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December 5, 2006

It’s Full of Stars — Tuesday’s Keynote

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[You want to talk about star struck? While I waited for the doors to open and for people to pile into this keynote, I somehow found myself chatting with hero Kim Krause (she’s sitting next to me right now!), blogging champ Barry Schwartz, my conference buddy Simon Heseltine, and the I-can’t-believe-he’s-talking-to-me Loren Baker. I am in blog heaven.]

Danny Sullivan starts out by welcoming Jason and giving everyone a rundown of his background. In case you haven’t been following the history of Jason Calacanis, he’s the guy who sold Weblogs to AOL, created a Digg clone social media site, and makes controversial blog posts calling people stars. He’s also that guy who just left AOL suddenly.

We hadn’t heard what Jason was planning to do after leaving AOL, but he quickly announces that he recently accepted a position at Sequoia Capital as their EIA. It’s a new position and he says he’s looking to build something and asks the audience for ideas as to what he can build. Danny suggests a new iPod.

The question he always asks himself when thinking of new projects: How can I make this suck less?

I’d say that’s a pretty good way to look at things. Danny and Jason hit on a couple of great topics during the 45-minute keynote, so I thought it best to break them down by subject matter.

Jason on blogging:

Jason pretty much scoffed at the idea of being an A List blogger. He says if you want to join the blogging elite, all you have to do is head to TechMeme everyday, see what people are talking about, say something interesting about it and repeat the process for 30 days. At the end of the month, Jason says you’ll be considered an A-List blogger. (He also threw in a fair share of cuss words, but I won’t subject you to that).

I see what he’s getting at I suppose, but I don’t necessarily agree. There’s a lot more to being an A-List blogger (or so I’ve heard, I haven’t reached that pinnacle yet), than just mimicking what everyone else is talking about. It’s about being relevant, but also offering something new. It’s about building connections and establishing your voice. But I’ve ranted about all that before, so I won’t do it here.

Something I did find interesting was that Jason mentioned he liked blogging because there’s nothing between you and the “publish” key. You post something in lieu of playing a video game and suddenly it has the power to launch a conversation. I’m with him on that.

On his Netscape Navigators idea:

You probably remember that Jason’s Netscape Navigator idea got quite a bit of flack. People, myself included, accused him of trying to ruin a good thing and trying to buy his way into social media. Jason obviously didn’t see it that way and he still doesn’t.

Slightly paraphrased, Jason commented that the people who say he copied Digg or was out to harm them are the 12-year-olds Digg users themselves. He says they don’t realize that Digg piggybacked off del.icio.us technology.

First of all, did he just call me a 12-year-old because I disagree with him? And second, he’s really starting to frustrate me.

What the controversy did teach Jason was that when you work for a big company, you can’t act like a startup guy anymore because people interpret your actions differently when you’re perceived as having an army behind you. He noted that the idea he was trying to kill Digg was ridiculous, since he believes all aspects of social media will rise and fall together.

What Jason was trying to do was put editorial controls into the Netscape system, commenting that Digg has no safeguards. According to Jason, all paid Navigators do is fact check stories once they make it to the home page to ensure the story is viable and not a spam attempt. He stated that Netscape has actually been very successful and is increasing page views, even though the folks at Valleywag and Nick Denton keep saying it’s a total failure.

Jason on SEO

Remember when Jason made his public proclamation that SEO is bullsh – well, you know? Yeah, well now it’s time for him to defend that statement to an audience full of salivating SEOs.

Jason stands by his statement and says that as long as you have good content and you construct your page halfway well, Google will index your site. It’s only when you start playing games (games = SEO) and become over aggressive that you end up in the Google penalty box suffering the consequences. Jason, the non-SEO, says if everyone would just ‘chill out’ and construct their pages, the world would be a better place. Make great content. The world will link to it and your traffic will go up. He also says he finds long term SEO contracts shady.

This is me speechless.

All I’m going to say is that when I first heard about Jason’s I’m-Going-To-Buy-My-Users idea, I didn’t walk into Netscape’s offices and tell him how to do his job (or that his job ‘complicates’ things), so I kind of wish he didn’t walk into mine and tell me all I do is complicate things. I have my mother for that. [Down, girl. –Susan]

Jason on protecting your city:

Internet marketers have worked hard to build up a beautiful Internet city, so it’s our job to turn in the slime buckets that are intent on coming in and ruining that.

Do you see where I’m going with that? Moving on then.

You know, I was nervous about heading into this session because I felt like I’ve never really given Jason Calacanis a chance and I wasn’t sure what I was walking into. I had always lumped him into the same category as I put Mark Cuban and I wasn’t sure if that was fair, or if I was just misjudging him.

I can now say I feel totally justified in putting Jason Calacanis in the same category as Mark Cuban. He gives me that same kind of dirty feeling. And I don’t like that he uses the fact that he’s from New York as to why he’s… we’ll say blunt.

However, I’ve gotten a lot of comments lately that people enjoying reading this blog because of the warm and friendly vibe it leaves them with, so instead of talking about Jason, I’ll leave you with his answers from Danny’s Word Association game. They’re far more warm and fuzzy.

Digg… brilliant
Google… brilliant – and unstoppable and good
AOL… transition (heh!)
TechCrunch… brilliant, opinionated, more right than wrong
Spam… evil, die, die
Netscape… the future
SEO… keep it simple
Podcasting… addictive
AdSense… I love you
Valleywag… liar, evil, idiot, stupid
Jason Calacanis… striving, just trying to do interesting things, I like to work. I like to learn, I’m always striving to figure out the next thing.

I don’t think Jason understands how to play the word association game…

Oh well, on to the next session.

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