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Are People Finally Getting Bored with the Tech-Blog Circle Jerk? (sfweekly.com)
265 points by Brajeshwar 2069 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 63 comments

I always saw Silicon Valley inevitably being covered and cared about as much as the Hollywood insidery cabal of power and influence.

As much as we believe in the ideas, teams, executions, it's still very much an old boys network. Don't fool yourself otherwise.

The community upturns its nose constantly about gossip or fluff. But you don't get it, that's all there really is. Gossip and fluff. Tech reporting is as dry and pointless. How many times can you rehash someone releasing, fixing, investing, or selling something?

On top of all this we got exactly the tech reporting culture we deserved. People clamor for dispatches from foreign lands, substantial news, authentic stories but here's the real secret... there's no demand for those things.

There is demand to sell ads on pages. There is demand to hire expensive publicists to befriend the journalists that switch from site to site like musical chairs. There is demand for real time updates of something happening because we're digital addicts. Read Silicon Alley Insider for a day and watch how they wring blood out of stone.

The game is rigged. We know to win you adorn your hastily put together A/B-ed MVP LP with TechCrunch and Mashable logos. Or you syphon off mojo storytellers that have consistently the past 5 years been slowly making the story equal part themselves; their backs scratched by everyone eagerly waiting their turn. Be that way long enough and you get dangerously jaded not caring whether it's fingernails or a knife.

If you don't like it, too bad, millions do. And the millions more that's descending into Silicon Valley seeking their fame and fortune do too.

It is what it is.

In the tech industry we definitely make celebrities of the wrong people. I can't recall a single other industry where journalists are the top-tier talent attraction, and I can't explain why that is. The closest in influence is perhaps the top editors in fashion - but otherwise we are in a league of our own (I have seen small-time contributors to Techcrunch get mobbed at tech events).

I have watched new tech bloggers starting out in the right direction and then getting dragged in by the mob to insert themselves into the story. The entire context of tech journalism shifts from reporting the facts to reporting on them reporting and before you know it every half-wit tech blogger has their own column where they endow the world with their opinion of things. Before long they are opining as 'we' - meaning they are speaking on behalf of everybody else (which for me is a lot worse than the worse style of 'I' editorial). There are more opinion-style journalists in tech than there are straight up reporters, and that says something.

And it is the entire audience that is culpable, not just the lovers, but the haters as well. If your intention as an opinion journalist is to get a reaction from people, then the haters are participating and perpetuating just as much as the fans are. I know a lot of tech bloggers who would furiously refresh the comments after they post the piece and look forward to the hate as much as they look forward to the applause. A lot of them intentionally rile up their audience just to get that reaction - sometimes even publishing a point-of-view they don't believe in just to get that rise out of the haters.

It may be because the real heros of this industry are less accesible, so we turn those who we have ready access to into faux heroes and villains. The movie and film industry has privacy invading gossip pages for readers to get their gossip fix from, they also have regular movies and awards shows. We don't have that with Zuckerberg, so we do it to whoever is next in line.

You can't observe tech gossip or talk about it without participating in it. All you can do is completely ignore it - but ignore it without saying that you are ignoring it, because that means you really aren't ignoring it.

I don't think that will happen though, there may be less interest in some stories at times but the gossip will always be there, it is part of human nature. We just gossip about the wrong part of the industry in tech.

I think you mean "tech journalism industry" maybe?

My perception from back when i was reading lots of tech blogs is that tech journalists are just not good journalists, almost all of them (I can't think of an exceptional case, no offense intended). They almost never do real world research, just rely on google, big newspapers, press releases, the random dude who calls to promote his new website and lately on HN / reddit (that strikes me as extremely lazy). You almost never read discussions or interviews with actual tech people in a calm, focused tone (a-la charlie Rose), their attention span is that of the average redditor and the thought process is usually shallow. Articles go out in minutes, they wait for commenters to correct them, and the opinions are tailored to the fan crowd in order to provoke the usual fan/troll replies and pageviews. You say that the "real heroes are inaccessible", but i wonder if tech bloggers try hard enough to access them.

Yes, I did mean the tech journalism industry

I have found that more recently some of the most interesting writing has been done by part-timers on their personal blogs. Security and privacy investigations, analysis of markets and startups. HN is a good way of aggregating the best of those posts.

"I can't recall a single other industry where journalists are the top-tier talent attraction"

Back in the last bubble analysts like (the disgraced) Henry Blodget and Mary Meeker just to name two got plenty of celebrity.

Added: Ok they weren't journalists (Blodget is now) but it was similar in that they became part of the dot com success story by creating it.

If you want a good example example of gossip and fluff in the tech industry just look at 99% of the articles that hit HN frontpage in the past few days about the $1b Instagram purchase.

Yeah, seriously. I ditched slashdot and came to HN because slashdot was becoming filled with Apple fanboys and Microsoft shills ("oh look! Apple released a white iPhone!"). The instagram thing was pretty annoying, but at least it didn't stay around long. What I'd really like to find is a technical site with discussions about programming and computer science, preferably with a strong bent towards Linux and other F/OSS. I'd like to find a place with people smarter than me (shouldn't be hard to find) who talk nothing but shop, no gossip, no fluff.

Well, this isn't the place you're looking for. This is a discussion board about startups- it includes programming and computer science, but isn't dictated by it. Perhaps /r/programming on Reddit would work better?

good luck. this site exists to enable the business practices of "tech" entrepreneurs and investors. gossip and fluff, as you call them, are necessary to hype the various start-ups or the skills and personalities of the teams involved. you need to smile all the time and ignore the little voice in the back of your head that says "we do not need another way to share photos."

In other words, hate the game not the playa.

Yeah man, respect the playa and keep Black Rock City weird.

I was making a point not a joke, but I guess it went over peoples heads.

Personally, I got bored of it long ago and just simply stopped reading. It's not that hard to do.

I'm similar. I never made a conscious decision, or said to myself "right, I'm never reading TechCrunch again," it was just something that sort of happened.

I gradually unsubscribed feeds in Google Reader that were generating too much uninteresting stuff, I stopped visiting sites, I got busy doing things of my own.. and before I knew it, I was tech-blog-free.

It's not like I know any less about what's going on in the world of tech without them; I just get a lot less clutter in my life.

Same here. I stopped following Siegler, Arrington, Sarah Lacy & co cause their arrogance and writing was just unbearable. They call themselves journalists/bloggers, but all they want is something in exchange for you appearing on their site/feed. That is not journalism.

These guys stopped writing about tech a long time ago, and instead started writing about their close (relational/economic) interests.

TechCrunch and related acts are just /tech tabloids/ now. Media literacy in the USA has been on a steep decline in the past 50 years, as evidenced by how these people still make and break startups. See also: things like Fox News blaming Obama for high oil prices instead of speculation in oil futures.

The emperor has no clothes.

The fact that the tech industry has given them the power to "make or break" startups is insane. These people are horrible writers, and the fact that anyone gives them the time of day is insane. Posts from TC, Pando, and the like, AND posts about them, shouldn't be allowed on HN.

I never actually started reading any of that stuff... Though I will read something if it floats up here on HN or Reddit or whatever.

I only ever see it when it makes the HN front page ...

> they left AOL after AOL told them they were violating the most basic of journalism ethics rules by investing the companies they were writing about.

This isn't true. Mike left AOL because Arriana was getting too hands on. There were a lot of little control decisions that lead to the decision to leave.

He left and then setup Crunchfund, with an investment from AOL. He was supposed to continue as a contributor, just like many other contributors who are also investors or entrepreneurs but declined on that as well. MG remained as a contributor.

As for the circle jerk being boring, I couldn't agree more (and I know the people involved, most of them well). What you have to keep in mind is that when something is made public, there is a motive for that. There is a reason why readers are being informed, and it usually isn't a good reason (for eg. claiming 'in view of full disclosure' and then telling half the story and leaving comments closed).

But if you are going to call out the circle-jerk and how boring it is, first make your story accurate (not difficult, all the details are spread out across the various blogs) and second at least back-up the claim that people are starting to tire of it, for eg. the fact that only one other blog wrote about the latest bust-up, or that it only rated a mention on twitter amongst other bloggers who joked about it.

The 'dirty laundry' posts used to be a lot more popular than they are now, and that means they are having little effect to their purpose of riling up readers. It would have taken a single paragraph to lay that point out, this just reads like somebody who jumped right into the circle jerk and is riding coat tails. The tone is one of speaking condescendingly on behalf of the rest of the world, but in attempting to do that he has stepped a bit too close to the action and got himself messy. And as has already been mentioned, we really really really don't give a shit - and that includes you.

This is an article that needed to be written. Tech shouldn't be a popularity contest like the attention-deprived "journalists" that were called out in the article. The whole lot of them have a psychological disorder that needs treatment, probably stemming from lack of attention from their peers in high school.

It's fairly clear that the information in TC and/or Pando is biased. Neither should be supported, ever. Stop the popularity contest that these people are turning our passion into!

TheVerge has become my favorite "mainstream" tech publication, largely because it covers actual tech news, rather than self-referential articles about tech journalism.

Ars is still excellent.

Ars, Tech Review, and Wired (birdman hoax aside) are very relevant tech publications that cover trends that everyone who works in technology should be aware of.

Like many people here, I get most tech headlines via Hacker News. Sometimes I use Twitter. I used to be a big Techmeme fan, but I've noticed A) the best stories on TM tend to show up on HN first and B) most other TM content is the commodity Apple/FB/gadget news and blog theater that I am trying to get away from.

TheKernel is interesting as well http://www.kernelmag.com/

Upvote, I really enjoy The Kernel and it's been a recent discovery in part thanks to The Verge linking through to them. First new subscription in my reader for a long, long time.

But like all other gadget - news site, comments section is a big turn off.

Macrumors is the only non-hn site where I actually read the comments. They have a lot of really vapid comments too, but the top 10% are good.

Given how many years the political circle jerk known as cable news has been going, I believe there may be an infinite appetite for this stuff.

Warning: Rant.

There is indeed. Western culture has undergone a value shift. Today's values are superficial in the extreme - we value money, personality[1], and social status. We "want respect"[2], and don't want to be "judged"[3].

Most of all, we crave others' approval.

The old values like integrity, honesty, empathy, conscientiouness and authenticity have been tossed aside.

It's also the reason people like Arrington will maintain that status quo. This article does nothing to change that. People KNOW what's being done here. And yet people always go back for more, because of these new, superficial values. Who we hang with is much more important than what we do.

The most amazing thing about it is that we value money over happiness. Just yesterday I read a post here that bemoaned guys with talent who don't deliver. Well, news flash. The guy with talent that doesn't turn his talent into something tangible is invariably happier than the guy who does. The number one regret of old people is having worked too much.

This value shift is a result of fear. Of a lack of confidence. If you can go through life without needing others' approval (looking at you, Mssrs Arrington, Siegler, Carr, and Lacy) you're free to be happy. And content.

Ever seen The Big Country with Gregory Peck? That guy was a role model worth modelling.

[1] That word is so out of place. Everybody has a personality.

[2] Respect is earnt, not given. If I "dis" someone it's because said someone hasn't done anything to earn my respect.

[3] The human brain protects itself from overload by filtering value from noise. We categorise what's left. That means judging people, every day, every time we meet someone new. It's what we do. We can't not do it.

Western culture has undergone a value shift. Today's values are superficial in the extreme - we value money, personality[1], and social status. We "want respect"[2], and don't want to be "judged"[3].

Most of all, we crave others' approval.

The old values like integrity, honesty, empathy, conscientiouness and authenticity have been tossed aside.

This is not a new idea. In the year ~ 100 AD the Roman poet Juvenal wrote:

Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses

This attitude that "Everyone was great and hard working in the past, but now everyone's superficial" is common enough.

How'd that Roman Empire turn out for them, once they got their bread and circuses?

When claiming that this "fall of civilisation" talk is always around, I'm not sure drawing comparisons to the era leading to the fall of Rome is really bolstering your case. Quite the opposite.

For one thing, Juvenal was several centuries before the fall of Rome. The sack of Rome by the Goths was in 476. Second, this kind of rhetoric is more or less ubiquitous, just like the "the youth of today don't respect their elders" line.

Minor historical correction: The Goths sacked Rome in 410. 476 marks the date that Odoacer deposed the emperor Romulus Augustulus and didn't claim the throne or try to prop up a different emperor.

How'd that Roman Empire turn out for them, once they got their bread and circuses?

Pretty good. They were the major military power for a few hundred more years, and they had a massive influence on the language, cultural and law of the area for ~2,000 years.

Good post and good observations, I am old enough to remember some of the shift. Things where a lot different when I was young, while they where already in motion there has definitely been a shift.

The old values like integrity, honesty, empathy, conscientiouness and authenticity have been tossed aside.

This is very true, a person used to be respected for these values, while there have always been crooks and creeps the majority of the populous held people with these virtues with regard. Now they are seen as antiquated, old fashion and Victorian. It now seems that they have been replaced with rude for rude's sake and controversial for controversy's sake. Further much of the information is devoid of any value, the subject of this post can be held out as an example a bunch of reporters running around writing opinionated gossip. Sadly this cultural shift seems to be going global, and I don't understand the basic human desire for it to, it is not like western culture is happier if anything we are becoming a more and more miserable lot. Why someone would want to model it without improving on it is beyond me.

> Western culture has undergone a value shift.

Citation needed. I agree with the rest of your cultural critique, but I doubt very much that it's ever not been like that.

It often seems we humans make progress in spite of ourselves.

Posting an article about articles about people gossipping about gossip doesn't help.

I'm more annoyed with the constant barrage of either Facebook, Apple, or Google getting in trouble because of privacy each week. Even when there is really no story at all (conceptual Google Glasses? Privacy! Instagram being bought, despite no TOS changes? Privacy!).

  > Instagram being bought, despite no TOS changes?
  > Privacy!
To be fair, this means that all of the Instagram data becomes a part of Facebooks 'profile' on you. I'm willing to accept a looser TOS when my data is silo'd into many different places that aren't necessarily talking to each other. When all my data becomes consolidated into the same place, I want more strict reins over what happens to it. Much in the same way the rules change for businesses that find themselves in monopoly positions.

Add to the "Privacy!" nonsense the "Google is now EVIL" canard that pops up at the same time.

I hate to break it to you; but outside the "Valley Bubble", no one cares. Really.

I'm not sure if I'm adding any value here, but this was the first article linked from HN's front page that have read for a while and which I did not understand what it was about. I have done some research, and I think I understand now.

People who can write well want to get paid for writing. Some kind of business model has to emerge that allows that to happen. Can we assume that advert driven blogging is not that model?

PS: on a netbook, the page design means that I spent some time looking for the actual content.

I was told a long time ago that if the journalist/publication IS the story, something has gone wrong (excluding genuinely serious news like NewsCorp or the journos killed in Syria). Any time someone who runs a news website and spends almost as much time trying to convince you of their value as the value of the stories they're writing you have to ask what the purpose is. In most cases, it's to establish themselves for future money making ventures, not for the journalism.

And excluding gonzo journalists like Hunter S. Thompson.

Pando and TechCrunch, can you guys report on the ground in Syria or Libya or Myanmar (or any place where life is actually happening) regarding the tech/start-up scene? I'd love to actually hear something of interest from you(and not about you) folks for a change.

To be fair, Sarah Lacy has done more in covering startup ecosystems around the world than any tech journalist I know.

These sites are the tech equivalent of the newstand tabloids or Hello magazine. They package themselves in such as way as to give themselves a veneer of respectability but they're somewhere between fluff and gossip at best, out and out product placement or PR at worst.

There's no difference between the articles they write and the thinly disguised endorsements for a particular moisturiser brand you get in women's magazines written by someone who has just come back from an all expenses paid spa day sponsored by a cosmetics manufacturer.

We should stop referring to people who write and work for these sites as journalists and start referring to them as public relations people because really that's what they are.

I couldn't understand why the startup of which I was a member, which was 2 years old and sold for half a billion in January wasn't covered in Tech Crunch. I guess this explains it.

Enlighten us :)


A thousand times YES!

Please God, let it be so. If Robert Scoble blows his nose, Tech Crunch is all over it.

Is there any Chrome extension which hides links to TechCrunch and similar pages? I treat these links like ads.

Which is basically what they are...


That was an April Fool's joke that I guess we've kept as a category.

The new TC team has very little to do with the weird, navel-gazing BS of last year. The new editor, Eric, actually went through YC six years ago.

Our philosophy is more startups. More founders. Less crap.

I can't help thinking of this kind of thing as being like driving by a 10-car pileup on your commute home. You know you're not supposed to stop and stare, but you do anyway.

Sure but I just ignore it. Plenty of useful, actually informative stuff out there. Why waste your time on hype and self-promotion?

"madam, the things these fallen women do would make your hair curl"

"oh vicar, this is terrible. please, do go on"

More like tech-blog infinite loop.

I like this much more than the vulgar title.

I'm confused. This article is an example of someone talking about silly gossip.

We're taking a run at tech news agg. We are breaking news faster than Techmeme and we try to provide some useful insights from the data we aggregate - http://techfiltered.com/funding-index

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