---"It’s tough being a journalist, especially if you’re covering technology and living in Silicon Valley, because it seems as if everyone around you is getting fabulously rich while you’re stuck in a job that will never, ever make you wealthy. What’s worse is that all these people who are getting rich don’t seem to be any brighter than you are and in fact many of them don’t seem very bright at all. So of course you get jealous. And then you start thinking maybe you could find a way to cash in on this gold rush. But how do you make gobs of money when your only marketable skill involves writing blog posts?"
I feel this way all the time! But there's a distinct difference between acting on these feelings and just feeling them. Arrington would be just fine and above reproach, these days, if he'd keep his fucking mouth shut now that he is ludicrously compromised and un-objective.
If he'd quite being a "journalist" he'd not look like such a douche...
Perhaps this is why I haven't jumped the fence yet... I don't think I could give up the journalism. It just gets in your blood. And once it's in, the thought of compromising yourself is sickening. Unless you're Arrington.
And it brings up all manner of ethical grey areas: is blogging journalism? Do influencers lose influence when they lose objectivity? What the fuck is an influencer, anyway?
If a journalist is ever an influencer, he or she is doing it wrong...
Buh, I could go on a giant rant here about how journalism is dead, or at least, extremely sick... How am I going to write about people places and events when those people places and events are writing about themselves?
Fortunately, it would seem there is still a consumer for quality, deep journalism on specific topics.
I don't even know what I'm really saying here, anymore... Just that Lyons really hit a nerve. It's super frustrating to be in an interview with someone who makes 10X what you make, and is completely unaware of what's really going on in their industry.... All too common an event.
I believe the crux of the problem is that 'influential bloggers' want all the credibility of journalists ("we're writing and reporting on things!"), without any of the responsibility ("we're just blogging our opinions!").
This is what leads to situations like below:
Then there's the post in December where MG [...] thought he'd uncovered some kind of huge conspiracy when he accused Google's Android chief, Andy Rubin, of deleting a tweet. A few days later Siegler had to recant (sans apology, of course) when it turned out that, um, nope, Rubin hadn’t done that. Of course there’s a simple way to avoid bonehead moves like this — you do the reporting before you publish the accusation, not after.
Dan Lyons is not one of them (SCO), and neither is MG, but MG (and more) is just telling us he is neither a good VC nor journalist, but his (and his friends') wallet would like you to think he was.
tl;dr: MG is innovating the huckster niche.
There's nothing "grey" about it: it's a straightforward conflict of interest. Unethical practices that were mostly stamped out of more mature industries with professional codes of conduct and industry best practices are rife in the tech startup sector.
That's as true of collusive, interested tech journalists as it is of startups collecting sensitive personal information without disclosing it or providing a clear opt-out (or preferably opt-in) provision.
I think it's a zero sum game, however. Shilling isn't
going to help a crappy product out in the long term, only
the short term.
This leaves a gaping hole for unreliable narrators.
I mean, yeah I did not get into it for the money, but the Valley feels like a lottery sometimes, and journalists do not get to buy tickets.
Of course, I'm super happy being a journalist. But you gotta admit, it's frustrating to watch all this money fly around while yer struggling to pay rent.
Um, forgive me if I don't sympathize? My job will probably never make me wealthy either, but that's not why I do it, and it's sure as shit not a reason anyone ever went into journalism.
If somebody is an unscrupulous douchebag, don't to business with them, don't read their blogs, don't upvote their articles. Treat them like the trolls they are.
For me its just another sign that 'tech' is growing up. Pretty much any industry creates an economic flow, and the flow is a source of power (some would argue the only real source in peace time), and one can harness that power by having influence over the flow.
Back when the Homebrew Computer Club was meeting and Steve and Steve were there and nerds gathered at the ByteShop to see the latest S-100 board that Geoge Morrow had dreamed up, the total flow was measured in less than a million dollars a year. Few 'professional' power brokers even noticed. Today the total economic impact of 'tech' is approaching a trillion dollars by some estimates, with that kind of flow comes real power. You also get a different class of players in the game.
We joke about people who would sell out their families for a million dollars, however that number gets uncomfortably large as you go up in decimal orders of magnitude. 10 million, 100 million, a billion ?
The stakes are higher today, some people are the barrier to entry you have to get past. It hasn't been a "gentleman's game" for some time now. Kinda sad really.
Right now a lot of dumb money is pouring into tech because there's nowhere else for it to go. I'm seeing a lot of the same kinds of low class opportunists popping up as a result.
I had hoped that the open source wave that hit after the dot com crash would have reminded people about why openness leads to growth not stagnation but I don't think it has.
As others have argued, "Don't be Evil" is Google trying to inoculate itself against growing up too much and always having a nagging reminder to strive to be the company they were in their youth. Perhaps the valley was never a gentleman's game, but it was (and still is) much more so than other industries.
Are we that different to any other industry?
"If men were angels, no government would be necessary." -James Madison
“Pay seven figures a year to buy a corporate subscription to my newsletter and I’ll say nice things about your company, and when the press needs a quote, I’ll be there to puff you up. Or, don’t buy a subscription and I will bash you relentlessly.”
Model is thus: Subscribe to our journal, we'll ply you for survey responses/advertising. Fail to pay? You won't get reviewed or if so, it won't be flattering. Advertise? You'll be reviewed, and positively so. Oh, and we'll charge you for the report born of the analysis of the survey data you gave us. Repeat for all major players in a niche field. Welcome to industry publishing.
There are days we can't even disagree like gentlemen here. :-(
For me it's another sign that 'tech' has some serious growing up to do.
I'm way ahead of you.
Please people. Stop. Upvoting. This. Crap.
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Advertisements cannot be unfair.
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You think this consumer protection laws should be removed?
"Disclaimer: [$thisBlog] is an investor in [$company]"
...right underneath the story headline involving a company they were involved with. It would force "journalists" to at least pretend to be somewhat objective.
"Or, don’t buy a subscription and I will bash you relentlessly.” Most big companies paid up and considered it a cost of doing business."
Is this seriously what we're all working at? A complex power play to get yourself rich at the expense of any morals or integrity?
How much is /your/ soul worth?
We have real problems in the world, but instead we have a bunch of boys with computers trying to rule the world through their control of media.
Is the world seriously this disgusting and I just haven't realized it yet?
Every industry makes this rationalization.
To some extent, yeah, it is. I don't just mean in tech, thats the nature of the world. Without some cognitive dissidence and rationalization, we'd all be neurotic messes. Or psychopaths.
As a rule, the only thing that can kill a good _ecosystem_ is the _ecosystem_ itself
Edit: We live in a democracy. If there is something that stands to significantly harm us, then we should (and can) do something about it. A recent example would be SOPA.
The biggest threat we face is not from Washington, it's ourselves. If we become so torn-apart that forces from Washington can destroy us, it's our fault.
It's rather easy to focus on problems being caused from an external force, but there are often larger and more dangerous threats internally. That brings up back to the startup quote, it's easy for a startup to focus on competitors (external threat) instead of working on their own product (which is really the biggest thing that will make or break them).
> As a rule, the only thing that can kill a good _human_ is the _human_ itself.
Plus, I can think of plenty of ways external influences COULD kill the startup ecosystem. Congress could pass laws that make it much harder to start companies. Developers could figure out that the startup value proposition is not that great if you're not a founder. The market for internet ads could dry up (a significant risk to many startup business models). Big companies could develop techniques to quickly iterate on products rather than ceding ground to more agile startups. Laws could change that make it more expensive to acquire startups. Other industries could be created that make startups less enticing to young people. Taxes and security laws could change in a way that makes it much harder to distribute equity to employees.
Any of these things could kill the startup ecosystem depending on the magnitude of the change, and probably a lot of other stuff I'm not even thinking about. The idea that the ecosystem could kill itself also seems pretty preposterous to me. There are parts of the country where there isn't much of an ecosystem, but startups still exist. Startups aren't created because of an ecosystem, but because it is financially and economically advantageous to do so for some people.
Yeah, overall this view that the ecosystem is invulnerable from outside pressures and highly vulnerable to interior ones strikes me as fairly naive.
We don't live in anything close to democracy. It's hard for a populous to change a corrupt system when all the cards are stacked against the greater public.
Some sort of subconscious need to find superiority in consumer purchases and brand loyalty. It's kind of disturbing.
MG Siegler on the other hand has been perfectly described by Lyons. All he does is generate venom, and copious amounts of it, followed by a couple of "Fuck You's"" and so-on. I think he's the National Enquirer of tech. reporting. And hence, ankle biting Chihuahua is more than correct.
If Dan's reading this, good-luck mate. I am glad you called out Siegler's bluff. What he was trying to do with the Path issue was simply 'diversion'. Rake up an issue that can get people talking - loud enough - that it drowns out the issue at hand (callous and selfish handling of privacy in the Silicon Valley).
Gruber and Siegler are symbiotes and it is entirely appropriate to drag Siegler in.
a. Lyons' article makes no mention of him.
b. Gruber and Siegler might write about Apple, but Gruber can actually write, and Siegler can't. Ankle biting chihuahua is just right.
Anyway, you make a good point, and I hope I clarified why I thought Gruber shouldn't be in this list.
"Some sort of subconscious need to find superiority in consumer purchases and brand loyalty. It's kind of disturbing."
Or maybe it's just a good blog?
Despite happily not owning a Mac for almost a decade I've continued to read Gruber all this time because his signal to noise ratio is off the charts compared to any other tech blogger. His voice is unique and entertaining. The entire layout is clean and sparse. It's one of the few tech RSS feeds you know isn't going to be knee deep in repackaged press releases and bullshit false equivalence analysis.
If all you had to do to make a half million dollars a year was turn out snarky one liners there'd be a lot more millionaires in the world.
It's the other way around: Apple isn't successful because of Gruber and Siegler, Gruber and Siegler are successful because they tied their fortunes to Apple.
Post purchase dissonance reduction is a well known cognitive bias. And what can be better for dissonance reduction than someone telling you that you have good taste, and anyone who buys the competition is a philistine?
I should point out that this does not impute anything to the quality of the products themselves. I just posit that blogs such as Gruber's play a active part in the ecosystem due to our cognitive biases. They are not merely a passive observer.
These gadgets are EXPENSIVE. If you're clearing $15.00 an hour and you buy a smartphone, that's 15-40 hours of your life that you've dedicated to that little machine. You can see why there would be fervor over those devices, especially for those enthusiasts that have to work so hard to afford them in the first place.
You say "iPhone's are stupid!" and all they hear is "I think YOU are stupid!".
A lot of people define themselves by distilling the version of themselves they want to portray to the world as a collective of company logos and brands.
I don't think it is healthy, but it sure makes sense why people do it.
Harley Davidson is another example where this occurs.
Consider all the tribes that don't even have a coherent "brand" behind them: C people and Ruby people; truck people and sports car people; dog people and cat people; PC gamers and console gamers; new york- and chicago-style pizza people; goths and hipsters and rockabillies; nerds and jocks; white-collar and blue-collar people; etc.
You a farmer in Illinois? Then the noun could be "John Deer" or "Monsanto" and you'll get appropriate responses.
If you are a chef in New York you could say "Dilantium Knives" are/aren't stupid and get an appropriate response and so on.
We are a lot like race car drivers anymore; draping the brands of the companies we are proud to identify ourselves by.
The more this perception is challenged, the more fiercely it gets defended. An attack on $BRAND_OF_CHOICE is viewed as an attack on their choice to invest in it, and thus an personal attack on themselves. So they seek to reaffirm their choices via whatever and whoever will say what they want to hear.
The only other TechCrunch writer that I regularly read is Devin Coldewey and that's because he has interesting articles and actually seems knowledgeable about technology. In other words I have learned things from his blog posts.
Then please, stop reading his blog posts, it's the only way he'll learn.
Silicon Valley has not fundamentally changed over the decades and I can say that from the perspective of someone who has lived here for over 40 years and who has been in the thick of the startup world since the early 1980s. Opportunism has always existed and always will. But great ventures are not fundamentally built upon opportunism. They are built upon incredible skills, daring forms of risk-taking, amazingly hard work, and like traits that are quite admirable. Those traits showed themselves strongly here in the Valley 30 years ago and they continue to do so today. Indeed, the heart of the Valley consists of anything but the "upside-down world filled with spammers, liars, flippers, privacy invaders, information stealers" that the author here attempts to depict. Sleazy elements exist as they do whenever money is at stake but to suggest that they are what most defines the Valley is to slander a lot of good people who are doing great things and who have nothing whatever to do with the world of which the author writes.
The author is an excellent writer but this piece is seriously flawed by an intemperate tone, extreme ad hominem attacks, and gross overstatement. In my view, such flaws seriously weaken it as a piece of advocacy. And the lurid headline does not help either, especially when one writes to criticize "click whores." It is not that the piece is bad on substance. It just could have been so much better had the author chosen to strike a more judicious tone.
Marc Andreessen, Peter Thiel, Chris Dixon, Saul Klein, Josh Kopelman, CrunchFund, Greylock Partners, Accel Partners, Menlo Ventures, Lerer Ventures
Many of these are top class investors and certainly don't expect a return on their money from a startup tech blog. But they might expect favorable reviews of their portfolio companies when launch time comes or when shit hits the fan.
But I can't help but feel this is the investors simply moving up the food chain to protect their startups. Rather than rebutting against the media when their own startups are attacked, they have obtained an inside position at source.
I don't believe Sarah thinks this will happen (or she feels she can push back and mitigate) but I'm [sadly] confident this kind of internal pressure will occur at some point.
Fuck it, if I'd invested in her media venture I'd want preferential treatment. And I'm ex BBC with a 'no bias' agenda beaten into me it hurts.
All news channels are "biased". You can only integrate and filter.
>But the BBC gives preferential treatment to the BBC
Go read any BBC news story right now and scroll to the bottom. They even link out to other news sites covering the same story. I can't think of another news website that links to competitors like that.
BBC News certainly doesn't give preferential treatment to BBC.
But every once in a while (esp. when he did FakeSteveJobs), Dan hits it out of the park, and this is one of those articles. The crunchfund conflict of interest is concerning.
I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that anyone publicly sided with Path after their app behavior was exposed. There just is no spin spinny enough for that job. That it was Arrington and MG giving it the old college try just adds some extra lulz/wtf to the scene.
EX: Clean Coal
I came to Silicon Valley to escape that (the alternative, at the time, was Wall Street). Unfortunately, this kind of behavior (and these kind of people) seem to 'follow the money'.
*Note: This is both about the conversation that companies are abusing consumers and then apologizing later, and the tech blogger community and Lyons' accusations
And Silicon Valley has been "about the money" for 20-30 years now. When Wozniak left Apple is a good milestone for when it became "about the money".
(I'm just interested. It would be nice to hear more.)
Granted, I think it's more accurate to say that "tech" is the one doing the hiring and making people rich, not the SF Bay Area itself. But since this is the nexus of the (consumer internet) tech industry worldwide, I think its safe to say that a lot of that opportunity is found here
They must think that it's better this way, than to give it to someone who already likes Google, because it's more "fair" and he'd be seen as more "objective". Seriously, MG objective? Does anyone still think that by now? There's not a paragraph in his reviews where he doesn't compare anything to Apple, whether it's necessary or not, and of course Apple always comes out on top in his view.
Apple on the other hand gives out their products before release only to people who are totally on their side like Pogue and Walt, so the initial reviews of the product always come out favorable, and they get to influence other laggard reviewers, too.
I remember watching a techcrunch50. I showed some people I knew the swype demo and everyone was blown away. That's so cool! What won? Yammer. Twitter for the enterprise.
There's no way Yammer could possibly have won other than silicon valley tunnel vision/influence circle.
That was the only tc50 I watched. I also only ever read tc very briefly because the quality was awful. For the occasional scoop they got (and fewer right) it's just wasn't worth wading through the drivel.
At least now they have a new business model I suppose.
Journalism is a lot about perspective - I dont care if you occupy the highest moral grounds, your perspective changes dramatically once you have significant interest and money invested into something you are talking about. What you would normally call a Spade now becomes a Diamond.
Arrington's and MG's responses to the Path issue is proof enough for this - can you imagine both of them so mellow and supportive if Path was not CF funded was not around? I think not. And ohh yeah, I nearly puked reading MG's "rant" few days back. For someone who is so hypercritical of anything on the borderline of wrong (except if its from Apple - or any CF company it seems now), it felt especially nauseous.
To their credit, they do have disclosures - which definitely make a difference - if that is enough, I'm not sure.
Credibility is built by calling a spade a spade. It also tends to take the fast route down if you stop doing that.
I feel you could replace the first word in that with Lyons and it would also be an apt description.
Is there any better mudslinging match in the tech-blogosphere than Lyons vs Apple bloggers?
I remember my reaction when it was revealed that Dan was behind the Fake Steve Jobs blog. It was approximately, "Huh? Who's that?" And every time I read a non-Fake-Steve-Jobs piece from Dan I am reminded of why I had that reaction. The guy is just not a good tech journalist.
He's an incredibly entertaining writer though. I wish he would take his talents south and put out a sitcom or movie or something creative.
That is because he wanted to work at Techcrunch (there was a perennial discussion within TC on hiring him, and his wage demands were massive). now that Arrington can't give that to him any longer, he can speak out against him. Speaking of conflicts.
Hopefully this is the beginning of the end for "it's just a blog, man".
It was probably this way even before the internet. I mean, they award themselves the "Pulitzer Prize"--go look up the guy that one's named after.
It's no co-incidence. Techcrunch is the same as it was 2 years back, probably venom from Siegler has increased
My ideal blog about technology startups would be about Silicon Valley as it is. It would be hard to run this blog. I'm not even sure it could be profitable, because most interesting information about what's happening in Silicon Valley is not written about. It's shared directly between people working here, and there's very little reason for those conversations to go public.
You see the same problems with journalists covering Washington and national politics. The journalists are willing to be used by politicians because it furthers their careers. It's so tempting to just give in. It's certainly more profitable.
On the other hand, if you take TechCrunch for what it is, I don't think it's unethical per se. You just have to know how to read between the lines.
Dan's article would be better if he didn't confuse angel and VC investment, though. Michael Arrington is certainly an angel investor, and he was one long before he started CrunchFund. He's probably an investor in CrunchFund's first fund, but as a General Partner he's acting as a VC, not an angel investor.
The key distinction being whether he's investing his own money (an angel investor) or LPs' money (a VC).
Basically when it comes to tech/startup news this is all I want to know:
1 - when new startups launch
2 - important new game changing features that existing startups are implementing
3 - advice and interviews (Ask me anything) from startup founders
4 - new game changing gadgets coming out
5 - when startups are hiring
6 - when startups are sunsetting and why
That's it, no dirty laundry being aired, no drama, no egos, no kings, no divas.
And those types of content creators (editors) put so much hard work into their pieces they want to find a good home for their articles, a permanent place of existence. People writing guest posts for TC, RWW, GO, ATD, Mash, can just as easily make a post here on HN. But they don't. No one wants to put in so much hard work and research just for it to disappear into the jungle of links and never be found again.
Never forget, TechCrunch itself started as a sideproject to help Arrington learn about the startup space while he worked on one of his own.
The real secret to Siegler’s traffic, however, is that he is pals with Gabe Rivera, who routinely drives traffic to Siegler by giving his pieces top billing on Techmeme. (That’s right, kids. Techmeme is rigged.)
Unlike his criticism of Siegler, Lacy, and Arrington, the statement about Rivera and Techmeme is not backed up by any evidence. If he has some -- an analysis of Techmeme placement of Siegler's posts, sources who have knowledge of the alleged "top billing", or some other information -- it should be stated or linked from the post.
I'm glad this guy had the guts to call people out for who they truly are. Though I am sure this is far from the end of it all....
I dont agree with this. Many startup companies have to prove their mettle to get an investor want to invest in them. Also, there are significant chance of any startup going bust. He does not supplement what the odds are in making 10x/100x returns. So its difficult to buy the concept that just investing in them will make you richer in a few years. However, I do think Michael Arrington is doing what he can to protect his investment. But I dont think its the other way round..i.e -> Startups are not necessarily filtering investors based on the influencing ability of the investor.
It's enough to toss it all in the shitter and just judge things on their own merits: products, apologies and whatever else. Journalists bickering at each other over what exactly? Who cares.
Ugh. I think my work life frustration is spilling over into my comments.
Getting users. Tech isn't the meritocracy everyone likes to pretend it is.
Getting a Techcrunch piece about your app doesn't mean you're successful in any measure. Having a business model and making a profit does make you successful. Sure Techcrunch is marketing, but in most cases it's the wrong kind...not all eyeballs are good ones. Know your market.
Money makes for a powerful conflict of interest.
TC blog is free so all you get is simply product placement blog.
I don't understand this pent up hatred for Arrington, M.G. Siegler, and the other TechCrunch writers who, despite what people continually say, do genuinely seem to care about startups. Is this a case of wanting to knock successful people down a peg? Is it jealousy? What is it?
Sure, they are biased, but everyone is. At least they make it clear where their biases lie.
Please help me to understand this anger.
A lot of dislike for TechCrunch and affiliates also forms because these bloggers are part of a "good ol' boys" crowd in Silicon Valley. While the article casts this effect as one of VCs indirectly paying for stories and conflict of interest, I think personal ties are more important. Most of these tech bloggers spend a lot of time with a small group of VCs and founders-turned-investors, and it shows in what they choose to write about (and in who funds them when they go to found their own sites). For many, especially those outside this close network who are founding a startup or those who choose to eschew venture funding, it's frustrating to watch an already quite small echo chamber (tech startups in general) grow even smaller thru the lens of the VC-affiliate media.