AOL, TechCrunch, and My 'Contempt' for Blogs

It appears sometimes the people I write about actually read this blog. Who knew?

A couple of days ago, TechCrunch's MG Siegler, on his personal blog, ParisLemon, took me to the virtual woodshed for some unkind things I wrote about AOL's acquisition of TechCrunch last week.

[ See "AOL Buys TechCrunch: Will the Scandals Continue" | Also on InfoWorld: See where it all started in "AOL swallows TechCrunch -- but can they keep it down?" | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

Strangely for someone so immersed into the world-o-blogs, there's no way to comment on MG's own post, so I'm reduced to doing it here. (For people who are uninterested in the squabbles between two HTML-stained wretches, my apologies. I'll return to bashing Apple/Microsoft/Google/Facebook in a future post, I promise.)

Mr. MG accuses me of "asshattery." Me, I call it a fedora. But if you want to call it an asshat, that's fine.

First, though, I have to ask: MG? No first name? Are you trying to one-up the film director McG, or is your first name really Mortimer and you're just too embarrassed to admit it? If you suddenly decide to become a rapper, will you change it to Emmgee?

OK, I'm done now.

First MG takes exception to my characterization of TechCrunch as a "post first and ask questions later" blog and for its fondness for publishing any rumors that cross its transom. Apparently, I am wrong in this. As MG points out, TechCrunch only publishes some of the unfounded rumors that cross its transom. Notes From the Field regrets the error.

I also used the "Google about to acquire Digg" story as an example where TechCrunch got it wrong. Siegler writes:

Secondly, the fact that the article cites Google buying Digg as one of the rumors we "intercoursed the pooch" on is interesting. The reality is that the deal was inches away from happening. Anyone with any semblance of a connection in Silicon Valley knows this to be the case. It's hardly a secret. Google walked away at the last second. These things happen. So who is screwing what pooch here?

The assertion that TechCrunch was only writing about that deal because we write about every rumor that comes our way is pathetic. The details were accurate, the deal just fell through.

So, in other words, TechCrunch was right in saying Google was about to buy Digg for $200 million even though it never happened, because it almost happened, even though Digg's CEO issued a very direct denial saying that it didn't almost happen. But of course, that just makes it more true, doesn't it?

You know, I was almost about to buy a newspaper the other day, but I decided against it at the last minute. Also, I thought about having a slice of pizza and a Coke for lunch, but I had a salad and some Perrier instead. That's news, isn't it? Isn't that what you read about every day in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal -- things that almost happened but didn't?

Oh, and by the way, Apple is in late stage negotiations to buy Twitter, but only if Google doesn't buy them first. Pass it on.

Siegler goes on to say:

But my favorite part of the InfoWorld piece has to be how hard it is to navigate the author's clear contempt for blogs amid InfoWorld's in-content ads (made to look like content) and ridiculous page break after a whopping five paragraphs.

Say what you like about TechCrunch, but at least we don't pull that nonsense on our readers. Classy column there, Cringely.

First, InfoWorld's content management system also drives me nuts. (Sorry, guys). Even worse than the pagination is that damned ad that covers half the screen and plays video of some talking head whenever I accidentally roll over it with my mouse. I hate that.

Second: Just to clarify, I'm a blogger, not a programmer. I don't work in the engine room. I'm up on the third deck, throwing bread at the seagulls, so blaming me for InfoWorld's CMS is like blaming you for the annoying bits in WordPress or the fact I can't leave comments on your Tumblr page.

Trois: I know you're a blogging god and everything, but did you notice the little button at the bottom of every entry that says "Print"? Click it and something miraculous happens -- the entire blog post is on one page, without most of those "in-content ads" that bother you so much. Aren't the InterWebs amazing?

Finally, I don't have "clear contempt for blogs." I read blogs. This is a blog. I have clear contempt for TechCrunch -- and really, not even TechCrunch so much as Michael Arrington.

By and large, I think TechCrunch's reporters do a good job of reporting breaking news, though they tend to get a little too breathless sometimes. But Arrington, he's an -- what's the word I'm looking for? Oh yeah -- asshat.

The speculative reporting from sources that are never identified. The bombastic prouncements based on what appears to be pure speculation. The lectures on journalism "ethics" from someone who's been trained in neither. The justification of hacking in pursuit of a story. The crowing about transparency from a site that's probably the most opaque news source on the Web. There are too many examples to link to them all. Just Google it.

Here's what I'd like to know, MG: What qualifies as a rumor worth publishing? How many anonymous sources does TechCrunch require before it publishes a story, and how does it vet them? Do its sources have vested interests in the stories they give TechCrunch? Does TechCrunch even know? How do we know? Has TechCrunch ever printed a retraction for a story that proved false, the way legitimate, mainstream, tragically unhip news organizations do?

It's possible the answers to all of these questions are out there on the Web. If so, I'd love to see them. Until then, I think the hat is on the other ass.

Got an opinion on any of the above? Don't be shy, post it below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "More on AOL, TechCrunch, and my 'contempt' for blogs," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringeley's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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