A Culture of Criticism

From the New York Times' Sunday Styles section Silicon Alley's resurgence, pegged to a tech Meetup where the crowd was discussing new web startups. Yep, Web 2.0 is hitting the East Coast, though apparently not all of the startups are as interesting as del.icio.us or, well, Meetup itself. Fortunately, people aren't afraid to criticize things in New York, and Scott reveals his prescience:

He began by asking his tech-savvy listeners simplistic questions about their knowledge of the Web.

"You're going to get booed off before you start," shouted Scott Heiferman, a founder of the social networking company Meetup and the organizer of the Tech Meetup.

Prescient words, it turned out. Mr. Robertson faced a barrage of withering questions and eventually slunk offstage to mocking laughter from the audience.

"I got ambushed," he said afterward. "I didn't know it was a 'Gong Show' thing."

Perhaps the tone, especially in this context, was a bit unkind. But that sense that, sometimes at least, ideas just suck is exactly what I was lamenting in my post a few weeks ago. "A complete unwillingness to be critical, an almost astoundingly low set of criteria for acceptance -- these aren't the traits that encourage a community or a culture to improve."

So, to everybody looking for the flip-to-Yahoo-cuz-we've-got-tags Next Big Thing, find a room with a tough crowd. Pitch your idea. See if you get booed. And if you're in the Bay Area? Start being more judicious with the applause.

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