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On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger

The Mac Web's Credibility, Oh Dear
November 23rd, 1999

I appreciate the existence of the Mac community of Web sites that offer content related to the Macintosh as a platform of choice. It is a dynamic little oasis on the Net where a lot of talented and professional people seem to live for the Macintosh. Some write columns, report news, write reviews, etc.

Sounds nice, right? Well, this online community has its, well, you know the word to describe someone you do not like. They are a stain on us. They give us a bad name. Hence Apple's criticism of the Web as a media for its platform. No wonder they have been slow to refuse to collaborate with any Web site out there!

I will not give out any particular names, I do not wish to start anything with the organizations and individuals I will criticize. But if you read several major Mac Web sites regularly, you will see through my words and find out who they really are.

The rumor sites
Do we really need them? They harm the more serious publications. If they have good information, they will certainly publish. This harms Apple's announcements because it kills the suspense. It is nice to hear a surprise coming directly from Steve Jobs' mouth, not from a Web site. To know everything in advance spoils the fun and it does not contribute in our credibility with Apple.

If they have nothing to say, then they invent stories and defend themselves with the argument that they, as humans, can fail and that their sources are not always well informed. A prime example of this is an insider site that came up with a story about the selling of Apple to Disney, Steve Jobs becoming the CEO of the latter, etc. Wow... if it happened, please point me toward the announcement, because as far as I can tell, Apple is not Disney's property. Unless I missed something, Michael Eisner is still Disney's CEO. Ahem.

Then, there are the ones who have nothing to say and who need something to fill their Web pages. This can be defined as taking stories from other sites, rewriting them and say "hey, we have a scoop!" One of those rumor sites actually "borrowed" a story from the Mac Observer in this fashion. Talk about creativity. It can also be about a super popular veteran columnist (you know who I am talking about) from a popular Mac publishing company who talks about the possible selling of Apple to get some hits to his site until he got whacked for it. Traffic is one thing, observing ethics is another.

The controversial ones
Sometimes flamers are people seeking attention. These writers do not help anybody, except maybe the hit count of their sites because controversy generates traffic. Take, for example, the column named after the concept of letting your weapons shoot freely against other people on the Net. The authors remain unnamed! This regular column is filled with insults toward the industry, its contributors, and Apple itself.

Take this other guy who writes a column (named after the idea of letting your pressure out) for a well-known opinion site. His use of the "f" words is pathetic. He uses a good part of his Web space justifying his "bad language errors," instead of coming up with solid editorial views. As far as I know, the English language allows educated people to communicate with each other in a polite fashion. You can utter forceful words without using a baseball bat. Yes, it is really possible. I hope the author in question is reading me at this very moment. Nah, he would throw f words at me :-)

Then, there is the man who calls any of Apple's consumer products "girlie" or "Barbie" or just whatever comes to his mind. True enough, this guy is not a part of the Mac Web, but he irritates everybody and the Mac Web starts to pursue him instead of focusing on the real issues about the platform. Splat, another stain on us.

Conclusion... sort of
You know, Dan Knight at Low End Mac and my editor (Bryan Chaffin), have complained about how Apple has treated Mac Web sites. I, myself, have shared thoughts about Apple ignoring the Mac Web as a credible journalism institution. After further thought, I realized that some elements of the Mac Web are well beyond our reach. The rumor sites, controversy makers and other troublemaking contributors will - for the profit generated by hits - prevent the online Mac media from acquiring any type of credibility in Apple's eyes. The effect? We are all in the same bag. You run a Mac related site? You supposedly publish rumors or controversies, therefore Apple will dislike you. Thanks to the people mentioned above for giving us such a reputation.

Your comments are welcomed.

Michael Munger is a French Canadian living in Montreal. He discovered the Mac in 1994 while studying journalism, the profession he loves and practices. He also studied history and communications. In addition to his work at The Mac Observer, he authors the iBasics tutorial column at Low End Mac, and cofounded MacSoldiers in 1998.

You can find more about him at his personal Web site.

You are welcome to send me your comments or you can post them below.

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