Memo to Jakob Lodwick: Grow up

by Mathew on June 27, 2008 · 34 comments

At the risk of writing about two “High School 2.0″ blogosphere situations in one week (the first one being the Loren Feldman and Shel Israel brouhaha), I couldn’t help but notice that Jakob Lodwick — the brash young millionaire co-founder of Vimeo and CollegeHumour.com, and one-time blogging boyfriend of party girl-blogger Julia Allison — has decided to quit the Internet. Well, maybe not the Internet per se, but the “social Web,” meaning he has closed his blog and his Tumblelog (he’s financially involved with Tumblr as well). Why? Because he just can’t take the abuse any more, he says. It’s just too much.

Apparently, some people have been saying mean things about Jakob — about how he’s arrogant, and insufferable in a way that only a millionaire geek can be, that he dresses funny, and so on. It’s gotten to the point where even his Mom can’t take it any more, and has had to shut down her own Tumblr blog. The humanity! At some point, reading through Jakob’s last post to the blogosphere at large, and then through his farewell letter, I started to think that maybe it was just a big prank — maybe Jakob is secretly laughing at us. I mean, could he really have written a line like “I may be a millionaire, but this sort of thing still hurts” and not felt just a little ridiculous? Then he says:

“I am walking away from what might be called The Social Web. This comprises any site where ‘anyone can sign up’ and electronically socialize with one another. The story is the same with most of these sites: a few settlers discover and make themselves at home, enjoying the solitude.

Increasingly, less-adventurous people find their way to the site. The population begins to snowball. A vocal minority of thoughtless jerks begin to speak up, driving away the settlers. In the worst case, the result is something like MySpace.”

Maybe Jakob should go back and read some of the history of the early Internet: of Usenet, and IRC, and the MUDs and MOOs and then the Well, and so on. What he’s describing isn’t anything new; it isn’t some Web 2.0 invention designed specifically to torture well-meaning and creative individuals like our hero Jakob Lodwick, until their Mom writes a blog post about their enemies. It’s just the way people are. And for young Jake to moan about all the negative attention he’s gotten, after happily posting every intimate detail and thought about his life and relationships to public blogs, in an almost pathological exercise in “over-sharing,” is really rich. And not the good kind of rich, which — by the way — Jakob also is. It’s hard out there for a Web 2.0 pimp, I guess.

Update:

I’ve gotten a lot of comments about this post — you can read some of them below — and many of them disagree with my take on it. Bijan Sabet, an investor with Spark Capital, says both here and in a post on his Tumblr blog that Jakob is a good guy, and doesn’t deserve the attacks on him. As I said in my response to Bijan, I would never say that someone deserved the kinds of comments people have made about Jakob — but at the same time, they can hardly come as a surprise, unless he has been living in an ivory tower somewhere. He may be a great guy, but I still think his response to the whole thing is more than a little childish.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Cue another iteration of the hypester's song :-(

    Marketer: Look! This is amazing! Fantastic! Revolutionary! World-changing! Never been anything like it before!

    Chump: I tried it. It didn't work. It's nasty and damaging.

    Marketer: WHAT DID YOU EXPECT YOU WHINER?!?

  • http://joeduck.wordpress.com JoeDuck

    Matt you are directing the attack in the wrong direction. These concerns are not in the category of whining rich boy as you imply, but more in the same vein as Kathy Sierra's when she was getting death threats and quit for that reason. Free speech does not thrive in abusive environments.

    Sure, people can shrug off bizarre and threatening comments and I think we'd also agree there is not much indication that online written abuse has led to much violence, but where do you draw the lines? You seem to be suggesting …. no lines should be drawn?

    Kathy Sierra's wit is gone, Jakob was a smart and interesting voice now silenced.

    At what point do you think we should throw the support to the good guys?

  • http://vielmetti.typepad.com Edward Vielmetti

    twas ever thus; lots of people quit Usenet in a huff back in the day, with a grand exit and burning of bridges and retreat to closed networks.

    “old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill”

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I disagree, Joe — I don't think this is in the same category as Kathy
    at all. Jakob wasn't just minding his own business, writing about his
    various creative ideas or projects; he displayed virtually everything
    publicly — every thought, every whim, every petty annoyance or
    irritation, his entire personal life. No one forced him to do that,
    and in fact lots of people advised him against it. For someone who
    does that to complain about the attention he receives — negative or
    otherwise — is the height of hypocrisy.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Seth, I should have known that you would try to force this into that
    tired mold. No one marketed social media to Jakob Lodwick — if
    anything, he's the one who has been marketing it to others, and
    displaying its alleged benefits in the form of continuous updates
    about his every mood, though or personal predilection. As I said in
    my comment to Joe, for him to suddenly complain that some of the
    attention he's been getting is negative is either the height of
    hypocrisy or the height of naievete. One is stupid and the other is
    ridiculous.

  • http://www.bijansabet.com bijan

    I wrote a post about this yesterday.

    No matter how public Jakob lives, Jakob doesn't deserve the types of attacks he's been getting. I don't see how living in public and getting viciously attacked should be linked or justified?

    It's one thing to disagree with someone. And it's fine to even yell & shout if you passionately disagree. but the nature of his attackers were over the top in my view.

    For example, I disagree with your post but I'm hopefully respectfully disagreeing with you, right :)

    full disclosure: I like Jakob so I'm biased. I wouldn't call him a friend per se but we've met a number of times and he's a fellow investor in tumblr.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Thanks for the comment, Bijan. I didn't mean to suggest that Jakob
    deserved the attacks he got — simply that they weren't surprising,
    and arguably (at least in my opinion) don't seem serious enough to
    justify his extreme reaction. I'm sure he's a great guy, and I think
    he has done some interesting things. And just for the record, I don't
    support ad hominem attacks on anyone, regardless of their position or
    their personal idiosyncracies. I just thought his whole response was
    childish, that's all.

  • http://leighhimel.blogspot.com leigh

    I think everyone can agree that disrespectful crap should stop.

    However, I think people have to take some ownership when they choose to have larger than life personas (and use those personas to become famous).

    I watched those videos of Jakob and his girlfriend from way back. If he were my kid, i might choose to talk to him about actions/consequences and reactions in life (and guess what, life, it pretty much isn't fair most of the time) vs. giving him a shoulder to whine on.

  • http://neekolas.tumblr.com neekolas

    OK. We can all agree that the things that were said about Jakob were disrespectful, impolite, childish, etc. and that Jakob has every right to a respite from this.

    However:

    The way he chose to deal with it strikes me as completely irresponsible, and downright un-entrepreneurial. It's a big “fuck-you” to the company he invested in, the ideology that made him a millionaire, and the thousands of people who have been politely following him on Tumblr/elsewhere for years.

    Even worse, he offers no solution to the problem – practically inviting others to quit Tumbling before they become too famous.

    I'm particularly upset because Jakob is one of the most visible standout entrepreneurs from my/our generation. It makes us all look like the spoiled, self-obsessed, epicurean assholes that the media/gen-Xers/anyone born before 1982 make us out to be.

    Jakob could have just cut back on the personal posts, shifted to reblogging others material, and quietly disappeared from the Tumblr scene as the community grew. Instead, he created a predictable wave of bad publicity about his company and himself. This was totally unnecessary.

    How about adding a reputation system to Tumblr, or a Reject This Reblog button to make abusive speach a punishable offense? Protecting your investment, respecting your partners, and fixing big problems is what 'entrepreneurs' are supposed to do.

    Say what you want about the guy, he knows how to stir up people's emotions and create a controversy. This is my third post on the subject, each time I was mad for different reasons. I hope this is, as I've mentioned on my tumblog, a ploy to get people to pay attention to the problem of quality-of-discourse on the web, right before Jakob tries to fix it. That, I could at least understand.

    I've wasted enough time on this already – time to get back to work…

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    My impression is that he was/is running a video site, not earning money from being a blog/”conversation”/”self-expression” conference-club evangelist.

    That is, he took the Kool-Aid, the evangelists were happy to “use” him while he said it tasted good, and when he got sugar-shock, then it was: SHUT UP, FOOL! Nobody FORCED you to drink that Kool-Aid. IT'S YOUR OWN DAMN FAULT!!!

    The underlying problem is that the blog-world is extremely exploitative and personally destructive, and marketers need to construct excuses that it's a particular person's failing whenever this is demonstrated.

  • http://www.thenetworkgarden.com hypermark

    There's an axiom that you can't stop dancing with the gorilla just because you get tired. While it is unfortunate that people use the distance and anonymity of the web to be so mean spirited, let's be real.

    This is neither new data nor is Lodwick a neophyte. He's like the fly that flitters around willfully and excitedly in the light until the moment when his wings get burned. Then, it's the light's fault.

    Logic suggests that after 12 minutes of no attention, he'll flitter back to the light. ;-)

    Cheers.

  • http://joeduck.wordpress.com JoeDuck

    I see the issue here as much broader than Jakob or others under fire. Many of us spend many hours a day online blogging and discussing things. Standards are evolving every second, and my concern is that with so little criticism of attackers, we are slowly replacing civil discourse with attack speak, mostly because it is an easy way for mean spirited folks to dominate the conversation. Back when I had some “hate speech” at my blog during the Kim family tragedy it was stressful and time consuming to determine when people crossed the line. That *diminished* the conversation as well as hurt some family members who read the stuff.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    By the way, the Kathy Sierra incident was far more complex that the way the story is usually told (which tends to omit any hint that the facts were different from the most sensationalist narrative). See my column at:


    Accusations of sex and violence were bound to grab the headlines

  • http://justagovy.blogspot.com Scott Horvath

    @Matthew: You know, considering how many comments you've had against this post, I think you need to throw in the towel on the whole “social web” thing and call it quits. If you need a note from my mom to back you up, I can send you one…sorry, she doesn't know how to blog.

  • http://joeduck.wordpress.com JoeDuck

    neekolas isn't yours a separate, almost business related issue? You are saying he owes it to you and others who supported his biz model to stick in there. That may be the case, but I'm taking him at his word that the threatening crap was getting so much in the way of his online presence that he is taking it … offline. I'm not sure if that is a big, little, or no loss to the community (I didn't read Jakob), but the takeaway from this story bugs me – if you want to shut people up or you just want to make them feel crappy about their online presence – just keep on heeping on some abuse.

    It makes us all look like the spoiled, self-obsessed, epicurean assholes that the media/gen-Xers/anyone born before 1982 make us out to be.

    Oh c'mon now, I would never mistake any young online whippernsapper as an …… epicurean.

  • http://neekolas.tumblr.com neekolas

    I think this is a business issue. Jakob functioned as an ambassador to the
    service, frequently being on the Radar front page, and was likely one of the
    most followed members of the site. His lack of presence will be noticed, and
    it is a loss to the Tumblr community – although I am sure the void will be
    filled. I don't want to shut anyone up, or to add to the abuse, I just think
    it was an unprofessional way to handle the situation.

    If epicurean is not the correct word, than perhaps sybaritic, but the point
    is that he played into a negative stereotype of the hipster/entrepreneur
    (hipsterpreneur?).

  • http://joeduck.wordpress.com JoeDuck

    Neekolas I think from a biz point of view you have made several good points about professionalism, etc. I'm talking a lot more generally here than just Jakob.

    Also – I know *you* were not shutting anybody up – on the contrary you want him to keep posting. I was (unsuccessfully) trying to be snide and funny about your use of epicurean meaning that I think the other terms you used are, in fact, a pretty accurate description of some successful ….. hipsterpreneurs! Good term there dude.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Thanks, Scott. I think I'll be ok :-)

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    That's a fair point, Joe. As I said, I'm not in favour of that kind
    of thing — I just think Jakob is being a bit precious about the whole
    thing.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    That's not the case at all, Seth. Take a look at Neekolas's comment
    – if anything, Jakob was the poster boy for Tumblr-blogging, and was
    more than happy to confess his innermost thoughts and feelings to the
    world. And when the attention was positive, he was happy to soak it
    up. You need to do a bit more research before making pronouncements.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Well, regarding research, I was partially relying on your description – “… the brash young millionaire co-founder of Vimeo and CollegeHumour.com, and one-time blogging boyfriend of party girl-blogger Julia Allison …” :-(.

  • http://joeduck.wordpress.com JoeDuck

    I probably should have read Jakob's history of comments before I made the Sierra connection which I agree may be a stretch here…. but since I'm an online commenter I thought it was appropriate to argue first and collect data later…

  • http://joeduck.wordpress.com JoeDuck

    test reply

  • http://neekolas.tumblr.com neekolas

    Well, Joe, I think we can agree on the central point here: abusing someone
    until they shut up is a bad mark upon both sides of the interaction. It
    shouldn't happen, and we, as consumers and producers of social media, should
    not let it happen. If the Internet always must reduce itself to the lowest
    common denominator, we are all fucked.

  • curious

    You could say that women who go around showing their bare arms, legs and even their hair are just asking to be raped.

    How is this different?

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Buddy, if you even need to ask that, then you have some serious problems.

  • http://www.djp72.net/blog dj paine

    i dunno if i missed something, but i gotta lot of time for good old JL.
    i still immensely indebted for his creation of the amazing vimeo.com

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  • Matt Ghali

    I've never met Jakob, nor kept up with him on a daily basis, but I think his eccentricity is terrific. I think the people (Gawker and Valleyfag – ya know – the interns who do the fake “hater” comments) are at fault here. It's sad that those comments that were made were created to cause controversy and clicks for dollars. Because of that – Gawker and Valleyfag have made us lose touch with our Jakob. Haven't you noticed that Valleyfag has lost it's ratings lately? They keep burning their bridges and now they have no one to blog about. *lol*
    I'm glad that Jakob is “off the net for now. Why let other people profit off of him??

    Jakob is prolly blogging anonymously. I am 90% sure of that.

  • http://fudge.org Jay Cuthrell

    Quitting the Internet would imply he is going off the grid. Doubtful. Unless he is headed to a cabin in the badlands… if so, good for him. Woodshedding isn't a bad thing per se.

    I don't know much about this Jakob guy but my guess is that might be why I'm grasping to understand why you use the term “childish” and “grow up”. Perhaps if you had developed that a bit more I'd get it — but I don't.

    By contrast, I've been reading your posts for a while and I also have to agree with some of the comments here. Relegating this farewell to a “childish” maneuver is very pot kettle plonk of you. Please don't stop writing though ;-)

    There are lots of ways to explain going underground via sudden departure vs. giving into a lack of updates (Carl Icahn blog frequency). So, his farewell isn't a terribly uncommon thing in any of a variety of mediums. Given what I've been able to gleen in sparse reading about his accomplishments, this is actually a very adult way to do it.

    Disclosure: I'm 36, not a millionaire, and I've taken my own blog offline… not that it is Gawker worthy. But, please don't call me a child. I just don't know if I can take it.

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  • Kara

    If you knew Jakob Lodwick, you'd hold your tongue. Jake is not out to harm anyone; he's living more authentically than most.

  • Kara

    If you knew Jakob Lodwick, you'd hold your tongue. Jake is not out to harm anyone; he's living more authentically than most.

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