Posts tagged with ‘Apple

Qwilt’s Sin of Omission Regarding Apple and Amazon

Last week, media outlets were abuzz with news that Amazon was claiming to have passed Apple as the third largest video service site, coming in behind Netflix and YouTube.

Here’s The Verge, reporting on the news:

Amazon’s been trying to turn Instant Video into a major player in the streaming space, and it looks like its dedication is starting to pay off: Amazon says that Prime video streams have nearly tripled year over year, and it cites video-delivery firm Qwilt to say that Instant Video is now the third largest video site overall, behind Netflix and YouTube.

That’s a fairly representative blurb about Qwilt’s numbers and Amazon’s willingness to cite them in a press release.

A quick look at Qwilt’s announcement raised some red flags:

  • There was no source data listed.
  • The accompanying blog post included pro-Amazon hyperbole.
  • The included infographic provided no useful comparative data but does include a picture of an Amazon-branded rocket ship next to a skyrocketing arrow.

Here’s some sample language (emphasis mine):

If Amazon says they will boil the ocean, better run to the beach and hop in fast before the water is scalding…

The growth of Amazon continues to amaze and confound Wall Street. CEOs across the globe marvel at Amazon”s insatiable appetite for new markets, new products and new revenue…

Amazon”s traffic volumes, as measured by Qwilt in March of 2014, increased by 94% over the previous 12 months. In some US operator networks, between March 2013 and March 2014, Amazon”s streaming video traffic increase was nearly 300%…

Of course, on seeing these developments, we smile knowingly and approvingly…

Despite the red flags and obvious questions regarding bias, Qwilt’s claims were widely reported as a major win for Amazon in the streaming space.

I immediately questioned the findings (and the subsequent rush to report) on Twitter:

I’m fucking shocked that people (ahem, @verge) are reporting on this @qwilt claim without questioning the data 04/08/14

The fact that @amazon cited an @qwilt report with unofficial numbers rather than providing official numbers is a HUGE red flag. 04/08/14

@Mark1Fisher Where is the underlying data on this claim? 04/08/14

Qwilt’s Mark Fisher eventually responded (both on Twitter and in the comments on his blog post) with a promise to reveal the underlying data, which was eventually tacked on as an update to the original post.

As I expected, the story gets less interesting for Amazon as soon as you see the data, which I’ve summarized in a chart:

image

Yes — based on Qwilt’s data — Amazon did in fact pass Apple to take the third spot behind Netflix and YouTube but the more reasonable takeaway to report is that there’s Netflix and YouTube — and then there’s everyone else. (Granted, it was impossible to know that, let alone report that, without demanding the underlying data, which no one bothered to do.)

Indeed, Qwilt’s data reveals that Amazon’s movement isn’t the most interesting shift from 2013 to 2014, which just makes Fisher’s hyperbole all the more obnoxious:

  • Netflix increased its percentage from 52.5% to 57.5% in one year. (This means there’s a 54.5% gap in 2014 between #1 Netflix and #3 Amazon that isn’t discoverable in Qwilt’s initial post.)
  • YouTube dropped from 28.2% to 16.9% in one year. (This 11.3% drop is impossible to glean by reading Qwilt’s initial post.)
  • Even though Amazon passed Apple to reach #3, Twitch (what the hell is Twitch?) also passed Apple to climb to #5, pushing Apple back to #6. (Twitch wasn’t even ranked in Qwilt’s 2013 top 10 and isn’t mentioned at all in the original blog post. Indeed, Qwilt included a top 5 graphic — sans underlying data — that includes Apple while omitting Twitch.)
  • HBO Go did not rank in Qwilt’s 2013 top 10, but has moved to 0.5% in 2014. (This increase is not evident in Qwilt’s initial post.)
  • Apple actually gained 0.2%, even as it lost two spots on Qwilt’s list.

Keep in mind that Apple doesn’t actually provide a one-to-one competitor to Netflix or Amazon Instant Video, both of which are subscription models that provide all-you-can watch access to a curated library of video content. Apple (currently) only provides rental and purchase options for individual titles from a curated library.

It’s also worth noting that Qwilt offers absolutely no data about how people are watching any of this content: Netflix streams are attributed to Netflix but Qwilt does not break down those streams by device.

This means that it’s entirely possible that more Amazon Instant Video content is streamed from Apple’s iDevices than is streamed from Amazon’s Kindle devices. 

It’s also not clear how any of this data relates to revenue or profit: Does Netflix make more than Amazon who makes more than Apple, or does Apple (due to a rental/purchase model) bring in more money than Amazon despite a drop to #6 in 2014?

My guess is that Qwilt is another company in a long line of companies that knows that headlines that lead with Apple draw more attention than headlines that lead with virtually any other company. If it takes a little data manipulation (a snip here and the failure to mention Twitch there) in order to get the emphasis tuned juuuuuuust right for maximum page views, well, why not? 

Especially if no media outlet is going to question the results?

Blech.

The reviews are in: Amazon’s Turd Generation Fire TV

I’ve not found a “recommend” review yet, but here are some highlights from the Tom’s Guide review, which seems representative:

To add other entertainment sources, such as Netflix, YouTube or Pandora, you have to download the apps to Fire TV and log in to each account.

Seems kind of dumb, but it makes sense when you get to the bigger problem: Fire TV comes with 8GB of non-expandable storage and only 5.5 GB (more on this later) of that is usable.

The Watch List and Video Library items also include only Amazon content. To get to any other source, such as Netflix or Crackle, you need to go down to the Apps menu and then select Your Apps Library to finally get outside the world of Amazon. And here, entire content networks such as Hulu Plus get jumbled in with individual games you have purchased, even though there is another main menu item just for games.

All apps are equal, some apps are just more equal than others.

In our tests, Amazon’s voice-recognition tech understood us very well, as long as it knew what to expect. Specifically, voice recognition currently works only with content that is in Amazon’s catalog and titles on music-video site Vevo. For now, at least, it can’t help you with YouTube or Netflix. For that majority of cases, Fire TV also has a hunt-and-peck text search.

Weird that this didn’t come up in Amazon’s launch event. (Or, maybe it did and it just didn’t come through in any of the live blog feeds.) At any rate, marketing a device as “better” because it features an amazing way to search for content but not making that “better” way work universally (or much at all, it seems) is a goofy choice. Though, it is a very Amazon choice. 

Fire TV’s music offerings are even slimmer. The device will support Amazon’s own music service in May.

It baffles me that Amazon launched a media box that doesn’t yet have access to some of Amazon’s own content. For this reason alone — but the lack of universal support for voice search also come to mind — I believe Amazon launched sooner than they had originally planned to get out in front of a (still hypothetical) 4th Generation Apple TV reveal.

Parents can also set time limits for when and how long kids can watch. With the $3/month per child or $7 per family for Amazon Prime subscribers (or $5/$10 for nonmembers.)

So, on top of $99 for the box, on top of $99 per year for prime, there’s another $3-$10 per month cost for a curated selection of kid’s content?

On games:

And if you have purchased a title for Kindle Fire or even a regular Android device, you will get the Fire TV version for free if and when one comes out.

That’s actually a good (if obvious) deal. The real problem I have with gaming on this thing is that 5.5 GB of usable free space is pathetically low for any device that features “games” as a selling point. There’s a USB port on the back that Amazon currently says supports no accessories, but when and if it ever does, one of them better be an external hard drive. (More money to spend to make this thing usable, alas.)

Reading the reviews, my first reaction after the launch event still seems to hold up: This would have been an amazing device had it been released alongside or after either the 1st or 2nd generation Apple TV.

It’s didn’t, though — it’s launching two years after the 3rd generation Apple TV, and doesn’t even seem to be much better than that, and it costs more.

($99 for Fire TV + $99/year for Prime subscription + $39 for Game Controller + $3/month for FreeTime subscription. That’s a lot of add on.)

The curious case of Florian Mueller’s shifting biases

Disclosure: I work for a law firm, though I am not a lawyer. My only interest in patent litigation is that I follow Apple. I do have a more-than-lay-knowledge of the litigation process, due to almost 10 years of creative work in the industry. (I’ve personally attended between 30 and 40 trials over that span of years.)

Throughout Apple v. Samsung (the first), I was a close follower of Florian Mueller’s trial coverage over on Foss Patents. I discovered his content as a result of a search that was prompted by the dearth of quality trial coverage at conventional tech sites like The Verge and Gizmodo. (Most tech sites / tech reporters have no idea what is important or truly informative about day-to-day litigation issues and they thus tend to fall back on coverage that strives to find the TV drama moments in any given case.)

I was drawn to Mueller’s coverage because he seemed to understand the litigation process, and despite a seeming pro-Apple bias, he wrote from a “the facts and nothing but the facts” perspective. He was fair, because the facts don’t tend to take sides.

Lately, though, something has seemed off with his coverage. Admittedly, he sort of dropped off my radar in between trials because (as I mentioned) patent litigation in and of itself doesn’t interest me. I’ve checked in, but not regularly. It wasn’t until I became a once again regular reader as Apple v. Samsung (the second) began to ramp up that I first began to get a sense of the changing winds.

Philip Elmer-DeWitt — another reporter who is on the Apple beat — posted an article this morning that touches on the change in tone of Mueller’s coverage. (“What’s eating Florian Mueller?”) Apparently, I am not the only person to notice that something is amiss:

I asked Mueller about this charge in a March 18 e-mail: “I’ve noticed a change in the tone of your last two pieces, and I’m not the only one. Is there something I should know — or you should disclose — about your client list?”

It’s worth noting that Elmer-DeWitt steps lightly around the accusation in the article, but it’s captured in the URL: Payola.

Indeed, Mueller is no stranger to the concept.

I suppose it’s possible that Mueller is accepting money from someone, but what I’ve noticed is slightly different, as I tweeted a few days ago:

So, @FOSSpatents used to be a great site. Mueller has been sneaking himself into his analysis more and more, and it’s now far less for it.

For the record, I don’t really care if Florian Mueller is biased towards Samsung or Android and if he is, I hope that was always the case. My only interest was in finding someone who reports on litigation matters with knowledge and focus. I, for one, have a strong Apple bias and I’m a huge fan of John Gruber’s Daring Fireball. On the other hand, I’m also a daily reader of Paul Thurrot’s Supersite for Windows because (despite his complete tone deafness concerning everything Apple) he knows Windows as well as anyone and he writes with clarity on that subject.

The problem with Fox News isn’t that they’re biased, it’s that they’re willing to be glaringly misleading and shady in an effort to protect their bias. On top of that, they’re constantly whining about being called out for it.

With all that in mind, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There’s nothing wrong with having and embracing a bias, as long as you’re consistently right about the facts. The more biased you are, the more important it is to be right. 

(I also think that consistency in bias is important, especially if you’ve been accused of being bought in the past. I’ve soured a bit on MG Siegler’s ParisLemon for a similar lack of consistency that seems to have been brought on by a conflict. If someone is biased, I want them to come by it honestly. I can’t abide the thought that Mueller or Siegler might be buy-essed.)

My issue with Mueller, then, is that he’s been drifting away from the facts and Foss Patents has quickly mutated into a never-ending op-ed about the ongoing Apple/Samsung patent war. I can get that anywhere, so I don’t need it from Mueller.

I found this bit from his review of Yukari Kane’s “Haunted Empire” (in which he’s quoted, no less) to be a particularly eye-rollingly egregious example of his descent into blandness:

If you’re bored enough on this Sunday to want to waste your time on something that is absolutely unrelated to IP but quite a coincidence, let me mention that I’m being (indirectly) sued by an Apple employee in my neighborhood (a biz dev guy working for Apple’s German subsidiary in Munich). I was informally notified of his January 2014 complaint only on Wednesday, the day after I criticized Apple’s $40 damages claim. It’s a funny coincidence that after years of covering Apple’s lawsuits and after more than 15 years without being sued by anyone over anything, I should now have to defend myself, in the role of an intervenor, against a lawsuit brought by an Apple guy. The percentage of Apple employees in this area is a lot lower than in Silicon Valley. But one employee of the “Haunted Empire” is apparently all it takes to be haunted by a lawsuit.

He goes on for a few more paragraphs but I can assure you that nothing he says has anything at all relevant to say about Apple’s involvement in a patent lawsuit with Samsung.

Instead, someone who used to write with clarity and focus about patent issues attempts to draw a connection between an unrelated lawsuit — in which he’s named — that was brought about by an Apple-employed nobody, and Apple’s litigation strategy as a company and — oh, the hubris — he even tries to tie it to his writing on the latter subject. 

I’m now faced with the opposite problem I had initially: Mueller’s great when he limits himself to legal issues, and fucking terrible when he goes off on a tangent about technology or (sigh) himself. He just doesn’t seem to have the chops for the former or the personal intrigue for the latter.

He’s taken a starring role in his own coverage and whether that’s a result of payola, emerging biases, sour grapes (apples?), or simply because his growing popularity has gone to his not growing head, I don’t know — but (for me) it makes his content much less interesting.

With that said, I’m convinced that something is up, whatever Mueller has to say about the accusations. The last time I felt this way, I was knee deep in Mike Daisey’s bullshit.

Perhaps no one will ever prove anything, but Foss Patents now exists under a damning cloud of suspicion, Mueller’s reputation both precedes and follows him, and he’s not an interesting enough person to successfully headline his own content, try as he might.

The search resumes.

The Verge: This is the reversible USB cable that will end your frustrations
It’s also the reversible USB cable that ensures Apple dumps iDevice support for USB. Look at Apple’s Lightning cable and port vs.  these renderings of the new USB 3.1 Type-C cable and port. They’re virtually indistinguishable.
A large selling point of the Lightning cable was to introduce a no-hassle, no-look reversible cable for iOS devices. 
Imagine a cable that has Lightning on one end and USB Type-C on the other end. Now imagine trying to decide which end goes into which port.
So, either Apple moves the USB end on iDevice cables over to Thunderbolt or they move away from cables entirely in favor of wireless charging, or both.
Either way, USB is out.
Right?

The Verge: This is the reversible USB cable that will end your frustrations

It’s also the reversible USB cable that ensures Apple dumps iDevice support for USB. Look at Apple’s Lightning cable and port vs.  these renderings of the new USB 3.1 Type-C cable and port. They’re virtually indistinguishable.

A large selling point of the Lightning cable was to introduce a no-hassle, no-look reversible cable for iOS devices. 

Imagine a cable that has Lightning on one end and USB Type-C on the other end. Now imagine trying to decide which end goes into which port.

So, either Apple moves the USB end on iDevice cables over to Thunderbolt or they move away from cables entirely in favor of wireless charging, or both.

Either way, USB is out.

Right?

Chromecasting Doubts: Google’s Streaming Media Gambit

Late last week, Google unveiled Chromecast, attempt number three in their quest to conquer the living room after the wide-right foul ball that was GoogleTV and the wild swing-and-a-miss-and-thrown-bat that was the ill-fated Nexus Q. At just $35, Chromecast is certainly priced compellingly and it’s hard to find fault with its barely-there footprint. So, is this the winner that Google has been looking for?

I’m not so sure.

The Competitive Landscape

Realistically speaking, Chromecast is competing with Apple TV and Roku for space in your living room. Handily, Dan Rayburn of Frost and Sullivan recently published some statistics surrounding the streaming market, which provide a great metric for comparison:

Our report details sales numbers showing that Apple owned 56% of the streaming devices market in 2012, with Roku coming in second at 21% of the market.

Tivo is next with just 6.5% of the market and then “others” — comprised of a rag-tag assortment of several devices you’ve never heard of — split the remaining 15.9 percent.

Rayburn also fortuitously noted that “Google is conspicuous by its absence in this segment.”

That brings us to last week’s announcement.

Google needs to grab a sizable portion of the market in order to overtake either Apple or Roku in the streaming market and with Chromecast, it appears that they’re touting three key selling points in an effort to get there:

Cross-Platform Compatibility 

Anyone who has a laptop or a desktop (Mac, PC, or Chromebook) can Chromecast. Anyone with an Android device can Chromecast. Google promises that at some point in the near future, anyone with an iOS device will be able to Chromecast.

At first blush, this is indeed a compelling argument against an investment in Apple TV because Apple infamously curates a walled garden: If you want to stream from a smartphone, tablet, or computer to an Apple TV, you’re going to have to own a smartphone, tablet, or computer with an Apple logo on it.

Dig a little deeper, though, and the advantages aren’t quite so clear cut: Chromecast offers a wider swath of device compatibility, yes, but without one of those compatible devices, your $35 buys little more than a dust cover for a spare HDMI port. This means that Blackberry customers need not apply. Windows Phone? Nope. I’m not even sure if the Kindle Fire gets to play ball, given the forked-up state of Android on Amazon’s platform.

What about one-device households in which that one device isn’t always in the house?

An Apple TV works as a stand-alone device: Plug it in, run an HDMI cable to your TV, and everything you need to stream Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, HBO GO, amongst others — not to mention the ability to rent or buy TV shows and movies — is right there on the device. If you have a high-speed internet connection, you can use the hell out of an Apple TV right out of the box. As a bonus, if you happen to have an iPhone or an iPad, an Apple TV provides far more streaming utility than Chromecast, even from an Android device.

Price

There’s no two ways around it: $35 is an intriguing price for almost anything that requires a power plug, let alone a somewhat functional media streamer, and there’s no doubt that one “streaming device” at $99 is a tough sell against another “streaming device” at $35. 

All that is to say: The Chromecast is priced to sell if you’re a not particularly observant comparison shopper who thinks all “streaming devices” are alike. Having read some of the early reviews, though, it seems to me that Chromecast is $35 because it provides at least $64 less value than an Apple TV. 

It’s got Netflix, true, but what doesn’t these days? 

There are no less than four devices currently plugged into my TV that offer access to Netflix, and a couple of them also stream YouTube videos. Netflix-capable devices are the new paper clip: You’ve probably got a couple of them laying around. 

Ultimately, there’s little if anything a Chromecast can do that an Apple TV cannot do, and a lot of empty space and negotiating for content that Google still needs to do to in order to increase the value gap beyond a knee-jerk impulse buy for geeks.

Yes, $35 is a great price for a gadget if that gadget provides substantially more than $35 worth of value — but I’m not sure Chromecast gets there.

Ease of Use

Chromecast is quite a bit smaller than an already pretty small Apple TV, yes, but is it easier to use or set up? My post-announcement impression was that the Chromecast dongle was a self-powered device. This can be true, except when it’s not: Some newer televisions have HDMI ports that will provide power, but not all. (And not mine.) Some newer televisions have USB ports that will provide power via the included cable, but not all. (And not mine.) For everyone else, you’re left with pluggingin via a standard wall socket. Not a deal breaker, but not exactly the plug-and-play experience that Google touted, either.

The fact is, some of the neatest features of the $35 Chromecast call for the most current television models. For everyone else there’s the small print.

And, of course, after you’ve got the device plugged-in and powered-up, you’re directed to visit a website — necessitating the use of a companion device — just so that you can connect Chromecast to a WiFi network. Even if you assume that all of this is indeed super easy, there’s nothing about the process that is any easier than setting up an Apple TV which, again, is not a deal breaker but is contrary to Google’s hyperbole.

Perhaps Google will put out an infomercial-style pitch in which a clueless and unsuspecting Apple TV owner looks helplessly at an HDMI cable or struggles mightily with Apple’s remote while engaged in a constant struggle to reach the on-screen settings menu. But wait! Struggle no more as you effortlessly insert the pocket-sized Chromecast dongle and your TV auto-switches input and streams all your content like magic! Order in the next hour and you’ll get three months of Netflix — a $24 value — FREE! (PROBABLY!)

So, What Then?

Not long after it was announced, Gizmodo’s Brian Barrett announced that “you’d be crazy not to buy Google Chromecast.” Then, after the free-Netflix deal went extinct (which, let’s be honest, wasn’t all that long after Google announced Chromecast), Gizmodo updated that headline with the caveat of a “super sad update” and an excitement downgrade from “no-brainer” to “pretty good deal.”

So, who’s it for, then? If you own an iOS device, I’d say you’d be crazy to buy a $35 Chromecast instead of a $99 Apple TV. 

If you own an Android device I’d say you have a compelling reason to read the reviews and find out if the value is there for what you’d use it for. Given Google’s history with television and content deals, though, I’d strongly encourage a few months of patience.


Here are some choice cuts:

Even within the apps that have already been tweaked for Chromecast compatibility, there are some day one bugs. Sometimes videos don’t play the first time you ask them to, instead dropping you into a never-ending loading screen. Other times, the video’s audio will start playing on top of a black screen. These bugs aren’t painfully common, but they’re not rare, either. - TechCrunch 

There were some glitches with the other two apps as well. Google Play Movies froze while loading up one video, but we were able to remedy the issue by closing the app and trying again. The Netflix app also quit registering touch input during playback on several occasions when we allowed our device to enter standby mode. - Engadget

I tested free Hulu content, HBO Go, NBC, CBS, and Fox, all of which worked. The bad news is that limitations are obvious right away. Image quality ranges from mediocre to poor, mostly because Chrome is converting the video on the fly from your PC and sending it to the Chromecast. You’re also going to run into occasional (and sometimes frequent) dropouts — sometimes just audio, but sometimes the video pauses, too. And the feature itself isn’t entirely stable, so expect the extension to crash sometimes with Google throwing a quirky “brain freeze” message up on your TV. - CNET

Google gobbled-up a majority of the smartphone market because their partners — Samsung, primarily — blanketed the low-end with cheap, underpowered devices that millions of people use like feature phones. 

They seem to be making a similar, albeit in-house, grab for the streaming-media market with Chromecast, but questions remain: Is the low-end juggernaut of the sizeable Android market looking to buy a media-streaming device (at any price) and — if not — is the high-end of the Android market formidable enough to overtake Apple for that top spot, or even move past Roku to emerge as a strong number two?

Perhaps, but that won’t make this first generation Chromecast any better as an investment.

"This is Mac vs Windows all over again and everyone knows how that scenario played out."

That’s the punchline of a comment appended to an excellent Elia Freedman article but it could be a thousand other punchlines posted to a thousand other articles.  

It’s a sentiment so lazy and so without thought (and so common) that it’s probably best ignored but, well, low hanging fruit and all that:

  • At what point in the “Mac vs. PC” era did Apple enjoy such a wide base of popularity?
  • At what point in the “Mac vs. PC” era did Apple have as large a share of the market as they currently have in the mobile era?
  • At what point in the “Mac vs. PC” era did Apple have a minority share of the market but rake in the vast majority of the industry profits?
  • At what point in the “Mac vs. PC” era did Apple have over a hundred billion dollars cash on hand?
  • At what point in the “Mac vs. PC” era was Apple dominating its competitors on a device for device basis? (In other words, when was any one product in Apple’s Mac lineup consistently outselling every competing PC on the market?)
  • At what point in the “Mac vs. PC” era was Apple so successfully entrenched in multiple product categories?

"Mac vs PC" as an argument against Apple in 2013 is intellectually lazy. To make it, you either have to be a troll, an idiot, or both. 

Apple’s Maps Gambit Pays Off

Not long ago, Apple was paying Google a license fee to use Google’s mapping data for its iOS mapping solution, even as Google withheld turn-by-turn navigation as a competitive advantage for Android.

If rumors hold true (UPDATE: They’re true) Apple’s decision to cut Google off and release it’s own maps app (which isn’t really bad at all, in my experience) will result in Google releasing a native iOS version of Google Maps with turn-by-turn navigation — and Apple won’t have to pay a license fee for the data.

So, 1) those who usually can’t shut up about competition being great for consumers should stop bitching about Apple’s decision, as iOS users will soon have more choices than ever before and 2) in hindsight, at least, this seems to have been a pretty smart move by Apple.

Two months ago, Forbes declared Google the winner in the maps war and predicted Apple would crawl back to Google to re-license the mapping data. Instead, Google rushed to prep a native App (in fairness, they probably had to buy a lot of buckets for all the ad revenue they’re about to rake in) and Apple gets its own solution as well as a new-and-improved solution from Google — free of charge — and consumers get more choice.

Win, win, win.

It was only a matter of time: Why Mac users tend to ignore the advice of PC Pundits.

It’s being reported that over 600,000 Macs are now infected by the Flashback trojan, a “drive by” piece of Malware that doesn’t need administrator privileges or even a password prompt to successfully latch on.

The PC pundits couldn’t be more excited. Finally, they say, the inevitable has happened and smug Mac users are finding out what it’s like to be a PC user.

"It was only a matter of time."

When exposing big truths, little lies matter: Mike Daisey, Foxconn, and Apple

At the risk of being challenged to yet another fight by the 400-plus-pound hulking behemoth that is Mike Daisey, let’s talk about little lies, and why they matter when taking on big truths, even if you’re “just” a storyteller. In a better world, we’d not need to have this discussion, but we don’t live in a better world, and Mike Daisey has been outed as a liar and a fraud.

Mike Daisey:

What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic ­- not a theatrical ­- enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations. 

Where’s Karl Pilkington’s alter ego, Bullshit Man, when you need him?

Let’s just get this out of the way: The dramatic license that everyone allowed Mike Daisey was to present an “extemporaneous monologue” that laid the blame for China’s labor issues squarely on Apple’s doorstep, despite the fact that those issues are, quite literally, an industry-wide problem.

It’s not fair, it’s not accurate, and it’s pretty misleading, but it’s well-within the purview of “theater not journalism” to simplify a story in order to make a larger point. 

That’s not to say that doing so is without risk:

To this day, Apple is a company that people love to hate. Giving people (yet another) reason to hate Apple, to support boycotts when they were never going to buy Apple products anyway, is to miss the point. Hating Apple isn’t the same as supporting Chinese laborers, and my guess is that Daisey tapped into the former without spurring a lot of serious or lasting interest in the latter. 

(How many new iPads did Apple sell last week?)

More importantly, by driving the point home, show after show, that this was an Apple problem, people were left with the idea that the problem could be solved by holding Apple to some “to be determined” ethical standard. And, if Apple refused to live up to that standard, well, we could all just go out and support Android, or Windows Phone 7, right?

The trouble is, Mike Daisey intentionally glossed over the broader issue — there is no ethical alternative, based on Daisey’s standards — in the hopes of raising awareness by piggybacking on Apple’s popularity. He knew that “dramatic focus” would bring about more chatter and, as an entertainer selling tickets, publicity became more important than strict accuracy.

Except, now it turns out that not only did he use dramatic license by focusing his anger on Apple, he also lied about virtually every important first-hand detail in his monologue. If you’ve not yet done so, do yourself a favor and listen to the “Retraction” episode of This American Life.

When you’re talking about workers who are forced to work through fear and intimidation, the story is very different if, in one version, guards have guns while, in another, they don’t. Daisey’s version supplied the guns, reality doesn’t.

That’s not dramatic license, it’s lying.

Daisey’s choice to use Apple as his theatrical whipping boy is about to be trumped by the even more sordid story of a loud, fuming, angry bully who lied and sensationalized a story in order to sell tickets. Everything he allegedly cares about (I’d argue that he cares most about selling tickets, but that’s a personal opinion) is about to come crashing down, fairly or unfairly, because of his lies. 

Daisey is smart enough to know that sensationalism sells, so it’s a real shame that he didn’t think that all his little theatrical lies would, once exposed, overshadow the important truths behind the technology industry’s reliance on Chinese labor. Those who want to enact real change shouldn’t do so by taking what Daisey refers to as “shortcuts” but what everyone else refers to as fabrications. 

When seeking big changes, there are no shortcuts:

The world has come undone

Like to change it everyday

Change don’t come at once

It’s a wave building… before it breaks

UPDATE

Mike Daisey has posted a new blog entry:

Many consider this week’s THIS AMERICAN LIFE episode one of the most painful they’ve ever listened to. In particular the segment with me is excruciating—four hours of grilling edited down to fifteen minutes. I thought the dead air was a nice touch, and finishing the episode with audio pulled out of context from my performance was masterful.

When Mike Daisey isn’t busy casting doubts about the credibility of his translator (remember, he intentionally hid her name so that no one would be able to track her down) he’s shifting the blame to Ira Glass.

To my audiences: It’s you that I owe the most to. I want you all to know that I will not go silent—I will be making a full accounting of this work, shining a light through this monologue and telling the story of its origins, construction, and details.

(“That’ll be $30, please.”)

Look! Up in the sky! What’s that? It’s a bird? It’s a plane?

WHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSHHHH!

"BULLSHIT!"

WHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSHHHH!

Mike Daisey doubled down before being exposed as a liar and a fraud. (I love being right.)

Mike Daisey is a liar and a fraud. As detailed in the latest episode of This American Life, virtually every important detail of his “Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” monologue was made up in the name of theater: