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Rodney's Soapbox
by Rodney O. Lain

An Apology To The Rumor Sites… This Time
July 28th, 2000

It's just like being a married man… you know, talking about how faithful he is. Then somebody comes along with a Playboy [magazine]. Hey, you know he's gonna sneak a peek!

from an interview with Ice-T, outspoken rapper and long-time Mac advocate

Well, I'll be…

The rumor sites got it right, vis-á-vis predictions about the G4 Cube. In a big way.

In the past, I used to laugh at the way they would preface their predictions with a CYA disclaimer that basically said "Apple might introduce the following or they might not…" then proceed to spin out some cockamamie story that appeared to be pulled out of their collective you-know-what.

For example: earlier this year, one of the rumor sites reported something about FileMaker Pro not even being on the road towards becoming OS X complaint; that same day, I spoke with an FileMaker employee who told me the opposite. Which one is right?

Another example: one rumor site talked about having a private connection to one of Apple's QuickTime servers. The believability rating on that spun yarn was negative four.

I could go on and on, but need not.

I will say this though: the rumor sites are the Matt Drudge's of the Mac media. No one in the media likes Matt Drudge. They all scoff at his reporting methods, yet they grudgingly admit that it was the "Drudge Report" that continually broke stories like Monica Lewinsky and other "newsworthy" events that appealed to our prurient interests -- you know, the things that the reading public really cares about.

It's no big secret that I'm no fan of the rumor sites, and by extension, neither am I a fan of the people who publish them. To be honest, in earlier days, I used to go to Mac OS Rumors just to laugh at their pages that listed the specs of future Apple products, courtesy of their "trusted sources" (btw, if you check ‘em out now, you'll see that those links are no longer extant). However, I felt that I should write this column to show that I'm fair enough to extend kudos to the big lugs for actually getting something right.

It was really amazing to see that the big boys in the media -- ZDNet, CNet, et al, used the rumor sites as fodder for their pre-MACWORLD coverage. It turned out to be a good move for them to publish those rumors. Imagine that.

Who'd a thunk that the pictures of the Cube gracing the sites (even though they didn't get the correct details in their product specs) were legit? Next time we will give more credence to reports based on tips from such "trusted sources" spilling the beans about up-and-coming products. Maybe next time we will believe the postings to these same sites about letters comprising Apple Legal's cease-and-desist orders. I won't be so judgmental next time if Ric Ford posts to his site rumor-related news like his pointed, lawyer-assisted response to Apple's legal eagles.

It was the stuff of soap operas, stuff that would give "As the Apple Turns" a run for its money, even at its satirical best.

The thing that disturbs me, however, is no longer the fact that rumor sites are here to stay (I lump that realization with my teenage epiphany that beautiful women also pass gas). What really puzzles me is the fact that there are Apple employees who are brave enough to leak info to the cyber rumor mongers. To pass along a juicy tidbit is nice, but to risk incurring the Wrath of Steve? Repeatedly?

Perish the thought.

You don't need to read the forthcoming book The Second Coming of Steve Jobs to know that the iGodfather of All Things Macintosh likes his corporate secrets. And it's common knowledge that the man possesses the temper of all tempers whenever he feels crossed -- or disobeyed.

Well, on the bright side, it could be worse; those rumor-site moles could be feeding product info to, say, Gateway or Dell…

Anyway, kudos to the rumor sites. You fed us a good line this time. And you were gracious enough not to say "I told you so." There. I said it. Satisfied?

Even after having given the devil his due, I still believe that the rumor sites are a bastardization of good reporting and good journalism; after all, it appears that they are wrong just as often as they are right. Kinda like the weatherman. I predict that they will do to Mac news what "Survivor" has done to prime-time TV: push us one step closer to becoming a nation of voyeurs, busy bodies, and tattle tales. This Jerry Springerization of the Mac web is an outrage. Even though they get it right every now and then (hey, even the blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut), there still is something about the process of rumor mongering that gives me bad vibes. Mac OS Rumors, Appleinsider, and the like are still, in many ways, an abomination to all that is good and proper about journalism.

But if they ever stop publishing, like many of you, I'll probably kill myself :-)

Your comments are welcomed.

Most Recent Columns From Rodney's Soapbox

Evangelist’s Diary #1: ‘Forget Circuit City… I’m Working At Micro Center!’
September 8th

Shhh! Shhhh! Don't Evangelize The Mac!
August 25th

It Never Was The 'Computer For The Rest Of Us'
August 11th

Rodney's Soapbox Archives

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Rodney O. Lain ( first used an Apple computer to learn BASIC in 1980-81. He used PCs from the late 1980s until 1995, where he was forced to teach a college writing course with the assistance of Windows 95 machines. After noticing that the all-Mac lab next door didn’t have five computers crashing every day, he bought his first Power Macintosh, back when educator’s discounts were true discounts. It’s been OS bliss ever since. Having worked as a college prof, a journalist, and a tech-support specialist, he currently is a manager at major shipping-and-logistics corporation. He currently lives in Minnesota with his wife, who has finally accepted the fact that her husband has a relationship with his PowerBook G3 that borders on the sexual.

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