Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Dont cry wolf Techcrunch, Mainstream media is not dead!

Being a regular reader of techcrunch i naturally followed them via twitter and this afternoon news broke on the techcrunch twitter account about an apparent security issue with twitter. See the screen shot below of my twitter timeline. The tweet pointed to a post on Techcrunch.

Links to the original twitter updates: 1,2,3

Initially, i took it as the truth but twitter does not have a mass delete fuction(Why dont they?) and it did not seem to be affecting me. So i did not bother with message deletion.

Now an hour later, i get this in my timeline. Take note of the time difference.

This whole saga is extremely interesting. First Twitter was dragged through coals and then Grouptweet for being a security risk. Now i know in the world of marketing the customer is NEVER wrong, no matter what they do but lets take a look at the facts.

It's a fact that neither Grouptweet nor twitter have a security issue. Grouptweet has a pretty simple principal, it takes any messages directed at a specific twitter account and retwits(no pun intended) it. Since some users have public timelines it uses direct messages to ensure privacy for the group.

which first covered grouptweet said

"The service at lets you send out private tweets to a group of people at once. To use GroupTweet, create a Twitter account for your group and register it at GroupTweet."

The website also clearly states "Create a twitter account for your group" & "Tell all members to follow the GROUP account"

As you can see the instructions are pretty clear. Now, would you not expect the writer for a high ranking technology publisher to understand this simple concept?

Anyone who has been involved in any kind of technology industry realises that majority of the time issues are related to the user not understanding the application or the UI not being intuitive enough for the user. Anyone that has been involved in this field for a while would ask the following question anytime someone comes to them with a problem:

"Did you do anything different today?" / "Install any software?"

In this case it should have been:

"Were you playing with any new twitter Apps?"

While also verifying with other users if they were facing something similar, this far we have only had a report of one other user. Though someone posted in the comments of the article that the same thing had happened to them a week ago but they managed to figure it out.

Just these simple questions & common sense would have avoided this whole debacle. Also note in the twitter timeline all updates by 3rd party apps clearly state which application initiated the update. It takes only a few seconds to review this.

I see this kind of thing regularly from new hires, in an effort to impress they will discover a 'new case', but i ask them questions as it could be someones reputation/job on the line. Eventually they learn to ask the questions themselves. The motivation is recognition and not discovery.

In a rush to get the breaking story Michael Arrington did not bother to ask any questions, he wrote first asked questions later. Also take a look at the time the screenshot was taken on the original article. The article most likely started soon after the tweet went up without any questions asked.

Now they may argue thats the whole point of a blog, its the opinions that matter and not the questions but when you look at the article there were no opinions. It was a ' Breaking NEWS' story, nothing more. They could also say that it was due to the article that the issue was figured out but that would be wrong as well. (See above for why it would have been a simple to figure out)

I believe the more popular and the higher your readership the HIGHER your responsibility should be to ask questions. As the repercussions are worse. Now would you not want to to feel safe in the knowledge that the high ranking technology publishing companies you rely on for news such as techcrunch ask those questions before they publish?

You astute readers may have noticed i avoided using the word blog, as the site no longer qualifies as a blog. It's a publishing company pure and simple and even though they have been highly critical of mainstream media. The only difference between traditional media is a sensational headline gets more newspapers of the stands on the web it means more traffic. As long as the 'supposed' mainstream 'blogs' dont ask simple questions and follow some standard journalistic practices mainstream media are here to stay.

Therein lies the the paradox, when you 'Monetize' it stops becoming about expressing yourself or making a change it's about the traffic and revenue or taking down CNET(See techcrunch for that article).

I hope we have all learned a lesson, cry wolf too many times and people start to doubt your authenticity.

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