Do you want an overview of the current state of the tech blogosphere? Click the link above.
I mean, that’s seriously a story. A full story. On a site that purports to report about technology. (And congratulations: your click will undoubtedly lead to other stories just like it!)
Pretty much the only accurate thing that author Adrianne Jeffries wrote was the part about me being on vacation in Paris. That’s true. Confirmed. And yet, here I am writing this post. Why? Because it’s 12:30 in the morning here. I have a bottle of wine that I need to kill. And this is going to be fun.
Earlier this evening (Paris time), I tweeted at Instapaper founder Marco Arment, who was in the middle of a most excellent Twitter take-down of “rewrite” blogging. That is, blogs that take information first reported elsewhere and simply rewrite it with little or no attribution back to the original author, trying to make it seem as if the story is their own. It has been a plague on blogging for a long time. Probably since the beginning of blogging. And it will only continue to get worse.
The vast majority of blogging is about pageviews. Being first is important, but just as important is the mere illusion of being first. You do that by rewriting stories without proper attribution (meaning, again, little or no links back — or burying the links back). It’s a dipshit move — and sadly, a tech blogosphere staple.
Anyway, I’ve already digressed…
Here’s what I tweeted at Arment:
@marcoarment I used to love to plant one really weird bit of random information (sometimes even false) into stories to catch the rewrites.
That one tweet is the entire basis for the Betabeat story.
About an hour before she published the post, Jeffries reached out to me via email linking to my tweet and asking the following:
Was that for stories on TechCrunch? Can you remember any examples? Was it big facts or like, misspellings of names? Seems a little ethically fraught, don’t you think?
I did not respond because I did not see the email until I got back to my hotel — again, I’m on vacation. As you can see from her email, Jeffries has no clue if I was referring to stories I had written for TechCrunch or elsewhere. She doesn’t know of any actual examples of those types of stories. Nor does she even really know what I meant when I tweeted what I tweeted.
No worries — we’ll fix it in post, apparently.
The headline: Unreliable Narrators! TechCrunch Blogger Inserted ‘Random Information (Sometimes Even False)’ Into Posts
The sub-head: MG Siegler can’t be trusted.
The actual post is a bunch of wasted words about ethical something and phony righteous horseshit. Jeffries concludes that I must have written false information for TechCrunch because my former colleague Paul Carr — who, mind you, came to TechCrunch well after I did and left before I did — said he thought I mentioned something about that once before. Maybe. Can’t be certain. No matter. Post. Quick!
Jefferies also asked AOL for a comment. Mind you, AOL only actually owned TechCrunch during my final year there, and would have no idea what went on in the years prior to that. Nor did AOL have any comment on the matter. No matter again! Get that post up!
Jefferies also asked my former colleague (and TechCrunch editor) Erick Schonfeld for a comment on the matter, but he didn’t respond. Again. Screw it. Let’s go live!
Meanwhile, as Schonfeld leaves in the comment section of the Betabeat post:
Funny, I never got that email. Or did you just make that up to catch non-linkers?
With no actual information, Jefferies decides to ask a bunch of other tech bloggers for their thoughts on the issue — an issue which Jefferies is still unsure about, mind you. The consensus: OUTRAGE!
No conflicts there. None at all. I competed against some of these people for years. And my tweet implies that what it is they do for a living could be a farce (though much less a farce than the very existence of this Betabeat story implies).
Further, if you look over the few tweets about the story, you’ll notice that (before I publish this), roughly all of them are from journalists/bloggers. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. And here, for example.
Bloggers = livid. Everyone else = zero fucks given.
My favorite tweet is from my old friend Kara Swisher (who is also quoted at the end of the Betabeat post). Here’s why:
About a year ago (when I was still at TechCrunch), I had a small scoop about a change of direction a company was taking. The details aren’t important. What’s important is this: Swisher’s AllThingsD rewrote what I had previously reported without any sort of attribution. Unfortunately (for them), they made an incorrect assumption that could only have been based on my story. As a result, they got the facts wrong. (They later corrected the story, complete with attribution, after I pointed out the fuck up.)
I didn’t plant false information. I simply left out information (which I knew, but didn’t think was particularly important) and watched as the rewritten version ate shit while trying to fill in the blanks.
This is exactly the type of bullshit that Arment was talking about. And this is why I responded to him — I’ve seen this countless times over the years. Sadly, we’ll keep seeing it. Welcome to the current state of professional tech blogging.
But those paying attention will notice that I haven’t actually answered the implied question left by the incomplete and irresponsible Betabeat post. Did I actually plant fake information on TechCrunch or elsewhere to catch asshats in action?
Get ready for the real mindfuck: what if it was my tweet that was filled with false information in order to expose bullshit bloggers who have nothing better to do than write about nothing with absolutely no basis for doing so?
Think about it.