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"Sam Altman, president and co-founder of Y Combinator."

Uhh, they clearly didn't do their homework if they thought Altman co-founded YC.




Having read basically every news article ever about the startup I was involved in, they get the most basic, easily checkable facts like: What year was it founded? What does the company do? Who is the CEO? wrong at least half of the time.

And they get the more complicated facts wrong much more often, but that is because they generally directly printing either what the founder tells them or something they think that is more interesting than what the founder tells them without any sort of verification.

Basically, almost all articles about startups (and frankly most things in general) are written to be interesting, not factually correct.


I learned that when there was a natural gas explosion in the building I worked in in the 80s (nobody was hurt). I recorded several TV news broadcasts on it, and every one got the basic facts wrong in different ways. Things like one called the building a warehouse (it was an office building).

There were no political issues nor agendas nor money at stake, the news reporters just didn't make any effort to be correct.

I've often wondered what we know about history that is dead wrong.


Story time. I build an app and I got interviewed by a local newspaper:

"Is the app secure?"

"Nope, but it's in my plans to start encrypting user's data at some point"

The next week (she didn't ask me for a review or anything) the newspaper printed: "[me] built an app encrypting all of its users' data"


> Story time. I build an app and I got interviewed by a local newspaper:

I built a web app and got interviewed by a newspaper too. The article wasn't factually wrong, but it was poorly written and the tone was bizarre at a few points. The journalist chose to take many long quotes directly from my response emails. I didn't know I would be quoted verbatim so heavily, otherwise I would've written more formally. He also interviewed a professor about my app (a professor in a related field), but the professor hadn't heard of my app and clearly didn't even bother to check it out.

So a little disappointing, but all in all I was happy to get the press. Unfortunately this newspaper also had a policy of not printing links / URLs in their online articles, so anybody reading would have had to search for my site on their own via keywords.


(Also involved with creation of an app that has received press.)

Assume everything you write to a journalist, unless you specify otherwise, will be used as written in their story. You should go out of your way to write statements that you expect them to fancy and essentially copy and paste.

When emailing them, read back over what you've written and re-write sections to make them punchy sentences that could serve as introductions, headlines, captions, anything for their story.


I did write most of the emails in a formal, precise way. The guy was a bit scattered, and the particular quotes he chose and their presentation was odd. But yeah, in hindsight I think he would've been happy to just have me write most of the article and send it to him.


I'm increasingly convinced that looking and thinking too deeply on people matters(news, history, organizations, relationships) is like staring at the sun. There's nothing much to see by focusing your gaze on it, it blocks out stuff more nearby, and you go blind in the process.

Which isn't to say that being a numb automaton is ideal, either, but there is a degree of balance and good taste required to avoid converting the information into dangerous thoughts, and it's simpler to restrict quantity of exposure.


I'm not endorsing the following view of the world, but your comment reminds me of Ken Wilber's division of reality into four quadrants. It's a Cartesian product of individual vs collective times interior vs exterior.

What you are talking about as "people matters" sounds like "exterior collective": structural, social things, or "its" as Wilber refers to them.

I'm a bit worried that you might also be writing off most of the "interior collective" quadrant: the relational, cultural aspects of reality, the "we".

This is New Age fluff, but I guess we have to start somewhere. HN can be pretty hostile to humanities thinking sometimes, at least Wilber has no prerequisites.


That sounds like one of my pet ideas I was calling 'physical autism'.

I am convinced that we are surrounded by two kinds of autistic behavior but are conditioned to mostly notice one of them.

Social autism (the normal kind we're familiar with) is usually evident in person. It's a spectrum from debilitating to barely evident. Some people I've talked to online have been autistic and I'd never know it just by conversing. I generally prefer it this way because it removes any prejudgements. I liked the Net better before social networks made people's photos, names and assorted history available, I feel like you got to know people more intimately.

The kind of autism we mostly don't notice is physical. There are people who are experts at social interaction, but who genuinely cannot understand the physical world, they never think about it. Their world is filled with people and nothing but people. These are the people who are blinded by the sun.

All of the world's accumulated knowledge is utterly lost on them and they have no sense of an objective reality outside of the realm of relationships. In its own way, this is a disability because they can never be more than their network of connections.

Most people know people like this but think that those people choose not to be interested in X,Y,Z. I suggest that maybe they literally cannot fathom those things, or at least have a severe hindrance in their path to doing so, similar to the social autism spectrum.


That's the same as saying it's too complex for you to understand so you're not going to bother. It'll hurt you in the long-run, your own relationships depend on your ability to understand people. Furthermore, if you don't understand other people you'll never fully understand yourself.


It could be they tried to be correct and did the best they could on a meager time budget. Doubly so for TV news

I have a hard time ascribing too much to effort. For the one wrong fact, there could be many things that were checked and were true. But of course the wrong thing stands out

That said, I feel like journalists know how to Google for basic company info...


No google in the 80s :-)

It was clear they just assumed things and didn't do any checking. Part of that was probably the pressure to hurry up and get it in the can, the rest was it was just a job to them and they simply didn't care. They got the video of the hole in the building, and that was good enough.


Unfortunately, if the Bloomberg reporter used Google, it didn't help the reporter any. Here's a screenshot of Altman's bio from a search I just ran, which lists him as president of Y Combinator, which he is not:

http://imgur.com/a/UE2Oy

Yes, that info is drawn from Wikipedia, but Google really doesn't do a good job of highlighting the source of its Knowledge Graph boxed results. Any tech-savvy reporter (I hope) would hesitate to automatically trust Wikipedia results, but Google's bio boxes are so authoritative looking by their placement that I can see (but not endorse) reporters just going with it.


Relevant Michael Crichton quote on "the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect":

“Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them. In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”


Scared me so much the first time I thought about it that way. Believing so much news, although articles about my area of expertise obviously get so much wrong.


Almost every time the mainstream media covers a subject I have some level of expertise in, the coverage is laughably inaccurate or misleading, and almost everyone I've talked to about this says the same thing for their own field, and yet inexplicably it still takes a conscious effort to remind myself to bear this in mind when they cover subjects I'm ignorant of.


I had intimate knowledge of an Act of Congress and some DOJ seizures that resulted from it years ago, and that's the first time I really experienced what you just described. The basic inaccuracy and sensational bias in the reporting and the level of discourse it generated was truly eye-opening, and I'll never see the news (or people reacting to the news) the same way again.

Every time they cover a subject I know well, it's been the same story, even among major reputable news outlets. No facts are safe, not even basic high-level details.


Btw this is known as the gell-mann amnesia effect.

I don't read much news, but I do read the nytimes tech section. It seems accurate with some necessary simplification that doesn't hurt the truth.

Their other articles seem pretty well researched and fact checked.

That said their election coverage seems pretty biased.


I think this is an appropriate situation to bring up the Murray Gell-Mann effect, which is a succinct explanation of why the average reader should be more skeptical.[1]

[1] https://seekerblog.com/2006/01/31/the-murray-gell-mann-amnes...


Can't find this, but just recently I asked what it's called when you see reporters getting basic facts wrong about your area of expertise, but continue to trust their reporting in all other areas.


Answered in this thread 7 minutes after you posted :)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12877188


Is there a term for not bothering to remember things, because someone will just answer for me? :P


"Crowdsourcing"


As Kanye said once, "They rewrite history; I don't believe in yesterday."

I have seen some startups even use this technique themselves to "erase" past or exited co-founders. Once you edit the AngelList, Crunchbase, team page, etc, you really can erase the existence of co-founder or early team member(s) if desired because eventually no one will look hard enough to find the early material.

It's something that bothers me a lot actually. I'm working on a project now to track founders and early teams across startups to get a better understanding of how often it happens and if there are any discernible patterns.


Not just startups, the trope is prevalent even among established companies. Off the top of my head, here are some examples:

• Cisco was started by a husband & wife duo - Sandy Lerner and Lenard Bosack

• Steve Jobs did not start Pixar - depending how far you go back, it was Alexander Schure that gave birth to the original roots of the company (as CGL) and later on, branched off by Edwin Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith.

• Elon Musk did not cofound PayPal - He founded X.com and that company merged with Paypal which was founded by Peter Thiel, Max Levchin, Luke Nosek and Ken Howery)

• Same Elon did not cofound Tesla - it was started and incorporated by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning

• Etsy was not cofounded by Jared Tarbell - It was a trio of Robert Kalin, Chris Macquire and Haim Schoppik that launched the initial company.

I could go on but my memory is escaping me at the moment. I am sure other people have more examples.

tldr; this is common enough. :)


My theory about how this error happened:

Bloomberg reporter checked Wikipedia where it clearly says, "In 2014, Altman was named president of Y Combinator, which he had been a part of as a founder..."[1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Altman

Of course, if the reporter had spent a few more seconds reading the entire sentence he may have gotten it right: "In 2014, Altman was named president of Y Combinator, which he had been a part of as a founder in the first batch of funded companies in 2005."


For fun, look up the history of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jessica_Livingston , which was submitted for deletion twice and even now is pretty short.


Oddly, because pg wrote a really lovely piece extolling her contributions and character.


The entire article fails to be coherent.


The headline also implies that 14 months is a short amount of time, which in my book could be a long period if you're doing startup work. Perhaps just the right amount of time to spend with any one venture.


They also said the fund was based in Palo Alto instead of Mountain View.


If you search for Y Combinator on Google Maps it gives you a giant circle centred on Mountain View that spans all the way from Palo Alto to Santa Clara. Address is definitely Mountain View, though.

Interesting, I've never seen that before.


Finally looked at it and it's because the address is generically "Mountain View, CA" in Google Places. I tried to suggest an edit to give it a more precise address but it wasn't one of the available options. Perhaps YC asked for their address to not be listed so random people don't show up to pitch.


That said, YC could make all of this easier to grok with two sections in "About":

- Structure of the entire org, with the head of each

- History of the org (just the major announcements)


Sam can easily correct them.




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