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TechCrunch is a bully (lanewood.me)
202 points by asanwal on Aug 30, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 110 comments

I have no real interest in either side of this story, and Techcrunch isn't really on my rolodex of sites to read from. That being said, I don't think the original Techcrunch article was being a bully at all.

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.

While I agree with your not being on a side - my personal opinion is this:

Techcrunch was founded and run by a douchebag - thus douchebaggery is in its DNA.

Furthermore, other sites jumping on this story are just as lame.

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. )

Unfortunately this is true. I'm not sure all that many people know where the founder came from, i.e., the type of stuff he was doing before TechCrunch, and the company he worked for - a company responsible for a very large portion of some of the purest douchbaggery to be found anywhere on the web. The lowest of the low. They do some very dirty work. I'd even guess there are "innocent" people working at TC who do not know the history.

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).

what the hell.. this thread is certainly being derailed very quickly.

discredit the facts in the story, not the guy who hired the guy who used to run the site or whatever

"...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.

Of course there are people working at TC who are not douchebags. Just like there are probably people working at Pool who are not douchebags. But these are not the founders the company nor those who are responsible for setting the standards and the course for the company.

Maybe good scoops are more important than good spelling and grammar.

That's ridiculous. When you are a tech news publication ostensibly worth millions, I, as a reader, have an expectation of editing and proof reading.

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.

Im sorry, but this is ridiculously unfair. Dont judge a company by what just one person in it has done. Everyone has made mistakes. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

That phrase really is not universalizable at all. Where would we all be if nobody called out anybody else for anything?

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.

> Everyone has made mistakes. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Well, Techcrunch didn't use this principle before writing their little piece yesterday, did they?

You get what you put in.


It's not even news. The sole purpose of TC is to get traffic for web apps that Arrington and other insiders have a personal stake in.

And the sole purpose of this site is...

As I recently learned to my cost, it doesn't matter how smart you think you are, you can and probably will be deceived by someone eventually.

I'd like your leave to go a bit meta here, hope you don't mind.

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.

So, first off I don't give a fuck about the story, or the counter story, or people who photoshop themselves with celebrities, or people who care about whether people really know celebrities, or techcrunch.

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.

That is a completely fair point. What is the difference?

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.)

Wildly lucid and I imagine if I'd reflected on the topic for longer this line of thinking may have occurred to me. I really appreciate you spelling out your thought process for both.

This comment branch is proof that all is not lost on HN. Thanks for being 'Good Guy Gregs' in the comments.


Leaving aside the fraud question, my gut says if you hire someone as a consultant because you saw them in a bunch of photos with celebrities, or because you heard they went to xyz corporate parties, you deserve what happens.

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.

How naive and self-righteous. Such people "deserve" to be defrauded? Because they acknowledged the reality that funding often depends more on who you know than the merits of your product, and tried to work around it and get on with what they actually wanted to do rather than getting sidetracked on all the little injustices of the world? Because you consider the funded model of starting a business to be fundamentally invalid or immoral, never mind all the evidence of the last three centuries?

I agree it's self righteous, but yeah, basically. Most businesses in the world focus on products, customers and profitability, not trendy lines of funding (and the non-tech "startup" scene has notably better rates of success - no googles, just honest businesses that do useful things for more money than they spend).

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.

I think it is a fair point that many businesses focus on products, however it is also important to consider that many of those products have a 'fashion' aspect to them, which is to say they are potential 'fads.' Perhaps the poster child for such a business was the "Pet rock" business in the 70's where the 'product' was a rock in a nice package mocking practice of attempting to create a special identity around toys. It was also a fad, and came and went fairly quickly.

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.

The 'ol if you can't beat 'em, join 'em argument, eh? Look where that logic has taken our society. Look at the state of our politics.

May be its just too personal when you manipulate people ? As I remember, that kid was using his already expired id card to use the premises not lying outright that he is an employee to everyone.

I don't buy this. None of the specific instances are coming to mind, but I feel like we get stories that come across about folks pulling cheeky (read: manipulative put through a 'cute-hustle' lense) stunts in the name of getting up, and I think HN generally sees those 'outside the box' efforts favorably.

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.

using legality as an ethical corollary doesn't really cut it for me. you're invoking "the worst argument in the world" as seen here on hn.


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.

You're absolutely right. Inferring legality==ethical is a fallacy and distraction. I got a bit of a twinge when writing that bit.

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.

Are you really a famous actress? If so, I would like you be a cofounder in my startup.

No. I feel like we both probably dodged a bullet here.

I'm pretty sure if you misrepresent yourself that blatantly time and time again you deserve what is coming to you.

"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.

What am I missing? What do you know that you're not saying? I can't find anything in the original TC article that said "she blatantly lied many times about many things to high profile people".

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.

So, photoshopping yourself into pictures with several different people is "an exaggeration" to you?

That's the thing! This article is incredibly shallow and manipulative. I have no doubt this girl lied about being affiliated with Founders Fund but that's all the article says. The article never says that the purpose of the photoshopped photos was to mislead. It just puts them out there and tempts you to draw your own conclusion from the biased context. People Photoshop themselves next famous people. All the time. It's all in good fun. I'm not saying she's innocent but what I am saying is that this article was lazy and really does belong on TMZ.

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)

Its certainly not "lying many times to many different powerful people" and deserving a big TC article. I once photoshopped a friend of mine next to George Clooney as a joke - where's my TC 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.

I remember an HP commercial where the main character photoshops himself into photos with multiple celebrities and locations. I would guess its fairly common fun for some people. Using those in a non-fun context would be bad, but the article is obtuse on the point.

If she had only photoshopped herself into a picture with one person, I would have been more inclined to see it as malice. This is because it would have been more believable that she was trying to mislead people in power. With several different people I get the idea she was trying to mislead only gullible people. This is scandalous in a Hollywood sort of way. Some people think it's awful that Silicon Valley has gone this way, but I gave up worrying about Silicon Valley culture a long time ago. I'm not a fan of this type of behavior but neither do I appreciate a tabloid getting indignant about something that's so unsurprising.

That's my thought. I have no time for people who bullshit and lie. I've been burned before. But that's my fault for not doing due diligence. I just don't think that a TC article was really called for for a nobody. Not unless you're going to provide more context than was in the story. I mean it's hard to care either way, but I certainly felt rubbed the wrong way by the tone of the TC article and the subject matter - attacking an individual publicly when as far as I can see no serious harm was done. She needs help, I'll agree to that, but I doubt this kind of thing will prod her to get it.

Tend to think the issue here is that start-ups are putting funds into hiring random people because they think it will help them suck up to celebrities and pseudo-celebrity investors, instead of concentrating on building worthwhile products.

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 thought it was mentioned many startups paid for her contracting services because of her so called connections. as far as I'm concerned thats fraud.

Name one that says they were defrauded? And shouldn't they be suing over that? More innuendo not backed up by any proof in the article. Not even one quote from anonymous CEOs to be had.

well im not sure what the details are but isn't founders fund bringing her to trial for something ?

Clearly there is a gradient of people and how much misinformation they spread around themselves. Few never lie, some will occasionally slip a word here and there to exaggerate a truth, some will lie from time to time about small things, and then waaaaaay on the other side of this gradient there is photoshopping yourself into pictures with famous public figures and similar tactics described in the article. Of course we are not all saints, but based on the outcry most people (myself included) agree that there is a line that was crossed here.

I appreciated the article as an interesting case study.

America has always been a land where you could fail, then pick yourself up. You could move west in search of a new beginning and a new identity. You could go bankrupt, then start over, and eventually fail your way to success and a better life. There is no longer a place to hide or run away to. There is no way to re-invent yourself and start over. The foolish crimes of our youths are now a permanent part of who we are. For the rest of our lives and likely eternity.

This is the sad side of the products we are helping to create as engineers at Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc...

I think there is a clear distinction between failing and lying then being exposed.

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.

I'm not sure what point you're making. If it's that Facebook, Google, Twitter are making it harder for confidence tricksters to move on and repeat their lies when they've been rumbled - I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

I think the point isn't that it's harder for grifters, but that it's harder for everyone. Even people who genuinely think they're playing the game, and have made statements too far, lies, or even genuine mistakes. Before, they could say "Wow, I guess I was wrong. I've learned my lesson." and try to be better. Now, they're branded, and must suffer, forever.

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.

Picking yourself up in America has never been about hiding your past. Think no one remembers the past of G Gordon Liddy? Ollie North? Jack Abramoff? Robert Downie Jr.?

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

If you don't like the surveillance culture, don't work at a place that accelerates it.

There are a ton of companies that do good work unrelated to scraping big data for personal information.

I'm no TC fan, but it was a fair subject and story.

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.

Listen, this just proves that TC is a gossip rag, but, you're going to defend someone who is literally Photoshopping themselves into photos with celebrities and claiming that they're real?


If you'll notice the article never mentioned any context for the pictures, just kind of put them out there for the reader to draw conclusions.

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.

"Most of us are not as big of a deal that we convey that we are. 99% of the industry is guilty."


  Speak for yourself.

  Thou protests too much.
"I’ll admit it. But so have you."

  Again, fuck you speak for yourself.

  A bit self-serving, aren't we?

  And I can't stand TechCrunch.

The thing I don't get about the techcrunch article is in the comments Alexia Tsotsis wrote:

> 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...

I don't understand why a co-editor of TechCrunch would ever write "this is the story that no one was writing". Er, if you were wanting someone to write it, why didn't you commission them to write it already? That's surely your job!?!

Well yes, we are all very fortunate that TC can figuratively pat itself on the back for such groundbreaking journalism.

Alexia's comment is just a reminder about the article's high quality.

you'd be surprised how powerful fake connections can be

Enough people still read TC to where it can be considered a bully? I'm being completely serious. It's been a long time since I paid attention to anything that was written on TechCrunch and it's been even longer since the thing I paid attention to was anything remotely sensible or interesting.

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'.

TC's world is people who have to look up what "BBS" means every time it comes up, both employees and readers.

I was going to make my own top level comment, but this seems relevant, so I'll put it below yours:

TIL People still read Techcrunch.

I seriously am considering swearing off TechCrunch because of this article. True or not, their hegemony gives them so much power, and to see it foolishly used in this way was disturbing.

The people she was claiming to know are big boys/girls. This should have been handled socially in the valley.

As someone who stopped reading them years ago, let me tell you an incontrovertible fact of the Internet: if it's worth reading, it will show up in every aggregator you still pay attention to, three times on the front page of HN if necessary. Propagation is a cue for importance, which is why TC (and RWW, and...) spend so much effort manually posting these stories all over the place themselves. They're faking it, too.

But there are so many things that are propagated that aren't important. Consistently negative world news, for starters.

While your second sentence is a non-sequitur and a pretty transparent dig besides, your first sentence is partly covered by "they're faking it." PR agencies, Digg-like upvote groups, all of them are corrupt attacks on organic popularity.

Couldn't agree more. This kind of thing happens all the time and is handled easily by companies doing basic due-diligence on people they work with, and resultant embarrassment teaching the individuals a necessary lesson. Many come back from it chastened but better for it. This hounding of a nobody is disproportionate. Clearly this person pissed off one or more of the TechCrunch team so they decided it was appropriate to get them back in this way.

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.

I stopped reading TechCrunch about a year ago. There seemed to be an increasing.number of junky articles that just didn't interest me. I don't miss what it became, but I do miss the old TechCrunch.

>It’s like reading a middle school girl’s diary.

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.

Expose fraud isn't bullying. She's a grown woman who chose to risk her reputation by playing a con game. Most con artists get away with it: she didn't. Her being exposed will deter other would-be parasites. Good.

If there was a real exposé here, I might agree. There would be more specifics, statements from victims and prosecutors, etc.. This article lacked any purpose aside from pure humiliation. Maybe this lady is so awful that she deserves that, but the case wasn't made. What if she's mentally ill?

Well, they included a court document and any small startups thinking of pushing consulting money to her likely won't now, so mission accomplished.

>What if she's mentally ill?

Not all dishonest people are mentally ill.

> Most con artists get away with it

Citation needed.

> 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?

The article does seem a little bullying. I mean, what harm has she really done other than lie (which every business person has done since the beginning time). I could see if she caused some startup to go under or cost some company millions of dollars but to quote the author, "Shirley Hornstein has never done anything bad to me. Except, y’know, lie."

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

Quoting the article:

"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.

A calling out for really unacceptable behaviour? Yes. Bullying? Far from it in my eyes. If you consistently misrepresent yourself and promise people things you are not capable of achieving then you deserve to be called out on it.

Yes, TC is a bully. Not only that, Arrington is a major con artist. Half the people in the valley these days are con artists. It's like this girl was the scape goat for this overwhelming shitstorm of lies that has grown the past few years. Pathetic.

Wow this whole exchange depresses the hell out of me. Can't we just build cool shit and leave this kind of lame drama for other industries?

> So shame on TechCrunch for publishing something that belongs on TMZ.

TechCrunch is TMZ for Silicon Valley.

I know this might come as a surprise to some.. but no one outside the valley cares. :)

In fact, I'd bet very few inside the valley care.

Both this article and the one it discussed seemed to go right over my head. The only impression I could get is that there is a small faction of tech related people who have formed their own hollywoodish faction and act like it too. Anyone care to take a go at explaining to me what really happened and why it matters?

I thought the same thing when reading that article. Here was someone I've never heard of - and I'm pretty active at getting around the startup world; someone who seems to have got herself into a web of lies which probably started off with some exaggerations.

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.

Looking at more of the news coming out since the original article, the more serious this person's actions appear to be.

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.

pretty funny to read your elitis tirade there considering that a lot of these blogs are also startups with founders, CEO's, employees, investors etc.

Not sure what's elitist about getting annoyed at a self-appointed elite of tech journalists for a decline in standards - and also the use of a leading industry publication to attack an individual. Unless you mean elitist in the same way I want an elite pilot flying my plane and an elite surgeon doing my operation. Then, well yeah...

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.

I'm burning my karma with this, but I appreciate this article. As a startup I'd like to be warned, probably people wasted time with this girl, time to market, time to VCs, time to get there startup somewhere b/c they believed this girl would help them when indeed she didn't. Could they have done better due dilligence? Perhaps. Would others tell how they got burned? Perhaps. But I don't follow the thinking that everything other people do to you is your fault b/c you should have known better. The wrongdoer is the victim stuff. And it's astonishing how HN reacts to guys that fake startups, connections, products compared to this girl that is faking her way around. We'll see if there is coming more.

Wow, the Hollywood-ness implied by this article about the tech world... this... is it really like this out there now? Is this nauseous feeling I have right now the way serious but small filmmakers feel about the entertainment industry?

Most programmers are hard-working, relatively honest people. It must be difficult for them to watch people like Shirley pass them on the career ladder.

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.

If everyone ignored them, they'd go away.

"The opposite of success isn't failure; it is name-dropping" - Nassim Taleb

The moral of this blog post seems to be that most tech companies' execs are all as big of tools as this gal.


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.

TechCrunch is just a joke.

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.

I think it's good journalism. That's their job, to get to the bottom of things and I think he did a great job.

The easiest antidote to an article such as this is to out yourself. If everyone knew this was coming out, she most probably knew.

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.

Exaggerating your connections to others to try and hustle favors and more connections is one thing, but photoshopping yourself into photos with celebrities is pretty damn creepy no matter how you look at it.

I have called TechCrunch "assholes" twice on tweets in the last week or so (because I hate following a link to TC on my iPad and having to cancel the annoying nag popup to install their app; last time I could not get through to the article because of constant redirects back to the nag popup. Yuck.)

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.

Come on people, she is a con artist! She deserved every last bit of it, and then some.

If only more con artists got destroyed like this in public, the world would be a better place for sure.

And she has the top media company in the tech industry trying to take her down.

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.

I guess it depends whether you define "top media company" as top in quality of top in readership/influence/etc. I've on idea about stats but it wouldn't surprise me if TC was at the very top for its niche on the latter.

I guess it depends whether you define "top media company" as top in quality of top in readership/influence/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.

Techcrunch dropped from one of my favorite sites to one that I actively avoid more than a year ago due to a number of the shenanigans they've pulled. I make special exceptions if someone I know is covered there, but other than that I basically avoid the site like the plague.

Leaving aside all the bruised egos of people that fell for her schtick, I'm well impressed with her photoshopping skills. She should be hired for that.

I'm surprised there isn't a "Photoshop yourself with Shirley Hornstein" meme yet.


Thats a really good idea!

Or better yet, Shirley Hornstein with unexpected people or places: Shirley Hornstein with Darth Vader. Shirley Hornstein with the Curiosity rover on Mars.

"So shame on TechCrunch for publishing something that belongs on TMZ."


TechCrunch essentially is TMZ.

Cry me a river.

Seriously. You expect me to cry over a hustler's lies? It is amusing how recursively narcissistic the tech community is, but eventually even they reach their stack limit.


She's apparently the bane (or Bain) of the Republicans now

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