Tag Archives: Jeff Jarvis

On AT&T’s new charges for data

I think my position is summed up very well by a comment from Nic Wise to a hysterical post by Jeff Jarvis:

“While this is going to effect the digerati, 79.75 million of the 80 millions iPhone users in the US will never notice. Except the smaller bill.”

As is usually the case, the digerati fail to see anything except their own narrow needs, and demand that those are served even if it means other people have to pay for them. 

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Google is not leaving China. So why pretend it is?

Jeff Jarvis is well-known for his love of all-things Google, but his latest Guardian column is probably his most hype-laden yet. I don’t think Jeff is responsible for the headline, but it sums up his position quite well: “Google is defending citizens of the net“.

The issue, of course, is China and Google’s decision to shift its search servers accessible in the mainland to Hong Kong (note for the pedantic: Hong Kong is, of course, part of China but has a somewhat-distanced relationship with regard to censorship.)

Jeff’s key paragraph is probably this:

“Next to no one has been willing to stand up to China’s suppression of speech online. Other companies – Yahoo, Cisco – have handed over information that led to the imprisonment of dissidents, or have helped China build its Great Firewall. Many more, from News Corp to the New York Times Company, have coveted the Chinese market and overlooked the regime’s tyranny to do business there.”

There’s only one problem with Jeff’s perspective: Google isn’t ceasing to do business in China. From a report in the very same newspaper:

“The company [Google] now believes it has found a legal way out, and said it intended to maintain its research, development and advertising sales business in China…”

So Google, to use Jeff’s phrase, is continuing “to overlook the regime’s tyranny to do business there”. Jeff makes the analogy with the Apartheid era in South Africa, and to stretch that analogy at little what Google is doing is like refusing to buy South African diamonds while continuing to buy South African fruit: it’s a boycott, but it’s only a boycott when it suits the company.

I’m not knocking Google for this. I think what it’s doing is actually good, and I don’t think an absolute boycott of all things Chinese would be a good approach. But Jeff, as he often does with regard to Google, over-eggs his argument to the point of absurdity. I always wish that this obviously-smart man would get a little more perspective.

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Translating Google

Jeff Jarvis fires off a couple of questions in an apartment in Davos to the Googlers. Here are Eric Schmidt’s answers, with some handy translations from Google-speak.


Phones: Will they have a tablet? “You might want to tell me what the difference is between a large phone and a tablet,” Schmidt said.


You bet. No way will we allow those fuckers in Cupertino to leverage Quattro Wireless into our turf. No fucking way.


How will they make money on phones? “Not to worry,” Schmidt said. “We do not charge for Android because we can make money in other contexts.”


We will leverage our massive monopoly in online advertising to cross-subsidise mobile handset development. By the time the DoJ notices what we’re doing, hopefully the competition will be dead and we’ll rule. There’s no way we’re giving Apple, Microsoft, or anyone else the chance to undermine our ad sales. I studied the Microsoft playbook, and it worked for them for 20 years. Why not for us?


“In the last year, Chad managed to figure out a way to make money using partners and their video content on YouTube,”


Chad’s going to charge for content and stick it behind a paywall. You can do that if you have premium content. That’s What Google Would Do, Jeff, we just forgot to tell you that bit before you wrote your book.

(Photo by World Economic Forum)

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Why “process journalism” is neither journalism, nor process

Jeremy Toeman, talking about the truly absurd “Twittergate”, sums up why process journalism fails:

“But this is par for the course if your job is breaking news as fast as possible, as there is no reward for being late nor is there a penalty for being inaccurate.”

With process journalism, there is no penalty for being inaccurate. If something is wrong, just go back and rewrite it. There’s no pressure to ensure the facts are right when you hit the publish button.

How anyone with half a brain can think that this is a better method than dull, old-fashioned fact-checking and multiple sourcing I don’t know. Of course, doing proper, in-depth reporting takes time and money and effort – it’s hard, and it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get the story right.

But it does mean you have a better chance of getting the story right than any other method.

Journalism as beta isn’t journalism. Saying that there’s such a thing as “beta journalism” makes as little sense as saying there’s such a thing as “beta car making”. If your car broke down, would you be happy if the car maker turned around and said “oh, sorry, we’re trying out a new system called ‘process manufacture’. We’ll fix it for you, but sorry you got stranded out in the woods. We got a new set of parts and took a chance on them fitting right without bothering to check the measurements.”

Or to put it another way: next time Jeff Jarvis is flying across the Atlantic to tell newspaper people how to fix their industry, I bet he’d be pretty unhappy if Boeing had used “process plane making” to construct the 747 he’s on.

Of course, news writing isn’t in the same league of importance as the safe manufacture of products which we trust with thousands of lives. But businesses can be hurt and lives can be lost because of news stories. When you have the kind of influence that major news vendors have, you bear a massive responsibility to get it right first time.

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The Jeff Jarvis conundrum

I have a certain amount of sympathy for Ron Rosenbaum's post about Jeff Jarvis. Like Ron, I used to be an avid reader of Jeff's blog, and liked it a lot. And, like Ron, I've become disillusioned by Jeff and his arguments over the past year.

Let's make this clear from the start: a lot of what Jeff says is right.I have absolutely no need for Jeff to "save" me. I have no idea how long exactly Jeff has been involved in online publishing, but I doubt that he could describe me as a print zealot. I first worked as an online-only journalist around 1998 (when I was first dedicated online editor for MacUser) and although I've moved back to print a couple of times (follow the money!) since then, I'm currently, again, only working day-to-day online.

However, as Ron says, somewhere over the past year Jeff has become increasing reluctant to accept criticism, instead concentrating on smearing anyone who criticises him. Arguments which are still in play are dismissed out of hand as "old hat", and anyone who raises them as a "curmudgeon".

I think that one of the commentors on Jeff's supposed-rebuttal, "Chris", puts the way I feel about it best:

"It is possible to simultaneously believe …

1) That Jeff always has a lot of sharp insights and has kept coming up with them for many years;

2) That Jeff has become progressively more infatuated with his
stature and that his opinion of his own brilliance and deep
significance just keeps growing;

3) That print journalists need to hear the tough insights Jeff offers; and

4) That Jeff hasn’t come close to a coherent answer to the question
of where revenue is going to be found to sustain anything close to the
level of journalistic thoroughness to which we’ve grown accustomed.

I live in California, a megastate with an extremely poorly run state
government that has grown steadily more dysfunctional. Nevertheless,
over the past five years, the print journalists covering Sacramento
have been cut by at least half. At important hearings on things like
overcrowded prisons or failing schools, hearings where the future of
the state is being shaped, sometimes there are no journos in sight.
Before long, the Sacramento Bee, the L.A. Times and AP may be the only
ones with regularly staffed bureaus in the capital of the nation’s
largest, richest state.

This is not healthy. For all Jeff’s smarts, I’ve never seen him
offer a single insight into how this sort of common journalistic
decline will be addressed — or at least a single insight that I thought
had a practical chance of success."

Chris is completely right – and unfortunately, Jeff has spent a lot of time not answering this question, and accusing anyone who raises it of being "a curmudgeon". While Jeff has been happy to dish out the rhetoric, it appears that when someone uses the same tools against him, he gets more than a little thin skinned.