entrepreneurs out there. The JamPad is my way to give back to my fellow scrappy soon-to-be-successful entrepreneurs and have a blast while I’m doing it.

Q: Who can vouch for the JamPad?
A:
Many tech entrepreneurs can vouch for the JamPad prowess. Here are just a few friends who’ve recently spent time at the JamPad:

  • Aaron Levie, Founder, CEO, Box.net: “Travis’s full range of sleeping and hygienic amenities offer a winning combo for any sleep-deprived, smelly, starving, delusional, stressed, or money-less guest. If you happen to fit into four or more of those categories, you’ll likely be treated to a gourmet breakfast and be waited on by his Live-in Harvard Ph.D girlfriend”
  • Angelo Sotira, CEO/Founder, Deviantart: “When I visit San Francisco, the JamPad is the place I want to stay. Being central to most of my meetings is a nice advantage, but the bar is set spectacularly high by the hosts of JamPad; tbone and dolce diablo. Come experience the madness, the fast wifi, the comfort and style of the place, the excellent discussions ranging from technology to technology; but *mostly* the variety of cheeses in the fridge, err!!!”
  • Paul Bragiel, CEO/Founder, Lefora: “The JamPad… if you’re looking to live the life of a struggling musician, sleep on the floor of a random fan, and be surrounded by cockroaches, then you’re in the wrong place. If you’re looking to for an awesome place to crash in comfort and meet super connected entrepreneurs, then you’re in the right place. Might even be treated to a bottle or two of homemade wine that we’re letting age as we speak”

  • David Barrett, Founder, CEO Expensify:
    “Travis has a mean BBQ and the biggest couch in San Francisco — no joke you’ll be couchsurfing on a longboard for sure. He’ll also destroy you in Wii Tennis if given the chance.”

  • Janina Gavankar, Actor, Ms. Dewey in her spare time: “I love being a fly on the wall for Travis’s JamPad sessions… the insane geek creativity makes me want move to San Francisco, to the extra master bedroom of the JamPad of course.”
  • Gary Vaynerchuk, founder, Vayner Media: “I have never seen a place that has such a bad ass vibe…and it has nothing to do with Travis!”

Q: How do I apply?
A:
Send an email to travisk@gmail.com or @reply me on twitter. If the applicants come in as I expect, we’ll be locking down lodging pretty quickly, so hit me up ASAP.

Good luck and see you soon…

Why Schwarzenegger is right

A couple of weeks ago, I jumped into the fray of an online debate (on the PHO list/) about how California should deal with its looming bankruptcy. The debate essentially broke into two camps a) tax and spend and b) no new taxes, less spending. It would likely be too “taxing” to have the dissertation on the merits of the two camps, but I figured I would take a look at the hard numbers to determine which side has the better argument.

The numbers weren’t pretty. CA has some of the highest tax rates in the country. With those high tax rates you’d think there would be fairly high quality services provided by the state. Unfortunately, those huge taxes provide services that have the lowest levels of quality in the country. To make matters worse, it turns out that of the 30mm CA citizens, the state depends on 140k affluent people to pay 50% of the tax burden.

The bottom line is that the state is so inefficient at spending its tax dollars, and its politicians and bureaucrats so unaccountable for their corrupt spending practices that I believe spending cuts are the only way to restructure our insolvent state. Below is all the juicy data in the email I sent to the email list (7/12/09):

[snip]….
CA taxes its citizens more than virtually all other states, and then provides services at quality levels ranked at or near the bottom compared to all other states. The facts show that CA citizens are getting a *very* bad deal economically speaking. None of the stats I provide below are surprising to most folks except as to how they illustrate how extraordinarily bad the state is run compared to other states in the U.S.

Tax stats on a per capita basis (unless otherwise noted):
- CA’s state/local tax burden ranks 6th highest in the nation
- CA business tax environment ranks 48th lowest nationally
- CA top individual tax rate ranks #1
- CA corporate income tax highest in west, #9 in the U.S.
- CA property tax collections are in the middle of the pack, 19th highest nationally (avg. $$ per household, 28th on per capita basis)
- CA sales tax rate of 8.25% (2006) is highest in the country

Source: http://www.taxfoundation.org/research/topic/15.html

Summary: CA citizens carry some of the highest tax burdens in the U.S. on almost every tax category you can come up with. Even on the property tax issue, CA ranks middle of the pack at #19.

Now let’s look at the quality of services:
- Quality of Healthcare: CA ranks 50th in quality of healthcare provided (and 39th overall if you include factors other than quality)
- Quality of Education: CA ranks 42nd in reading and math scores by 4th and 8th grade students
- Violent Crime per capita: CA ranks 14th highest in violent crime rates

Healthcare stats from:
http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Content/State-Scorecards/California.aspx
Education stats from:
http://www.edweek.org/media/ew/qc/2006/17shr.ca.h25.pdf
Crime stats from:
http://www.cta.org/NR/rdonlyres/D4ECC8BC-8EC2-443B-96EE-B70C3CC4028B/0/EdWeekQC2009CaliforniaHighlightsReport.pdf

Twittergate: Don’t Believe the Hate

Okay, before we get started, here’s the catch-up on Twittergate for those of you who aren’t up on the 24-hour tech news cycle:

  1. A hacker broke into Twitter-owned file stores and copied hundreds of documents
  2. Techcrunch received these hundreds of confidential Twitter documents as did several other individuals.
  3. Michael Arrington, founder of techcrunch, is posting a limited amount of the information he received.
  4. In true blogging style, Arrington has openly discussed the ethical dilemma he is faced with in real-time, something you rarely if ever see from the mainstream press. Arrington is talking about not just what was in those documents, but also being very transparent about how he got those materials

So what happened next? Some serious hating on Arrington ensued which got me to thinking about this entire event.

So here are my main contentions on the matter:

  1. The main action Arrington took that was different than how most other journalists would handle this was that he was transparent about how he got the information.
  2. If you have a serious problem with what Arrington did in this case, then you have a general problem with the institution of news in the United States.
  3. There is a very good argument that what Arrington did in this case was at least as ethical if not more so than how stolen Trade Secrets are normally handled by journalists

And instead of a full treatise attempting to prove those arguments, I figured a little Q and A might actually be more effective. Fire away in the comments section to debate the points!

Skeptic Q: A crime was committed to get Arrington the information. Doesn’t that make Arrington a dealer in stolen goods?

Swoosher A:

  • Yes, Arrington was dealing in stolen goods. But Arrington’s actions have broad 1st amendment protection:
  • Most journalists do this regularly, they are just not so transparent about it. Even this morning’s news about the latest termsheet from Microsoft and Yahoo! discussions is quite possibly the dissemination of material that qualifies as a trade secret. I could come up with 100 examples here. I recommend you scan the headlines of the Business Press on any given day to find a few.
  • The uproar over this in many ways is that people got a very inside, very candid, dirty look at how the sausage is made. It makes people feel uncomfortable to see that–like going to a slaughterhouse– but overall it’s a very good thing for folks to have their heads abruptly removed from the sand. The part that is regrettable is that in Arrington’s candor, he became the object of the abhorrence with the sausage making

Skeptic Q: Isn’t there something different about a leak of Trade Secrets vs. a hacker stealing them?

Swoosher A:

  • It’s the difference between an “inside job” and an “outside job”
  • The hacker committed two crimes (hacking, and theft of Trade Secrets), where as the insider committed one (theft of Trade Secrets).
  • In either case, the journalist (in this case Arrington) is generally protected to publish what comes into his or her inbox.
  • Is it okay that theft happens from insiders, but somehow worse when it happens through outsiders?
  • Bad analogy: If there was a diamond heist committed by insiders at a jewelry store vs. a straight out robbery, should the insiders get a pass? Sure, maybe the outsiders used force to get the gems, which means they also may have committed an additional crime, but a heist is a heist.

Skeptic Q: Just because other journalists do it doesn’t make it right…

Swoosher A:

  • Totally fair Argument
  • The news business is FOR PROFIT. It’s in their interests to publish news that draws an audience and makes them money. It is also highly competitive. If someone else draws your audience tomorrow, you’re out of business.
  • This has caused an environment that sacrifices some notions of ethics to stay in business.
  • My main contention is that though not necessarily right by the strictest moral code, but theft has fueled the news machine for hundreds of years. Theft of trade secrets is common, and sometimes (though not in this case) the journalist is involved in even “conspiring” with the thief… i.e. “I’m going to need more to run the story… do you have a document that says XYZ?”
  • The problem is a completely free press though it has many benefits to society, can ultimately encourage crimes to be committed. We see such crimes regularly committed for the purpose of disseminating to the media all of the time.
  • I’m certainly open to how to change the system. Where to draw the line is a very difficult task

Skeptic Q: I can understand if there was some misconduct or moral imperative being looked into, but in this case there was none. Shouldn’t that effect the ethical conclusions about this case?

Swoosher A

:

  • The moral imperative question is easy. If there was serious moral import in this case, there would be no question at all. If Twitter was committing fraud, or stealing diamonds from banks to fund their business, I don’t think there would be a single complaint about Techcrunch’s actions.
  • The real question is that in cases *without* moral imperative, should journalists continue trading in stolen information that has little to none moral import?
    • News business is competitive
    • To stay in business they must break stories
    • Everybody trades in stolen property in order to continue breaking relevant stories in order to stay in business.
    • Is the journalist at fault for wanting to keep his job which requires dealing in stolen property?

Skeptic Q: I still feel that Arrington was more wrong than the average journalist

Swoosher A:

  • Arrington brought an extreme amount of openness to the party that was unnerving for people who do not understand how the news system works, or disturbing for people who are not used to that kind of openness. He showed us how the sausage is made, and it definitely ain’t pretty, and makes a lot of us feel uncomfortable.
  • Arrington was blogging real-time as his Inbox was filling up. The emotion of a hungry hard core news person comes through in that first post. Not everybody is comfortable with that. And that’s where Arrington’s lightning rod style comes in. Even with the facts on his side, his style isn’t elegant and can certainly rub some people the wrong way. But it doesn’t change the facts, and it doesn’t make him morally wrong as many detractors like to claim.

Skeptic Q: How the heck was Arrington in this case as ethical or *more* ethical in his handling of Trade Secrets in this case than the average one

Swoosher A

:

  • He was fully transparent about how he got the information. This is atypical in the business. In fact, if Arrington had not been this transparent, simply stating that an anonymous source had provided the document, there would have been ZERO uproar about this matter. Most news organizations like to stay out of the story itself, and generally like to keep the spotlight off of how they get their materials. The typical news outlet would have debated this in the newsroom but left the debate there.. AND they certainly would not take it into the public.
  • It can be argued that journalists dealing with their sources of trade secrets are halfway conspiring with the leaker to get those documents. This activity is shady at best, and criminal at worst (without 1st amendment protection), but is rarely prosecuted or enforced. Arrington simply opened his email box in this particular case.