SXSW long considered fertile ground for new start-ups - it attracts those in-the-know cyberventilating over that which they're about to learn. The land of early adopters surfaces for only ten days like an oasis in the desert, and spreads goodwill about a number of new and innovative social media developments. Or does it? Seems like there's a SM Smackdown in progress between Hashable (an app that creates digital business cards on the fly) and Betabeat (the New York Observer's fledgling techie blog).
On the ominous launch date of the Ides of March, Elizabeth Spiers who took over as editor-in-chief of the Observer last month, according to the Business Insider report, "isn't wasting any time dragging the struggling media group into the Internet Age." Fortunately or unfortunately, however and dependent on which side of the 'velvet rope' you find yourself - Mike Taylor, one of her more acerbic writers raised the ire of Hashable's start-up CEO Michael Yavonditte, in his opinion piece titled, "Hashable Is Worthless."
The debate that ensued in writing from both parties is one for the social media history books, as vitriol spewed onto the pages of BetaBeat faster than a tweet in heat. And the Battle Mash-up of the Mikes was on, like Donkey-Kong.
Taylor's column aptly titled "Taylor Tees Off" written in the style of that "Mad-As-Hell-And-I'm-Not-Going-To-Take-It-Anymore" newscaster character from the movie 'Network' is editorial served up searing hot. With biting satirical swipes such as "Hashable (is) the application that lets users flaunt their social connections by broadcasting updates on their every encounter," to "it's designed for one purpose: to exploit the social anxieties of insecure weaklings," it's easy to see why Mr. Yavonditte might take offense.
In particular, according to BetaBeat, he took serious issue with the following passage:
According to "The Editors" (apparently it took a brain trust to respond to Yavonditte), they asserted in their defense that "to clarify - the piece did not intend for the quotes to be read as actual, but as (their) columnist's projection of what might have been going in Mr. Yavonditte's 'fevered mind.'"
Michael YavonditteIt appears that Yavonditte did not get the joke. "Nobody read it as parody - not even in the slightest. I was simply a piece of trash - a mean-spirited article that everyone thinks is real, and which many are shocked by."
Dan Blumberg from the Business Insider - while avoiding Taylor's tactic of flogging a start-up senseless - did a relatively good job in an unbiased review of Hashable's pluses and minuses. In another "Smackdown" analogy - this time between Hashable and traditional business cards, he detailed where the start-up might have fallen short, particularly in the context of meeting someone face-to-face when you just want to walk away with some physical evidence of the encounter.
in retrospect if perhaps Yavonditte gave a second thought to what he was objecting to iMike Taylor's Twitter Avatarn Taylor's rant, he might have been able to rise above the fray by not responding at all. By entering into a public brawl over an app that's all about making friends is somewhat ironic, don't you think? By battling it out in real-time, he probably provided BetaBeat with more publicity than they could have ever achieved with a major advertising campaign - and as result - gave more street cred (if not "hasbhable cred) to a writer who apparently doesn't like his picture taken.
And there's something to be said for schadenfreude when it comes to techie reviews. Too often, all us readers get are neatly packaged regurgitations about advancements that are homogenized and unfettered with any kind of point of view. While Taylor might have taken an extreme position, I think there is room in the social media space for this type of editorial to surface from time to time. And, as far as Hashable, while I'm not completely sold on the product, you can bet that I'll be testing it out - as well as those SXSW oasis seekers, roaming that Austin desert, in what's remaining of those elusive ten days of March.