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Interview with Daniel Brusilovsky, The Writer That TechCrunch Terminated (mixergy.com)
47 points by AndrewWarner 2035 days ago | 27 comments



Moments worth pointing out:

1. Early in the interview Daniel admits that he even published his first story without approval from TechCrunch editors.

I spent almost three years writing for The Escapist (http://escapistmagazine) and started when I was 16. When it came to writing and researching, I was given free reign. However, when it came to PUBLISHING, it was made pretty clear that an editor would have to vet the story before it was released. Editors would prefer that I call them on weekends and at least give them a heads up on the situation before releasing a story.

We might've differed from TechCrunch in that we strove for quality as opposed to breaking news. Point being that the Escapist editorial system worked very well, with everyone knowing the content going onto the site.

2. TechCrunch didn't have Daniel sign any paperwork or give him a title when he joined as an intern in June 2009.

3. In general, Daniel does provide a really good insight into how TechCrunch operates: management structure, the editorial process, etc.

4. Admits he doesn't really have any technical background.

5. Says the company involved was one that TechCrunch had covered multiple times before.

6. Says he never received the Macbook Air and the type of post the company requested was never written.

7. Says he has not extorted companies for products, but received products from Intel for an unrelated project he was involved with that he discusses on his blog.

8. The evidence used against him were joking IMs and emails.

9. Received an iMac from a friend who works at a tech company as a thank you for making an introduction to another company, not for TechCrunch posts. Then later wrote about one of the companies that was involved in a big legal discussion with Apple (iPod Rip).

10. Advice Daniel received from Mike Arrington the night before Teens in Tech (Daniel's conference): Neither party wants to have a public fight about this.

This was another quality Mixergy interview revealing Daniel's side of the story and more details about a still mysterious topic. The entire interview is worth viewing.

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8. The evidence used against him were joking IMs and emails.

Has the "I was only joking" defense ever worked?

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I think I believe him, actually. Or rather, I believe that he didn't seriously mean to trade a post for an Air. It looks to me like he just didn't have the experience to realize that you have to be careful when you're joking about an ethical violation. I'd like to believe the conversation went something like: "We have this new product coming out. Could you write it up?" `Hm. I don't know, I have a bunch of posts I'm currently work on, not sure if I can take on another for a few days.` "Is there anything we can do to change your mind?" `How about a <pie in the sky request>?`

For a 17-year-old (even a fairly-well-connected one) an Air is a pie in the sky request. If he had asked for a nugget of platinum or an Oscar, it would have been obvious that he was joking. As it was, he (probably) asked for something that to him WAS obviously joking, but to most of us is an easily-attainable object; that inequity easily leads to the current situation.

I'm not saying that's how it happened (also: I have no inside information or anything) but this is why I'm not prepared to burn the kid at the stake for it. A lack of experience led to a critical mistake; one that I don't think he'll make again. It sucks for him that his mistake is so public, but that's that's the way it goes.

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I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt since he's so young and seems to generally have a good head on his shoulders, but a MP Air is definitely not pie in the sky, especially for those in the tech industry. Had he said a Porsche, that may have been entering the "joking" territory, but even then, it's hard to say for sure. From his posts and tweets, he seems like a smart, savvy, mature-beyond-his-years reporter and should've known better than to insinuate, even jokingly, that his coverage could be bought.

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If the IM conversations looked like he was joking, would they fire him and also go public with it? I'm not sure.

I've learned from painful experience that my discomfort with lying is not necessarily a good mental model for how other people feel about lying--some have no compunction at all, especially when self-interest is involved, so I'm slow to give the benefit of the doubt.

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Don't know. It's right up there with pleading insanity and the 5th amendment.

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And one can also deduct that the event took place not too long ago since he said "people think I've been playing around with my Macbook Air for weeks now" (or something along those lines).

Beginning of January sounds good :)

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Daniel stressed the fact that he never actually received the MacBook Air and he seems to be under the impression that opinions will sway in his favor once people realize this. I don't think he realizes that just because he never received the payout doesn't excuse him from asking for it in the first place (whether he was joking or not). Despite all of that, I don't think this kid is going to be too impacted by all of this in the long run. Life goes on. Someone will accuse Mahalo of more SEO trickery and all of this will be a thing of the past.

I think the bigger story here is that he gets to have late night IM sessions with Woz. I'm jealous!

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To be fair though..

in June 2009 I was brought in as the Events and Business Development Intern. So I wasn’t hired as a writing intern. I started writing for TechCrunch by accident, actually. And it’s an interesting story. I was up at 2 AM and none of the other writers were up and a story broke about the iPhone 3GS Jailbreak and no one else was up and it was a breaking story, so I took a huge risk and I hit the publish button.

This guy is a risk taker. That includes good risks like the above, but also stupid risks like trying to roll some payola. Most risk takers who go on to become big successes make some stupid and unethical ones..

If Daniel can learn from this and restrict his "stupid"/reputation-breaking risks to his youth, he could go far with his can-do, proactive attitude. Even with this little payola scheme, he's still contributing a lot more to the world than the average 17 year old kid eating junk food and playing Xbox all weekend.

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He was eating junk food and poring over the MacBook Air tech specs.

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I find this refreshing about Andrew:

"I didn't want to do a confrontational interview where I'd either come down hard on him or slam TechCrunch. That's not me. I want to help build people up, not tear them down."

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I think it's the reason why he has built such a following. He's a truth-seeker. He seems to be 100% focussed on finding what can be learned from an interviewee. In the media environment that he is surrounded by, it's a rare thing for someone to be indifferent to hype and scandal.

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Am i the only one who found this whole thing kind of depressing? this kid is 17, right? he's very impressive, but talking already about how he lives a 24/7 lifestyle and brings a laptop with him on vacation? he sounds like he's about 35. i hope one day he gets in touch a little more with himself or he's just going to come across like an ass, not a wunderkind.

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Ethics and compliance is a huge topic in bigger companies for a good reason. Cool hip web start-ups shouldn't forget that it applies to them as well and giving a 17yr old some ethics training before letting him write on a blog that makes and breaks businesses seems logical.

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Under no circumstances does a post on TechCrunch 'make or break' a business.

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I don't know about breaking. But it can definitely make a business.

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Schonfeld sure gave it the old college try at sticking it to Last.fm.

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If a business completely relies on getting a post on TechCrunch for distribution then that's a serious problem. There are plenty of other blogs and news sites, not to mention other ways of getting a message out.

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LOL. At about 37 minutes in Daniel answers a phone call from his Mom. Pretty rude to the interviewer but hilarious as well.

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True. Though as it turns out she was actually helping him organize the conference which was due to be on the next day. (The Interview must be from Friday)

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Daniel is such a good kid, and I've been waiting for a few days to hear his side of the story. I can't imagine him extorting a fruit fly.

What I can't imagine is why he doesn't just publish the damn chat logs already - or at least excerpts. He's someone I would have loved to work with, and I very much want to trust him.

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Sorry, but I can't believe that he is not even owning up to his mistake. And becoming a celebrity for it, too. Is this like Hip Hop, where we admire the gangsters? Or is it because everybody hates Techcrunch so much that they simply want to root for the other guy?

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What would it take for you guys at RWW to give him that second chance? Sounds like chat logs (as long as you believe they're not fake).

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I don't know - that would be up to Richard.

Personally, if I were starting my own tech blog, I think he'd be a fine person to have on the team because he's so multitalented. He'd make a great business partnerships coordinator and events coordinator.

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The transcript is now about 95% so I posted it.

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Andrew I was really glad to read even a transcript that remains in the objective realm. Looking on twitter there are folks ready with flaming torches and pitchforks. I'm not getting into the issue of what was done or not done rather how experienced adults are so fast to judge someone young and clearly in need of guidance and mentoring.

Arrington's apology on techcrunch itself was obviously heartfelt and sincere (if not shocked) still well done for staying amongst the cool headed on this.

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this made me laugh when I saw the headline. Very shrewd move by Andrew Warner, well done.

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