The Silicon Alley Reporter: A good example of how to disrespect the work of the people who came before you and not play nice in the sandbox

Let me start off by saying this:  Gary Sharma's Alley Reporter site is great, in terms of the service that it offers, the layout, the content, etc.

But, as we all know, the name "Silicon Alley Reporter" originally referred to a trade pub that Jason Calacanis started in 1996.  Jason was a major pillar of the NYC web community in the 90's and did almost as much as anyone to actually make it a community and put it on the map.  He grew a 16 page photocopy magazine into a 256 page glossy through pure hustle, and somehow, even in the worst of times, turn it into something saleable.

I've been fortunate to get to know a lot of people who were around the NYC tech scene back then, and so when I started nextNY and heard people talk about "building the community", it bothered me.  There's been a tech community in NYC dating back years and years--or did everyone think that Mayor Mike had the only startup on the block with Bloomberg, LLC so many years ago? 

In the late 90's, DoubleClick was an alley mainstea, but even before there was DoubleClick, there was Bell Labs.  New York metro area tech has been around for some time.  Fred Wilson's been in New York VC for more than 20 years, for example. 

While I'd say the entrepreneurs of my generation have done a great job in connecting the disparate parts of the tech community, it's important for me to recognize that we are building on the work of lots of hardworking people who came before us.

So when this tech events site called Alley Reporter popped up, it really bothered me.  The only reason anyone would use that name would be to benefit from it's existing cache--built up by someone else's work. 

According to Alley Insider, I'm not the only one it's bothering.  Dow Jones, who acquired the original entity that held that name is looking into asking him to stop using it

Apparently, though, the trademark has gone stale.  There may not be a technical reason why it can't be reused, but I don't think this is just a technical issue.  It's an issue of respect.  Jason built up the value of the name, and I think it's just the right thing to do to acknowledge that and get his ok on it.

And frankly, it's also a better business decision.  If Gary went to Jason out of respect and Jason loved the idea of reviving the name, there's no better person in the world who could promote it. 

Similarly, when I started nextNY, I went to Scott Heiferman to get his feedback, because he had been running the NY Tech Meetup.  I didn't need to go to him--I just felt like it was the right thing to do.  By asking Scott if it would be ok to talk about nextNY at a NY Tech Meetup, we were able to get a big boost from his thumbs up and that's where we got a lot of our initial members from. 

The other thing about this project is that there were other people working on putting together event lists that could have been worked with as well.  As a little side project, Lee Semel and I put some resources into NYCTechEvents.com a while ago so that the tech community could have a place to post and share events without signing up for anything.  That site now powers the Silicon Alley Insider's events calendar.  We don't make any money from it--we just wanted the community to have it. 

Somebody once accused me of being down on Alley Reporter because I was jealous his site was "better".  That's just ridiculous. Seriously, I've got better things to do than compete on free events sites that I'm not even running as a business.  If you haven't noticed, I'm trying to run a company

Is NYCTechEvents better than Alley Insider?  No, it's not.  It's fine, but like I said, the look and feel of Alley Reporter is really great--top notch even!  Had Gary approached us and said that he had some ideas for an events site, I'm pretty sure we would have just let him update the template or figure out SOME way to work together, because all we want is for people to know what's going on in the community. 

Instead, we have two calendars now...  this is just silly.  I've suggested to Gary that we share events back and forth, but it's been a month since he said he was "giving some thought" to that.  Of course, he can do anything he wants, but since when is playing nice in the sandbox not also a generally good business strategy for startups? 

Similarly, about two weeks after Allen from Center Networks launched a tech directory of local companies, Alley Reporter came out with the same thing.  Again, it was definitely an improvement, but I was actually sort of annoyed for Allen's sake.  He had been promoting Alley Reporter since it came out, and to just copy a feature without even so much as trying to collaborate with Allen?   Seems like it would be better to be friendly with others trying to do similar things and offer to power everyone else's sites rather than just ignore (or copy) the work of others and move forward alone.

My suggestion to Gary is that he take the great site he's built, come up with an original name and domain for it, and open up some conversations about how to work with people already doing things to organize community info.  Play nice in the sandbox and everyone wins.

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