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Dennis HowlettWhen you’re running a small business, it makes sense to engage with the media. They help get your story out there and can give you valuable free coverage in well-read publications.
The last few years has seen the rise and rise of the blogger – a variation on the traditional journalist but they can still get your company name in front of significant audiences – often more targeted.

Because anyone can start a blog at zero cost, the quality of blogs and bloggers varies dramatically – from the good to the bad to the outright odd. AccManPro, written by Dennis Howlett, falls firmly in the latter category.

The purpose of this post is so that I have a page I can point people at in the future when I’m asked why I’ve not responded to the whatever oddness Dennis Howlett chooses to write about me or my company in the future. If you’re not already familiar with AccManPro and my history with Howlett then you’ll probably want to stop reading here or just skip to the last paragraph as it’ll just bore you silly!

Howlett and I have always had an odd relationship. I have to begrudgingly admit we’re similar in some ways – we both like to make a lot of noise and be contentious in order to get noticed.

Other “proper” journalists in the industry and other heads of SaaS accounting firms have asked why he seems to be so obsessed about me and my company and writes a disproportionate amount of negative comment about us. In part it goes back to when he stitched me up on Twitter earlier this year.

In the ensuing row he kept on professing his independence so when I pointed out I knew he owned 10% of FreeAgentCentral, a competitor, he wasn’t best pleased. Especially when it supposedly led to him divesting his shares (although when I last looked, he was still listed at Companies House as a shareholder (see update on this at bottom of the post – his partner now owns the shares))

The nonsensical attacks on me and KashFlow have continued since. The most recent being incredibly misinformed and disingenuous. It resulted in one of the top guys at Freshbooks telling him his post was “confoundingly misguided

Then recently two things happened that suddenly explained exactly why Howlett behaves as he does.

Firstly, someone pointed me in the direction of this post on CrunchNotes by Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch. I’ll quote the relevant extract (my bolding):

Recently Howlett asked me to write about a charity on TechCrunch. I Twittered about it (to hundreds of thousands of people) but never wrote about it on TechCrunch, it just wasn’t relevant. I guess that pissed Howlett off, because a few weeks later he was referring to me as a street hooker on Twitter. When I complained privately on Skype, his response was “I know – I do what I do as a ‘persona’ that people expect of me…gives me ‘ins’ to the ‘money.’”

Independent journalism at its finest. Don’t write about the charity he’s supporting and he goes after you with a stick, then says it’s all a persona to make money, and then writes a ridiculous legal opinion about something he knows nothing about

Scrolling down to the comments on that page shows other people with similar experiences of the man.

From Robert Scoble, a very well known tech blogger in the US:

You should see the kind of crap that Dennis writes about me. He’s the worst kind of “journalist” who does this crap just to make noise, which he thinks gets him deals. I don’t know where the idea started that you have to be an attack dog to appear journalistic. Totally agreed with your analysis of his writings and attitude. Keep it up Mike.

From Jeremiah Owyang of web-strategist.com:

Dennis tried to pick fights with me too, doing name calling, I just blocked him on Twitter over a year ago.

I’d like to have a civil relationship with him –if, and when he’s ready.

So Howlett attacks people via his blog as some sort of a way to get an “in to the money”? I know a number of software companies do pay him a sponsorship fee to be advertised on his blog and he never seems to give them anything like the level of negativity he fires in my direction. But surely it can’t be as simple and straight cut as that, can it?

Then the second thing happened. By some a coincidence of synchronicity, just as I finished reading the article above, Dennis Howlett sent me a private message via Twitter. Normally I would never repeat or publish any private messages I’ve received. But as Howlett has repeatedly shown he has no respect for discussions supposedly  “off the record” or my private messages I have no problem with publishing this:

dh_twitter

If I hadn’t just read about his money-making strategy on CrunchBites then I’d have trouble believing what I was reading. He’d just written a totally ridiculous article about KashFlow which was promptly discredited by numerous commenters on his blog and by a senior industry figure and he’s now suggesting I pay him to help him better understand the issues? Has this guy really been attacking me and my business  for years with the sole purpose of trying to get me to pay him as some sort of consultant? It would seem so.

So in summary, if I’ve sent you this link to explain why I’m not bothering to respond to one of his future attacks, it’s as simple as this: he appears to deliberately write uninformed, misleading articles about me or KashFlow in a bid to get me to give him money. I have no intention of giving him any money, so he continues to write it. Engaging with him is a pointless exercise so from now on I’ll be following the example of the more experienced people cited above and just ignore him.

Update. As of 1/10/2009 it appears his shares in a FreeAgentCentral have been transferred to his partner that he lives with. A blatant contradiction of his comments that he has “no shareholdings either directly or indirectly (via trusts etc) nor management positions in any of the companies that I either write about or which sponsor this website”

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