Is it Duncan Riley, or is it Techmeme?

This one is a real can of worms in more ways than one, but I can’t help myself. I recently came across (as many other people have, judging by my FriendFeed and Google Reader shared items) a piece by Duncan Riley at his new site, Inquisitr, in which he embarked on a fairly extended rant about Techmeme and how he believes he has been slighted by Gabe Rivera and the secret tweaks he makes to the ranking system on the site. Duncan’s overall message seems to be that he doesn’t mind — and yet, you can tell that it rankles more than a little that he hasn’t had a post appear on Techmeme in over a month.

One of Duncan’s theories (which he tosses out there almost as an aside) is that Mike Arrington’s friendship with Gabe has something to do with it — both because TechCrunch’s posts show up even when Duncan argues they really shouldn’t (because they have no links to them), and because he believes that Mike has something to do with his lack of presence on Techmeme. Why would that be? Didn’t Duncan used to write for Mike? He sure did, and Mike and the rest of the TC team said lots of nice things about him when he left to start Inquisitr — although Mike’s post doesn’t seem to turn up any more at the old link.

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Duncan Riley: Lessons in diplomacy

I was going to title this post “Duncan Riley: Lessons in how to be an asshole,” but then I thought that would bring me down to the same level as Duncan, and I really don’t want to do that. I suppose it wouldn’t be a weekend without a Techmeme bitchfest (or what Frederic of The Last Podcast calls a “bitchmeme”), but the one Duncan started is really over the top. Despite the fact that I’m all relaxed from being in Florida for the past two weeks, I feel compelled to comment.

Disagreeing about the value of a Web app is hardly anything new — it happens all the time, and it’s largely a good thing, even if sometimes people get their knickers in a twist over a perceived slight. Differences of opinion can be instructive. But Duncan’s response to Louis Gray’s post about FriendFeed is in a whole different category. If Louis lobbed a hand grenade at Duncan with his post, the TechCrunch writer unleashed what amounts to a fleet of Apache attack helicopters in retaliation.

In fact, Louis lobbed what amounts to a wet squib, by questioning Duncan’s review of FriendFeed with a single phrase: “quasi-analytic.” Duncan then responds by calling Louis a nobody, and calls him a “pious, self-important c*nt.” Not satisfied with that, he goes on to tell his Twitter friends that he “truly held back” because he “only dropped the c word once,” and that Louis is an “uppity, self-important wanker.”

I know that many Aussies pride themselves on their ability to start (and in many cases finish) a scrap with just about anyone, and it could be that using words like c*nt constitute an intellectual argument in Duncan-land — but I think Louis deserves an apology. Either Duncan is so desperate for traffic to his blog that he descended to such depths deliberately, or he’s the kind of person who prefers ad hominem attacks to rational argument. In either case, I think it’s pretty pathetic.