Defomicron

Software, Hardware, Silverware


Entries tagged: Journalism

Journalism or, often, “journalism”.

“Start with something messy, get to the point, get an editor, and make it good.”

— Michael Lopp

Let It Full-Bleed

MG Siegler:

Load up your favorite tech blog. Or almost any blog, really. There’s a good chance it looks like shit. There’s a better chance that the reading experience is even worse. And we put up with it, day in and day out.

He published this article on Medium and on TechCrunch; guess which one looks nicer and is easier to read. Readability has always been a driving goal behind Defomicron’s design. While I like owning my own writing platform, if I didn’t have the skill set to build something on-par with Medium’s reading experience, I think I’d just as soon publish there.

The End of the Waffle House

A surprisingly heart-wrenching story about the death of a Waffle House, by Jessica Contrera for the Indiana Daily Student:

Bud — everyone called him Bud — checked on the dwindling supply of breakfast sausage, peered into the nearly empty freezers, tried to explain to his regulars why it had to be this way.

“It’s time,” he said over and over.

At 79, Bud was tired. Except for Christmas, the restaurant was always open, day and night. Now a developer wanted to replace it with another apartment building for college kids. The offer was too good to pass up.

‘Email’ Is Fit to Print

In their updated style guide, The New York Times will be embracing the spelling of “email” without the hyphen. Finally.

‘I Am TOM. I Like to TYPE.’

Tom Hanks for The New York Times:

No one throws away typewritten letters, because they are pieces of graphic art with a singularity equal to your fingerprints, for no two manual typewriters print precisely the same. E-mails disappear from all but the servers of Google and the N.S.A. No one on the planet has yet to save an Evite. But pull out a 1960s Brother De Luxe 895, roll in a sheet of paper and peck out, “That party was a rocker! Thanks for keeping us dancin’ till quarter to three,” and 300 years from now that thank-you note may exist in the collection of an aficionado who treasures it the same as a bill of sale from 1776 for one dozen well-made casks from Ye Olde Ale Shoppe.

You can’t be a terrific actor, beloved children’s toy, and great writer. It just isn’t fair.

Writing a Novel

Linus Edwards, on writing the novel he’s had in his head for years:

Now, I feel like I need to finally sit down and write this novel or else it will slowly begin to fade away. I realize that the odds I will ever get it published are in the low single digits, however, in some ways I just want to complete the novel for myself. Everyone always speaks of writing for the sake or writing and following your own passion. Maybe I should actually heed that advice and not worry about what will come of the novel after it’s written. At worst, I’ll have a completed manuscript that I can keep on my shelf and maybe show my future children someday - look kids, your father once wrote a novel.

While this piece is personal to Linus, it really resonated with me and my own writing ambitions. We’ll be watching your progress, Mr. Edwards.

85 Years Ago Today

Some excellent reporting by Sam Byford over at The Verge:

August 6th marks the 85th anniversary of pop art legend Andy Warhol’s birthday; he would have been 85.

Rush Limbaugh on Tech Blogs

Rush Limbaugh:

My guess is that the entire universe of people I’m talking, with exceptions, of course, just like there are exceptions everywhere, but this entire universe of tech bloggers is probably liberal Democrat, in their politics.  And yet they are seeing the same kind of bias in the area they care about that you and I see in the area we care about politics.  And it would be a great teachable moment, I would love to get some of these guys and say, “Would you start questioning CBS the way you question that website?  Would you start questioning NBC the way you question that blog and the way they report on Apple?  Would you start questioning ABC the same way you are dubious of that blog and the way they’re reporting on Samsung”

He forgot one, but don’t worry that’s what I’m here for: Fox News.

‘The Monopoly on Grubers’

Linus Edwards:

Gruber is a writer who cherishes excellence above mediocrity, who champions thoughtful design over sloppiness, and who promotes the pursuit of perfection in technology above simply making a buck.

Yet, there is no Android John Gruber. There is no one on the Android side promoting these values and looking at the Android platform with an eye towards something besides simply parroting the feature set of the new HTC Milky Way Swipe Omega Machine IV Redux.

Here’s to the Future

Shawn Blanc:

If you think you’ve reached a point where you can create work that never makes you cringe again, then you’re saying that what you do today will be just as good as what you do next month, next year, and in 5 years from now.

And, well, that’s just not fair to your future self.

In Which PC Magazine Invents an OS X Feature

Joel Santo Domingo, reviewing the refreshed 13-inch MacBook Air for PC Magazine:

The twin microphones are new, and will help others hear you during FaceTime sessions. In the future, under OS X Mavericks, the dual mic setup will help the system pick out your voice when you’re using Siri.

Um, did I miss something?

The Impossible Task of Covering Apple

A few choice passages from Rob “Dumbass” Enderle’s latest piece “The Impossible Task of Fixing Apple”:

Steve Jobs was an iconic leader but he wasn’t known for sharing and was deathly afraid of someone being hired to replace him. He almost was fired again in the early 2000’s for messing with his stock options and this likely made him even more paranoid.

Steve Jobs, the man behind the Macintosh, the man a desperate Gil Amelio hired back into the company in 1997, and the man who in the past fifteen years alone facilitated the creation of the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, was fearful of losing his job.

Yes. Of course.

…it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that Jobs didn’t really share much of his secret sauce for success with anyone, including Cook.

Steve Jobs, whose meticulous attention to detail is world renown, refused to let his COO in on how the company was successful. Apple was, as Steve himself professed, his greatest creation, so of course he wouldn’t want it to carry on in his absence.

Rob is, as we all know, a close personal friend of Mr. Tim Cook. Rob was there to console Tim in the times he only needed a shoulder to cry on. Reportedly, Tim went on and on about how Steve was “a big ol’ jerk” and never shared his secret sauce.

[Cook] came from Compaq and there is nothing, other than his time as COO at Apple, which connects his background to a premium brand.

“Other”.

If you don’t fix Apple’s board before Cook is replaced, and unless Apple starts to recover soon he is toast, the next CEO will likely be worse. The screwy thing? This will likely force a replacement of the board but the now less qualified CEO will have a huge vote and likely pack the board with folks that support them.

Tim Cook has to be fired. The board has to be replaced. The next CEO is going to suck, too. Apple is doomed. You’re right, Mr. Enderle, it is impossible to fix Apple. Pay no attention to the quarterly results behind the curtain.

If we want companies like Apple to be around and thrive, somehow we need to find a way to assure the quality of their boards because, if we can’t, they won’t.

It’s up to us to fix Apple. You, me, and Rob Enderle, and all those shareholders who are getting $100 billion in dividend payments over the next two-and-a-half years. Hop to it.

Henry Blodget Just Figured Out How to Lock an iPhone, and He’d Love to Tell You All About It

Henry Blodget, dumbass:

If you’re like me, you had no idea you could easily turn your phone’s screen off. But you can! All you have to do is quickly click the button on the top of your phone that (if held down for a couple of seconds) turns your phone on and off. If you click it quickly, you’re screen will turn off! Then just click it quickly again to turn the screen back on. Importantly, this does NOT turn your whole phone off. Just the screen. I was astounded when I discovered this trick. So simple and handy.

You might think he bought his iPhone four minutes ago, but:

If you’re like me, you spent your first four years of iPhone ownership…

Dumbass.

I refuse to link to this page, firstly because its the worst idiotic dumb assert I’ve ever read and because I had to type that out because Business Insider disabled highlighting and copying text. Thinking on it, that was probably smart of them.

Have You Clicked Here? You Will

Brian Morrissey for Digiday:

Measuring how many ads were shown was a manual process. John Nardone, who joined Modem to lead its media department at the time, recalls getting log files from publishers in order to count the “hits” an ad got. Log files included hits for each piece of the page’s content; that meant combing through for the .jpg file associated with the ad. The first Web analytics tool was a highlighter pen.

Roger Ebert Wins the Cartoon Caption Contest

“At this point you might as well go ahead and turn your cell phones back on.”

Roger Ebert Passes; an Era Ends

Legendary film critic Roger Ebert has died, just two day following his announcement that he’d be taking a break from writing full time. He was and remains an inspiration for all of us trying to make our way in this game.

Ebert, in 2011, on death:

My genes will not live on, because I have had no children. I am comforted by Richard Dawkins’ theory of memes. Those are mental units: thoughts, ideas, gestures, notions, songs, beliefs, rhymes, ideals, teachings, sayings, phrases, clichés that move from mind to mind as genes move from body to body. After a lifetime of writing, teaching, broadcasting and telling too many jokes, I will leave behind more memes than many.

Annoyance-Driven Blog Posts

In which Harry Marks responds to Siracusa’s aforelinked piece, totally misrepresents it, and makes himself look like a dick.

Marco Arment Launches ‘The Magazine’

Marco Arment:

There’s room for another category between individuals and major publishers, and that’s where The Magazine sits. It’s a multi-author, truly modern digital magazine that can appeal to an audience bigger than a niche but smaller than the readership of The New York Times. This is what a modern magazine can be, not a 300 MB stack of static page images laid out manually by 100 people.

Great name. Subscribed.

‘Apple Awakens from Cryogenic Sleep, Finally Catches Up with the Rest of the Mobile Industry’

Vincent Messina, writing for Cult of Android:

Welcome to 2012.

Yep.

Daring Fireball-Flavored Claim Chowder

The hardest thing in the world is to admit when you are wrong.

Bullies With Blogs

John Gruber and Marco Arment called out both Engadget and The Verge for not mentioning in their HP Spectre One reviews that the machine is a shameless rip-off of an iMac. Joshua Topolsky took this personally and responded on his personal blog:

But, just as I felt compelled to respond to Michael Arrington when he attacked the work I (and my team) did at Engadget, I am now responding to Marco Arment, John Gruber, and anyone else who sets up a minimal WordPress blog and thinks that the ability to publish text onto the internet gives them insight into what journalism is or what I do for a living.

First of all, implying that John Gruber doesn’t have any insight into journalism or what you do for a living is lowly and absurd1. He’s been doing this a lot longer than you.

Josh goes on to defend his website’s article:

We mention [companies ripping off Apple] plenty, we talk about it on the Vergecast plenty. Nilay and I have been ripping Samsung to shreds over it for years. Gruber and Marco are plainly and simply wrong.

The problem isn’t whether you’ve ever mentioned Apple rip-offs before. The problem is that you didn’t mention it in your latest review, despite the copying being blatant.

The point is the accusation is outrageous that we alter or soften stories at The Verge to win favor with a company, or at that company’s request, or because a company advertises on our site, or because we’re scared of commenters, or some other invented mystery these sleuths have detected. Sorry guys, that’s not the way we work. It’s not how we have ever worked, or will ever work.

Then why, Josh? Why did you not mention that the Spectre One, its keyboard, and its trackpad are all outrageous clones of Apple’s iMac, wireless keyboard, and Magic Trackpad? Sorry, but the excuse that you have mentioned Apple-copying enough in the past doesn’t fly. It’s your goddamn job to report this stuff.

In an ironic twist, Josh’s whole post reads as a whiny plea to “bullies with blogs” to grant The Verge amnesty for poor journalism, as The Verge has apparently done for Apple copycats.


  1. Also, neither John nor Marco use WordPress. ↩︎

In Which We Examine Andrew Sorkin’s ‘Apple Shopping List’

Andrew Sorkin, writing for the New York Times:

Question: What would you do if you had $117 billion?

That’s the challenge facing Tim Cook, Apple’s chief, whose company’s cash hoard keeps growing — by about $1 billion a week.

He could hold onto it. He could increase Apple’s dividend, which he instituted this year for the first time.

Or he could spend it.

Oh boy. These posts always go so well.

This is the one no-brainer on the list. Nuance, based in Burlington, Mass., provides much of the speech recognition technology behind Apple’s Siri and dictation functions.

Frankly, I’m surprised Apple hasn’t already bought Nuance. With such a pivotal role in Apple’s marque features this year, it’s shocking that they are licensing dictation software. Nuance is without doubt the best at speech-to-text, and if Apple wants to secure that for their platform, acquisition, not a partnership, is necessary. The fact is that Apple doesn’t want anyone else (read: Google and Microsoft) to match Siri, and if Nuance is out there to be played with, others will jump at it.

Consider this a one-two punch. Apple should buy the social media companies Twitter and Path.

Um, no. And here’s why:

If Apple were to stir together Twitter, Path and its own Photo Stream service — and leveraged all the data it has collected about its users over the years (while mindful of privacy issues) — the company would have quite a product that would keep consumers hooked.

Thing is, Apple isn’t in the business of trying to learn every little detail of their customer’s lives, and it’s in everyone’s best interest that it remains that way. Apple sells devices that we love to happy consumers, it doesn’t sell happy consumers to advertisers we hate.

Research in Motion: Yes, this one may be a head-scratcher, considering that the iPhone seems to have eaten RIM’s BlackBerry for breakfast — and lunch.

No.

Everyone is talking about the mobile wallet. Square, started by the Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, has created a unique new electronic payment system though iPhones and iPads.

If Apple wants a mobile payment service of their own (and signs point to yes), they’ll build one. And it certainly won’t have a dongle that plugs into the audio jack. There’s nothing about Square that Apple couldn’t easily replicate and improve upon on their own.

With a stock market value of $13.5 billion, Sprint can be purchased for a song. Apple could easily spend four times more than that — say, $50 billion — to build out the Sprint network and turn it into a showcase for the next generation mobile technology.

Here’s the problem: if Apple is going to spend $65 billion dollars on a cellular network, they aren’t gonna buy Sprint’s. They’ll build their own, and they’ll do it better than anyone else. The instant Apple buys Sprint, AT&T and Verizon will drop the iPhone and Apple will lose millions of customers. It won’t happen. Trust me.

1 for 6. Not too bad, considering most of these speculation posts are insane. Let me add a couple more companies I think Apple really should consider purchasing: Tom Tom, OpenStreetMap, and the plethora of other services Apple is relying upon for map data. If Apple’s smart, and I think they are, they know that they need these sources under lock and key if they want to remain competitive.

If Apple starts buying anyone big, expect them to be services that they are already relying upon. Those are the services that Apple has to worry about, not Twitter or Path, who are relying upon Apple.

“Let me be perfectly frank. This is one of my favorite traditions. I relish it so much…who wrote this shit?”

— New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, speaking at a hot dog eating contest.

The Silence of Mike Daisey

If you haven’t already, just listen to it.

Fighting the Stupid

You’d expect The Wall Street Journal and USA Today to be able to calculate simple math. You’d think they were really stupid if they couldn’t subtract 2 from 2. Well…

More Consumer Reports Sensationalism

Marco Arment, on Consumer Reports’ claims of “hotter” iPads:
Any reasonably competent, well-intentioned writer or editor would assume that most people reading this would think the new iPad gets hot, implying severe discomfort and a significant flaw that will affect nearly everyone who uses it, rather than merely warm, which would imply an occasional minor inconvenience for the few people who might notice and care.

The new iPad certainly is hot. This is almost a good as The Verge’s take.

The Feature

Give Me Something to Read or Editor’s Choice has been renamed The Feature.

Marco Arment:
I came up with “The Feature”, which we didn’t absolutely love, but that we both liked. It fit more of the criteria than anything else we considered, and while it’s not especially unique, it conceptually represents the site very well without smelling like newsprint. The site often features feature articles, and “The Feature” implied a regularly selected feature article. No other name we considered was a better conceptual fit: it really made perfect sense.

Nope, it’s a great name.

The Agony and the Insanity of Mike Daisey

Rob Schmitz, reporting on Mike Daisey’s fabrication on This American Life:

Cathy Lee, Daisey’s translator in Shenzhen, was with Daisey at this meeting in Shenzhen. I met her in the exact place she took Daisey—the gates of Foxconn. So I asked her: “Did you meet people who fit this description?”

“No,” she said.

“So there was nobody who said they were poisoned by hexane?” I continued.

Lee’s answer was the same: “No. Nobody mentioned the Hexane.”

I pressed Cathy to confirm other key details that Daisey reported. Did the guards have guns when you came here with Mike Daisey? With each question I got the same answer from Lee. “No,” or “This is not true.”

Daisey’s response:

What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed This American Life to air an excerpt from my monologue. This American Life is essentially a journalistic ­- not a theatrical ­- enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations. But this is my only regret. I am proud that my work seems to have sparked a growing storm of attention and concern over the often appalling conditions under which many of the high-tech products we love so much are assembled in China.

Translated: “I made it all up, but you should still listen to me.” Classy.

Retraction

This American Life retracts their story on Foxconn’s factories. Mike Daisey, the performer behind The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, apparently wasn’t being completely truthful. Whoops.

‘I’m Not a “Curator” ’

Marco’s post on this stupid “Curator’s Code” seems pretty definitive. I’d like to reiterate how I handle “via” links.

I have “linked” items where I direct the title straight to the source. In those posts, my goal is to get people to click through to those sites and read the articles, and not to stay on my site.

And I have “via” links at the bottom of some posts. These point to sites where I found the links I myself am linking to, if I didn’t find them through my own browsing. These links are meant to give credit where credit is due, but I’m not necessarily trying to direct my readers to them, since they aren’t the original content source.

So far, no one’s complained.

Pro Tip: What Tech Journos Should Write About When There’s No Real News

Peter Cohen:

Keep your fucking mouth shut, asshole.

Muckraker Economics

Tomorrow night, NBC will air iFactory, Nightline’s look into Foxconn’s factories. It seems fit that I’d take now to voice my opinions on the issue.

To be clear, the conditions at Foxconn are horrible and inexcusable. But it isn’t Apple’s fault, and it isn’t as if they’re the only ones taking advantage of cheap Chinese labor: Amazon, Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft all use Foxconn. But Apple’s the one getting all of the attention for the tragedies at Foxconn. It may not be unwarranted, but it’s unfair.

The problem is thus: Americans love to applaud products “Made in the USA” and rag on those “Made in China”, but the fact is that American labor is more expensive, which means American products are more expensive. We say we want products made within our borders, but who’s going to pay $1499 for an iPad when an identical one can be had for $499?

Frugal Americans are going to buy the less expensive one, because that’s just the way we are, and truthfully we couldn’t care less if a product is made in our home nation, as long as we get a good deal. It just sounds good to slap an obnoxious “Buy American” bumper sticker on the back of your Italian Dodge Ram1.

Apple isn’t going to triple their prices, because no one will buy their products. If no one buys their products, then America doesn’t have Apple. And Apple is doing amazing things for America. They’re the most valuable publicly-traded company in the world, and they’re still growing. Do you think that money isn’t being injected into our economy?


  1. Message to American car manufacturers: instead of trying to sell me a car because it was built where I’m from, how about building a car I want to buy? ↩︎

There’s Always More to Drink

MG Siegler:

Most of what is written about the tech world — both in blog form and old school media form — is bullshit. I won’t try to put some arbitrary label on it like 80%, but it’s a lot. There’s more bullshit than there is 100% pure, legitimate information.

The problem is systemic. Print circulation is dying and pageviews are all that matter in keeping advertisers happy. This means, whether writers like it or not, there’s an underlying drive for both sensationalism and more — more — more.

Read the stories that are published in the tech blogosphere tomorrow. Are most published because the writer put in a lot of work or original thought? No, most are published because more — more — more content leads to more — more — more pageviews.

Ouch. As a new writer trying to make a name for himself in the technology sphere, that stings. I tend to agree with what MG has to say, and while it’s true that a lot of what’s written on the web is bullshit written for pageviews, Siegler is himself sensationalizing. When, in any medium, has there not been way more crap than real quality products? Has that ever happened? The fact is that there are still plenty of writers putting out great content on the web right now. I find new ones every day. Most of them aren’t doing it for free1, and some are even making a living at it. Siegler tries to argue that these exceptions will eventually have to convert the the “more content, more pageviews” approach or perish. Now that’s a headline. Jumping-to-conclusions? Yep. A bit melodramatic? You betcha. Look, so long as there are people like me (and I suspect, MG Siegler) out there eating up rich internet writing, those who create it will stick around. It’s a bit early to be spelling out its doom.

There’s always going to be a bigger market for sensational stories with big headlines and worthless content, but there also will always be a large minority of us who crave real content, and are willing to pay for it. Just ask Shawn Blanc.


  1. Notable exception: myself. ↩︎