03/20/12 4:11 pm
The thing about great writing: it's not about the words, it's about the thinking behind the words. It's not about being first it's about being insightful.
This is not the first time John Gruber has weighed in on a controversy and provided the last, best word.
03/19/12 3:39 am
The Guardian has a transcript of audio Mike Daisey posted to his blog, purportedly from the first performance of his show since the This American Life controversy.
This American Life is airing an episode this weekend that calls into question the veracity of some of the personal experiences that you're going to hear about in this monologue.
I guess calls into question is technically true. I'd go with thoroughly discredits.
And I want you to understand that what's being called into question is the personal experiences; the facts of what the situation in China is in manufacturing are undisputed…
Not true. Daisey's fabricated personal experiences served to misrepresent the facts of manufacturing in China, some times by taking isolated incidents and passing them off as common, and sometimes by outright lying. Just a few: he implies he meets underage workers frequently, when in fact underage children employed in Chinese factories are extremely rare; he implies workers work under threat of security guards with guns, when the security guards don't carry guns at all; he implies that there are cameras in workers dorm rooms when there aren't. All facts we are clearly to infer from Mr. Daisey's fake personal experiences. All disputed (and mostly proven wrong).
But I wanted to let you know that I stand behind this work. The work you're going to see today has had changes made to it, so that we can stand behind it completely.
So he stands behind it? And he doubly stands behind it once the fabricated stuff has been removed?
When the light comes onto the stage, I assume that role where I am speaking … we use these tools that the Greeks invented so long ago, to try to communicate … the whole attempt is to try to shine a light through something and get at the truth. The truth is vitally important.
Daisey is alluding to his belief, repeatedly stated on This American Life, that because he presents his monologue in the context of theater, he can lie in service of a deeper truth. This idea of his that there are levels of truth, and that a deeper one can be served by betraying a shallow one, is nutty. The tools of theater he refers to find truth through fiction, and Daisey misunderstands them deeply. In fiction there's no pretense that what's being presented on stage is truth, rather the truth is found in the themes and emotions of the performance.
When you market your show as true, and when you go on television and radio news programs making the same claims you make in your show, nobody walking into the theater expects a fictional performance. Daisey may claim that he's trying to tap into a theatrical ethos, but he clearly intends his audience to take his presentation as fact, not fiction. Once you violate the trust of the audience on the top level, any deeper truth below surely is lost once people become aware of the manipulation.
Bottom line: lying to people who think you're telling them the truth is unethical, regardless of context.
03/17/12 3:19 am
Spoiler: David Sedaris' stories probably wouldn't make it past an editor at a journalistic enterprise.
Fabrication of non-fiction is a surprisingly gray area: Mike Daisey and David Sedaris are both entertainers, Sedaris has had stories on This American Life, too, stories that almost certainly contained fabrications or exaggerations, and yet nobody would ever consider handcuffing David Sedaris by holding him to a journalistic standard.
03/17/12 12:03 am
In a nutshell: This American Life ran an episode in January called Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory based on a monologue by Mike Daisey. It turns out, Daisey fabricated at least parts of his show.
John Gruber covers today's revelations well.
This American life gives the most complete retraction I've ever seen from a journalistic organization. They turn their lens on themselves, investigating the error and fallout as they would any other story, albeit with a bit more emotion than normal.
Ira Glass could have been a police interrogator if he hadn't gone into radio. It's fascinating listening to him reinterview an evasive Mike Daisey. Quickly, he gets past Daisey's spin and half-truths, and gets him to admit not only that he lied, but that he knew he was wrong to do it.
There are moments, and people, and ideas that snap situations so sharply into focus for me, that change my perspective so completely, that I can't believe I didn't see it before.
I could feel Donald Trump's campaign for President ending, like I can feel lightning coming on the air, the moment President Obama stepped off stage at the White House Correspondents Dinner this year. It was an electric moment, on the heels of Trump forcing Obama to release his birth certificate, and the President held a grudge. He was charming, and eloquent, and vicious. He told three jokes at Tump's expense, and every punchline was a variation of a theme: Can you imagine, I mean really imagine what it would be like if this guy was president?
At the end of it, as Obama stood there smiling and Trump sat there fuming, the chasm between the two men could not have been greater. And so too, by proxy, the chasm between Trump and a man who could be President. Like that, the idea of serious candidate Trump was gone from my mind; reduced to a youtube laughingstock, and rightly so, as if I snapped to my senses and out of the illusion that this man was to be taken seriously.
James Whittaker, Why I left Google:
The days of old Google hiring smart people and empowering them to invent the future was gone. The new Google knew beyond doubt what the future should look like. Employees had gotten it wrong and corporate intervention would set it right again.
There it is. Three sentences. 42 words.
So begins the long slow decline of Google.
03/14/12 2:40 am
Righteous indignation at South by Southwest in Austin this week, over a marketing company partnering with a homeless shelter to provide Homeless Hotspots.
It sounds bad, on the face of it, but thinking about it, I think the outrage is misplaced.
Laura June, writing at The Verge, gets at the root of the issue:
But the marketing gimmick itself requires something else: recognition of another human being, one who is suffering. Whereas plenty of people seemed to think that was dehumanizing, it’s actually kind of the opposite: it’s literally humanizing. Thinking about and looking at the homeless is hard.
It's outrageous that people are homeless in the modern world. But is it really outrageous that a for-profit company would offer to work with a homeless person? Should that company really be shamed for offering that homeless person a deal that appears good for everyone? (The homeless people get all the money paid for the service, the marketing company gets exposure on their t-shirts, the issue of homelessness gets raised and discussed.)
Is it a sad state of affairs that a company is essentially paying for advertising on a homeless persons shirt? Yes. Absolutely. Can you blame the company? To me, that's a very gray issue. Is the alternative (no advertising, no money, still homeless) worse? No.
This controversy has more to do with South by Southwest's $900-iPad toting attendees being confronted by homelessness, and the stirred up guilt and outrage caused by that juxtaposition being misplaced.
There would surely have been homelessness in Austin this week, no matter what. Without the homeless hotspots program calling attention to it, it would have gone unnoticed amid the South by Southwest carnival. That strikes me as greatly more dehumanizing.
03/09/12 2:09 am
Video from The Onion.
03/08/12 11:49 pm
The Fuel Band—a sort of advanced, wrist band pedometer—looks cool. The embedded video halfway down the page is humorous.
03/07/12 1:28 am
The final installment in Gary Hustwit's Design Trilogy. (Joining Helvetica and Objectified.) I missed hearing about it when it premiered last September.
Easily the most ambitions of the three films. The overt social messages of Objectified and Helvetica are now explicit. Design can solve (and create) big problems for the world.
03/07/12 1:16 am
Three different trends on how to launch a blog
I wonder if John Gruber knew what he was getting into when he wrote Baby Needs a New Pair of Processors. After a quick acknowledgment that it was his first post, he launched right into analysis of a new G4 computer from apple, along with a few pointers on how to save the then struggling company. Love it or hate it, a decade later Daring Fireball has become one of the all-time great blogs. Although the posts have gotten shorter and a little more on point over the years, John Gruber's voice as a writer has come through from the very beginning. (Also gone by the wayside in the intervening years is his habit of referring to the site in the third person as "the Daring Fireball", blessedly.)
If you want to start a blog, you could study Daring Fireball's example. Give a nod to the fact that it's your first post—as obviously it is—but then get down to the business of doing what you do. Or rather, doing what you're going to do.
Another way to go is to fake it till you make it. If you roll Tech Crunch back 1260+ pages, you'll find Mike Arrington's first post: a profile of the website Technorati. There's no hint in the post that Tech Crunch is a new publication. Just right down to business, like he's been doing this all along. (When he had to do it all over again years later, he took a much different tact). More recently, SplatF, too, blogs of Google, patents, and pi before finally getting around to a welcome message a few days later.
You can also start it all the way The Huffington Post did. They kick off with a manifesto or two. Nothing too lofty, mind you. Just tell the world what your site will be.
So where does that leave me? I'm a programmer at heart—a technician—and I've always been wary of technocrats bearing manifestos. Besides, I make no claims to knowing where this site is going so manifestos are out. As for fake it till you make it, it just rubs me wrong. The first post should be momentous, if you ask me. Fake it till you make it is a far too monotonous way to start.
No, I think starting with a wink and a nod is much more my style. And luckily, we programmers have always known exactly how to start things:
© 2012 Pete Burtis. All Rights Reserved.