Tag Archives: TechCrunch

TechCrunch hypes the Google Phone, contradicts itself repeatedly

TechCrunch‘s coverage of the so-called “Google Phone” really is turning into something of a joke. Today, it’s probably reached a new low.

First up, Erick Schonfeld claims that current “reports” confirm their own original excitable post, quoting this bit:

“There won’t be any negotiation or compromise over the phone’s design of features – Google is dictating every last piece of it. No splintering of the Android OS that makes some applications unusable. Like the iPhone for Apple, this phone will be Google’s pure vision of what a phone should be.” [My emphasis]

Leaving aside whether Google’s post actually “confirms” what TechCrunch is saying (my take: No), there’s an obvious issue here. Far from Google “dictating every last bit of it”, now it’s rather a different phone. Erick writes:

“The phone itself is being built by HTC, with a lot of input from Google. It seems to be a tailored version of the HTC Passion or the related HD2 (Unlocker scored some leaked pictures back in October which are of the same phone).”

So which is it? Because, unless I have completely lost my ability to read, “[Google] dictating every last piece of it” is not the same as “with a lot of input from Google”.

And it wouldn’t even be the first time that HTC has tailored a phone to another company’s specifications. It’s common practice for HTC – witness the T-Mobile G1 as just one example of many.

(As an aside, the photos that TechCrunch are using under all its stories headlined about “The Google Phone” are the Unlocker ones which John mentions. In other words, TechCrunch has no pictures of the “real” Google phone running Google’s tailored software, despite the implication of putting the months-old pics next on the new stories.)

“It changes everything! Well, no, maybe something else did!”

Erick’s colleague John Biggs is even more breathless about the “Google Phone”. It’s “going to change everything”, he claims, with the caveat “mostly” because even he can’t go with a headline that implies Google is going to solve global warming with a mobile phone.

But why does John think it’s a big deal? Simple:

“But what if Google starts to sell this thing? This is “a big deal” on the level of Neo learning Kung Fu in The Matrix. This means Google is making hardware.”

Of course, Google has been “making hardware” – as in rebadging other people’s hardware with its own custom software – since 2002, when it first launched the Google Search Appliance. But let’s not let facts get in the way of page views. Let’s be kind, and assume that John means “Google is making consumer hardware.

John’s main point is that this represents part of a wave of service providers making hardware, and it’s actually this wave that changes everything:

“But suddenly service providers are doing hardware. Amazon has the Kindle, Barnes&Noble has a lumpen Nook, and now Google has a phone. What’s next? The Credit Suisse Fondue Set?”

Ummm… but wait a minute. So in fact, the Google phone – unreleased, it should be remembered – is what changes everything, yet in the same article he’s naming examples of other things which already exist that are in the same category? Can anyone else see what might be wrong with this picture?

Even assuming he was right, surely it would be the Kindle which “changes everything” given that it was the first of the named products to get to market – and arguably, given that it really was designed and built to Amazon’s specs is a far better example of the breed than the unreleased Google phone?

Contradictions, schmicktions!

Two stories, both of which contradict the points that they’re trying to make within a few words of making them. I don’t want to draw any wider conclusions about the “State of Tech Reporting” on the basis of this, primarily because I think that anyone who relies on TechCrunch for tech reporting is, at best, obviously unfamiliar with the site’s record.

But what both Erick and John display is a classic case of what happens when reporting collides with enthusiasm. In the rush to get the exciting post up and out, they simply haven’t thought about what they were writing.

They’ve put on the blinkers of enthusiasm when writing, and have ended up with stories that add up to little more than the sound of two men fapping. But hey – it gets the page views. And we get the media we’re prepared to pay for.

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Why the CrunchPad mattered (to bozos)

John Biggs at TechCrunch writes a self-serving blog post on “Why the CrunchPad mattered“:

“Think about what happened: if we reduce this to its component parts you have some dudes in California who talked to some dudes in Singapore and who agreed to work together on a piece of hardware. I’ve seen the prototypes and the thing worked and worked well. Most hardware manufacturers can barely take each others meetings let alone coordinate a massive project while separated by a culture and an ocean.”

Yes, John. But “most hardware manufacturers” actually manage to ship products. Even the shitty ones tend to have a strike rate that’s better than zero. As some guy who’s made a product or two once said, “real artists ship“. Making a prototype and getting some publicity is what guys in garden sheds do.

(Incidentally, this story is currently lurking in the technology section of the Washington Post, thanks to the WaPo‘s “partnership” with TechCrunch. Isn’t it great to see self-serving promotional “news” on the site of one of the world’s best-regarded newspapers?)

(Photo by @Photo)

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Seth Finkelstein nails why TechCrunch sucks in one line

In a comment on Rogers Cadenhead’s blog, Seth Finkelstein perfectly captures what the deeper reason behind the TechCrunch/Last.fm poor reporting is:

“The basic problem is that there’s no profit (from attention) in being right, but there is in being first.”

The first post on a topic gets most of the inbound links, most of the traffic, and most of the attention, something that was obvious to me even when I was online editor at MacUser ten years ago. In that sense, TechCrunch is simply responding to the market.

The theory has always been that good information will out, and some people might suppose that the coverage that Last.fm’s response has got is evidence of that. But the problem is that it basically took RJ being incredibly blunt – “TechCrunch is full of shit” – in order to get the message across. He, and other Last.fm employees, had already denied the story in less-blunt language in the TechCrunch comments, and on other blog posts elsewhere. Yet the story continued to get traction until Last.fm effectively made it personal.

The interesting question is what consequences does this have for communications, and responding to erroneous stories. If the pressure is on sites to be first, rather than being right, then we are going to see a lot more of these stories – and sooner or later, a company will get into serious financial problems because of one.

Will it take a court case before big new media organisations implement better reporting standards? Will it take a company suing someone like Mike Arrington personally before people realise that the editorial process evolved for some very good reasons?

TechCrunch: Irresponsible journalism

The TechCrunch/Last.fm controversy has been all over the net over the weekend, and there’s not much that I can add to it factually. The one thing I will say, though, is that TechCrunch has behaved irresponsible: not so much for the original story – everyone gets it wrong sometimes. But when you get it wildly wrong like this, what you don’t do is use weasal words to try and cover up the fact that you’ve got it horribly wrong. For example:

“From the very beginning, I’ve presented this story for what it is: a rumor. Despite my attempts to corroborate it and the subsequent detail I’ve been able to gather, I still don’t have enough information to determine whether it is absolutely true. But I still don’t have enough information to determine that it is absolutely false either. What I do have are a lot of unanswered questions about how exactly Last.fm shares user data with the record industry.”

In a word, this is bullshit. It’s Daily Mail-style journalism, posing a statement as just “asking questions”. And even when Schonfeld got a detailed statement from Last.fm on exactly what data it gives to record companies (answer: no more than they could get just by looking it up on the public Last.fm site), he doesn’t retract the story.

TechCrunch got it wrong, and instead of retracting the story and apologising, it’s trying to wriggle out and say “it’s only a rumour”. Sorry, but that’s bullshit. And please, please, I hope no one brings up that old chestnut of “it’s only a blog, we don’t have to adopt proper standards for reporting”. The moment you can have a serious effect on a company or individual, you owe it to the world to be sure of what you say.

One thing though: This story is a great demonstration of my maxim that any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word “no”. The reason why journalists use that style of headline is that they know the story is probably bullshit, and don’t actually have the sources and facts to back it up, but still want to run it. Which, of course, is why it’s so common in the Daily Mail.

UPDATE: One of the great things about the web is that companies can put their own take on a story across well. And Last.fm has done this very nicely indeed, in the pithily-titled post “TechCrunch are full of shit“. As one of the commenters on the original TechCrunch post put it, “Mr Arrington, this is why you get spat at, yeah? Is it starting to make sense now?”. Stronger than I’d say it, but still understandable…

Paul Carr on Mike Arrington and copyright

Paul Carr writes a brilliant response to Mike Arrington’s idiotic post on reforming copyright law (by which he means "killing it"):

"But for all the fancy talk about “finding new business models” to
“remove friction”, which is the thrust of Arrington’s argument (in the
same way as Rohypnol – and try not to wince at this simile too much -
removes the friction from sexual assault), these new business models
haven’t been found yet. Which current alternative model, if not
controlled distribution through enforced copyright law, could support
the creation of even a single episode of the Office or thirty seconds
of The West Wing?

Merchandising? Give me a break. Does even the most ardent of West
Wing fans really want a talking Martin Sheen action figure (”Dammit
Toby!” / “‘unfunded mandate’ is two words”) or an Emily Proctor doll
with realistic moving arms? 

Product placement? Yeah – but let’s go the whole hog and rename The
Office to ‘Staples’ and create a new franchise called ‘CSI: Pizza Hut’.

Tickets to live performances? Two front row tickets to ‘The Wire: The Musical’, please."

Arrington will undoubtedly win lots of credits from the freetards for claiming that watching YouTube is "natural behavior" (like we were doing it in the stone age). But unless he actually has a contribution which shows how the economics works, he’s wasting our time.