Who’s the winner in the Plazes-Next Web kerfuffle?

One of the great things about the internet generally and some of the cool tools you have at your disposal is that everything is instant and very transparent.

The inter-connected world can know the minutest detail about your life, sometimes whether you want it to or not.

And sometimes the instant-ness of it all can result in huge and very public embarrassment.

Take this scenario:

  1. You’re the CEO of a Web 2.0 company due to speak at a high-profile tech conference in Amsterdam. At the last minute, you tell the conference organizer you can’t make it and provide some valid reasons.
  2. Next thing, someone spots that you’re actually present at another conference in Copenhagen at the time you should have been in Amsterdam.
  3. First conference organizer is severely upset and mightily annoyed, thinks you’ve been lying through your teeth, and writes a scathing post plus incriminating photo on his personal blog that, in effect, publicly calls you a liar.
  4. That post is picked up by a highly influential blog, makes the headlines on Techmeme and before you know it, both you-who-ducked and the first conference organizer are in a sudden spotlight for reasons that are not good.

This is what blew up over the weekend regarding Plazes CEO Felix Peterson and The Next Web conference organizer Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten.

You can read the report in TechCrunch (the highly influential blog I mentioned). And you can read the details in Boris’ post yesterday – now updated this morning to reflect some clarity on what actually did happen.

It turns out that it’s all a big communication gap where for the sake of one more email exchange – or better still, a phone call – the public unpleasantness and embarrassment could have been wholly avoided.

Yet this is about people, not technology. The creator not the tool. Emotion not logic. Who hasn’t clicked that button when a cooler head might have exercised a bit of hesitation? If I’d been Boris, with the facts I had to hand at the time, I may well have done the same. A few months ago, I did something a bit similar while feeling annoyed.

Boris did the right thing in updating his original post and changing its title.

So some embarrassment all around which probably will all blow away very soon. Take a look at the comments on all the posts, though – some very diverse opinions on the rights and wrongs of Boris’ post.

To me, this comment on TechCrunch sums it up:

I don’t care about where some CEO is or was or said to some other guy, but I’m now checking out Plazes because of this post. Who wins?

Now that’s a very good question. Plazes might get a lot of visitor traffic that otherwise it would not have. And Boris may well get noted as a conference organizer not to piss off if you’re planning to speak at his events.

Who does win?

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

    I hope the answer is we all learned something.

    I learned that it is better to not let myself get carried away by my emotions. It seems you have learned that lesson 8 months ago. I wonder what Felix will gain/lose/learn from this. Right now he is probably just as pissed off and emotional as I was over the weekend. Can’t really blame him. I just hope he won’t blame me too much…

  2. neville

    No one’s perfect, Boris. As I said in my post, I think I would have done the same if I’d been in your shoes.

    Just hope Felix doesn’t have a lawyer who wants to get involved in this!

  3. Yang-May Ooi

    I looks like the kerfuffle has shaken things about in a good way. I’d never heard of Plazes before so now I’ve checked it out and it’s like Twitter for people on the move. Could it be the end to overheard mobile phone conversations on public transport like “I’m on the bus….yes, the bus… I SAID THE BUS!”…?

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