Apologies Galore, Why I Owe One to Tim O’Reilly
O’Reilly Radar > Web 2.0 Service Mark Controversy (Tim responding this time) Tim O’Reilly is back “on the grid” and has written a thoughtful response to the blogosphere melee that took place on Friday and continued throughout the weekend regarding a cease and desist letter sent from CMP to IT@Cork with regards to their Web 2.0 conference.
In his post Tim apologizes to Tom Raftery of IT@Cork for the cease and desist letter. But he also asks Tom Raftery for an apology back for posting on the letter and using O’Reilly’s name in the headline:
“Given that Tom and I had previously had a conversation where I wished him the best of luck with his conference, while the lawyer’s letter came from CMP, I would have thought that he would have wondered whether the right hand knew what the left hand was doing before launching and then encouraging the torrent of net vitriol that’s come our way. He did call CMP to talk to the lawyer who wrote the letter, but he never tried to contact me. While he acknowledges that the letter was from CMP, he used O’Reilly’s name in the headline and repeatedly throughout the piece for maximum net impact. So while we owe Tom an apology for heavy-handed tactics, I think Tom owes us an apology for the way he responded.”
In my reading of Tom’s initial post I over-reacted, wrote a juvenile post and crafted an image of Tim saying that he was the original Web 2.0 asshole. I regret having done that. And I owe Tim an apology. I don’t know Tim personally and it was tasteless and immature to call him an asshole. Tim, I’m sorry for the personal attack and especially at the viciousness of my tone. I’m embarrassed by my behavior and feel foolish for being part of a what in hindsight was an unjustified blog lynching of sorts.
The first mistake I made was that I assumed that Tim O’Reilly was personally aware and perhaps even authorized the cease and desist letter. Tim has said since that this was not the case:
“I was not aware, however, that CMP intended to send out cease and desist letters to anyone in the short term, let alone to a non-profit organization with whom I’d previously corresponded about the event they were putting on. (Gina Blaber, the head of our conference team, was aware of the letter, however, and approved it, and that’s why Sara Winge, in her postings, did not disclaim O’Reilly’s responsibility.)”
Although someone in O’Reilly’s organization was aware that the letter had gone out O’Reilly himself was not. And I did not attack O’Reilly’s company but I attacked the man himself. This is regrettable.
The second mistake I made is that I did not contact, or even try to contact anyone in the O’Reilly organization to ask about the letter myself. I did not take any time to do any thoughtful research. Instead I just reacted and ready, fire, aimed piled on with the rest of them. In fact I did not even try to contact John Battelle, Tim’s partner in the Web 2.0 Conference and someone that I do know well, who would have had a lot more insight into the situation than I do. This was reckless and again is embarrassing as I would like people who read my blog to think that I do a little more research before shooting my mouth off.
My third major mistake was that I jumped to the conclusion that O’Reilly was trying to capture service mark on the phrase Web 2.0 when in fact CMP and O’Reilly Media really were only trying to protect the term Web 2.0 as it applied to a conference.
To complicate the entire situation, Tim O’Reilly was not online and was unaware of the beating that he was receiving. While some smarter than I cautioned us to wait and give the man a chance to speak. Initially I did not do this. Again, a more thoughtful person would have allowed someone to defend themselves before attacking them.
A few people have commented on my affiliation with FM Publishing, John Battelle’s blog network, and Valleywag suggested that I may have been strong armed to retract my original comments by Battelle himself. I would like to address that. First off I think the fact that I could feel comfortable enough writing something which quite possibly could offend Battelle (and in hindsight should have and probably did) should speak to the freedom that bloggers have in being a part of FM’s Network. John has always made it clear with all of FM’s authors that we, not they, have total editorial control over our blogs. John Battelle never asked me to change my post. He never suggested that there would be any repercussions over what I wrote and he is someone who in my opinion greatly values a censorship free environment. Never did I feel uncomfortable about blogging about his partner Tim O’Reilly.
That said, I did call John after he sent me an email telling me that I did not know all of the facts. And I appreciate that he spent the time with me and brought up the points that Tim may not have known about this action personally and told me that Tim really was unreachable and “off the grid.”
I would hope that John, who I consider a friend, would call me out on any irresponsible post that I write as I would hope any of you who read this blog would as well. I make mistakes and here I made one. But I am especially embarrassed as I do know John personally and feel that my initial post reflects very poorly on me as a blogger. Hopefully at least I’ve learned a lesson in all of this.
John, by the way, was not the only one who suggested that I was off base here. Many other people that I consider friends also rightly took me to task. Meta-Filter and PVRBlog Pal Matt Haughey, Flickr’s Stewart Butterfield, Ian Betteridge (who blogs at Technovia) all suggested that I was off base and I appreciate that they bothered to take the time to address my ill thought out rant.
Now. I know I’m wordy sometimes. After all that I have to consider Tim’s actual response as well as my thoughts on what he might do from here.
I think it’s valid for them to register Web 2.0 as a conference (as they narrowly define their focus).
It was a mistake for them to send a cease and desist to a non-profit and they already have recognized this and apologized for it. They’ve even offered to let IT@Cork use the service mark this year as it is too late most likely for them to change their materials.
I think they’ve handled this as well as can be expected at this point.
Should they do anything else at this point? Maybe. Certainly the reaction that was so swift and strong in the blogosphere was in part due to a certain ethos that many associate with the term Web 2.0 and to the extent that it represents a kind of open concept about making the internet a better place through creative software.
I think that at this point, if they chose, they do have an opportunity, although not an obligation, to turn this bad PR situation into something good and interesting. I stukk think it would be a great thing to take this turn of events and use it to highlight the significance of Creative Commons, another cause very closely aligned with the whole Web 2.0 movement by licensing the term Web 2.0 as applied to conferences under the Creative Commons mark.
By altering their service mark and choosing to license it under the Creative Commons CMP and O’Reilly could still protect the economic interest of their license while at the same time allowing, in the spirit of Web 2.0 openness, it’s non commercial use for other conferences. But I’m not a lawyer and rights issues are complicated and they obviously would need to think that through and there are possibly some very good reasons why that would be a bad idea. That said though, it would be great to see Creative Commons used in such a high visibility case.
Tim, I hope that you accept this apology and know that I will try better in the future to do the right thi