Archived entries for Current Events

Slipping: TechCrunch Reporting

Over lunch today I was catching up on my reading. I was drawn in by one of their headlines (which I saw on TechMeme.com). My interest quickly turned to disappointment because the article was poorly researched, exhibited nearly zero analysis, and sat under a sensationalist traffic-grabbing headline that it failed to back up. I expect more from TechCrunch, and I think they owe their 598k subscribers – me included — better reporting. The #1 blog should lead us to quality and respect by example, not through sensationalism and hollow reporting.

This was going to be a comment on TechCrunch’s site, but I agree with many recent commentators that posting on ones own blog and letting Trackbacks make the connection is the more respectful, responsible, and effective way. I’m not exactly sure why I needed to get this off my chest today, but here goes:

Mr. Schonfel, in my opinion your article and its headline are bad journalism. I believe the data reported by AddThis is insignificant and an insufficient basis for your broad headline. You provided no context or substantiation. I feel that you’ve done your readers a disservice by publishing this article.

You report that AddThis is used “nearly 2 million times per month.” Does that seem like a lot to you? Significant? Does their data correlate or challenge other available data or trends? What, exactly, gives you the confidence to warrant such a far-reaching headline?

I believe you would have done well to report on the overall market size that they are a niche within. Technorati’s About Us page reports, for example, that there are 1.6mm new blog posts PER DAY (sounds like “nearly 2mm” to me); over 5mm new blogs each month; over 100mm blogs total.

In addition to questions of reach, I have to question the use-case and user profile that AddThis.com enjoys. I know you have the button on your site, but can you report what % of your visitors interact with it? Have you cross-checked your total del.icio.us saves witt the numbers AddThis reports? You have both those pieces of data – so that should be reportable.

I’m given additional pause when I notice that approximately 1 in 6 AddThis users us it save to their native Favorites folder! Really? Why would anybody do that? You don’t need a special tool to bookmark a site in your browser, in fact it’s much slower than any of the other available mechanisms (native menus, keyboard-shortcuts, dragging-and-dropping). There’s nothing wrong with people doing that, but it doesn’t make then seem like trendsetters.

In total, I don’t see any reason to think that this article is insightful or relevant. I’m worried about TechCrunch’s integrity when such poor data and analysis leads to such a presumptuous headline.

I’ve taken the time to write this comment because I expect more from TechCruch. You’re earned my attention in the past, and I won’t let my silence help you short change yourself. I’m a big TechCrunch fan, like most of your (alleged) 598k readers, but I expect you to do much better reporting than this sensationalist rubbish. I’ll be back for your next post, and hope it’s much better.

I have two hopes. First, I hope I’ve misread or misunderstood something, and that I’ll have an opportunity to retract this entire objection. If not, but second hope is that this call-to-action encourages greater journalistic integrity, whether new or old media.

Respectfully,
Nate Koechley

@Dom Vonarburg, comment #25 on TechCrunch and a representative of AddThis, please feel free to provide the answers my comment is hunting for.

Heading to StartUp Camp on Monday

StartUp Camp 2 is this Monday in San Francisco.

Startup Camp is an unconference-style event that’s dedicated to bringing together the various members of the startup community for a face-to-face collaborative meetup where its the attendees that drive the agenda (in true unconference fashion).

I’m really looking forward to tasting the excitement in air and seeing all the cool projects. 100s of people have registered – it should be fun. (But the real reason work’s giving me the day to attend is so I can be on hand to help people realize their dreams using YUI.)

If you’re there, please come find me and say Hi (even if you don’t need YUI support).

Speaking in Singapore

I’m scheduled to present two sessions at the upcoming Webinale conference in Singapore on April 23rd and 24th.

More details soon, but wanted to give you advance notice.

Onion News Network Coming April 2007

Here’s the trailer:

I can’t wait!

YUI Party

I blogged this over on the YUIBlog last week (You’re Invited: YUI First Year Party), but figured I’d quickly post a notice here too in case you missed it. There are still a few dozen RSVP slots open, but they probably won’t last long.

If you’re interested in giving a quick five minute demo of something you’ve build with YUI, let me know…

See you there.

teaching the machine

A video called “Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us” is an engaging and enjoyable 4.5 minute non-verbal documentary taking us from ‘pencil’ to ‘Web 2.0′. It adds context to the advances that got us here, and suggests what might yet be in store. At about 03:40, highlights from an August 2005 Wired article, “We Are the Web,” are used to suggest that we are “teaching the machine.” I’m afraid that that notion is still inadequately understood and appreciated.

Perhaps the so-called “social web” isn’t about connecting people (not about helping people socialize), but about information conservation: If a person chooses to do something — no matter how small — it’s inherently interesting, precious, and valuable. We’ve barely started to figure out what to do with this second-generation information. Where we have it’s been exciting, useful, and successful: Flickr’s Interestingness and Clusters, the notion of “watching” on Upcoming, the newer “people who looked at this ultimately bought that” in Amazon, and of course Google’s PageRank. The idea isn’t new, but it’s still under appreciated.

Here’s the paragraph from Wired that surrounds the words used in the video:

And who will write the software that makes this contraption useful and productive? We will. In fact, we’re already doing it, each of us, every day. When we post and then tag pictures on the community photo album Flickr, we are teaching the Machine to give names to images. The thickening links between caption and picture form a neural net that can learn. Think of the 100 billion times per day humans click on a Web page as a way of teaching the Machine what we think is important. Each time we forge a link between words, we teach it an idea. Wikipedia encourages its citizen authors to link each fact in an article to a reference citation. Over time, a Wikipedia article becomes totally underlined in blue as ideas are cross-referenced. That massive cross-referencing is how brains think and remember. It is how neural nets answer questions. It is how our global skin of neurons will adapt autonomously and acquire a higher level of knowledge.

Here’s the video, which was created by Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University:

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