Last week’s Argonauts Gang Part II features Jason Calacanis with the Gillmore Gang. Jason makes the comment that, “I heard you could buy a review at TechCrunch” which gets Michael Arrington to write about it and Jason responds. Apparently, this caused quite a swirl over the holiday weekend.
Jason definitely takes transparency to the extreme. I’m sure he’s said stuff which he has either regrettted saying or has been misinterpreted. But, one thing’s for sure, he must have gotten the fortune cookie my wife got this past weekend: “It is better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing perfectly.” You can always correct mistakes, but you can’t get things done unless you do something, and Jason is definitely a do-er. For example, now that he’s part of the AOL family, he’s shining the light on some pretty dark places like the new AIM Triton and AOL Search.
A fellow AOL’er, Shawn Christopher suggests that he thinks Jason’s straight-forward approach is somewhat disrespectful. You know, you might be right, Shawn. Sadly, AOL is an extremely reactionary company. “Proactive” might as well be a four-letter word. I’m guessing that Jason understands this, that you kinda-sorta have to “force the hand” of business to react and you do that by airing things in public, not behind closed doors where suggestions can be ignored.
You’re right, maybe it’s not very nice. Maybe it’s even disrespectful. But, as an employee and shareholder myself, perhaps it’s time for “A little less conversation, a little more action, please. All this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me.” — Elvis (Wikipedia, Amazon, YouTube, Lyrics) In times where AOL is being touted as the number one worst tech product of all time according to PCWorld, perhaps the time for ignoring our glaring faults is long gone?
Jason takes care not to disparage the talented engineers that work on our products. I bet if you ask him, he’ll tell you that he respects them all a great deal. But, our products are a different story. He takes an objective look at the products, focuses on a metric that’s measurable (i.e., placement of first organic search result, memory footprint of Triton), and then asks for change and improvement. How many times have you had your management make vague and overarching edicts like “make it better” without any clue what “better” is? Jason at least gives feedback where improvements are straight-forward to evaluate and measure. That’s golden, in my book.
Lets start focusing the conversations around how we can make AOL products which are clearly hurting, better. Suggesting we shouldn’t be openly discussing problems and listening to our customers’ feedback is also disrespectful: of our customers.