Blogfather Accuses Twitter of Payola Scheme He Pioneered

Dave Winer, the old guy who takes credit for blogging, podcasting, and other tech trends, is mad at Twitter CEO Ev Williams. Why? Because Williams is making people — people who are not Dave Winer — famous.

Poor Williams! He's just the latest target of Winer's wrath. The irascible Internet fussbudget has gotten mad at Jason Calacanis for being self-promotional, mad at Internet commenters who do not acknowledge his contributions to the Internet, mad at Twitter for not doing what he says, and mad at Hillary Clinton for being alive. (We've also long suspected that he is secretly mad at the New York Times because they will not hire him as a columnist and run his verbal spew unedited.)

But Winer's latest rant is hilariously hypocritical.

Williams's sin, according to Winer, is playing favorites with Twitter's "Suggested Users" page, a feature meant to help bewildered new Twitter users navigate the messaging service's real-time, 140-character spasms of pointless puffery. He writes:

I pour a lot of effort into Twitter, and while I wasn't in the top tier of users, I was solidly in the second tier. I wasn't doing the things you have to do to get the most followers, or I didn't have a powerful media presence like Leo or Shaq to get me up there. ... It's now approaching 20,000, which I am proud of, but it's not very much compared to the numbers of some people who did nothing other than be friends of Evan Williams to get hundreds of thousands of followers. ...

Think about it this way — do you know who wrote Apache or PHP? Do any of them have the power to deliver so much flow to an installation of their software? Imho, that's exactly the relationship Twitter should have with its users. Or the phone company and users of phones — they shouldn't jump into a conversation and say (for example) "We know someone really cool you would probably like to talk to. We're connecting you to them now.

Makes sense! Who would want the phone company to do that? Except Winer did the exact same thing himself with his own blog-software company, Userland Software, in 2003, writes former employee Rogers Cadenhead. Moreover, unlike Twitter's Williams, he actually took money to promote a blogger — former MTV veejay Adam Curry. In 2003, Curry wrote:

Time to come clean on an investment I made a year and a half ago. At the time, UserLand software had released a Mac OSX version of Radio and I was totally digging the built in news aggregator. I came up with a cunning plan: I asked Userland if I could purchase a pre-installed feed on their aggregator, which supports RSS xml feeds. I paid $10,000 for a one year license. To date I've been delighted with my purchase and although I haven't checked recently, I'm pretty sure Userland still has me in the defaults. ...

The $10k didn't 'just' give me an automatic base within the userland community, it got pasted on web pages all over the world and I've built up an audience that consists of 50% aggergator users.

Williams hasn't said anything about charging for placement on the Suggested page, but it can generated tens of thousands of new followers a day for featured Twitter accounts. Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis — yes, the one Winer feuded with — has offered to pay $250,000 to get featured on it. Which makes us think: Winer isn't mad at Williams because he's playing favorites. Winer is jealous because Williams is far more effective at playing favorites than Winer will ever be.