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Hit men, click whores, and paid apologists: Welcome to the Silicon Cesspool (realdanlyons.com)
1319 points by smacktoward on Feb 13, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 195 comments

Oh... My... God.... Lyons is a fucking god. As a journalist in the valley, I can just say that the first paragraph he's written here hits the nail right on the fucking head.

---"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.

But that's the whole point of the article: the whole value of the CrunchFund (and its ilk) is that Arrington (and his ilk) will be a douche on your behalf. If it were just the money, it wouldn't be worth it for the companies they invest in: the amounts are too small. It's an alternative compensation scheme for a PR flack who masquerades as a journalist. There's no ethical way to run the fund, because it would be worthless if it were ethical.

Yah, obviously that's the value he's adding. 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.

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.

> And it brings up all manner of ethical grey areas: is blogging journalism?

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.

There already are bloggers with the credibility of journalists (and more) who assume all of the responsibility (and more). We all know this and read these people all day every day.

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.

It's not a zero sum game: money is invested. Money goes from A to B. Media coverage helps convince investors, and customers, or users. One of the most efficient media is advertising disguised as journalism. Hence the legislation on "infomercials" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infomercial#Criticism_and_legal...).

> And it brings up all manner of ethical grey areas: is blogging journalism?

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.
I don't know, they only have to make it as far as a big VC round.

Don't be afraid to be an influencer+blogger. I like Jay Rosen's guide for modern reporting: don't hold to false objectivity. Telling us the motivations you have in reporting gives you the freedom to report on others motivations and not simply parrot what they are saying.

Telling us the motivations you have in reporting gives you the freedom to...

This leaves a gaping hole for unreliable narrators.

Can this post be kept in a special place at the top of Hacker News forever. Just so that people understand that the world isn't fair and to concentrate on their cool hacking.

It is self limiting to look at it in terms of earning money. Clearly happiness is life's goal --- not money (nor prestige, nor power). If you are smarter, as Lyons says he is, then it should be possible to transcend the environment. I'm not talking Christian-like self abasement. If you try hard enough, you can figure out ascension points to higher planes of understanding and flourishing and self growth. In the process, you might get rich as a by-product, but by then the money should be irrelevant.

Good advice. But it is indeed, still frustrating. I'm not sure some fo the people here quite understand just how little journalists make...

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.

"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."

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.

It's tempting to dismiss this as just e-lebrity gossip, but I think that this kind of rottenness is probably more dangerous to the Valley than threats from Washington or talk of bubbles. If who you know and how well you can politic overshadows what you did and the results you got, then you're in trouble.

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.

If who you know and how well you can politic overshadows what you did and the results you got, then you're in trouble.

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.

"You also get a different class of players in the game."


I'm not sure. Sleaze tends to correlate with easy money. Before 1997 or so most of the people I knew that were in tech were in it primarily for love but when all the easy capital started flowing in suddenly the quick buck hucksters started coming out of the woodwork. Very few of the latter stuck around after the first dotcom crash.

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 believe you are thinking about the rent-seekers. About that time when someone in business school realized 'hey, these guys are defining new fundamental concepts, if we could patent those we could just sit back and roll in the cash!' There was a tremendous shift from open disclosure of all the technology to 'just the necessary bits to operate' around that time. Comparing the PC/AT technical manual (with BIOS listings!) to the PS/2 manual? DEC went from publishing system schematics to just 'diagnostic notes'.

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.

I think one of the challenges with growing up is that you have to work increasingly hard at preserving that which made you special.

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.

Really? I remember reading about all the crap between Apple/Microsoft/Xerox (in the late 80s/90s) none of it could be described as even close a 'gentlemen's game".

Are we that different to any other industry?

Or all the recent nonsense about non-compete hiring practices between top tech firms.

I wasn't aware of this issue. Do you have a link to a recent article/HN discussion concerning it?

Interesting definition of "tech" that seems to exclude companies like HP, IBM, Atari, Xerox and more that would have had just a little bit more that 1MM/year in flow.

It's important to realize that this is how many industries work because it's practically human nature. The article basically boils down to "influential people in tech can be greedy/power-hungry." I often get the impression that those involved in tech are viewed as more advanced or more noble than in other industries. This is false, and a dangerous assumption. Tech is not full of angels - it's full of people. SV people are just as capable as politicians of being greedy or underhanded or even selfless.

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary." -James Madison

I think it is more serious than you make it sound. This article describes a racket that resembles mafia behavior.

“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.”

This is not a new game. "No one gets fired for buying IBM" was born, then later became "No one gets fired for buying Microsoft" on the back of "industry journals" that were more or less the dead-tree version of the rackets Fake Steve is describing. None of this is new. This, more or less, is the history of subscription trade journals in every industry for the last 100 years.

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.

Yes, mafias are not new. The interesting thing is when someone publicly take a public position against (not many people do).

A game can be a gentleman's game, but only if we all agree to play it like gentlemen.

There are days we can't even disagree like gentlemen here. :-(

> For me its just another sign that 'tech' is growing up.

For me it's another sign that 'tech' has some serious growing up to do.

In other words, stop visiting TechCrunch.

I'm way ahead of you.

There is nearly 1 or 2 stories a day on the front page of HN from TC.

Please people. Stop. Upvoting. This. Crap.

I think the core of the problem is not TechCrunch or person X or Y. The core problem is advertising disguised as journalism. The solution is legislation against this. Famous direct marketer Dan Kennedy said that the most efficient marketing is always illegal, and for example infomercials on TV are now legally restricted because they were too "dangerous" for consumers.

More legislation is almost never a good solution. It'll just encourage the parasites to get more creative and hurt the legitimate journalists.

"Under the Federal Trade Commission Act:

Advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive; Advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims; and Advertisements cannot be unfair.

Additional laws apply to ads for specialized products like consumer leases, credit, 900 telephone numbers, and products sold through mail order or telephone sales. And every state has consumer protection laws that govern ads running in that state."

You think this consumer protection laws should be removed?

I disagree. Content is a free market aimed at sourcing as many eyeballs as possible. Stop giving them your eyeballs and we won't deal with it.

I understand your point and I am a big supporter of the free market, but I think consumers need a minimum protection against infomercials.

I think there would be something along the lines of would be what's required:

"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.

Yes I think that is a minimum. Still the other concern is the kind of racket that is described: you pay or we won't mention you, or worse we will destroy your reputation (hitman).

"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."

The mere suggestion that this story is true makes me want to just quit IT, go back to college, and go into a more honest industry.

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?

No, the world isn't seriously this disgusting. What you are looking at isn't even Silicon Valley. It's a bunch of fucking bloggers jerking around. Yeah, there are a lot of people who (for some reason) give a fuck. Some of these bloggers even have significant influence as a result. But please remember all the people with their nose on the grindstone doing real work in the Valley and elsewhere. They are the majority, and they are the tech scene. Lyon's Silicon Cesspool isn't the tech scene, it's the blogosphere, which has always been a piece of shit. Disregard it, and remember, "Friends don't let friends read TechCrunch."

Every industry has people within it that are unethical or try to game the system for their own benefit at the expense of others. If anything the technology industry is unique in how much good it has done, relative to the bad.

If anything the technology industry is unique in how much good it has done, relative to the bad.

Every industry makes this rationalization.

No doubt, it's up to us to decide where the balance actually lies.

Is the world seriously this disgusting and I just haven't realized it yet?

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.

I read TechCrunch for a while. I stopped when I realized that I always felt dirty afterwards, much like I do if I look at a celebrity gossip magazine.

Google+ HN circle has replaced techcrunch for tech news imo.

or be bother with blogs that write about it... yeah, i want to turn a blind eye... yep - i'll do that until we hit 100K in revenue.

I completely agree. Would you trust Yelp for restaurant reviews if Yelp invested in the restaurants it provided reviews for? Of course not. Like you said, the only way to really punish behavior like this is to stop using their product.

Wow, interesting example of a company which the comment presumes is ethical.

Speaking of bubbles, the optimistic part of me thinks that this really is a bubble, and that the next time the Valley crashes, all the sharks and trolls will be reaped and only honest people will be left to rebuild. It's better to imagine it than the alternative.

Nothing is more dangerous to the Valley than threats of force from Washington.

"As a rule, the only thing that can kill a good startup is the startup itself" - http://www.paulgraham.com/superangels.html

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).

Is there any rational reason to derive this from pg's statement? Word substitution does not work in all cases. For example:

> As a rule, the only thing that can kill a good _human_ is the _human_ itself.

I definitely see the similarities and would agree with it. Nearly every successful entrepreneur will talk at length about the incredible importance of company culture on success (as that culture in turn permeates through the product, customer service, hiring process etc). I don't see why the same principles would become invalid at the slightly higher level of startup ecosystem.

It's plausible, but a corporate ecosystem is a lot different than a corporation. For example, the utility functions are different, the role and authority of leadership, the risk involved for each participant. Actually, it's quite a different beast.

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 live in a democracy."

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.

Silicon Valley is not the greater public, it is a collection of very talented, motivated, rich people. It could be very influential in Washington, but until recently has chosen to avoid it instead.

And patents, and litigation, and bureaucracy, etc...

Threats from Washington are the natural consequence of shitty, unethical behavior. Which really brings it back to what the OP is about.

Not shitty and unethical per se, but any behavior that compromises the value function of a given ecosystem will cause regulators to step in, in an attempt to correct it.

I've never understood the enormous popularity of M.G. Siegler. His articles are often published without any attributions or even basic spell checking. Yet somehow he's ridden on the coattails of Apple's ascent by positioning himself among the fandom as a "champion of good taste". In interviews he doesn't even come off as particularly pleasant.

Fanboys on either side of the aisle love to pat themselves on the back and reaffirm--almost daily--that yes, they did buy the best product imaginable. It's the same reason Gruber makes half a million a year writing snarky one liners.

Some sort of subconscious need to find superiority in consumer purchases and brand loyalty. It's kind of disturbing.

While there is some truth to what you said, I don't think dragging John Gruber is appropriate. One can at least see that a post is well written (I actually think that in terms of plain English, Gruber does the best job within the tech. blogosphere) and that some care and thought has been put into framing a cogent argument. From there, it's up to you to agree or disagree. I am not referring to the links he posts, but the actual writing that he does.

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 wonders "Lyons has always been an ass, but when did he get so bitter? " and says "Siegler is one of the top writers on the Apple beat, period. Good sources, smart analysis, and he’s been right way way way more often than he’s been wrong."


Gruber and Siegler are symbiotes and it is entirely appropriate to drag Siegler in.

You are right, and Gruber is wrong... in this case. Gruber usually does a good job of citing sources and for the rest of the article he makes some good points. Like I said before, one can agree or disagree. To reiterate though, his rushing to Siegler's defence is just silly. Gruber does himself and his readers a disservice by linking to Siegler's blog. Siegler sensationalizes the smallest of things -something Lyons brings up eloquently- and then is hypocritical enough to try and portray that he actually abhors the practice! The main reason I wanted to not drag Gruber into the discussion was:

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.

The "fanboy dismissal" is here, as usal, a cop out. It's the same copout that 2/3 of the commentariat falls back on whenever the subject comes up of why Apple is so successful. Must be those fanboys, that pixie dust, that RDF...

"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 same copout that 2/3 of the commentariat falls back on whenever the subject comes up of why Apple is so successful. Must be those fanboys, that pixie dust, that RDF...

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.

I don't think this can be construed as 'fanboy dismissal', though the term 'fanboy' itself is controversial.

Post purchase dissonance reduction is a well known cognitive bias[1]. 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.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-purchase_rationalization

This might be one of the best comments I've ever read on the web.

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.

Eh, I'll be the counter-point here in that I do own a Mac, love it for the hardware which is amazing, but can't stand Gruber or his ilk. I'm not really sure what draws you to him, but I can tell you just cause I like Mac doesn't mean I want to go find superiority in it or read Gruber's nonsense.

Unfortunately I think it is worse than just justifying your purchase; for a lot of people it is defining their identity.

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.

This is exactly what Apple set out to do, equate the brand with the self - much like fashion.

Harley Davidson is another example where this occurs.

Even before Apple consciously set out to harness this, people were self-identifying as Unix people, Microsoft people and even CP/M people. So, yes, Apple consciously leverages this. But, no, the behavior is not solely a result of their effort.

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.

Come on, you think Google doesn't do this? If anything anywhere on the net is critical of something Google does there will an army of fanboys there within seconds in Google's defense.

If you say "Linux is stupid" or "Ubuntu is stupid" or "FOSS is stupid", you'll get the same response.

Oh, I don't think it matters. It just depends on the social circles you run as to what the noun in that sentence is.

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.

If you haven't already - watch the documentaries "Century of the self" and "Human Resources" for more disturbing information on how this came to be.

For a lighter and modern take, the recent BBC show Secrets of the Superbrands does a good job showing why we like what we like. I can also second taking some time to watch "The Century of the Self" but its a bit darker.

People fiercely defend their choice to spend a chunk of money on something, otherwise they wasted their money and look foolish, clearly (to themselves) they are not foolish, so they must have spent the money for the right reasons.

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.


Any source for that figure about Gruber's income? I find it hard to believe.

Just a rough estimation based off this: http://daringfireball.net/feeds/sponsors/ + Amazon affiliate sales.

Same old stuff people always say. Gruber, fanboys, yadda yadda, wakka wakka.

Siegler is a shameless bottom feeder. He and his ilk are an embarrassment to the tech community, who have sadly gotten rich off the sweat of others.

He's a Gruber knockoff. Same religious devotion to Apple, same trollish linkbait.

You forgot the abject Google-hate.

Siegler falls into the category of "irritainment", entertainment via irritation. He's the type of guy you love to hate and I believe a lot of his popularity stems from that. I can't stand the guy and I think he's completely full of shit. And yet I read almost all of his blog posts.

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.

"I can't stand the guy and I think he's completely full of shit."

Then please, stop reading his blog posts, it's the only way he'll learn.

He's not even entertaining.

Pleasantries aren't part of this kind of "good taste".

Exactly. Whoever said that good taste has anything to do with appearing pleasant?

It's hard to imagine someone enjoying his level of celebrity without even trying to appear pleasant. Even Steve Jobs reserved the bulk of his ire for those that worked for him, and appeared caring to his audience (customers), even "patronly".

Silicon Valley once was home to scientists and engineers — people who wanted to build things. Then it became a casino. Now it is being turned into a silicon cesspool, an upside-down world filled with spammers, liars, flippers, privacy invaders, information stealers — and their grubby cadre of paid apologists and pygmy hangers-on.

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.

It seems to me that someone is whistleblowing on mafia-like behavior... and you comment on the tone.

Lyons sounds more like a rival mafioso to me.

Investors in PandoDaily:

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.

Exactly, I fear this too. I like Sarah Lacey, and I think she does have integrity.

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.

But the BBC gives preferential treatment to the BBC. It's not about to print all of its own internal emails.

All news channels are "biased". You can only integrate and filter.

I spent 6 years reading internal BBC emails. Can't comment for the rest of the BBC, but nothing comes close to the integrity of BBC News.

>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.

Although this was a beautiful piece I can't help but feel Dan Lyons just gave Uncrunched, ParisLemon, TechCrunch and PandoDaily another million pageviews between them for the many rebuttals we're about to see.

It's like the Republican presidential debate rules -- anytime you mention an opponent, the opponent gets airtime to respond.

HN already auto-deads submissions from several domains; wonder if it'd improve quality around here if those were added to the list, adding some friction into the game they're playing.

This is a "whistleblower" article. I think it is very important. And I hope there are or will be laws to prevent what the article describes.

That's the game.

Dan isn't innocent here - some of his older posts are sickeningly obvious puff-pieces or hit jobs... of course, he's not excusing himself here or claiming he's not part of the muck he's deriding.

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.

The interesting thing to me here is how the story is no longer about Path and whether their actions were right or wrong. In the course of attempting to defend their portfolio company, Arrington and Co. have created a new debate about the role of journalism in the tech world, pitting the VC-backed insiders and their well-oiled hype machine vs the hordes of unconnected outsiders seeking to break down the gates. This dynamic is reflected by the passionate reactions coming fast and furiously from both sides. It could get ugly, but in the long run it's probably a good thing for everyone to have this discussion.

As Lyons notes, the debate around pay-to-play or other more subtle conflicts of interest in tech journalism has been around for a while, and is probably here to stay.

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.

People spin things that actually kill thousands of people every year. Why do you think your privacy is going to be more respected than your life?

EX: Clean Coal

I don't agree that this debate necessarily will stay. Legislation can change that. Infomercials on tv have been reigned in because consumers associations came to defend consumers. Ads desguised as journalism (which is what this is all about here, I believe) are very efficient ways to sell. Check out Dan Kennedy's work, or any direct marketer's tricks.

People spin things that actually kill thousands of people every year. Why do you think your privacy is going to be more respected than your life?

So basically it's only a matter of time before the ideals of the "gold rush" go away and everyone's just in it for the money?

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

I get the same exact feeling. The frequency of lax startup ethics seems to be increasing by the count of HN articles reporting it. I left wall street for the same reason you mention. More and more we hear 'this time it's different', but from SV investors. Always a troubling sign.

"Gold Rush" is the definition of "in it for the money". It means people go somewhere / do something to "get quick rich".

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 think the warning signs of a 'gold rush' are when ethics go out the window (most recent example is the mortgage industry). Capitalism is all about going where the money is but if the correct rules aren't in place and the culture isn't strong enough the whole system goes to hell like a badly moderated news forum. The key question about SV of today is: are the correct rules and culture in place to keep the gold rush healthy and sustainable?

What would people do if, as you say, everyone gets into it just for the money? Would enough people consider leaving somewhere else?

I doubt it, there's no greater opportunity in the US right now than there is here

Maybe it's time to look past the US.

Why do you say that?

(I'm just interested. It would be nice to hear more.)

Well, I can't back this up with hard numbers at this point, but I'm pretty sure that the SF Bay Area has lead the nation in hiring since 2008. Also, where else in the US are you hearing about people becoming rich beyond their wildest dreams? Or about how a new company IPOing will bring about 1000 millionaires? I dont see it anywhere else

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

I'm really surprised that Google trusts and would still let MG Siegler review their products before launch (like they just did with Chrome for Android), when 80% of his posts now are about trashing Google. It's like begging for attention from an abusive boyfriend or father: "Come on, MG..just one little nice word about our new product...please?"

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.

Because if they can get him to like their product that would be a huge achievement for them. They want to be the ones that win him over.

Hopefully more people will start realizing that this is what techcrunch has always done.

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.

It started stinking from the time CrunchFund was announced and I couldn't understand all the "moral highground" support bullshit that Arrington was getting - most notably from the TC staff.

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.

Personally, I'm really happy to see the tech blog echo chamber start slinging mud at each other instead of whatever the tech company to hate du jour is. The more they make themselves the story the more irrelevant they become.

"Siegler is constantly mocked by readers as a laughable troll – a mean-spirited, egomaniacal buffoon who is not very bright but thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room, and who, in all of his manic blogging, has left a string of cock-ups and false “scoops” behind him."

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 think the phrase you're looking for is "The unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable."

I feel like this is a part of the larger conversation of how the dynamics of Silicon Valley are changing (at least from my insulated perspective). I'm not going to sit in my arm chair and smatter Silicon Valley but I enjoyed and respected the culture and environment of SV much more 5 to 10 years ago. It may be untrue but I feel like SV is becoming increasingly dominated by hustlers and scheisters and it has become more difficult to effectively collaborate with the many true technologists there. Actually took a job last year outside of the traditional SV circle of companies to take a break from the atmosphere and have found it to be surprisingly more fun from a technological perspective than the consumer internet products I was building previously.

Dan Lyons is afflicted with the combination of being a very talented writer, but a terrible journalist. He's late to a lot of stories--I mean, he's JUST NOW writing about Arrington's conflicts?? And, he's frequently 180 degrees wrong about the stories he does cover--see his coverage of SCO for the most infamous example.

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.

> I mean, he's JUST NOW writing about Arrington's conflicts??

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.

If what Dan Lyons wrote here is correct then this article is the most useful and interesting I have ready in years about Silicon Valley. It is describing / implying a widespread problem of "payola" (pay for play) in the tech media.

What you are saying is kind of outside the scope of this article right? Without going into his shortcomings or strengths do you agree or disagree with anything he says in this specific post?

I stopped reading techcrunch about 9 months ago, after realizing that the majority of articles were friends of the author - and realizing it was almost impossible to get featured on there unless you were connected in some kind of monetary way.

And finally, in 2012, after mocking and lambasting traditional reportage and journalistic standards for years, the Internet finally learns that journalistic standards, expectations, and ethics are a set of rules learned the hard way, that are as relevant on the web as they were in print.

Hopefully this is the beginning of the end for "it's just a blog, man".

It's not that proper journalism is irrelevant, and it's not even that not everyone should be expected to be proper journalists. It's that proper journalism is a very small niche, not the norm. There isn't much actual market demand for proper journalism compared to the other crap; most readers and viewers are undiscerning and everyone else is willing to pay, so why bother?

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.

Personally, I think the mixing opinions and facts that blogs does is not a bad idea, but this don't mean conflict of interest isn't still important.

I stopped reading it two years back, but still get linked to that website. Whenever I land over there, the post contains some or other of BS.

It's no co-incidence. Techcrunch is the same as it was 2 years back, probably venom from Siegler has increased

I agree with the overall argument and sentiment of Dan's article.

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).

How about we start to act on this by not posting and/or flagging every post from pandodaily, techcrunch, and uncrunched? I think we'd have a better HN experience all around.

How about a few of us here get together, throw up a wordpress install, and start a self-serve tech/startup site. I've got RobotSays.com. Basically anyone can be an author, they create a guest post, upload their content and their picture, and submit the post for approval and we the editors fix up anything out of place and approve only the best content for the front page. A lot of design blogs allow guest post submissions and it works out very well.

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.

Well, you just invented slashdot. It's fallen by the wayside now, because places like this, with (largely) unmoderated user generated content, can distribute news faster.

I do agree with you, but if HN were so go at news then why does TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, GigaOm, AllThingsD, Mashable, etc... exist? HN isn't really a content creator, it's a distributor of content that has already been created at those sites mentioned. HN is a great community of news commentators, but HN is terrible at allowing people to generate content and articles themselves.

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.

People are too busy trying to make "product money," not "blog money."

Never forget, TechCrunch itself started as a sideproject to help Arrington learn about the startup space while he worked on one of his own.

Glad to see Lyons getting in on the conversation. And by conversation I mean grab for pageviews.

This kind of thing - not the exact events or people described, but the atmosphere conveyed - is exactly what's been turning me off from Silicon Valley. I've interned here twice, and I know that it's full of the top engineers in the world. Yet the underbelly seems to be full of these ridiculous cutthroat business practices and an atmosphere of self-indulgence, self-importance etc, most likely because Silicon Valley is where the money is. It seems like it's turning into the Hollywood of the tech industry, and not in a good way. T'would be a shame.

I was with him until this:

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.

This is a fantastic article. I think the start-up industry and the bloggers who report on them is increasingly tiring.

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....

<Quote> Not big investments — maybe $100,000. They don’t need your money; they can raise money from anyone. </Quote>

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.

The real question is whether CrunchFund is leading or following. If they just follow, once other big names are committed, then frankly the value-added for startups is close to 0.

Good piece. I think of Arrington, Siegler, et al. as the Swift Boaters of tech journalism. They just throw FUD everywhere and they never clean up after themselves.

Somewhere, Gruber, Lyons, Arrington, and Siegler are sitting back, smoking cigars around a poker table, and laughing at all the income from ads that their little "dispute" and junior-high name calling is earning them.

Cool, so for the billionth example, makers make something -- good or bad -- that creates a commotion and the chattering class gets to ride the waves. This time, it's Path. What is this article in the OP, 3rd, 4th degree of separation from the actual event in question?

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.

Tech journalists sure do love writing about themselves.

How do I pitch my startup to the Dan Lyons angel fund?

let's get back to hacking/the technology.

The key question that arises in my mind is simply this: why is perception so important in Silicon Valley? It seems clear that money influences tech reporting to a fairly high degree, but what is the economic incentive? In a universe of makers, shouldn't the things made speak for themselves?

but what is the economic incentive?

Getting users. Tech isn't the meritocracy everyone likes to pretend it is.

I wonder how do you think about Arrington being forced out of AOL now, after reading this.

They conned AOL... committed to staying there in exchange for a big pay then violated the spirit of their agreement by launching a tech fund: a clear conflict of interest.

I'm pretty sure AOL is a major investor in CrunchFund so I don't think it's fair to say they conned AOL.

you have no idea what you are talking about.

This is why I feel like a lot of startups raising their hands in a "ohhh write about me!!! write about me!!" frenzy of desperation seems to get them the users and followers (edit: and investors) they deserve. Sure, if your market is the tech crowd, go for it. If you're market is not the tech world, then I believe it makes sense to avoid the shitty tech press altogether.

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.

I totally agree. There's also hidden dangers involved. If you're a company like AirBnB or Path, and something disastrous PR-wise happens, it'll appear all over TC if you're a Silicon Valley darling. If you're not known among SV, maybe 1-2 minor publications will pick up the story, but there won't be a huge commotion. If they're not your target audience, is it really worth a write-up in TC?

Can anyone explain why this post got buried on reddit? I thought they live for controversial stories like this. Is Arrington a reddit investor too?

Brave article by Dan. Please keep them coming.

Very funny, but... isn't Lyons himself click-whoring with articles like this? He is (or has become) a part of the circus.

I'm curious how close this resembles the Payola scandal and if it would ever warrant legal/political intervention.


Funny to see that much praise for Lyons, which is far away from being a good writer. Many things coming from him are link bait articles and insulting for a reader trying to make up his mind.

It's as if people think that any journalist is unbiased. At least MG, MA, and SL all share their bias so openly. You don't think Dan is biased in his reporting? Please.

I don't think Dan shares a direct financial stake in the targets of his punditry like MG, MA, and SL do.

Money makes for a powerful conflict of interest.

MA already pointed out that Dan wanted to work for TechCrunch numerous times. How much more direct do you want?

I fully agree with Dan!

This post sure struck a chord. Good job, Dan.

Brilliant piece.

Needed to be said. Bravo Dan Lyons.

You get what you paid for.

TC blog is free so all you get is simply product placement blog.

And this is a click-bate title I'm not going to click out of principle.

It isn't click bait. If you follow the network of blogs Dan talks about you saw the blatant self-interest machine hard at work in realtime. I was disgusted by it, but I'm not a tech writer, thus no platform to weigh in on. I'm glad someone picked up on it and gave it to them, and you only have to glance at the comments he got to know that I'm not the only person who felt this way.

Article might be worthy, but this title gives me no insight into the content of the article and thus doesn't allow me to decide if I want to see it or not in a first place. How would I guess that it's about "network of blogs with the blatant self-interest machine"?

And now these writers occupy HN. 597+ upvotes. Seriously? Sigh.

Is probably more a sign that HN now has a much bigger diverse audience. Not so long ago it would be really rare to get 597 upvotes in a single story.

We should start flagging users who post sensationalist stories on HN. Not reward them with karma.

Kind of ironic that this story was right above another TC story.

Nasty little ankle-biting Matty the Angry Chihuaha, hoho how wonderfully droll :) It may very well be verging on the meta-hypocritical but unlike Siegler at least this man has a flair for the written word.

I view all of that kind of thing as noise and try to filter it out.

I'm surprised by the amount of cheering going on over this article. I found it in very poor taste, resorting to ad hominem attacks and slander. Even if it were in good taste, I don't agree with the general idea behind the post.

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.

I think a lot of this anger stems from the way many tech bloggers write - a combination of a "fuck the haters" and a "told ya so" attitude. It's easy to breed hatred with thinly-veiled disdain for those who criticize you, and I think that's a good part of what's happening here.

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.

I'm surprised that you're surprised. Read the comments, it's pretty unambiguously spelled out here.

Please don't resort to these kinds of comments. Its hard enough to keep the signal-to-noise ratio high in "gossip stories" posts such as this one.

garbage in, garbage out

This isnt reddit...

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