Candid Camera

A couple weeks ago I went down to Miami for Future of Web Apps (FOWA). It was a great event and I highly recommend it to web developers and entrepreneurs. I did a keynote talk and the next day I did a three and a half hour workshop. I knew the keynote was being recorded and I had that in my head as I was talking on the stage. I did not know the workshop was being recorded but it was.

After the workshop was over, Ryan Carson, the founder of Carsonified which puts on FOWA and a number of other interesting events, asked me if he could post the 3.5 hour workshop video. My immediate reaction was "hell no" but instead I said, "let me look at it first." 

On Friday I posted two videos that came from the talk I gave at InSITE last wednesday. The entire 1.5 hours of conversation was recorded and is available here. Again, I did not know that the entire talk including Q&A was going to be posted on the web and friday morning, I spent 1.5 hours of time I did not have watching each and every minute of that video to make sure it was cool to have it on the web.

If I seem paranoid about this stuff, I am. I watched what happened to my friend Mark Pincus when he said something highly candid and off the cuff last year in an impromptu talk to entrepreneurs that was unfortunately being filmed. Some entrepreneur asked Mark about keeping control of your startup and Mark said that the only sure way to do that is get revenues early. He went on to say that they were so focused on revenues in the early days of Zynga that they did some things he didn't like. He then mentioned the Zwinky toolbar and said he installed it on his machine and couldn't get it off. And then went on to say that he told his developer to take that lead gen offer down.

Of course, that's not what everyone saw when TechCrunch posted a clip from that unfortunate video. They just saw the comment about the Zwinky toolbar without the context. 

So when I see a video of me on the web, I watch the entire thing and look at every minute in that light. I am paranoid about someone taking a 30 second clip and leaving out the rest. If I see anything that is risky in that way, I ask them to take down the video or better yet I ask them not to put it up.

That's why I wasted 1.5 hours of my time on Friday morning at 5am watching a video of myself. And that's why I may have to waste 3.5 hours of my time watching my FOWA workshop at some point. I was highly candid in that FOWA workshop and asked people not to Twitter some things I said. That's how I can provide the most value to the people in attendance (as Mark was trying to do). So that FOWA workshop video is risky in my mind.

Of course, I can simply ask people not to videotape me or ask them not to post it on the web. But that's not a great option either. There were thirty or forty people in the room at the InSITE talk the other night. Almost 1000 people have watched the first video on YouTube and over fifty have watched every single one of them. That's the power of the web, to reach way more people that can attend in person.

So that's the world we have to live in now. One that assumes when you talk in public, it will be recorded and posted on the web. One that assumes that someone will look at that video and seek an opportunity to pull a clip out of context and post it. And so if you do a lot of public speaking, you simply need to speak with that in mind. It makes me feel like a politician to tell you the truth. It's a horrible feeling but honestly I don't know if there is any other way.

#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. ShanaC

    1) Only the paranoid survive2)This post is the reason I wanted to walk out of “We live in Public”. That movie kind of scared me. I’m not sure how we are going to survive a world of living to fully in public. Some days I feel like I am an impostor. You can’t really see me smile through social media, or know exactly how I tick this way. And I worry that this smooth out the quirkiness of me a little too much as we live in public.Thank God for Family and friends…

    1. Mark Essel

      1) only risk takers truly live

      1. ShanaC

        How much risk is necessary to live?

  2. reece

    I’m having similar feelings after a video interview I did about our startup with some web journalists recently.But while I may have been candid with them, I am for the most part equally as candid with others.The scary part is being taken out of context and unfortunately that’s almost expected of the modern media at this point.

  3. jonsteinberg

    I can relate…especially after I feel that I’ve been candid. I watched We Live in Public yesterday so this is timely. However, there’s an irony here, we’re all working with or investing in the very tools that are creating this situation. I find, as I believe you do, that the benefits of some public living vastly outweigh the downsides; however, there are downsides and this is one of them

  4. Marco Fabbri

    I think it’s not being paranoid but being realist, a [disputed] quote from Cardinal Richelieu goes something like this: “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him”.

    1. fredwilson

      Wow. That’s my fear

      1. Wavelengths

        Certain types of people will look very hard at the words of “the most honest of men” specifically for the glee in finding some way to hang the person. In fact, “goodness” can be a magnet for those sorts of people.As you said last week, “you can’t control what other people do, but you can control what the internet sees about you by overwhelming it with your social media presence.”I’d hate to see any of us self-censor out of fear of the malignant minority. Then they have won by stifling honest communication.

        1. fredwilson

          great point

          1. Derek Flanzraich

            The article is especially interesting in light of how much time so many people spend “managing” their brand online. The issue, I think, like Marco Fabbri alluded to above, is that we’re just not made to self-censor ourselves all the time. And why should we be? The way we articulate our thoughts haven’t evolved with technology… because how could it have?It’s only the means in which we communicate that have changed– and those means are definitely much more unforgiving. The other unfortunate irony, of course, is that the more people that listen to you, the more people want to take you down. And, of course, more people listen to you because you’re interesting and different to begin with. Maybe this is why the more famous people get, the more inaccessible they often become. If we’re not wired to censor our every thought, maybe there’s a ceiling for fame on the internet (if not period)?

          2. Mark Essel

            The limit of popularity is our tolerance of public image manipulation (and of course safety)

          3. Tom Henderson

            Your not a brand, you’re a person.Information transfer occurs when you know the most of the context of the audience. See _Grammatical Man_ on this. After a half-dozen keynotes last year, and a career with well over a thousand engagements, I can tell you that personal branding makes you a myth in your own mind. People will fight your supposed branding because it’s a monolithic shell around a real person and that person’s changing views. You set the trap for yourself, and you fall into it.You’re not a product. You breathe. Remember to breathe.

          4. fredwilson

            i don’t want to become inaccessible. i want to become more accessible. i hate how people get famous and then put walls and moats around them. i want to do the opposite.

        2. ShanaC

          I believe you have to self-censor on the internet. It’s like telling an ugly bride she’s ugly; you just don’t do that, it’s something you never say to a bride’s face (and if you have, you’re an ass.). There are times I regret not doing so as much as I could.Guy Debord writes about the Society of the Spectacle and how we feed it- I suspect there may be no true truth on the internet- just approximations, because of the underbelly that comes with an idendity born of spectacle…

          1. JenC

            Shana – great point.But just not about self-censoring on the Internet…I think that as so much of what we say and do is easily accessible to others, we have to self-sensor almost everything. Our “digital footprint” is so vast. Whenever I post something on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, comments…I ALWAYS assume that at some point in the future it can be accessed – and possibly altered. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I compromise on my beliefs, values or professional opinion, but it does mean I am more aware of what I post.I have to hope that if pieces were extracted/taken out of context, that I would still have access to the original so I could respond with the real context.I have to wonder what is going to happen when the Millennial, our future leaders, are 10 years from now, suddenly faced with old MySpace, Facebook, blog postings that, perhaps, at the time, weren’t shared with alot of thought to how it could impact overall perceptions in the future (i.e. – I didn’t inhale…oh, but given that picture on FB, yes you did)

          2. ShanaC

            I am a millelial, and I am groaning about it already. I really don’t want everyone finding everything on me on the internet from when I was 13, 15? I was already interacting with early forms of social media then. And I was a total kid…and I am not sure what people would think…(most of it was teenage stuff, but still…)

          3. Wavelengths

            I agree, and . . .1) There are many types of lies. A social lie, told to protect someone’s feelings when no one else is hurt by it, is a special type of lie. The following Wikipedia article is a thought-provoking discourse on the many types of lies.…2) We can have a better chance of discerning the truth, as we may need to know it about one another, by using the ambient information now available through the internet that reveals who we really are. If you are blogging and commenting frequently, can you REALLY hide your true feelings? Your intentions? You reveal yourself through your literary sources, your preferences, your kindness or sarcasm, your anecdotes, and so on.Some types of pathological liars have hidden their true intentions from the public and even from intimates for years, but would that really be possible in this present environment of instantaneous communication, with all the other tools that allow for cross-referencing, tweeting, and so forth?I think in today’s environment I’d be more concerned about someone who was unwilling to take the risk of sharing comments. I’d wonder if they were authentic.

          4. Mark Essel

            We’re all free to choose a comfortable level of self censorship. There’s no place for others to encroach on your self expression. If you want to call a bride ugly, I absolutely approve your ability to do so, but accept the consequences of sounding like an ass (unless you have magic persuasive abilities).

        3. Mark Essel

          A less extreme case of terror tactics and liberty. If you self censor by fear, you’ve given up freedom (and all the value of it).

    2. John Sharp

      I agree. You simply have to concede that everything you do, say, write, sing or mime may one day become the subject of a legal action, and act accordingly (i.e. carefully).Nerd Alert: My iPhone stopwatch tells me that a non-stop speaker can average fifteen lines per minute. Which adds to 1,350 lines spoken in 90 minutes, not allowing for coffee-sipping or audience questions. Which is more than 200 times the ammunition that the good Cardinal said he required.

      1. fredwilson


  5. DonRyan

    We are just beginning to realize how prescient and ahead of his time Josh Harris was.

    1. ShanaC

      I would say Foucualt more than Josh Harris….he’s just applying the tension of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, particularly Panopticon Theory.

  6. Morgan Warstler

    I think Fred you gotta tough it out for the medium. It is a bit like the loss of privacy, it appears fraught with danger, but ultimately everyone else is as big a freak show as you, so relax. Besides, it is only the open honest unflinching analysis that builds value.It is impressive you stand with Pincus, rather than toss him over for Zynga. Which, BTW, is another reason you should be very wary of inviting politics to our table. The more rope you give them, the more people they’ll be ready to hang.If government oversight isn’t invasive, there’s no danger of Pincus getting pulled up in front of a Congressional committee. TechCrunch doesn’t have prosecutors.

  7. jerrycolonna

    This is really a tough issue. You’re admirably committed to openness and transparency (and for good reason…not only is it easier, in some ways, because you don’t have to keep track of what you said and to whom, but it generates positive interaction and, non-intuitively, build business opportunities…your blogging is a great example of that) but that commitment can cause one to stiffen, be paranoid, watch what you say for fear of being hung on those six lines.Seems to me, the FOWA people should have gotten your permission (and by doing so implicitly alerted you ahead of time).When I was a journalist, we lived with a notion of the existence of Public Figures…people who by their own publicity-seeking actions gave up the right to privacy. I was never comfortable with that and I think we’re seeing the natural extension of that belief playing out now. Are you, for example, a Public Figure? If you give a speech to 40 people and it gets published and broadcast to thousands without your knowledge or consent does that make you MORE of a Public Figure and therefore less entitled to privacy?Tough questions.

    1. fredwilson

      the thing i mind the most is that i find myself editing in real time, beingless candid

      1. Mark Essel

        A loss of freedom is not something to be easily tolerated.Here’s a quick blog post on super human filters I put together last year on self filtering. It’s just as applicable now.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        …and that’s a loss for us all.

  8. kidmercury

    paranoia ftw!mikey may have taken pincus’ comments out of context, but i could argue you are doing the same here. there is so much bad press about pincus, not just from that video and not just from mikey.i don’t know the guy and got no beef with him, i mention that simply because a holistic image is what people will see now that they can see everything. when jdawg tried to pounce on fred it was ridiculous from the start; jdawg is a clown who talks about celebrity gossip while abusing — and thankfully, eroding — his visibility by making unintelligent and immature pranks (that youngster could really learn a thing or two from me on how to run a prank), and on top of that fred has a very public image thanks to his status as an internationally renowned blog, while i am obviously bullish on paranoia and was on the bandwagon before the rest of you youngsters got hip to the program, i don’t think people need to be afraid of public living. if something fred said was taken out of context he could simply clarify on his blog and pounce on the amateurs who misinterpreted — if they lacked journalistic integrity it will backfire. the key to this working out, though, is awareness and responsibility on the part of the people. of course if the people choose ignorance over awareness, there will be hell to pay, and rightfully so.

    1. fredwilson

      well that’s a helpful context kidbut not exactly righta bad headline will get 100x the number of readers than an explanation onthis blog will get

      1. kidmercury

        you are assuming the citizens of fredland will stand by idly and tolerate injustice. give us some credit boss! comments, tweets, youtube, SEO……we have formidable weapons and are not afraid to use them!although the point you make does lead me to think that it may be a battle of influence; i.e. can mikey motivate the spam bots that comment on techcrunch, or can you motivate fredlanders? IMHO whoever can influence the crowd will control perception…..

        1. Mark Essel

          Let the battle of spin doctoring begin…and end.The best answer is always the truth, no matter how much it can suck in the short term. Who can deny raw truthy goodness?Of course there will always be nuances in the unknown. Is Kid Mercury actually a 80 year old woman in a retirement home? We may never know (hehehe).

      2. Dave Goldberg

        While this may be true, you haven’t talked to the business impact of a comment taken out of context. It seems to me that the people you would want to be doing business with would be more likely to seek out the truth than pay attention just to a hyped up fake controversy.Frankly, as someone who is a regular reader of your blog, it is more disappointing to me to find out that I don’t always get the frank and honest Fred Wilson. I think you run more risk from hiding your true opinion by alienating your loyal fanbase than by holding your opinion back and risking a bad headline that will go away in a matter of days, if not hours.

        1. fredwilson

          that’s a great point. i will keep that in mind. it’s a fine line that youhave to walk.

          1. Mark Essel

            We want the raw unfiltered Fred, but you have to live with the consequences.Leadership ain’t easy 🙂

          2. Tereza

            Like in real life, the web should enable raw-er Fred to get to the people that know Fred and Fred trusts. The people who know him less may not be ready to handle the Real Fred or may be malicious/careless in their treatment of content from Raw Fred.I see concentric circles of access based on trust.I guess that happens anyway, to some degree. But it’s messy, it’s across so many platforms and so many people may be creating content on you without your knowledge. There’s not a clean, coherent way. Need a meta-system for trust/access/unfiltered/packaged tradeoffs.

          3. Donna Brewington White

            This causes me to wonder where the line is drawn…so that at a certain point you’ve built up enough public equity (credibility, goodwill, etc.) so that you can afford candor without too much concern about the repercussions. Also, at what point do the critics form such a narrow group that their bite isn’t really that harmful beyond an emotional sting? As someone (and probably many) above have alluded, in your case, those whose opinions really matter are probably going to be those who will investigate further before forming an opinion or perpetuating that information. What’s out there in your favor is probably overwhelming and will prevail. Your brand equity is yet another area in which you’ve made some sound investments. 😉

  9. Peter Cranstone

    Privacy, Permission and who owns my data. Everyone of those items got violated. It’s hard to imagine how this will not cause change further down the road.Also you now have to worry about context… the lack of context as well as too much can cause huge issues. It’s a whole new world where everything is available and invariably without enough context.Hard to do business in a world like that, because Trust (the real currency of the future) goes out the door.

  10. Christian D.

    You just have to treat every opportunity as one that will be publicized. Even if you aren’t recorded, someone will take notes and then blog or tweet it. This doesn’t have to detract from honest open discussion, but instead should help you put together a more impactful dialogue. If you’re comfortable saying something in front of a group of 40 mba and law school students, why wouldn’t you want to share it with others?

    1. fredwilson

      a bunch of reasonshere are a couple that come to mind right away1) it could be taken out of context like mark’s comments were2) it could be confidential, like something about one of our portfoliocompanies

      1. sonicgleek

        maybe transparency is not as valuable as we’ve earnestly built it up to be?

      2. Wavelengths

        People who don’t understand corporate confidentiality should be weeded out of MBA programs and law schools.

      3. Mark Essel

        Number 2 is probably a good reason not to share it with a roomful of mbas though.Number 1 can’t be stopped, just countered with the complete story and then if need be ignored. People will choose to believe what they wish as always

        1. Christian D.

          I agree with Mark.#1 can always be countered with the real/complete story.With #2 you have to be careful about the content you disclose and know who your audience is beforehand (can they be trusted if you open up, and will they record/tweet your remarks).As a student, there’s definitely value in having speakers come in who can open up beyond the company’s planned talking points, and from what I’ve seen the students in b-school always respect confidentiality – but the speakers walk a fine line. For example, we had a CEO from a well-known publicly traded company speak two weeks ago (who I won’t name), and he got really energized/enthusiastic in front of the room and basically told us his company’s earnings, which were to be announced the to the street the following morning. While it was nice having transparency in his discussion, he crossed the line with some of the things he said (ie. pre-announcing the earnings was unnecessary and stupid). I’ll also add that he ensured the talk wasn’t video taped beforehand, and he explicitly said his comments were off the record at the start of his talk (and our professor reinforces this, as his speakers wouldn’t be as interesting if we were blogging or recording every controversial or remark – and believe me, there have been tons that would make headlines).

          1. JLM

            The real issue w/ a public company is not whether the conversation was “on the record”, it is whether the CEO revealed “material non-public information” and whether he complied with Reg FD (fair disclosure).If, in fact, he was revealing his company’s earnings and his firm had previously announced an earnings release date and earnings conference call date, he has committed a breach which is substantially greater than just drinking white wine w/ meat.Understand also that the instant YOU possessed material non-public information and you were tempted to trade on it or be a “front runner” or to “tip” another investor, you also personally are liable for securities fraud.This is not a transgression which goes away with the passage of time and which is “forgiven” as it becomes public information. The violation is absolute and is like a guy trying to put the stolen money back in the convenience store cash register after the fact.On the other hand, if the markets were closed for the day and he indicated he was sharing material non-public information and cautioned you as to its dangerous implications for YOU, then he is guilty of being indiscrete and bombastic and perhaps not a great deal more.

  11. Wavelengths

    Keep in mind “The Law of Unintended Consequences.” No matter what sound bite or image or quote goes out into the world, you never know just how it will be spun or received, or received even after it is spun.I came to this site because of an article that quoted Fred’s comment about the “zero carbon footprint of FarmVille tractors.”I think the article was even trying to paint Fred as anti-environment, but I thought the comment was hilarious and I wanted to visit the source.I may have an anti-Fred so-called journalist to thank for inspiring me to get my visa to visit Fredland. I’ve had so much fun here, I’m thinking of applying for citizenship. And all thanks to someone who was trying to paint Fred in a bad light. So there!

    1. fredwilson

      you have citizenship already

      1. Wavelengths

        Thanks. I knew my tourist visa had expired, but I didn’t want to go back to the hinterlands.

  12. zerobeta

    Wait…these comments are recorded?!?!? Ahhhh!

  13. chrisdorr

    No matter what one says, even carefully, whether shown in print or on camera, you run the risk of being misconstrued or wrongly attacked.If Socrates were alive today and was able to view every piece of commentary ever written about him and his words, do you think he would agree that it was all accurate? Undoubtedly he would not. Would he be delighted that his words live on and have influenced many thinkers and many debates that still rage on ? Undoubtedly he would.So, do you wish to have the influence of Socrates? Than whenever you speak, choose your words carefully and precisely and let everyone know what you believe as best as you can.My advice, don’t bother reviewing your video after the fact. It is too late and you really have no control anyway. If you feel you spoke the truth then let the truth go out however it goes.And by the way, your talk on INSITE was great, informative and enlightening. Even Socrates would be proud.

    1. fredwilson

      so really i just need to let it go and accept itgood advice

    2. Mark Essel

      Great analogy Chris. Now Fred risks the wrath of Socrates if he self filters ;)Seriously wise words, our legacy is better served by our genuine self, raw and essential.

    3. ShanaC

      Is my purpose on the web to be the fly?

  14. zerobeta

    But for serious. I was thinking about how much more of our lives are essentially recorded and accessible last night actually. One thought I had was as the amount of information increases it becomes less relevant. Nobody is going to be able to spend their life watching yours.On one hand there is a sort of moral hazard to all of it. Those who wish to inflict damage upon you are more likely to sort through your personal information stream and find ways to attack you.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s my post in two paragraphs. you said it better than i did

  15. Barry Schuler

    Some lessons I learned.A gave a TED Conference speech on Genomics a while back. Hours before the speech I had gotten a call that my father (2500 miles away) was taken to the hospital and was in critical condition. I went on with the show but I didn’t do my normal “self-editing” while speaking. I just let it all hang out. Really I just wanted to get through and leave. I barely remember what I said, but oddly enough my normal rawness came through and really struck a chord. The video of the speech went viral and is still very popular.It taught me a lesson. Just call ’em as I see ’em and let the chips fall. I figure truth will prevail.The Pincus/Arrington incident caused some initial pain for Mark, but he runs a better company today because it caused some self-examination.Fred, I think your person has made itself known to your audience so I say just let it rip – except for those things we must keep confidential as fiduciaries to our companies 😉

    1. Mark Essel

      Right on Barry (now to look for your TED talk 🙂

        1. Mark Essel


    2. fredwilson

      Hi Barrythanks for stopping by and sharing your wisdom. i very much appreciate are right about Mark. he learned from that incident, but it was very painful for him.the hardest part for me is the fine line between being open, honest, and candid, and a repository of a lot of confidential information that i cannot share.

      1. Barry Schuler

        I do understand the struggle vis-a-vis workshops and breakout sessions. These used to be places where you could confidently speak openly on sensitive subjects. Today there just is no longer any way to be reliably “off-the record” anywhere – and in one sense as you point out, we lose the ability to pass along some key learnings

        1. fredwilson

          Barry, that’s the takeaway from this post. I wrote it in a rambling way because I was searching for some new truth. And you have identified it. Thanks

    3. ShanaC

      How raw is too raw though- are there special occasions to this?

  16. Tim Bray

    I’m frequently an admirer of your writing, but this one shocked me. I certainly don’t agree with Eric Schmidt that you should never do anything you wouldn’t want to see published on the net, but I do think you shouldn’t say anything on a public stage that you don’t assume is being streamed live to the world. I do a ton of public speaking and when anyone is courteous enough to ask me about posting video, I totally don’t have time to review the stuff.There are exceptions: closed-audience and no-reportage situations. But they’re a minority, in my experience. Yeah, it takes extra work to be informative and surprising and at the same time not say anything that’s gonna bite you; oh well.And if you blog and speak and so on, and there’s someone out there who wants to make you look bad and is willing to go the (considerable) work of attack editing, there’s not much you can do to protect yourself from that. So I’d advise some porch or family time instead of investing hours in trying to do retroactive editing of your public gigs.

    1. fredwilson

      good advice. did some “porch time” today and feel better already

  17. dave

    I was once at a party at a tech conference and the guy I was talking to had a camera with a microphone in his lapel and was webcasting the conversation. There was no disclosure, no warning, I figured out when I saw how he was always keeping that shoulder in the middle of the circle, rather conspicuously and he had an earphone. I looked closer and saw the camera.

    1. Rikard

      Dave, your post and the entire thread triggered a thought about the power balance between viewer and the person being viewed. It seems to me one reason these situations are awkward and somewhat problematic is that the balance between you and the person filming is uneven (even more so between you and the person watching). If you both had access to who’s watching what (as David Brin describes a balance in transparency in his book “The Transparent Society”) you, the object that is filmed, would be in a much stronger position. I’m not sure what behaviours would emerge from a situation like that but my guess is that journalists and bloggers would have to be a lot more careful with how they use a video or a quote or someone would call them on it.-Rikard

    2. Mark Essel

      That’s just creepy

    3. Tereza

      It is creepy. But to put it more simply — it is terrible manners.We need a Letitia Baldridge of Social Media.Stuff like introductions between connections, which Fred has blogged about. And mixing at events (e.g. inviting strangers into the conversation), which I have blogged about.The more raw the data, the more social mores have to play a role.If this person were my son I would give him a serious finger-wagging when he got home. Shame on him.

    4. fredwilson

      that’s not right.

  18. Eric Leebow

    Watched all of the Insite videos, they were great and I even forwarded to a friend who asked me questions about VC related stuff. When you’re a public speaker, and you’re on camera, you’re then deemed as the expert. There’s always something that someone will say after watching a video of a public speaker. At least you showed up, as there are many who don’t even show up, or have the opportunity to speak at these great events who would enjoy this honor. The same goes with tweeting, and Retweeting. You can post something for your own thoughts or interest, and you never intended on it getting retweeted by people who don’t even follow you. Sometimes you may wish to only tweet something to your followers, and not allow it to be retweeted, yet you know when you put it out there, there’s someone who might retweet it. Everything people read or hear isn’t always 100% true on the Internet, especially as there is always many ways to look at things, and sometimes the exact opposite is read, yet with video, it’s tougher, as people can always fast forward and rewind to that section of the video to find where you said something, hence I see where you’re saying how you feel like a politician. People can so easily be misunderstood at times, and sarcasm to one online, can be a serious statement. I think people sometimes speak in their mind something, and post it on the Internet, not thinking what the other person might have thought. People need to use emoticons, or abbreviations, yet in video, you’re in it, and you’ve got to make sure you say it the right way a public speaker.

  19. Tereza

    Fred you are on the cutting edge of this and figuring this out for the rest of us.A part of this — not for video, but for comments — is the choice each of whether to use a pseudonym or our real name. When we put our name out there, then we have to manage it. Not easy.The real name gives us the power that we really ‘own’ what we say. And any props attribute to our real persona. But they also can really bite us in the arse.The pseudonym/alterego provides tremendous freedom. But the reader is missing the context of who you are. When the alterego builds up volume, s/he becomes human.Going through this decision/exploration process — and defining the online persona — scares a lot of people and keeps them from participating fully in social media. As it matures, develop social norms are developing as well as tools to work us each through it.There will be more and more businesses built up around this. Consulting services for now, but I’d like to see more digitization/analytics to help us do reputation control. The need is there. There are probably a bunch already in the works. There will be more.

    1. JLM

      The exchange of ideas, intellectual musing and even anonymity are a strong American tradition.In many ways the Internet is simply the final development of the musing of such as Thomas Paine whose anonymous “Common Sense” became the intellectual basis and rallying cry for the accumulated complaints of Colonists against the English crown.Common Sense sold 100,000 copies at a time when the entire population of the Colonies was less than 2MM and less than half of them could read. The penetration of “reading” households was almost complete. Printed materials were very expensive at that time and no household was likely to buy or own two copies of any printed work.One could argue that Common Sense went “viral” and provided the intellectual rigor which started the American Revolution. That turned out OK, right?Ideas going viral, hmmmmmm? Sound familiar!

      1. Yule Heibel

        Very much agree with your first sentence, JLM, but I would take issue with your claim that less than half the population of Colonial America was literate. Here’s one edu-blogger’s write-up:QUOTE“Kenneth Lockridge’s study of literacy in colonial New England is relevant here. Lockridge found that, in 1660, 60 percent of New England males signed their wills; it was 70 percent in 1710, 85 percent in 1760, and 90 percent by 1790. He estimates that half of those unable to sign wills could read. Thus, there was practically universal adult male literacy in New England by 1790.”Source: The Revolution in American Journalism in the Age of Egalitarianism, The Penny PressLiteracy for women in New England was as high as 90% by 1750. While literacy in other regions was somewhat lower, it was still relatively high — and climbing.UNQUOTESee also John Taylor Gatto, who has written at length about the higher literacy rates in America before standardized “industrial” (Gatto might say, “Prussian”) education became the standard in the United States.Might we say that widespread early American literacy throws the issue of news and how ideas around democracy “went viral” in that period into an altogether different relief?And perhaps today the internet is educating people into a refreshed kind of literacy that’s quite different from what gets taught in the classroom.

        1. JLM

          I stand corrected. Thank you. In fact, it is apparent that a much higher percentage of the Colonists were literate at the time of Common Sense.I made the observation that I did from a book on Thomas Paine which clearly got it wrong.Again, thank you for the correction.

          1. Yule Heibel

            Twas not so much a correction of what you wrote, JLM, as me sharpening the axe I use to strike at Industrial-era education (a field that needs a reboot). I’m a veteran of home-school campaigns waged at the interstices of public-private-and-digital/distributed education, hence my interest in the history of the beast… 😉

      2. Tereza

        The exchange and virality of ideas isn’t new; but the speed and pervasiveness is.Regardless of speed/volume, such exchange is critical. It is not only a strong American tradition. Throughout history, where ideas have exchanged freely, societies have flourished.All I’m saying is the speed/volume creates new pain points. Where there is pain, there might be people willing to pay for relief! That’s opportunity for new business.

        1. Yule Heibel

          Tereza, your final paragraph is …stunning. (In a good way.) I need to copy this out and think about it. (Not that I’ll figure out an opportunity for new business – not my forte, it seems! More like grist for the theory mill…)

        2. fredwilson

          It sure is

  20. Mark Essel

    Speak genuinely and sincerely and never be ashamed of doing so. The benefits of sharing candidly far outway the negative in the long run.There will always be contrarian efforts to defame, manipulate and tarnish your image if you gain enough popularity.I enjoy Ryan’s Carsonified work, his business spreadsheet and entreprenurial ideas jived well with me in 2008 when I first came across him.Own all of your public presence, the good and the bad and let us decide the value of your perspective.

    1. awaldstein

      MarkWell said and I agree that just being honest and out there and taking some risks is the way to go. Although a workable amount of paranoia is a healthy thing to arm oneself with to avoid future embarrassments.Of course, there are days that none of our skins are thick enough.

    2. kidmercury

      yup… always, the truth will set you free……

  21. konterkariert

    That is a BIG issue you are talking about Fred.- On one side everything you say and do will someday be published on the internet- On the other side the news production (“journalism”) is getting more and more faster & shallowcurrent example:AOL Turning Into A Low-Cost Content Machine, to replace journalism with algorithmsAOL’s ‘newsroom of the future’ tells journalists what readers want and what brings in ad revenue…”Some journalists fret that by letting the readers decide which stories get assigned, media outlets risk turning their attention away from hard, investigative news.”

  22. JLM

    I would like to sound a cautious note on this subject of an overdose of candor — not directly but a bit tangentially.First, let me say that amongst the favorable characteristics I look for in a person are discretion, patience and perspective. I desire to deal with people who can be counted upon to be discrete about matters that are otherwise sensitive.I once was asked my opinion of a man by a very powerful person who was contemplating a very, very significant investment.I was reluctant to say exactly what I had in mind as it was quite damning and I therefore measured my words carefully and said: “Joe is not a charm school graduate.”Nothing more. We spoke not another word about Joe.The powerful eminence smiled with a bit of bemusement, nodded his head and passed on the investment. We both enjoyed a great sigh of relief a couple of years later when the endeavor imploded over personal issues.He called me and said: “I owe you a lunch. Maybe at Pebble Beach? Joe was, indeed, not a charm school grad.”I would utter every single public word with as much economy and as much discretion as possible even if that makes one a bit less flowing and generous in your speech.Most of us owe a fiduciary obligation to some funding source or other or to a partner or even to our family members. This duty is the highest duty which we can embrace in the marketplace and it is critical to recognize that our public utterances will impact these relationships.Persons in Fred’s position and many commenters to this thread are “thought leaders” whether they embrace the mantle or not. I counsel discretion.All business is ultimately devolving toward a more regulated environment and many of us will roll over in bed some day and find we are sleeping w/ the SEC and the PCAOB. Regulation FD (fair disclosure) and SOx provide a bit more context and perspective but it also provides powerful guidance as to how regulators see our obligations from a communication perspective.Remember, just get too many shareholders or register a bit of debt publicly and you are a “regulated” company.Again, not perfectly on target but a thought that constantly guides me. Discretion.If all else fails — Act like a charm school graduate! LOL

    1. Mark Essel

      Great counter to my instinct of raw sharing. Just don’t hold back too much JLM, we need your expert advice and honest opinion ;)What I trust and value most is people’s honesty. Whether they can legally share their honest opinion with the public is a tragic question.

      1. JLM

        I am with your instincts 100% and I must admit to being a bit more discreet in my thinking than in my actual conduct. We are all addicted to the sound of our own voices.It is the entanglement with the ficuciary obligation to others that begins to temper my instincts. I fear that at times we may fail to think carefully enough and clearly enough about our obligations to others.

    2. David Semeria

      Top comment JLM.The rules of the game haven’t changed – as you know, discretion was always very valued in the past, too – but the effects of indiscretion are now amplified by this beautiful thing we have called the Web.Like all powerful things for good, in the hands of the malicious it can be turned against us.Use the forks, Luke! (as Obi said in Mr Wongs)

      1. ShanaC

        And the knives, and the spoons!

      2. Carl Rahn Griffith

        What about the mattresses, David? 😉

    3. fredwilson

      that is sound advice JLM and is part of why I am struggling with this issue. if you watch the InSITE videos, you’ll see how I struggled with the questions about Twitter and Etsy. I want to be candid, honest, and use these companies as case studies that the students can learn from. but I also need to be discrete and only reveal information that is already public. it’s hard work, especially at 8pm on a day when I was working non-stop since 5am.

      1. JLM

        It is a very, very difficult standard to adhere to — “material non-public information”. While I am long on advice, I am short on practical guidance and it is very, very difficult when innocently communicating to envision how this could possibly go wrong.Last week I was being deposed about a garden variety arbitration matter and I was asked if each and every word of my company’s public filings (which I sign under pain of castration under SOx) and website content was “true” — bullshit litigator’s trick to undermine my credibility by finding some little nuance I had gotten not quite right and therefore make me into a liar of wholesale proportions.This reminded me to be careful.Of course this not being my first trip to the circus, I gave the appropriate bullshit answer in return — “while I strive for perfection, I am absolutely certain that I have erred from time to time and if you will point out any statement which gives you pause, perhaps I can correct it.”None of this stuff is really important until we are paying $1000 per hour to undo it. I just keep rememembering that the first really cool car I ever owned (1973 TR-6) cost $3000 used and was a whole lot of fun. So, in three hours I am looking for a whole lot of entertainment.

    4. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Shakespeare, in Henry IV, Part One, 1596:Falstaff: ‘The better part of valour is discretion; in the which better part I have saved my life.’

    5. ShanaC

      And how do you develop charm JLM- I feel like that’s a lifelong lesson…

      1. JLM

        Simplest thing in the world — make others feel perfectly comfortable in your company. Refrain from discussing religion, politics or sex except with your closest confidants. Never forget a birthday, anniversary or holiday. Buy them all drinks — lots of drinks.

        1. fredwilson

          Great advice

        2. Tereza

          Another tact, Shana — ask the person about themselves. And like JLM said, remember details they told you in subsequent conversations. Ask them about their kids. Remember their wife’s name, kids names.And the be quiet and listen. Be non-judgmental, a safe place. Put yourself in their shoes. Let them take the conversation where it goes and follow them, with prods to tell you more.For years, as part of my consulting career, I have conducted countless interviews across all levels (CEOs to very junior)…..currently talking to 80 media buyers for one of the major agencies (gotta earn cash to bootstrap my company!!).These don’t involve alcohol. But here’s the thing. If you approach people with an open, honest, trustworthy stance, you can find out almost anything.I’m sure JLM can share advice better than this from his espionage days. ;-)I always, always, always ask permission to record the conversation, and don’t begin recording unless/until they say yes. They always do. Someone would have to pry the notebook from my dead, cold fingers. I pledge total confidentiality, and I mean it. In one case a client wanted my raw notes. I transcribed them and de-identified them. And charged the client mightily for my effort.Of course, these conversations are for analysis purposes and to develop recommendations for my client — and not for my own publication or promotional purposes.I always develop a tight script so I’m very clear on what ground I need to cover, what data to glean, and where we need to land. And then I go off script. Follow the person where they’re going, when they want to go there. And check my interview guide simply to ensure completeness.As for the sex/religion/politics. I choose not to share much of mine. That’s not difficult as I’m really middle-of-the-road anyway. I don’t mind asking or hearing, though. To me, it’s interesting, perhaps almost anthropological. And can breed a faster familiarity. But you can’t ask, and then turn the tables and be judgmental or damning of the other or jockey for ‘my way’s better’. That’s not fair, and is a conversation killer. You have to brace yourself to be OK with whatever you might hear.

          1. ShanaC

            Thanks guys!

      2. fredwilson

        Start with a smile. A big wide one

        1. ShanaC

          First of- 😀

    6. Donna Brewington White

      Another pearl from you, JLM. I still have “courage” rolling around in my mind from a previous comment and now “discretion.” Very rich. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. (and of course the “charm school” reference is going to stick)

  23. mikescheiner

    Hi Fred, a great post that many of us neglect to realize and consider when broadcasting not only a video, but a comment or tweet. Not to be redundant to any of the comments, but the two that I feel summarize your message best is: “speaking or commenting to something genuinely and sincerely”, and maintaining some type of “self-censoring.” There are too many opportunities for someone to either take something out of context, feel threatened or to look for some sort of vindication over a person, issue, or company. Better safe than sorry is probably the rule to live by. Thanks for sharing.

  24. JLM

    The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 provided for a “safe harbor” when a company makes public statements, filings, press releases which diminishes litigation risk and discovery fishing expeditions under Sec 10-b5 of the Exchange Act.To obtain the benefits of this “safe harbor” protection, a spokesperson or document had to recite the appropriate language spelled out pertaining to such things as “forward looking statements” and other matters which might be broadly described as “predictive or speculative” and therefore subject to influences beyond the control of the spokesman.Listen to any earnings conference call or go to an Annual Meeting and you will be confronted by a Safe Harbor Pronouncement before a substantive word is uttered.There may be some merit and utility in creating the intellectual equivalent for a spokesman, such as Fred, which simply identifies that these statements are personal opinions, are not necessarily intended as statements of fact, are not intended for any broader audience than that present, are not intended to be more broadly disseminated by the spokesperson, are not intended to provide “advice”, are flawed by their very nature and do or do not represent the views of………There is a bit of paranoia in the preceding words but there is also several million dollars worth of legal fees.Just a thought. A nice Fred safe harbor pronouncement might be just the ticket.

    1. Mark Essel

      Would it be possible to simple share a URL to such a statement or wear the T-shirt ;)?

    2. harpos_blues

      JLM,This is why I was curious whether any type of performance/recording release was offered to Fred when he accepts a speaking engagement. The language you mention above could be included his release, and added to the introductory remarks before he begins speaking.

      1. JLM

        To take the paranoia just a bit further, I would think that Fred’s sponsors would be well served by such a statement. For the sponsor and Fred, it would take all of 30 seconds and it might provide a world of safety.After all the dinosaurs had a wicked good run except for that one damn meteor!

  25. Gorilla

    Wait. You (and your family) blog very openly and honestly every day. You Twitter multiple times a day. You belong to foursquare which allows people to know where you are. You talk at conferences and events very frequently.And you are worried about a video of a workshop that you did? And you trusted that people would not Twitter what you said? Unless you knew every single person at the conference or workshop you sound incredibly naive.You are afraid of a world that you are creating.

    1. fredwilson

      i’m not afraid it or i wouldn’t be doing what i am doing.i’m just pointing out some issues i’m trying to make sense of, particularly with videothis comment thread has really helped.

  26. Ilya

    Interesting topic indeed. My first inclination was to say “well, it is what it is”, but then I thought about what I’ve done in similar situations.I rubs me the wrong way when I write an email to someone and they call me back because they perceive it as a sensitive subject, and due to some perverse internal politics they don’t want to have their reply written down in an email. I’ve had it happen to me several times, and it feels wrong because the subject of these things is usually petty. The good thing is that I know the person, and I can discount for their notion of confidential and privacy whatever it might be.On the other hand, if we are talking about a broadcast setting where you have no intimate knowledge of who is in the audience, I would be a lot more careful. Here I think it comes down not to your own or another person’s sense of privacy and confidentiality, but to that of the most unscrupulous member of the audience. I would err on the side of caution in a situation like this.

  27. harpos_blues

    Fred,While I can’t add anything more eloquent than JLM posted below, I do have a couple of techniques to save time when reviewing video of your public speeches/keynotes, etc.I find it far easier and expedient to read a transcript of a video/audio performance than to watch or listen to the same performance in real-time. There are any number of affordable transcription services (especially in NYC). However, you might want to try CastingWords (, as you only need transcription a couple of times per year. CastingWords is an online service “crowd-sourced” through Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk). Here’s an article/case study about CastingWords from Amazon’s MTurk web site (….Once you have review the transcription, the you can quick scroll to any area of concern within the video, and edit if needed. If the target hosting platform is YouTube (for example) you can link to a URL within the video to a blog post that may clarify your remarks.Another advantage to transcripts is the potential need for legal guidance/enforcement if any of your remarks are taken out of context.From what I’ve seen of your video posts, any video editing could be performed by a conscientious high-school student, so check with your kids to see if they know anyone who needs an occasional after-school job.Also, in my experience, any performance that will be recorded requires a release from the performer at the time engagement (i.e. “booking”) and certainly before the performance itself.Were you not offered a release for publication of your performance? What about digital distribution? Just curious.Hope this helps…

    1. Jan Schultink

      The point I was going to make: a transcript of a 1.5 hour video can be skimmed in a a few minutes I think. As you scroll down you will remember the potentially sensitive fragments.

      1. fredwilson

        Yes. A good use of a service like speakertext or phonetag for video

  28. alain94040

    Fred,While you are correct up to a point to be paranoid, as things you say can be taken out of context and used against you… you don’t need to say a thing and rumour and slender can still put you down. So I’d go with your primary goal of remaining accessible and not worry too much about public speaking, as long as you stay honest.There are so many other ways that people can go after you, it’s not worth over-optimizing one angle. You just can’t control it all.

  29. rick gregory

    “It’s a horrible feeling but honestly I don’t know if there is any other way.”Sure there is. Before someone records a workshop like that ASK. I’m tired of the ‘it’s a new world so manners and etiquette don’t matter…” They do. All the organizers had to do was ask if it was OK to record the workshops, (or even just tell you they were). Doing a recording and then saying “Oh, by the way, now that you’ve been very candid….” is utter BS. It’s rude, inconsiderate and people need to get over ‘that’s the world we live in’ excuse. We create the world we live in…

  30. Taylor Brooks

    I encounter this problem almost daily. I work for an agency that books keynote speakers and in every contract there is a “Recording Prohibited” clause, and almost always that clause is removed before the contract signed.For speakers and comedians that have “canned speeches,” recording poses a major threat. Word will get out that they say the same thing over and over. Political speakers are the worst. They want to manage every part of their persona. If they misstep on subject X and the MSM picks it up; they’ll have to do a week of damage control… The problem is you can’t edit yourself, it’s too much work and word will inevitably get out anyway.I’m with Kid on this one, you have to trust that there are enough people in support of you. And should something you say be taken out of context, the fredlanders will stand up. People know you’re committed to openness and you’re not self-calculating, that is reason enough to forgive a misconstrued or ill-placed statement.

  31. John Belo

    I think consistency is key here, besides making sure no confidential information is handed out. If you are consistent in your speeches, people have no reason to attack you as something said out of context will simply feel unnatural.I know there’s always a risk of accidentally divulging confidential information, but, whenever possible, you can plainly state to people that you can’t provide a more in-depth opinion due to confidentiality issues. They would understand it and you wouldn’t have to look awkward.Trying to control yourself and what you say to the point where you watch every second of every video is insane and will just burn you out. I’m sure you have much better things to do than to succumb to a fear of losing control. Just let it go and act if anything comes up.

  32. Richard Jordan

    I think there’s a flip side to this. You said “I feel like a politician” but i think that in a world where increasingly we’re all exposed to the internet “gotcha” people will become a lot more forgiving. Tiger Woods may have media brands in a tizzy but most people I know recognize that it’s a private matter and don’t really care two hoots either way – they liked him for the golf.We went through a period of about 20-30 years where TV had matured enough to make voyeuristic gotchas big business. But while the voyeurism has stayed I think that audiences have caught up with the medium – certainly audiences below thirty-five. IMHOAs to Pincus – I really don’t think what he said was bad. It was a reasonable point, honestly made. I think the only people who cared were those who already had an anti-Zynga axe to grind. He’s an amazing entrepreneur who’s done something very special. Not every move was perfect, and he was just acknowledging that, and he moved very fast to clean up the situation when the nature of some of the offers became apparent.

  33. Dave Broadwin

    Another nice post. Stuff happens — even to people as careful as you. Mostly when stuff happens, it is promplty forgotten or cleared up. What I have noticed is that some people have an instinct for compounding their errors by providing some disingenuous explanation. The most prominent examples, of course, are from politics, but the same holds true in business. The worst messes I have had to clear up for clients have more to do with how they handle the mistake than the mistake. Martha (not a client) did her time for lying about insider trading not for the trading itself.

    1. fredwilson

      Such a good point

  34. Yule Heibel

    Media seems to have a life of its own (whether new media or traditional news coverage – anyone who has been misrepresented in the daily newspaper knows, and now there are a ton of new platforms on which to be turned inside out). Media is almost like a person who can care for or hurt you.Maybe that’s because, at the end of the day, there are actual people operating the controls. Is it someone who has integrity and manners (as per Shana C’s comment) or a jerk with a concealed lapel camera (as per Dave Winer’s comment)?For the past 9 months I’ve been involved in a local civic issue that became overpoweringly political and even precedent setting. I hear you, Fred, when you write, “It makes me feel like a politician to tell you the truth.” (I learned that I have zero appetite for being a politician – but I can’t step away entirely either.)Earlier, I responded to JLM re. literacy; now I’m wondering if the “life in public” regime is a textbook (a form of literacy) for getting schooled in (and understanding) politics. Hmm, I might want to be a drop-out… ;-)New media amplifies issues familiar from history. Hence the excellent references to Socrates and even good old paranoia. And then there’s Jean-Paul Sartre: “L’enfer, c’est les autres” – “hell is other people” (…he might have added “heaven, too”). Media amplifies.

  35. Donna Brewington White

    Fred — I’ve only been able to watch a few minutes of this so far and am glad that you take the “risk” to put this stuff out there. I find that so much of what you share is transferable beyond the particular subject matter and can be taken as wisdom in general.The main reason I wanted to comment was to thank you for sharing your thought process. This is almost as (if not more) helpful than the conclusions you draw. There are so many factors involved in making choices and decisions — so as you share the factors you’ve considered, it makes the conclusion so much more meaningful. I will never watch you in a video in the same way again because I now know that you noticed every little thing that you might have wished was different and allowed it to be shown anyway — for the value it brings. So, your process encourages a balance of courageousness and judiciousness. Then JLM’s comment adds a new concept to the equation — discretion. What a refreshing concept in this day and age. Cool coat, by the way.

    1. fredwilson

      I am wearing it right now. Its a biker coat I got for riding my vespa when its cold out

  36. enrolled agent study guide

    Candid Camera has appeared on every major broadcast network, as well as several cable networks. Episodes from the last five decades are now available for the first time in DVD and VHS collections from Rhino Home Video.

  37. enrolled agent exam

    I hate to be the person that relates intelligent discussion with television… but I can’t help but think of an episode of “Desperate Housewives” I saw yesterday (in syndication, of course). In the episode, one of the characters, Lynette, is caught on videotape in a department store, slapping her daughter across the face. The tape, later in the episode, is used against her by CPS.Just sayin’.

  38. paramendra

    TechCrunch was unfair to Pincus, and by extension to you and to Anu Shukla. But I think it is important to not overreact. Media thrives on controversy. They create when there is none. There will be background noise.The solution to the 20 second clip that misrepresents you is to make sure there is the full hour version hosted somewhere. The value of being able to watch your entire InSITE session was enormous to me.

  39. fredwilson

    wow. what are they worried about?

  40. Tereza

    I think there is a lot more of this than we would imagine.Not long ago I was told, by someone who would know, that my heavily wooded street, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, is monitored from end to end (about a mile). Various wealthy, paranoid reclusive people.I’m the neighborhood trailer trash. I guess they’re trying to keep me out.

  41. kidmercury

    people like me.

  42. Mark Essel

    Not that Kid.They’re worried about the idea of people like you. It’s much more menacing, and unstoppable!

  43. Barry Schuler

    Indeed I did back when DFJ was in Redwood city – feels like last century no?