Bogus Apple Rumours

In a hilarious bit of fun, a Swedish design firm decided to perpetrate a hoax upon the Apple rumour-mill Web community.

First to get the ‘word’ out: Our very own DrCrypt, later followed-up after the truth came out.

Many other Apple sites went along for the ride, but all of this serves to demonstrate 2 things:

  1. Tech blogs are not particularly good at fact-checking and don’t bother with getting any kind of confirmation before going out to the public.
  2. Being first matters a lot more than being right.

And you wonder why we still haven’t seen the infamous iTV, even though it’s been reported over and over again as being imminent? Well, it seems that even Apple analysts are just as prone to error as Apple bloggers.

I suppose it speaks to the collective fascination with Apple, its products, its leadership, and its future that so many sites are dedicated to dubious rumours. I’m as guilty as the next Apple fan of reading those sites, but I’d like to think it takes a bit more than a blurry pic to get the ball rolling. Guess not!

Thing it, it makes perfect sense and it was reported as a rumour.

Hoax conducted on news outlet. News at 11.

…Or is THIS a hoax as well?

Initially, yes. But as other sites started reporting on the story, the rumour mentions dwindled and the factualness of the story was affirmed, in a classic broken-telephone.

Is an asymmetric screw even possible? I’m guessing Brownlee got his doctorate in the humanities.

…Yes

Ha! I’d be lying if I said that this hadn’t proven to be a bit of a headache for me, but a few points:

a) The nature of my job is one in which things like this (which are widely disseminated on services like Reddit) are reported in real-time, and we then update the story going forward (either by making additional posts, or in this case, by amending the original article) as we get more information. Social networks and blogs make stories go a lot faster than they once did, and we try to keep pace with that.

b) We are also a blog, and part of what we’re trying to do there is give our readers a look at the landscape of what is happening in the Mac space during any given time, which includes rumors, speculations, and things going viral as well as original reports and traditional news. We like to credit our readers with enough discernment to make up their own minds about these types of stories, which might seem like a cop-out, but due to the secrecy of Apple, almost every story about upcoming products is unconfirmable speculation: anyone reading an Apple blog must make up their own minds about some stories in order to make sense of things. Apple’s certainly not going to tip their hand.

c) We reported this story with clearly stated caution and skepticism (as Day4 themselves note: they weren’t out to burn bloggers, they were out to study credulity on the long tail of social media regurgitation). We labeled it a rumor right in our headline (unfortunately, because we updated the post with iFixIt’s comments, this got overridden, but check the URL and you can see it). We also reached out to both Apple and iFixIt to try to get to the bottom of this, and when iFixIt gave us good, sound technical reasons why they thought this was fake, we were the first people to publish these remarks.

d) Despite repeated emails and calls from me, Apple never commented on this story, despite the fact that it was published almost a week ago.

e) Finally, while the design of this screw was bullshit, this is very much in line with the direction in repairability Apple has been taking over the last few years. They’re using proprietary screws; they are soldering and gluing things together so you can’t repair them. Even if this specific rumor turned out to be bullshit (which, again, we said right in our post was a distinct possibility), we thought it was worth at least discussing in light of what Apple has been doing.

I think Day4 did a pretty great job raising awareness about just how credulous long tail readers can be, and that’s something we need to keep in mind going forward: our readers may be discerning enough to weigh a rumor for factuality and either discard it or embrace it, but readers hearing about it later second-hand don’t have that context, and may not have that discernment.

I’m not embarrassed about having written about this at all, and I’m glad it’s done something to raise awareness on how we perceive information and make decisions about the veracity of rumors in the social media age. They really did a great job.

Oh, one last thing: when it turned out that this was a hoax, we were also the first Apple site to report on it, because it’s all part of the news flow.

Oh, one last thing, I promise: if you really think the Apple HDTV isn’t coming in the next couple of years, I’ll put my money where my mouth is and write you a check for $100 if you’re right.

One last, last, last thing, you are an amazingly nice person Herr Crypt. You updated your blog professionally, and even provided a link to the assholes that started the hoax, thus giving those idiots more credit than they deserve. No idea why you are being so polite to Ephraim, who seemed to take much delight in this piece of internet idiocy in general, and specifically enjoyed pointing you out. Maybe you guys are good friends in real life, or maybe I’m missing some major obvious thing here that everyone else gets, but as I understand it you sort of got punked (though not really, your blog was full of disclaimers from the get-go) and are being super awesome nice about it.

Part of the cost of doing the internet news business robsam.

I only pointed out DrCrypt because he IS a member of this site, and is able to respond, it’s actually seeing his name reported which initially drew me to the story. It was the design firm itself, then Daring Fireball, and The Loop that pointed out his part in the rumour spreading cycle, I’m just repeating. I found his reply both informative and worth reading. You will also note that even in my original post, I mentioned that he had been able to update and follow-up on the rumour.

I can’t help but note that you aren’t taking me to task for posting about Gene Munster’s horrible track record, robsam. Don’t you feel he might need defending, too?

And finally, I remain skeptical about Apple’s television plans. They have likely built prototypes, etc. I think there may even be a business there, if they can get the content deals in place for the right price, supplanting the current television and cable providers. The issue will remain consumers’ adoption cycle for new TVs, which is much longer than their adoption cycle of cell phones and even computers. With most households having just upgraded to an HDTV, they aren’t due to upgrade again anytime soon - Best Buy’s dismal recent sales figures support that. Not even Apple will change that, except amongst the Apple faithful. I agree with the post linked, stating that Munster has been expecting the iTV/AppleTV for years now, and at this point, if he’s right, it’s the case of the stopped clock.

All screws are asymmetric.

Internet “news” sites aren’t; they’re just rumor mills. If something can’t be verified, it’s printed away with “can’t be verified.” As a result it’s very easy to publish disinformation.

That’s apparently what people want though, to judge by the hits.

Well okay yeah the screw-head. While an asymmetric design is possible and yeah probably impractical, a randomly asymmetric design would be really fucked up.

— Alan