The fact that she allegedly has gotten away with the simplest of social engineering tactics against a group that most likely thinks of themselves as at least smarter than average, was fairly interesting to me. It shows how easy and effective social engineering can be, even by someone as young as Shirley Hofnstein.
All the author appears to write is that they don't like the fact that Techcrunch wrote an article about their friend. It appears that the author of the above article doesn't even defend Shirley Hornstein, which leads me to believe that she was in fact guilty of these acts of social engineering.
If that's the case, then it seems like a decent bit of journalism to me. Do I think it's a huge crime? No, it's not like she pulled off a Madoff scam. But was it an interesting article? Yes, and it really points to the fact that we all need to keep on our toes.
Techcrunch was founded and run by a douchebag - thus douchebaggery is in its DNA.
Gawker is also owned and/or staffed by douchebags like Nick Denton and Adrian Chen.
It's funny how much Gawker and Adrien in particular have slagged on 'content farms', when in fact they engage in the same SEO game they pretend to be offended by. Check out how many times the phrase 'Silicon Valley' is used in this journalistic gem.
( my grep showed 6 counts of 'silicon valley' in the headline + article, with a bonus 'valley' mention. )
I wanted to see TC as some sort of redemption for this guy, a stepping away from the sort of douchebaggery he was doing previously. But, after watching TC for a number of years, it clearly was a progression to an even more potent form of sleaze. If people are using underhanded tactics with TC, then I can only conclude that they've succeeded in attracting the very same type of people which they are themselves (excluding anyone working there who is naive and unaware).
discredit the facts in the story, not the guy who hired the guy who used to run the site or whatever
That is why we are referring to the DNA of the company...
Meaning that its founder's character sets the tone for the future of the company...
This is fact, as founders hire people whom they believe will carry on the traits they themselves want to instill in the company...
Arrington, while successful, is a farking douchebag.
The whole of techcrunch has followed this from the sensationalism, to the lack of proof/editing, to the very fanboi-ism and game mechanics they have attempted to apply to the stories they write.
I rarely frequent TC - when I do, I find typos and grammar mistakes pretty much in every story I see.
I think the site is a joke, and the egos abound.
Do they get good scoops, sure they do - but they are CONSTANTLY offered excellent opportunity only to fumble and look like fools -- the sad part of that is that too few people actually notice and even fewer hold them to account!
TC is successful - but they really should not be.
Otherwise I have much less respect for the professionalism of your outfit.
How can I take the authors on that site serious when they themselves can't even bother to read the crap they produce.
Consider me voluntarily opted out from that nonsense. Please call me on my crap, you do not have to be perfect yourself to do so.
Well, Techcrunch didn't use this principle before writing their little piece yesterday, did they?
You get what you put in.
What I find interesting about this exchange (the original TC article and Lanewood's response) is the message "don't do this because it hurts."
Yes, it does. But my experience is that pain is a signal you listen to, it's one of those things that says "stop doing what you are doing." It is a corrective force.
Making exaggerated claims about your influence or connections or importance to folks is wrong. It is wrong because it abuses the trust the other person put into the person lying, which then causes great hurt and shame when they realize they have been "duped" or "fooled" or "lied to". Calling someone on it, is hurtful too, but its important to do as well. That pain going the other way is a signal to moderate behavior, or change it.
So this conversation is "Shirley is a liar" / "You shouldn't do that because it hurts her feelings" seems to want to shut down a force working for good, which is better behavior.
I know I would love it if people were more honest about themselves, but I also know that some folks have convinced themselves that their own self worth is tied up in how influential they perceive themselves to be. Thus exaggerating that influence is like make-up, or fancy bling, its a crutch to prop up their self image.
I think there is pain on both sides of this conversation, at least a couple of kilo-snarks. If it helps someone to become a better person, its beneficial. But if they don't have the mental tools to process it they can (and sometimes do) become simply depressed by it. I don't think either party in this conversation represented themselves particularly well. If Shirley is young now would be a good time to come to grips with the way she presents herself. TC should work at doing better at informing rather than blaming (it did read like it came right out of Valleywag). Continuing acting this way on both parties will only hurt them going forward.
That said, I wanted to contrast the HN reaction to this story with the HN reaction to the kid who slept at AOL. I figure in both cases we're talking about someone who did something deceptive and wrong in the supposed name of entrepreneurial hustle. The AOL kid actually went as far as breaking the law, while it's not clear this girl did at all.
In the AOL kid's article you wrote:
"However for a potential investor this is a great demonstration of how committed someone is to their idea, and their passion. I don't doubt for a moment that Eric will be successful at what ever he sets out to do, you can't buy that kind of focus."
( http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4019755 )
Then went on to at least play devil's advocate to the commenter who called it an 'ethical failure'.
Honestly not trying to call you hypocritical here.. I'm genuinely curious what gives the AOL kid 'moxie' while the girl that plays up her relationships with folks is less admirable.
I see it as 'who is being scammed' and what is the harm done.
Now in the kid's case he did use AOL resources which, had he not, they would have been used on AOL employees (thinking mostly food here, the energy/light/water usage is probably flat rate like it is in my facilities). He did not do monetary damage to AOL, nor reputational damage (he didn't represent his work as being part of AOL or represent himself as an AOL representative to potential partners or investors).
In Shirley's case she allegedly convinced some people she would be able to connect them with potential investors or advisers when in fact she could not. For a startup founder that can make them think there is some additional outreach going on that isn't. If the founder feels like outreach is critical to the startups ability to succeed and they find they have squandered time, their most precious resource, with this person who couldn't deliver then I could see them feel betrayed. If you hire (and pay) a PR firm to get your message out and they say they can get you into the New York Times or Inc or whatever and it turns out they can't and never could, you may be inclined to not pay them (and possibly sue them if you had already paid them).
So one is 'freeloading' (the kids case) and one is fraud (Shirley's case). I see it as the difference between saying you have a million dollars in your checking account when you don't, versus writing a check for a million dollars when you don't have it. Shopping yourself into photos feels more like the latter to me, but unless you're actually paying for her services your not financially harmed.
I think asking the hypocrisy question is completely valid. Where does this behavior cross the line from 'white lie' into 'fraud'?
In my post I really was commenting on people trying suppress conversation that is painful through peer pressure. Conflict avoidance is a huge problem in society, it lets problems grow into bigger problems. I was not particularly passing judgement on Shirley's actions, although in all honestly when I read the TC article I did feel sympathy for the folks who were misled, and I didn't feel nearly as much angst for the AOL folks who didn't realize the guy was living in their office.
The kid's motivations were pretty clear, do you happen to have any insights into Shirleys? I'll admit I accepted the implication that she does this just to prop up her own self image, but recognize that conclusion isn't completely supported by what we know. Motive does play a huge part in how the two stories get positioned.
(This comes back to my comment in that previous thread : When evaluating a series of events involving grey areas its always useful to try to understand the principles that are in play. Different sets of principles would lead you down two different paths.)
Don't make lazy shallow hiring decisions, and don't make "meeting the right people" the key to your business plan, and this is never a problem for you.
Regardless though, all businesses should think long and hard about hires, not just hire pointless people because they give the impression they know everyone in town.
The world is full of injustices, but I'd rather try my luck with those injustices than have to write consulting cheques to people who's bankable asset is how shamelessly they brag about who they party with.
The thing about fashion is that its a perception thing and hard to control. And unfortunately technology has developed a wing in the fashion district.
So how does a fashion get 'launched' ? How does a certain look become 'the look' or a certain hairstyle become 'the hairstyle' ? The answer is that highly influential individuals endorse it through words or actions. The fashion designers know that the influencers in their sphere will have a huge impact on whether or not they are successful, so they court the influencers. the influencers get courted by everyone so they have high barriers to access. And in that mix emerges 'the connector' who is a person who can get a fashion designer 'access' to the influencers who they think will be key to making their designs successful.
Not an area that comes easily to many deeply technical people, perhaps less so as a population than the more general population. So knowing someone who can get your product in front of, and used by, one of these key people can be the difference between nobody ever using your product and everyone using it. Simple example, take the top 100 people on Twitter and get them to move enmasse to identi.ca, their followers will follow to see where their influencers have gone, at that point identi.ca is a credible threat to Twitter's dominance.
The key is that there aren't any technical or product related challenges that identi.ca doesn't match, it's just not fashionable.
That said, maybe I'm full of it. The thread about the AOL kid was actually really awesomely balanced and there were plenty of reactions on both sides of the aisle. I might be attributing a tendency to the HN community that doesn't exist. My memory's not good enough to be trusted, frankly.
now. there is a difference between those two articles.
just ask yourself: who would i invest in? the guy deceiving to work more, or the guy working to deceive more? no contest.
I think the reason I left it in is because lots of lots of people do make that correlation, and I was asking a question about other people's opinions, not mine. It's frankly surprising (sadly) when folks don't equate law and ethics so I was surprised at the contrast here.
It wasn't meant to suggest that I find the two tied together, or that I think you should.
As for your question, I have no idea who I would invest in (assuming I was forced to choose one of them, which would be necessary since I'm pretty sure I'd like not to invest in either). I have no idea what interesting things Shirley might be up to. All I have to go on is one techcrunch article for each of them, with obviously diametrically opposed editorial agendas... which is kind of my point.
"she has the top media company in the tech industry trying to take her down."
Oh please, she blatantly lied many times about many things to high profile people. That is a story and its going to get written about by someone whether its Techcrunch or someone else.
Who did she lie to? What was the lie? Was it a lie or just an exaggeration?
The TC article mentions Founders Fund a bunch, and not much else.
I'll sum up the article:
"This random girl lied about being affiliated with Founders Fund but it's unclear who she lied to exactly. We're going to beat this horse to death and here's some Photoshopped photos of her with famous people that could be innocent but we're not real journalists here so we'll make an implication and let you draw your own conclusion thus getting us off the hook for doing any real journalism"
That's how that piece should have read. Whether she's guilty or not this article is a steaming pile. I wonder if this was ordered by Founders Fund itself. (See what I did there? I asked the question and now you get to go all conspiracy theory with that while I get to say I never made that accusation... Kind of like this article)
We have no idea where those photos are from, or what she claimed when she posted them, or even if she was the one who photoshopped them, or a friend did or a stranger. There's no context to them, and no claims in the article that she ever said "I met Justin Timberlake". It's just innuendo even having them there.
It does seem like she does hang out with some famous people, as her Twitpic has pics of Rick Fox, Jack Dorsey, and others sitting around in casual contexts. Couldn't find the photoshopped pics though.
If someone turns up saying "I invested in dropbox, I know Justin Timberlake, I worked at Founders Fund." and you say "Ok then, welcome aboard" because of that, then you're a dickhead.
I appreciated the article as an interesting case study.
This is the sad side of the products we are helping to create as engineers at Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc...
Join a start up and it fails horribly? Turn around and join a big corp, no cares if you didn't make a dime during that time.
Lying blatantly about everything to everyone until they find out is not in the same league as checking 4chan during work. Which is hardly a fireable offense imo.
It's a point I personally know all too well. I was fired from a journalism job a year ago; my boss accused me of looking at pornography at work. (I argue that "looked at porn" and "looked at 4chan", are vastly different, and intent is an important factor. I didn't think I was doing anything wrong.) I'm 31, and in this market, as someone who worked my way into a "producer" role without a degree? It's an employer's market. Even after a year of job hunting, people hear that story, and the conversation goes silent. There's plenty of people they can choose from with no discernable "problems" in their past.
It seems my choices are "go into marketing, despite how you feel about hocking clients you hate", or "work two mediocre jobs of low wage". One drove me crazy, two isn't great.
And I'm not trying to make a sob story out of this; I went to a website my employer didn't like. I'm not going to lie about that, I learned a lesson is all. I'm just trying to drive the point home. If you make a single "mistake," that may be all it takes.
Bankruptcy laws don't hide your bankruptcy. In fact it becomes public information indefinitely. They just let you reset financially.
This woman has every opportunity in the world to pick herself up and make a new career, or even keep going in the career she's in now. All she has to do is reset herself to reality. If she's been lying about her connections, she needs to stop lying and work her way up through the industry the right way--with work and dedication. Someone will give her a chance but she needs to learn from this shaming.
edit to fix bad phrasing
There are a ton of companies that do good work unrelated to scraping big data for personal information.
That such deceptive operators can show up anywhere (and especially in a young/dynamic community) is important to know, and it can only be vividly demonstrated with tangible and current examples.
And specifically, enough people were affected by this person's claims, leaving enough of a reportable trail, that a story warning others and documenting the modus operandi could be true, well-sourced, interesting, and useful for TC's readership.
Was it a joke between friends, or an actual attempt to defraud people. Who knows? The article certainly didn't offer any evidence either way.
Speak for yourself.
Thou protests too much.
Again, fuck you speak for yourself.
A bit self-serving, aren't we?
And I can't stand TechCrunch.
> This is the story that no one was writing. Amazing work Anthony Ha.
is his life in danger? is she some high power person that can destroy Anthony Ha's career? No... she's a person that lies...
Alexia's comment is just a reminder about the article's high quality.
I actively avoid visiting links to TechCrunch. Because the people who work there are a poor excuses for journalists - which is why it will forever be to my mind 'just a blog'.
TIL People still read Techcrunch.
The people she was claiming to know are big boys/girls. This should have been handled socially in the valley.
But someone photoshopping themselves into pics with celebs probably has some psychological issues (at the very least self-esteem issues). They're not a threat to anyone. A few stern words from the right people could nip this sort of thing in the bud.
Such a disappointing article from TC - and there have been many in recent months.
Exactly this. There was no point to the story. Sure, I'll buy that the lady is a headcase/creeper or whatever. But that's it? No real crimes detailed or list of people screwed over? It was just a finger-pointing "hate this person right here" piece.
Cyberbullying doesn't just happen to kids.
>What if she's mentally ill?
Not all dishonest people are mentally ill.
> Her being exposed will deter other would-be parasites.
I don't think this is how it works. I think the parasite or pathological liar or con man will always think they're smarter than that last person who got caught, if they even consider that person at all. They're probably just "playing the game", right?
It really seems like a bunch of people got together one night and came to the conclusion that they don't like this woman and one those people said "Hey, I'm a TC writer. I can write an article about all this Silicon Valley phoney and we can all have a laugh about it tomorrow!"
Do I agree Shirley Hornstein told some blatant lies? Yes. Do I think that these falsehoods deserve a front page article? No.
Besides, "Everyone lies" -House
"Sometimes it was mostly just embarrassing, in other cases reputations or deals had been affected by the deception."
However, they don't show what deals and reputations had been affected.
TechCrunch is TMZ for Silicon Valley.
In fact, I'd bet very few inside the valley care.
Let's stipulate to the fact that it's not okay to lie about yourself to get a gig, even if you think it's harmless and you'll make up for it in work. I thought it was right that the Yahoo! CEO was fired for that stuff. I've never lied on a resume, never would.
But what we have here is a nobody, who's probably got a bit of a problem. That problem is exacerbated by the bullshit celebrity culture TechCrunch tries to build around our industry. It's the bullshit attitude displayed by a ton of the current incubator ducklings, who follow their angels around in awe like momma duck, while convincing themselves they're starring the fantasy version of Silicon Valley they saw in the Social Network. TechCrunch is among the worst offenders creating this problem.
If we're going to be honest about it, there are plenty of folks - and we don't need to get ugly and name names but if you're around the industry you bump into these people - who call themselves Tech Journalists who are little more than exaggerators, fabricators and bullshit artists who have NEVER CREATED ANYTHING OF VALUE themselves, never created a job, never taken the risk. Just the role of the critic. Never the man in the arena. So it's a bit rich them all ganging up on this unfortunate person who tied herself up in knots and exaggerations leading to great embarrassment.
(Try going to any event full of tech journalists from these blogs and wait till they get a bit drunk and listen to the boasts and stories and thoroughly inappropriate behavior.)
But I have NO sympathy for any startup that works with someone without doing the most basic of background checks which would immediately expose lies and exaggerations. The valley is full of people who overstate things and word gets around pretty quickly. You can often see the smoke and smell the charcoal from burning bridges from a long distance, and way after the fact. No public interest is served by tarring and feathering a nobody for entertainment purposes under the guise of investigative journalism.
The way this story is written you'd think they'd uncovered Carlos the Jackal, cracked a terrorist ring, discovered the whereabouts of Nazi war criminals. It is pathetic and mean spirited.
I keep hoping TechCrunch will recapture what once made it a must-read, but I'm increasingly saddened by the reality that it won't happen. As I've posted elsewhere, it's a serious thing that we do here in Silicon Valley, building companies, taking risks. We often spend large sums of other people's money. We commit our lives and those of our loved ones to the endeavor. Sure we can have fun. But we cannot run the industry like a school yard and we deserve more from our media outlets than mean-spirited gossip.
I still stand by the opinion that folks like TechCrunch are as responsible for creating this phenomenon as for exposing it. However it's clearer why it seems to have become so personal for TC folks: "The fact that Ms. Hornstein’s roommate was TechCrunch community manager Elin Blesener also helped “legitimize her,” the same investor added."
Still, I think this story should be left behind, let authorities deal with any genuine harmful fraud. Let those taken in learn from this and realize that extraordinary claims should be fact checked and one shouldn't let one's desire to feel special and connected trump common sense and basic background checks.
Tirade? Fair enough. Got a bit carried away. Why not? This stuff pisses me off. It's ridiculous that industry coverage has fallen towards the TMZ level over the last few years. I know for some reason I don't understand Arrington isn't popular around here, but when he ran TechCrunch it was must read stuff. Scoops were mostly real, and of some value. He personally wrote well, and held others to the same standard. Even post acquisition TC still puts on great events, and there's a lot to like. That's why it's so frustrating.
Startups? Not really, the specific blog in question isn't a startup - it was sold to a large corporation and its current focus is page views at any cost.
There's still good writing out there. There are tech journalists who I eagerly read everything they write, because it's well written and thought out. There are probably some I don't read because the style is not for me, but I'm sure they're great. However, there is also a parasitic element, feeding off the energy of the startups they purport to cover, having little appreciation of much of what startups do, or even the underlying technology they're writing about.
It's one thing to have people skills, and use it as a lever to add benefit and value to this world. The Shirley's of this world deserve zero sympathy.
That being said, the TechCrunch article wasn't as articulate as it should have been. At the very least, context should have been provided for these pictures.
So I'm supposed to somehow trust someone's company that's trying to be some fake Silicon Valley star effer? I dunno man. Maybe she has the best social kitten mashup ever but I can't imagine if I had a million dollars to invest that I'd let this one anywhere near it.
I would never go there outside of HN posts, but it's really amusing to see how self-important a bunch of hipster bloggers can be when writing about people doing actual work.
The puff pieces that they run as the majority of what is published, those are pretty funny. It's the slag pieces that are most entertaining.
The advantage of her outing herself would be that it would be far less damaging and considering people love those that seek a sort of penance, something positive would have come out of her outing post.
It is not too late though. She should write, ask for forgiveness, NOT blame TechCrunch for her woes and move on. Everyone loves a comeback stor so this might end up having a positive outcome if told well.
Ironically, I did not read the post the first time I came across it. This post brought far more attention than the original one.
So, I might be a little prejudiced against TC right now, but even with that, I think the original article about Shirley Hofnstein was really mean spirited.
In any case, I usually do my web browsing on my iPad so I am not reading TechCrunch anymore anyway.
If only more con artists got destroyed like this in public, the world would be a better place for sure.
TechCrunch isn't anything close to a "top media company." TC is a shitty blog run by a bunch of amateurs who should be lucky enough to be referred to as "wannabe journalists." TC exists to whore for page impressions and ad clicks, nothing more. The best thing to do is pretend they don't exist... quit reading TC, quit sending them "news", quit responding to their bullshit, etc.
Here, I'm referring more to quality / journalistic standards / ethics / etc, than readership. And even in terms of readership, I doubt TC can touch actual mainstream media outlets in terms of eyeballs.
Thats a really good idea!
TechCrunch essentially is TMZ.
She's apparently the bane (or Bain) of the Republicans now