Why Hire an Expert? (Or What the Hell is Mike Arrington Thinking?)

The TechCrunch debacle

What happened to the mutual respect that web professionals are supposed to pay one another? I mean, I know there’s not a formal guild or anything, but seriously – why on earth would anyone want to go out and throw a colleague under a bus without provocation? While I have no sound rebuttal to combat pure insanity, all I can say this morning is this — Michael Arrington of TechCrunch is officially losing it.

Fruit loops. Cracked. Wacky. Bonkers. Cuckoo.

On May 12, one of the most popular blogs on the planet, TechCrunch, redesigned. No, I was not the designer. That unfortunate role was played by Rachel Cunliffe, a well-respected doll of a design-gal who hails from New Zealand.

I call her unfortunate because, well, I think it’s unfortunate when your client is not only mentally insane, but also insanely visible to the public. Michael Arrington, the…umm…man behind TechCrunch admitted his looney-bin status immediately upon launching the newly re-designed site, saying:

Everything wonderful about the new design is because of the awesome Rachel Cunliffe, my designer. Everything wrong with it is my fault for overruling some of her ideas.

Alright, at this stage of the game, I have some thoughts. If I had been in Rachel’s shoes, I would’ve had the following ruminations:

  • If you’ve got such great design ideas, then why on earth did you hire me? Like any other respectable designer out there, I take my work very seriously. New site designs – especially for the likes of a TechCrunch, fer chrissakes – require intense sessions of creativity and mental ball-busting. You want to make each design better than your last, and for huge sites, you want to put something out there that will help define your legacy in the field. Look at it this way – would you hire Picasso and tell him what to paint? Would you accept a finished product from him and then say, “Hmmm, no, let’s move that tree over here…And I think we need to touch up our cubism in this corner over here…” Suggestions are ok, but trumping a qualified person’s expertise on a large public scale is about as sickening an insult as I can imagine in this field.
  • If you admit that there might be things “wrong” with your new design at the moment you launch, then you already knew you had a problem. If that’s true, then tell me – why the hell did you launch if you knew there was a problem?!? Dumbest web 2.0 move of 2006, bar none.

Nuclear fallout and slapping your audience in the face

Predictably, the launch of the new TechCrunch was met with unparalleled amounts of negative criticism. Almost unbelievably, Michael says this about his new design:

We’ve also made some changes to allow for more advertising…And if you’re wondering about the green theme, there’s a reason for it (hint – it keeps me focused on my goals).

I ain't slapped a bitch in two weeks!

I’m all for making money. In fact, I’m all for making lots of it. However, when you eschew the opinions of your own community — the very people who are helping to get you paid — instead of listening to them, you are walking on thin ice. On top of that, nobody wants to feel like they’re being exploited.

The most important fact that I see here is that the younger developmental community on the web feels as though they’ve simply been taken advantage of (thanks to Mike’s “green” comment), and I’ve seen tons of instances where people claim to have unsubscribed from TechCrunch.

Yes, Mike, it’s true that most of your audience isn’t paying you directly. Tell me this, though — would an audience of only 300 gutless, bigwig-wannabe VC’s be enough to score you $30,000 a month in advertising sponsorships? Or do you think that the 55,480 subscribers may have something to do with that? Hmm, way to slap them in the face. Kudos.

Oh, my designer? Pshea, she’s crazy!

In the wake of all the bad press and even worse commentary from Michael over at CrunchNotes, Rachel Cunliffe resigned as the TechCrunch designer. I hope like hell that she collected a nice check before making her announcement.

Well, let’s back that up a second. Rachel actually resigned after Michael, in a moment of infinite clairvoyance and forethought, posted an entry showcasing a reader’s vision of the new TechCrunch.

Die.

If I design a site for you, and then you turn around and post a bunch of crap about what your readers would have done differently, then I suggest you keep your eyes peeled for Italian guys in black suits.

Naturally, Rachel was offended by this, and any designer will tell you that he or she would have felt the same way. Unbelievably, Michael then resorted to implying that Rachel was somehow off her rocker or else just being emotional about this whole deal. Here’s what he says:

Now I suspect that my “thick skin” makes it harder for me to understand why Rachel would quit on me just because I posted a screen shot that someone sent me. Again, I want to stress that I have, many times, written about how great Rachel is.

Keep in mind that Michael has not only butchered Rachel’s design and compromised her reputation, but now he’s also refused to try and see things from her point of view. Instead, (and I just cannot get over how ridiculous he’s been about this) he spins things back in his direction!

If you think about this from my point of view, you get this: People call me names and scream over just about everything I do. What I write about. What I don’t write about. How many ads I have. Whatever.

Boo frickin hoo, Mike.

You shat all over your designer; you openly admitted to your audience that money is the only thing that matters on TechCrunch anymore; and you’ve showcased a very narrow-minded, selfish view of the universe. Way to go.

I have suggested on CrunchNotes that you write Rachel an apology in an entry that is dedicated solely to her. You ought to listen, if for no other reason than you’ve proven that your PR skills are absolutely in the toilet.

A bit nutty!