Sorry Tim

Tim O’Reilly has responded to the whole Web 2.0 trademark/C&D fiasco of the last number of days.

In his response Tim apologises to IT@Cork:

I apologize to IT@Cork for the organizational failure that led to them getting a legal letter rather than a simple email query or phone call.

Thanks Tim, I will accept your apology on behalf of IT@Cork.

Tim goes on to say that he believes I owe him an apology

I think Tom owes us an apology for the way he responded.

He is right, of course – I should have dropped him an email first rather than posting on the blog. Frankly, it didn’t occur to me. Sorry Tim.

I did the same thing to Tracy Sheridan after I had problems participating in her initial Waxxi interactive podcast with Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. I had her email address as well but I blogged. Should I have emailed her? Possibly but blogging has become my natural response to events like this.

Maybe I need to re-think how I respond, in the future.

37 thoughts on “Sorry Tim”

  1. It’s a gracious apology, although part of me still sees the greater good in public attention being drawn to trademark issues and cease and desist shadowboxing, regardless of the end result. Add to the confusion over the meaning/function of Web 2.0, and it’s clear that a lot of useful and relevant information has emerged. Unintended consequences, but positive ones.

  2. great. issue finally resolved. 🙂
    good luck with your conference


  3. Had you e-mailed this, it never would’ve been settled. The only reason Tim said a word about it was because you publicly exposed both him and the hypocrite, Cory Doctorow.

    Tim is doing serious damage control right now.

  4. Ask Tom Raftery–Tim O’Reilly answers his emails. Ask O’Reilly Publications–Tim O’Reilly takes phone calls. Ask anyone who has survived one downturn of a business cycle and you’ll discover people who can leverage one-to-one communications more effectively than Slashdot shoutdowns.

    This whole Web 2.0 meme thing is distracting. When it blows over, you can bet that techies will keep buying from their Safari bookshelves and that Irish geeks will enjoy a session after the IT@Cork June 2006 conference.

  5. I’m not sure how much of an apology you do actually owe him. It’s a bit like asking you for an apology for punching back after he hit you. It’s a nice and proper gesture on your part but he’s got a bit of a cheek saying you owe it to them.

  6. I agree with Bif, but I would say “It’s a bit like asking for an apology for staring back incredulously after he hit you”. You posted the letter that you received and said “what do I do?” – I would be insulted by Tim calling that “stirring up the lynch mob”. You can’t be held responsible for the people who called Tim a child molester, and its outrageous that he would imply that. Good thing you’re not a hothead like me I suppose 🙂

  7. @Bif: The reason why Tom owes Tim a responsibility is that he threw the accusation at O’Reilly rather than CMP. That was wrong of him, which is why some of us tried to get him to fix his post to make it more accurate.

    Now, Tom can’t be held accountable for the lynch mob: people will find a reason to spout bile no matter what you do. But he does need to account for his own actions, which he’s done. Both Tom and Tim are to be commended for their graciousness in the end.

    Now to respond to something Tom wrote: Should I have emailed her? Possibly but blogging has become my natural response to events like this.

    Different media have different purposes. Blogs are fine when you want to broadcast something, but some things shouldn’t be broadcasted. Disputes are one such thing because they have a tendancy to bring out the worst in all participants if aired widely.

    Email is still good for a couple of things. 🙂

  8. You have absolutely nothing to apologise for Tom. Going public with this brought the whole debate out in the open – where it belongs.

    You’ve done us all a service.

  9. @Bif: I’m not saying they’re not in some way culpable, they are, but where they’re culpable is in letting CMP send the C&D letter in the first place. That should never have happened.

  10. You did the right thing because who knows if an e-mail would have put the issue into the spotlight. while it turned out to be a contentious and controversial issue, perhaps there’s some good that come out of it now that o’reilly – and the blogosphere – realizes its significance.

  11. Thanks a lot, Tom. I know you had no idea what kind of shit-storm you’d unleash — and as several posters note, your posting did highlight the issue (which is certainly worthy of discussion, albeit not with the amount of anger and name-calling that’s gone on.) This has been a painful lesson all around, and hopefully one we can put behind us. Hopefully a reminder all around that direct personal contact is always the first step. I hope CMP has learned that lesson as well. It’s a tough cultural change for lawyers!

    As I said in my original email to you, I wish you all the best with your event, and I wish I could be there! Next time, I hope the timing works out better.

  12. I disagree. You don’t owe him an apology.

    When a company uses lawyers, its an act of intimidation. Its done to get you to back off out of fear for your financial well being. Your web post was totally appropriate. Regardless if he sent you an email, the threat was made and it needed to be responded to.

    If he doesn’t like like it then perhaps he (and CMP) should review their lawyer’s actions before they intemidate people. If they wan’t to be seen as ‘good guys’ then they need to act like it, even when they think no one is watching.

  13. Just another incident for the books that helps Steve Forbes prove his point about “Attack of the Blogs“. Some of the comments I read were so extreme and misinformed that I actually felt hurt by them myself. I have been railing against this problem almost since I hit the blogosphere (and before that in the real world).

    Why people feel the need to resort to this sort of dustup in such a crude way is perhaps beyond me… but I do have some thoughts which may be useful to consider in trying to reduce the number of these occurrences in the future. It is not so much a solution as an exploration of the root causes, but in understanding them we might be able to make things a bit better all around.

    1 – Power. People still want it and will want it for a while to come as we transition from a society of command and control hierarchies to one that is more chaordic and self-organizing with fewer elites and more of us in the middle, actually doing instead of pontificating – the machina behind the knowledge economy.

    2 – Rebellion. Just like kids who throw a temper tantrum to get their way and teenagers who refuse to listen to their parents, people often act out and go all “Jerry Springer” against authority symbols to show that they do have power – even when the “systems” of the world seem to favor the elite and keep down the regular Joe or Joy. BTW, in speaking with Elisa from Blogher yesterday I realized that there were not many (or perhaps any) women’s voices on this issue – hmmmmm

    3 – Instinct. People instinctively react to a situation which touches them in some way – more so when it makes them angry. We don’t know how to deal with this very well, so the natural instinct is to lash out rather than to be present and carefully consider the situation before responding. Personally, I used to write emails when I was angry all the time back in the mid 90’s until I had a terrible experience that caused deep pain and regret – as a result, I never write an email when angry any more and usually wait at least a day.

    3a – It is easier to call someone an asshole than to lay out a well reasoned argument that accurately describes why we “feel someone is being an asshole”.

    3b – Many people really don’t have the time to do so properly either, it’s not just because they are inconsiderate though it can be perceived this way.

    4 – Truth Telling. This is one of the biggest issues arising from the Blogosphere IMHO – that many people are Blogging because they want social justice and want to hear more of the truth that they believe they are not getting from some traditional media sources (often rightly so). The seemingly hypocritical nature of the situation stirred people to Tom’s defence (mostly rightly so). We need to encourage more of this despite the negative turn in this case – most importantly from my perspective is we need for the people who may have said something against Tim et al to perhaps reconsider what they said and retract their calls for a boycott or whatever it was. (I am still doing my Web 2.1 event though because I can’t afford to go to that other event and most folks I know working in the trenches can’t either)

    5 – Group Think. It is such a double edge sword. On one hand I am excited to see so many people engaged in the discussion, on the other the pile-on that it created was somewhat non-productive. We need to hear all points of view in the discussion perhaps, including those folks who thought threatening a boycott might work (it may have helped but I think Tim’s response was driven by his personal consciousness and resoning rather than threats). Personally I think the wellspring of creative responses was quite amazing (I like Salim’s Monty Python reference best still). When people find a point of view that they can relate to, they should be allowed to jump in with their agreement and whatever point of view they have, but it can create a sort of group think supporting crazy ideas, which is why we need other respected leaders to step into the conversation to provide balance and perspective. We had a few of them do so, but not enough. We also need more people in the middle to step up and express their views as well – the silent majority is going to let the 2 extremes destroy us unless more people feel comfortable expressing themselves honestly.

    6 – Perceptions. While many people perceived Tim to be at the heart of this, anyone who knew him at all would have understood that this is what happens when your small business becomes large and you need to hire other’s to protect the interest of the business (note: I don’t know him though we have met and did not get a return email when trying to align our causes last year). So by the association of the two entitites CMP and O’Reilly (as clearly referenced in the original C&D letter) and by Tim’s very public personality as the face of the company, Tim was perceived to be at fault. The reality is that he was RESPONSIBLE for the problem though not the cause and was clearly able to step in and do the right thing resolving the matter.

    7 – Conversation – It is always better to be talking with someone rather than talking about someone. This is one of the many reasons why I am doing the BrainJams thing – trying to get more people in more conversations with people they normally would not be speaking withl. To see how much more alike we all are instead of being able to just look at the “book’s cover” and make snap judgements about people not being like us at all. I had a disagreement with someone last year about some ideas I felt were poached without giving proper credit and I did not know how to handle it – thankfully Mitch gave me the advice of trying to talk with them directly rather than publicly making my claim. While this person was formal but somewhat rude and arrogant in their response and I did not get the matter resolved to my satisfaction – on reflection I realized that I did not need the resolution I sought anyway – that it was not important really, so I was able to move on and just learn from the lesson. Bottom line, direct conversation with consideration and respect is always the best course of action.

    I have some more to add, but will do so later since there is a busy day ahead. I need to pull out one of my journal entries I wrote from the Art of Hosting retreat that Berkana held in order to go deeper. The good news in this for me is that it proves the need for the suite of tools I have been imagining and trying to build for the last 18 months – conversations like this on the Web are not properly served through the current UI of Blogs, Comments, Trackbacks, etc. – it is too unwieldy for most average people and won’t really catch on until we get a more holistic and easily usable solution.

    I am cross posting this to the BrainJams site if anyone wants to discuss this situation from this angle any further…

  14. Ahh and the 15 minutes of fame are over for the cork bloggers who post abosolutely absoultely noting of relevance. Noting but backslaping, goatee rubing, wordpressing tosh.

  15. I disagree with Tim O’R that blogging and piling on are related. Piling on isn’t really Web2.0 or Web1.0. It’s Usenet (or dialup bbs if you want to go back further). The medium is different but the personality drivers are identical.

  16. This isn’t about you and Tim.

    Absolutely Mike, I couldn’t agree more. In fact one of the reasons I posted this apology was because I realised I was being made an issue and this was distracting from the real issue (the trade marking of the term Web 2.0) so the quickest way to stop that happenning was to apologise and move on to discussing the main issue .

    More to follow on the real issue!

  17. Thanks for offering such a nice apology: short, sweet, and sincere, with no excuses.

    If only the over-reaching buzz-mark protectors had responded in such a way, rather
    than: “Were sorry, although we have no need to be, due the following
    and “I apologize and ask that he apologize to me.” Things
    may not have gotten so ugly. O’Reilly fans like me might feel less betrayed.
    O’Reilly’s ham-fisted response is what really frothed up the storm.

    I was disappointed in Tim’s response. My reply to Tim included the following
    request: “Convince CMP to withdraw any claim other than your actual conference
    title “Web 2.0 Conference.” Any other claim is very weak and clearly offensive to

    Of course they also need to enforce their (now tarnished) buzz-mark sensibly, which
    would certainly exclude hassling a non-profit conference with a clearly
    differentiated title such as yours.

    Best of luck to you and the IT@Cork Web 2.0 half day Conference.

  18. Tom,

    Now that you and Tim have graciously put aside your points of contention, I would like to point out that I have noticed you have been using my name in your promotional material. I would like to point out that Shel israel is my name and I have been using it for more than 50 years. All rights …

    Oh nevermind. I look forward to being part f this great conference you are producing. I just wish you could come up with a flashier name.

  19. Right, I’m going to regret this and people are probably going to track me down and burn down my house…but..

    What the fuck is Web 2.0 and why is it important?

    Seriously, I’ve been trying to follow this cos it seems to be causing such a storm, but I truly don’t understand what it is, why you’re having a conference about it, why those O’Reilly people got so upset…..I’m just a bit whaaaaaa’?

    Obviously I’m assuming it’s some computer/technology….yoke….but that’s as far as I got..all that computer stuff sends me into a coma, but seeing as it’s caused such a hullabullo, I wouldn’t mind knowing what it’s all about.

    Can anyone fill me in? In non technical terms that won’t have me slitting my own wrists with boredom?


    Ps: Tom, congratulations on the birth of Enrique, he’s a little dote. Also, I thought your apology was very dignified, well done.

  20. Mary, if IT@Cork were forced to further differentiate the name of their conference, that might actually be a good choice to consider.

  21. Karen, I may regret this, but I’m going to try and explain.

    Web 2.0 is not important. In fact, it doesn’t even exist. It’s just a shorthand term that people use to describe up-to-date interactive web sites. That’s all.

    Lots of folks like IT@Cork and O’Reilly have conferences about the web. People are upset because O’Reilly’s partners have demanded that IT@Cork change the name of their conference. They are claiming control of the use of the term Web 2.0 in the title of any live event. Many folks think that claim is silly and should be withdrawn.

    This drew lots of attention, in part, due to O’Reilly having worked to associate Web 2.0 and themselves with concepts like openness and sharing, and because Tim O’Reilly and his company have always been highly respected for their insight and integrity. These actions seemed very out-of-line with all that.

    That was my attempt at putting the Web 2.0 kerfuffle in a nutshell. Hopefully Karen’s veins are still intact.

  22. Karen, essentially “Web 2.0” is a way of saying “Ok, we’ve licked our wounds and now we’re ready to try doing some things on the net again, but this time it’s not going to be a bubble, THIS time you won’t lose your capital, honest! we swear! This time we’re being careful!”

  23. As a hands-on webdeveloper, I’d like to point out that me, my colleagues and any webdeveloper I know, all dislike the term “web 2.0”. It’s hype, it’s marketeze, it’s made up by people who don’t get their hands dirty, and it’s hated for its hype-factor by many it-professionals. With the result that, if these developers mention that they are trying to make web sites better, the typical reaction is, “oh web 2.0, so you’re talking air/bubble?”. Well thank you for that. You DO realize the negative associations “web 2.0” causes? Looking at the cat fights, it seems not. I’d take your head from wherever it is stuck in. So all in all, web 2.0 being trademarked and lawyers writing letters, is an excellent development. Hopefully they manage to kill the term. Good luck with THAT!

  24. C&D letters are *threats*. That’s the whole point of them: to threaten someone so that they will stop doing something.

    If someone threatens you, do you keep that a secret, or do you tell the world?

    Why should ORA/CMP requuire that their threats not be publicly known? Do they consider their threats indefensible to the public eye? Apparently.

  25. Who does O’Reilly think he is to have *ANY* legal claim to Web2.0? It existed long before him and just because he put a successful tag on it doesn’t give him any rights, it just made it easier for us to track it. He better keep his money-grubbing hands off it, be contrite, and give a nod to those that came before him who made it what it is.
    No more animal books for me!

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