Tech Journalism

by Jinryu

When I was still living in North America, I hated seeing the news on at the hospital. There was this TV that was just showing CNN all the time, because that’s what CNN is good for: being the reel, on repeat, of a shocking images, usually voiced over by people at their studious blabbing all sorts of bullshit reports that grossly exaggerate.

 

To put it in perspective, I remember when 9/11 happened.  I was in college at the time, and my girlfriend at the time, [Zaitseva], had family in Boston.  More specficially, her dad was there on business– and reports from CNN on that day were that Boston was being bombed by terrorists.

 

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For all the inconsistencies of CNN, people still watch that shit.  People still want to be informed of all the hype, and to have things repeated to them– to have ideas fed right into their heads, maybe.  I understand that sensational stories will always catch the headlines– it’s excitement, right?

I wonder though, when are we going to lose our taste for cheap shit like this.  When are we going to be able to  look at things, get past the marketing that is laid thick upon some miniscule source product, and really be able to judge what is underneath? I am not saying to be a cynic– I am saying to be critical and pragmatic, and to consider the real relationship we have with the things that present themselves as “important” to us.

 

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I’ve noticed over the years that CNN style reporting is very mainstream nowadays– it’s moved on even to benign forms of news.  My particular pet peeve is how the trend is so strong in tech journals and websites.  They can just blab and regurgitate crap for months on end of when they think a phone will come out.

For example, at the time of this writing, Google’s next generation smartphone, the Nexus 6, is projected to come out sometime at the end of 2014.  But for months now, there has been speculation and rumour all about it.

Why does any of this matter? Really, who gives a shit?

Sure, it’d be nice if we knew for sure how it would fare head-to-head against iPhone 6– but rumours are just rumors.  Spending time on so little information is such a waste of time.  The impressive thing is how websites can go on and on about the rumors, writing up entire articles of information that basically is just conjecture at best.  Why don’t we get any useful information– like the “flexibility” of iPhone 6, before lining up for it?

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I recently got an Android Wear watch, the LG G (which goes with my Nexus 5).  It’s a relatively new pieces of technology– this particular model of wearable “smart watch” has only been on the market for about 2-3 months at this point, so it’s still in its infancy in terms of both hardware and software support.

What annoys me about the tech journalism industry is how ridiculously uninformative they are about Android Wear.  In looking it up on Google, you’ll find a number of similarities between the articles written about Android Wear, which sound good when written out for marketing purpsoes– but for people who want to know something substantial about the assertions, the articles turn out to being “factually true” without being “pragmatically true.”  I’ll go over some of these common tech journal assertions to illustrate what I mean.

  • They all make generalisations about how there are thousands of apps that are Wear compatible.  Yes, this is true– in fact, almost any Android app that does notifications is Android Wear compatible automatically.  However, what functionality is actually usable from the watch?  For instance, the basic Google Calendar that you find bundled with your Google acount, which is accessible by web and via most Android phones’ native app– you can get notifications of upcoming calendar events on your Wear device, but you cannot schedule calendar events, or see your calendar generally without additional third party apps.
  • Yes, it has voice recognition– but it doesn’t mention that it has no voice recording functions, and that voice commands are limited.  Further, unlike voice recognition for your phone, your Android Wear will only listen until it thinks you’ve finished a single sentence.  That means that if you stop talking for more than about 2 seconds, it assumes your voice input is concluded.  That means that if you really want to use the voice dictation to reply to a message, you will have to talk– and talk fast– because if you stop, your message will fly out to the internet shortly afterwards.
  • Every second website that talks about the best apps for Android Wear invariably quotes the same apps– invariably, this includes Google Hangouts.  Nobody gives  a shit.  That like trying to advertise that someone should buy a particular iteration of Windows, just because it can be used with a USB mouse.  Nobody gives a shit.  An sms/IM app is standard fare on a mobile device– and if it comes pre-loaded on the watch, why is it on a top ten list of things in an article that is supposed to tell me something new? Furthermore, why do the articles only tell you about how Google Hangouts allows you to send messages over data (instead of SMS)– which is a 5 year old technology at this point, and nothing new–  when they should be telling me about how I cannot initiate a message from my watch, and can only reply to them? How I can’t even see my Hangouts contacts list from my watch?  How I can send SMS to contacts, but that the target identification is absolutely horrid?  Waitaminit– this all makes it sound like Hangounts on Android Wear is actually pretty horrid.  So what’s it even doing on the top ten list?  Well, that brings us to the next issue.
  • People who write tech articles about products probably don’t even try these products– they’re regurgitating what they’ve read off of the manufacturer’s website, and added in conjecture and assumption.  Tech articles are paraphrasing manufacturers’ content!  Which is why you don’t get anything new.  Indeed, it’s marketing linked to marketing, and the most likely place to actually get worthwhile information, believe it or not, is by reading the comments section where people bitch and moan (not unlike this post right here) about how something actually doesn’t work as advertised.

 

Mind you, not all internet writing is like this.  Some people do actually put some thought into things and are actually reporting useful information.  I am subscribed to a few sources that have a pretty fair history of saying it how it is– but whenever I just want to know about something I know little or nothing about, and for which I don’t have a reputable source already in mind, Google dumps all this bullshit on my screen. But if you look around and really pay attention to some of the information asserted by some really big name tech blogs, it’s disgusting how little relevant content there is.  And this shit drives e-commerce somehow.  It’s no wonder that adoption rates among older generations (like my own parents) are so poor– because there is such an inundation of incomplete and misleading information.

 

And so I wonder– what is driving the proliferation of this quality of reporting?

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