Who is the winner in the Plazes-Next Web Kerfuffle?

    June 4, 2007

One of the great things about the internet generally and some of the cool tools you have at your disposal is that everything is instant and very transparent.

The inter-connected world can know the minutest detail about your life, sometimes whether you want it to or not.

And sometimes the instant-ness of it all can result in huge and very public embarrassment.

Take this scenario:

  1. You’re the CEO of a Web 2.0 company due to speak at a high-profile tech conference in Amsterdam. At the last minute, you tell the conference organizer you can’t make it and provide some valid reasons.
  2. Next thing, someone spots that you’re actually present at another conference in Copenhagen at the time you should have been in Amsterdam.
  3. First conference organizer is severely upset and mightily annoyed, thinks you’ve been lying through your teeth, and writes a scathing post plus incriminating photo on his personal blog that, in effect, publicly calls you a liar.
  4. That post is picked up by a highly influential blog, makes the headlines on Techmeme and before you know it, both you-who-ducked and the first conference organizer are in a sudden spotlight for reasons that are not good.

This is what blew up over the weekend regarding Plazes CEO Felix Peterson and The Next Web conference organizer Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten.

You can read the report in TechCrunch (the highly influential blog I mentioned). And you can read the details in Boris’ post yesterday – now updated this morning to reflect some clarity on what actually did happen.

It turns out that it’s all a big communication gap where for the sake of one more email exchange – or better still, a phone call – the public unpleasantness and embarrassment could have been wholly avoided.

Yet this is about people, not technology. The creator not the tool. Emotion not logic. Who hasn’t clicked that button when a cooler head might have exercised a bit of hesitation? If I’d been Boris, with the facts I had to hand at the time, I may well have done the same. A few months ago, I did something a bit similar while feeling annoyed.

Boris did the right thing in updating his original post and changing its title.

So some embarrassment all around which probably will all blow away very soon. Take a look at the comments on all the posts, though – some very diverse opinions on the rights and wrongs of Boris’ post.

To me, this comment on TechCrunch sums it up:

I don’t care about where some CEO is or was or said to some other guy, but I’m now checking out Plazes because of this post. Who wins?

Now that’s a very good question. Plazes might get a lot of visitor traffic that otherwise it would not have. And Boris may well get noted as a conference organizer not to piss off if you’re planning to speak at his events.

Who does win?