Stuck in the middle

The latest Uber "scandal" makes a few things clear, to me at least.

  1. The tech industry needs to change, to adjust to the reality that it’s no longer a startup industry. Our products are used everywhere. They are infrastructure, culture, part of our work and family lives, our intellectual, financial and emotional lives.

  2. Tech products are utilities, not miracles.

  3. The people who develop the products are creative people, some of them, and some are engineers. We are not gods. Never were. But we used to like to hear that we were.

  4. The press obliged. They love the money. Not because they get the money, they don’t. But it’s easier to follow the money than it is to understand the technology. So they report the mystique of the genius that creates our gee-whiz tech. That might have made sense in the 70s and 80s, but not now. Tech is the fabric of our civilization. It’s not a mystery.

  5. Sources now have the power of the press. There is nothing surprising or wrong with the idea of a tech company investigating reporters. The idea that only reporters have the ability to publish is a 20th century idea. Now anyone who wants to speak can start a blog or a podcast and get up and speak.

  6. What do the reporters fear will be discovered about them? The biggest most obvious truth is that most of them are lazy and report the same story everyone else does. They wait for the press release. How can you tell? Just watch the river. It’s amazing how a story "breaks" across all the different tech pubs at the same time. There are only a handful of publications that do real reporting. Most of what we get are repurposed press releases.

  7. So where the tech industry has to grow up, the tech press has to earn its keep. There are plenty of stories that never get covered. Why is Chrome such a buggy slow browser? Maybe the web would do better if someone in tech loved it. Why will Google go to such lengths to smear a blogger (me) who reports on it? The press cares when they get slimed (or potentially get slimed, it was just an idea that the Uber exec uttered, not a plan, or any kind of disclosure). The users know that Google is letting us down with Chrome. Don’t the tech reporters use this product? Don’t they notice that the quality is slipping? Why not write about it? That’s a really good question. If the answer is they fear upsetting people at Google, then it’s a much bigger deal than an Uber exec expressing frustration with some very awful reporting they’ve had to endure.

  8. Yes, Uber is right. Sorry. They have every right to be upset about the "coverage" that Pando is doing. What an embarrassment for the industry. That the tech press is willing to go to war over Pando, just shows how ridiculous the whole thing has gotten. How would you feel if an editorial series blasted you for being an "asshole," literally — that’s the word they used to describe Uber management. Not just in passing, as the key idea in a campaign. If we want the industry to grow up, the press has to grow up too. Name-calling is not something anyone should defend.

  9. We need to be thinking and deciding, and not just for the short-term. Our work is important for the future of our civilization. Let’s get serious about what we’re doing. It’s important. We should have fun, but let’s behave like what we do matters, because it does.

Stuck in the middle with you

The title of this piece comes from a Stealers Wheel song from the 1970s.

Clowns to the left, jokers to the right, etc etc.

I'm trying to think but nothing happens!

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