Scripting News for 3/27/2007

Russo & Hale: How to settle the lawsuit 

As I’ve written previously, the issues around UserLand’s future are tied up in litigation by the company’s former attorneys. I know the readers of Scripting News don’t know the details of UserLand’s corporate structure, even so, I want to outline what I think a reasonable deal would be for Russo & Hale, and UserLand’s other shareholders. If their issues with me continue, I have no doubt that all the details will eventually come out.

So here, in a nutshell is what I think we should do.

First Russo & Hale claims that weblogs.com belonged to UserLand. I don’t agree, but suppose for the sake of argument we concede the point.

Not coincidentally, just before I started operating the site on my own server, there was an offer from another company to buy weblogs.com for $250,000. I didn’t want to sell it, for a variety of reasons.

It’s lucky we had that offer, because that clearly puts a value on the service at the time of the transfer. From that point, there was a lot of work, a lot of rewrites, a lot of technical challenges (remember the June 2004 explosion), a lot of risk, and huge growth, which resulted in a sale, after much negotiation, to VeriSign.

The story of the sale leaked before we were prepared to announce it, unfortunately, while I was flying from San Francisco to Greensboro, North Carolina to participate in a blogging conference. I found out the story leaked while I was transferring planes in Cincinnati, and then when I got to Greensboro, I had to change hotels to find one that had good Internet connectivity so I could help explain to the blogging world what the deal was and why we had done it.

However, before I even got off the plane, I was getting emails from Russo threatening to sue me. Note that up until this point, Russo was my attorney, UserLand’s attorney, secretary, board member, shareholder, and friend! Before I could even get one word in, he had already escalated to suing me. He never even picked up the phone before he started getting legal with me.

And as he taught me so well, when that happens, you have to get a lawyer to do your talking, which is exactly what I did. And now two years later, we still haven’t tried to work this out as honorable gentlemen. People may be wondering why an attorney is suing his former client, without trying to work it out, and honestly so am I.

Anyway, if I were an arbitrator here, I’d say we’re pretty lucky there was a clear price set. So let’s do the math, distribute $250,000 to UserLand shareholders, according to ownership, shake hands and let’s move on with our lives. I’ll overlook the fact that Russo & Hale forced me to waste over $50K on legal fees. And most important to most of the people reading this, we get to focus on getting UserLand working again.

Doesn’t this seem eminently reasonable?

Today’s links 

Microsoft mistakenly sent this reporter his own dossier.

Chris Anderson has the actual dossier, in a PDF.

Steve Goodman visits a Phnom Penh amusement park.

Seattle P-I: “Humane law enforcement officers discovered 110 parakeets in an apartment in the 4200 block of Ninth Avenue Northeast in Seattle on Tuesday.”

The Truman Show anticipated justin.tv.

TechCrunch: Yahoo Mail offers Unlimited Storage.

Ars Technica: “Get ready for EVDO Revision B.”

Wired looks at its own past, which includes mine. :-)

The Twitter API grows 

Just read this article on TechCrunch about a new feature in the Twitter API.

I have the whole API covered in the OPML Editor, no user-level functionality yet to report, but I’ll have an update for this feature as soon as possible.

It’s great to see them evolve the API. It’s a pretty nice one. Easy and quick to implement.

BTW, I’ve noticed that Technorati now includes Twitter references. Might have some effect on the rankings on TR.

Nik Cubrilovic and Steve Poland on Twitter keyword squatting.

Chorus of cowardice 

Chris Locke explains the “Mean Kids” site that’s getting so much attention on TechMeme.

I don’t know Kathy Sierra, but I do know and have been abused by Chris Locke, Frank Paynter and Jeanne Sessum (and quite a few other people).

I’ll tell you what — the mob that’s going after them looks a lot more dangerous than they do. Locke and Paynter are pretty harmless, although they are nasty mofos, on the net (which is an important distinction). Sessum is a champion sexist male-basher, a real piece of work. I’ve never met her, and if I had the chance, I’d run the other way. Which is what I wish the mob of well-intentioned do-gooders would do.

On this one, I take the side of the mean kids, because no one else is, and I have a soft spot for people who are being attacked by a mob, no matter how pathetic they are.

Update on UserLand 

After posting about the future of UserLand, a lot of comments, all constructive. What a change. It used to be that when we opened this kind of discussion, the users were crowded out by flamers. It feels in a way like we’ve popped the stack back to 1995 or so, when everyone in the then-nascent blogging world was full of excitement and hope, and the negative stuff hadn’t shown up yet. The world was smaller then, and now it’s smaller again. :-)

This morning over coffee I reflected on how unusual this situation is. It’s hard enough when a key person resigns, or your lawyer resigns, but I’ve never seen or heard of a situation where they stick around after they resigned and make unspecified demands. As some of the posters say, we hurt when people like Doug, Brent, Andre and Jake left, but they all went on to do other things, and either helped UserLand or at least stayed neutral. I certainly tried to help UserLand after I left. But this idea that Scott could get a new job, at a company that just raised $15 million in VC, and still stand in the way of cleaning up UserLand, is a mystery to me. Maybe once it’s resolved I’ll understand it.

I remarked in a comment yesterday: “The way this company is structured, the people who are central to the support of the product have no stake in its success other than they get to use it. For a company that has played such a central role in leveling those kinds of structures, it has a pretty conventional structure of its own.”

With so little to lose, it seems, we could make some big changes, and try creating a company that rewards its community when it succeeds, in a more substantial way.

The end of Rome 

Sunday night’s episode was the last of the HBO series Rome, which became one of my favorites.

I didn’t know the season was going to end with that episode, but as it proceeded it was clear that they were wrapping things up. Without spoiling the end for anyone who hasn’t seen it, I just want to say, it was a satisfying end, not as dramatic as Six Feet Under, and not the disappointment of Deadwood. Something inbetween. Satisfying yet a bit disturbing.

In the end it was the story of friendship between two Roman soldiers and the love these men have for their children. A sweet ending to good story.

12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by nigel on March 27, 2007 at 5:34 am

    Hi Dave

    tried to contact you via the email link on scripting.com (http://blogs.opml.org/mail/dave) but I don’t receive the copy it says it is sending me, so I’m guessing you are not receiving yours either..?

    –Nigel

    Reply

  2. Send mail to dave dot winer on the same email service you use.

    Reply

  3. Dave, re: Sierra, Locke, mobs. That’s interesting, Dave. Because when I first saw this unfolding (before the massive jumping to Sierra’s defense), I thought of how many times you’ve been attacked personally by wackos and how I just didn”t understand why people feel so compelled to get personal and vivid in such attacks. I’ve said before, it’s as if anyone with some degree of celebrity, even in a niche like the tech blogosphere — can be subjected to the same type of heckling and mocking-attacks that we’ve come to think is ordinary when applied to rock stars or professional athletes. Perhaps Sierra was wrong in naming names in her emotional response to all of this. But if I were on the receiving end, I’d probably be doing the same thing. (Actually, I’d email you first and ask what you think I should do.)

    Reply

  4. That’s funny. I felt the same way about having a soft spot for someone being attacked by a mob. Though, I could’ve sworn that for much of the timeline in this story (all the time before yesterday) Locke and his ilk were the mob and Kathy the victim.

    Reply

  5. She used you Rex, and you didn’t call her on the obvious mistake in her request for a riot, which is what her post was.

    This thing we call the blogosphere is UGLY — I’ve known this since the huge pile-on in June 2004.

    If anything good comes out of this, I suspect it will come from you. I talked with Scoble this morning and for a variety of reasons I don’t think it will come from him.

    I’ve said my piece, now you take it from there.

    What are the new rules?

    How do we know when the line has been crossed?

    What’s an acceptable response?

    Reply

  6. Okay. I’ll confess. She used me. I’m a fan of hers — never met nor come close, but her blog posts explain things in a way my clients understand. During a few breaks in my flow of stuff today, I have drafted a rather long post that I’m going to try and make some sense of and post later tonight.

    Reply

  7. Interesting RSS interop issue I noticed in a Firefox (Mac) live bookmarks link to one of your stories today: It gives an invalid URL, one that is different from the link on your site, because the “&” is stripped out leaving just the “amp”:

    http://www.scripting.com/stories/2007/03/27/russoAmpHaleHowToSettleTheLawsuit.html

    I’ll leave it to the RSS gurus to say where the problem lies.

    Reply

  8. Dave,

    I think we know a line has been crossed when we can tell that the attacks are against the person not because of or about what they’ve said done but for what the person is.

    For example, you get a lot of crap thrown at you because you’re prominent and outspoken. Some of it hurts, some of it probably bounces off. But you see where it’s coming from.

    I don’t know if you also get anti-semitic attacks because you’re jewish. If you do, I’m guessing you’ll see them as a very different kind of thing. Similarly, once people start using images of sexual violence (whether in words or pictures) in their criticism of women, they’ve crossed the line. End of story.

    Reply

  9. Phil, as usual, I agree with you. However I think the reaction in this case is way way out of proportion to the issues raised, and that some completely uninvolved people got dragged into it is something I wish people would see as a wake-up call that they’re doing wrong. And yes, as a Jew, I have extra sensitivity to this, any time I see someone being chased down by a mob, I can relate to it. My grandparents programmed me that way, and it was good that they did.

    Raines, the problem was on my end, and it’s fixed now. Thanks for the report.

    Reply

  10. “I have a soft spot for people who are being attacked by a mob, no matter how pathetic they are.”

    Amen. Or whatever the relevant Jewish phrase is. :D

    Of course, that stance often gets a person into big trouble.

    Reply

  11. Posted by john caddidy on March 27, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    “TechCrunch scoop: Yahoo Mail offers Unlimited Storage. ”

    Scoop? Umm, did you happen to check his link to the Yahoo press release? Maybe that’s what constitutes a scoop in the brave new world of blah blah blogging.

    Doh!

    Reply

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