A few days ago, information activist Aaron Swartz committed suicide.
Way back in 2011, Aaron Swartz was indicted on charges of data theft, and was facing up to 35 years in prison and one million dollars in fines.
You probably read about that on similar sites — way back in 2011.
Now, Aaron Swartz is dead and tech blogs are eager to tie his suicide to an overzealous prosecution. That’s great, except…
…where were the investigations in August of that year? In September? In October? November? December? What about 2012?
That brings us to today.
Aaron Swartz’s case — assuming it was indeed shaping up to be a gross miscarriage (or misappropriation) of justice — was just as outrageous in each of those months. The story was just as compelling.
Except a story that isn’t ever written isn’t a story at all.
Gizmodo in July of 2011:
Gizmodo in August, September, October, November, and December of 2011 and all of 2012:
Gizmodo in January of 2013:
Read/Write in July of 2011:
Read/Write in August, September, October, November, and December of 2011 and all of 2012:
Read/Write in January of 2013:
ArsTechnica in July of 2011:
ArsTechnica in August, September, October, November, and December of 2011 and all of 2012:
ArsTechnica in January of 2013:
TechCrunch doesn’t seem to have a useful search feature — I couldn’t find anything from 2011 relating to Aaron Swartz and sorting “by date” inexplicably turns up no results even though sorting “by relevance” turns up plenty — but the results I get do include this insightful article…
…written in January of 2013:
What the fuck happened, here?
My main recollection of the earlier story (the way back in 2011 version) was boorish fact-checking about whether or not Swartz was “actually” a Reddit co-founder or just an early Reddit employee. Truly, hard hitting investigative journalism when you consider that over a year later, bloggers are coming out of the woodwork to describe his genius and the travesty of justice he had been facing (alone, apparently) ever since.
My takeaway is this:
The bread and butter of tech blogging (or just plain ol’ blogging blogging) is reactive journalism, and very rarely (too rarely) does anyone exhibit any form of proactive journalism. That’s hard work. It’s long nights and dead ends and patience and possible failure. It’s trust and reputation, which comes from sources first and follow from readers second.
As often as not, these are values that are seen as anathema to keeping it real as a tech blogger. Too traditional.
And, anyway, who wants to face dead ends when you can just wait for dead kids?
That’s where the real page views are.
I recently asked the official Magic 8 Ball app:
"I’ve been raped, and I need an emergency abortion, where can I go for help?"
Advertising Age, reporting on comments made by Gawker Media’s Nick Denton at the “Media Evolved” conference:
Owner of an online media empire that spans the flagship Gawker to sports-oriented Deadspin to io9 for sci-fi diehards and racks up a combined 20 million unique views per month, Mr. Denton told the audience that there are plans in the works for a product launch that would aim to enhance the commenting environment in the hopes of attracting smarter readers who are currently wary of entering the conversation.
Denton, of course, is right to want to fix this. I’ve got serious doubts, though, that Gawker Media is the conglomerate that is going to tackle and/or solve the problem of comment porn.
Anyone with any interest in intellectual honesty will admit that the Gawker Media modus operandi is, by and large, controversy over quality. Nick Denton is in love with page views, and I doubt very seriously that there’s any real introspection going into this mystery product.
Gawker Media’s problems run too deep, and Denton’s interests are too aligned with the comment porn he’s decrying, for him to ever make a serious effort at managing it.
But, he’s right about the problem, even if he’s (probably) full of shit about being able to (or even wanting to) fix it.
An organization that truly wants to offer a comment system that is as good as their best content must do a few things:
- The site must offer content that is worthy of smart comments. If your best isn’t very good, game over. There’s no sense in hoping for comments that are smarter than the content you’re offering and, let’s face it, most of the Gawker Media sites aren’t offering smart content, produced by smart people, driven by smart focus.
- The site must be willing to sacrifice page views in the short term and maybe even in the forever term. In some ways, doing this and doing it right will involve a line in the sand and choosing between conflicting reputations. I suspect Gawker won’t be willing to make this sacrifice, because they clearly love their tawdry, tabloid-style reputation.
- The site must understand the problem. There’s trolling, there’s commentary, there’s fake smart vs. real smart and there’s general chattiness. Denton, at least, seems to recognize that general chattiness is, in many cases, the biggest problem. Chattiness does not respect smart content and it does not engender intelligent commentary. Trolling, as Denton suggests (but as most sites don’t handle well enough, or with a firm enough hand) can be handled via deletions and censorship. (Let’s not pretend that removing content — even when it’s warranted — is anything other than censorship. Solving this problem will require an embrace of censorship, applied appropriately.) A site must assess what they’ll accept, and what they won’t, and curate for it.
- Solving the problem won’t be free. Sites which produce great content pay to get it. Sites which hope to produce great comments should, as well. This means hiring people who are smart, who like to talk about great content, and who are good at it. I’m not sure what you’d call them, but they’d be there to lead by example and to set the tone. They would, in essence, take ownership of the conversation.
- Ideally, authors would take an active role in shaping the discussions found underneath their content. My experience on Gizmodo, though I don’t comment there, is that most of the authors are assholes who — if they participate at all — do so to feed trolls and/or ban those who disagree with their premise or call into question their intentions. Any site which is determined to include smart comments should make author participation a requirement.
- Anyone who wants to participate in these smart comment threads, but who is not paid to do so, should only be allowed in based on reputation (invites, perhaps?) or via a premium pay wall. I’d pay $10 a year to jaw with smart people, over topics I’m passionate about, if I knew that I’d not have to put up with certain elements.
- This should be a privilege, not a right, and it should be possible to lose this privilege.
- Comment threads shouldn’t go on forever. Conversations are best when they’re fresh. Some sort of self-destruct mechanism would be a good idea, at which point the conversation is there for posterity.
- In this way, it would be possible to supplement great content with great commentary. One could be as important as the other.
- Such as system wouldn’t necessarily have to replace a more traditional comment system, but it should be the more prominently featured system. (It might even be possible to recruit smart commenters from the traditional system, once they’ve proved their mettle.)
Again, I have my doubts that Nick Denton is taking this seriously enough to disrupt the worthlessness they’re facing, but it sure sounds good to make bold proclamations in interviews at tech conferences.
Any viable solution will require honest-to-God soul-searching and, frankly, Gawker Media doesn’t have the requisite soul.
It’s hard to believe, but Apple has, apparently, again lost a “priceless” iPhone prototype just prior to the launch of their newest iPhone. (If they’re going to lose one, this is when it will happen. Testers gonna test.)
CNET’s Greg Sandoval and Declan McCullagh earned the scoop, a few days ago:
Last year, an iPhone 4 prototype was bought by a gadget blog that paid $5,000 in cash. This year’s lost phone seems to have taken a more mundane path: it was taken from a Mexican restaurant and bar and may have been sold on Craigslist for $200. Still unclear are details about the device, what version of the iOS operating system it was running, and what it looks like.
These guys out-reported just about everyone, last year, during the first iPhone prototype debacle by, well, reporting. Still, I wasn’t very impressed with this story, because it’s so very light on detail, and — if I’m being honest — I thought it smelled fishy. Beyond the lack of any real evidence, any real names, there were bits like this:
A day or two after the phone was lost at San Francisco’s Cava 22, which describes itself as a “tequila lounge” that also serves lime-marinated shrimp ceviche, Apple representatives contacted San Francisco police, saying the device was priceless and the company was desperate to secure its safe return, the source said.
The pitch for Cava 22 seemed really bizarre and out of place, to me. (Complete with a link to the Cava 22 website, and a later addition in which the owner makes a clever remark about how strong their drinks are.)
In retrospect, I wonder if perhaps someone at Cava 22 was the source, having agreed to speak to CNET in exchange for publicity? The other possibility is that one of the SF police officers tipped CNET off, and Sandoval and McCullagh just really, really like shrimp ceviche.
Apple electronically traced the phone to a two-floor, single-family home in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood, according to the source.
When San Francisco police and Apple’s investigators visited the house, they spoke with a man in his twenties who acknowledged being at Cava 22 on the night the device went missing.
That man was Sergio Calderón. In an exclusive of his own, Peter Jamison at the S.F. Chronicle threw in a few more twists after speaking with him:
"When they came to my house, they said they were SFPD," Calderón said. "I thought they were SFPD. That’s why I let them in." He said he would not have permitted the search if he had been aware the two people conducting it were not actually police officers.
An earlier version of this story involved the claim that no one at the scene was an actual SF police officer, leading to questions about whether or not someone might be guilty of impersonating a member of the SFPD. It has since come out that two Apple employees, one of whom is a private investigator for Apple, were accompanied by three plain-clothes SF police officers.
Meanwhile, Gizmodo, a major player in last year’s investigation — having paid $5000 for a stolen iPhone prototype — has been all over the story:
No one holds a grudge quite like Gizmodo, and if references to the Gestapo and blustery assumptions are what you’re after, Gizmodo is probably the best place to get news about these events as they unfold.
Jesus Diaz, in response to a commenter, promises that they’re going to blow the roof off this story, and soon:
Don’t get lost. We will guide you. There’s obviously something stinking here. We will discover it very soon. And it’s not going to be pretty.
That’s a bold claim, given that thus far, they’ve been playing lap dog to the actual reporters, doing the actual reporting. As always, if Gizmodo spent half as much time reporting on tech news as they do trying to get even with Apple after last year’s investigation, they’d probably produce content worth reading.
As it stands, their current angle is to highlight anything that seems like an impropriety, at the expense of any real investigative reporting.
Here’s what we now know, none of which is known due to any reporting done by anyone who works for Gizmodo:
- "Something" was taken from Cava 22, and it’s important enough that Apple wants it back.
- That “something” was tracked (via GPS) to a residence and the man who lives at that residence — Sergio Calderón — admits he was at Cava 22 the night it went missing.
- Two Apple employees, alongside a few plain-clothes police officers, came to Calderón’s residence. The plain-clothes cops flashed their badges and Calderón subsequently allowed the two Apple employees in to search his residence and computers for evidence. He claims he believed they were also police officers.
- Calderón also claims that someone made threats about his and his family’s residency status and that he was offered $300 “no questions asked” for the return of the phone.
- Apple isn’t talking, the SF Police department seems to be offering contradictory stories about what they knew and when they knew it, and most of the “hard evidence” is based on Calderón’s description of what happened.
- The device is still MIA.
I’ve said all along that something fishy is going on, and even though we now know more, there’s still a lot of things that don’t make much sense.
It’s not at all surprising, to me at least, that Apple would ask the SFPD to accompany their private investigator to a home after tracking their lost property to that residence.
My guess is that Apple wanted this kept quiet, to avoid the embarrassment of a repeat of last year’s loss, yes, but they also wanted to be sure to get into the house. If they’d have shown up unaccompanied and been turned away, the prototype would have been as good as gone. Apple’s PI likely knew that they only had one chance.
It is surprising, though, that the SFPD has been so wishy-washy about their involvement.
Here’s where the investigation needs to go, in order of importance:
- What exactly went missing? Where is it now? What’s the deal with the “may have been sold on Craig’s List for $200” CNET scoop?
- Why isn’t anyone investigating the fact that it was tracked to the residence of a man who freely admits he was in the bar the night the device went missing?
- What’s the deal with the SFPD’s changing story and did anyone actually make threats of deportation?
- One of the Apple employees was a private investigator. Who was the second Apple employee?
I simply don’t see a story regarding the angle that Apple would involve the SFPD when attempting to retrieve property that they’d tracked to a specific location. I’d do that. You’d do that, and Gizmodo’s editorial staff would do that. Seems like exactly the right thing to do.
Furthermore, Calderón allowed the search, which wasn’t even carried out by the SFPD. You don’t need a warrant when you’re invited in to search a house.
If my phone is stolen, and I show up at the suspect’s house, that suspect can either let me search for it, or tell me to get stuffed. If he lets me, though, I’m going to do it. Perhaps, in this case, threats were used that shouldn’t have been, but Calderón still had the right to refuse a search, and he didn’t.
Rosa Golijan recently posted a seemingly lightweight piece about Lady GaGa’s recent trip to Apple headquarters in Cupertino. She asks:
Before I make my case for misogyny, I’ll answer the question, as a plausible explanation seems fairly obvious to anyone who follows tech:
Apple will be holding a special event in less than a month to announce new iPod-related products. These events almost always feature a guest entertainer at the end of Steve Jobs’s presentation.
Do the math.
Back to Gizmodo’s core audience, and their shrewd analysis:
otterman was here says
Because she’s a media whore.
Also, she needs the attention so she can validate her existence.
I pity her.
I’m not sure there can be a bigger insult than being pitied by a guy whose achievement for the day is probably going to be a douchey Gizmodo comment.
She needs permission to use Apple’s new liquid metal to create a new mask to more efficiently hide her ugliness
Make no mistake: beehunt would totally fuck Lady Gaga, if he could. Because he can’t, he’ll instead insult her.
Driver 86 says
Steve Jobs, blowjob. Who blew who is still a mystery.
Success = slut. Apparently.
To have her iPhone removed from whatever orifice she left it in?
Success = kinky slut. Apparently.
To give everyone herpes
Success = irresponsible kinky slut. Apparently.
If by thinks different you mean “steals bits from Ace of Base, Madonna, underground House/Progressive Base acts and various popular 80s pop-music beats and then sells it in a vulgar package to easily amused teens and people who don’t know any better”, then yes, she is a bitch.
Oooh. So close. This guy seemed content to merely be a know-it-all music snob, but came around by calling her a “bitch” for no real reason, at the last second. Sneaky.
She’s endorsing the next generation of Mac-based annoying harpy technology, iCunt.
Several comments in, and fusionaddict finally drops the cunt bomb. Slow. Clap.
She seems like a trampy (and that’s hard to do) Madonna, but an ugly version with gads more hype than talent.
Double tap! Madonna and Lady Gaga are trampy whores. Lady Gaga is just an uglier, trampier whore.
I don’t really get it, either. I guess, because Lady Gaga likes to dress theatrically, she must really be a dude, with a cock? So many of Gizmodo’s readers see “dude” when looking at an attractive woman that I’m left wondering if they’re not just, you know, into dudes.
That should just about do it. I skipped several which were slight variations on the “she’s a whore” theme, and I was just about to copy and paste one which said “she’s there so I can go punch her in the head” (really) when I accidentally closed the tab.
Make no mistake: There are hundreds of comments in the thread. You might think I’ve cherry-picked a few, but almost every single comment is either about her (ugly) looks, her (alleged lack of) talent, or her (overt and slutty) sexuality. I only saw two or three comments which seemed to be serious answers to the question of why she’d be on the Apple campus. I thought maybe I’d see a few responses calling the worst of the comments out for what they were, but…no.
Where’s the moderator? This thread was created by a woman. You’d think she’d have enough self-respect (or respect for her gender) to step in and actually say something but, apparently, no.
It must suck to be the token vagina on a website like Gizmodo.
Perhaps I’ll see something on Jezebel about this.
There are multiple reports that something is (finally) going on with the investigation into the leak/possible theft of the iPhone 4 prototype. A few headlines:
- Gawker Media Deals Its Way Out of iPhone Search Warrant [Wired]
- Gizmodo gets deal in ‘lost iPhone’ probe [San Jose Business Journal]
- Gizmodo Editor Offers Help to DA In Lost iPhone Probe [Times Online]
- Authorities Drop Charges Against Gizmodo [Top News]
- Gizmodo editor reunited with seized goods [The Register]
- Gawker, Gizmodo to Turn Over iPhone 4 Documents [PCWorld]
- San Mateo Judge Orders Gizmodo’s Stolen iphone Search Warrant Be Withdrawn [Fast Company]
- San Mateo D.A. Withdraws Controversial Gizmodo iPhone Warrant [EFF]
If you’re scratching your head right now, don’t worry, you should be. That’s a lot of variation based on what turns out to be a fairly short and surprisingly straightforward legal document.
The worst of the bunch is Top News, which posts a story that is, from top to bottom, made up:
Authorities in California have agreed to work with Gizmodo and have also dropped charges against the Company, in a case related to a missing prototype of Apple iPhone.
Given that charges haven’t been filed against Gizmodo (or anyone else) dropping charges would be an interesting course of action for the DA. Top News goes on to say:
Gizmodo countered this and stressed that it had paid to receive the handset from an Apple employee.
Various Gizmodo people have said a lot of things, but I’ve never seen this claim made by anyone. I suspect Top News isn’t a real news outlet.
Most of the other headlines are accurate, but focus in on an aspect of “the deal” that doesn’t really tell much of the story. Wired and The San Jose Business Journal in particular seem to insinuate that Gizmodo is basically off the hook, based on having made a deal with the DA. That’s not quite true—yet—but you have to read the actual articles to find that out. The Fast Company headline doesn’t mention that the Judge’s “order” is based on a request by the DA.
The EFF is the EFF. Their headline is pretty much in line with their public stance on this issue from the very first day the search warrant was issued, which is that it shouldn’t have been. They say “controversial” but much of the controversy is based on the EFF’s prior claims relating to Shield Laws. (To be sure, Gizmodo’s in-house counsel and COO sides with the EFF.) Those are matters that would have to have been taken up, if the DA and Chen’s attorney hadn’t reached an agreement.
The most appropriate headline comes from PCWorld. I remember taking reading comprehension tests in Middle School which involved reading a short story and then picking the short description which best sums up the point of the story.
Every outlet except PCWorld failed that test, in this instance.
The most interesting aspect of this development is not that Chen is getting his stuff back, it’s what he had to agree to in order to get his stuff back.
Beyond the headlines, all of the articles (excluding the Top News article) seem to make the same basic point:
Prosecutors reached an agreement with Thomas Nolan, the attorney representing Gizmodo and reporter Jason Chen, to return a computer and other seized items in exchange for “all of the materials in the computer sought by our investigators,” San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Stephen Wagstaff told Wired.com Friday.
Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz hails the development on Twitter:
But, why? Here’s the text of the order:
GOOD CAUSE APPEARING THERFORE: upon application of Chris Feasel, Deputy District Attorney for the County of San Mateo, and with the consent of Thomas J. Nolan of Nolan, Armstrong and Barton, LLP, counsel for Jason Chen and Gizmodo.com, it is hereby ordered that the search warrant issued by this Court on April 23, 2010, authorizing the search of 40726 Greystone Terrace, Fremont, be withdrawn.
All items seized shall be returned forthwith to Gizmodo.com and Jason Chen through their counsel, Thomas J. Nolan of Nolan, Armstrong & Barton, after inspection of the documents provided by Mr. Chen, by and through counsel, Thomas J. Nolan, and upon the satisfaction of the investigating agency that the documents are true, correct, and complete copies of the materials as authorized in the warrant and subsequent proceedings. Further, the parties involved shall waive all authenticity and foundational objection in any future proceedings regarding any documents found or discovered between the parties. [eff.org]
All emphasis mine. Before getting into that, though, I want to make sure to highlight something that the EFF mentions in their analysis of this development:
As we pointed out, the police could (for example) attempt to subpoena the same material without running afoul of section 1524(g) and still proceed with their case.
I’m not a lawyer. I do work very closely with lawyers though. More importantly, the order (quoted above) isn’t difficult to understand. It seems clear, once you’ve read through the articles I’ve linked, that it’s still possible that charges will be filed against both the “finder” of the iPhone prototype as well as Gizmodo/Jason Chen. That won’t happen until the evidence is evaluated. The EFF blurb seems to ignore the aspect of the order which indicates that the DA is going to get everything he needs to make that determination, because Chen’s Lawyer has agreed to hand it over.
More importantly, they’ve agreed to waive their rights to all authenticity and foundational objection in any future proceedings. This basically means that no one will contest that the emails were written/received by Chen and, presumably, because it’s being handed over voluntarily, the Shield Law issues are now completely moot. (That’s not to say that there won’t be arguments surrounding the meaning or the merit of the documents, but that would happen during a trial, if charges are filed.)
Furthermore, it seems as though Chen won’t be getting his equipment back until the DA is satisfied that he’s got everything he needs. Great, uh, news?
Which brings me back to the point: Why does Jesus Diaz hail this as great news? What aspect of this “deal” benefits Gizmodo or Jason Chen? The DA still gets everything he wants and most (if not all) of the legal hurdles regarding the seizure of equipment and the warrant are now cleared up. I can only think of a couple things:
- Chen gets his stuff back without a protracted legal fight. More importantly, at least to Chen, is that he only has to provide information relevant to the case. This is good for Chen, of course, but it doesn’t seem that good, given that he’s still surrendering the same evidence that the DA was seeking. Maybe protecting his information is more important than I can understand or maybe he’s got some embarrassing nude photos. I simply don’t know.
- Could there be more to the deal than has been revealed by the DA or Nolan? At this point, it seems awfully one-sided—favoring the DA—but I wonder if there’s some sort of “we’ll provide what you need if you focus on Brian Hogan, rather than Chen” agreement in place? In that case, this information could be used as evidence against Brian Hogan.
- Could this be the beginning of a plea bargain?
With only the press reports and the order to rely on, I don’t see any way of arguing (without conjecture) that this is a net positive for Gizmodo, at least when it comes to their role in the investigation or the possibility of criminal charges being filed.
If, however, there is a broader deal in place, it’s certainly possible that they’ll worm their way out of any culpability.
Even knowing what we know now, it’s seems clear that they’ve thrown Brian Hogan (their source) under the bus by agreeing to surrender all of Chen’s communications to the DA.
More of an aside, really. The impetus for the investigation has been, in part, based on Apple’s claims that such a pre-release leak could affect future sales of the iPhone 4.
The iPhone 4 (antenna issues notwithstanding) went on to shatter the first weekend sales of every other iPhone debut. Damages may be harder to argue, with that in mind.
Of course, there’s still the issue that the prototype was physically damaged by Gizmodo, as part of their tear-down analysis.
Furthermore, could Gizmodo use the antenna-gate brouhaha as evidence that such leaks are vital to consumers or at least in the public interest? That may be difficult to argue given that the prototype wasn’t taken with (or due to) knowledge of the antenna issue, in an effort to expose a product flaw. I doubt you can argue that you stole something because you were hoping to find something wrong with it, so that you could warn consumers. But, again, I’m not a lawyer.
Headline changed, after reading this article.
One of the very best sources for interesting and accurate information regarding the iPhone 4 signal degradation
fuck up software issue has been Richard Gaywood over at fscked.com.uk. He’s posted sparingly, but his analysis has proven to be spot on, especially now that Apple has cobbled together their official version of events.
Yesterday, Gaywood posted yet another great article, this time with a chart breaking down the numbers from an earlier Anandtech article on the issue. (Between these two sites—and a total of three articles—you can learn everything you need to know about what’s going on with the iPhone 4. Or, you could read the approaching 30 articles Gizmodo has posted, and learn next to nothing, at least until you get to the part where they finally mention the Gaywood and Anandtech articles.)
Anyway: My day job involves distilling complex concepts down to simple infographics for the law firm I work for. Given that there are currently 5 class action lawsuits filed against Apple on this issue, I looked at Gaywood’s chart from the perspective of an information designer and how the chart might be perceived in a courtroom:
Gaywood states upfront that he isn’t a graphic designer, by which I assume he means there’s no flashy visual cues, no slick-looking gradients, etc. Basically, all the things that people say they want when they ask for a visual representation of something, but which usually just gets in the way of the information.
Fortunately, Gizmodo, never shy about posting something that’s been stolen from someone else, seems to have taken a peak at Gaywood’s design and thrown a “real” graphic designer at it:
Gradients? Check. Added graphics? Check.
I think most people would look at the second chart and think that it looks more “designerly” but it loses an awful lot of what’s important by adding a lot that isn’t. Less is definitely more, in this scenario.
For instance, Gaywood’s “range of reception” bar is presented as blocks of color: Everything that is green represents 5 bars, everything that is light green represents 4 bars, etc. Simple, text-based cues spells out exactly what each chunk of color represents.
Gizmodo’s bar is a smoother-looking gradient which is arguably prettier, but it literally blurs the line between when you’ll actually see a visual drop of bars on your iPhone signal display. This obscures half of the entire point of the graph. (The background gradient serves no purpose whatsoever. I’d get rid of it.)
Worse yet, because of the change, Gizmodo has to draw additional lines across their infographic, leading out to the graphics depicting 5 bars, 4 bars, 3 bars, etc. This additional element superfluously adds an entire column of data that must be interpreted against the bar. In other words, Gizmodo hasn’t added any new information, they’ve simply added a new element for a jury to interpret. Why? Because the signal meter graphics look kind of cool.
Those additional lines compete with the other important aspect of the graph, which is to show which ranges are affected when you’re holding the iPhone. Gaywood illustrates this point with two simple arrows, one for best case scenario and another for the worst case scenario. Next to those arrows is a brief summary of the issue: With a strong signal, you may not even notice the signal degradation, because your iPhone will still register 5 bars (still green). With a weak signal, your iPhone will drop alarmingly from 5 bars to 1 bar (spanning all five color blocks).
Gaywood’s design couldn’t be more clear about this. Gizmodo’s chart eventually gets around to making the same point, but you’ve got to do a lot of thinking on your own, and you’ve got to read three bullet points of explanation for each of the two arrows they’ve drawn in to show the “hold effect”. I would also argue that the “worst case” arrow should—if it’s going to use a gradient at all—match up with the gradient on the bar. As designed, it starts from a much different signal level. (Orange, instead of light green.) If they’re going to use a gradient to represent signal level, consistency is important.
Gizmodo also adds “actual signal” at the top of the bar, for reasons I don’t really understand. They also throw in “bad signal” right above “no signal” which, I would think, goes without saying. (And did go without saying on Gaywood’s version of the graph.)
What’s interesting about this, to me, is the difference in perspective: Anyone who’s reading this probably knows that Gizmodo is facing potential felony charges based on having bought a stolen iPhone 4 prototype. Gaywood seems to have a general interest in Apple, but has otherwise shown an even hand in his reporting on this issue. He’s been neither overly harsh nor overly kind.
You can bet that if any of these class action lawsuits come before a judge or jury, the plaintiffs will be using a chart designed similarly to Gizmodo’s rather than the more useful chart drawn up by Gaywood, even though they show essentially the same information.
This is a large aspect of any trial I’ve ever worked on: Different interpretations of the same data and an attempt to sway or convince a jury that one interpretation is better than the other. One side (plaintiff always goes first) will present an expert, who will offer his/her opinion and the other side will then offer up their own expert, who will offer another perspective. Gizmodo’s chart simply looks more damning and I can think of no other reason why they’d go through the trouble of recreating Gaywood’s chart, rather than referencing it, other than the simple fact that his doesn’t really seem to take a side. Gizmodo’s chart supports the anti-Apple position they’ve taken on this issue whereas Gaywood’s supports the goal of providing useful information, cleanly.
My experience with juries is that they tend to respect an approach like Gaywood’s, and are turned off by any effort to subliminally influence their views via flashy design touches, or by spelling out what they ought to think. If the information doesn’t speak for itself, extra bullet points aren’t going to impress the jury. I can say from experience that quality and subtle information design can be a major determining factor on the outcome of a trial.
I believe a jury would 1) understand Gaywood’s chart without further explanation and 2) appreciate that it doesn’t attempt to influence their perspective.
One final note: I could be wrong about this, but my recollection is that my first view of the Gizmodo chart did not include the cite to Richard Gaywood. I posted a comment about the obvious similarities between the two charts, which has since been deleted. (As far as I can tell, anyway: Gizmodo’s comment system is even more difficult to navigate than their chart.) That makes (some) sense if I’m wrong, but is pretty lame if I’m not.
According to Gaywood (who elaborated in the comment section of his post) Gizmodo did indeed ask to use his chart before publishing their article. Presumably, I missed the cite. Still. All that other stuff I said.
In an effort to see if I could improve upon Gaywood’s chart, and because I’m criticizing Gizmodo’s, I thought I’d take a crack at a redesign:
First: I don’t vouch for the strict accuracy of the chart. I’m not attempting to precisely reproduce the numbers. So far as I’m aware, both Gaywood and Gizmodo’s charts are accurate: I eyeballed Gaywood’s to make mine. Obviously, if this were for anything other than what I’m using it for, I’d have attempted to be more precise.
I consolidated some of the “this shows” wording from Gaywood’s original into the title and also into the description of the attenuation arrows as his seems a bit wordy to me, in places. I still think Gizmodo over-complicated their chart based on how they utilized their signal meter graphics, but I do think that concept can be used to simplify Gaywood’s idea even more.
I kept Gaywood’s block colors concept, but extended it over to the attenuation arrows, to show a more visual and direct correlation between how many bars you’d lose at the low end.
I’ve also gone ahead and mocked up my understanding of Apple’s proposed fix: Nothing will change, the same attenuation issues will exist, they’ll still be exacerbated by the antenna band, they’ll just have spread out the manner in which the signal bars are displayed:
The upshot is that some people on the high end will feel like they’re getting a worse signal sometimes (4 bars instead of 5) and people on the low end will realize that they were always getting a shitty signal (2-1 bars instead of 5-1).
(I’m not sure that Apple will distribute the range this evenly, but I’m fairly certain that this is the concept of the fix they’re going to deploy with iOS 4.01.)
As others have pointed out, this sort of dickering with the signal display meter probably wouldn’t be an issue on a network with a reliably strong signal, because people simply wouldn’t have ever noticed the sudden drop at the low-end. Apple is getting bit in the ass because so many of AT&T’s customers fall into the “low-end” of the chart and the issue—courtesy of the new antenna design—became unavoidably apparent.
I’ve made a slight edit to the chart, based on a change to Gaywood’s chart. The description along the vertical axis was changed to “Signal Strength (dBm)” to correct an error. I don’t think Gizmodo has updated their chart, at this point.
I think by now it should be pretty clear that rumor blog Gizmodo has a love/hate relationship with Apple. On the one hand, they love the page views that Apple-related stories bring in. On the other hand, they hate the possibility of facing felony criminal charges due to having purchased a stolen iPhone 4 prototype.
Given the latter half of the tenuous relationship, what’s a blog gonna do? Simple! Continue to write a truckload of articles about Apple every day, just without the fanboyish perspective that at one (pre-investigation) point in time permeated the vast majority of their articles.
And why not? Apple bashing is a lucrative industry—just ask Rob Enderle—and never more so than during new product release week. This time it’s the iPhone 4, and Apple handed Gizmodo a whopper: A phone which doesn’t work for some percentage of 1.7 million people…when held normally.
As others have noted, this exact reception issue seems to plague multiple smart phone manufacturers, including HTC and Nokia. Gizmodo even makes mention of this as part of their ongoing coverage of Apple’s more popular variation on the theme:
There is evidence other phones may have had problems when gripped a certain way. But none generated the number of public complaints or level of controversy associated with the iPhone 4.
As a naturally curious person, you may be wondering: “Why is that, I wonder?”
The first reason should be pretty obvious: Apple sold 1.7 million iPhones in three fucking days. The sampling rate for iPhones is larger. (Did Nokia ever sell 1.7 million E71-2 phones?) Thus, the fact that more reports of the issue are surfacing isn’t all that surprising. Or, shouldn’t be to anyone who understand the concept of much more and far less.
The second reason is a bit more chilling and requires more of an explanation.
I should warn you: The following is not recommended for the faint of heart. What you are about to read is a brutal and uncompromising look at various Gizmodo contributors flogging a story over and over and over, for almost a week, right up to the point of death, and then butt-fucking it for good measure.
You have been warned.
The post that started it all. Intriguingly, there’s a hint that Gizmodo might be gentle with the story. A false sense of hope that some sort of journalistic integrity might be applied, based on the question mark at the end of the headline. 50 updates later…
It’s true. Believe it or not, Steve Jobs did somewhat dismissively recommend that a concerned customer hold his phone differently to mitigate the problem. Gizmodo just wanted you to know that.
Not really, but Gizmodo hadn’t written anything negative about the reception issue for a few hours, so, they improvised. Ha ha!
In case you’d forgotten, the good people over at Gizmodo wanted to remind you that the iPhone you purchased is probably a defective piece of shit that you can exchange for something else, even another piece of shit defective iPhone 4!
Actually, it’s just a protective skin, but: “Hey, have you heard that Apple’s new iPhone 4 suffers reception issues when you hold it normally?”
"We know that the iPhone 4 prototypes were concealed because we bought a stolen iPhone 4 prototype and it was housed in a protective case that made it look uncannily like an iPhone 3GS. Uh, maybe that’s why they didn’t detect this issue? It makes sense that Apple wouldn’t have ever utilized an iPhone 4 prototype which was not wrapped in one of those stealth cases, right? Even when it wasn’t being tested off-site? Cough.”
(I prefer the conspiracy theory that Apple did in fact know about the reception issue and that the bumpers were designed to mitigate the problem.)
As of right now, it’s almost Tuesday and no update has been issued. They’re not even that good at rumors.
Because, apparently, the first article they published which involved 50 claims (often with videos) of users experiencing the iPhone reception problem in practice wasn’t enough to make the point that people were experiencing the problem.
Let the sodomizing begin! “One, two, three, four, fuck that story ‘til it’s sore!”
One solution involves using a rubber band to attach your iPhone 4 to the head of a douchebag.
In this video, an iPhone 4 owner demonstrates how the antenna problem also affects transmission in voice calls. Using only one finger, the voice quality degrades, even dropping completely. He explains the process:
The process involves using one finger. It’s all very scientific.
At this point, I’d say Steve Jobs is just mind-fucking Gizmodo with his responses. That may make what we’re witnessing consensual, in some weird way.
Presumably spent after posting a non-stop barrage of content on the subject of iPhone 4 reception issues, Gizmodo steps away from the limp body and lets Fake Steve Jobs have a turn. Good news, everybody! There’s a pretty good chance we’ll get to hear Adam Carolla’s take on the matter as well: Jason Chen loves that guy!
Gizmodo posts a goofy picture of Steve Jobs in an effort to keep the meme going and doesn’t even bother to credit the random commenter who they stole the idea from.
Exhanging piece of shit iPhones is so yesterday. Today Gizmodo is all about returning your new iPhone. You could even use the refund money to buy the Droid X that Gizmodo failed to cover in any real detail, due to their obsession with Apple’s newest product.
Except, of course, for those Nokia phones (like the E71-2) which were (under)reported to have the same problem as the new iPhone, information which Gizmodo didn’t feel the need to mention, either when it was a fresh issue or now that it might serve as a useful counterpoint to Nokia’s smug and seemingly inaccurate blog post.
"Sign here if you want something free or if you think internet petitions are useful."
One week from product release to complaints to class action lawsuit. This will be great for consumers who will most likely get next to nothing even assuming these money chasing lawyers manage to take the claim all the way to a favorable verdict. They’d make a lot of money, sure, but you? You’ll get a voucher for a bumper you probably already bought. Gizmodo is happy to assist, though, and refer you to the law firm that hopes to
fight for your rights line their wallets.
Just kidding. And finally…
In which Gizmodo once again dips back into the well and posts yet another video showing something happening that happened in other videos they’ve posted. It’s worth noting that Gizmodo didn’t mention the comments of the guy who shot the video:
FYI: I did not make this video to dissuade anyone from buying the iPhone 4, but merely to record this phenomenon. If it’s a bug, it’ll be fixed. If it’s a defect, Apple will replace it. I’m very much enjoying iPhone 4.
It’s kinda fun, actually.
For what it’s worth, I couldn’t get it to reproduce in a cafe a few days later, so this could be a problem only in some areas.
Instead, they posted some information from “most” push polls without, you know, actually linking to the polls. As a fan of this method, I can say that—according to most web polls I’ve seen—up to 100% of respondents think Jesus Diaz is a dicknozzle hack who is more concerned with getting back at Apple than doing his job. As it turns out, he can also see the future, because he can say with certainty that this problem will “affect everyone at some point.”
Damn. And finally…
Gizmodo claim that a “source” inside Apple’s engineering department let slip that the internal battle between designers and engineers is leading to product defects that are just going to get worse and worse and worse. To prove this, they attempt to make it seem like Andy Hertzfeld contributed an article detailing the same issue from way back—once again due to Steve Jobs’s insistence on form over function—when really, they just copied and pasted one of Hertzfeld’s old articles from Folklore.org.
AHEM: AND FINALLY…
Gizmodo isn’t interested in this product, they’re interested in linking you back to an article which involved enough new news to actually justify an article.
Fuck it. There’s probably going to be more as the days go on:
News flash: Apple, like every other company, is trying to manage its message because sites like Gizmodo—but mainly Gizmodo—are parsing every single thing they say on any given issue, in an effort to find an inconsistency to write about.
This list was compiled by a tag search for “apple” on Gizmodo, so it’s possible that I missed a few articles. I also ruled out any article which wasn’t specifically about the reception issue even when the reception issue was mentioned as a snarky aside; the list would be at least five articles longer if I had been less particular. As it stands:
16 17 18 19 20 21 articles. (Articles about Apple, generally? A billion. Literally, a billion. Give or take a number.)
It wouldn’t really be fair to highlight Gizmodo without offering a comparison of similar content posted to a similar site, using the same search criteria.
Engadget is probably Gizmodo’s most direct competition as they tend to cover the same basic topics, so:
Same day, same basic starting point.
Steve’s pithy email was too good for either site to pass up. Understandable. When Steve says jump, most of these guys jump.
Snark, in picture form: Various people in Apple’s promo videos holding the phone the way that Steve Jobs recommends not holding it. Oh, snap! No word on whether these people have signed Gizmodo’s petition.
Weird. This article is about the reception issue, but it’s not really all that negative and is actually pretty informative. It’s as if all sides of an issue are being presented. I’m confused!
In other news, June 10 was my birthday, and you didn’t get me anything.
Remember how the book Wicked was basically a retelling of The Wizard of Oz, told from the perspective of the Wicked Witch? Similarly, this is the same smug Nokia blog post Gizmodo posted, told from the perspective of a website which seems to have some modicum of respect for journalistic integrity.
Spoiler: Engadget points out Nokia’s hypocrisy by posting an actual illustration from one of Nokia’s user manuals depicting the “don’t hold it that way” concept.
So, in the time it’s taken Gizmodo to add 4 new posts on the reception issue, Gizmodo has limped in with one. The newsworthy one.
The final tally:
6 7 articles. Six. Seven. One of the six seven wasn’t even negative!
Pathetic effort, Engadget.
It’s worth noting that Gizmodo has completely overlooked the two articles on the subject that seem to shed some intelligent light on what’s actually going on. Engadget linked the first of the two:
The second article, which is even better, really:
On that note, I’m finished with the updates. There’s a pretty good chance Gizmodo will keep fucking this story in the asshole until it’s a bloody blown out mess, and that travesty will have absolutely nothing to do with an honest desire to keep their readers informed—otherwise they’d have posted both of the above links (neither of which come across as favorable or fanboyish towards Apple) instead of the 18 or so worthless, smug, masturbatory wastes of time they instead chose to post, or at least in addition to the smug masturbatory wastes of time—their mission is very clearly driven by a complete and utter lack of professionalism due to having been stung by a company they used to worship. Why any outlet, mainstream or otherwise, would ever defend their journalistic credibility is completely beyond my ability to understand.
If Jason Chen’s or Nick Denton’s or Jesus Diaz’s argument is that what they do deserves protection under shield laws because they qualify as journalists, I would argue that anyone in any profession who performed their jobs as poorly as Gizmodo’s staff performs “journalism” would be fired and then shunned by their respective industry.
And then I would argue that journalism isn’t particularly respectable.
What a load of horseshit.