Jason Calacanis: The Email List

Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis quit blogging last week and we didn’t cover it, mostly because he quit blogging, nothing more, nothing less. I don’t believe that it’s the end of blogging or a large sign of things to come, although there might be a debate in terms of time management at a time of many competing attention based services.

Jason switched to email and he’s sent out his first entry. We won’t publish every email, but the first below for those who aren’t signed up to his email list but were wondering what the content will be like. Those interested can sign up here.

Team Jason,

Wow, it’s been an amazing 24 hours since I officially announced my retirement from blogging ( http://tinyurl.com/jasonretires ). As you’ve probably seen there has been some of coverage of my retirement, most of it wondering if I’m joking or not (links at the bottom). To
those who know me better than a couple of Valleywag headlines, am I
ever not joking??!? I mean, Clark Kent asked a question in the faux
Q&A session, I posted a photo of Michael Jordan’s retirement, and I
spoke about spending more time with my family (as in my wife and two
bulldogs).

Clearly I was joking in the post, but I’m dead serious about the
retirement from blogging.

Most folks have no tolerance for ambiguity, and when faced with it are
extremely uncomfortable. This lack of comfort makes them think, and my
goal with the blog was always to challenge people’s thinking–most of
all my own. Confusion is attention of the best kind–I long to be
confused. I’ve become addicted to playing poker because your
constantly faced with confusion, and winning is trying to make sense
out of nonsense.

Is blogging dead?
————————-
Yes, it is. Officially. 🙂

Actually, I’ve been thinking about this question and while blogging is
clearly booming, there has been a deep qualitative change in the
nature of the ‘sphere. There are so many folks involved in blogging to
today, and it’s moving at a much quicker pace thanks to “social
accelerants” like TechMeme, digg, Friendfeed and Twitter. Folks are so
desperate to be heard–and we all want to be heard that’s why we
blog–that the effort put into being heard has eclipsed the actual
hearing.

Bloggers spend more time digging, tweeting, and SEOing their posts
than they do on the posts themselves. In the early days of blogging
Peter Rojas, who was my blog professor, told me what was required to
win at blogging: “show up every day.” In 2003 and 2004 that was the
case. Today? What’s required is a team of social marketers to get your
message out there, and a second one to manage the fall-out from
whatever you’ve said.

Think: Nick Denton has reworked the bloggers pay at Gawker Media to
reflect not the quality of the words but the number of page views
those blog posts get. He doesn’t pay by word count, he pays by page
views. He’s closed the loop between editorial and advertising, turning
the Chinese wall into a block party. It’s the publishing promised land
while simultaneously being the death of publishing. Gawker is growing
page views while simultaneously destroying it’s brand equity. This
will either result in an implosion, or the perfect id-driven magazine
where our core desires are synchronized in relation to their
marketability. It will be fun to watch, but I wouldn’t want to be one
of those bloggers in the cage, running on the Denton’s wheel.

Excelling in blogging today is about link-baiting, the act of writing
something inflammatory in order to get a link. Many folks say I’m
responsible for link-baiting–these people are absolute idiots. I’ve
never tried to get any of these insecure, lonely freaks to link to
something I’ve said. 🙂

Truth be told, I’ve always written the way I talk–honestly and
without a filter. John Brockman explained to me at one time that some
of the most interesting folks he’s met have, over time, become less
vocal. He explained, that there was a inverse correlation between your
success and your ability to tell the truth. When I met John I was
nobody and I promised myself I would never, ever censor myself if I
become successful. My friend, and one of the few folks I’d consider a
mentor, Mark Cuban laid a path for me to follow in this regard. I wish
I could say I’ve succeeded, the best I can say is I’ve tried.

My good friend Xeni Jardin, who I had the pleasure of working/playing
with for a couple of years in another life, faced massive assault from
the audience she herself built at Boingboing.net. These folks were not
attacking her because of what she did (she deleted some old posts for
personal reasons), they were attacking her because they could. They
were attacking her because open-media (i.e. blogging) has turned into
an excuse for bad behavior. It’s outrageous to think that an audience
would turn on the author they love and built up for years over
something so trivial as deleting some posts.

Then again, they booed Dylan when he went electric in Newport and all
along his tour of Europe. They called him Judas, but he didn’t believe
them. I hope Xeni doesn’t believe them–they’re liars.

Why email?
——————–
In a word, intimacy. This message will go from my inbox to your inbox,
perhaps from my Blackberry to your iPhone. From my sleepy garden
office in Brentwood to your laptop perched on a desk in some high-rise
hotel in Shanghai or your crummy little studio on the LES. I’m
stopping my day to write it, and you’ll stop your day to read
it–perhaps. Maybe you’ll save this, or forward it to some friends
with certain sections in bold. There is zero tolerance for waste in
personal communication, so if you don’t find value in this email
you’ll delete it and maybe remove yourself from the list. You would do
the same if someone started boring you at a cocktail party, no? Find a
graceful way to get the hell out of there, and in email it’s one
click.

This platform puts a level playing field between us that is so
different than me posting to my blog which gets swept up in the Google
and Yahoo machine, sending thousands of visitors who haven’t made the
email commitment.

Also, there is an immediacy to this. At any point you can hit the
reply key (or forward) and send your thoughts directly to me at
jason@calacanis.com. This is much different than you posting to my
comments section and subjecting yourself to the trolls and haters who
have taken up residency there.

Why should we all build our homes and give residence to the trolls
under them? Comments on blogs inevitably implode, and we all accept it
under the belief that “open is better!” Open is not better. Running a
blog is like letting a virtuoso play for 90 minutes are Carnegie Hall,
and then seconds after their performance you run to the back Alley and
grab the most inebriated homeless person drag them on stage and ask
them what they think of the performance they overheard in the Alley.
They then take a piss on the stage and say “F-you” to the people who
just had a wonderful experience for 90 or 92 minutes. That’s openness
for you… my how far we’ve come! We’ve put the wisdom of the deranged
on the same level as the wisdom of the wise.

You and I now have a direct relationship, and I’m cutting the mailing
list off today so it stays at ~1,000 folks. I’ll add selectively to
the list, but for now I’m more interested in a deep relationship with
the few of you have chosen to make a commitment with me. Perhaps some
of you will become deep, considered colleagues and friends–something
that doesn’t happen for me in the blogosphere any more.

Much of my inspiration for doing this comes from what I’ve seen with
John Brockman’s Edge.org email newsletter. When it enters my inbox I’m
inspired and focused. I print it, and I don’t print anything. The
people that surround him are epic, and that’s my inspiration–to be
surrounded by exceptional people.

The Feedback
———————-
Ted Leonsis, another mentor to me over the years, thinks I’m pulling a
Brett Favre. Perhaps. Background: Ted is responsible for Weblogs, Inc.
being bought by AOL, and he spoke at the *first* event I ever did
called “Meet the Alley” in 1997. The event took place at Pseudo.com
and the air conditioner broke. It was August, and it was 100 degrees.
Ted went on and gave an amazing talk. When Ted spoke about content on
the Internet back in 94-96 time frame I was 23 years old and I knew
what I wanted to do with my life: I wanted to be Ted. Weblogs, Inc.
was version of his AOL Greenhouse, and Mahalo is a souped up version
of AOL. http://www.tedstake.com/?p=2504

Sarah Lacy says blogging is at a cross-roads and she gets where I’m
coming from. I’ve known Sarah for a couple of years now, and she’s
become a personality on the Web 2.0 circuit thanks to her book “Once
You’re Lucky, Twice Your Good,” a book in which I get very few
mentions (not that I’m counting them.. 384, really? :-). She too has
felt the harsh mob mentality, also known as “the wisdom of the
crowds.” For the record, crowds are really frackin’ stupid and to put
your stock in crowds is about as bright as putting your faith in a
dictator–they’ll love you for as long as they feel like it, then
they’ll ripe you apart without mercy. Also, has anyone else noticed
that women like Sarah and Xeni get treated 10x as harsh as men do in
the blogosphere? Another reason to opt out.

SarahinTampa.com says: “It’s like he hit the nail on the head of
everything that’s wrong with blogging today…at least for me.”

A bunch of other folks have commented on the story, and you can see
their reactions on TechMeme:
http://www.techmeme.com/080712/p14#a080712p14

Jim Kukal says it’s the death of the A-list:
http://www.jimkukral.com/the-death-of-the-a-list/

Scoble says it’s a farce:
http://tinyurl.com/62n649

All the best,

Jason

Update: more discussion on FriendFeed here + Allen Stern has a hilarious video take on the email list here.