Online fiction, Facebook and transparency

I wasn’t at CaseCamp the other night, but I came across a minor storm of Twitter messages (I refuse to call them “tweets”) both during and afterwards, about one of the presenters — namely, an online fiction/marketing experiment called Apparently, some people weren’t too pleased when they found out that the characters involved in Story2Oh were friending people on Facebook without making it clear that they were, well… fictitious creations. At least, that’s what I’ve been able to gather from the dustup in various places.

Eden Spodek, who writes the Bargainista blog, has written about the whole contretemps at the One Degree blog. She was one of the people at CaseCamp who challenged Story2Oh creator Jill Golick about the issue of “transparency” — although she told me and others that she also admired the creativity of the enterprise. She’s the one that Jill refers to as “the woman with dark hair” in her blog post about the event, which appears to have led to Facebook deleting the profiles of her imaginary characters (the site has a policy against fake profiles).

One of the most visceral responses — and I think pretty over the top — came from screenwriter Denis McGrath, who blogs at Dead Things on Sticks. He writes about how he hates people who “don’t get it,” and how they are “uptight idiots” (and worse), who hold up progress for the rest of us. In the comments, he calls the response at CaseCamp “cowardly and hypocritical.” The word “fucktard” appears a lot. Is that really necessary? I don’t think so, but obviously a simple difference of opinion isn’t good enough unless it turns into a holy war.

In a follow-up post, Jill writes about how she doesn’t feel the issue of transparency was as important as others feel it should have been with Story2Oh, because her purpose wasn’t business but art, and blurring the boundaries between the real world and fantasy was part of the point behind the experiment. For my part, I think experiments like that are fascinating — in part because of the strong reactions they produce. I guess Jill found that out the hard way.

Is the young tech founder an anomaly?

My friend Paul Kedrosky over at Infectious Greed loves nothing better than a nice juicy research report or scientific study with lots of juicy data points in it (the way some people are with Tim Horton’s double-double coffees and apple fritters, Paul is with data). So anyway, he’s got a post up about one from the Kauffman Foundation — a private fund he is an advisor to — that looks at the median age of founders of technology companies with at least 20 employees and over $1-million in revenue.

The actual study itself (which is here) is about the level of education that most successful company founders have, but Paul was more interested in the age thing, in part because of a series of posts that Fred Wilson wrote about how most of the entrepreneurs he meets are in their 30s and how that could be because young people have a mindset that makes it easier to be entrepreneurs, and that made a lot of people mad. As someone who is… well, not in their 30s any more, I must confess that I was kind of interested in those posts of Fred’s too.

So the data from the Kaufmann study shows that the median age for founders is 39 — and according to the preamble to the study, twice as many were older than fifty as were younger than 25. The comments on Paul’s post are well worth a read as well (as usual), since they continue the debate. Is it something about the Web startups that Fred meets — the ones without much in the way of revenue or business models — that they attract younger founders? Do older founders not need as much in the way of VC money, so they never see people like Fred?

One of the authors of the study even gets involved in the comment thread, at Paul’s urging, and responds to some of the points. Fascinating stuff. My friend Leigh has some thoughts about it too.

Mike Arrington: The quintessential blogger?

Congrats to Mike for being named one of Time’s 100 most influential people (although one wag on Twitter wondered whether this wasn’t just the magazine’s attempt at blogosphere “link bait”). For what it’s worth, he appears in the “builders and titans” section of the list, rather than the “leaders and revolutionaries” section or the “heroes and pioneers” section (which raises the question: if you could choose only one, would you rather be a hero, a leader, a pioneer or a titan?) Arianna Huffington says he’s the “quintessential blogger” because he is:

“intense, passionate, consumed with his subject, opinionated, sleep-deprived, forward-thinking, easy to irritate and apt to air his grudges in public.”

By my count, at least four of those descriptive phrases — “intense,” “passionate,” “easy to irritate” and “apt to air his grudges in public” — are euphemisms for having a temper. Arianna also throws in a description of him as being like Tony Soprano: “a large man, always on the verge of losing his cool.” Is that the quintessential blogger?

(On a personal note, when he came to the mesh conference last year, Mike was unfailingly polite to just about everyone, even someone he had a beef with, despite the fact that he was sleep-deprived).