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Fox News attempts to explain what Github is (twitter.com)
58 points by libovness on Sept 13, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 60 comments

I don't understand why some people here are defending Fox News. Their explanations are terrible and incorrect. Here's another attempt to explain those same terms in laymen terms:

repository: a collection of files relating to one software project usually containing software code and documentation

to fork: to create an exact copy of someone else's repository with the intention of editing the files in that repository

pull request: asking for the changes in a forked repository to be incorporated back into the original repository

Granted, these wouldn't fit the screen which makes me think of someone actually explaining it to them in proper terms and then the journalist cutting everything out to makeit fit.

Line #1: 80 chars, Line #2: 35 chars, Line #3: 78 chars. I'd go for something like:

* Repository: Folder containing files of source code for programs, anyone can edit

* Forked: A copy of another repository

* Pull Request: Ask for included changes to be added to original file

Folders, files, programs and source code are concepts almost any computer user would understand, although it is not entirely accurate, the constraints aren't good. Took liberties with "anyone can edit", maybe "people can edit" would be more accurate.

My go:

repository: a pile of computer code making up a project

fork: a new copy of the project probably with changes

pull request: sends changes back to original project

But they spelled it "reposotory." That's pretty bad.

Referencing the video here: http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/2667694577001/writing-new-dic...

I think the part that gets people most fired up about this is the complete lack of attention to detail and the "wow this is complicated stuff for smart people we're never going to understand this so let's not even try" attitude. I immediately did a mental flashback to some of the educational videos I loved growing up: documentaries by the Discovery Channel, PBS, and the like, where learning was actually encouraged, not mocked.

The interviewer's style of rapid-firing the questions and not really paying attention to his answers is grating as well. She spoke like she had researched the subject for about 10 seconds, maximum.

I'm surprised nobody in the office started laughing after her opening line.

In the twitter photo, the really shameful part is not the fact that they got the definitions wrong, although that's pretty bad. It's the spelling errors and the THREE different ways of writing a word and definition:

* word: definition

* "word"--definition

* "word"-- definition (also, "e-note"?)

It's just lazy. Incredibly lazy. It's done with an attitude that shows that nobody there cares much for their work.

> I think the part that gets people most fired up about this is the complete lack of attention to detail and the "wow this is complicated stuff for smart people we're never going to understand this so let's not even try" attitude.

That's exactly what bothered me so much about it. I actually wrote a blog post on the subject. http://ryboso.me/fox-news-github-story-is-deeply-troubling.h...

> I immediately did a mental flashback to some of the educational videos I loved growing up: documentaries by the Discovery Channel, PBS, and the like, where learning was actually encouraged, not mocked.

Those great, factual documentaries that make learning interesting still exist. The mistake you're making is confusion most news channels for anything other than opinion based claptrap.

News used to do that, and sometimes still does. As special segments, they would show curious documentaries that explore interesting corners of the world and culture. But they feel like a dying breed.

Spelling errors? Check.

Bad grammar? Check.

Inconsistent formatting? Check.

Technical inaccuracies? Check.

Making up terminology (e-note)? Yep.

I've never once watched Fox News, but I've heard stories about their quality of reporting. Now I understand.

I don't really see what this has to do with Fox News. Lack of research, investigation, verification, education, accuracy, grammar, formatting, spelling, and truth are all endemic to all reporting/anchoring/journalism, these days.

It's also not Fox News - it's Fox Business, which has a partially separate staff.

Don't you know? If a Fox-related outlet does something funny, it's special because we don't agree with their political leanings. cd groupthink && ./mock && ./ridicule.

It has nothing to do with Fox News. Television news across the board is a vehicle to sell advertising. While there's still some component that tries to be informative, it's mostly about attracting and holding an audience being entertaining or dramatic, like any other television programming. This is why previously unremarkable occurrences such as hot weather in August are now reported like airplane crashes.

Given that audiences have an ever-increasing SMS-, Twitter-, and Facebook-molded attention span, you are expecting the impossible to expect that television news will ever provide more than a cursory overview of anything.

The on-air presenters in most if not all cases are NOT experts at what they are reporting. They are selected based on their looks, personality, and ability to read a teleprompter without. sounding. like. they. are. reading.

But you also have to remember that news networks like Fox and CNN have to fill 24 hours a day, under intense pressure to be the first on-air with reports of "breaking news." So they can't spend a lot of time fact-checking and polishing every story. This is quite unlike the previous generation network "evening news" shows which were 30 minutes once a day and they could spend all day honing and checking the content of that 30 minutes.

Bottom line, if you want to be informed about anything, don't watch television news. Seek out longer form reporting by subject matter experts (easier than ever to find online) or go straight to the source (in this case, help.github.com would be good).

Getting upset or indignant about this is a waste of energy.

I think it's the bit where they created that graphic and broadcast it on air. I'm pretty sure that's the link with Fox News.

Here's what this has to do with Fox.

The Fox network has proven themselves to be anti-science, anti-reason and anti-intellectual. In their alternate reality, there is no global warming, there were WMDs in Iraq, and the financial crisis was caused by poor people.

The GitHub story just reinforces the notion that facts and analysis (and spelling) don't matter much in that organization.

This has less to do with left-right political leanings and more to do with reasoning about the world rationally, instead of ideologically.

These days?

And it's presented in a visual quality - mimicking the "act as if" sentiment - which is enough to make some people trust it as a source of information.

Here is the full video: http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/2667694577001/writing-new-dic...

Warning: cringeworthy

I know it's popular here to bash on non-technology people.

And yes, apparently Fox News is terrible (I wouldn't know, I'm Australian).

But seriously, there are people outside our circle, for whom computers are not their every waking moment.

Heck, I know people for whom using a featurephone is the most advanced "computer" they touch (and to them it's a phone, not a feature-phone).

So look, I think we should cut them some slack - the reposotory typo was just embarassing and unforgiveable, and whoever let that go to air should be reprimanded - but the rest of it's, while not great writing, isn't terrible.

However, instead of lambasting it, people be constructive and positive share how they might explain it to a non-technical person?

I'll start:

* Repository - the source code that we turn into a program

* Forked - where we clone a "repository", and then make amendments to the copy

* Pull Request - where we try to merge our amended "repository" and the original "repository" to produce a better program

If you are a technology/business reporter reporting on technology from within the silicon valley, you are obligated to be knowledgeable about those things which you report on and the same is expected of a medical correspondent or political correspondent on an editorial staff, for their areas of coverage.

On that note would a business reporter about bioengineering firms's stock movements be obligated to know about the specific terminology of bioengineering? Fox got it wrong to be sure however reporting on financials doesn't make it necessary to be an expert in the technical aspects. There are plenty of software engineers building business software that don't know the first thing about calls and puts, options and derivatives trading strategies despite the fact that they build software that drives those systems.

I won't cut Fox any slack, however lets ask ourselves -- did MSNBC or CNN ever cover this story at all? The gist of the Fox story was to talk about the value of the company, not the details of what a 'fork' is. Besides, how many VCs have we been in front of that don't have any clue about the tech in which they are prepared to invest millions of dollars?

Even worse is how many engineers at startups have no clue about the business aspects of investing, valuations, dilution, option pools and such. Many engineers who think of themselves as 'startup people' have no idea what convertible notes are nor even how to read a deal memo. And forget about talking about valuations -- nobody know about that, yet many people claim they're valued at $1 million or whatever without any clue about where those numbers come from. I'm generalizing of course, but the exceptions really prove the rule.

There's something in the Bible I think about casting the first stone.. It might apply here. Pointing out the inaccuracy is certainly relevant, but using that as a rationalization of pre-conceived notions about Fox isn't really fair. I remember when I was in the Army in 2003 and CNN reporters embedded with our unit had no idea about the chemical weapons about which they were supposedly reporting. How many times have I heard "machine gun" used when describing an M4 rifle.. Another example is when news outlets say 'CIA Agent' when they actually mean CIA Officer. An agent is a foreign asset, no actual CIA employee is ever an 'agent.' Yet the media gets it wrong almost constantly. Snowden, for example wasn't an 'NSA employee' as was reported by many outlets, but a Booz Hamilton employee. The reporting on Syria has been questionable as well -- not just from a bias standpoint, but from a pure ignorance of the political forces within Syria that are driving their civil war. So excuse me if I hardly give a shit about Fox getting the definition of "fork" wrong. I'm pretty sure a large number of us would get the definition wrong of the financial terms "Special Purpose Vehicle" or "Trust Preferred Security" if we suddenly switched places with a Fox Business reporter.

So sure Fox got some irrelevant details wrong, but every news outlet does that every day. Those details didn't affect the intent of the story or the material facts, so who cares? We could start an entire board on simply media misteps and it would be filled with content on a daily basis.

The issue here isn't with tech vs. non-tech people, I think the issue is that Fox News (and they're not alone as others have mentioned) clearly didn't take the time to ask someone who DID know what they were talking about to review their content.

When you have clueless reporters telling clueless viewers the news, that hurts everyone and spreads ignorance and bias, no matter the topic.

The last person who touches the copy is someone non-technical. Their job is to make the content accessible to "slow joe in the back row", the least common denominator, etc.

Inaccuracies occur all the time when the last person to touch the text is a general-purpose reporter, not someone with domain expertise. It happens in reporting of economics, medicine, sports, etc.. I don't think they did all that bad considering the circumstances.

Also the velocity with which those stories are produced is very high. This isn't exactly "breaking" news, however they also don't have days to prepare the stories. If this was an in depth story for a long-form show, the standards would necessarily be much different.. although the news often gets those wrong as well.

"Repository" isn't a technical word. It's a basic spelling mistake and the proof-reader should, at the very least, pick that up.

I think they meant suppository.

It is not about bashing non-technology people. It is about bashing the news, who are disseminating bad information. If they got this wrong, what other things have they gotten wrong? And why do they need to explain what github is?

They were doing a story on Github as part of a series of tech startups. They thought explaining what fork and pull request were was relevant to the story. It was not.

Enote me the source codes for the github.

Clearly nobody even proofread it. Look again, there is spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, and the formatting is inconsistent. Nobody cared when they put it together. Nobody from a non-tech background needs to know what forking is, unless you had an interest in software development.

There are spelling mistakes...

Sorry, couldn't resist =).

See, everybody can make mistakes.

If how I feel about this as a programmer is any indicator, I dread to imagine how worldly wise, politically experienced folks feel when reading political discussions on sites like Reddit or HN :-) (No, I'm neither of those things!)

Practically all news reporting does a terrible job of covering complex fields. Ask a doctor what they think of a medical story, or scientist about a story on their field of study. It is always the same - terrible.

A lot of that is because the reporters, not being experts themselves, just don't have the contextual knowledge to grasp the implications of what they come across in their investigation. Unimportant details get played up, subtleties are completely lost, and things with similar names get conflated.

> Ask a doctor what they think of a medical story, or scientist about a story on their field of study. It is always the same - terrible

And yet, they still trust the news to be accurate with regards to everything else :(

Agree. They probably cringe at the over-attention paid to being right about things that are beside the point; long-form citations for posts of less than 100 characters; the passive aggressive Snowden comments on articles about, like, Gmail addons.

Fox Business is just trying to explain GitHub to its audience, which is approximately the same as the CNBC audience or the audience of any other business network. I don't see anyone making fun of the GitHub CEO for explaining his product as the 'electricity' of today's tech-based companies.

Woah. This is terrible on a variety of levels, not least of which is that they spelled repository incorrectly.

For the full video[1], one minute they say it has 400 million users, then the sub caption says 3.4 million users.

1. http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/2667694577001/writing-new-dic...

Rep... Reciprosity.

Oh my god...

Seems like a fairly reasonable way to explain it to lay-people, that don't really care for details that much. They know their audience!

I ejected after the redhead spewed her first sentence. Painful.

Here's what people need to realize: Think of all the times you notice journalists failing with regard to topics you are an expert in. Or more than failing - outright lying or misleading. Now, multiply that by all the things other people are experts in and the things they catch journalists doing that you aren't expert enough in those other things to know about.

We make a big deal about intentionally corrupt journalism, but outright laziness is just as big of a problem.

eh the average person isn't going to be affected by not knowing exactly what a fork or pull request is. They managed to get the gist out, github lets devs work together on a project.

As long as they can get the basics of it correct I really don't care if they screw up the technical details. Now not being able to pronounce or spell repository is bad, its an English word that was around long before code.

I disagree. I think it's just spreading ignorance. I think there are ways to explain stuff in a simple way without having to neglect the actual accuracy of the information you're giving.

It's a good challenge for someone to come up with a better explainer aimed at the same audience.

Why does that audience need to know what fork and pull are? It isn't really useful information to them. Knowing that Github is a place to store versions of code might be useful because the name is batted around a lot, but the average non-technical human doesn't really need to know what forking is.

Here is my try:

Repository: a library of computer codes

Forked: when you copy one of the books in the library, make changes to it, and put it back in the library

Pull Request: asking the owner of the book in the library to combine your forked, edited book, back into their main copy

The average non-technical person doesn't know what code is, or that code is versioned. Telling them Github stores code isn't very useful without first telling them what code is. I'm going to say at least 50% of people don't even have a conceptual understanding of what software even is. I've learned this from having conversations with various people.

Relating it to library books is interesting...

Agree. Maybe calling them "computer programs" makes more sense.

Just from the frame in the picture, it appears that they are just trying to decribe to their viewers why Github has such a high valuation. To answer that question, they probably should just say something like: "Github is a web company that allows programmers to collaborate on writing new software." When it comes down to it, all versioning systems basically enable 2 things: 1. Versioning 2. User tracking I think you are right about the first one, versioning is a very simple idea but difficult to communicate in a Fox sidebar, so when talking about the core value delivered by Github to a layman, it is that many people can edit code in a controllable way.

The reason I say programmers and not developers is that I think developers is another word that the majority of society might get hung up on.

I'm not a big fan of analogies when they're not necessary. I'd go with something simpler like:

* Repository: An online folder containing computer code

* Forked: When a repository is copied, so you can edit it

* Pull request: A request for the edits you've made to your copy, be "pulled" into the original

I don't know why one would define "forked" rather than "fork."

* Fork: A copy of a repository. It is copied it can be edited independently.

I don't know why they would define any of them - it's nothing to do with the story at all, but I thought I should stick with the ones they chose.

Well, actually, I can guess why: "repository" sounds a bit like "suppository", and "forked" and "pull request" sound vaguely sexual. It's the kind of thing that would appeal to some people as being a bit risqué. sigh

by far the best explanation I've read in this thread

No, the bigger challenge is coming up with something that is significantly worse. Try it, it's much harder.

Multiple times she said Github raised money from Kleiner Perkins, right? They raised the money from Andreesen Horowitz. I'm not crazy, right? Right?

Reposotory: rep'n positive, so you know my story(code)...

They used "hooked on phonics".

I can see how they forked that (up).

The internet, my friends, is a series of tubes. We must not forget this.

I'm not an computer engineer anymore, I'm a code writer!

What the fork?

Where where they? Jive's office?

Media probably explain economics just as terrible but as a non economist I would not know..

This is very much what I feel every single time I read a tech-related article in mainstream press. The cluelessness of most mainstream "tech journalists" is spectacular. I see no reason why reporting on other matters would be any better, which is quite scary.

The media does indeed explain /everything/ terribly, but for some reason we're conditioned to trust it by default and forgive it when wrong. Perhaps we do that because it tells us to?

"It's a commie plot!!! Just like Obamacare."


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