I say not.
You know, there were a number of Affiliate Summit attendees that came up to me immediately following Jason Calacanis’ keynote last week furious with Shawn and I for inviting Calacanis to speak at the conference.
Their initial reaction was one of shock and bewilderment. WTF was this guy coming into our hood, smack-talkin’ directly at the audience who paid good money to see him? More importantly, why would Shawn and I invite him to do so?
Well, as my Dad always said, “humbling experiences can open the door to life’s greatest insights, if we are willing to learn from them.” And yes, Jason humbled us.
We as affiliate marketers, sing the praises about folks that have grown the profile of our industry – the white hats, if you will – the ones who have cultivated their businesses by being innovative and by doing the right thing. Yet, I don't believe we spend as much time working on ways to shut down the ones that give affiliate marketing a bad name.
If you were an attendee and peeked into your Attendee Guide, you will see that Shawn and I (interviewed separately) still believe that the largest obstacle to the growth of affiliate marketing is the fact that we are unable to squash the black hats who still continue to piss on our reputation and feed the opinions like the one that Jason has about us.
But, is his way of thinking a way in which I want to live my life? Absolutely not.
He’s got that typical 30-something Silicon Valley attitude. I dated guys like him.. zzzz. Boring. Dude wants to own gazillion dollar companies, where I’m at my happiest working for myself, making a comfortable living, hanging out with my kids, going to the gym when I want, and goofing off on AIM with the rest of my affiliate marketing friends. He wants to pay hundreds of people, have huge infrastructures, deal with investors and all that crap. I’m happy with my 800-foot commute where the only things I worry about is whether I can find a pen on my cluttered desk and whether my dog will get off my lap in enough time for me to answer my phone.
I've been where Jason is. I once spent a lifetime there during my 20's and 30's and as G-d is my witness, there is no amount of money or fame that would ever send me back to that hell again. There is no pricetag for the peace and freedom that affiliates have and cherish. Maybe when he grows a little older, he'll realize that.
While I didn’t agree with his delivery, there were pearls of wisdom and shining moments in his gig. I did relish in the fact that he recognizes that affiliate marketers are likely the smartest marketers around. (For the folks who are still letting me know that they felt that Jason was degrading an entire industry, I urge you to re-listen to his schpiel if you still feel that way.)
That said, there’s a whole lot of things we can teach him if he sticks around – and it looks like he is given the fact that I’ve seen him post several comments on blogs and forums including ABestWeb. I give him props for this. He could have simply cleaned his pipes and ran. After all, he doesn’t owe us anything.
So here it is in a nutshell. As an industry, I refuse to let Calacanis view this as a case of Hit Dog, Hollar. Let’s use his comments (although somewhat skewed based on his admitted ignorance of the industry as a whole), to motivate us into doing better and continue to grow this former red-headed-step-child of the online advertising industry to the Prom Queen that it can be.
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