Thursday, April 4, 2013

Recent, Spectacularly Bad Journalism

When I was in high school (mid 70's), I wanted to be a journalist. I even wrote for a local weekly newspaper. By the time I hit college, a combination of journalism becoming sleazy and a desire to make money changed those career plans, but I never quit caring about journalism. All through my computing career I've engaged in various forms of amateur journalism. Back at the height of USENET I made regular postings, doing news summaries not entirely unlike what I do on this blog. In all that time, I'm not sure I've seen so many widespread examples of bad journalism as I have in the last couple of weeks.

Mainstream Press Quoting Digitimes

Anyone that follows the computing industry knows about Digitimes. Simply put, they are unreliable. They are not always wrong, but they do seem to be wrong more often than right.

Over the last couple of weeks three stories from Digitimes keep showing up in the news. The first two are almost certainly wrong and the "Android" book one is essentially devoid of supporting facts and sources. Yet these clearly questionable stories formed the basis of dozens, possibly hundreds, of news stories breathlessly treating the information as if it had real credibility. Some of the "journalists" involved did add small asides warning that Digitimes isn't always credible, but come on people... use a little common sense!

Let's examine these stories in turn:

Chromebook sales 'less than 500,000'

Google Apps for Business has 50 million users, if you include these plus Education users, Government users and normal people using the free version, the number is surely over 100 million. Am I supposed to actually believe that only 0.5% of them are using Chromebooks? This doesn't include people like myself that use it in preference to a tablet because of the need to do a lot of typing, or people like my wife who uses one for banking (Chromebooks are very secure), or people that just need a simple solution to Facebook and find tablets hard to type on. The story is absurd. The Samsung ARM-based Chromebook has been the #1 best-selling laptop on Amazon for over five months.

Microsoft to merge Windows RT into next-generation Windows OS

In many ways I blame the mainstream press here, more than I do Digitimes. The story is short and seems to suffer from translation issues. Most of the mainstream press interpreted the story to mean that Microsoft is abandoning Windows RT. I'm not sure what the story means, but as Intel will not have competitive tablet chips (ones that will not require a fan) selling in a tablet until at least mid-2015, Microsoft will not be abandoning Windows RT anytime soon.

Digitimes Research: Androidbook may show up in 3Q13

Android notebooks have existed for quite some time now, though not from Google. Is Google going to make one? I don't know. And the 3 paragraph, 90 word story from Digitimes does nothing to enlighten me on the subject.

Google Forks WebKit to Create Blink

This is an incredibly simple story. Google decided to create their own fork of WebKit as the needs of Chrome was putting a strain on the overall project. Opera agreed with Google and will be using Blink as well. This sort of thing happens in the open source community all the time. Unless you are involved in Web Development minutia, this is a non-story. Yet you find headlines like this: Google Stabs WebKit in the Back

At least two journalists did get the story right though:
Blink! Google forks WebKit

The real reason why Google forked WebKit

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