The comic spectacle of Michael Arrington, the tech industry's most overbearing, self-important blogger, taking on Silicon Valley's PR apparatus, is playing out live on the Internet. Bring your popcorn.
Arrington is the founder and editor of TechCrunch, a Silicon Valley tech blog which rose to the faintest level of prominence on the national stage by chronicling "Web 2.0," a phenomenon which more or less disappeared two years ago and which no one now confesses to involvement in without blushing embarrassment.
The man himself is tall, large, and blustery, given to fits of rage and depression, at once emotionally fragile and viciously vituperative. He does have keen insights on the inner workings of the tech industry. Frustratingly for him, the audience for those is small — and he would like to be running a much larger enterprise. But the credit crisis has popped Silicon Valley's microbubble, and with it, Arrington's dreams of buying up his competitors and then cashing out by selling the mess to investors.
Which sets the stage for Arrington, bitter and frustrated, to launch an attack on a convenient, hapless, and utterly deserving target: the public relations business. And somehow he's managing to make the flacks look sympathetic.
Frustrated by the practice of timed "embargoes," which limit the release of obscure news no one cares about to an arbitrary time convenient to nobody, Arrington has declared not that he will stop agreeing to embargoes, but that he will now agree to embargoes and then break his word. He's also unloaded on one particularly bad flack, Lois Whitman-Hess.
Meanwhile, he won't explain his curiously soft coverage of MySpace and curiously close relationship with MySpace's PR chief, Dani Dudeck.
What makes this all hilarious is that Arrington is really angry because he views public relations firms as his competition. He wants to be the gatekeeper and kingmaker for all the Valley's startups, controlling the public rollout of all of their most obscure milestones. The grandiosity of his territorial behavior, over such small turf, is tragicomic — like a dog pissing on every side of a tree, just to make sure we know it's his.
I'd say the technology industry doesn't need Arrington — but we do. Because now more than ever, we could all use a good laugh.