Things I wish tech journalists would learn

Things I wish tech journalists would learn:

Counts are not the same thing as surveys.

Surveys yield projections that have margins of error that should be disclosed and explained.

Survey methods should be disclosed and critically examined. If a survey was conducted in order to generate a press release for marketing purposes, it's probably bullshit.

Units in distribution pipelines are not the same as units sold to consumers.

Lines outside of stores are a publicity stunt.

Companies like Nielsen and Comscore attempt to report on Web traffic, using samples (not counts) and making statistical projections. If you're going to take their numbers as "market share," explain what "market" is being "shared," how the data was gathered, and how the conclusions were drawn. Otherwise shut up.

Small percentage differences often are within the margin of error and are irrelevant. Say so. Don't turn them into headlines.

Web numbers are always based on some unit of time that should be critically examined. Days, months, and quarters are not the same thing.

Pageviews are not the same as hits.

Unique users are not the same thing as unique visits.

Attempts to count unique users are universally inaccurate because of multiple device usage and cookie clearing.

HTML5 Web apps can be made to install locally and work offline.

No empire lasts forever. Big today may be gone tomorrow.

If you want to be a cheerleader, you should show up wearing a skirt and carrying pom-pons. Otherwise knock it off.

Steve Jobs is not God. "Insanely great" is more about disassociation from reality than greatness. Facetime, really?

Apple's usability decisions are often right, especially when compared with those of Microsoft or your average Chinese remote-control engineer, but sometimes horribly wrong. One-button mouse. Drag a disk to the trash can. Finder. No back button on the iPhone. No scheme for organizing apps. iTunes (shudder).

"Ready for the enterprise" is meaningless marketing drivel.

The iPhone and the iPad are not the same thing. One of them won't fit in your pocket and is a portable device, not a mobile device. Figure out which is which and keep the distinction clear in your reporting.

Blogging about a rumor posted on some other blog is not journalism.

Tweeting a link to your blog post about a rumor that came from some other blog is worse than annoying.

You're supposed to be shining light on the future, not reflecting the past.

Linux may be running your phone, your Netflix box, your Wifi router and the website you're looking at. Maybe it's time to stop referring to it as a fringe tool of ponytailed geeks.

Linux doesn't require a command line, and software is easier to find/install than on Windows.

Android vs. iPhone pageview trolling is every bit as tiresome and useless as Mac vs. PC was.

Cutting your Web story up into 37 pages is pathetic and desperate.

I could go on. Maybe I should cut this up into a slide show.


I read this as evidence that there are two problems:
  1. Even tech journalists are out of touch with the basics of their field.
  2. The problem with everyone becoming a journalist is the amount of crap journalism and that leads to filter failure.
Both of these problems need to be fixed. Shortly.

(rescuing a comment caught in the spam filter)

From: Oscar Godson

"Linux may be running your phone, your Netflix box, your Wifi router and the website you're looking at. Maybe it's time to stop referring to it as a fringe tool of ponytailed geeks."

I had to post it on my FB. I actually had an argument with an Apple/Mac guy the other day when he *actually* said, "Linux just isn't ready for primetime as is Mac or Windows". I about shit myself.'

I work on a new tech blog called Innovation Investment Journal. We're UK based and launched in August 2010. We write mostly about what we call "non-cooltech" which doesn't seem to get much in the way of coverage on the more popular and established tech blogs. Our mission statement is to focus on "aspects of innovation investment which we firmly believe ‘don’t get the attention they deserve". If you'd like to have a look at Innovation Investment Journal, some of the articles and the "About Us" page, I would welcome your views on the blog.

You forgot: * Get a clue about finances. They're not there for a laugh, if the product doesn't stand up in terms of cost and consumer demand at its price point, it ain't gonna cut the mustard no matter how shiny it is and how much your small brain is influenced by the PR at whatever company is trying to suck you in with its gadgets. Great stuff tho :-) H

"Robust" is up there with "ready for the enterprise." Average is not the same as median. Pay attention to the money. Who invested it, how are they going to earn it, who do they have to pay for rights, licenses and/or distribution. Don't just explain what it does, explain why the reader would want to do that.

This post receives my coveted Jeff Anonymous seal of approval, well done.

This info isn't just for tech journalists -- it's for all journalists.

Know the tech you're writing about.

Here's an example:

A gushing story about Suzuki's "HTML5 site design." But the site,, isn't HTML5 at all.

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//OMA//DTD XHTML Mobile 1.2//EN" "">

Another addition: * Stop reporting about image renders of concepts products as if it's a real product that's ever really going to ship. Unless there's a thing you can tangibly hold the changes of it ever getting build are slim.

What resonates with me most is cutting a website up into 37 pages. Or worse, a slideshow. More often than not each slide takes several seconds to load. I tend to click on a link, see it's a slideshow and disregard. They're not worth the effort to read.

This only applies to radio/tv reporters, but "/" is not a backslash. It is a "forward slash" or simply "slash". It's not h t t p colon backslash backslash whatever dot com, it's slash slash whatever dot com. Remember when you used to type "win" to go to windows? That was a backslash (see colon backslash windows). Thank you.

I'm with you on most of the list, but I video called my mother from the hotel lobby of the Aria during CES, right to her brand new iMac; FaceTime actually IS insanely great. Steve Jobs isn't god (or even a member of a pantheon of gods), he's just a guy who owns a company that makes a product that let me talk to my parents in a very cool way. That earns him some props, in my humble opinion.

Linux is very successful in the embedded environment, yet. The Linux core is used in some very successful consumer devices. Linux on PC? It's the fringe tool of ponytailed geeks. I'm exaggerating a little. Linux can be fine for moms and pops who just browse the web and e-mail and use run of the mill older hardware. But it quickly becomes exponentially less friendly when you want something just a little bit complicated, like installing it on modern hardware, choosing your own install partition or installing display drivers, and certainly if you want to do something like playing games (where every reasonable Linux user will recommend Windows). I installed or tried to install quite a few Linux distros in the past year, and the time spent trying to understand why things don't work and the amount of support I needed were huge. I'd liken the experience to using a beta of Windows Vista. I'd really like to have Linux working outside of VirtualBox one day, but for now I think I'll leave it to ponytailed geeks.

Stop telling people how to interpret (read understand) your writing. See how annoying (read irritating) it is.