I read this post today on Scripting News, and found it a bit irksome, because in essence it accuses me (and plenty of other people) of joining a mob. Let’s pull some quotes:
It was the world vs Erin Clerico. There were so many people savaging him, I didn’t see anyone looking for a way out of the dispute betw Erin and blogger Dave Johnson. For some reason I got a lot of email about this.
Here’s some background. On Thursday night, Dave Johnson sent an email to a small mailing list that I’m on, asking what to do about this letter he got from Erin Clerico at Weblogger.com asking him to cough up his domain name because Erin had the term “weblogger” copyrighted. The simple fact is that this pissed me off. Erin was wrong on the law, was wrong to treat Dave that way, and was being a bad member of the community. There was no mob at this point, and as far as I know, I was the second person to even talk about this on their blog after Dave himself. I don’t know Erin, and at the time I didn’t even know who ran Weblogger.com. What I did know is that some business was picking on a little guy (with the threat of legal action) who happens to be a friend. The next day, Erin sent an even tougher email to Dave, so in addition to railing on him a bit more, I sent email to Dave Winer, who hadn’t mentioned the situation on his weblog and who has a business relationship with Erin. I thought (rightly so, as it turned out), that people who work with Erin might be more likely to put an end to the insanity than I would be. Moving on:
Yesterday some of Erin’s detractors called him a bully. He’s not a bully, he was just scared, but they were bullies. A mob, no better than white men lynching black men in the south. No thinking going on. A blood sport. I am ashamed to be associated in any way with this. Think before you join a mob. Use your mind, and when you see people being cruel, have the guts to say it’s wrong.
This is revisionist history at its best. Erin, scared or not, was a bully. (Most bullies are scared, for what it’s worth.) He went into the situation with Dave (again, a hobbyist) with both guns blazing, in an outright attempt to intimidate Dave into giving up his domain name. You don’t have to take my word for it, just look at the history. This was poor community behavior. Had I and others said nothing about it, Dave could very well still be in the same situation, trying to figure out how to retain the name he chose for his site and extricate himself from what looked to be a sticky legal situation.
Instead, a little pressure from the community, judiciously applied, ended things rather quickly. As far as I’m concerned, under no circumstances would it be OK for Erin to threaten to sue people for using a common term like “weblogger,” and certainly not as the opening salvo of a conversation with a fellow community member. That’s just unfriendly, rude, and stupid. Now Dave Winer is pretending like the inevitable backlash somehow reflects poorly on the rest of us. If he expected a backlash for doing it, why did he do it? The fact that many other people, all of whom are just as vulnerable as Dave Johnson, would react negatively to Erin’s threats was completely foreseeable. When you decide to beat up on someone, you have to take into account that other people (like your customers) may not approve. That’s part of the game.
Dave Winer’s comparison of this situation to lynchings in the South is hyperbolic and inappropriate. Going out on a limb, you could call it vigilante justice, but to act as though it was some sort of unprovoked hate crime is simply delusional. And to compare written protests against the voluntary actions of a business to the brutality of racists is vile. Get some perspective.