Under the Category of "Know Your Rights…"

Everyone is picking up the story of the Google Glass wearer who was pulled out of an Ohio movie theatre by “The Feds” because they thought he was recording the movie he and his wife were watching.

There will be all kinds of pundits talking about the various aspects of this case but this pundit wants to talk about two specific aspects of it. The Glass wearer said:

the “feds” telling me I am not under arrest, and that this is a “voluntary interview…”

If that were the case and you felt uncomfortable with the “interview”, get up and leave. You are within your rights.

He goes on to say:

but if I choose not to cooperate bad things may happen to me (is it legal for authorities to threaten people like that?).

They most certainly are. The US Supreme Court has said that a certain amount of obfuscation, intimidation and outright lying is permissible by the authorities and their agents.

In a follow up post on another web site, the Glass wearer said:

I didn’t get the contact information for the officers.

Always, ALWAYS get “contact info”. Ask for a business card of everyone you speak to. If they don’t have a card, ask for a piece of paper, a pen and their ID. Take your time and write down all the information about your “interviewer” you can get.

Luckily, he seems to have learned his lesson:

In the event somebody else shoves a badge in my face in the future (not in a traffic situation), my plan is to say “lawyer” and then nothing else. If I am in a traffic situation I plan to just be polite, and if the traffic officer decides to give me a ticket for wearing Glass I plan to fight it in court.

As an aside, he also says:

the federal militia (sorry, I cannot think of other derogatory words).

Dude. You really need to learn more and better curse words. I can think of a dozen even before I’ve had coffee.

To be fair, I get that for the vast majority of people, being “interviewed” by the police can be a terrifying experience. All the more reason to know what to do ahead of time.

How Sleazy is Leander Kahney?

The headline of his Cult of Mac post (no link – you can find it easily) is, “Did Feud With Jony Ive Keep Tony Fadell From Returning To Apple?”

That’s a serious question. Would something as simple and perhaps petty as an interdepartmental feud keep Apple from taking advantage of all that Fadell offers? Possibly.

Kahney then goes on for ten paragraphs enumerating all the ways in which he believes Ive got Fadell and others fired. It’s not until halfway through the article that he says:

I’m inclined to take Fadell’s explanation of the Google aquisition at face value.

SO WHY THE FUCK DID YOU WRITE THIS BULLSHIT?

I have no problem believing Ive didn’t get along with any number of people. I have no problem believing that Fadell wouldn’t have sold to Apple over some (petty or not) disagreement with Ive. But Kahney tries to have his cake and stuff it in his pie hole too, arguing both sides of the story.

That’s typical Cult of Mac level sleaze.

Take Responsibility for Your Own Data Security

The New York Times, in a story “Stop Asking Me for My Email Address“, said this:

I was in the middle of buying a swimsuit recently when the sweet lady behind the boutique counter asked me for my email address.

“We won’t spam you or anything,” she said, perplexed. “We just need it for our database.”

I knew then that the conversation was headed into a whole lot of awkward, as it had dozens of times before.

Awkward? Why? When did we become such namby pamby pussies that we can’t say “Thanks but no thanks”?

I’ve also been in that situation dozens of times. And each and every time I simply say, “No thank you.” Nothing awkward about it.

Another headline last week was “We’re All to Blame for Target Hack”. Bullshit. That’s an offensive “blame the victim” mindset. But, that being said, it’s called “private data” for a reason. It is way past time for individuals to take more responsibility for their own privacy and security. I wasn’t worried about the Target hack because I know I’ve never given Target any kind of data that can be used against me by The Bad Guys.

DON’T give out your email address just because some company asks you for it. There are half a dozen web sites that will allow you to set up a “fake” address. Use it for these kinds of situations if you have to and simply never check the address.

NEVER use your Social Security, Social Insurance, Passport or Drivers License number for identification or tracking purposes.

We regularly hand over data simply because we’re politely asked.

Politely say, “Thanks but no thanks”.

Why I think untrained journalists are a bad idea.

If you read as much tech media as I do, you’d pull your hair out in frustration.

The vast majority of those writing for any number of Mac news sites simply shouldn’t be “reporting”. They don’t know how.

Just because you can type doesn’t mean you can write. Just because some web site publisher has asked you to report on a story, doesn’t mean you have the chops to do so.

The vast majority of (untrained) journalists do not have the proper filters, contacts, or background to handle these kinds of stories. They don’t know when to call into question potentially bad information. They don’t have people to call to verify, confirm, or simply gut-check the information. And, they don’t have the knowledge…to ask the right questions about this kind of situation and then provide valuable perspective that can help the public understand the larger implications.

Without this kind of perspective, tech sites (are) likely to propagate many of the rumors and false information…spreading like wildfire across the web. Acting as a megaphone for that stuff negatively impacts their readers and the public at large.

I stole and slightly rewrote the above paragraph from Jason Hiner’s story “Why tech media had no business covering the Boston Marathon bombing” but I think it also fits in with so much of what we read in the tech media in general and certainly the Mac media specifically.

I’ve always said that journalism is too important to leave it to the untrained masses.

"Stop Trying to Judge CES" I don't. I judge The Media at CES.

Matt Honan has a piece over at Wired.com – “Stop Trying to Judge CES” – that, while it may be correct for someone attending CES, is completely tone deaf for those outside of the un-cozy confines of the Las Vegas Convention Center this past week.

While Honan acknowledges how much crap is at CES:

Skepticism is a must, otherwise you just end up with bloodless endorsements of everything. At booth after booth you’ll see an avalanche of me-too junk pitched as the first and best and only–even when there’s something just like it sitting one booth away. It’s easy to become overwhelmed, and just want it all to go away.

But still tries to make the point:

We shouldn’t let that skepticism and weariness make the leap to outright cynicism. There is still much to be excited about here.

He may be right but, from the outside looking in, it’s hard to see what there is to get so excited about.

As I’ve said before, the Tech Media at CES fundamentally fails in separating the wheat from the chaff. When sites like The Verge unquestioningly promote fake products like a “connected toothbrush” that not only isn’t available any time in the near future, it may *never* be available, it’s hard not to get not just world weary over CES but downright cynical about not only the show but of all the breathless announcements the tech media foists on us.

When sites claim some new iPhone case can act like a personal protector and “tase” a bad guy (when it obviously can do no such thing), then the media serves not as a watchdog for their readership but as the lapdog for the interests and companies they are there to cover.

We’ve all seen tech sites claim this CES is all about “wearables” but when Techhive’s Best of Show Award goes to a wearable for dogs, it’s hard to see where the hype falls away and the reality of wearables starts.

Honan is as guilty as anyone when it comes to not being able to see the forest for the trees. After all, this is the guy who couldn’t understand why his wife didn’t want him to broadcast the birth of their second child via Google Glass. He says in his piece:

Take the new Oculus Rift Crystal Cove prototype. It is absolutely mind-blowing; pure amazement in your face. This VR headset is going to change the world.

Let me be the first to tell you – no, it won’t. While it may very well be amazing and cool, it will just be another piece of gaming gear that will fall by the wayside, used only by those who need to immerse themselves in the latest first person shooter or flight sim. The world doesn’t care.

I have no problem with companies bringing prototypes products, pie in the sky ideas and outrageously expensive TV’s, cars and phones to show off at CES, even if those just serve to try and attract attention from investors, buyers and the media. The auto industry has been doing it for years.

My problem is when the media is complicit in the marketing and PR of the above. When the media not only doesn’t have a healthy skepticism over what they see, but worse, puts blinders on and continues to unquestioningly act on behalf of CES, vendors and manufacturers and not in the best interests of their readers.

So until that changes, we should all continue to judge CES and the people who cover it on our behalf.

Why does CES Suck? Because Lazy Tech Media

If you are a gadget geek, CES is heaven on earth. More electronics than you can shake a stick at and some of the electronics are even IN that stick.

But separating the few tiny grains of wheat from a million square feet of chaff takes a lot of work. It’s a shame the Tech Media isn’t up to the task.

We rely on the media to tell us what is important. To inform us. If they fail at that job, they are useless. Worse, they become part of the problem. Far too often, the media, especially in the technology sphere, simply act as a marketing/PR arm of various companies. CES shows that in stark relief.

A perfect example is yesterday’s “announcement” of the Kolibree smart toothbrush:

The Verge: “Kolibree’s smart toothbrush claims to track and improve your dental hygiene
CNET: “Kolibree’s connected toothbrush aims for better dental health
Mashable: “World’s First Connected Toothbrush Will Keep Cavities Away

On the surface, a “connected toothbrush” sounds a bit silly. The first thing I would do as a journalist is talk to a dentist about it – none of the above linked articles do.

Reading the above articles (and others), you’ll notice this:

Kolibree will launch a Kickstarter campaign this summer, with prices ranging between $99 and $200 for various models.

Wait…what?

So it’s not available in stores now. It won’t be available to buy in the next couple of months. It might never come to market if the Kickstarter campaign fails.

SO WHY WRITE ABOUT IT?

The media has to be constantly on guard to ensure that a company isn’t simply using them to promote a product. CES is notorious for that. Hundreds if not thousands of products have been shown at CES simply to generate buzz and then money from investors. The media should never voluntarily be part of a company’s marketing.

I have a rule about CES coverage. When I was going to the show, I would ask a vendor, “What is the price and when will it be available to consumers?” If they had no number for the first, I didn’t take them seriously. I’d listen to their pitch and thank them for their time and then be on my way.

If the second number was more than three months away, same response. If a vendor can’t tell you those two things with any accuracy, their product simply isn’t “real” yet and the tech media shouldn’t be writing about it.

There are plenty of viable, interesting, cool products at a show like CES. But if all the lazy tech media does is parrot press releases, it is hard for the general public to find out about them.

How Lazy is the Tech Media?

The Show from Hell, CES starts next week and the press releases are flying. The Consumer Electronics Association, the folks who put on CES, have sent out a PR titled, “CEA Announces iBeacon Scavenger Hunt at 2014 International CES“. Oohh…sounds exciting.

Of course, everyone in the Tech Media reprinted, in various versions, the CEA PR:

iLounge: “iBeacon ‘scavenger hunt’ game planned for 2014 CES
Cult of Mac: “CES Using Apple’s iBeacon For Scavenger Hunt On Show Floor Next Week
Appleinsider: “Apple’s iBeacon tech to be highlighted in CES scavenger hunt
AppAdvice: “CES 2014 To Conduct Special Scavenger Hunt Using Apple’s iBeacon Technology
Computerworld: “Apple iBeacon tech lights up CES 2014
iClarified: “Apple’s iBeacon Technology to be Featured in CES 2014 Scavenger Hunt
iMore: “CES hosting iBeacon scavenger hunt through official mobile apps
CNET: “Apple’s iBeacon tech to be used for fun in CES scavenger hunt
iPhoneHacks: “CES 2014 to feature an iBeacon-driven scavenger hunt

All of the above sites (and more) mentioned “The first three verified players to collect all iBeacon badges will be awarded a “special prize.””

Now, if you’re a reporter, wouldn’t you be curious to know what that “special prize” was? I would be. So I went to the CEA PR and checked. They don’t list the prizes but they do link to the official contest rules. That PDF says:

Prize: One tablet computer. MSRP: $900.00. One fitness band. MSRP: $150.00. Official CES press bag. Estimated value of $100. Total maximum ARV of all prizes: $1,300.00.

First of all, big fucking deal on the prizes.

Secondly, is there a (good) reason none of the above listed web sites bothered to find out the same information? It’s not like it was a hard thing to do. But for each and every one of them, it was easier to simply regurgitate the CEA PR rather than be a real “reporter”.

Lazy.