The New Apple War: Targeting Pro-Apple Writers

| Editorial

There are writers who understand Apple. They've been covering Apple for years, decades. Some of them are very smart and accomplished at research and analysis. Other writers just write about Apple to earn some money and see their name in lights. Is there a war emerging between the two?

One can't help but notice that there has been a lot of negative writing about Apple lately. Most of it comes from writers who aren't well known around the Mac web. That's usually a sign that they haven't spent a lot of time covering Apple. Even so, their belief is that their opinion about Apple is just as valid as someone who has covered Apple professionally for a decade or more.

And so, naturally, the idea has come up about the validity of knowledge, the ability to do research, one's connections and sources, and, in general, a writer's ability to think analytically and present cogent arguments.

I am reminded of a physics professor who tells the student that he got many wrong answers on an exam. The student takes it as a personal attack and bad-mouths the professor whenever possible. In the student's opinion, the professor is an idiot. This may be what we're coming to on the Mac Web.

There are concrete facts available in coverage of Apple. Apple is making a lot of money, selling desirable products. Customers seem oblivious to the analysis, good and bad, being tossed around on the Internet. When one author points out those facts, if he questions another article regarding obvious errors of analysis or omission of facts, it's an attempt to both stabilize the discussion and inform the reader.

Of course, the reader is free to draw his or her own conclusion about the discussion -- whether it's just stupidity. My colleage, Bryan Chaffin, has written about that.

What has happend so far is that 1) readers know which authors know their stuff, but there's a concerted effort to negate that by using lurid headlines about Apple, and 2) many of the some-time writers who are blasting Apple haven't been able to make a dent in Apple's success or product plans, and they're absolutely furious.

Today, that war escalated.

Today, Jay Yarow at Business Insider wrote an article with the headline "Apple Blogger Praises Apple For Making Insignificant Improvements To Apple Maps." (I decline to provide the link.) The essence of this article, aside from some technical discussion, is that a well-known author, a very experienced Apple observer, Jim Dalrymple, was called out by name for saying something positive about Apple.

This seems to me like the student blasting the physics professor. Mr. Yarow wrote that Mr. Dalrymple "disparaged" (or graded if you will) the Wall Street Journal. (Mr. Dalrymple, with some admittedly salty language, cited multiple sources that contradicted the opinions and analysis of the WSJ. )

I would hate to think that we've entered a new, troubling era. If you don't toe the line, if you don't follow the conventional wisdom, the idea that Apple is doomed, and if you question our analysis about all that, then we'll call you out by name and belittle your article in the headline.

This has gone quite far enough.

The simple fact of the matter is that there are distinguished, capable writers whom you can trust when you read their thoughts about Apple. Mr. Dalrymple is one and has long been considered one of the most authoritative writers about Apple. Just because he points to errors of omission and errors in logic and analysis by others doesn't make him a biased, brainless Apple fanboy. Not every opinion is valid, and we as writers must write plainly so readers can judge us on the merits.

After all, Apple executives, from my own experience, aren't paying much attention to this mudslinging and are, instead, focused on pleasing the customers. The customers, in turn, are happy with the products they buy and are making Apple very wealthy and successful. Apple, like the laws of physics, has its own objective reality in the world, and our job is to identify it and make sense of it.

Those who have the privilege of some airtime should help their readers understand and cope with technology. Making sense of all this technology is tough enough and requires expert knowledge and education. With powerful companies at each other's throats, spending great sums to influence us, conclusions about complex technologies can vary. For example, the absolute claim that Apple Maps remains far behind Google Maps requires major testing and analysis, not just a bold assertion. Different people will have different results, even as Apple, moving heaven and earth, is trying to make it right.

There may be a regrettable, emerging temptation to call out other authors because they're trying to use common sense, reason and observational facts and aren't falling for the "Apple is doomed" notion. I would hope, instead, that we writers always remain cool and relaxed, remain analytic and technical and show great respect for others. The readers have a right to that.

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Comments

Shawn King

“I would hate to think that we’ve entered a new, troubling era. If you don’t toe the line, if you don’t follow the conventional wisdom, and if you question our analysis about all that, then we’ll call you out by name and belittle your article in the headline.”

This is not new. Mac users should recognize the above as exactly the mission statement of Guy Kawasaki’s Evangelist. But now that it’s being turned on the Mac Community, pundits are getting holier than thou.
Chickens coming home to roost.

Peter

Some of my complaints with the “concrete facts” tends to be that these facts were pooh-poohed years ago by many of these same writers.

Remember how we were told how great iOS is, as compared to Android, because Apple has hundreds of thousands of apps and Android has very few.  So the number of applications is a way of measuring how good a platform is.

Yet, if you dared to point out that Windows has far more applications than Mac OS X, so by that metric one could say that Windows is better than Mac OS X, this was obviously a ridiculous line of argument and Mac/Windows and iOS/Android are a completely different thing!  You just can’t compare the two!

Or if people said, “Apple must be right because, hey, look at their stock!” and you pointed out that there was a time when Microsoft stock was riding high, which means that Windows must be better, you were told, again, that you can’t make that comparison and it’s a completely different thing altogether!

Back when Apple’s market-share in phones was riding high, I unearthed this little gem from MacKido, circa 1999, talking about other “most popular” things.  As Apple’s market-share drops, I’m sure we’ll see the same arguments come up from those who formerly were all about Apple’s market-share.

I think you’re also off-base.  I read Mr. Dalrymple’s article, titled “Apple’s Maps being updated often and significantly” about the improvements in Maps.  He basically says that there’s more Flyover cities and a bunch of improvements for locating restaurants, etc.  I also read the 58 comments that said, “This is still screwed up, this is still screwed up, this is still screwed up…”  Hell, Apple still insists the closest place for ribs to my house is a Tony Roma’s that closed eight years ago!  I don’t care about flyover in Baltimore, MD.  I don’t care about Flyover in general.  It’s cute but useless.

As an aside, one of those comments showed how Apple maps has gotten worse.  Oops.

So I have no problem with what Jay Yarrow said—and, yes, I’ll provide the link because I believe in allowing to people to see what I’m talking about, rather than just taking my word for it.  Jim Dalrymple said, “when Tim Cook said he was focusing Apple’s attention to fix the issues, he meant it. And it shows.”  And to prove this, he noted that Apple added 3D support for 16 new cities, updated 14 other cities, and added new buildings for 12 cities.

Of course, the “issues” with Apple Maps have nothing to do with how many cities have flyover data.  They have to do with being able to find the closest store.  Here it still is failing and if Jim really thinks that having 3D Views of Baltimore is somehow more important than being able to find the closest rib joint, he definitely needs a reality check.

AdamC

Business Insider is just a rag, I had stopped reading their craps especially this yarrow character. He had been writing very negative stuffs about Apple for years.
Do I need to give them my click, the answer is no.

Btw anything else they write besides Apple will garner them no returns hence they must stick to the Apple like leeches which they are.

Imagestealer

“After all, Apple executives, from my own experience, aren’t paying much attention to this mudslinging and are, instead, focused on pleasing the customers. The customers, in turn, are happy with the products they buy and are making Apple very wealthy and successful.”

Bravo for this article.  There are so many folks out there that are only writing articles for their own self-aggrandizement or for mercenary purposes, with little or no research or simply made up from whole cloth.

Regarding the quote above, I too work in a manufacturing environment where the satisfaction of the customer is our number one priority.  That is not to say that we are always successful, but that is our goal. 

It has been my observation that if you manufacture, sell, and support an item that meets a need of your customer or target market, that you will be successful.  That is certainly true of Apple.

Keep up the good work.

Gnarlodious

One gets the impression this agitprop is sponsored by interests that want to temporarily drive down the value of Apple stock. Its a common trick.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I would hate to think that we’ve entered a new, troubling era. If you don’t toe the line, if you don’t follow the conventional wisdom, the idea that Apple is doomed, and if you question our analysis about all that, then we’ll call you out by name and belittle your article in the headline.

Welcome to the flip side of the comments section, John.

John Martellaro

Brad: Good point. That’s why I like to see civility on both sides.

wab95

Sme very thoughtful comments, John.

Unfortunately, there is a war afoot, a very real war amongst corporate titans not simply for market share and profits, but platform hegemony and the collateral gain of being able to launch yet new supportive systems, services and products that expand ecosystems and further extend competitive lead. These are high stakes bids for, in some cases, zero-sum dominance where, in the minds of some corporate leaders, only one company can be left standing. We are witness to this life and death contest, and have seen the effective demise of some of the combatants (RIM, cum Blackberry, possibly MS as a prime player in the ultraportable space), and the emergence of new hardware manufacturers who have a shot at disrupting non-related industries, e.g. Amazon.

Having lived in war-torn countries, I can offer that one thing that war affords is the opportunity for smaller players to settle scores, whether in small groups, like one tribe or family against another, or between individuals. One sees this in the blogosphere, where a pundit or lesser known writer posts something that is either ignored or disparaged, and later, should circumstances permit and even a glimmer of vindication be afforded by some metric, retaliation is meted out with relish, generally in the form of public ridicule and character assassination. One’s personal enemies, summarily dispatched and buried in an unmarked grave.

There is however, at least in my view, another dimension to this, and it is a time-tested and honoured art of war, and that is propaganda. If you’ve lived with this, it’s easy to spot because its features are invariant, even if the specific messages vary. In a well-run propaganda war, not only does one attempt to deprive one’s foes of any sense of hope, thereby demoralising them while simultaneously extending the olive branch of switching sides, one vigorously prosecutes those more strong minded foes who dare not to cower but question your authority and assertions with a campaign of intimidation; the more forceful and humiliating, the better and the easier it becomes to take control of public discourse, correctness and ‘truth’. Your enemies are now either dead or silent, in fear of death (even if vicariously).

This latter is my observation of some of the attacks I witness online, and what convinces me that not all of this vendetta being meted out amongst small parties, but something more organised, strategic and deadly between the major combatants and those assets on whom they rely to get their messages out. Apple and the other tech titans know who are their critics and analysts, which ones are friendly and which hostile, and there is no denying the strategic advantage of disabling, temporarily if that’s all that’s available, permanently if possible, a hostile. This is, after all, warfare; it may be corporate but it’s still war.

And for some, victory will only be achieved when all their enemies lie silent, dead or alive. I rather hope that such ambitions are dashed by us, the consumers who, powered by realtime and coordinated communication, opt to enable that civil and open discourse that is the guarantor of freedom of thought and choice. Not only does that provide an antidote to propaganda, it creates an atmosphere in which competition, based on people’s right to choose, can flourish. That, in the long run, is the consumer’s victory.

Nicolas diPierro

I don’t think anyone, not Jim, especially not Apple, thinks Maps is fixed to the point of becoming a suitable replacement for Google’s product. The point is Apple is doing a lot of work, and it’s evident. Those of us living in a fact-based reality, understand this. Internet news is like a buffet bar. You can choose to fill your plate with lip-smacking junk food, or you can exert some willpower and find the healthy stuff.

It doesn’t take much digging to see what kind of operation Business Insider is. They’ve been accused of “over-aggregating” and flat out rewriting headlines to make them more inflammatory and click-worthy. http://www.marco.org/2011/09/23/business-insider

Then there’s its CEO and Editor-in-chief, Yale grad, Henry Blodget who is a former Wall Street technology analyst who has a lifetime ban for deceptively hyping stocks during the dot-com boom.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/magazine/joe-weisenthal-vs-the-24-hour-news-cycle.html?_r=0

You can complain about concrete facts like these, but that won’t make them less true—even if you adorn them with “irony quotes.”

craigf

I long ago added Business Insider to my Google News blacklist as a waste of my time. I’m always interested in informed commentary about Apple, including criticism, but what I saw over and over again from BI was just ignorant nonsense, me too-ism and malignant click bait.

ctopher

“I would hate to think that we’ve entered a new, troubling era. If you don’t toe the line, if you don’t follow the conventional wisdom, the idea that Apple is doomed, and if you question our analysis about all that, then we’ll call you out by name and belittle your article in the headline.”

Yet isn’t this analogous to what TMO does with it’s Apple Death Knell or Macworld with their Macalope? Gruber? even Loop Insite itself?

They all call out specific authors and specific articles. This does not seem unfair.

John Martellaro

ctopher: The process by how and when a writer calls out another writer varies from person to person. This article reflects my own standards.

ctopher

Mr. Martellaro: I take your point, but I disagree.

Like other blog on blog attacks, Yarrow calls out Dalrymple’s piece as reading more like a press release than someone commenting on what they discovered. Yarrow uses examples from loopinsight.com that indicate Dalrymple is an Apple supporter and a Samsung critic. Cherry picked? You can be sure, but at least he attempts to bolster his argument.

I suppose you object to Yarrow making the bulk of the article about the writer specifically. Well that’s what happens when your site is a one-man-show. The piece you reference from Dalrymple with the salty language calls out the publisher in the headline, but definitely calls out the author in the body of the piece, not by name, but by gender specific pronoun. A quick click and you find out the “he” is Steven Russolillo.

Would the escalation have been stayed had Yarrow replaced Dalrymple with “The Loop blog”?

ctopher

And my apologies, it’s Yarow. I should have copied and pasted.

And since I’m in a new comment I’d like to add that I do not consider Business Insider a media outlet worth reading. The Yarow article in question is nothing but a hit piece in all definitions of the phrase and not very good reading at that. At least the Macalope attempts to be humorous.

Shawn King

ctopher, you say, “at least he attempts to bolster his argument.” I would agree with that if it weren’t for Yarow’s own words.

If you intimate, as Yarow did, that someone writes “in a press release style” and wonder where someone got their information, isn’t it incumbent upon you to ask the person in question where they got their info?

I asked Jim Dalrymple on my show last night if Yarow had contacted him to ask. Jim said no. I asked Yarow on Twitter if he had contacted Dalrymple - Yarow said no.

With one email or tweet, Yarow could have confirmed for himself where Dalrymple was getting has information. But the truth wouldn’t have fit into Yarow’s preconceived story.

“Well that’s what happens when your site is a one-man-show.”

The Loop is three people - Dalrymple, Peter Cohen and (nominally) myself.

ctopher

Mr. King: My apologies, I didn’t do the proper legwork. But I still stand by my argument that Yarow’s piece is not worse than anyone else’s criticism. It’s the world we live in and I do not see it as an escalation.

And, as you point out, it wasn’t properly researched, which, considering the source, is not a big surprise.

That said, It didn’t happen to me, I’m not a tech journalist, I’m merely a hit-and-run reader and commenter so I have a different perspective.

Shawn King

ctopher: “I still stand by my argument that Yarow’s piece is not worse than anyone else’s criticism. It’s the world we live in and I do not see it as an escalation.”

I absolutely agree. I think John is typically overreacting here.

Bazz

This is the general malaise that USA has gotten itself into. 1984 said it all “Double Speak” peace is war, black is white,  Global warming is not.

It started with the “Silent Majority” back in ‘72 and those people have continued an attack on truth by denying that there is a problem. Google has learned from Microsoft that crime pays –  its hard to prove when the defense is a technical problem and a minor engineer did it. The buck stops at the corporal.

The president gets a pardon even before any criminal charges. Well big business is following suit. With a court case that said all corporations are innocent because its the corporals that did it! With fracking USA will have no water and no corporations to charge because Bush43 gave them immunity.

Apple is the scapegoat because Samsung, Google and Microsoft want its inventions for free. The best way to do it is with double speak and make the innocent criminals and the criminals innocent!!

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