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  • Why Calacanis Should Not Be Allowed to Speak at Conferences

    Should I be taking this flamebait? No, probably not. But as promised last time I did, these are going to be few and far between. And I’ve kept that promise. Sometimes a guy just needs to rant on a soapbox for a bit. I have fought the urge to do a post like this in the past, so we’re going to see how this turns out. Eventually will I stop burning bridges on this blog? Probably. But not yet.

    Jason Calacanis is the incessant troll of the affiliate marketing/SEO world. He is an astounding marketer himself. He is very bright, and very good at creating an environment beneficial to his product. Lately, that product has been Mahalo. Jason has been speaking at various affiliate marketing conferences, talking about how evil/crappy/pathetic the SEO and IM industries are, and how we’re destroying the internet. Since Mahalo is a “human edited” search engine (read: a web directory with a search bar), it is in theory “immune” to spam.

    So Why, for the Love of God, do we keep giving Jason Calacanis Keynotes?
    Normally, I would complain about people mentioning him when he said whatever he said. But apparently that just doesn’t matter. People are going to hire him to speak anyways. So I’ve decided to go to an alternate route.
    I am going to state the following, and adhere to it the best I can. Any who agree with me, feel free to take the same statement, and make it your own. Twitter it, post it to your own blog, or send it to the people that are running the conferences.
    “I will not buy a conference pass that will ‘allow’ me to see Jason speak. It’s not just that I won’t attend him speaking. I will not actually purchase a ticket that would even make it possible.”

    Edit: I’m seeing a lot now about having “alternate views” at conferences. If someone wants to put a qualified SEO up who disagrees with me, and even agrees with Calacanis, that’s fine. But at least then it’s someone who is a part of the industry(Jason himself says he’s not an SEO), and probably won’t just use the keynote as an infomercial.

    Why Jason Should Not be Allowed to Speak at Affiliate or SEO Conferences

    1. He’s Not Relevant – He is admittedly NOT an SEO. Or an affiliate marketer. Why don’t we just bring in the founder of Burger King while we’re at it? Or wait, I think Hugh Hefner might have some openings in his schedule. Playboy has a website, right? Does Kanye West?
    2. His Method of Marketing is Not Relevant – Ok. So Mahalo is by no means a success yet. And that is with him rambling about it anywhere that will let him speak. That is his entire marketing method it would appear. I cannot do that. If anyone else in the audience were to somehow get a keynote speech, and chose to ramble about some service they launched all the time, they would not be speaking again.
      So what am I supposed to learn from him?
      How to advertise a site once I already have millions in funding, have hundreds of connections, and name recognition coming out my hindquarters? That’s a real challenge guys.
      Don’t get me wrong, all this uproar and such is a brilliant means of marketing. Or at least very effective. But there’s nothing to be learned from it. But if it weren’t for that, no one would know, or give a shit about Mahalo.
    3. All he’s doing is spamming the crowd trying to build up press for Mahalo – I’m sadly aiding his effort with this entry. But I would go so far as comparing paying to go to a conference where he’s speaking to if it cost $400 to ring a doorbell. I suppose people would be more willing to grit their teeth and listen to whatever religious cause was on the other side of the door a lot more easily(if they weren’t screaming obscenities) Because damn, it’s costing me money. So I might as well try and get my money worth and just hope something constructive will be said.
      It’s worse than internet advertising, because you pay to be spammed.
    4. You Can Get Your “Buzz” From Somewhere Constructive – That’s right folks. It is possible. I lose a little bit of respect for each conference when I hear about him speaking there. You want controversy? There’s plenty of people that can inspire controversy and be constructive. Shit, try a blackhat on and watch the blogs flare up. Let them talk about the future of SEO. Not into blackhat? Try someone constructive. I would trade half a pound flesh to listen to Diorex speak at a keynote. Get people that people will be excited to get information from. People with real future thought. Not people who are going to criticize not even because of legitimate sentiment, but rather because they they went to slut out their product.
    5. His entire “Make a Great Site Instead of Affiliate Sites” Speech is Bullshit – We do make great sites, but we don’t all have the flexibility wait months or years for something to profit….read below for the rest of this tangent.

    Countering Calacanis
    Ok, so first, here is the formula for a Calacanis keynote: Profession_Here is spamming the web+Profession_Here is evil+Mahalo will fix this because of XYZ+Can’t you all just make something useful?

    We do make useful sites. We make sites with good information. But the things he talks about really require venture capital, or saved up funds to live off of while awaiting magical success. We can’t afford to wait months(or years) for a site to profit like Mahalo.
    These are statements you will see spoken almost only by someone with the good fortune to fall into the internet “industry” in 1996 when you could pretty much get venture capital for heading off to the shitter for a moment. After all, who knows, that shit may look like Elvis and be worth billions. (though granted, his successes did appear after 1996, he already had the contacts to make this happen)

    For reference, I was 8 years old when venture capital was falling from the sky. Nowadays, I have a credit line of approximately $3000 with my Venture capitalist, and his name is American Express.
    I’m (barely) 20 years old, and I got average grades in school. Rewind time to before I was at all known in SEO/internet marketing, and had none of the success I could now at least put on a resume.
    So now imagine me walking into the office of these VC billionaires, pitching an idea.
    Me: “Ok guys. So I want to make this search engine.”
    Them: “Like Google?”
    Me: “No, I’m going to have a bunch of employees making pages for it, and finding the links”
    Them: “Like Wikipedia? But you pay editors instead of getting free ones? Or is it like a web directory?”
    Me: “No man, it’d like…be searchable”
    Them: “Why do you want to do this?”
    Me: “Because like..all these guys are making websites with the idea of making money..and it makes the web nasty”
    Them: “So wait. You want to get VC to put an end to people making money? But we want to make money! How old are you again?”

    I’m really impressed with some stuff Jason has made. Really, I am. But it’s time for everyone to acknowledge that if he did not get into this business when he did, and have an early success, he would not be getting any of this funding. I’m sorry, but most people in this industry making the “thin affiliate” sites cannot afford to lose even $100 per day, nonetheless the thousands Mahalo loses as it develops. And I’m sorry but quite frankly, eventually I get shit tired of Ramen Noodles.

    So what’s a marketer to do? I’ll tell you what. Market. And market their ass off.
    A lot of my sites are of high quality. But here’s the catch. I’m writing the content. I’m doing the design(for better or worse). I’m coding the backend. I’m managing the financials. And more than that, I’m running it on my own Credit.
    I have 30 Days to Be Turning a Profit, and I’m going to be doing whatever the hell is within my abilities to do to make sure that happens.

    Ugh. I’m getting more incoherrent, so I’m going to call it a day on this entry.

    Burning Bridges Like It’s the Cedar Village Riots,

    34 Responses to “Why Calacanis Should Not Be Allowed to Speak at Conferences”

    1. Gyutae Park says:

      lol, dude I thought you weren’t going to blog about this…

      Like you said, I think ignoring is the best route to take.

    2. admin says:

      @Gyutae: Haha temptation got the best of me. But this isn’t aimed at him. This is aimed at the people who keep hiring him. Keeping quiet didn’t work, so I’m hoping that if I can get some people to say they will not pay for passes where he is speaking (or will at least sing “We Will Overcome” in the audience) maybe it would have an impact.

    3. David Wilkinson says:

      Calacanis called me a spammer because I have a mailing list. WTF?

      Using that logic, Calacanis is a pidgeon because he has a website.

      The connection? NONE. 1+1 does not equal 7 Jason.

      Not all people with lists are spammers. What a n00b.

    4. David Wilkinson says:

      And dude… I was 2 when Calacanis was monkeying around getting VC’s money for doing shit.

    5. marshal sandler says:

      Jason Calacanis may be a pain in the butt, but he is sure a great Spin Doctor !

    6. Hugo says:

      Go Shady, go!

      I have no personal beef with Calacanis (I don’t even know him) but you make a very valid argument.

    7. Shawn says:

      So you would rather attend a conference to hear a guy like THIS speak http://www.affiliatesummit.com/cory_booker.php
      as opposed to going to hear Calacanis?

    8. Jim Kukral says:

      Ha, you missed the biggest point… You’re talking about him, which validates why he’s asked to speak.

      Attention=revenue, for shows, and him.

    9. barman says:

      Nickycakes and XMCP should be keynote speakers at ASE!

    10. .W. says:

      its fine mahalo cant last because even if it was a huge hit – its not upscalable. In a world where google reigns because they proved scaling is essential to run it big – why would we even revert to this – the internet isn’t the crap he says it is – its his lens on the internet, his negative perception.

      Screw negativity lets make some positive money.

    11. Todd Mintz says:

      While I’m not 100% in your corner, you made a very compelling argument…well done!

    12. David Wilkinson says:

      @Shawn – No… I’d rather see someone who has quality stuff to provide. Like Shady, perhaps…

    13. Gab says:

      I think the call to boycott shows he keynotes is the best point of your argument. Truly, he has nothing constructive to say.

      That said, I’d still have left the flamebait alone.

      Diorex would be a siiiiick keynote. Likewise Seth Godin. Clayton Makepeace would also be pretty interesting to hear!

    14. Kalena says:

      Shady, you rock. Voting with your wallet is the best response to the whole JASON PR campaign.

    15. David says:

      You are wise beyond your years and you are correct. Make money now, feed yourself, and save some to make something that rocks in the future.

      Calacanis just talks too much.

    16. Frank says:

      Great post mate, thoroughly enjoyed reading that one. Calacanis is good at getting publicity, but why do a keynote where you offend your audience in order to drum up support for your product?

    17. Matt says:

      If you were in single digits “when venture capital was falling from the sky” then perhaps you are too young to remember the web before it was inundated with SEO fluff and why Jason would label it as evil.

      The internet is one of humankind’s greatest accomplishments because of how it aggregates collected knowledge and makes it accessible to anyone. SEO-generated content solely benefits commercial interests and in so doing dilutes the information which comprises the web.

      I have utilized SEO’s and will not complain about getting first screen results, but it seems a little history is required to understand why Jason would say what he has said and why he is right in saying it.

      Mahalo looks like a crapshoot to me, but I’ll reserve judgement as Jason may know more than us. Before Google ever existed, the number one place to find information was Yahoo. It was NOT a search-engine, but a hand picked collection of sites by human editors. Search won out because as mentioned above it was scalable, but, and this is a big but, search-engine tech is no less flawed than non-scalable edited directories.

      Search engines suck (Google included), they’re just scalable. So an entire industry has developed around this suckdom which is great if you’re trying to sell something, but if you’re just looking for real info, well…

      Maybe one day we’ll have a search engine technology that actually works. XML was supposed to address this.

    18. James Duthie says:

      Jesus Shady… you’re only 20…?!?! Your writing (and knowledge) defies your youth.

      As for Calcanis, he undoubtedly lives by the motive ‘Any publicity is good publicity’. I suspect his idols are Paris Hilton & Britney Spears… :)

    19. billse says:

      Jeez. SEOs need to hire SEOs for reputation management now! Good points made here, Shady. I still think he should be allowed to speak, but we need to point out how his perspective is clearly skewed and incomplete… somehow a higher decibel.

    20. Feydakin says:

      @Matt : SEO-generated content solely benefits commercial interests and in so doing dilutes the information which comprises the web…

      Except, of course, many of us developing commercial web sites are creating great information for our visitors and it’s free fro the taking whether they spend money with us or not..

      I’m curious when making money became a bad thing..

      As for Jason, one of the vegas jewelry trade shows invited a speaker who’s sole purpose in life seemed to be to destroy the local jewelry store by turning everything we do in to a generic commodity with a profit margin that “he” determined was fair..

      The industry raised a huge stink about it before the show, and then again after the show.. He has never been asked to speak at another major trade show since.. It’s one thing to present a different business model, it’s an entirely different thing to attack the people hosting you and declare their business evil..

      Seriously, how content does Mahalo scrape and wrap in adsense every day anyway??

    21. Cure Dream says:

      Nice to know that somebody is giving Jason some hell… And I’m glad to see that he hasn’t commented on this post yet — he’s got a flying squad of monkeys that come to his defense wherever he’s criticized, even in places like #bluehatseo.

      Frankly, I’m terrified that we’re up against a greyhat site with $70 M of venture capital funding. That’s what it is.

      That said, I think Google is going to look more like Mahalo over time, even though I think more automation will be required to make something that’s really scalable.

    22. Doug Heil says:

      LOL slightlyshady; You actually have me rolling on the floor with laughter.

      If Jason is anything at all, he’s a damn good salesman and public relations person. My goodness; the amounts of press he seems to get from the SEO community is astounding. Give me just a piece of all the gifts he posseses and I’d be a wealthy man. Oh wait; Jason was, is, and will be wealthy, right? So I wonder who is winning this ongoing debate?…. Jason or the SEO community? I put my few cents on Jason guys.

      Besides; the irony of this debate is the fact that whenever spammers speak at conferences, etc… NOTHING is ever said about it, with simply lots of praise coming from the SEO industry.

      But; when someone like Jason speaks at conferences, the SEO industry is in an uproar. LOL

      Again; I’m rolling around with laughter about now. Thanks for the comics today. I needed it.

      Further; if you actually listen to Jason, or read what he says, you find a lot of what he says is indeed “fact”. Think about it.

    23. Goran says:

      WOW! I am going yo promote this topic. I’ve been reading this blog for some time, and dude… i’m on your side. i hate those wannabe marketers!

    24. admin says:

      @Everyone: Thanks for the comments!
      @Doug Heil: Glad to entertain you.
      I’m not arguign against Jason’s message, Jason himself, or anything Jason related other than the fact that he should not be speaking at conferences because he’s NOT an SEO, and is just going to hype Mahalo, which almost no one wants to hear at a conference. There’s better ways to make buzz.

      A lot of what he says may very well be fact. And that’s fine. He can scream it from the rooftops for all I care. But he shouldn’t be speaking at conferences about it when he’s not teaching anything, not part of the given profession, and is just hyping a product.

    25. Chris Guthrie says:

      I saw that video where he was making fun of other internet markters and bloggers.

      Overall the guy just seems like a tool.

      But I agree with many others have said. Posting about him benefits him more than it affects him negatively.

    26. Doug Heil says:

      He is not a SEO, but why is that a bad thing at a conference? I didn’t know all the speakers were SEO’s anyway? I don’t think so.

      How about those who are social media types and who speak? They are not SEO’s either.

      Further; I’ve heard and read that many speakers promote their products and services at the conferences. I don’t think that is nothing new. Heck; blackhats can pay for advertising and have their very own booth at conferences to promote their wares. I truly don’t get how that’s any different. To me, the conferences out there are simply marketeers promoting to other marketeers anyway. Giving the excuse that Jason should not be speaking because he is a SEO is simply not a credible excuse.

      Matt Cutts or any other se rep speak at conferences and they also are promoting/representing their respective search engines. They are not SEO’s either.

    27. admin says:

      Ok. Fine. Point taken on the social media types. However most people do not EXCLUSIVELY promote their product. Most of his speech is a setup to plug Mahalo.
      And while I know you don’t consider blackhat SEOs, and hence equate the situtations, reality begs to differ.

      Google promoting/mentioning Google is one thing. They are relevant to the topic, as are most products that are “promoted” there. But Mahalo, not as much.
      Tell me, in what world is Mahalo relevant to affiliate summit? Jason himself admits its not meant to take a large search volume from Google…so I see little room for the argument that it’s relevant.

      Nice of you to show up though. I suppose after my bringing my argument to your forum, it’s only fair you do the same on my blog ;)

    28. David Wilkinson says:

      @Doug Heil – Yah. Jason aint an SEO. So why the hell’s he talking at SEO conferences, pushing his own crap at these conferences and calling everyone who attends scamming, spamming losers?

      His big directory (that’s all Mahalo is…) is goin’ down. I pity the investors who put their cash into the site.

    29. Jeeb says:

      I’d rather see a debate between him and an SEO than a keynote by him at conferences. That would be more interesting. It could be a Lincoln-Douglas style debate with no moderator. After the debate is over, then there could be the usual Q and A and people could go online and vote for who the winner is. There’s a more realistic chance of this happening than people boycotting the conferences because he’s there. And this would be just as satisfying because he would probably be made to look foolish.

    30. Terry says:

      I’m still trying to figure out why Craig from Craigslist was a keynote at PubCon with no concern of SEO whatsoever.

      Funny business at these SEO conferences.

    31. Will says:

      What did Craig say? I’d be interested to see his keynote and his comments about SEO, which I assume he had to talk about to make his speech have some relevancy. Craig’s List pages are def. easy to make climb the SERPS.

    32. Tyr says:

      “Burning Bridges Like It’s the Cedar Village Riots,”

      Haha, good one. Oh and also the part about Jason.

    33. Mani Karthik says:

      Dude..I tried my best, but I can’t find a point to disagree with you. A very good read this one.

    34. vcvcvc says:

      Good post. Echoed my thoughts

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