An Howl of Hyperbole Induced Pain

April 26, 2009 is a Web site that complements a consumer computer magazine in the UK. I recall buying a copy and getting a DVD stuffed full of “editor picks” in shareware, code snippets, and articles from back issues. I saw a reference to the article “10 Things We Hate about Technology Now”. You can read the story here. This is the second “we can’t take it any more” write up in the last 24 hours. Dan Sullivan pointed to the public relations blitz that accompanies a new search engine. My take on his article is here. Now the journalists at are showing signs of stress. I can’t recite the entire list of 10 pain points, but I can point to three items and offer a brief comment about each.

First, the magazine objects to the buzz about Twitter. I don’t agree. Twitter is the poster child for real time search. RTS is novel and not well understood. The outrage makes clear to me that no one on the team thinks about the Twitter messages from the point of view of a person involved in police or intelligence work. Twitter is important. A failure to understand is a problem of analytic intelligence, not Twitter. RTS is not likely to go away quickly.

Second, news releases. Last time I checked it seemed to have its share of recycled news releases in its “news” section. Companies generate news spam and publications gobble up the bits and bytes. Story ideas are often hard to get when a publisher pays low wages and rationalizes staff. Recycling is a big part of the profession of computer journalism. Remember. I worked for one of the big guns in the industry.

Third, Apple and Microsoft. I am combining two items because each illustrates a characteristic of news. High profile companies are high profile because people want their products, need information about the companies, or enjoy keeping pace with the buzz about something that has ubiquity. No company is perfect. Publications have to cover the high profile companies in order to attract eyeballs. A niche publication covers more specialized topics and attracts a smaller, more specialized audience. Writing positive or negative articles about high profile companies is a requirement.

I think the marketing bandwagon has been pimped by West Coast Customs. Marketing is now a Hummer, not a Mini Cooper. The change says more about the nature of unchecked capitalism, the desperation some publishers feel when trying to turn red ink into black ink, and journalists who are short on copy ideas.

Stephen Arnold, April 26, 2009


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