Friday, September 24, 2010

Blogger Telephone: What Apple's Apple TV delay email said

We've all heard about the bad things about blogs; that in their haste to be topical they often serve to simply repeat and broadcast inaccurate information without proper fact checking. But a phenomenon that I don't think get's enough coverage is what I call "Blog Telephone:" how a story on one blog gets repeated on another, but subtly changed, adding unrelated information that gets weaved into the original story. That story then gets reinterpreted and retold, creating a whole new inaccuracy. Like this example:

1). Yesterday, at 8PM, AppleInsider published a note that Apple had sent out an email to some customers informing them that shipping charges will be refunded due to a possible 'delay.' It quotes the email:
"Our records indicate that when you placed your order you paid for upgraded shipping," Apple wrote in the emails. "Due to a delay, we may have not been able to meet our delivery commitment."
It also notes that early pre-orders continue to be listed as shipping in September, that Apple started authorizing credit cards on Wednesday, and that Apple started charging orders for the iPad roughly a WEEK before that device started shipping.
AppleInsider: Apple issuing refunds for Apple TV rush orders, citing delay

2). This morning (about 10:00am) CrunchGear posted it's own article referencing only the AppleInsider article, with the headline "Apple TV Delayed By Weeks" and noting:
The Apple TV product page always listed September as the ship date, but now it says 2-3 weeks.
It also separately printed the quote from the AppleInsider email. And I should note that Readers pointed out that CrunchGear might be conflating unrelated facts, but the article remains unchanged at the moment.
CrunchGear: Apple TV Delayed By Weeks, Cable Company Execs Heard Rejoicing

3). At 10:39am, Gizmodo published: Apple TV Orders Delayed Up to 3 Weeks, and in it's article combined the email and the information CrunchGear had added to say:
Apparently several customers have gotten emails from the company indicating a 2-3 week delay, and offering a refund for the shipping charge. According to Apple Insider [...]

So in three posts, we went from an email from Apple saying "we may not be able to meet our delivery commitment" to an email from Apple saying "2-3 week delay."

Stories change fast.

NOTE: Since there's a chance there was a second (unpublished) email from Apple saying that there is a 2-3 week delay, I have emailed Gizmodo asking them to clarify their sourcing. I haven't heard back form them.

P.S. Yeah, I know, I screw up sometimes too. It' not my intention to blame these sites for their mistakes and errors - we are all human and make mistakes - but to point out how problems occur even when people are attempting to honestly report on subjects, and that the reader should always check sourcing.

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