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Jason Calacanis delivered a typically candid keynote address at the Affiliate Summit in Las Vegas today, during which he urged affiliates to “stop polluting the river”.
What we heard from the Mahalo founder and CEO wasn’t quite as controversial as his “SEO is bullshit” comments made in December 2006, but his message was nonetheless quite clear.
Calacanis said there was a place for publishers that add real value, but told the hundreds of affiliates in attendance that too many of them were ruining the internet and causing damage with adware, malware and spam.
In a tirade against spam, he jokingly said that anyone from PayPerPost (now part of IZEA) in attendance should kill themselves.
“Affiliate companies are creating the infrastructure that allows people to pollute the well," he said. They are culpable.”
He told affiliate marketers that their not inconsiderable talents were being squandered in their attempts to earn a few thousand dollars here and there when they should be aiming for the stars and trying to create the next Facebook or Twitter.
“Instead of creating bullshit affiliate sites, someone in this room could create the next Digg or StumbleUpon.”
A fair point but easier said than done on limited resources, as one of the audience pointed out.
Of course, his overall theme tied in nicely with his current project, the human-powered search engine Mahalo which he hopes will succeed because there is too much rubbish on search engine results pages.
He said that those who were gaming sites were spoiling the online experience, but that this at least presented an opportunity for someone trying to create a search service devoid of spam.
For every MySpace and Technorati which is being spoiled by spammers, there is a Facebook, LinkedIn or Techmeme fighting back to make sure that profiles and posts are authentic, he said.
The "Curated Web" is the way forward, he argued, and that’s why he’s hiring an army of editors to power his embryonic search engine.
He said that Mahalo was positioned more as a “second click service” and partner to Google rather than as a direct competitor.
A wise stance to take as relegation from the Google listings would do his business model no favours.
Calacanis conceded that what constitutes spam is not always a black and white issue, and had to answer an audience member who said that his position was hypocritical because of the speaker’s own attempts to game social media for his own purposes.
As he tries to monetise Mahalo in the future, he could find it tough on the moral high ground. He will need to work extra hard to ensure the integrity of any advertisers and make sure that the well-intentioned Mahalo doesn't itself end up polluting the river.