Kudos, regrets, apologies, and lessons learned

Please note that this post will make no sense at all if you haven’t looked at my original piece on Noah Kagan’s talk at MicroConf 2011.


Let’s get one thing out on the table right now: Frank Denbow is a kind, thoughtful, and gracious man. I didn’t identify him in my original piece but
since he self-identified over on the Hacker News thread about it, I’ll just quote him here:

(I was the guy in front scraping hot sauce off my computer/bag/clothes after you threw the bottle up front)

Totally understand why you would be offended by the slide. Noah is a bit edgier than most, and he was likely going for entertainment value. It was not in the best taste to do it.

From what I know of Noah Kagan, he seems to be a good guy that goes out of his way to help people in the scene. If all you got out of his talk was to type faster, I think you missed out on a lot. There are lots of great points that were made that may have been lost in presentation for you. Also not sure if he fully understood why you wanted to explain why you threw the bottle, but I’ll let him defend himself on that.

I’m all for being upfront and honest about things (sort of what my last post was about so its good to have these things out there. Its much more effective than throwing hotsauce at innocent bystanders ūüôā

More reasonable words than those last 10 were never written.

A lot of other thoughtful and reasonable words were written both here and over on Hacker News, about Noah’s presentation and about my critique of it. Although some of the HN comments were dismissive and vituperative, a lot more of them, whether critical of Noah or me or both, were intelligent, to the point, and informative. I appreciate the energy and the passion posters brought to the discussion.


To anyone who may still wonder:  Yes, I regret lobbing that bottle of hot sauce towards the stage.  The act was unthinking but the result was uncivil.


A few commenters somehow assumed that I did not apologize for spraying hot sauce on people and the room.

I have always been willing to speak out, take action, make mistakes, and pick myself up to try again. I think these are good traits in an entrepreneur but they have a cost; sometimes I say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing. So, all of my life, I’ve had to work on my apologizing skills. Noah was not off the platform before I was in front of Frank Denbow and his seatmate (who has, AFAICS, not chosen to identify himself in this discussion and so remains nameless) and a) apologized sincerely for spraying them with hot sauce and b) offered to pay for any damage done to clothing or electronics. ¬†It is the least I could have done; it was all I could do at that point. And later that day, I also apologized to Rob Walling, one of the conference organizers, and offered to pay for cleanup if the hotel charged conference for it. ¬†Both offers still stand.

Lessons learned

  • About being alone — I wasn’t. ¬†Several people who were at the conference said they also had negative reactions of varying degrees to Noah’s talk. ¬†Several others offered support from the viewpoint of times they’ve spoken up about such things in the past. ¬†Thank you, among others,¬†Steve Holden and Erik Pukinskis.
  • About being naive — I was. ¬†It wasn’t till I heard some of the stories others brought up that I realized how remarkably offensive some conference presenters have been in the relatively recent past and how, in comparison, Noah’s at MicroConf was pretty tame. ¬†[The following links are not necessarily for the faint of heart. ¬†CouchDB: Perform like a porn star,¬†¬†‘the flashbelt outrage‘ , and¬†a whole collection of various incidents covering a long period of time]. ¬†Sheesh.
  • About blogging. ¬†Never assume you’re going to get a quiet public review period for a post and then have a chance to hone it before pushing it out to a bigger audience. ¬†If you do go viral, you absolutely have only one chance at saying what you have to say.
  • About writing — the same old lesson I’ve been trying to learn with words all my life. ¬†I seem to have more luck with this one in code. ¬†You’re not done till you’ve taken everything out that can come out. ¬†Shorter really is better.


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